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The best Sony camera in 2021: from full-frame Alphas to simple Cyber-shots

Best Sony camera: Sony A7 IV
(Image credit: Sony)

The best Sony camera is almost certainly the Alpha A1, but since very few people need or can afford that kind of power, most will want to set their sights a little lower! So our guide includes Sony cameras across a range of prices, user levels and types. Whether you're an aspiring pro, a vlogger or a happy snapper, there's almost certainly a Sony for you!

• Do also check out our Sony Black Friday page for best holiday deals

The entire industry was shaken up by the launch of the Sony A1 – which, technically speaking, is probably the best Sony camera all-round. A powerhouse professional body that packs a 50MP sensor, 30fps bursts, 8K video and a 6K price tag, it's a monster performer but also overkill for most shooters.

More recently, Sony has launched the much more affordable Sony A7 IV. Though still not cheap, the A7 IV is much more likely to be seen as the best all-round camera of all for enthusiasts, experts and many professionals.

But there are lots of other Sony cameras to choose from. Here we've highlighted our top recommendations from across Sony's entire line-up, including some of the best point-and-shoot cameras from its Cyber-shot offerings, the best vlogging cameras from its APS-C range, and the best professional cameras from its full-frame catalog. 

Sony's Alpha mirrorless cameras take interchangeable lenses and are aimed at keen photographers, from the entry-level Sony A6100 to the Sony A9 II pro sports camera. And Sony also makes Cyber-Shot compact cameras with fixed lenses for all kinds of users, from family snappers to travel photographers to vloggers who want high-quality results in a camera small enough to fit in a pocket – or with a zoom range that you just can't get from a mirrorless camera lens.

The best Sony cameras in 2021

Sony Alpha full-frame

Sony Alpha cameras are available with either APS-C or full-frame sensors. The APS-C models are smaller and more affordable and designed more like traditional rectangular ‘rangefinder’ cameras – but they still pack plenty of power. Sony’s full-frame Alpha cameras are more like mini DSLRs, with a conventionally placed electronic viewfinder on the top. 

These are larger, more expensive and more orientated towards expert and professional users – though there are still bargains to be had for enthusiasts because Sony has a policy of keeping older models on sale alongside newer replacements, and at extremely tempting prices! This means that although the brand new Sony A1 blows just about every other Alpha out of the water for specifications, Sony's older cameras are still highly effective in their own fields and massively cheaper.

Read more: The best Sony lenses

(Image credit: Sony)

Still the best affordable all-rounder – until the new Sony A7 IV (below) is in stock!

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 922k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Image quality and speed+5-axis image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Unbalanced by larger lenses-24MP no higher than APS-C models

It might not have the blinding speed of Sony’s top-flight A9 II or the ultra-high-resolution of the A7R IV, but the Sony A7 III grabs many of the best bits from these pricier models and delivers them in a more affordable package. Headline features include highly effective 696-point AF system and a 5-axis image stabilization system that promises 5EV of compensation.There’s a 24.2MP back-illuminated image sensor, coupled with the latest generation of image processor, and the two deliver amazing tonal range and make super-high ISO settings possible. Handling is good, though some may find the body a little small when paired with pro lenses, but that applies across the Alpha range. For top performance at a sensible price, it’s the best Sony camera out there – but it is holding its price very firmly, and for stills photographers the older Sony A7 and Sony A7 II are very tempting (and cheaper) alternatives.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's new do-it-all camera is a stunning blend of speed, resolution and 4K video capabilities

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 33MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/expert
Reasons to buy
+Autofocus performance+33MP resolution+Huge burst mode buffer depth
Reasons to avoid
-Complex matrix of video options-Pro/semi-pro pricing

The Sony A7 IV signals a step up in ambition for Sony's ‘vanilla’ A7 model. Traditionally, the Sony A7 has been the range’s entry-level camera, with the ‘R’ models adding resolution and the ’S’ models adding speed/sensitivity. But there’s nothing ordinary about the Sony A7 IV, and while it does technically superseded the A7 III, it’s an altogether more advanced camera that, we think, targets a higher-level audience. Compared to the A7 III, the A7 IV is a major step up – but in price as well as features. The A7 III will keep going for now, so it makes for a tricky buying decision!

Sony says the A7 IV will be available from December 2021, but we'll leave these pre-order links in for the time being, just in case of delays.

• Pre-order the Sony A7 IV at B&H
• 
Pre-order the Sony A7 IV at Adorama
• 
Pre-order the Sony A7 IV at Wex
• 
Pre-order the Sony A7 IV at Park Cameras

(Image credit: Sony)

Still the king of resolution amongst full frame cameras, the A7R IV is fast, too

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 61MP
Lens mount: Sony FE
Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,440,000 dots
Viewfinder: Electronic, 5.76m dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+61 megapixel resolution+10fps continuous shooting+Advanced Eye AF
Reasons to avoid
-Unbalanced with bigger lenses-Quite expensive – of course!

The 'R' models in Sony's A7 series cameras are designed first and foremost for resolution – and the Sony A7R Mark IV certainly delivers. The previous A7R Mark III set the standard for a time, but the A7R Mark IV brings a new record-breaking 61-megapixel that has the highest resolution of any Sony – or indeed any full frame camera. The detail rendition is spectacular, though the gain is perhaps not quite as obvious as the bare numbers might suggest, so although the A7R Mark IV beats the older A7R Mark III model on paper, in reality the differences in outright detail rendition are smaller than you might suppose. This does mean that although the A7R Mark III is technically superseded, it's still a high-resolution camera by any standards, and likely to be available at much reduced prices now too. The A7R Mark IV has prompted many people to compare it to the best medium format cameras, but we think the larger sensors in medium format models are still a very telling difference – it's not just about megapixels. Even the new Sony A1 can't match this camera for resolving power.

(Image credit: Sony)

This incredible powerhouse of a camera unfortunately has a price to match!

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 50.1NP
Lens mount: Sony FE
Screen: 3-in tilting, 1.44m dots
Viewfinder: Electronic, 9.44m dots
Max burst speed: 30fps
Max video resolution: 8K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+50MP resolution+8K video+30fps continuous shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Stratospheric price!

The Sony A1 is everything that Sony says it is. It’s a technological triumph, a camera that really can do everything. Previously, cameras might offer speed, resolution or video capability, but the A1 offers all three, and even beats dedicated sports and video cameras at their own game. So is this the perfect camera? Not quite. The price is, and will remain, a major obstacle, and its appeal is limited to photographers who need everything it does, not just one or two of those things. This, together with its huge price, prevent it from being further up our list. We couldn't have an article about the best Sony cameras without mentioning the A1, but would we really recommend it as the best one to buy? Realistically, for 99 photographers out of a hundred, probably not.

Read more:
• Best cameras for professionals
 The best mirrorless cameras right now

(Image credit: Sony)

The Sony A7C is so 'safe' it's hard to get worked up about it, but it does a good job for vloggers

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full Frame
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E mount
LCD: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 921k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps, 115 raw, 223 JPEG
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Small(ish) body+Excellent retracting lens+Side-hinged vari-angle screen
Reasons to avoid
-Unambitious video specs-Unappealing silver and black finish-Not especially cheap

Even though the Sony A7C and the Sony A7 III are now very similar prices, the articulated screen on the Sony A7C makes it that much better for vlogging. It isn't Sony's most exciting camera release but its practical performance and excellent AF system do make it a good camera. The Sony A7C lacks the same quality feel that other A7 cameras have but it is a bit lighter and therefore might appeal more to someone vlogging on the move. Its full-frame sensor also means it's very good in low light and it has 5 stops of in-body stabilization so even if you're shooting hand-geld you'll be able to achieve relatively smooth video. It's by no means the cheapest camera on the list and if you have any plans to buy an external monitor, I'd probably still go for the Sony A7 III. However, if you're looking at a camera that doesn't need any extras to record yourself, this is still the better option. 

Best Sony camera: Sony A9 Mark II

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's super-fast sports camera is really impressive, but the newer A1 leaves it in the shade

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full Frame
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E mount
LCD: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.44million dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps electronic shutter, 10fps mechanical
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Blistering burst shooting+Best AF we've used... so far+Unrivaled connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Menus remain obtuse-Isn't it time for CFexpress?

To quote from our own review, the Sony A9 II is the fastest, most ferocious full-frame sports camera we've ever used – but this was before we tested the EOS-1D X Mark III. Nevertheless, the Sony A9 Mark II's blistering speed and autofocus performance are impressive, and matched only by its phenomenal connectivity, which promises to be a game changer for pro shooters. We would love to have seen Sony implement something akin to Olympus' Pro Capture feature, so that you never miss the critical moment. However, if our most damning criticism is that the A9 II is too fast for us to keep up with, surely that's nothing but mission accomplished for Sony! For professionals who need more than speed, however, there is the new Sony A1, which edges ahead of the A9 II for sports photography and throws in 8K video and 50MP stills too.

Sony Alpha APS-C

(Image credit: Sony)

The successor to the original A6000 is a more advanced, more modern camera

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in 180-degree touchscreen, 1,440k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Real-Time Tracking Autofocus+4K video recording+180-degree screen
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body sensor-shift stabilization-Low resolution EVF

This is the entry-level successor to the Sony A6000, and while the older model remains on sale, we hear rumblings that it may not be for much longer. Six years on, the A6100 has brought a host of improvements, sharing many of the same upgrades featured in the latest mid-range A6400 and top-end A6600 bodies, including a 180-degree touchscreen for selfies and vlogging, 4K video and a faster and more advanced autofocus system. We weren't bowled over by the A6100 when it first came out because it cost far more than the A6000, but a couple of years on, the A6100 is almost down to A6000 prices (which have crept up) and it is, without a doubt, a much better camera.

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony's best APS-C camera for newbie vloggers is also its cheapest

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E mount
LCD: Vari-angle
Viewfinder: None
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps for 116 JPEGs
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Autofocus features and performance+Vari-angle screen+Clip on wind muffler
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilization-Rolling shutter (the 'jello' effect)-No touch control for menus

The Sony ZV-E10 is definitely not going to win any awards on the photography front, but it is a great option for content creators cutting their teeth in vlogging and videography. While Sony hasn't moved its APS-C 4K video tech along much in recent years, the ZV-E10 is the manufacturer's first APS-C body to feature an articulating touchscreen (which is obviously vital for vlogging). It also packs a large and well-performing internal microphone (with clip-on muffler), Sony's excellent autofocus, and an appealing price tag. It's a shame that there is no in-body image stabilization, and the menus can't be touch-controlled (a rather glaring omission for a vlogging camera), but for a very specific YouTube-era audience this hits the nail on the head. 

(Image credit: Sony)

Perfect for vloggers with its 4K video and a 180-degree screen

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.3MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 921k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Great 4K video and AF+180-degree screen
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilisation-Design feeling dated

The Sony A6400 is effectively Sony’s ‘middle’ A6000-series camera, fitting in above the A6100 model and below the top-of-the-range A6600. But it still packs a super-fast, super-high-tech autofocus system, and great 4K video capabilities. Its still image quality is very good, but really this camera’s strength is as a blogging / vlogging tool for single-handed content creation. Its 180-degree screen is the key here, flipping up and over to face you to help your framing, facial expressions and delivery as you present video pieces to camera. The specs of the top-of-the-range A6600 are better, but you have to be careful with any camera (and with Sony models in particular) not to pay for high-tech features you don't need, such as cutting-edge AF or unnecessarily fast burst modes.

Sony Cyber-shot cameras

Sony’s Cyber-shot compact camera range is wide and varied. The ‘RX’ models are most likely to appeal to experts, the ‘HX’ series gives you a long zoom range for a modest outlay, while the WX series offers, cheap, effective point-and-shoot photography. 

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony has adapted its RX100 design to make a brilliant vlogging camera

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1in
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 921k dots
Max video resolution: 4K
Mic port: Yes
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Supplied mic windshield+Super-fast AF+Vari-angle screen
Reasons to avoid
-Small-ish rear screen and not 16:9

While the new Sony ZV-E10 spiritually supersedes it, the ZV-1 remains a great option that doesn't require you to faff with lens changing. Some might dismiss the ZV-1 as yet another Sony RX100 variant, but it’s much more than that. The sensor and lens might be familiar, but the body, the controls, the audio and the rear screen are all new and different and optimized brilliantly for vlogging. There are a couple of niggles. The huge change in the minimum focus distance when you zoom in is annoying and the SteadyShot Active stabilization didn’t work too well for us, but the autofocus is exceptional and the ZV-1 is a joy to use, not least because here at last is a vlogging camera that really is designed specifically for vlogging, right down to that fully vari-angle rear screen and the supplied mic wind shield, which really does work brilliantly. It's also a LOT cheaper than the flagship Sony RX100 VII camera, despite offering a better proposition for vloggers.

(Image credit: Sony)

11. Sony HX99

A compact camera with a big zoom – the best Sony travel camera

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in type
Megapixels: 18.2MP
Lens: 24-720mm (equiv) f/3.5-6.4
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 922k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 638k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Huge 30x zoom range+4K video+Built-in GPS for geotagging
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen

Despite being small enough to fit into a spare pocket, the slimline HX99 compact camera features an 18.2MP image sensor, a pop-up viewfinder, a 3in screen that tilts and a mighty optical zoom range that’s equivalent to 24-720mm on a full-frame camera. There’s also a 5-axis image stabiliser on hand, which helps to keep things steady, especially towards the long end of the mighty zoom range. Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity are also shoehorned into the camera. As a further bonus, the screen has a selfie-friendly 180-degree tilt mechanism, which ultimately makes it ideal for the traveling photographer who occasionally wants to put themselves in the frame.

Read more: Best travel camera

(Image credit: Sony)

12. Sony RX10 IV

It’s the ultimate Sony bridge camera both for sports/action and 4K video

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-in type
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-600mm (equiv) f/2.4-4
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 1,440k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 24fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Phase detect AF system+Great still/video quality+Excellent lens
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive

The RX10 IV is the latest incarnation of Sony’s RX10 high-end bridge/video camera series. The main highlight is the inclusion of a 315-point phase-detect AF system, and the introduction of a touchscreen display. The 24fps burst shooting capability is pretty amazing, and it’s this, combined with the bigger sensor, better autofocus and better lens that life the RX10 Mark IV head and shoulders above other bridge cameras. It’s excellent for 4K video as well, not least because of that long-range zoom lens and autofocus system. The price, however, means that this camera’s only likely to appeal to really serious enthusiasts or experts.

Read more: Best bridge cameras

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Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.