The best cameras let you take the next step in photography and video, whatever level you're at. There's never been a better time to be a visual content creator, as cameras are getting more and more sophisticated at all levels. With faster burst modes, better autofocus and improved ergonomics, cameras make it easier than it ever has been to capture dynamic imagery.
Which camera is best for you is going to depend chiefly on the answers to two questions – what's your budget, and what do you plan to shoot? There are great cameras at almost every price point, but all will have different strengths and weaknesses. If you know that you need a solid starter camera, you may want to check out our guide to the best cameras for beginners, and we also have a dedicated guide to the best low-light cameras for night shooting.
In this guide, we've split our picks up into three sections. First, we've picked out a couple of beginner cameras that are good for starting out; next we get into mid-range enthusiast models for those who already have an idea what they like; and lastly, we've chosen the best cameras for professionals and experts.
These are all cameras we've tried out in the real world, and recommend based on our personal experiences. If you're coming at this new and need any technical terms explained, you can also scroll to the bottom of the page, where we've assembled a jargon-busting FAQ section.
For more choices, check out our guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras, where we've got the best all-in-one models for a simpler shooting experience. Plus, don't forget to pick up one of the best memory cards for your camera, too.
The best cameras available now
We're starting off our guide with the best cameras for learning the basics of photography and video. These aren't just the cheapest cameras possible – we've picked out models that we believe are genuinely worth their price tags, and offer room for a user to learn and grow once they're comfortable with the basic functions of a camera.
To start off the best beginner cameras, we're recommending the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as one of the best buys you can make. It's a small, capable mirrorless camera with a stylish retro trim, and it's one of the easiest and most fun cameras with which to learn the basic.
Micro Four Thirds refers to both a sensor size and a lens mount. MFT sensors are smaller than those you'd find on many interchangeable-lens cameras; this is often considered a disadvantage, as it has an impact on image quality, it does mean that the increased crop factor will effectively double the focal length of your lenses. This is a bit technical so don't sweat the details – the upshot is that a cheap 50mm lens will behave like an expensive 100mm one, making it easier to capture distant subjects.
As it's so light and easy to carry, we've found the E-M10 Mark IV to be an ideal take-everywhere camera, especially when you pair it with one of Olympus's "pancake" lenses. Or, for that matter, a Panasonic lens – the MFT lens mount partnership between the two firms means you can use either brand interchangeably.
The E-M10 Mark IV has loads more great features. Built-in Optical Image Stabilisation is a great get for a camera at this price, and it also shoots 4K UHD video. Whether you want to learn to shoot photos, video or a bit of both, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is a terrific starting point.
Though DSLRs may not be the most cutting-edge cameras, they are still among the best choices for beginners, and we reckon the Canon EOS 250D is the best one you can buy. DSLR handling is still, for some photographers, the best you can get, with a chunky handgrip and an optical viewfinder for immediate feedback.
The Canon EF mount gives you access to an extraordinary catalogue of lenses built up throughout the 20th and 21st centuries – this is a system with a rich history. Also, Canon DSLRs run the gamut from beginner models like this one, to enthusiast-focused mid-range models, to workhorse professional cameras. So even if Canon never releases a new DSLR again (which is honestly not unlikely), you've got a solid upgrade path.
Still, let's not get ahead of ourselves. You could take photos on the EOS 250D for the rest of your natural-born life and be perfectly happy. It's got excellent handling, and the APS-C sensor will provide a real upgrade in image quality compared to your smartphone, especially if you want to make prints.
The only thing we found ourselves bumping up against when testing the camera was the 9-point autofocus system, which is somewhat dated, and will struggle with fast-moving subjects. For the price, it's okay, but if you know you're going to be photographing wildlife or sports, you may want to consider a different option.
Got some experience and know what you're looking for in a camera? Here, we've compiled the best cameras in the mid-range, models pitched at enthusiasts and those are starting to outgrow their beginner camera. This is a big market, with lots of different cameras at a range of price points, so it's worth spending some time familiarising yourself with what's on offer. To make it easier, we've picked out the enthusiast cameras that we think offer the best bang for your buck.
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III was one of the most advanced compact cameras you could buy when it was released in 2017 – and honestly, it still is today. With an APS-C sensor packed into a body that offers a smooth, intuitive control system, the G1 X Mark III feels incredibly polished to use. It's a joyful shooting experience.
An APS-C sensor is larger than you'd generally expect to find in a compact camera – most tend to sport 1-inch sensors. This gives the G1 X Mark III an edge in terms of image quality, and as we noted in our full review of the camera, images shot with it look excellent – full of colour, detail and dynamic range. We appreciated the high-quality viewfinder too, and the touch-and-drag focusing on the LCD screen. It's also nice to see good weather-sealing on a premium compact like that, making it useable in all sorts of inclement conditions.
The focal range of the lens is 24-72mm, which is handy without being exceptional – though if you're going to complain about anything, it's probably going to be the maximum aperture topping out at f/2.8-5.6. Also, it's worth being aware that this is not a 4K camera, with video capture at a maximum resolution of Full HD.
Read more: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III review
The X-T30 is an excellent choice of entry-point to the Fujifilm X system, especially since Fujifilm has discontinued some of its more beginner-oriented offerings. There has actually been a slight refresh of this camera in the form of the X-T30 II, boasting slightly faster autofocus, new Film Simulation modes, a higher-res LCD screen, longer continuous 4K video and, inevitably, a higher price. That last point is why we're sticking with the original X-T30 as our recommend here for now – once it gets hard to find, that will likely change.
But enough preamble – what about the Fujifilm X-T30 then? Well, in use the camera immediately impresses, with a satisfying control system, snappy autofocus and ability to produce gorgeous-looking JPEGs right out of camera. Having Fujifilm's Film Simulation modes to play with is a delightful bonus, making this a great camera to lose a day just experimenting with.
Features and specs are good across the board, with 8fps continuous shooting and the ability to shoot 4K UHD video. It's not a cheap camera, even with a successor on the loose, but the X-T30 is and has always been worth the price tag. If it's within your budget, we thoroughly recommend it.
While flagship mirrorless systems tend to steal the headlines as far as professional users are concerned, the manufacturers are also looking to entice a few more casual shooters with more budget-friendly models. Case in point, the Nikon Z mirrorless system and the Nikon Z fc. One of the newer cameras for the range, it's an APS-C model, very similar to the previous Z50, but with retro styling that gives it points for the cool factor.
With 11fps burst shooting, a 2.36-million-dot electronic viewfinder and the ability to shoot 4K 30p video, this is a camera that's got it where it counts. When using the Nikon Z fc, you'll appreciate the hybrid autofocus system, which makes quick work of capturing even fast-moving subjects. We might have liked a weather-sealed body or internal image stabilisation, but these are reasonable enough compromises to keep the camera at a relatively low price.
One thing to note though is that the Nikon Z system doesn't have a huge number of natively DX-format (APS-C) lenses for its Z system. We'd expect this problem to correct itself over time as the system expands, but it's something to be aware of. You can use FX-format lenses on the Z fc, just be aware that they'll give you a longer equivalent focal length than is on the box – and will cost a pretty penny.
Nikon proved the DSLR was well and truly alive and kicking with its 2020 release, the D780. A mid-range full-frame DSLR, this camera has that rugged, chunky handling that DSLR photographers love, but also packs in loads of great features cribbed from mirrorless cameras, making it a superb combination of the two. And access to the incredible stable of F-mount lenses is the icing on the cake that makes the D780 a truly tempting choice for creatives looking for a camera with real versatility to it.
It's designed to handle both stills and movies with aplomb, producing uncropped 4K video that's downsampled from 6K capture. If your work involves video content in any way, this is a superb choice of camera; if it doesn't, consider the lower-priced Nikon D750 which is a great low-cost full-frame DSLR that is still in production.
The D780 borrows a few top-of-the-line features from its more expensive siblings, including the 180k RGB metering and scene recognition system from the D850 above, so you can be sure you are still getting plenty of bang for your buck. As it's a DSLR, the body is unavoidably large, so those who want a more portable system will want to consider one of the mirrorless or compact options on our list.
Whether you’re shooting photos or video, these are the pro-spec cameras that will deliver the high-quality results you need. For content creators, pro photographers, and serious enthusiasts who are looking for the best, these are the dependable cameras at the upper end of the scale. They come at a high price, but earn every penny.
The Lumix GH6 is the latest in a line of extremely well-regarded consumer video cameras from Panasonic, sitting at the top of the firm's Micro Four Thirds line-up. It's an astoundingly well-specced camera, boasting a brand new sensor with lightning-fast readout speed to prevent the rolling shutter effect that can plague videos shot on cameras like this. It's got an absolutely huge pile of video options, at the top of which sits 5.7K 30p video in ProRes 422 HQ, which can be recorded internally to a CFExpress memory card.
If you're the type who likes to delve into their video options, the Lumix GH6 will give you everything you need and more. There's so much you can do here – push the dynamic range to 13 stops with Dynamic Range Boost mode, use the 7.5-stop image stabilisation for super-smooth shooting and a whole lot more. Plus, there are cool features for stills shooters, like the incredible 75fps burst mode. It requires focus and exposure to be locked beforehand, but still, 75fps is absolutely wild.
The GH6 is only really limited by the standard imposed upon it by the Micro Four Thirds format – it's a big camera housing a small sensor. The tricks it uses to compensate for this are longer than your arm, and it's unlikely to really cause a problem in your shooting. It's just something to be aware of.
The mirrorless camera that everyone was waiting for from Canon, the EOS R5 is arguably the best all-round camera for stills shooters at the moment. Canon's since released the even more expensive R3, with yet more improvements on the autofocus so it can track helmets and vehicles as well as people and animals, but unless you're shooting motor racing, for most people this offers everything they could want in a professional mirrorless camera.
When we reviewed it, we found the autofocus eye tracking to be spookily accurate. This coupled with the in-body image stabilisation and super-fast burst shots make it a dream for sports and wildlife photographers. The workhorse of the new R range, the R5 takes full advantage of the sophisticated RF lens mount for exceptional communication between camera and lens.
You also get the bonus of up to 8K video, and stunning HQ 4K with the same superb autofocus and IBIS. The limits on recording times to avoid overheating mean that we can't recommend this if you're primarily looking for a camera to use for video, for photographers that occasionally complement their stills with video in short bursts, it's this is the perfect option.
The Sony A7 cameras used to be pitched as relatively entry-level full-frame mirrorless cameras, in contrast to the more specialist A7R and A7S models. With the fourth in the series, that’s no longer really the case. The Sony A7 IV is an absolute beast of a camera, sporting a 33MP sensor and incredible buffer capacity. It can shoot at 10fps and just… keep on doing that, for ages. For 828 consecutive uncompressed RAW + JPEG files, no less. Pair this with Sony’s class-leading autofocus and improvements across the board, and it’s clear that this is a mirrorless camera for a huge range of professional and semi-professional users.
One thing to bear in mind is that shooting all those high-resolution images at fast burst modes will require a memory card that's capable of keeping up with the high volumes of data involved. You're probably looking at a CFExpress Type A card rather than SD; check out our guide to the best memory cards for cameras if you need to go more in-depth on this.
You could argue that it’s a shame that casual and amateur users are being somewhat priced out of the A7 line, but the A7 III and even A7 II are still available and are still fantastic cameras in their own right.
The flagship full-frame mirrorless camera from Nikon, the Z7 II, is designed to woo photographers who might have been swayed by showboaty mirrorless models from Canon and Sony. So it's got similar specs to the likes of the EOS R5 or A7R IV, with 45MP of resolution, speedy burst shooting and high-quality 4K video. It may not have headline-grabbing specs like 8K video, but it is more affordable than its rivals in the same class.
Overall, the Nikon Z7 II is a very impressive all-around package. It handles like a dream and produces images that look seriously impressive. Any pro or serious enthusiast photographer will find this camera does everything they could need and more, and does so with welcome extras like an upgraded battery that lasts longer compared to the original Z7. Dual card slots too! Very nice.
Any negatives? The monitoring situation is a little disappointing, with an LCD screen that only tilts and isn't fully articulated, and an EVF that's lower resolution than some rival cameras. None of this is deal-breaking though, and if you're looking for a full-frame mirrorless system to jump into, Nikon's Z series is definitely worth considering.
The best camera: What to consider
When determining which is the right camera for you, one of the first things to suss out is which type you want to use. Consumer cameras can be broadly divided into two categories. There are further sub-categories of course, which we'll get to, but right off the bat, it's a good idea to decide whether you want:
A compact camera. This term refers to cameras that have a fixed lens on their front, which can't be changed. The focal length/range and maximum aperture settings that are listed on the box are all you're getting. While this does restrict versatility, it is simpler and more convenient, and tends to make the camera more affordable. While many compacts are oriented towards beginners, there are plenty of premium compacts for more advanced users.
An interchangeable-lens camera. These cameras have a lens mount that allows you to swap lenses at will, provided they fit of course. Having to buy lenses as well as a camera body does drive the cost up, but you gain an immense amount of flexibility, and the ability to use lenses with specialist focal lengths (such as super-telephotos or fisheyes) and larger maximum apertures.
Interchangeable lens cameras comes in two main types, which are as follows:
DSLRs. These are the direct successors of film SLRs, and the acronym stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. They are bulkier and heavier than other types of camera, but also tend to be hardier and more weatherproof. They also contain an internal mirror system that allows for the fielding of an optical viewfinder, meaning you can press your eye to the camera and see exactly what you're shooting. The main manufacturers of DSLRs are Canon and Nikon.
Mirrorless cameras. As the name implies, these cameras forgo the mirror system of a DSLR. This means no optical viewfinder, but allows the body to be smaller and lighter. Plus, most now field electronic viewfinders that are virtually lag-free. Mirrorless cameras are where the most exciting advancements in camera technology are happening, especially in terms of video. They run the gamut from entry-level to high-end professional.
When considering which type and model of camera is right for you, it's worth considering what you want to shoot with it, as this will help you narrow down which specs are important and which are not. Do you need fast burst speeds for capturing fast action? Do you require weather sealing for outdoor shooting? Do you like the sound of a convenient, portable compact, or does the versatility of being able to invest in a lens system sound more like your speed?
In the guide above, we've listed all the key specs and main pros and cons of each camera we've picked, as well as the price, to help guide you to the right camera for you.
Which camera sensor is best?
Sensor size is an important metric in the world of cameras. Cheap cameras and smartphones will have smaller sensors, while professional cameras will have larger ones. Why does it matter?
It's not about resolution per se, but rather to do with the size of the pixels on the sensor. A 16-million-pixel sensor that's a 1/2.3-inch type (commonly found on smartphones) will have smaller, crammed-in pixels, compared to a 16-million-pixel full-frame sensor, which is the type found on professional cameras, and is considerably larger. This means a noisier image, especially in low light.
Smaller sensors also incur what's called a "crop factor", meaning they narrow the effective focal length of a lens. For example, APS-C sensors have a 1.5x crop factor compared to full-frame, meaning they increase the focal length of a lens by about 1.5x. A 50mm lens mounted to an APS-C camera will behave like a 75mm lens. This can be quite useful, as it allows you to get closer to a subject without having to shell out for expensive telephoto lenses.
Large-sensor cameras have their advantages, and will produce generally better images and videos, but they are bulkier and more expensive than small-sensor camera. It's all about weighing up your needs and your budget.
Which camera do YouTubers use?
If you're looking for a good YouTube camera, then it's worth taking a careful look at the video specs. You'll want to think about things you may not consider when looking for a photography camera: does it have an input socket for a mic? Can it live-stream? How is the video autofocus?
One of the most popular cameras among YouTubers is the Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark III, a capable compact that does everything video users need, for a competitive price. Check out our guide to the best cameras for YouTube where we have plenty more choices.
What camera lens do I need?
If you've bought an interchangeable-lens camera like a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, then you'll be faced with the question of which lenses to buy. As there's a huge amount of choice here, it's worth thinking about what you need before you buy.
Wide-angle lenses (8-35mm) are great for landscapes and architecture, as they fit a lot into the frame and exaggerate lines for visually striking effects.
Standard lenses (35-70mm) are good for street and day-to-day shooting, as they provide a naturalistic perspective.
Telephoto lenses (more than 70mm) are good for wildlife and action, and any kind of shooting where you can't get close to your subject. Short telephotos (around 85mm) are also good for portraiture, as they provide a flattering perspective for your subjects.
There's also the question of zooms and primes. While zoom lenses provide much greater versatility and allow you to experiment with different perspectives, prime lenses (that is, lenses with a single fixed focal length) offer much greater optical quality, resulting in sharper images.
How many megapixels do I need on a camera?
There's a common misconception that buying a camera is all about getting as many megapixels as you can. This isn't the case – resolution is one aspect of a camera, and may be more or less important depending on what you plan to shoot.
Resolution is mainly useful for two thing – printing images in high quality, and cropping into images without losing detail. For fine artists and photographers shooting for large billboards, lots of megapixels are a must. However, high-resolution files are very large, meaning if you're aiming to capture fast action in burst mode, they may be a hindrance, as your camera and memory card may struggle to keep up.
Also, when lots of megapixels are crammed onto a small sensor, it can create lots of image noise. You get a cleaner image when there's a lot of sensor space for large pixels – this is why video users generally don't care too much about megapixels, as they never need to print and much prefer a clean image.
Don't think of megapixels as the most important aspect of camera tech – they're just another factor to consider when making your choice.