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:
New and exciting cameras are coming out all the time, of course, and we’ve got a whole bunch on our shortlist that we want to get in for a proper review, including the latest models from Nikon, Olympus, Canon and Fuji.
If you want to know what else might be coming along later this year, take a look at our in-depth Camera Rumors 2016 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. These are cameras we’ve tried and tested ourselves, so if you want to know any more about any of them, just click the link to the full review.
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
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
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 it does mean the D500 can shoot at a rapid 10fps, while the 153-point AF arrangement 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
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
The problem with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras is that they don’t fit in your pocket. They’re fine if you’re going out on a proper photo expedition with all the gear, but impractical on a day out with family or friends. That’s why high-end compact cameras are so popular – they combine DSLR-style manual controls with a bigger sensor and better image quality than you’ll get from a regular pocket-sized compact. And Sony’s RX100 series cameras pull off that combination of compactness and quality brilliantly. The latest model is the RX100 V, but we’ve chosen the very similar RX100 IV because it’s practically as good but that bit cheaper. You get a 1-inch sensor and a 2.9x zoom lens with a large maximum aperture plus a high resolution pop-up EVF, Wi-Fi with NFC, up to 16fps continuous shooting (in Speed Priority) and a customisable control ring around the lens. Brilliant.
Read the full review: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV
The problem with high-end compact cameras is that the zoom range can be quite is limited. If you’re happy to sacrifice just a little image quality in exchange for a longer zoom range, then a ‘travel compacts’ could be the answer. These are like regular point and shoot cameras – perfect for novices and casual photographers – but with souped 20x or even 30x zoom lenses. The best examples add some more powerful controls, and the TZ70 is the best of the best. In fact, it’s halfway to being a full-on high-end compact, with manual exposure modes and the ability to shoot raw files too – it even has an electronic viewfinder built in.
Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70
We’ve come a long way down this list without mentioning a single DSLR, and there was a time when this was the camera of choice for any keen photographer. So this is where we put this right, with a pat on the back for the Nikon D7200. This is one of Nikon’s most advanced APS-C format cameras and offers compelling blend of power, performance and price. It has a 24-megapixel APS-C format sensor with no anti-aliasing filter to produce some of the sharpest images you’ll see outside of professional full-frame cameras. The D7200 can shoot at 6 frames per second for up to 100 JPEG photos or 27 raw files, and it uses a 51-point autofocus system taken straight from Nikon’s pro DSLR range. The only other APS-C Nikon to beat it is the brand new D500, and that costs a lot more money.
Read the full review: Nikon D7200
We like the Nikon D7200 and we like the Canon EOS 760D for much the same reasons. These cameras offer a level of performance, features and image quality that are not so far behind much more expensive professional cameras, but at a price which the average photo enthusiast can afford – and maybe have enough cash left over for a couple of decent lenses, too. There is a cheaper alternative, the EOS 750D, which uses the same sensor, but we prefer the EOS 760D for its more advanced external controls and its additional status LCD on the top plate.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 760D
We’ve already featured one high-end compact camera on our list and here’s another. The LX100 would be a lot higher on our list if it wasn’t for just a couple of little gripes. Its multi-aspect ratio sensor only delivers 12 million pixels, even though the sensor has 16 million, and it’s just a little too big for the average pocket. Otherwise, it’s a dream. Somehow, Panasonic has squeezed a mirrorless camera sized Micro Four Thirds sensor into its compact camera sized body, and a 4x zoom lens to go with it with a maximum aperture of f/1.7-2.8. It’s topped off with traditional external controls for lens aperture and shutter speed, and it’s like using a beautiful classic camera with all the advantages of modern digital imaging.
Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100
Our final camera is a ‘bridge’ camera, a type 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 digital SLR, but you certainly don’t get the image quality. But the Panasonic FZ1000 is different. It sacrifices a huge zoom range in favour of a much larger 1-inch sensor. It’s a compromise most serious photographers will applaud. You get a 16x 25-400mm effective zoom range, which is pretty handy even if it doesn’t match the 50x or 60x zooms of most bridge cameras, but you also get a massive jump in quality – this is the same size sensor you get in the Sony RX100 III. The FZ1000 also offers full manual and semi-manual controls, the ability to shoot raw files and 4K video. It’s big and pretty expensive, but it’s in a class of its own amongst bridge cameras.
Read the full review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000