The fact is, there is no single best camera! It all depends on what you want to shoot, how much you want to learn about cameras and how much you want to spend. The world of photography – and video – has really opened up to include a huge range of camera types and photographic styles, so here's our guide to what's out there and what kind of camera is most likely to fit your needs.
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We're always being asked "what is the best camera?", and the fact is there are so many camera types out there now that we have to answer with a question of our own...
What kind of photographer are you?
Take a look at our list of photographer types below – you might recognise yourself right here! If so, keep scrolling/swiping, because we've organised this guide into sections for each of type of photographer.
• Are you just starting out? If you're just getting started in photography but keen to learn, you need a camera that's simple enough for a novice to pick up and use, but powerful enough to grow with you as you try out more advanced techniques. See also: Best cameras for beginners
• Are you an enthusiast with some experience? If you've already learned the basics with an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera, you might be ready to step up to a more advanced model with more features or better performane. See also: Best cameras for enthusiasts
• Are you into travel and vlogging? Travel photography and vlogging have inspired a whole new generation of photographers, filmmakers and content creators. A traditional DSLR can be good for this, but a compact mirrorless camera will be even better. See also: Best cameras for vlogging
• Do you just want a point and shoot camera? Not everyone wants to become an expert. Often, you just need a camera to record family events, vacations and gatherings. For this, you don't need an expensive camera, you just want one that's affordable and simple enough for the whole family to use but still has a bigger zoom and more features than a camera phone. See also: Best point and shoot cameras
• Are you into action and adventure? Maybe what you need is an action camera. GoPro ignited the whole adventure photography genre, but there are lots of rival brands now and some very exciting new technologies that include 360 imaging and pocket-sized gimbal cameras for super-smooth action sequences. We've got a section in this guide devoted to action and adventure, but you can also check out our Best action camera guide.
• Are you thinking of turning pro: Professional photographers look for very specialised and specific features, and they often come with a price tag to match. But these days, you can get professional quality cameras at prices within the reach of keen amateurs and enthusiasts. Or, if you're serious about a career as a pro photographer and you're ready to spend the bucks, take a look at our guide to the Best professional cameras.
It's easy to spend a lot of money on the wrong gear. Mirrorless cameras may be all the rage and everyone aspires to a 'pro' camera, but there may be alternatives that are both cheaper and better suited to what you want to do.
For example, a gimbal camera like the brilliant DJI Pocket 2 may actually be better for your style of vlogging than a regular mirrorless camera.
Often, a single camera won't do everything you want and you end up getting a couple of different devices. That's still likely to be cheaper than trying to find the one 'perfect' camera that does everything (they don't exist, by the way!).
The world of photography has opened up massively in the past few years to include devices and shooting opportunities that never existed before. For example, the best camera drones go where other cameras can't, and can capture aerial footage with a quality you wouldn't believe – and if you're scared of flying, we've also got a separate guide to the best drones for beginners.
So that's the background. Now let's take a look at some of the best cameras you can buy today...
The best cameras in 2021
If you want to learn about photography as a hobbyist, student or budding professional, we recommend a beginner-friendly DSLR or mirrorless camera.
The Nikon D3500 is a long-standing favorite of ours. It's by no means the most advanced DSLR you can get, but its simplicity, its controls and the quality of the images it can create make it our top recommendation for anyone just starting out. There’s a lot the D3500 doesn’t do – it has a fixed rear screen that’s not touch-sensitive, it doesn’t have hybrid on-sensor autofocus and it doesn’t shoot 4K video. But its 24-megapixel sensor delivers super-sharp, super-high quality images, Nikon’s latest AF-P retracting kit lens is a miniature marvel and focuses very fast in live view, even without on-sensor phase-detection autofocus. The D3500 handles well, it’s easy to use, it’s more powerful than it looks and it’s the perfect introduction to interchangeable lens photography.
With a new 20MP sensor, incrementally improved in-body image stabilization and a new flip-down and tiltable monitor, the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV is the best version yet of a camera we've been raving about for ages. Retaining the 4K video and attractive styling that made the Mark III so attractive to consumers, the Mark IV is set to be a new favorite for anyone looking for an entry-level camera that can do pretty much everything. This is one of our favorite pint-sized cameras ever, so we're really pleased that it has AT LAST got Olympus's latest 20MP sensor. It's still a little pricey for beginners, but this is a great little camera that's so much more powerful than it looks and could be with you for a long time to come.
Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review
The Fujifilm X-T200 is light and compact, but looks and feels handles like an old-school 35mm SLR camera. Best of all, it has a big new 3.5-inch vari-angle touchscreen with twice the resolution of most rivals and a 1:6 aspect ratio perfectly suited to video. It also has an electronic viewfinder and can shoot 4K video as well as 24-megapixel stills. Its 15-45mm kit lens is electrically powered takes up much less space than a regular kit lens as well as offering wider angle of view than most, making it ideal for interior shots and big landmarks. The big touchscreen will help smartphone upgraders feel right at home, and if you decide you don't need an electronic viewfinder, the cheaper X-A7 is essentially the same but cheaper.
Read more: Fujifilm X-T200 review
If you've reached the limits of what your current camera can do, these cameras will offer a step up in features, performance and potential.
The Fujifilm X-S10 doesn't have the external exposure controls of the higher-level X-series cameras, but that's the only thing we can find to complain about, and it's clear this is no 'amateur' camera. as its build quality and handling stand out straight away. The swap to a conventional mode dial might disappoint Fujifilm fans, but the excellent finish, build quality and handling and the inclusion of IBIS (in-body stabilisation) gives this camera a very broad appeal, especially in this price sector, to produce perhaps the best combination of performance, quality and value in the APS-C mirrorless camera market right now. It even has a vari-angle rear screen, which is another reason why we rate this new camera above our previous favorite, the X-T30.
Read more: Fujifilm X-S10 review
While Nikon has done a solid job with filling out the very upper end of its Z range of full frame mirrorless cameras with the flagship Z7 II, and even found room for a cheeky APS-C offering with the Z50, it was arguably lacking an entry-level gateway to full frame. That has come in the form of the Nikon Z5, a stylish little shooter that offers full-frame features at an attractive price. With twin card slots and 4K UHD video it takes a few cues from professional bodies, though you won't be burst-shooting at anything higher than 4.5fps. Still, with full weather-sealing, five-stop image stabilisation and a spectacular electronic viewfinder, anyone making their first jump to full frame is going to find themselves absolutely spoiled for features. What we like most about this camera is its keen pricing – well below the Nikon Z6 II – and its neat retracting kit lens.
Read more: Nikon Z5 review
We know that mirrorless cameras are all the rage, but we've included the Canon EOS 90D for all those DSLR fans we know are still out there – and for all the folk who've got drawers full of Canon lenses! The Canon EOS 90D is an astounding APS-C workhorse of a camera, which combines the highest resolution yet seen in an APS-C sensor of 32.5MP, with high-speed frame rate of 10fps, and it also manages glorious uncropped 4K video, without that irritating crop that has plagued Canon cameras in the past. Its handling and ergonomics are a joy, reminding us of why shooting on a DSLR is such an enjoyably tactile experience, and it's available for a welcome enthusiast price point – not to mention the fact that you get an optical viewfinder, which many people still prefer to the electronic viewfinders on mirrorless cameras. Rumours of the DSLR's death will have been greatly exaggerated if Canon keeps on producing models as good as this.
Read more: Canon EOS 90D review
Travel and vlogging
What you need for travel photography and vlogging is a camera that's compact and versatile, and good at both video and stills photography. Here are three small, affordable cameras that we think make perfect travel companions.
Vloggers and content creators will enjoy the simplicity of the Lumix G100. It makes it easy to capture high-quality video and stills with its approachable button layout. Even people uninterested in the technicalities of capturing great-looking videos will be able to get results with this camera. There’s an inherent risk of dumbing things down too much when creating a camera for social media, but Panasonic has avoided that pitfall with the Lumix G100. By giving it a decent viewfinder and “proper camera” ergonomics, Panasonic has given the G100 an edge in a highly competitive market. This is a great camera to start with if you're interested in travel photography, vlogging or both!
Read more: Panasonic Lumix G100 review
Normally we recommend interchangeable lens cameras for any kind of serious photography or filmmaking, but we'll make an exception with the Sony ZV-1. It has a fixed 3x zoom lens and a 1-inch sensor that's smaller than its Micro Four Thirds and APS-C rivals, but it makes up for it with a super-compact body small enough to slip into a jacket or even a trouser pocket, and a body, controls, audio system and rear that are optimised brilliantly for vlogging. The woolly hat you see in the pictures is a muffler to cut wind noise while filming, and it comes with the camera, and the autofocus on this camera is blazingly fast – and copes brilliantly when you hold objects up to show the camera.
Read more: Sony ZV-1 review
We've gone really left-field with this suggestion, but the DJI Pocket 2 could be a great travel/vlogging camera. It wouldn't be the first choice for stills, but its 16MP stills (it can go up to 64MP) are likely to be better than a smartphone's and it can shoot programmable multi-row panoramas stitched in-camera, too. There's even an optional wide-angle add-on for spectacular interiors and architecture. Its star turn is its video, though, with an in-built gimbal that provides a smoothness bigger cameras can only dream of. It comes with a dinky controller for powered pan and tilt movements and has a trio of 'follow' modes, just like a proper gimbal. The difference is that this one will fit in a shirt pocket. The built in touchscreen is very small, but you can plug the Pocket 2 into your smartphone and control it on a bigger screen via the DJI app.
Read more: DJI Pocket 2 review
Simple point and shoot cameras
If all you want is simple point and shoot camera that the whole family can use, here are some great choices.
Interchangeable lens DSLR and mirrorless cameras are great if you want to get seriously into photography, but can be overkill when you just want to grab pictures casually. Sometimes a fixed lens compact camera will be fine, especially if you want to do a lot of travelling, and if you're more concerned with capturing the moment than fussing over technicalities. A superzoom travel camera is the perfect solution, but most have really small 1/2.3-inch sensors which limit their picture quality. The Panasonic TZ200/ZS200 is different. It has a much larger 1-inch sensor for much better pictures, matched up with a big 15x zoom – and yet it will still fit in a jacket pocket when it’s powered down. The TZ200/ZS200 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s surely one of the best long-zoom compact cameras you can get, and it has features and controls that will even please experts.
This time we've gone for a camera that's cheap, effective and practical enough for the whole family to use without worrying about it. With its small sensor and simple controls, the Ixus 185 is about as far away from a DSLR as a bicycle is from a Harley Davidson, but that’s not the market it’s designed for. If you think of it instead as an alternative to a smartphone, it has A LOT going for it. For a start, there are no smartphones with an 8x optical zoom, and the price of the Ixus 185 means you don’t have to lie awake at night wondering if you’ve got it adequately insured. It’s perfect for kids, teenagers and technophobic adults who want a camera to take pictures with and to keep their phone for making phone calls.
Family cameras have a pretty hard life, so if you need one that can put up with the rough and tumble and even a little underwater adventure, the Nikon Coolpix W300 could be perfect. It's rated to depths of 30m, outstripping most waterproof cameras, and it comes with a barometer that provides useful underwater data like altitude and depth, as well as an electronic compass. You get Bluetooth and Nikon’s SnapBridge technology for fast image transfer. Video shooters will also welcome the addition of 4K video to the W300’s toolkit, and the generous shockproof rating of 2.4m means it’s extra protected against bumps and knocks. Keen photographers will have to do without raw capture, but most casual snappers will be happy to stick with JPEGs and find this camera a superb all-rounder.
Action and adventure
If you want to record your adventures and travel from an immersive, first-person angle, then an action camera is the perfect choice. Or, if you really want to take a ride on the wild side, try a 360 camera. These capture everything around you – literally, EVERYTHING.
The GoPro Hero 10 might be a little more than you need if you're shopping for your first action camera, but if you're looking for a camera that's going to record super-smooth high-quality video this can't be beaten. It might look a lot like the previous GoPro Hero 9, which is still available, but it is a pretty significant upgrade. It features a new G2 processor which makes the interface super responsive, doubles the frame rates and fuels the best image stabilization tech available in action cameras. The stand-out feature is its ability to record 5.3K 60p using GoPro's new HyperSmooth 4.0 video stabilization. It also has the ability to shoot 23-megapixel photos and is has the best low-light performance of any GoPro yet. You can buy a wealth of accessories separately so as well as mounting it on your helmet, you could attach it to your chest, your head or even onto one of the best selfie sticks.
Leading drone maker DJI forced a re-think for GoPro by introducing a front-screen to its first action camera, the Osmo Action. Now, in 2021, the Action 2 re-imagines the GoPro’s world, starting from a tiny 39x39mm square camera and allowing the attachment – by a magnetic clip – of additional units for extra connectivity, battery life and a vlogging screen. The camera broadly matches the GoPro with image stabilization options, including horizon, and has a larger 1 / 1.7” sensor to boot. Even paired, it is only around the size of a GoPro (but only when paired do you get a USB socket or the option to add a microSD card). The control is via a touchscreen; it’s a bit limited by the size of the main camera unit, though the front touch-screen attachment matches it perfectly making vlogging easier. As well as immense gadget value, an interesting world of accessories mean the Action 2 can be worn more discretely than a GoPro in some circumstances. If the Action 2 sounds a bit much for your level of expertise (and budget) right now, check out our guide to the best budget action cameras.
360 imaging is one of the latest and most exciting developments in photography, but if you can't decide between an action cam and a 360 camera, why not get a camera that does both? The Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition is called "Twin Edition" because it's two cameras in one, coming with two lens modules that are easy to swap between. One turns it into a straight 4K action camera, the other gives it 360º-shooting capability, and it's got loads of extra features too, including 5m of waterproofing (which can be extended with a special housing). AI-powered algorithms also augment the various shooting modes, and particularly impressive Auto Frame mode, which can automatically find and pick out the action in a 360º video. Right now the Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition is one of a kind, but we wouldn't be surprised if many future 360º cameras look a lot like this.
Read more: Insta360 ONE R Twin Edition review
If you're ready to take the step up into the world of professional photography, you need to take a look at full frame camera systems, and while DSLRs still have their place amongst pro sports photographers, mirrorless cameras are taking over even here.
The EOS R5 is Canon's latest flagship mirrorless camera, and seems to be trying to corner every segment of the market at once. It's got a brand-new 45MP sensor that produces images of incredible detail thanks to a new low-pass filter, as well as the class-leading autofocus system of the EOS-1D X Mark III, with a whopping 5,940 AF points for photography and 4,500 for video. The EOS R5's video specs are nothing short of next-generation. It can capture uncropped 8K Raw video internally at up to 29.97fps in 4:2:2 12-bit Canon Log or HDR PQ (both H.265) in both UHD and DCI – this is cinema-quality stuff, and Canon knows it. 4K capture is also possible at up to 119.88fps, and with the new Frame Grab function, it's possible to snatch high-resolution 35.4MP stills from your 8K footage, ensuring you never miss a moment.
Read more: Canon EOS R5 review
The 'R' models in Sony's A7 series cameras are designed first and foremost for resolution – and the Sony A7R Mark IV has the highest resolution yet in a full frame camera. It's not just the detail rendition that's stellar, but this camera's 4K video capability and 10fps continuous shooting speed – all combined with in-body 5-axis image stabilization and one of the most powerful autofocus systems the world has seen, complete with the world's best (so far) eye AF. One of the most compelling reasons for picking the Sony system, however, is the extensive lens range now available, both from Sony itself and from third party lens makers, and the momentum the Sony brand has built up in the professional photographic community.
Read more: Sony A7R Mark IV review
The Z7 II is Nikon's flagship full frame mirrorless camera. All the changes that we’ve seen on the Z7 II compared to the original Z7 are certainly welcome, but we can’t help feeling that Nikon’s played it a bit safe. We’d like to have seen even more of a jump to really make it a serious threat to the likes of the Canon EOS R5 and Alpha A7R IV. But still, the Nikon Z7 II has a lot going for it. It might not have a standout feature that sets it apart from its competitors, but the Nikon Z7 II delivers solidly across the board and is a great mirrorless camera. Nikon's changes – dual processors and dual memory card slots, for example – have made a great camera even better.
Read more: Nikon Z7 II review
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