When it comes to picking the best camera, there are few things to consider. Key questions you should ask yourself before buying include: will the camera be used purely for photography and video? Do you want it to be portable and light for travel, or more sturdy for all weathers? Should you get fixed lens or not? And last but not least, how much do you want (and need) to spend on it?
Buying a great camera doesn't have to be all about work, either. Photography is fun, and as a creative, you've already got a good visual brain. You may already be an avid Instagrammer thanks to the camera on your phone. And, while the best camera phones are undeniably getting better and better all the time, having a good camera set aside for photography still boast a number of advantages. Photography cameras are better in low light, have more resolution for printing at various sizes, can be more compatible with accessories like flashguns, and offer a greater selection of lenses.
Lenses with interchangeable lenses come in two sorts, using the traditional DSLR design or the more modern mirrorless type. Basic DSLRs are less expensive – and budget mirrorless cameras are smaller and more portable. Both types are available at a wide range of prices, and can be capable of pro results. The video capabilities tend to be better with mirrorless models – and lenses tend to be cheaper for DSLR systems.
If you don't need the ability to swap lenses, then the alternative is to buy a compact camera or action camera and have a more portable photographic solution to your picture-taking needs. We've also got a list of the best camcorders. And if you want to get your little ones in the habit of photography, then check out our best cameras for kids.
The best camera for creatives overall
Our pick for the best camera overall is the Fujifilm X-T200, the reason being it’s a mirrorless camera for everyone, with fantastic image quality, top-notch 4K video and access to the terrific range of X-mount lenses. It's a photography camera that has fantastic video and can be picked up by the novice user, while offering enough depth for the keen learner and the enthusiast.
And speaking of video, if that's your thing, our best 4K camera is the Panasonic Lumix GH5, with its impressive breadth of movie-making features. It's by no means the only good 4K camera on our list though, so read through to see the options available.
The best camera available now
As a creative you're likely not only looking for a good camera that takes great images, but also one that doesn't break your bank account. We reckon that Fujifilm has come up with a fantastic answer in the form of the X-T200, a sophisticated mirrorless camera that comes at a pretty reasonable price, especially for what you get.
Its traditional, dial-based handling makes it a genuine pleasure to use, and unlike many entry-level models, it comes equipped with an electronic viewfinder, making it a great option for those who like to compose images at eye level. The LCD screen is also a great option however, a generously sized 3.5-inch example that can flip around 180 degrees if needed. Images produced by the camera look fantastic, with those trademark Fujifilm rich colours, and the X-T200 can also shoot great-looking 4K video.
Having access to the amazing range of X-mount lenses is a terrific bonus as well, further solidifying this photography camera as a fantastic choice for creatives of all stripes. It's not the most sophisticated Fujifilm camera, but for the price, this 2020 model gives you a fantastic level of functionality and depth of creativity that will reward any user who puts in the time to learn the camera and get better at shooting with it.
The Nikon D850 is still top dog in the DSLR world, and unchallenged by Canon when you consider just how many things it gets right. Normally such cameras are intended to excel in one area, such as speed or resolution, but the D850 delivers in all of them. Its 45.7MP sensor produces richly detailed images, particularly as it lacks an anti-aliasing filter, while 7fps burst shooting can be boosted to 9fps with an optional grip and battery. The 153-point AF system, meanwhile, is still Nikon’s most comprehensive iteration. And naturally, 4K video is on board too.
Around its solid core, this camera is ready for unlimited creativity, with time-lapse shooting, slow-motion video output in Full HD, in-camera Raw processing and a raft of other post-capture adjustments all falling to hand. Shooting at night? Many of the camera’s controls light up, and the ISO range stretches to a setting equivalent to 102,400 – a rarity on a camera with such a populated sensor. Need to shoot silently? This is not possible on many other DSLRs, but here you can fire 30fps bursts in complete silence.
Targeted at photography pros – and as at home in the studio as it is in the field – the Nikon D850's body usually comes on its own. But if you don’t already own a lens you’ll be well served by partnering it with the excellent AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR for general use.
Canon has been making really affordable digital SLR cameras for years, and with the EOS Rebel SL3 it has best entry-level DSLR around. Known as the EOS 250D outside North America, the Rebel SL3's design is sophisticated while still being friendly to the novice – boasting the guided Creative Assist mode to help you get to grips with what the camera can do. It’s fully connected, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for super-fast shot transfer and remote control, and it also can now shoot 4K UHD video at 25p, further expanding your creative options.
Another big plus is the Live View functionality – composing and focusing using the rear screen rather than the viewfinder – which has been radically overhauled from the previous model and is now much improved, with whip-fast Dual Pixel autofocus that’s actually much better than the 9-point system offered in the viewfinder. Composing with Live View can be useful in all sorts of creative situations – if for example you’re photographing human subjects, it’s much easier to give directions without a camera pressed up in your face. The Rebel SL3 is also extremely small and light for a DSLR, weighing just 451g, and won’t take up too much space in your bag.
The EOS 250D blends many of the advantages of DSLR cameras with those of mirrorless models, creating a fantastic DSLR that’s suitable for everyone from entry-level users to more advanced shooters – for an excellent price, too.
You can grab it as a body-only option, although most people just getting started will no doubt want to spend a shade more to pair it with the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM lens. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even opt for a kit with the all-encompassing EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM instead, and if you fancy something similar but with a bit more powerful, take a look at the Canon EOS 90D, which has a more solid construction and better-suited to experienced photographers.
It’s difficult to know where to start with the Panasonic GH5; it's such a good camera that there’s a lot to pique the videographer’s interest. 4K footage can be recorded in both DCI 4K and UHD 4K flavours without the heavy crop factors that plague other 4K models, and this is captured in high-quality 10-bit 4:2:2 (internally). You can also use focus peaking to get focus bitingly sharp, call on an anamorphic shooting option, capture at high speeds for slow-motion output and opt for a (paid-for) log option. Video aside, there’s plenty more to love, from the excellent 3.6 million dot viewfinder and articulating LCD through to 9fps shooting and 225 AF points, all inside a sturdy, weather-sealed body.
Not quite what you need? The newer Panasonic GH5S variant opts for a 10.2MP sensor for better dynamic range and low-light performance, but misses out on sensor-based image stabilisation and is more of a video-only option.
Number 6 in our list is the Nikon Z50. After Nikon joined the Great Full-Frame Rush of 2018, where it felt like practically all the major manufacturers were unveiling new full-frame mirrorless systems, photographers everywhere were keen to know where they'd go next. The Z6 and Z7 were and are excellent – and expensive – cameras. What next?
The answer: the exceptional Z50. An APS-C model, the Z50 is no mere slimmed-down version of its flagship siblings, but is an excellent mirrorless camera in its own right. Its physical handling is simply superb, with a chunky grip that makes the camera easy to operate one-handed. On the inside too it's just as sophisticated, with a gorgeous sensor and sophisticated autofocus, and what's more it comes at a price specifically tailored to undercut its close competition like the Fujifilm X-T30. What's more, thanks to the FTZ mount adapter, users can also enjoy the incredible legacy of Nikon F-mount lenses. Shooting as fast as professional DSLRs, the Nikon Z50 isn't just a good camera – it represents amazing value and a truly sublime shooting experience for any creative. Look out for the twin-lens Z50 kit, which is a superbly-priced bundle.
Just as Nikon’s D850 quickly became the DSLR that everyone wanted to switch to, Sony’s A7 III has mirrorless users saving up their pennies. While many models have their specific focus and target audience, the A7 III really is a camera for all. A 24MP full-frame sensor, hybrid AF system that covers a staggering 93 per cent of the frame and 4K video from oversampled footage are just a sliver of the highlights. Sony has focused on the details too, installing the useful AF joystick that found fans on previous models, and boosting battery life to a very respectable (by mirrorless standards) 710 frames.
The A7 III is a great all-rounder, with a versatile feature-set that makes it a great fit for a range of applications, but the older Sony A7 II is still very much on a sale and worth considering if you fancy something more keenly priced. Either way, grab it with the FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS if you’re just getting started, unless you already own a lens or two.
Nikon proves the DSLR is 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. It's also still going roughly at launch time, so if your needs aren't urgent, it may be worth waiting a little while and keeping an eye out for any limited-time offers or deals.
Small, light, fast and high-quality, Sony's RX100 series of compacts is hailed by many as the best of best in terms of what compact cameras have to offer. Whether or not you agree, you can't deny there's a compelling case for it. Two standout pieces of evidence are, first, the fact that Sony keeps all the older models in production even when newer ones come out, and second, that they've produced seven of the things and show no signs of slowing down.
So why have we plumped for the RX100 VI – why not the more expensive VII or the cheaper V or IV? We think this model offers the best balance between price and quality, providing frankly amazing functionality and features in a body that costs less than £1,000. A key advantage of this model over older ones is its bigger zoom lens - that gives you the coverage equivalent to a 24-200mm superzoom, which will allow you to tackle practically any picture opportunity that presents itself.
It's capable of burst shooting at a mega-impressive 24fps in both JPEG and Raw formats with full autofocus. It inherits the winning combination of a 1-inch sensor an a 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, and captures incredibly detailed 4K video, as well as super-slow-motion footage,
Really, there’s not a huge amount this camera can't do, and the fact that Sony packed all this tech into such a tiny, pocketable body is nothing short of a miracle. The high-resolution screen also flips around, making it a great camera for vlogging if this is a string you'd like to add to your bow, and it's got all the wireless and connectivity functionality you'd expect from a modern camera.
While GoPro HERO rivals have existed for almost as long as GoPro itself, many of them are either very cheap knock-offs that don’t have the same level of reliability, quality and support, or hyper-expensive imitators like Sony’s RX0 that are aimed more at the professional video sector. No longer. The DJI Osmo Action is a GoPro-like action camera that’s clearly designed to upset the kings, undercutting its rival the HERO8 Black on price and offering many features that camera lacks, such as an additional front-facing LCD screen that’s hugely useful for vlogging, and a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec for capturing those super-fast moments.
In terms of tough features, the Osmo Action is waterproof down to 11m without a case – outpacing GoPro by 1m in a way that feels… somewhat deliberate. It can withstand drops of up to 5ft, and if you’re planning on heading into the snow, it’ll endure temperatures as low as -10°C.
In terms of video quality and stabilisation it’s more or less on a par with the HERO7 Black – which is to say that it’s very, very good. Video footage looks super-smooth even when the camera is being handheld in challenging conditions, and the Osmo Action can record 4K at 60p, ensuring your videos will look absolutely fantastic, with crisp detail and rich colours. It’s also one of the more user-friendly action cameras, arguably easier to get to grips with than a GoPro, and it has some welcome quality-of-life features like screw-on lenses (handy if one breaks) and a Quick Set button on the top that makes it easy to toggle between settings without using the touchscreen. The value you get here for the GoPro-undercutting price means the Osmo Action is our pick for the best action camera around right now.
Also read: The best cheap GoPro deals for filmmakers
If you find it hard to choose between a system camera with interchangeable lenses, or an all-in-one compact, then a bridge camera could well be for you. A bridge camera offers a big camera with a decent-sized grip that looks and feels much like a DSLR. But the advantage is that lens is not only built in, but offers lots of firepower. The Panasonic FZ1000 is our choice of the best bridge camera around at the moment - offering great value for money for its features. Here you get a 16x Leica-branded zoom lens with a maximum 400mm reach - making it a great choice for shooting wildlife and sports, without the need to invest in extra lenses.
Smartphones may have shrunk the compact camera market to a fraction of its former size, but the presence of cameras like the PowerShot SX620 HS prove that there are still good reasons for the two formats to co-exist. After all, what smartphone offers a stabilised 25x optical zoom range that stretches from 25-625mm (in 35mm terms), together with the SX620 HS’s level of physical control?
Despite its beefy focal range, Canon has designed the camera with a svelte body that will still slip inside your pocket without any bother. This makes it great for those after a basic travel camera that’s as happy to hone in on far-off details as it will capture sweeping landscapes. And with Wi-Fi and NFC on board, you can quickly get your creations out into the wider world without hassle.
If you’re after something similar but don’t quite need that monstrous zoom, the arguably more handsome PowershotElph 180 or IXUS 285 HS are worth popping on your shortlist.