Those who say that phones have already killed the dedicated camera are getting ahead of themselves.
When it comes to creative flexibility and outright quality, the laws of physics (and economics) mean that standalone cameras are still levels above smartphone snappers.
The trouble is, dedicated cameras come in a bewildering array of shapes and sizes. Which is where our guide comes in. No matter what kind of camera you want – DSLR, mirrorless or compact – our roundup has the right choice for you.
We review everything from fun and casual compacts to professional DSLRs, and have simmered down all our research to this easy-to-digest list of recommendations. There’s something for everyone here.
Related: Best Black Friday Camera Deals 2018
Best Camera Buying Guide – What’s the right camera for you?
Generally you need to think about two things when you’re buying a camera: how much you’re able to spend and how you’re going to use it. It’s a tough choice if you’re new to camera buying, so here’s a quick guide to the different types of camera you can buy.
Compacts and Bridge Cameras
If you’re looking for the best cameras for casual use and don’t want to fuss about with settings before hitting the shutter button, a compact camera is probably the best fit for you. There are still plenty of cheap and cheerful compacts out there, but higher-end models also cater for the enthusiast.
The Fujifilm X100F is a good example of a fixed lens compact
There are numerous kinds of quality compacts, too. You’ll find chunkier advanced compacts that give you good manual control, and simpler ones that focus on providing a higher-end sensor and lens optics for better image quality and ease of use.
Bridge cameras are something between a compact camera and an interchangeable-lens system camera. They have permanent, generally very long zoom lenses and a similar feel to a DSLR. Though they’re not compact in size, they are very versatile and well suited to photographing a wide variety of subjects.
Bridging the gap between compact cameras and DSLRs are mirrorless cameras, also referred to as compact system cameras (CSC). Expect these types to offer an excellent balance of convenience and image quality, though at the very top end we’re beginning to see mirrorless cameras match or even exceed rival DSLRs. Sony’s full-frame A7-series is a good example, with the Sony A7 III being the latest offering.
Mirrorless vs DSLR. The Sony A7R III (left) alongside the Nikon D850 (right)
Within the CSC category, there are a number of different types of sensor used, each giving quite a different experience. Olympus and Panasonic use Micro Four Thirds-size sensors, providing a middle ground and some outstanding and affordable lenses.
The largest sensors you’ll find in affordable CSCs are APS-C ones, used in cameras from Fujifilm and Sony. Of course, Sony has now gone even further, adopting full-frame sensors in the top-end A7-series. These provide the best image quality among CSCs, rivalling pro DSLRs.
DSLRs remain the professional’s choice. While CSCs compete well in the consumer market, professionals who need top-quality lenses, a reliable performance and excellent build quality still mainly use DSLRs.
DSLRs are still the no.1 choice for many photographers
This is particularly true for full-frame cameras, where Nikon and Canon both offer some outstanding options. One of the most impressive DSLRs released in recent times is the mighty Nikon D850, a DSLR that scooped Best Camera at the Trusted Reviews Awards last year. There are some good entry-level DSLRs as well, though, so there’s plenty of choice and a huge number of lenses to invest in.
In this roundup you’ll find all the best DSLRs, mirrorless and compact cameras grouped together with links to each camera’s in-depth review.
Best DSLR Cameras
Best professional full-frame DSLR: Nikon D850
- Sensor resolves exceptionally fine detail
- Super-fast autofocus and silent shooting in Live View
- Inherits AF toggle from D500 for fast AF point positioning
- Impressive battery life with EN-EL15a battery
- Lacks on-chip phase detection AF in Live View
- Touchscreen doesn’t allow users to adjust key exposure settings
- SnapBridge connectivity requires improvement
By far the most recent model in this roundup, the Nikon D850 is a high-end full-frame DSLR designed for professional photographers. It combines high-resolution, speedy performance and impressive low-light performance in a robust, weather-sealed body.
The D850 succeeds the 36.3-megapixel D810 released in 2014, bringing numerous improvements to what was already an excellent DSLR in it own right. In terms of hardware, the highlight is the 45.7-megapixel sensor, which brings the D850 into line with direct competitors such as the Canon 5DS (50.6 megapixels) and Sony A7R II (42 megapixels).
For those who either don’t require the D850’s full 45.7 megapixels for a particular shot or just want to save memory card space, there’s also the option to shoot at either 25.6 megapixels or 11.4 megapixels.
The D850’s new high-resolution sensor is paired with a powerful EXPEED 5 processor, as used by both the D500 and flagship D5 models. This combination gives the D850 plenty of processing power, and ensures noise is kept to a minimum when using higher sensitivity settings. Continuous shooting maxes out at 7fps, although connecting the D850’s optional MB-D18 battery grip (£369) and EN-EL18b (£179) battery increases this to 9fps.
The D850’s 153-point Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system has also been lifted directly from the D500 and D5. It’s a proven AF module that’s both fast and accurate, thanks in part to the inclusion of 99 cross-type AF points.
The central AF point is sensitive down to -4EV, which should ensure accurate focus, even when light is in short supply. Elsewhere, the D850 also becomes the first Nikon DSLR to support 4K video capture at up to 30fps, with separate microphone and headphone inputs located on the side of the camera.
Construction is – as you’d expect of a £3500 pro-spec DSLR – pretty much bombproof, with the D850 securely housed inside a weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. Buttons and controls are plentiful, as are customisation options. The back of the camera is fitted with a 3.2-inch, 2.36m-dot tiltable touchscreen, and above this the 100% viewfinder is described by Nikon as the largest the company has ever made.
Best entry-level DSLR: Canon EOS 200D
- World’s lightest DSLR with vari-angle screen
- Fast focusing performance in Live View
- Intuitive layout of buttons and dials
- Guided user interface helps beginners learn the key controls and settings
- Basic arrangement of 9 AF points
- Single scroll dial on the top plate
Positioned between the entry-level EOS 1300D and slightly more advanced EOS 760D/EOS 800D models, the Canon EOS 200D succeeds 2013’s EOS 100D model, bringing with it a generous number of hardware upgrades and feature enhancements. Billed by Canon as a “compact, simple and versatile” camera, the 200D is primarily targeted at those looking to buy their first DSLR, along with existing owners of older entry-level Canon DSLRs.
Despite its relatively humble positioning, the 200D comes equipped with a good set of features for the price, not least Canon’s Dual-Pixel AF technology that employs on-sensor phase-detection pixels for impressively speedy autofocus performance in Live View mode.
This alone is a big distinguishing factor between the 200D and the cheaper 1300D, which doesn’t get Dual-Pixel AF and can be painfully slow to focus in Live View. Operated through the viewfinder, the 200D sticks with the same 9-point phase-detection AF system employed by the 1300D and 100D.
The other most notable enhancement is the addition of a high-resolution, vari-angle LCD screen on the back that provides touchscreen control over the camera. Again, this is something that’s absent on the 1300D.
At its core, the 200D is built around the same 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor used inside the 77D and 800D, which is paired with Canon’s latest DIGIC 7 image processor. This raises the camera’s maximum burst speed up to 5fps – one frame faster than its predecessor.
Native sensitivity, meanwhile, ranges from ISO 100 to 25,600, with an expanded “Hi” setting of ISO 51,200. Shutter speeds range from 30sec to 1/4000sec. Video can be recorded up to a maximum 1080p Full HD at 60fps, with a dedicated microphone jack also provided should you want to use an external mic.
While build quality obviously isn’t as robust as more expensive Canon DSLRs, the 200D feels solid enough in the hand. It’s also impressively small and compact for a DSLR. In fact, Canon claims it’s the world’s smallest DSLR to feature a vari-angle LCD. Physical controls – although relatively few – are well spaced and easy to reach. Overall, for those looking to buy into the Canon DSLR ecosystem, and wanting something a bit more advanced than the bare-bones 1300D, the 200D represents a solid option.
Best enthusiast APS-C DSLR: Canon EOS 80D
- Very solid, weatherproof construction
- Fast autofocus system
- Excellent image quality
- No 4K video capture
- Larger than mirrorless rivals
Whereas Canon’s triple-digit DSLRs are primarily targeted at new and novice users, double-digit models such as the EOS 80D are pitched more towards enthusiasts and those looking to take a step up from one of the more basic models. As such, the 80D comes with an expanded feature set, greater customisation options and more durable construction than its triple-digit stablemates. In terms of positioning, it sits above the more recent 77D but below the sports and action-orientated 7D Mark II.
The 80D is built around a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 6 image processor. While the DIGIC 6 has given way to the DIGIC 7 chip in more recent Canon DSLR models such as the 77D, the 80D performs well with a maximum continuous shooting speed of 7fps.
Sensitivity, meanwhile, ranges from ISO 100-16,000, with an extended setting of ISO 25,600. While 4K movie recording isn’t supported, the 80D does provide 1080p Full HD recording at up to 60fps. An external microphone jack is present on the side of the camera, alongside a headphone jack for real-time audio monitoring.
Used through the viewfinder, the 80D employs a 45-point phase-detection AF module, which is a significant improvement over the 19-point system of the 70D. Better still, all AF points are of the cross-type variety, which means they’re equally as responsive, regardless of whether the camera is being held in landscape or portrait orientation. Switching to Live View, the 80D also benefits from Canon’s innovative Dual-Pixel AF technology.
In terms of construction, the 80D is protected by a magnesium alloy chassis encased by a polycarbonate shell, which gives it a solid, weighty feel in the hand. The body is sealed against dust and moisture, allowing it to be used in inclement weather with a higher degree of confidence. The pentaprism viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage, while below it a 3-inch, 1.04m-dot vari-angle LCD provides touchscreen functionality too.
Best advanced enthusiast APS-C DSLR: Nikon D500
- 100% optical viewfinder
- Tilting screen
- Enthusiast-centric controls
- Dual memory card slots
- APS-C format sensor
- Screen not articulating
Released in 2016, the D500 is Nikon’s current flagship APS-C DSLR. As such, it sits directly above the more recent D7500, which actually borrows a number of its more expensive sibling’s core specifications and features. These include the same 20.9-megapixel sensor, EXPEED 5 image processor and 4K movie abilities.
There are quite a few differences between the two, however. Despite being slightly older, the D500 has the edge over the D7500 in several departments, most notably in terms of its more advanced autofocus system (153 AF-points vs 51 AF-points), higher continuous shooting speed (10fps vs 8fps) and superior buffer performance.
In addition, the D500 also gets a higher-resolution rear LCD (2.36m-dots vs 922k-dots), a dedicated AF-point positioning joystick and two SD memory card slots to the D7500’s single slot. Physically, the D500 is larger and heavier than the D7500 and slightly more robust in its construction too. For all these extra features and enhancements, you can expect to pay around £500 more for the D500.
One of the most impressive features of the D500 is its 153-point autofocus system. This is spread out across the entire viewfinder and includes 99 cross-type sensors. Tracking abilities are excellent, too, making this a great camera for wildlife and sports photographers. The D500’s APS-C sensor helps out here too, since its inherent 1.5x crop-factor has the effect of giving full-frame telephoto lenses even more reach when mounted on the D500.
Elsewhere, the D500 comes with an 100% optical viewfinder that’s impressively large, while below this an impressively sharp 3-inch, 2.36m-dot tiltable LCD offers touchscreen control over the camera.
Video enthusiasts are well catered for too, with the D500 able to record 4K footage as well as 1080p Full HD at up to 60fps. Image quality, as you’d expect is excellent.
Overall, the D500 serves as a timely reminder that while full-frame might be desirable, there remains a place for APS-C cameras – especially for those who value shooting action sequences continuously at high speed. As such, it’s an ideal DSLR for wildlife, sports and action photographers.
Best enthusiast full-frame DSLR: Canon EOS 6D Mark II
- Introduces vari-angle touchscreen for the first time on a full-frame EOS model
- Superior focusing speed in Live View mode thanks to Dual Pixel AF
- Offers 5-axis movie image stabilisation
- Excellent battery life
- Lacks 4K video and headphone port for audio monitoring
- Upgraders can’t use existing battery grip
- AF points all grouped together centrally in the frame
- Difficult to use exposure compensation with Auto ISO in manual mode
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II occupies the space between the company’s flagship APS-C DSLR, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. With a good saving to be made choosing the EOS 6D Mark II ahead of the EOS 5D Mark IV, it makes the jump to full-frame more appealing for those who like to take photography seriously.
The EOS 6D Mark II employs a 26.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS chip. It shoots across a broad ISO 100-40,000 range (expandable to ISO 50-102,400) and can rattle off a burst at up of 6.5fps as a result of Canon’s powerful DIGIC 7 image processor. Speed benefits are also gained in Live View, thanks to the integration of Canon’s Dual-Pixel CMOS AF technology.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has a revised AF system that’s considerably more advanced than the 11-point AF system with one cross-type point on the original EOS 6D. This latest model inherits the 45-point all-cross-type AF system from the Canon EOS 80D.
Compared to the original EOS 6D, its dimensions are smaller. The reduction in size brings disappointing news to existing EOS 6D customers in that the older BG-E13 battery grip is no longer compatible. It isn’t weather-sealed like the EOS 5D Mark IV either.
As a versatile all-rounder, it puts in a respectable performance. Its snappy AF speed in Live View, sensational vari-angle touchscreen, and wireless connectivity options are likely to gain interest from older EOS 5D-series users who fancy an up-to-date body – or, perhaps, a backup body in a smaller form factor. When size and weight are critical – when you’re travelling, for example – the EOS 6D Mark II really comes into its own.
It’s a shame it doesn’t include dual card slots, 4K video and dedicated exposure compensation button. However, if you can live without these and you feel you could benefit from shedding a few extra grams off your shoulder, it’s an enthusiast full-frame camera that makes a strong case for itself.
Related: Best DSLR 2018
Best Mirrorless Cameras
Best entry-level mirrorless camera: Panasonic Lumix GX800
- Small and easy to use
- Capable of 4K Video and 4K Photo
- Cheapest Panasonic CSC around
- No eye viewfinder
The Panasonic GX800 is a great camera to buy if you want something simple that will still take great photos. It’s Panasonic’s entry-level compact system camera, and chooses to shed a few pro-pleasing features in order to keep the thing small. The body will even fit in some pockets, although you’ll need to pair it with a pretty petite pancake lens if that’s your aim.
This camera doesn’t have a viewfinder, just a screen that flips all the way over to let you take ultra-high-quality selfies without shooting blind.
Don’t confuse this for any sort of admission this is a toy camera, though. It has an excellent 16-megapixel Micro Four-Thirds sensor and can use the same lenses as Panasonic’s top-end compact system cameras. Consider the Panasonic GX800 seriously if you don’t want to use full manual control all the time.
It doesn’t stop you from doing so either — the options are there — it just pares down hardware controls in favour of portability. The Panasonic GX800 can also shoot 4K video.
Best mid-range mirrorless camera: Canon EOS M50
- Compact size and light weight make it easy to carry everywhere
- Excellent image quality, with reliable metering and auto white balance
- Quick and accurate autofocus, even with adapted EF-mount DSLR lenses
- Easy-to-use interface that still gives extensive control over settings
- Fully articulated screen is great for shooting at unusual angles
- Single-dial control slower to use than twin-dial competitors
- Overly contrasty viewfinder blocks up shadow details
- Poorly implemented manual focus magnification
- Very small range of native EF-M lenses
- 4K video is subject to considerable restrictions
The Canon EOS M50 slots into the company’s lineup of mirrorless cameras between the EOS M100 and EOS M6. It offers a similar degree of external control to the firm’s beginner-friendly EOS 200D DSLR, but with an electronic viewfinder built-in, alongside a fully-articulated touchscreen.
It’s built around a new generation of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor, which is now capable of phase-detection autofocus across a wider area of the frame. With 24.1MP resolution, it offers a sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 that’s expandable to ISO 51,200. Continuous shooting is a real strength of this camera: 10fps with focus fixed, or 7.4fps with focus adjusted between shots.
For the first time on an EOS model, the EOS M50 provides a silent shooting mode that uses a fully electronic shutter. You get Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimiser for balancing shadows and highlights in high contrast scenes and there’s a good selection of basic modes and subject-based scene modes for beginners to start with before they progress.
Most notably, the EOS M50 marks the debut of the firm’s latest DIGIC 8 processor, making it the first Canon consumer camera capable of recording 4K video.
As you’d expect, Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity options are all available, with the latter capable of forming an always-on connection to your smartphone using the free Camera Connect app for Android or iOS. When sharing photos, you can either push your favourite shots from the camera to your phone while browsing in playback mode, or view your images on your phone and pull them across.
The EOS M50 is equipped with a 2.36-million dot, 0.39-type EVF with a magnification of around 0.62x. Beneath the EVF is a 3in 1.04m-dot LCD, with a fully-articulated design. It can tilt upwards or downwards for waist-level or overhead shooting in either portrait or landscape format, face fully forwards for selfies, or even fold away with the screen facing inwards to protect it from scratches.
Autofocus performance is as good as you could hope for: it’s silent and goes about its business accurately. The EOS M50 also works remarkably well with Canon EF-mount DSLR lenses using the Canon EF EOS M mount adapter that can be picked up for around £109.
With the EOS M50, Canon has produced a very likeable camera that manages to be simple and approachable for beginners, while also offering a full degree of manual control for enthusiasts. It has some stiff competition in the market and the only thing that might put you off are the number of lenses currently available in the Canon EF-M lens range.
Best enthusiast mirrorless camera: Fujifilm X-T20
- Superb image quality that’s on a par with the pricier X-T2
- Fast and responsive autofocus
- Pairs brilliantly with Fujifilm’s small prime lenses
- Not weather-sealed
- Relatively short battery life
If you like the look of the X-T2 but can’t stomach the price, the Fujifilm X-T20 is an excellent substitute. The idea of the X-T20 is that it uses a subset of the X-T2’s features and packages it in a smaller, lighter body. At its heart it has a very capable 24.3-million-pixel X-Trans CMOS III sensor that provides a sensitivity range of 200-12,800 (expandable to ISO 100-51,200).
The X-T20’s autofocus system is bang up to date and works exceptionally well. The number of focusing points has been increased from 49 in the X-T10 to 91 points – expandable to 325 – with the central area of 49 points using phase-detection AF pixels. One thing you don’t get on the X-T20 is an intuitive AF toggle to shift the AF point around with your thumb – something you do get on the senior X-T2.
The continuous shooting speed is rated at 8fps, however if you switch from the mechanical shutter to the electronic shutter it’s possible to rattle out a faster burst at a rapid 14fps. Whereas the mechanical focal plane shutter has a 1/4000sec limit, the electronic shutter allows you to shoot up to 1/32,000sec – ideal for shooting with fast lenses at wide aperture settings in bright conditions.
At the rear you get a touchscreen. When activated you can control the position of the focus point or fire the shutter in shooting mode, while in playback mode you can use finger gestures like you would on a smartphone or tablet to scroll through shots and magnify images.
The X-T20 is an extremely satisfying camera to use and pairs up beautifully with Fujifilm’s small f/2 prime lenses. It not only looks great, it manages to excel in all the key areas a great camera should and is one of the finest examples of a mirrorless camera for any keen enthusiast photographer.
Best mirrorless camera for action and sports: Olympus OM-D E-M1 II
- Long battery life
- Cinema 4K
- High resolution viewfinder
- Excellent tracking focus
- Very expensive
- Strange menu setup
- Only one UHS-II memory card slot
The OM-D E-M1 Mark II has so many superb features it’s difficult to pick out only a few for discussion.
Cameras such as this truly give DSLRs a run for their money, offering some truly exceptional specs that should be making DSLR manufacturers sit up and take note. This camera offers true competition for action and sports photographers, thanks to its incredibly fast frame rate of up to 60fps – and that’s in full-resolution Raw format too.
Not only that, you have an incredibly capable advanced 5-axis image stabilisation system that lets you shoot handheld for up to two seconds without incurring blur – a feat we wouldn’t have thought possible just a few years ago.
Top all this off with a large, highly detailed electronic viewfinder, a fully articulating touch-sensitive screen, and a 121-point dual FAST AF system and you have one of the best and most competent cameras of the year – across all categories. Throw in 4K video recording and you’ve got a unit that videographers will enjoy as well.
Best advanced mirrorless camera: Panasonic Lumix G9
- Superb design and handling
- Excellent 4K & 6K photo modes
- Well supported by Micro Four Thirds lenses
- Offers high-resolution 40MP & 80MP modes
- Positioning of AF toggle could be better
- Lacks battery level indication as percentage
- Burst shot mode descriptions aren’t clear
- No in-camera panoramic mode
The G9 sits beside Panasonic’s premium GH5 and GH5S models in the Lumix G lineup. Whereas the GH series has always set about appealing to videographers, the G9 is out to fulfil the demands of serious stills-focused photographers. It does this with an impressive specification, however it’s the blistering speeds that it’s capable of that really sets it apart from many other mirrorless cameras.
Shooting continuously in its AF-S mode, the G9 can rattle out a burst at 12fps for as many as 60 frames in RAW, or at 60fps for 50 frames in RAW by activating the camera’s electronic shutter. Switching the camera over to its continuous AF mode (AF-C) sees the burst speed drop, but to a highly respectable 9fps using the mechanical shutter or 20fps using the electronic shutter.
The G9’s new 5-axis Dual I.S II image stabiliser, which offers 6.5 stops of compensation to counteract camera shake when shooting stills or movies, also has dual-purpose. It allows the camera to offer a new 80-megapixel high-resolution mode whereby the sensor is shifted precisely between eight shots to create a single image with much finer detail. It’s wonderfully executed and is easy to use.
There’s so much more to like about the camera. It has a top-plate LCD like you get on most DSLRs, a superb 3680k-dot resolution electronic viewfinder with 0.83x magnification, and a sensitive 3-inch, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen. It combines all of the above with a spritely autofocus system, relying once again on a formula of contrast detection and Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology.
It may lack a really high-end feel, but it’s an incredibly versatile mirrorless camera that’s very capable of delivering satisfying results in the hands of those who love photography. There’s great value to be had from buying Panasonic’s best stills camera to date.
Best high-end mirrorless camera: Fujifilm X-T3
- Fantastic autofocus
- Superb image quality
- 4K Video quality great, with varied options
- Great handling
- No in-body image stabilisation
- Mediocre battery life
- Screen doesn’t fully articulate
The Fujifilm X-T3 is a superb all-rounder in the mirrorless market, and is one of the best cameras you can pick up for under £1500.
Following on from the X-T2, the X-T3 has all the hallmarks of its predecessor – think classy, vintage design and gorgeous rich and atmospheric JPEGs. Top it all off with a tactile shooting experience and you’ve got one of the most desirable cameras of modern times.
While the X-T3 may not represent a dramatic overhaul from the last model in terms of looks and style, inside there’s been significant sensor and processor upgrades, with a heft of video capability thrown in for good measure, too.
This camera may not have the increasingly-popular full-frame sensor that you’ll see adorning the likes of the Nikon Z7, but what that means is that it’s great for balance. Lenses and accessories can be just that bit smaller so as to make a more manageable experience, without going to small as to potentially sacrifice image quality.
You could view the X-T3 as more like a mini X-H1 than a larger X-T20, but you are missing in-body image stabilisation. Battery life is also a little bit on the so-so side, but packing another one is not a huge cross to bear.
Best mirrorless camera for shooting video: Panasonic Lumix GH5S
- Superb video quality
- Excellent in low light conditions
- Compact, tough and lightweight design
- Stills performance is only average
While it’s fair to say that most cameras in list put their photo performance first, the same can’t be said of Panasonic’s GH5S – its main course is very much video, with a side of stills. And with the ability to shoot fantastic 4K at 60fps, it’s the best video-shooting system camera we’ve had the pleasure of testing.
It might look like a DSLR, but the GH5S is actually much smaller than a full-size, pro-friendly beast. Its 580g body is easy to lug around all day and its many controls are all in the right places, letting you change up your shooting style in a flash.
The 10.28-megapixel, Four Thirds sensor sounds a bit paltry by today’s standards – and it does restrict the detail in the GH5S’ stills photos a little – but it’s a revelation for shooting video. Watching its 10-bit C4K footage and Hybrid Log Gamma HDR back in our tests, we were astounded by the lifelike detail and clean tonal shifts. Because the sensor’s pixels are relatively large, low light video is also very impressive, with very usable footage possible from high ISO settings (if not the highest 51,200 ISO option that’s available in normal mode).
With its huge menu of video shooting options, such as 1080p at 240fps for super-smooth slow motion, the Panasonic GH5S is a real treat for videographers who want pro-looking footage from a relatively small body.
If you’re mainly a stills shooter, then there are many better options at this price, such as the Fujifilm X-T2 or Panasonic Lumix G9. But for video, no other compact system camera offers the flexibility or quality of the GH5S.
Best overall full-frame mirrorless camera: Sony A7 III
- Excellent value for money
- Improved battery stamina
- Fast and responsive autofocus system
- Revised button layout for intuitive control
- AF point illumination could be improved
- Convoluted menu system
- Thin plastic port covers aren’t weather-sealed
- Handles poorly with large gloves in cold climates
The Sony A7 III is a sensational mirrorless camera that improves on the Sony A7 II and introduces many of the niceties of the A7R III and A9, at a price that falls below £2000 from launch. Sony calls it their most basic full-frame camera in the Alpha 7-series, however it’s far from lacking when you start looking at what features it offers for the money.
It’s equipped with a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor, which benefits from backside-illuminated architecture. You get a wide ISO range that can be expanded to ISO 50-204,800, fast continuous burst shooting up to 10fps with autofocus and exposure adjustment, and a fully-electronic shutter, making it possible to shoot silently when you want to avoid disturbing a subject.
The headline feature of the A7 II was its 5-axis in-body stabilisation. This advanced IS system carries over to the A7 III, but now offers up to 5 stops of stabilisation compared to 4.5 stops on its predecessor. Another improvement sees the A7 III use the same uprated NP-FZ100 battery as the A7R III and A9, offering over twice the capacity of the old NP-FW50. It also gains twin SD card slots, but only one supports the UHS-II type.
The A7 II’s AF system has been replaced by a complex arrangement of 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points, which cover 93% of the frame. Autofocus is further improved by employing the same AF advancements as first used in the Sony A9. The difference in the speed and accuracy of the A7 III’s focusing is noticeable coming from the older A7 II.
With a good level of customisation and a revised button layout that makes operation more intuitive, the A7 III is an extremely enjoyable camera to use. It inherits the AF joystick from the A7R III and presents a new exposure lock (AEL) button below the exposure compensation dial, a new AF-ON button, and an improved rear scroll dial that’s far less fiddly.
Other improvements on the A7 III are found at the rear, where a 2.3m-dot EVF with 0.78x magnification and 3in 922k-dot LCD touchscreen take pride of place. The EVF has a lower resolution than the A7R III, but is complete with Zeiss T* coatings to reduce obtrusive reflections.
The A7 III has come on a long way from the original A7 and A7 II. It does exactly what serious photographers want in a body that’s smaller and lighter than rival DSLRs. It’s quick, it’s highly versatile and delivers excellent image quality when more is asked from the sensor in low-light.
Sony has made a superb all-rounder with the A7 III. By pricing it under £2000 (body only), it’ll appeal to a huge number of photographers who are looking to advance to full-frame, but aren’t prepared to stretch their budget to the mighty Sony A7R III.
Best high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera: Nikon Z7
- Superb image quality in all lighting conditions
- Excellent electronic viewfinder
- Comfortable, DSLR-like handling
- Intuitive touchscreen interface
- Speedy, accurate autofocus
- Works with any Nikon F-Mount lens via an adaptor
- Only one card slot and it’s XQD
- Screen doesn’t fully articulate
- Average battery life
- Continuous autofocus not quite up there with Sony rivals
When it comes to crowning the best high-resolution mirrorless camera for pros, it’s a close call between Sony’s A7R III and Nikon’s Z7. It depends on which lens system (if any) you’re already bought into, but we think the latter just edges it thanks to its superior handling and touchscreen experience.
This is a particular boon for anyone who’s coming to the Z7 from a Nikon DSLR. The Z7’s reassuringly chunky build makes it feel like a slimmed down DSLR, and it has the weatherproof construction of Nikon’s D850 too. Sure, it’s bigger than Sony’s A7R III, but the benefit is that the controls are more spaced out and feel less cramped.
The Z7’s electronic viewfinder is one of the best we’ve had the pleasure of framing shots with and another boon over a DSLR like the D850 is in-body image stabilisation, which works well with both native lenses and F-Mount glass via an adaptor. The option of shooting handheld in low light and telephoto situations is a real bonus too.
As you’d hope from a 45.7-megapixel sensor, images are extremely detailed even at high ISOs and the Z7 performed very well in our noise tests too. The only slight weakness compared to a high-end DSLR or the Sony A9 is that autofocus struggles ever so slightly to keep up with fast-moving objects, but it’s otherwise quick and accurate.
The Z7 is a cracking, high-resolution mirrorless camera, particularly for a first generation model. Unless the lack of a second card slot is a deal-breaker for you, it’s a brilliant way to move from a DSLR into the mirrorless future.
Best pro mirrorless camera: Sony A9
- Excellent handling and controls
- Superb autofocus tracking
- High-speed shooting with minimal distortion
- Excellent electronic viewfinder with zero blackout
- Impressive battery life
- AF area not highlighted in viewfinder when moved via the joystick
- Touchscreen woefully under-used
The Sony A9 is a high-speed full-frame mirrorless camera that’s designed to be a direct competitor to Nikon and Canon’s professional-grade DSLRs. More specifically, its high burst speed and remarkable autofocus tracking abilities mark it out as an ideal camera for high-speed sports and action photography, while it’s extended sensitivity settings and silent shooting abilities also increase its appeal to professional weddings and events shooters.
Making all this possible is a new 24MP full-frame Exmor RS sensor that employs Sony’s stacked design whereby the sensor circuitry is positioned directly below the photodiodes along with an integral DRAM chip that feeds the data to the A9’s powerful BIONZ X image processor up to 20 times faster than a conventional chip. In real-world use this enables the A9 to shoot continuously at up to 20fps via its electronic shutter with AF-C enabled, with no rolling shutter distortion effects and a top shutter speed of 1/32,000sec. Switching to the mechanical shutter, maximum burst speed drops to 5fps with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec.
The other big highlight of the A9 is its AF system, which employs 693 phase-detection points that cover approximately 93% of the frame. With its ability to refocus up to 60 times a second, the A9’s tracking abilities with moving subjects are also exceptional. Five-axis image stabilisation in the guise of Sony SteadyShot is also present, helping to keep images sharp even at slower shutter speeds.
Build quality is, as you’d expect of a £4.5k flagship camera, very good indeed with the A9 wrapped in durable magnesium alloy and fully sealed against dust and moisture. Physical controls are plentiful too, and in addition to twin control dials there’s also a dedicated joystick for speedy AF point placement. The 3.68m-dot EVF, meanwhile, is one of the sharpest on the market, while the 3-inch rear LCD doubles up as a touchscreen. 4K video capture at 25fps is supported, however the A9 does not offer any “flat” profiles for grading purposes.
Related: Best Mirrorless Camera 2018
Best Compact Cameras
Best waterproof compact camera: Olympus Tough TG-5
- Excellent photo quality
- 4K and slo-mo video recording
- Sensors aplenty
- Virtually indestructible
- Limited zoom range
- Pricey for a compact
The Olympus Tough TG-5 is the standout model in the tough compact camera segment of the market and was the winner of our waterproof compact group test. Unlike many tough compacts that only shoot in the JPEG format, the TG-5’s unique selling point is its ability to shoot in RAW format, giving users unprecedented control when it comes to editing images at the post-processing stage.
Its 12MP BSI CMOS sensor teams up with a TruePic VIII processor to provide a wide sensitivity range (ISO 100-12,800), while the 4x optical zoom is equivalent to 25-100mm and boasts a variable f/2-4.9 aperture.
The TG-5 is built to survive a drop from 2.1m, is crushproof to a weight of 100kg, freezeproof down to -10°C and waterproof to a depth of 15m. Olympus also makes a underwater housing (£279) that enables deep sea divers to take it up to 45m below the surface of the water. As well as offering Wi-Fi and GPS, it’s fitted out with a compass, manometer and temperature sensor for those who want more detailed information than just the EXIF data.
Autofocus speed is another area where the TG-5 stands out from its competition. It’s quick to focus both above and below water and its auto white balance does a commendable job of ensuring colour is vibrant when shooting underwater scenes.
It’s not the cheapest underwater compact you can buy, but as the old saying goes you do get what you pay for. If you’re venturing away on a trip of a lifetime and want an indestructible camera to record great memories and high-definition videos, the Olympus Tough TG-5 should be high on your wish list. Best of all it’s a camera you can hand over to the kids to have fun with on holiday and won’t have any fear of it getting damaged.
Best street photography compact camera: Fujifilm X100F
- Traditional control dials are quick and engaging to use
- Superb JPEG colour rendition and excellent raw image quality
- Unique hybrid viewfinder gives a useful choice of viewing options
- Stunning rangefinder-style design
- ISO dial can be awkward to use with the camera to your eye
- Lens is a bit prone to flare
- Filter thread and hood adapter is a pricey optional extra
The Fujifilm X100F follows the X100, X100S and X100T. It’s the latest fixed lens compact in the Fujifilm X-series and boasts a retro rangefinder-style design that pairs up nicely with an APS-C sensor and clever hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder.
As with the previous updates, the F (for ‘fourth’) remains very close in spirit to the original design, with the same 35mm equivalent f/2 lens and analogue dial-led operation. The big change is found behind the lens where the 24.2MP APS-C sensor and X-Processor Pro provide a superior image quality and autofocus performance. Users get a sensitivity range spanning ISO 100-12,800 with extended settings up to ISO 51,200.
For shooting fast moving subjects, the X100F offers pacy continuous shooting at 8fps with a 25-frame raw buffer. Like the Fujifilm X-T20 that also features in this roundup, the X100F benefits from a fully electronic shutter, allowing the shutter speed to be extended to 1/32,000sec, regardless of the aperture selected.
If you like the look of the X100F but feel its fixed lens is a bit limiting, there are a couple of optional lens converters you can buy – the TCL-X100 II and WCL-X100 II – which give 50mm and 28mm-equivalent views respectively. Elsewhere, there’s built-in Wi-fi, Fujifilm’s proprietary film-simulation colour modes that draw upon the firm’s analogue heritage as well as Full HD video.
Touchscreen control hasn’t made its way onto the X100F, meaning users are reliant on the thumb-toggle to shift the autofocus point around the frame. The dials on the top plate are a pleasure to use. They notch positively as they’re turned – the same of which can be said for the aperture ring on the lens. As for the quick menu, this makes all the difference when you need to adjust frequently used settings on the fly.
With the X100F, Fujifilm has produced a camera that’s as lovely to use as it is to look at. Users of the X100S and original X100 will find it a huge upgrade, while X100T owners should appreciate the new sensor and improved controls. Like its predecessors it’s one of the most desirable fixed lens compact cameras on the market.
Best bridge camera: Sony RX10 IV
- Huge zoom range covers almost any photographic opportunity
- Fast, accurate autofocus keeps moving subjects sharp
- Excellent image quality in most lighting conditions
- Screen only tilts up or down
- Lacks some expected features, e.g. intervalometer
- Bluetooth under-utilised (only used for geotagging)
In the past, all-in-one bridge cameras have provided a means of getting a long zoom range in relatively compact and affordable package. That all changed with Sony’s launch of the original RX10 in 2013. Now, with the RX10 IV, Sony has completely revised the internals, adding the stacked-CMOS sensor and Bionz X processor previously seen in its RX100 V pocket camera.
The RX10 IV’s 20.1-megapixel Exmor RS sensor uses a stacked architecture, with on-chip memory and image processing enabling high readout speeds. This allows a silent high-speed electronic shutter that practically eliminates subject distortion from rolling shutter artefacts, while offering speeds as high as 1/32,000sec, which is faster than the 1/2000sec top speed of the mechanical shutter.
Sony’s latest Bionz X processor provides the horsepower for the headline 24fps shooting mode, with a spectacular buffer of 110 RAW files, or 249 JPEGs. The sensitivity range runs from ISO 100-12,800, with extended ISO 64 and 80 options also available. Crucially, the sensor gains on-chip phase detection for autofocus too, with 315 focus points covering 65% of the image area.
Quite a few common features are missing, however. These include in-camera RAW conversion, an intervalometer, time-lapse movie creation, or even multiple aspect ratios for stills shooting – you just get a choice of 3:2 or 16:9. Unlike some other models, the RX10 IV isn’t compatible with Sony’s add-on apps, so you can’t install additional features either.
Its huge zoom range will cover almost any subject, from sweeping landscapes to sports and wildlife, while its remarkable autofocus and continuous shooting abilities make it a far better choice for photographing moving subjects than any previous bridge camera.
If you’ve always liked the idea of an all-in-one camera that will let you shoot practically any subject well, you best start saving, because the RX10 IV is the best of this type yet.
Best superzoom bridge camera: Nikon P1000
- Amazing zoom range
- Great viewfinder
- Effective optical stabilisation
- Extremely bulky
- Poor in low light
Nikon’s P1000 is in a class all its own. With its, frankly, ridiculous 125x zoom, you can shoot the moon (and perhaps beyond) with its mega monster of a lens. The trouble is, it’s coupled with a teeny tiny 1/2.3-inch (smaller than what you might find in some smartphones, these days). The upshot of that is that in low light, it really struggles. It’s also very expensive (£1000 at last check), and is hugely weighty and chunky.
That said, if you were to line-up the equivalent lenses you’d need for this reach on a DSLR, then the P1000 starts to look somewhat miniscule. If you look shooting far away subjects, such as wildlife or while travelling, it can make a lot of sense. If you also just like to being able to show off just how big your lens is, it’s another smart choice.
Other interesting and notable features include 4K video recording, a very good electronic viewfinder and a fully articulating LCD screen. You can also hook up the camera to your phone using Nikon’s Snapbridge technology, for instant sharing of your shots.
Best travel compact camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ200
- Great zoom range for a compact camera
- Very respectable image quality
- Much better grip compared to Lumix TZ100
- Rear screen doesn’t tilt
- Lacklustre out-of-camera JPEG image quality
- Control layout is poor for eye-level shooting
Panasonic has long owned the high-zoom travel compact sector, with the TZ200 the successor to one of its most popular cameras. And despite some fresh competition from Sony’s RX100 VI, it remains the best all-round compact for taking on city breaks and global adventures.
The TZ200’s killer feature is its 24-360mm lens, which gives you incredibly long reach considering the camera has a 1-inch sensor. It’s also kept steady by the built-in optical image stabilisation, which means you don’t have to worry too much about camera shake or raising the ISO to compensate.
With a huge variety of shooting modes, the TZ200 is also suitable for most types of photographer. Those coming from DSLRs or mirrorless cameras will be pleased to find the familiar PASM (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual) modes, but there are also a range of intelligent options for beginners. These include the point-and-shoot Intelligent Auto mode, auto-stitched panoramas, and Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode for grabbing 8MP still images from 30fps video.
While the older TZ100 remains good value, one of the TZ200’s biggest improvements over its predecessor is its viewfinder. This 2.33m-dot EVF isn’t class-leading but it is good enough for you to want to use it on a regular basis. It’s also joined by an excellent 3in touchscreen, which gives you great options for composing.
With its excellent image quality (at lower ISOs, at least), speedy operation and reliable autofocus, the TZ200 is the best pocketable travel camera you can buy right now.
Best premium compact camera: Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
- Large sensor
- Wide aperture lens
- Touch-sensitive screen
- Lack of viewfinder
- Short zoom
- Macro focusing is tricky
Ever since Sony launched the original RX100 in 2012, there has been an influx of excellent premium compact cameras entering the market with 1-inch size sensors. One example is the PowerShot G7 X II, which sits in Canon’s large sensor compact lineup above the PowerShot G9 X Mark II. It’s aimed at those who’d like full manual control and a strong image quality from a compact that can be tucked away in a jacket pocket when not in use.
For your money you get an impressive spec. The camera is built around a 1-inch back-illuminated sensor that provides a 20.1MP resolution and an ISO range of 125-12,800. The DIGIC 7 processor is responsible for increasing burst shooting speed from 6.5fps to 8fps, with autofocus set at the first frame. Those capturing JPEGs can capture up to 30 frames at 8fps.
Built-in five-axis image stabilisation is present to counteract camera shake, but in contrast to some of its peers, the G7 X Mark II doesn’t support 4K video recording – instead, it opts for full HD shooting at a choice of frame rates from 24fps to 50fps (or 60fps in NTSC).
The rear screen is a 3in panel with 1.04 million dots. It’s hinged at the top for 180 degree rotation, which will be welcomed by those who like to take the occasional selfie and features an additional hinge at its base so that it can be tilted downwards by 45 degrees. Touch controls are a tad on the small side, but it makes up for this by being responsive to light touches and allowing the focus point to be repositioned by touch in an instant.
Its reliable image quality, sound focusing performance, usefully tilting and responsive LCD, and decent level of customisation are good reasons to choose the PowerShot G7 X II. What’s more, it fits the hand nicely and is contructed to a very high standard.
Those who’d like a viewfinder or hotshoe to attach more powerful strobes than the small pop-up flash it provides are recommended to look at the Canon PowerShot G5 X II instead. Overall, the Canon PowerShot G7 X II is very pleasing premium compact to use and dependable in a variety of situations.
Best professional compact camera: Canon G1X Mark III
- Class-leading image quality
- Excellent control layout and handling
- Robust weather-resistant construction
- Lens is a little limited in terms of creative potential
- Relatively poor battery life
- No 4K video recording
Canon’s latest ‘mini DSLR’ is a real technological feat – it’s the first truly pocketable camera to combine an APS-C sensor with a zoom lens. This means the G1X Mark III can match the image quality of many DSLRs, while also being best the zoom compact you can buy right now.
Of course, there are a few compromises, including the lens’s comparatively limited f/2.8-5.6 aperture range and a short 200-shots-per-charge battery life. But thanks to Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF tech, the G1X Mark III’s autofocus is impressively quick, even when subjects are moving towards or away from you. Its Digic 7 processor also helps provide EOS-like image processing features, such as Diffraction Compensation for sharper looking images.
That relatively short 3x zoom and modest 7fps burst mode might not make it your first choice for action photography, but the G1X Mark III is otherwise a fine DSLR backup for travelling. Its centrally-placed electronic viewfinder and extensive controls mean DSLR fans will feel right at home, while the generous handgrip means it feels less cramped than smaller rivals like Sony’s RX100 VI.
Beginners might be better off with the simpler experience offered by Panasonic’s TZ range or Sony’x RX series, but enthusiasts who need pro shooting that can slip into a jacket pocket will struggle to find anything that trumps the G1X Mark III.
Related: Best Compact Camera 2018
Incoming: new cameras
2018 has been a big year for camera releases, and there are plenty of new models which are likely to be making their way onto this list. Some upcoming highlights include the following:
Going head-t0-head with the Sony A7 III, the Nikon Z6 is more of an “all-rounder” than the Z7. It features the same body design as the Z7, but it’s got a lower resolution sensor. It’s also significantly cheaper, suggestion it will probably be a big seller for the company when it comes to market. We haven’t had too much time with the Z6 just yet, but hopefully it won’t be far away.
When you’re looking for your very first interchangeable lens camera, an entry-level DSLR is where the majority of consumers still turn. Nikon’s newest model, the Nikon D3500 is a good choice for those keen to keep costs low but get all the benefits that a DSLR brings. It replaces the D3400 from 2016, adding a set of relatively minor upgrades such as better battery life, a deeper grip, a more sensible button layout and a lighter body.
It wasn’t long ago that Sony had the full-frame mirrorless market sewn up. Then along came Nikon, shortly followed by Canon, with their own cameras to bring to the game. At Photokina, keen to outdo them all, Panasonic announced the S1 and S1R, two new full-frame cameras that will be released next year as part of the new L Mount Alliance between Panasonic, Sigma and Leica. The S1R will feature a 47-megapixel full-frame sensor, while the standard S1 will have a 24-megapixel device.
Fujifilm GFX 50R
Full-frame not big enough for you? Why not go one better with a medium-format sensor. A new addition to Fuji’s GFX range, the 50R uses a rangefinder style for a flatter and more compact design. That could make it the ideal choice for street and perhaps travel photography, albeit a little less discreet than you might usually crave.