The best Sony cameras from a technical point of view are its full frame Sony Alpha models, including the amazing new Sony A1. But in reality, the 'best' Sony camera will depend on what you need it for, what your budget is and what kind of photography you are interested in.
Sony has really shaken things up with the launch of the A1. This is a hugely powerful professional camera that can shoot 8K video, capture still images at 30 frames a second, and has a 50-megapixel sensor. This will be overkill for most photographers, though, and the cost – the highest yet for a full frame mirrorless camera – puts it well outside the scope of most photographers.
So we'll highlight 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.
We've also included the compact Sony A7C, with its rangefinder design and vari-angle screen, the high-speed Sony A9 II, which is challenging DSLRs in the pro sports photography market, and the Sony A7S III, which is almost certainly one of the best 4K mirrorless video cameras yet made.
For raw resolving power, the 61-megapixel Sony A7R IV still outpunches everything else in the Sony range, even the new A1.
These are systems geared towards experts and professionals, but Sony hasn't forgotten its more affordable APS-C cameras, From the entry-level Sony A6100 to the top-of-the-range Sony A6600, with specialists like the vlogging-oriented Sony A6400, there's something for everyone.
These Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras take interchangeable lenses and are aimed at keen photographers. But Sony also makes Cyber-Shot compact cameras with fixed lenses for all kinds of users, from family snappers to travel photographers and 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.
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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
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.
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.
Read more: Sony A7R IV review
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.
Read more: Sony A9 Mark II review
The Sony A7C's specifications are unambitious to say the least, particularly in terms of its video capabilities, but its practical performance, from its handy vari-angle screen to its excellent AF system, make it effective enough as a camera. We will leave it to you to decide if its two-tone design is appealing, but for us it does not have the quality ‘feel’ of the other A7 models. Does the Sony range and the full frame mirrorless camera market need this camera, though? It's not cheap, it's not pretty and its not even technically very advanced. However, with that new 38-60mm retracting lens, it is more compact
Read more: Sony A7C review
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: Sony A1 review
Sony Alpha APS-C
Although it was launched way back in 2014, the A6000 is still one of Sony’s best cameras. Moreover, it significantly undercuts the newer A6400 and even the 'basic' A6100 which will ultimately replace it. Indeed, it’s currently little more than a third of the price of the top A6600. With its APS-C format compact camera styling, and access to Sony’s range of interchangeable lenses, it’s a small body that packs a big punch. Resolution from the 24.3MP image sensor is good, though the 1,440k-dot electronic viewfinder and 921k-dot tilting screen (shared by the other models in the series) now look distinctly low-res. The A6000 lacks the ability to record 4K movies but overall performance and image quality are very impressive, and it’s terrific value for money.
The Sony A6400 is effectively Sony’s ‘middle’ A6000-series camera, fitting in above the A6000 and newer A6100 model and below the new 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.
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. However, these improvements don't come cheap, as the A6100 is nearly twice the price of the original A6000, somewhat limiting its appeal as an entry-level camera. As we've seen previously with Sony cameras, however, steady price discounting over time can make them very attractive buys.
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.
Sometimes even a compact system camera can feel a bit on the bulky side. The RX100 Mark VA is a svelte and streamlined camera from Sony’s acclaimed line of premium compact cameras with a permanently attached lens. It aims for the highest levels of image quality, utilizing a 1in-type image sensor that’s relatively large for a compact camera, which has a respectable 20.1MP sensor resolution. You can also get the RX100 VI, which boosts the effective focal range from 24-70mm to 24-200mm, in 35mm terms, and an even newer Sony RX100 VII. For us, though, the Sony RX100 VA gives the best blend of size, features, performance and cost. Confusingly, Sony keeps practical every version of the Sony RX100 on sale, so the latest model – the RX100 Mark VII – is two versions ahead of this one – on paper. In practice, we reckon the RX100 V/VA still gives you more bang for your buck. You may feel its worth paying the extra for the longer zoom range of the RX100 VI and VII, but you'll also be paying for burst speeds, AF modes and video capabilities which we feel are overkill in a pocket camera.
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
Any point-and-shoot compact worth its salt has to differentiate itself from what a smartphone can do. The most useful advantage it can offer is an optical zoom, and the 10x zoom on the Sony WX220 goes way further than the lenses on most point and shoot compact cameras. It doesn’t have that many frills otherwise, and the 2.7in LCD screen seems a little small compared to what’s out there in the rest of the market, but what it does, it does well, with images turning out bright and punchy with a decent level of detail. If you want a small camera with a bigger-than-average reach that the whole family can use, the WX220 is worth a look.
Read more: Best point and shoot cameras
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