The best Nikon cameras in 2019: Nikons for beginners, enthusiasts and pros

Best Nikon: Nikon D3500

We've picked out the ten best Nikon cameras you can buy right now, and we're not just going by features, price and performance, but by affordability, ease of use and how good these cameras are for different users and picture-taking situations.

Nikon makes three main types of camera. It's probably best known for its interchangeable-lens DSLRs like the novice-friendly Nikon D3500 or the high-end Nikon D850, as these come in prices to suit beginners right up to full-time professional photographers and are amongst the best DSLRs you can buy. But it's recently added two new mirrorless Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 which have really caught everyone's imagination, and also feature in our guide to the best mirrorless cameras.

But Nikon isn't about fancy interchangeable lens cameras, and the best camera for beginners doesn't have to be a DSLR. Not everyone needs the ability to change lenses, and for family or casual use a fixed-lens 'compact' camera will do just as well, and probably save some cash in the process. These fall into the Nikon Coolpix range, which includes some of the best compact cameras and interesting and specialised models such as ultra-zoom bridge cameras and rugged underwater cameras that can stand being submerged, dropped and frozen!

So we'll kick off our list with the top Nikon cameras you can buy right now based on features, capabilities and price, and we'll go on to look at the best Nikons for more specialised kinds of photography. Ready? Let's go!

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1. Nikon D3500

All-round winner: the Nikon D3500 brings quality, versatility and value!

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3in fixed, 921K dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Great image quality
Neat retracting kit lens
Beginner friendly
Fixed screen not touch-sensitive

It's the entry-level model in Nikon's DSLR range, and on paper it doesn't look so very different to the Nikon D3400 before it (which is still on sale). But subtle design tweaks have produced improved on a winning formula to produce a camera that's small and light, yet comfortable to grip. It's an entry-level model but it has a 24.2MP sensor as good as those in cameras at twice the price, and it offers a very good 5fps continuous shooting speed for a beginners camera. The Guide mode will help beginners get started and understand the basic priciples, and the D3500 has all the manual controls you need to learn about photography as you improve your skills. It's sometimes sold a little cheaper with a non-VR (non-stabilised) kit lens, but it's definitely worth paying a little more to get the VR version and sharper shots in poor light.

Read more: Nikon D3500 review

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2. Nikon Z6

Runner up: the new mirrorless Nikon Z6 has left us really impressed

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.5MP | Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Viewfinder: EVF | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Well-designed body and controls 
Superb high-ISO image quality
Full frame 4K video
Weak 310-shot battery life

This is the cheaper of Nikon's two new Z-series mirrorless cameras, but it's the one we reckon has the most all-round appeal. Yes, it's expensive compared to the D3500, but that's because it has a much larger full-frame sensor, more powerful image processing, a faster continuous shooting speed, 4K video and a host of other features that mark it out as a superb camera for advanced enthusiasts and professionals. On paper, the 24.5-megapixel sensor appears to offer no advantage over smaller and cheaper APS-C cameras, but the sensor's extra size means it's images are much crisper and cleaner, especially at higher ISO settings. At the moment Nikon has only released three native Z-mount lenses – we recommend the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/4 as the perfect kit lens – but more are on the way, and if you get this camera with Nikon's FTZ mount adaptor, you can use any current Nikon DSLR lens without restriction.

Read more: Nikon Z6 review

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3. Nikon D850

Best for pros: the new Z7 (below) is great, but Nikon D850 still rules

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Lens Mount: Nikon F | Screen type: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,360,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Professional

High MP and fast burst shooting
Solid, weather-sealed body
Better battery life than mirrorless models
Expensive

There are plenty of people who will tell you that DSLRs are dead and mirrorless cameras are the future, but don't believe a word of it! The Nikon D850 is a big bruiser of a camera compared to the new Nikon Z models, but that works in your favour if you're shooting with big, heavy lenses. Being a DSLR it has a bright, clear optical viewfinder that many photographers still prefer over a digital display, no matter how good. The D850's 45.7-megapixel sensor produces quite superb image quality, yet it can still maintain a shooting speed of 7 frames per second, or 9 frames per second with the optional battery grip. Even without the grip, the D850 has an amazing battery life of 1840 shots – far more than any mirrorless rivals – and it comes with two memory card slots; one for the new XQD card format and one for regular SD/SDHC/SDXC.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

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4. Nikon D7200

Best Nikon for students: The Nikon D7200 is a long-time favourite

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in fixed, 1,229,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast

More MP than the D500 and D7500
1.3x crop mode allows 7fps
Power and value
No 4K video

It's been around for a while, but the D7200's combination of image quality, features and performance has proved an evergreen formula, and falling prices make it as desirable as ever. It doesn't excel in any one particular area, but it's strong in all of them, so it's the perfect all-rounder for students of photography or one of the best cameras for enthusiasts who want to move on up to a more serious camera. Interestingly, the D7200 has a 4-megapixel resolution advantage over the more expensive, newer Nikon D7500 and D500. The newer cameras are optimised for speed and low-light shooting, but the D7200 still has the edge for fine detail. It comes with Nikon's long-running and highly-regarded 51-point autofocus system, and while it doesn't have the tough magnesium alloy construction of more expensive Nikon DSLRs, it's still plenty tough enough. The only thing that betrays its age is the lack of 4K video, but not everyone needs that.

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5. Nikon Z7

Best for resolution: the Nikon Z7 combines megapixels and power

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Viewfinder: EVF | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p | User level: Professional

Great handling
Superb electronic viewfinder
Not many Z-mount lenses yet
Single XQD card slot

The Z7 is Nikon's first full-frame mirrorless camera, but it's an instant classic. It combines an ultra-high-resolution 45.7-megapixel sensor with a 493-point hybrid autofocus system and the ability to capture images at up to 9 frames per second (without needing a battery grip). In many ways it surpasses our top pro Nikon camera, the D850, though its use of just a single XQD card slot has proved controversial and it has a much shorter battery life. In many ways, the Nikon Z7 vies for the title of top pro Nikon alongside the D850, but we think it's especially well-suited to landscape photography, where its smaller body and lighter weight will be very welcome when you have to. hike long distances (just make sure you take a couple of spare batteries).

Read more: Nikon Z7 review

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6. Nikon D5600

Best for travel: the D5600 is a small but powerful and easy to pack

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in pivoting touchscreen, 1.037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

Fully articulated touchscreen
39-point AF system
Neat and light AF-P kit lens
Lacks the D3500’s Guide mode

Nikon's D3000-series cameras (like the D3500 above) are entry-level cameras designed for beginners, while its D5000-series cameras are one step up, offering more features and a more adaptable design, with a flip-out rear screen that can be angled in any direction for low-level shots or any other kind of awkward angle. The D5600 uses Nikon's tried-and-tested 24-megapixel APS-C sensor which is capable of super-sharp results, and it comes with the same neat retracting 18-55mm AF-P lens as the D3500. The 'P' in the lens name refers to Nikon's stepper motor autofocus technology, and Nikon lenses with this not only offer fast and silent autofocus, they also seem to speed up the live view autofocus, which DSLRs are not normally very good at. If you are going travelling, we recommend getting Nikon's small and light AF-P 10-24mm ultra-wide-angle lens too – it's perfect for interiors, tall buildings and narrow city streets.

Read more: Nikon D5600 review

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7. Nikon D500

Best Nikon for sports: blazingly fast but affordable price

Type: : DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Great build quality and handling
10fps continuous shooting
Excellent autofocus system
Pricey for an APS-C camera

If you're keen on action photography you need four things: very fast continuous shooting speeds, a big memory buffer capacity so that you can caputre lots of shots in a burst, a fast and powerful autofocus system, and a good viewfinder. The D500 ticks every box. Being an APS-C format camera it's a lot (a LOT) cheaper than the full-frame Nikon D5, but comes close for rugged build and performance and the smaller sensor adds a handy 1.5x focal length magnification which effectively increases the 'reach' of telephoto lenses. The D500 uses Nikon's new and highly-rated 153-point autofocus system, and the optical viewfinder offers the lag-free viewing you need for following fast-moving subjects. You are paying a little extra for a tough, fast, sports-orientated camera, but the D500 is also perfectly adept at handling any other kinds of subjects, so it's far from a one-trick-pony.

Read more: Nikon D500 review

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8. Nikon Coolpix A10

Best cheap Nikon: the Nikon A10 is simple and amazing value

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3-inch | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Screen: 2.7-inch 230k | Viewfinder: None | Lens: 5x zoom, 26-130mm equiv. | Max burst speed: 1.2fps | Max video resolution: 720p | User level: Beginner

Stabilisation for stills and movies
Takes AA batteries
Simple and intuitive layout
720p maximum movie resolution

Can you really get a decent digital camera for so little money? Yes you can! Obviously the budget price brings compromises in sensor size and image quality, but you still get a 5x optical zoom lens, a decent 2.7-inch screen and a simple control layout that means anyone can just pick it up and use it. We love the fact that it runs on a pair of regular AA batteries, too, so that if it runs out of power you can just get a couple of replacement batteries from any nearby shop. Its continuous shooting mode is a bit too slow to be much use, and it can only capture 720p video, but at this price you've got to accept a couple of compromises and the A10 ticks all the boxes for a low-cost family camera.

Read more: The best camera under $200/£200

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9. Nikon Coolpix W300

Best for adventure: the Nikon W300 can survive anything you can!

Type: Waterproof compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm f/2.8-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Maximum continuous shooting rate: not quoted | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Decent zoom range
Excellent waterproofing
Shockproof
No Raw shooting

Big, heavy cameras don't do well in extreme environments. If you're skydiving, surfing or plunging off watery precipices in a kayak, you need a camera that's small, light and tough. There are plenty of GoPro-style action cams to fit the bill, but the Nikon Coolpix W300 is a 'proper' camera with a 5x zoom lens, a 3-inch screen, and camera controls you just don't get on an action cam. Its 1/2.3-inch sensor can capture 16-megapixel stills and 4K video, and it's impressively tough. It's waterproof to a depth of 30m, which is impressive enough, but it's also shockproof, being designed to withstand being dropped from a height of 2.4m. It doesn't shoot raw files, which is a pity, but then that is pretty uncommon in this class of camera, and hardly a deal-breaker.

Read more: The 10 best waterproof cameras

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10. Nikon Coolpix P900

Best ultra-zoom: The new P1000 zooms further, but the P900 is cheaper!

Type: Superzoom compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 24-2000mm (equiv.) f/2.8-6.5 | LCD: 3in articulating, 921k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 921k dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps | Movies: Full HD (1080p) | User level: Beginner

5-stop VR system
Mammoth zoom range
Value for money
No raw shooting option

Sometimes last year's technology offers the best value for money, and that's certainly true of the P900. When it was launched its 83x zoom lens made headlines, but Nikon's newer (and much more expensive) P1000 goes much further with its trillion-times zoom, or whatever it is. The fact is, though, that an 83x zoom is still A LOT and you might not find many situations where you actually need that kind of magnification. In fact, we think the P900 hits a sweet spot of zoom range and price that the P1000 currently misses by a mile. You get a 24-2000mm equivalent zoom range, a five-stop Vibration Reduction system to control the inevitable camera shake at long range and there's even in-built GPS. The P900 doesn't capture raw files, but the small sensors in these ultra-zoom cameras put a cap on image quality anyway – which is all the more reason to choose the cheaper P900 over the newer, bigger and more expensive Nikon P1000.

Read more: The 10 best bridge cameras

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