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The best Nikon camera in 2022: perfect cameras for beginners, enthusiasts and pros

Best Nikon Camera: Nikon Z fc
(Image credit: Future)

The best Nikon cameras have given countless beginners their first taste of 'proper' photography, but they are also popular with enthusiasts and professionals. Once you find a camera brand you like, it's only natural that you would stay with it as you upgrade your camera – and your photography skills!

We've stuck to Nikon's mirrorless cameras and DSLRs for this guide, because these are the cameras that offer the best image quality, features, controls and versatility for photographers.

We also couldn't go any further without mentioning Nikon's latest foray into the vlogging world with the new Nikon Z30 (opens in new tab). The launch of the Nikon Z30 sees the manufacturer with a total of three APS-C mirrorless cameras, and if you're interested in this type of camera, check out our comparison guide on the Nikon Z30 vs Nikon Z50 vs Nikon Z fc (opens in new tab) to find out which one is right for you.

Nikon Z30

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)

We haven't included Nikon CoolPix compact cameras because they are aimed at a slightly different audience and we have other guides that can help you here, including the best point and shoot cameras (opens in new tab), best waterproof cameras (opens in new tab) and best bridge cameras (opens in new tab). Perhaps the most famous bridge camera right now is the mighty Nikon P1000 and its incredible 125x zoom!

As for the cameras in this guide, Nikon makes both DSLRs and Nikon Z mirrorless cameras, and while mirrorless cameras are regarded by most as the future, the DSLR design still has a lot going for it, especially for beginners who want the most features for the least money, and enthusiasts who want a rugged design and a huge lens choice. If you want to know more about the pros and cons, we've got a whole article on DSLR vs mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab).

For this guide, we've split what we think are the best Nikon cameras right now into three sections: cameras for beginners, enthusiasts and professionals. Let's see what cameras make the top list.

The best Nikon cameras in 2022

Best Nikon cameras for beginners

These are ideal cameras to get started with: not too expensive, straightforward to use but with enough power and potential to keep up with you as you develop your photographic skills.

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We know it's simple and basic, but this is one of our all-time favorite 'starter' cameras

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Monitor: 3in fixed, 921K dots
Continuous shooting speed: 5fps
Viewfinder: Optical pentamirror
Max video resolution: 1080p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Great image quality
+
Neat retracting kit lens
+
Beginner friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed screen not touch-sensitive

While you're still learning photography and deciding what sort of camera will suit you best, you should pick a camera that's simple enough to understand straight away and affordable enough that you can change your mind and swap later if you decide you need something different. The D3500 is the entry-level model in Nikon's DSLR range, 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 starter camera. The Guide mode will help beginners get started and understand the basic principles, but 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-stabilized) kit lens, but it's definitely worth paying a little more to get the VR version.

• Read our full Nikon D3500 review

Recommended

(Image credit: Future)
(opens in new tab)
We love this camera's looks which will inspire your photography on their own!

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting, 1.04m dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Glorious looks
+
Dial-based controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Z50 is cheaper
-
Few DX Z-mount lenses

This dreamy camera doesn't just look cool, it's also one of the best beginner to mid-range cameras around. With an APS-C sensor and a sophisticated processor, the  Nikon Z fc (opens in new tab) is a highly capable camera for image-makers of all stripes, even if it misses out on a few features like a built-in flash. It's a little pricier than its stablemate the Nikon Z50, and if you don't care about looks then you may want to consider that camera instead, as it's basically the same deal. However, we're utterly charmed by the style and presentation of the Nikon Z fc. Can't resist the look and feel of the best retro cameras (opens in new tab)? Then look no further, the Nikon Z fc will suit you down to the ground. It does need a few more native DX format Nikon Z lenses, though.

(Image credit: Adam Waring/Mike Harris)
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It is more expensive, but we think Nikon's entry-level full frame mirrorless camera really is worth the extra

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 24MP
Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage
Continuous shooting speed: 4.5fps
Viewfinder: EVF
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to get to grips with
+
5-axis IS system

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 4.5fps burst shooting
-
4K video gets a 1.7x crop

It took Nikon a little while to come out with a really solid entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera, but the firm smashed it out of the park with the Z5 (opens in new tab). IT takes design cues from its pricier siblings, the Z6 and Z (more on which to come shortly), but makes some sensible additions like a beginner-friendly mode dial. It produces fantastic-looking images, and having a full-frame sensor with the sophisticated Z-mount is a tough combo to argue with. It makes a few compromises, lacking the Z6's back-illuminated sensor, and suffering a 1.7x crop on its 4K video, but these sacrifices are what enable the Z5's real ace in the hole: it's tempting price tag. This camera represents significantly better value in our book than its rivals like the Canon EOS RP and Sony Alpha A7 II, and the price is continuing to drop, meaning it's worth considering over APS-C alternatives like the Z50 and the Z fc.

(Image credit: Digital Camera World / Louise Carey)
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The Nikon Z50 is small, powerful and affordable, though we want Nikon to make more lenses for it

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting, 1.04m dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Viewfinder: EVF, 2.36m dots
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Good value from the start
+
Compact body and kit lens
+
4K video and 11fps shooting

Reasons to avoid

-
No in-body stabilization
-
Still only a few 'native' lenses

The Nikon Z50 is a much smaller camera than Nikon's full frame 'Z' models, but it clearly shares the same design DNA. Despite its small size, it has a good grip and good external controls, and the retracting 16-50mm kit lens is remarkable not just for its pancake lens dimensions but for its overall performance. Nikon may have come to the APS-C mirrorless market comparatively late, but it's come in with a camera that has so many good points it's hard to know where to start – but we will highlight the 4K video, 11fps shooting... and the fact that its Z mount is identical to that on the larger cameras, so you can use dedicated Nikkor Z DX lenses, full frame Nikkor Z lenses and regular Nikon DSLR lenses via the FTZ adapter. Best of all, the Z50 is terrific value, especially when bought as a twin-lens kit. This is a great value camera for both beginners and enthusiasts, though we would like to see a few more DX lenses coming out.

Read more: Nikon Z30 vs Nikon Z50 vs Nikon Z fc (opens in new tab)

Nikon Z30 review

(Image credit: Nikon)
This is Nikon’s cheapest Z-series mirrorless, designed for vlogging – but it's decent for stills if you don't mind the lack of EVF

Specifications

Sensor: 20.9MP
AF points: 209-point hybrid
ISO range: 100-51,200 (exp. 204,800)
Video: Uncropped 4K UHD 30p
Memory card: SD/SDHC/SDXC, UHS-I
LCD: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1040k dots
Max burst: 11fps
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SnapBridge, USB-C, micro HDMI, microphone
Size: 128 x 73.5 x 59.5mm
Weight: 350g

Reasons to buy

+
Best-in-class build quality
+
Nikon’s most affordable Z camera
+
Proper vari-angle screen

Reasons to avoid

-
No headphone socket
-
Absent EVF limits stills potential
-
No in-body stabilization

While Nikon has aimed the Z30 firmly at a vlogger audience, with a focus on ease of use for shooting video, the underlying video specs are very similar to Nikon’s existing DX-format Z-series cameras. Likewise, it remains a very capable stills camera. If you’re looking for a dedicated point-and-shoot video camera that won’t break the bank, the Z30 offers arguably the best build quality in its price range. Most of what the Z30 is lacking – IBIS, EVF, 4K 60p – can be explained away due to the camera’s very affordable price tag. If you’re of the generation of shooters happy to forego a viewfinder, the Z30 offers the cheapest route to the best Nikon Z lenses (opens in new tab). If you can’t live without an EVF or mainly shoot stills, you could always try the Nikon Z50 (opens in new tab) or Nikon Z fc (opens in new tab) and their near-identical innards.

Best Nikon cameras for enthusiasts

These cameras are ideal if you're upgrading from an older Nikon DSLR system, or you've been using a more basic camera and you feel you've exhausted its potential.

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If you like old-school DSLR design (like we do) but want the latest tech, well, here it is!

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.4MP
Monitor: 3.2in tilting screen, 2,359k dots
Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism
Continuous shooting speed: 7/12fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Great handling
+
Fast live view AF
+
Uncropped 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Two AF systems to master
-
Manual live view swapping
-
Expensive while new

The Nikon D780 (opens in new tab) takes the on-sensor phase detection autofocus of the Nikon Z6, resulting in a DSLR with the live view autofocus speed of a mirrorless cameras – brilliant! Essentially, the D780 is like a modernized, supercharged version of Nikon's still popular D750 full-frame DSLR. The D780 doesn't just have advanced live view AF – it also comes with a high-resolution tilting touchscreen display, 4K UHD video, dual UHS-II compatible memory card slots and continuous shooting speeds up to 12fps in live view mode. Combine that with its solid design and comfortable grip and you've got a camera that's an instant classic.

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Like a 'grown up' version of the Nikon Z5 with a lot more power, and great 4K video capture too

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 24.5MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2100k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 14fps
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p (60p via update)
User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Two memory card slots
+
Improved burst shooting
+
Superior AF performance

Reasons to avoid

-
No articulating screen
-
4K 60p video is cropped

The Nikon Z6 II (opens in new tab) is a light refresh of the original Z6, with a second memory card slot and faster processor bringing a bump to burst shooting, now up to 14fps, and the ability to record 4K video at 60fps. it's a terrific all-round camera at a very good price, and this camera's build quality, design and handling are excellent – as is its in-body stabilization. The 24MP sensor sounds only a small step up from Nikon's 20.9MP APS-C mirrorless models, but in combination with the much larger full frame sensor area, it delivers a big leap in image quality, especially in low light. If you're into vlogging and filmmaking, not just stills, this is the Nikon to get.

(Image credit: Future)
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We were vaguely underwhelmed by the D7500 at first, but for DSLR fans it's a keeper

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Monitor: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 922,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism
Continuous shooting speed: 8fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Has the best bits from the D500
+
Lightweight build

Reasons to avoid

-
Less robust than the D500
-
Downgraded autofocus system

Nikon DSLR fans ready to step up from a beginner-orientated model like the D3500 should look at the Nikon D7500 (opens in new tab). It's a larger, more rugged cameras that offers 8fps continuous shooting, Nikon's highly-regarded 51-point autofocus system and the ability to capture 4K video. It has a tilting rear screen rather than the fully-articulated design on the Nikon D5600, so vertical shots are trickier – but it's fine for video and horizontal shooting. The D7500 has a lower resolution sensor than the D5600 (20MP vs 24MP) but it's a newer design taken from the pro-grade D500 that sacrifices a few megapixels in exchange for better image quality at high ISO settings and faster all-round image capture.

Best Nikon cameras for professionals

Professional Nikon cameras can be expensive, as you would expect, and although we start this section with the most expensive of all, we have two others that are much more approachable in price and could tempt many enthusiasts too.

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We're blown away by Nikon's latest and greatest pro camera, though it comes with a pro price tag

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 47.5MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch, 2,100k dot 4-axis tilting touchscreen
Continuous shooting speed: 20fps RAW (up to 1,000 buffer), 30fps hi-res JPEG, 120fps lo-res JPEG
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage
Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
120fps burst and deep buffer
+
8K 60p video
+
Deep-learning autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Only 11MP at 120fps
-
Some features arriving later

Here, at long last, is the shot across the bows of Canon and Sony – the Nikon Z9 (opens in new tab), the firm's latest pro mirrorless camera and a startling step forward for professional imaging. The Nikon Z9 boasts an intimidating set of features. It's capable of burst-shooting at a face-melting 120fps, for one, and its buffer can record a nominal 1,000 images per burst, with Nikon recording it being capable of as many as 5,000 when used with a high-spec CFExpress card. It also uses deep-learning AF, meaning its focusing ability should get better over time, and the back-side illuminated sensor delivers superior low-light performance. However, several of its headline features, like 8K 60p video and the compressed high-efficiency N-RAW format, are not going to be available at launch, but will come in a firmware update expected later in 2022. Nikon is not the only manufacturer doing this, but it's still a trend we're not fans of.

(Image credit: Future)
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Some cameras just grow on you... and grow, and grow. The classic Nikon D850 does that for us

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting, 2,360k dots
Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism
Continuous shooting speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive

Mirrorless camera fans will often complain about the size and weight of DSLRs, and they have a point. The Nikon D850 (opens in new tab) is a big bruiser of a camera compared to Nikon Z models. But this size works in your favor if you're shooting with big, heavy lenses, and most pro lenses are big and heavy! This is a handling factor that many mirrorless users don't take into account. Being a DSLR, the D850 has a bright, clear optical viewfinder that many photographers still prefer over a digital display, no matter how good the latter. 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 an XQD/CFexpress card (opens in new tab) and one for regular SD/SDHC/SDXC.

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We find that some cameras win on specs, while some win through just being very, very good

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame CMOS
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Monitor: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,100K dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Viewfinder: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage
Max video resolution: Uncropped 4K UHD up to 30p, cropped 4K UHD up to 60p
User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image quality
+
Lovely handling
+
5-axis IS system
+
Best-in-class build quality

Reasons to avoid

-
EVF resolution lower than rivals
-
Tilt-angle display, not vari-angle

The Nikon Z7 II (opens in new tab) was Nikon's flagship full-frame mirrorless camera until the mighty Z9 came along. Even so, while the Z7 II can't match the Z9's continuous shooting speed or 8K video, it delivers the same super-high resolution and easily enough sports shooting/video capability for everyday non-specialist use. This Mark II version brings dual memory card slots and faster processing, but retains the excellent design and handling of the original, and Nikon's equally excellent in-body stabilization system. Nikon has quickly built an impressive range of pro-spec Nikkor Z lenses, so the Z7 II makes an extremely good all-round camera for professional use – and Nikon's pricing is very competitive too. We really rate the Nikon Z7 II not for any flashy, headline-grabbing specs but because it does everything really well at a good price.

How we test cameras

We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides. Find out more about how we test and review on Digital Camera World (opens in new tab).

If you're passionate about Nikon cameras then check out the best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab) and the best Nikon Z lenses (opens in new tab). If you're not loyal to Nikon, then you might also like to see our guide to the best mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) and best DSLRs (opens in new tab).

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