Gone are the days when you needed to spend tens of thousands of pounds to buy a camera that can produce professional-standard images – the quality of affordable digital camera kit is now so high that a purchase of between £500 and £4,000 will be more than enough to make your work sing.
But that doesn't make it any easier to choose between the models crowding the digital camera market. A top-of-the-range DSLR may seem like a tempting option, but they're bigger than other models and are so brimming with features that they can seem complicated and intimidating to use. If you’re having to think about menus and settings, you won’t be concentrating on more important aspects of composition and lighting.
The best cheap camera around may be more than adequate for your needs, while saving you a couple of thousand quid. But if you don't budget enough, you may miss out on vital functions to your vocation such as 4K video or robust casing.
Below you'll see our pick of nine fantastic cameras, including DSLRs, cheap compacts, cameras capable of 4K footage and the best phone camera money can buy. Whatever you need it for, whatever your budget, we're confident you'll find the best digital camera from the rundown below with the best prices.
01. Nikon D7500
The best camera overall you can buy right now.
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 20.9MP | Lens: Nikon F mount | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 922k dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
It may not be the newest camera here, but the D7500 is still our pick of the moment. It really is camera for everyone that still manages to still in so many departments; an imaging pipeline identical to that inside the far pricier D500 model; bags of control over image capture; compatibility with a vast assortment of lenses that stretch back decades; and all in a robust, affordable body that would be great as an upgrade from more junior cameras, but powerful enough to serve as a backup for a full-frame camera like the D850.
The 20.9MP sensor is a sound performer, whose more modest pixel count allows for an ISO range up to an option equivalent to a staggering ISO 1,640,000, while videos are recorded in glorious 4K quality and bursts of images fired at 8fps for when action presents itself. All of this makes it particularly suited to the outdoor photographer.
You can buy the camera on its own, although a kit with the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED is also available, this particular combination will leave you primed for every eventuality. If you’re feeling a little more flush, take a look at the D500, which is similar in its intentions but a little more powerful.
The best camera for client work:
Nikon D850 ($3,296.95 / £3,049)
The perfect all-rounder, with enough resolution for the most detailed work, enough speed to keep up with whatever action presents itself and great video quality to boot. Not cheap for sure, but the spec sheet is future-proof enough to see that it lasts for many years of service.
US: Buy the Nikon D850: $3,296.95 | UK: Buy the Nikon D850: £3,049
The best camera and accessory for shooting your portfolio: Panasonic G85/G80 and 12-60mm lens ($997.99 / £749)
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.
US: Buy the Panasonic G85 and 12-60 lens for $997.99 | UK: Buy the Panasonic G80 and 12-60 lens for £749
02. Nikon D850
The best DSLR camera for photography you can buy right now.
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 | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
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? 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, quite literally, in the field, the 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 D810 can still be found online.
03. Canon EOS 200D / Rebel SL2
The best cheap DSLR camera you can buy right now.
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000K dots | Viewfinder: Yes, optical | Continuous shooting: 5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
The EOS 200D is neither the cheapest entry-level DSLR not the newest, but it gains a spot on our list by breaking from entry-level DSLR norms to provide a particularly generous feature set. In essence, it feels like it’s designed with the entry-level user’s needs and desires in mind, rather than a particular price point.
The 24.2MP appears fairly conventional, but it’s furnished with Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology to make focusing nice and swift in live view, and focusing transitions smooth and professional when creating videos. These are captured in Full HD rather than 4K quality, but the option to record to 60p and a mic input boost its potential for high-quality recordings.
The flip-out LCD, meanwhile, is a boon for shooting from unorthodox angles, and its super-sensitive touch panel lets you focus effortlessly where you want by touch. The camera’s DIGIC 7 processing engine is one of the newest, and this allows for a range of Picture Styles and in-camera Raw processing, while the full Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth trinity of connectivity options star alongside.
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 EOS 800D. A great option for the first-timer, particularly if live view or video is your thing.
04. Panasonic GH5
The best 4K camera for video/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 level: Expert
It’s difficult to know where to start with the GH5; there’s simply so much to that should 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 to love, from the excellent 3.6million 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 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 GH4 also provides 4K recording, and would make a good alternative if your budget doesn’t quite reach what’s being asked here.
05. Panasonic G80 / G85
The best cheap 4K camera out there.
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 16MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Monitor: 3.0-inch display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Max burst speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/intermediate
Panasonic has made more effort than most to make 4K video a feature on cameras of all levels in recent years, so it’s no surprise that our favourite cheap 4K camera is a Lumix model. The G80 is phenomenally well specified for a camera with such a reasonable price tag, with a powerful five-axis image stabilisation system keeping everything stable, together with a high-quality 2.36million dot electronic viewfinder and a touchscreen that flips out and responds to the lightest of touch commands. With videos, the camera shoots 4K UHD footage to regular 30p and cinematic 24p options, with a microphone port at its side and a hotshoe to mount it.
A slew of further video-oriented features on the inside make the photographer’s life easier, from focus peaking and zebra patterning through to a live cropping mode that pans a 4K scene without you needing to move the camera, outputting the results in Full HD. There’s even a flat Cinelike Gamma D profile to give you a better starting point for grading.
Is that 16MP sensor putting you off? It shouldn’t. Panasonic opted to remove its anti-aliasing filter, the result being that images are more crisp and detailed than they would otherwise be. Grab it with the 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 LUMIX G VARIO POWER O.I.S kit lens if you want a great all-purpose package, or as a body only if you require a more exotic optic. Overall, a top option for anyone looking to get into serious videomaking on a shoestring.
06. Sony A7 III
The 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
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% 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, whose versatile feature-set makes it a great fit for a range of applications, but the older A7 II is still very much still 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.
07. Sony RX100 Mark IV
The best compact camera you can buy right now
Type: Compact | Sensor: 1in type | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3in tilting screen, 1.228million dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2.35million dots | Max burst speed: 16fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
Today’s compact cameras are incredibly advanced, and while the RX100 Mark IV is now a couple of years old, it’s hard to think of a camera that offers the same great balance of price, specs and portability.
Despite the powerful partnership of a large 1in sensor and 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 optic at its heart, and a high-quality electronic viewfinder that pops up on demand, it somehow manages to be smaller and lighter than most other compacts.
And for the creative user looking to travel light, it delivers plenty. The rear LCD screen flips up and round to face the front, while a maximum shutter speed of 1/32,000sec (with the electronic shutter) permits super high-speed motion to be captured with clarity. On the other end of the shutter-speed scale, a built-in ND filter allows for longer exposure that would be otherwise possible, as well as video recording in bright light.
And all of this is before we get to 4K video, with slow-motion footage recorded at up to 1000fps too. It’s also wirelessly connected and charges through its USB port. Really, there’s little it can’t or doesn’t do.
The camera has been updated by both the Mark V and the most recent Mark VI model, and these are worth considering if action or travel photography are more your thing. For everyone else after a more everyday camera, the Mark IV's more modest features set and price tag will no doubt suit them better.
08. Sony RX10 III
The best travel camera
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
The RX10 III is another camera that has been updated since its launch but still recommended for its price-to-spec sheet – particularly as it often subject the the odd cash back offer.
So why is it so tempting for the traveling photographer? The core combo of a stacked 1in sensor and an impressively bright 24-600mm (equiv) f/2.8-4 lens is mostly why its 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 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, while 4K video recording is augmented by a range of supporting technologies and recording options, including both headphone and microphone ports a 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 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.
09. GoPro HERO6
The best action camera.
Type: Action camera | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 12MP | Monitor: 2in, touch-screen LCD | Viewfinder: None | Max burst speed: 6fps | Movies: 4K at 60fps | User level: Beginner/Enthusiast
It might be a doppelganger for the previous HERO5 model, but GoPro gave the HERO6 a considerable boost on the inside over its predecessor.
While the camera maintains the highlight specs of a 12MP sensor and 4K video recording, videos can now be recorded at up to 60fps, with a fresh GP1 chip now allowing three-axis image stabilisation along with better colour accuracy and more efficient video compression.
GoPro may now have a number of rivals that offer cheaper alternatives, but the HERO6 goes on to boast a number of tricks that justify its more premium billing. You can venture 10m underwater without a housing and take advantage of a built-in GPS system, accelerometer and gyroscope, and you can even use your voice to command the unit to perform key actions. Need to zoom? Simply slide a bar on the rear 2in touchscreen display.
Together with so many other features such as Raw shooting, HDR capture, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth it should be obvious that the HERO6 is far better suited to a variety of creative endeavours than your average action camera. Definitely one for thrill-seekers.
Also read: The best cheap GoPro deals for filmmakers
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 level: Beginner
Smartphones may have shrunk the compact camera market 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 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 home 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 you don’t quite need that monstrous zoom, the arguably more handsome IXUS 285 HS is worth popping on your shortlist.
09. Google Pixel 2
The best camera phone for creatives.
Megapixels: 12.2MP | Max video resolution: 2160p | Secondary camera: 8Mp | Operating system: Android 8 Oreo | Screen size: 5-inch | Battery: 2700mAh
Fast becoming the cameraphone of choice for creatives in all all fields, the fact that the Google Pixel 2 integrates seamlessly with Google’s whole ecosystem is a massive draw in itself, but top-quality hardware and usability makes the deal even sweeter.
Powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, the 12.2MP rear camera captures some of the finest stills on a smartphone to date, with the wide f/1.8 aperture ensuring that it admits plenty of light. Optical image stabilisation is also on board to help keep everything sharp, while top-quality 4K video recording features alongside. Everything is also viewed through a 5in AMOLED Full HD display too, which is colourful and crisp, although the lack of a proper headphone port might not suit everyone.
There are rumblings of a third-generation version coming shortly, so if you absolutely must have the latest in smartphone tech you may want to hang on for that. Otherwise, this is a fine choice if you want to capture still and videos and don’t want to be burdened by a bulky setup.