The best digital camera 2017: which one should you buy?

We’re lucky enough to get our hands on all the latest cameras here at Digital Camera World, and subjecting them to our rigorous testing procedures often throws up some interesting results.

Sometimes a camera will smash our expectations and deliver excellent performance for its price. On other occasions, however, a highly anticipated camera may fall short of what we believe it should offer, whether that’s in the lab or out in the field.

To help you get the perfect photographic partner, we’ve gone through everything we’ve reviewed so far this year and considered older models that you can still buy right now, and come up with what we believe are the best cameras on the market right now.

In order to make this as useful as possible, we've factored value for money into our decision-making process, so naturally this means there's a handful of otherwise excellent cameras that haven't made the cut. But don't worry – we'll be revisiting this list as prices change to keep you updated.

1. Nikon D7500

A speedy and versatile performer, with 4K video to boot

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 922,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Highly responsive
Strong image quality
Only one card slot
No battery grip provision

Nikon has had a fair few smashes in the last couple of years, but it’s the D7500 that has arguably made the greatest impression. As the successor to the mid-range D7200, it has huge appeal for both enthusiasts looking for the latest features and professionals after a capable backup to a more advanced model - and indeed, well-heeled novice users too. In our full review of the camera, we found it was a brilliant performer in low light, with a highly capable AF system and great handling, together with solid colour accuracy and great 4K video quality to boot. Overall, a perfect all-rounder for a particularly broad range of applications.

Click here to read our Nikon D7500 review

2. Canon EOS 80D

This mid-range marvel is a great option for live-view shooting and video

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast

Great ergonomics
Superb image quality
No 4K video
ISO range could be wider

Canon has overhauled its entire DSLR lineup in the past year or so, but it’s the EOS 80D that stands out from these latest arrivals. The fact that it follows so many successful models in Canon’s double-digit EOS stable is clear from the small changes the company has made to the now-familiar template, while the feature set has a fresh 24MP APS-C sensor, Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, 7fps burst shooting and built in Wi-Fi and NFC among its highlights. As we noted in our full review of the camera, image quality is a strong point, with accurate colours, well-controlled noise levels and impressive dynamic range, particularly at lower sensitivities. Just like the D7500 mentioned above, its specs, price and approachability mean that it has huge appeal.

Click here to read our Canon EOS 80D review

3. Nikon D750

A compact and lightweight body with but with a solid core

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,228,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Wide dynamic range
Compact body
No 4K video
Live view AF slow and unreliable

While Nikon’s latest DSLR arrivals may have overshadowed the D750, you can’t argue with what it manages to offer for its very reasonable asking price. It’s not quite Nikon’s most affordable full-frame DSLR, as that honour goes to the D610, but by comparison it offers a redesigned 24MP sensor, a broader ISO range, a far superior focusing system, tilting LCD screen and built-in WI-Fi among a slew of perks. Thanks in part to low noise and strong dynamic range performance, its image quality is very impressive too. Perhaps the only mark against it is that video recording tops out at Full HD, rather than the more future-proof 4K that's now fast appearing elsewhere, but if video isn't your bag then it's well worth a look.  

4. Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Despite the arrival of the EOS 5D Mark IV, this previous iteration is still a full-frame gem

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 22.3MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2-inch display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Professional

Great image quality
Robust body
LCD fixed and not touch sensitive
Video specs somewhat dated

With the EOS 6D Mark II slightly underwhelming us and the EOS 5D Mark IV still prohibitively expensive, it's the EOS 5D Mark III that gets our vote from Canon's full-frame EOS line. Sure, it lacks 4K video and doesn't quite have the latest DIGIC processing engine on board, but the combination of its 22.3MP full-frame sensor, 61-point AF system, 6fps burst shooting rate and a weather-sealed body show that it still has a capable core. In-camera Raw processing, mic and headphone ports and two card slots round off the camera's spec sheet, and with decades' worth of native glass to choose from you shouldn't have any issues expanding your kit bag.   

5. Sony A9

We didn't see it coming, but boy are we happy it's here

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Fast and effective autofocus
Completely silent 20fps mode
Unbalanced with larger lenses
Battery life somewhat limited

Is the A9 the most impressive compact system camera yet? It’s certainly a contender, all the more so considering that it came out of nowhere to take on the likes of the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS 1DX Mark II. As a full-frame camera it would always get a fair share of attention, but with 20fps burst shooting, a blackout-free electronic viewfinder experience and a whopping 693-point AF system with considerable frame coverage, it's quite rightly attracted plenty. We shouldn’t expect a model of the A9’s calibre to be cheap, and it isn’t, but if you compare it with the kinds of camera that it’s rivalling, you'll notice that Sony has priced it aggressively. Whether it makes a dent in the pro sports category remains to be seen, but if this is any indication of what's coming from Sony, we can't wait to see what happens next. 

Click here to read our full review of the Sony A9

6. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

The company's flagship model exceeds expectations

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 60fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Excellent image quality
Superb build
Complex menu and control system
MTF sensor smaller than rivals

The current top dog in Olympus’s acclaimed OM-D series, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is another one of those cameras that just delivers far more than anyone expected it to. Targeted at the sports shooter and anyone else needing rapid response, the fact that it’s capable of shooting at a speed of 60fps at its full 20MP resolution is impressive enough, but the drop to 18fps when using continuous focus still edges it ahead of rival pro DSLR bodies. The camera’s 121 phase-detect AF points also gives Canon and Nikon something chew on, while the superb image stabilisation system – with a staggering maximum 6.5-stop benefit – make it a fitting choice for low-light photography too. It even boasts 4K video, a first for an Olympus camera. Although lab tests reveal the camera doesn’t quite rise above its peers when things like noise and dynamic range are concerned, it’s really not that far behind for it to make too significant a difference. Indeed, overall image quality is still mightily impressive. Bravo Olympus!

Click here to read our full Olympus O-MD E-M1 Mark II review

7. Fuji X-T20

With so much in common with the X-T2 and a more attractive price tag, what's not to like?

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Fuji X | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Beautiful OLED viewfinder
Very good kit lens
Only one card slot
Minor ergonomic issues

While Fujifilm’s X-T2 is still the camera that many aspire to own, the fact that Fujifilm managed to squeeze so much of its feature set into the smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper X-T20 makes this our pick. Frankly, what the X-T20 manages to offer for the money puts similarly priced DSLRs to shame, from the company’s very latest X-Trans CMOS III sensor technology and 4K video recording to its 8fps burst shooting mode and an AF system that can be expanded to 325 points. And this is before we get to that 2.36million dot OLED EVF and tilting touch-sensitive display, both of which make shooting in awkward conditions a cinch. It’s beautifully designed, with analogue-style control provided through solid metal dials, and it even comes with a very capable kit lens, which is a rarity. Not many cameras manage to get a full five stars upon being reviewed, but the X-T20 is one of the handful that deserve the accolade completely.

Click here to read our Fujifilm X-T20 review

8. Panasonic Lumix G80

Top features in a very reasonably priced body

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Excellent detail
Great video specs including 4K
16MP a little behind competition
Cluttered shooting interface

The Lumix G85 – or G80 depending on where you are – might resemble many of Panasonic’s previous mirrorless cameras aimed at the upper-entry-level user, but it still manages to stand out for a number of reasons. First, Panasonic's decision to remove the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor is no doubt partly responsible for the excellent detail that can be seen in images. The company has also shoehorned masses of tech into its small splash-proof body, from 4K video and built-in image stabilisation to its clever Post Focus option that lets you select the point of best sharpness after the image has been captured. The Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens available as a kit option with the camera also has a very useful focal range equivalent to 24-120mm in 35mm terms, and all of this comes at a strong price point. It may only have a 16MP sensor, but it’s still a wonderful camera for those just getting started that want plenty of growing room, or alternatively, enthusiasts after something versatile.

9. Sony Alpha 6000

Not the newest A6000-series model, but its performance-to-price ratio can't be argued with

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 921,600 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Superb AF system
Great EVF
No 4K video
No touchscreen

Despite the arrival of the A6300 and A6500, the A6000 remains in Sony’s Alpha lineup - and that’s a smart move on Sony’s part. While the latter two models can satisfy enthusiasts and those keen on shooting 4K video, the A6000 serves as a more affordable introduction to the system, one that still absolutely holds its own against even pricier cameras. Thanks in part to a 179-point phase-detect AF system spread broadly across the frame, it's particularly adept at tracking moving subjects, with its 11fps burst shooting option helping you to get the decisive moment. The 1.44million-dot OLED viewfinder and tilting LCD screen also stand out from the spec sheet, even if the latter is not touch sensitive, while Wi-Fi and NFC round things off nicely.

10. Sony RX100 IV

Despite its tiny body, the RX100 IV finds space for both a 1in sensor and an EVF

Type: Compact | Sensor size: 1in | Resolution: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 1,228,000 million dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Excellent image quality
High-quality EVF
LCD lacks touch sensitivity
No in-camera raw processing

Sony has made a habit of updating its various Cyber-shot and Alpha strands while keeping previous models in those series available, and that’s resulted in there typically being a number of capable options at different price points, at any one time. Having been updated by a mark V option, the RX100 Mark IV is one example of this, and it’s this latter option that gets our vote. It’s far cheaper than the RX100 Mark V but it still manages to offer much of what that camera provides, such as a 20.1MP sensor (albeit a slightly different one) and 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, along with the same EVF and tilting screen. It actually has a few advantages over that camera too, such as considerably better battery life, while videographers should be happy with the option to record both conventional 4K video and slow-motion footage at lower resolutions.