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The best camera for creatives in 2019

Best camera: Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash
(Image credit: Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash)

The best cameras on the market all make for excellent tools for creatives. Adding photography to your portfolio of skills can be a tremendous asset, whether you want to create your own library of stock imagery, bolster your social presence with striking images, or simply avail yourself of another service to offer your clients, it just makes sense.

Besides, taking pictures is fun, too. While the best camera phones do a good job nowadays, they still don't offer the range and versatility of dedicated cameras, especially in low light. A proper camera allows you to experiment with depth of field as well as different lenses such as wide-angles and telephotos, and you've also got much more latitude to capture fast action. 

The best camera for creatives: Top 5

01. Fujifilm X-T30
02. Nikon D850
03. Canon EOS 250D
04. Panasonic Lumix GH5
05. Nikon Z6

Read on for an in-depth look at our picks

So the question is, which is the best camera to buy? Do you want a DSLR, a mirrorless camera or a compact with a fixed lens? These different types all offer different advantages and disadvantages, and all of them have models in a range of budgets – you may think it a general rule that compacts are cheap and DSLRs are expensive but this really isn't the case. 

That's why we're here to help. We've put together a roundup of all the best cameras that creatives can buy right now. We've factored in the quality, availability, versatility and price of each model when making our picks, and included a range of different types of camera so you can find the one that's right for you (don't forget to pick up one of the best memory cards, too). We've also included our pick for the best smartphone camera, if that's how you'd like to shoot, as well as our favourite action camera on the market right now. 

Our dedicated tool automatically checks prices from all reputable retailers, so you can be sure you're getting the best deal. And if you're not in any huge rush, it's worth booking marking our best Black Friday deals post, which we will be updating as and when any great camera offers arrive. 

The best camera for creatives overall

If you're after a quick answer, we think at the moment the best camera for creatives is the Fujifilm X-T30. It’s a camera for everyone, with fantastic image quality, top-notch 4K video and access to the terrific range of X-mount lenses. At its price, there's nothing else to touch it for the balance of performance, quality, handling and price. Scroll down to number 1 in the list to find out more. 

If video is 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 4K camera on our list though, so read through to see the options available.

It's worth remembering that the best camera for you depends on your personal needs, and what works for you may not for another. We encourage you to scroll through the list and think about what sounds right for your needs, and we've tried to list as many similar alternatives as possible for each model.

Here's our pick of the best cameras out there. And if you want to brush up on photo editing too, check our posts on the best photo editing apps and the best laptops for photo editing.

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01. Fujifilm X-T30

The best camera you can buy right now

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 26MP | Lens: Fujifilm X | Monitor: 3.0-inch display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Hybrid | Max burst speed: 30fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Excellent autofocus
Great all-around performance
Controls can be fiddly
4K could be better

A triumphant achievement by Fujifilm, the X-T30 is a mirrorless camera that packs an incredible amount of tech into a small camera body. It's the smaller sibling to the flagship X-T3, with a lower price tag to match, and this winning combination of power and price makes the X-T30, in our eyes, the best camera around for creatives right now. It sports the latest 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 APS-C sensor and X Processor Pro 4, but where advancements have really been in made is in the super-sophisticated autofocus system, with 2.16 million phase detection pixels that cover 100 per cent of the frame, able to work even in extreme low-light conditions.

The X-T30 uses an electronic shutter that allows the user to burst-shoot at up to 30fps with no viewfinder blackout, and it can capture 4K UHD video at a maximum frame rate of 30p. The camera's ergonomics are first-rate, making use of Fujifilm's signature dial-led controls for a tactile handling experience. It's an utterly superb camera by any standards, and the fact that it comes at a sub-£1000 price makes all this all the sweeter. If you’re feeling a little more flush, take a look at the Fujifilm X-T3, which is this camera's more powerful big brother.

The best camera for client work: Nikon D850
The perfect all-rounder to have in your design studio, this camera has enough resolution to capture the most detailed work, enough speed to keep up with whatever action presents itself, and great video quality to boot. It isn't cheap for sure, but the spec sheet is future-proof enough to see that it lasts for many years of service.

The best camera and accessory for shooting your portfolio: Panasonic G85/G80 and 12-60mm lens
The G85/G80 boasts an ergonomically designed DSLR-style body and fast-growing lens system alongside. With no anti-aliasing filter, images drip with detail, while the generous zoom range of the 12-60mm lens (24-120mm in 35mm terms) makes this great for wide shots and tighter compositions alike. 

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02. Nikon D850

The best DSLR camera for pros and serious enthusiasts

Type: DSLR | Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 45.4MP | Lens: Nikon F mount | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Max burst speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert

High-speed and high resolution
Robust body
Still expensive
Not as portable as Sony A7R III

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, the 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 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. Can’t quite stretch to the D850’s asking price? Good-quality examples of the older Nikon D810 can still be found online.

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03. Canon EOS 250D / Rebel SL3

The best entry-level DSLR around gets updated with 4K video

Type: DSLR | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000K dots | Viewfinder: Yes, optical | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Movies: 4K UHD at 25p | User level: Beginner

Massive lens range
Tiny, light body
Mirrorless rivals offer stronger specs
Somewhat unrefined finish

Canon made a real splash in the entry-level DSLR world with its EOS 200D camera (called the Rebel SL2 in the United States), and happily the updated Canon EOS 250D (or Rebel SL3) is much more than a cosmetic refresh. It firmly cements the status of this series as the best entry-level DSLR around, with a design that’s 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 update is to 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 250D 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 800D. This is a great option for the first-timer, particularly if live view or video is your thing.

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04. Panasonic Lumix GH5

The best 4K camera for video and filmmakers

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.3MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.2-inch vari-angle display, 1,620,000 dots | Max burst speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User: Expert

Masses of video control
Burgeoning lens range
Sensor not as great in low light
No real size advantage over full-frame DSLR

It’s difficult to know where to start with the Panasonic GH5; there’s simply so much 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. Alternatively, the older Panasonic GH4 also provides 4K recording, and would make a good alternative if your budget doesn’t quite reach what’s being asked here. 

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05. Nikon Z6

Nikon's more affordable full-frame mirrorless camera

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame | Resolution: 24.5MP | Lens: Nikon Z | Monitor: 3.2-inch display, 2,100,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Max burst speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Great high ISO quality
In-body stabilisation
Middling battery life
Buffer could be better

Number 5 in our list is the Nikon Z6. In 2018 we saw an explosion of full-frame mirrorless cameras as Canon, Nikon and Panasonic started muscling in on this territory. For our money, this is the best choices for creatives in this department – it blends comprehensive functionality and top-notch image quality with fast autofocus and fantastic low-light performance, all wrapped up in a body that doesn't cost the earth. The larger, more sophisticated Z7 is pitched towards professional photographers, and we reckon this slimmed-down model is the better choice for creatives. You still get access to the exciting new range of Z mount lenses, and the 24.5MP of resolution is going to be more than enough for most purposes.

The wide ISO range (expandable to 204,800) makes the Z6 an extremely capable choice for low-light work, and the in-body image stabilisation and 4K video using the full width of the sensor both add to this tremendous package. If you're feeling especially flush you might want to consider the NIkon Z7, which boasts a considerable 45MP of resolution, but we think the balance the Z6 offers between price and power will be a winner with any creative.

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06. Sony Alpha A7 III

The all-round best mirrorless camera you can buy right now

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E-mount | Monitor: 3in tilting touchscreen, 921k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots | Max burst speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Great battery life (for mirrorless)
Top-quality images
Lens range still somewhat restrictive
Mark II now almost half the price

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.

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07. Sony Cyber-shot RX100 Mark V

One of the best compact cameras around, perfect for travel

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1in type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3in tilting screen, 1.228 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.35 million dots | Max burst speed: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Superb images and video for its size
High-quality pop-up EVF
More advanced models available
Still expensive

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 V – why not the VII or the 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. 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 we definitely recommend this camera as our top pick, the great thing about the RX series is that you can move up and down the iterations to find a camera that fits your needs and budgets. Too expensive? Try the RX100 IV or even the III – they're both great cameras. Alternatively, if you have more to spend, take a look at the VI and VII, which add a longer lens and an external mic socket respectively, among other things. 

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08. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III

The best travel camera for your holidays

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1in type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-600mm f/2.8-4 | Monitor: 3in tilting screen, 1.228million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Max burst speed: 14fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

1in sensor and huge zoom
Very effective image stabilisation
Lacks a built-in ND filter
f/4 maximum aperture reached very early in zoom

The Sony RX10 III is another camera that has been updated since its launch but is still recommended for its price-to-spec sheet – particularly as it often subject to the odd cashback offer. So why is it so tempting for travel photography? The core combo of a stacked 1in sensor and an impressively bright 24-600mm (equiv) f/2.8-4 lens is mostly why it's so special, as you just don’t get that balance of sensor size, focal range and brightness in such a compact package anywhere else. But it’s the fact that these features are both excellent performers, rather than marketing highlights, that makes the camera such a pleasure to use.

Thankfully the lens is primed with a very effective image stabilisation system to keep everything crisp. Meanwhile, 4K video recording is augmented by a range of supporting technologies and recording options, including both headphone and microphone ports and a raft of slow-motion shooting options. The weather-sealed body is also a massive bonus for those traveling through the odd patch of inclement weather, while the ergonomics allow you to get the kind of purchase that you’d normally have to turn to to a DSLR for.  

Don't need such a humongous optic? The older Sony RX10 Mark II provides much the same but with a 24-200mm (equiv) lens. Feeling fancy and want something more powerful? The newer RX10 Mark IV boasts a superior 315-point phase-detect AF system and a touchscreen, and a faster 24fps burst rate on top of sundry changes.

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09. DJI Osmo Action

A terrific GoPro rival, at an extremely competitive price

Type: Action camera | Sensor size: 1/2.3in | Resolution: 12MP | Monitor: 2.25inch touchscreen LCD (rear); 1.4inch LCD (front) | Viewfinder: None | Continuous shooting: 7fps | Movies: 4K at 60p | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast

Useful front LCD
Cheaper than a GoPro
Some lag issues in Live View
GoPro offers better accessories

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 HERO7 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

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10. Canon PowerShot SX620 HS

The best camera under £200/$250

Type: Superzoom compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 20.2MP | Lens: 25-625 (equiv.) f/3.2-6.3 | Monitor: 3in fixed LCD, 922k dots | Viewfinder: No | Max burst speed: 2.5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD (1080p) | User: Beginner

Massive zoom
Slim body
Videos only to Full HD quality
Sensor smaller than those in many smartphones

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 IXUS 285 HS is worth popping on your shortlist. 

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11. Google Pixel 3

The best camera phone for creatives

Megapixels: 12.2MP | Max video resolution: 2160p | Secondary camera: 8Mp | Operating system: Android 9 Pie | Screen size: 5-inch | Battery: 2915mAh

Comfortable size
Excellent camera
4GB of RAM
Underwhelming battery life

The Google Pixel 3's smartphone camera may not boast the highest resolution or the largest aperture among its rivals, but you can’t argue with the images it produces. Its Android-powered smart learning means it gets better over time at optimising itself for different shooting situations, and the dedicated Pixel Visual Core chip that’s powering it gives the camera a real edge. The consistency of the Pixel 3’s camera is simply remarkable – to borrow an old saw from a rival company, it just works. It does well in low light, and has an impressive digital zoom mode that allows you to get closer with a minimal drop in quality.

You’ll be previewing your images on a gorgeous 5.5-inch screen, which is a nice size for one-handed operation. The downsides? Well, the battery life could be better – if you spend a day shooting, you’ll definitely want to bring along a portable charger – and 4GB of RAM is arguably a little underwhelming given that many rivals are providing 6GB. These are small gripes though, and if you have any interest in smartphone photography for your creative work, the Pixel 3 is a fantastic choice.

If you like things super-sized and don’t mind spending a little more, you can spring for the Google Pixel 3 XL. You do get a larger battery on the XL, however the effect is mitigated in real terms by the increased power drain of the larger screen. Ultimately we think that for price and comfort of operation, the Pixel 3 is your best bet.

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