Okay, we admit it – it’s an impossible question. The best camera for a pro photographer is a million miles from the best camera for an adventure sports nut. So what we’ve done is pick out what we think are the standout cameras in their fields. This may be because they have the most amazing features and specifications, because they’re amazing value for what they offer or because they are just brilliant at the job they’ve been designed for.
Along the way we’ll explain some of the jargon and the differences between cameras, though if you need a bit more help deciding what kind of camera you need, you can get a lot more information from our special step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
On the other hand, you may already have a clear idea of the kind of camera you want, in which case you could go straight to one of our more specific camera buying guides:
Last year we saw some stunning cameras launched – many of them making it onto our list below, but if you want to know what else might be coming along later this year, take a look at our in-depth Camera Rumors 2017 article.
But if you just want to know what we think are the top ten standout cameras you can buy right now – regardless of user level or price point – then keep on reading.
All these are cameras have been extensively tried and tested by ourselves, so if you want to know any more about any of them as well as check out sample images, just click the link to the full review.
1. Fujifilm X-T2
A stunning camera perfect for enthusiast photographers
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.3MP | Lens: Fuji X mount | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
Fuji’s update to the X-T1 may look similar at first glance, but there have been some big improvements and perhaps the biggest of all is the autofocus. A huge leap forward compared with the system found in the X-T1, AF tracking of moving subjects is very snappy, while the level of sophistication and customisation is impressive. Add in 8 frames per second burst shooting, a clever double-hinged rear display, bright EVF, Fuji’s excellent 24.3MP X Trans III CMOS sensor and plenty of body mounted controls and you’re left with one of the best cameras available today.
Read the full review: Fuji X-T2
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
One of the most complete DSLRs we’ve seen
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 30.4MP | Lens: Canon EF mount | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Canon’s 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it. With a new sensor that delivers pin-sharp results, a 61-point AF system that’s incredibly advanced and some very polished handling, the 5D Mark IV has to be one of the best DSLRs we’ve seen.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
3. Nikon D500
Blistering performance perfect for action photography
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 20.9MP | Lens: Nikon F mount (DX) | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Nikon has taken their flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip, so it hasn’t got quite the same resolving power as the D7200, but the small sacrifice in resolutions is worth it for a number of reasons. ISO performance is brilliant, with an expanded setting that hits an equivalent of ISO1,640,000, while it can rattle of a burst of shots at 10fps. That’s not forgetting the 153-point AF system that is perhaps the best autofocus system out there right now. A brilliant all-rounder, it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography.
Read the full review: Nikon D500
4. Sony Alpha A7R II
Sony’s top mirrorless camera is a real show-stopper
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 42.4MP | Lens: Sony E mount | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,228,800 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Once, if you wanted a professional quality full frame camera it had to be a Nikon or Canon DSLR. But Sony has changed all that with its mirrorless A7 series cameras, and the A7R II is its highest resolution model. Its 42.4 megapixel sensor is second only to the 50-megapixel sensor in the Canon 5DS for resolution, yet the A7R II is only two-thirds the size and weight of the Canon. It has a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and 5-axis image stabilization built into the camera body, and the full-time live view that’s integral to the mirrorless design gives Sony’s A7-series cameras a real advantage for video.
Read the full review: Sony Alpha A7R II
5. Nikon D3300
Not the most expensive entry-level DSLR, but we think it’s the best
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Nikon F mount (DX) | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.0-inch screen, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Nikon’s D3400 might have replaced it, but the D3300 is still our top pick when it comes to entry-level DSLRs. Why? Unless you want improved connectivity, then the D3300 is pretty much identical to the D3400 and that bit cheaper. The 24.2MP sensor resolves bags of detail and like much like pricier Nikon DSLRs, it does away with an anti-aliasing filter to maximise image sharpness. This is also a very easy camera to live with thanks to its clever Guide Mode feature. This is great for first-time users as it gives real-time explanations of important features to help you learn as you shoot.
Read the full review: Nikon D3300
6. Fujifilm X100F
Classic design and controls make it the perfect enthusiast compact
Type: High-end compact | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.3MP | Lens: 23mm f/2 | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Hybrid | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
The X100F is a beauty both to look and and to use, but it’s not for everyone. It’s a relatively large, retro-styled camera with a fixed focal length 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens, and designed for photographers who hanker after the weighty feel and manual external controls of traditional 35mm rangefinder cameras. It’s a relatively specialised camera and most owners are likely to have other cameras too. It may be a touch pricey, but there’s nothing quite like it – it’s an exquisite camera to look at and to shoot with.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X100F
7. Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
Top-notch performance in a super-small package
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: MFT Live MOS | Resolution: 16.1MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,370,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value for money, but the E-M10 II adds features that take it to another level. The old camera’s 3-axis image stabilization system has been uprated to the 5-axis system in Olympus’s more advanced OM-D cameras, the viewfinder resolution has been practically doubled and the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8fps, creeps up to 8.5fps. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It’s small, but it’s no toy – the E-M10 II is a properly powerful camera.
Read the full review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
8. Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100
The perfect travel camera – small, versatile and with a decent zoom
Type: Travel compact | Sensor: 1-inch type CMOS | Resolution: 20.1MP | Lens: 25-250mm, f/2.8-5.9 | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Similar in size to earlier ZS/TZ-series cameras, Panasonic however has managed to squeeze a much larger sensor into the ZS100 (TZ100 outside the US). This enables the pixels to be about 2.4x bigger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90, and this helps the ZS100 produce much higher quality images. The zoom lens isn’t quite so extensive though, but you still get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easier to compose images in bright sunny conditions and in addition to 4K video recording, there’s Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode to help capture 8MP images of fleeting moments. It all adds up to be a powerful compact camera.
9. Canon EOS Rebel T6i / 750D
Canon’s best entry-level DSLR yet offers power and performance
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Canon EF-S | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.0-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
One of the best entry-level DSLRs out there, the EOS Rebel T6i (Called the EOS 750D outside the US) packs in a 24.2MP sensor that delivers stunning image quality and also receives much-improved autofocus and exposure metering systems over Canon’s older T5i / 700D, as well as built-in Wi-Fi with NFC pairing. Although outwardly similar to its T5i predecessor, that does mean you get the same articulating touchscreen to enjoy, allowing you to navigate the menus and make setting selections with you a few taps. The T6i / 750D has just been superseded by the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D. There’s no doubt the newer camera is better, but the price at the moment makes it a hard one to recommend over the older model. The EOS Rebel T6i / 750D is a great entry into the world of DSLR photography.
10. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
The bridge camera for the photographer who wants quality too
Type: Bridge camera | Sensor: 1.0-inch type CMOS | Resolution: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-480mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
Our final camera is a ‘bridge’ camera, a type of camera that we don’t normally like very much because the ultra-zoom design forces the makers to use titchy 1/2.3-inch sensors the same size as those in point-and-shoot cameras. You get the look and feel of a DSLR, but you certainly don’t get the image quality. But the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US) is different. It sacrifices a huge zoom range in favour of a much larger 1.0-inch sensor – a compromise most serious photographers will applaud. While the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that’s still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use. We’d certainly sacrifice a little for of zoom range for better and faster optics. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range, while also offering full manual and semi-manual controls, the ability to shoot raw files and 4K video.
- What camera should I buy?
- Best compact camera
- Best DSLR
- Best mirrorless camera
- Sensor sizes explained: what you need to know