We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you’re just graduating from a smaller DSLR, a good bridge camera, or a simple point-and-shoot, the cameras on our list represent the best that the industry has to offer, as well as the smartest investments you can make if you’re serious about photography. We’ve ranked them here by image resolution, low-light performance, and build-quality. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work.
10. Fujifilm X-E3
The JPEG files created by the Fujifilm X-E3 feel a bit like the images captured on the company’s iconic film stock many years ago. For purists, this is a treat to behold, but the system is a little too bulky when compared with other mirrorless options.
With its micro four-thirds sensor, any lens you use on the Panasonic Lumix GH5 will double in focal length due to the unit’s crop factor. That makes it tough to find high-quality wide-angle options, but the video capabilities still make it very tempting.
There is only one option among bodies with APS-C sized sensors that consistently garners top awards from the industry, and that’s the Nikon D7500. It boasts many of the build specs and features that you’d normally see in full-frame models.
At 24.3, the Nikon D750 has one of the smaller megapixel counts on the full-frame market, but with a larger pixel pitch than much of the competition, this unit can create incredibly bright, sharp images in low-light conditions.
After the wild success of its predecessor, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV adds crisp 4K video and an extended ISO range to a thoroughly upgraded line of features. Photographers can even pull 8.8 MP still images from recorded movies.
The Sony ILCE9 a9 provides an unparalleled, blackout-free 20 fps burst rate, allowing it to shoot quickly and endlessly, at least until its card fills up. Its phase detection autofocus, with 693 points, can track subjects with great accuracy
The Nikon D850 builds on a lot of what makes the company’s lineup of prosumer full-frame bodies so effective, while also incorporating much of what their customers have been longing for, like an articulating screen, small RAW files, and built-in Wi-Fi.
In live view mode, the Canon EOS-1DX Mark II can take up to 16 pictures in a single second. Its body is weather-sealed to keep out dust and light amounts of water, making it a good companion when shooting in hostile environments.
The Sony a7R III doesn’t utilize an anti-aliasing filter on its massive 42.4 MP sensor, which means that there is one less layer between the incoming light and the pixels themselves, resulting in images that are sharper than you can get anywhere else.
The continuous autofocus tracking on the Nikon D5 is one of the professional-level features that make it a go-to option among the highest levels of sports and wildlife photographers. Its equally impressive 12 fps burst rate can take 200 shots before pausing to render.
I found my family’s old digital camera from the early aughts a few months back, and it still had the little promotional stickers attached to it that boasted its features. It had a whopping three megapixels!
It was kind of like going back and watching the first iPod launch as Steve Jobs says his 5GB music device is just the size of a deck of cards. Now, I don’t know how many of you remember those first generation iPods, but they were like big, alien bricks of soap compared to the sleek designs that exist today.
Over a similar span of years to the iPod’s development, the camera industry has become obsessed with that one statistic: the megapixel count.
An increase in megapixels is rarely a bad thing, but it’s only one of a slew of variables that determine your overall picture quality. The reason it gets so much attention is that it’s easy to quantify; it’s a relatively small number that you want to be as big as possible.
But what do the megapixels actually do?
Well, a pixel measures two basic things: whether or not light is hitting it, and how much light is hitting it. When you stack those pixels tightly together, you can achieve higher resolution photos from the same field by having more nuanced contrast throughout.
The problem is a law of diminishing returns. As you increase your pixel count beyond 10 MP, the amount by which your resolution increases gets smaller and smaller.
What’s worse is that an increased pixel count also decreases your low light performance. You ever enter a dark room after being out in the blazing sunlight, and you can’t see anything until your eyes adjust? Well, pixels are like pupils with a fixed diameter, so if they’re too small, they can’t drink up light from a darker source.
All this is to say that, unless you’re shooting high-resolution photographs for print advertisement with a bevvy of professional lights and maybe even a couple of assistants, you don’t actually need anything more than 20 MP. So, focus, instead, on these cameras’ other stats.
What’s In A (Brand) Name?
Reaching back into the film era, the two giants of the camera industry dominated the landscape and posed the same question from shooter to shooter: Nikon or Canon, Canon or Nikon?
Even then there were better cameras on the market, namely by Leica and Hasselblad, but they were often cost prohibitive for the vast majority of photographers. They still are.
In today’s digital market, there are a few competitors keeping up with the big two by offering features that they don’t. For example, Panasonic introduced 4K to consumers while Nikon and Canon were still perfecting their performance at 1080.
And neither Canon nor Nikon has a viable mirrorless system. Each company has tried, but you’ve probably never heard of the cameras–they were that bad.
Still, photographers tend to gravitate toward one of these two brands, especially if they’re working professionals in still photography fields.
There was a time when Canon’s 5Ds were the finest videography DSLRs in the world, and Nikon was desperate to catch up, but Sony has come along with its a7 series and taken that corner of the market by storm.
Between Nikon and Canon, really, there’s almost no difference. I recommend putting one in your hand and playing with it. Personally, I found Nikon’s control layout much more in tune with the way my brain works when shooting, but then all my friends shoot Canon.
The Best Kind Of Camera
In the late 1960s, the only two people apparently not taking immeasurable amounts of drugs (or perhaps the only two taking enough of them) developed the first digital imaging technology using a CCD sensor.
Just six years later, Kodak had invented the first digital camera incorporating this technology, with a whopping 100×100 pixel resolution.
Sony and Kodak both chipped away at the concept for the next 15 years until Nikon came around with its E Series in 1991, a 1.3 MP digital camera that would kick off an engineering and marketing race that we’re still enduring today.
Canon came to the party a little later, but since they had already established themselves as an imaging conglomerate in many more fields than Nikon, they were poised to sink more money into R, especially around the DSLR’s potential as a video camera.
I won’t spend too much time discussing the advent of the cameraphone and what that means for the future of DSLRs. There’s an old saying in the camera world, though, that goes back to long before a digital image was ever rendered: “The best kind of camera is the one you’ve got on you.”