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The best camera for photography in 2020: top cameras, whatever your skill level!

Best camera for photography
(Image credit: Olympus)

Trying to recommend the best camera is a minefield, because it depends on what kind of photographer you are! So we've split our guide up into four sections for users at all levels and all budgets.

We've covered the whole spectrum of cameras in our guide, from pocket-sized point and shoot cameras that can be used by the whole family, right up to professional-spec DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that can enable dedicated photographers to really push their skills up a notch. But this is an overall guide that only scratches the surface, so if you want to see more cameras in each of these categories, just click on the links provided.

You've probably heard about DSLR vs mirrorless camera debate too. In reality, both types have their advantages and drawbacks, so don't assume that one is necessarily better than the other – and we include both types in our list. While DSLRs are chunkier to grip and often available for a great price, especially at the cheaper end of the market, the best mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller and lighter and often are perfect for video – many have flip-around screens for selfies and vlogging.

This best camera guide sticks to regular camera types like compact cameras, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. They're not the only choice these days, of course, so you might also want to check out the best action cams, best camera drones or the best cameras for vlogging.

What camera should I buy?

The first thing to ask yourself is what short of camera user are you…

Keen novice? If you're upgrading from a camera phone or a compact, you should get a beginner-friendly DSLR or mirrorless camera. This will give you lots of creative control and lots of potential for the future. See also: the best cameras for beginners

Family snapper? Then you don't really need interchangeable lenses, just a camera versatile enough for all kinds of situations, easy for anyone to use and small enough to slide into a jacket pocket. See also: the best point and shoot cameras

Expert enthusiast? We'd guess your looking for the best features, power and performance, and at the best price! Whether you're into landscapes or sports, video or vlogging, these are the cameras we rate right now.

Potential pro? If you're stepping into the world of professional photography, take a look at our guide to the best cameras for professionals. In the meantime, we've picked two full frame powerhouses that deliver stellar resolution and performance. See also: the best cameras for professionals

We've also got guides to the best waterproof and underwater cameras and the best 360 camera right now.

So keep reading to find the best cameras you can buy right now, regardless of your experience, expertise or budget!

The best camera in 2020

Keen novices

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1. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D

It costs more than Canon's cheapest DSLRs but it's well worth the extra

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Easy to use
Excellent live view autofocus
4K video
Bigger than a mirrorless model

The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (called the EOS 250D in Europe) is a terrific camera for beginners, because although it costs a little more than entry-level models like the Nikon D3500, it has lots of features to make picture taking easier and more exciting, and the potential to take on more advanced projects as your skills grow. The 24-megapixel APS-C sensor delivers great results, but the star of the show is Canon's advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which makes the live view autofocus (when you use the rear screen rather than the viewfinder) extremely fast and responsive. Better still, the rear screen is both fully-articulating and touch-sensitive, so you can take pictures at all sorts of odd angles, and for the first time in a DSLR at this price it's possible to shoot 4K video – this is the perfect DSLR for bloggers and vloggers, not just regular photographers. 

Read more: Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D review

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2. Olympus OM-D E-M10 III

A brilliant mirrorless camera you can fit in a coat pocket

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max burst speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Very compact body
Extensive external controls
Tiny 14-42mm 'pancake' zoom
Only 16.1 million pixels

The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D is extremely compact for a DSLR, but the OM-D E-M10 III is smaller still, and shows off the size advantage of Olympus's mirrorless Micro Four Thirds format. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a jewel of a camera that's easy to get started with but gives you unexpected power and features later on. It uses a smaller 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor than most mirrorless cameras, but you shouldn't read too much into that, and it does take a wide range of compact and affordable Olympus and Panasonic lenses. It also has an excellent 5-axis in-body stabilization system, shoots 4K video and comes with a wide selection of Olympus’s rather good Art Filters. It's small but powerful and a great travel camera too. 

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III review

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3. Nikon D3500

A DSLR is still the cheapest way into ‘proper’ photography

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3-inch fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner

Great ergonomics
Superb image quality
Versatile and affordable
Fixed rear screen

Many of our best camera choices are mirrorless cameras, but the best DSLR cameras are still going strong. In fact they offer great value for beginners – and the Nikon D3500 is the perfect example. 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. 

Read more: 

Nikon D3500 review
• Here are some more of the best cameras for beginners

Family snapper?

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4. Panasonic TZ200/ZS200

Easy for beginners, powerful enough for experts, a great all-round camera

Type: Compact | Sensor size: 1-inch | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens: 26-390mm (equiv.), f/3.3-6.4 | LCD: 3in fixed touchscreen, 1.24 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Good 1-inch sensor
Excellent 15x zoom range
Manual controls and raw files
4K video and 4K Photo

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.

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5. Canon Ixus 185 HS

A pocket camera for the whole family, with a pocket-money price tag

Type: Compact | Sensor size: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 20MP | Lens: 28-224mm (equiv.), f/3.2-6.9 | LCD: 2.7in fixed, 230,000 dots | Viewfinder: No | Continuous shooting: 0.8fps | Max video resolution: HD | User level: Beginner

8x zoom lens
Low price
Only HD video
Small sensor

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.

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Best camera: Nikon Coolpix W300

Best camera: Nikon Coolpix W300 (Image credit: Nikon)

6. Nikon Coolpix W300

With 30m waterproofing, it's a great underwater and family camera

Type: Compact | Sensor: 1/2.3in | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens: 24-120mm (equiv.) f/2.8-4.9 | LCD: 3in, 921k dots | Waterproof: 30m/100ft | Shockproof: 2.4m/8ft | Freezeproof: -10ºC/14ºF | Max video resolution: 4K

Decent zoom range
Excellent waterproofing
4K video
A bit pricey

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.

Read more: these are the best waterproof and underwater cameras right now

Expert enthusiast?

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7. Fujifilm X-T3

A professional quality camera that's also compact, affordable and versatile

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X mount | Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Viewfinder: EVF | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Full area AF coverage
4K video up to 60fps
High-speed burst modes
No in-body stabilization

Whether you want to shoot sports, 4K video or all-round photographic subjects, the X-T3 does it all brilliantly. It has Fujifilm's latest 26.1-megapixel APS-C format sensor with 11fps continuous shooting that goes up to an amazing 30fps in 1.25x crop mode with its electronic shutter. Fujifilm’s new autofocus system covers pretty much the whole image area and it can capture 4K video at 60/50fps, a feat that only dedicated video-centric cameras like the Panasonic GH5S have been able to manage until now. The only thing missing is in-body stabilization, but in the context of everything this camera can do, that's a minor issue.

Read more: Fujifilm X-T3 review

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8. Canon EOS 6D II

Canon’s cheapest full-frame DSLR is remarkably capable

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 26.2MP | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast

Vari-angle touchscreen
Dual Pixel CMOS AF
Value and versatility
Full HD video only

If you're a keen photographer upgrading an existing camera, quality and features are going to be high on your shopping list, and the Canon EOS 6D Mark II offers both, but at a surprisingly reasonable price. Canon’s 2018 was dominated by the speculation and then excitement around the launch of its EOS R full frame mirrorless system, but many users still prefer the size and handling of a DSLR, and the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is Canon’s cheapest full frame DSLR and a bit of a slow burner, as steady price drops have made it more and more appealing. Its 26-megapixel resolution and 6.5fps continuous shooting speed are unremarkable, but its effective control layout, vari-angle touchscreen and rather good live view autofocus give it really nice handling. If you want to step up to full frame DSLR photography, this is a very effective and affordable way to do it.

Read more: Canon EOS 6D II review

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9. Nikon Z 6

Nikon’s new full-frame mirrorless camera is very good indeed

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

High 12fps frame rate
In-body image stabilization
Adaptor for DSLR lenses
Single XQD card slot

The EOS 6D Mark II is a good value 'old school' full frame DSLR, while Nikon's new mirrorless Z series is right at the cutting edge of camera technology. We love the 45.7-megapixel Nikon Z 7, which is a direct rival to the Nikon D850 And Sony A7R III, but not every one can afford it, and while the Z 6 has a lower-resolution 24MP sensor, it’s a lot cheaper than the Z 7 and does have some technical advantages, including a slightly higher 12fps continuous shooting speed and full-frame 4K video. Physically, the Z6 is identical to the Z 7, so it has the same tough, well-designed and good-handling body. Nikon’s Z-series cameras are a little more wieldy than the Sony A7 models, and the Z 6 makes a great entry-level all-round full-frame mirrorless camera. Recently Nikon also announced a new Z 50, its first sub-£999 camera in this series, and we're interested to see how it performs.

Read more: 

Nikon Z6 review
• The best mirrorless cameras you can buy right now
• These are the best cameras for vlogging

Potential pro?

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10. Nikon D850

A landmark camera, and still the ultimate all-round pro DSLR, even now

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2.6million dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Supremely versatile
Tough, weather-sealed body
Exceptional image quality
45.7MP resolution

Despite the relentless march of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs are still very popular amongst professional users, and the Nikon D850 is a stand-out example. This is largely down to its chunky, rugged design and its versatility. The 45.7MP sensor provides bags of resolution for landscapes, fashion and still-life setups, while 7fps burst shooting and a 153-point AF system means it’s equally at home when faced with action – and you can boost this to 9fps with an optional battery pack if you need to. Wedding photographers will love the silent burst shooting mode, and it captures 4K video too. On top of all that, the robust, weather-sealed body means you can easily rely on it in even challenging conditions. The Nikon D850 is easily one of the best professional-level cameras you can buy.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

Best Sony cameras: Sony A7R Mark IV

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11. Sony A7R Mark IV

Sony's 61MP full frame camera combines resolution, speed and 4K video!

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

61 megapixel resolution
10fps continuous shooting
Advanced Eye AF
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 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

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12. Panasonic Lumix S1

It's not just a great camera for stills, it's an even better one for video

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3.2-inch, 2,100k | Viewfinder: Electronic, 5,760k | Lens: L-mount | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4k | User level: Expert/professional

Higher sensitivity range
Same build and controls
Superior video features
Just as heavy as the S1R though cheaper

To some extent the Panasonic Lumix S1 is overshadowed by the higher-resolution 47-megapixel Lumix S1R, but for photographers mostly interested in 4K video (and also low-light photography), the Lumix S1 does have some advantages over the S1R beyond its lower price. The lower resolution means the sensor has larger and more receptive photosites and the native sensitivity range goes one stop higher to ISO 51,200. It also has a larger buffer capacity for continuous shooting. It’s video that shows up the biggest differences, though. The Lumix S1 can capture uncrossed full frame width ‘oversampled’ 4K video, and a firmware update in the summer of 2019 brought Panasonic’s V-Log L mode for extended dynamic range in video post-production. A further firmware update in November 2019 means the Lumix S1, like the S1R, can now use the latest CFexpress memory cards.

• Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1 review

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