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The best professional camera in 2020: which pro camera system is best?

Best professional camera
(Image credit: James Artaius)

What is the best professional camera – that's a question with at least three different answers! If you're a commercial, travel, landscape or fashion photographer you'll probably favor high resolution over high continuous shooting speeds. If you're a sports photographer, it's shooting speed and autofocus above all else. And if you're a photographer/videographer, some of the best professional cameras are in the emerging mirrorless market.

Professional sports cameras took a knock in 2020, when the whole sporting calendar went into lockdown. The three main contenders here are the amazing Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, the updated and upgraded Sony A9 Mark II and the new Nikon D6, but we may have to wait until 2021 to see which one comes out on top – though we have carried out our own epic Olympic shootout:

Read more:
Olympic shootout: Nikon D6 vs Canon EOS-1D X Mark III vs Sony A9 II
• The best full frame cameras today

Our full Nikon D6 review is imminent, but we've already published our Nikon D6 vs Canon EOS-1D X Mark III vs Sony A9 II shoot-out to see which would have won Olympic gold. 

It's not all about frame rates and AF systems, though. Sports photographers require speed, durability and responsiveness, but regular commercial photographers also need a balance of resolution and versatility, and high-resolution full frame cameras have become affordable mainstream options. Sony has claimed the crown for the highest resolution yet in a full-frame camera with the Sony A7R Mark IV, but the Nikon D850 and Nikon Z 7 aren't far behind, or the Panasonic Lumix S1R.

And now there's a new challenger in the full frame high-resolution market – the remarkable Canon EOS R5. We'll be hearing more about this shortly!

Beyond that, there's the medium format market, which has most definitely not stood still. We've been especially excited by the Fujifilm GFX 100, and the expensive but amazing Phase One XT and we've just taken delivery of the remarkable new Hasselblad 907X 50C...

And then, of course, there's video. We have to mention the brand new Sony A7S Mark III, though it's a bit too video-centric to make it a good candidate for this round-up, and – of course – the extraordinary Canon EOS R5 and its 8K video. Yes, you read that right.

Of course, picking the best professional camera is not just about picking the one with the best or most enticing specifications. You have to look at the system as a whole, its lenses, its other models, and what is set to be released in its future. Before making a choice, it's worth asking yourself a series of questions: 

1) Are you switching from a different systems? If this is the case, it's well worth looking into whether there's any potential for compatibility between your existing and new system (i.e. using lens mount adapters). ‘Migrating’ an existing system is much simpler and cheaper than starting again with a whole new setup.

2) What lenses will you need? Think about the kind of work you need and the lenses you need for it, and check whether the system you're considering can meet those needs. Lens guides can be useful here, such as our guides to the best Canon lenses or best Nikon lenses.

3) DSLR or mirrorless? While it does sometimes feel like mirrorless is taking over the world, the best DSLR cameras do still have their advantages and some, like the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, are breaking new ground. Read our guide to DSLR vs mirrorless cameras if you're still not sure.

4) Video vs stills? Are you shooting video as well as stills? While both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can and do produce excellent video, mirrorless currently has the edge here, so if video is part of your portfolio then it's worth factoring this into consideration.

With all this in mind, we’ve divided our professional camera guide into six brands and listed our top picks for each one. With professional cameras, it’s much more important to think about the system than about individual camera models, so we hope this helps you get a clear idea of the kind of setup you want.

We've stopped short of ultra-high-end Phase One and Hasselblad cameras, but otherwise we cover the whole price range from just over £1,000 to nearly £10,000. So whatever your budget, there should be something here for you.

The best professional camera in 2020


Canon offers a large range of professional lenses and produces some of the most highly-regarded pro cameras. Canon has traditionally been known for its DSLRs, especially in professional circles, but it's shifting its attention wholesale to its new mirrorless EOS R system, and the original EOS R and beginner-orientated EOS RP were just the opening salvo – the EOS R5 is the camera that's caught our attention, and that of every other pro photographer out there, we suspect.

See also: Best Canon cameras

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon EOS R5

A camera with specs so spectacular we're still rubbing our eyes

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45 | Lens mount: Canon RF | Monitor: 3.15-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 2,100k dots | Viewfinder: OLED EVF, 5,690k dots, 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification | Max continuous shooting speed: 12fps mechanical shutter, 20fps electronic | Max video resolution: 8K | User level: Professional

Best AF on the market
Best full-frame IBIS
8K video is astounding
Video recording limitations
Standard 4K is just okay

As a stills camera, the Canon EOS R5 is simply Canon's finest product ever. It’s the perfect amalgamation of the EOS R’s form, the EOS 5D’s function, and the professional-grade autofocus of the EOS-1D X. If you're a stills or hybrid shooter who flits between photography and videography, it's one of the best cameras you will ever have the pleasure of using. It has attracted some attention for the wrong reasons, notably overheating (or the threat of it) when recording 8K video, but this shouldn't detract from this camera's extraordinary capabilities. It's not perfect at everything, but given its resolution, its frame rate and its video capabilities combined, this is genuinely a landmark camera.

Read more: Canon EOS R5 review

Best professional camera: Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Canon's latest autofocus system is on an entirely new level

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 20.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2in fixed LCD, 2.1 million dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 16fps viewfinder, 20fps live view | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Smart Controller is a revelation
Deep Learning AF
HDR stills and video standards
Uncropped 4K!
Lower resolution than the Sony A9 II
No animal AF (yet)
No image stabilization
No tilting LCD screen

With the Canon EOS1-D X Mark III, Canon has released a camera packed with leading-edge tech, including deep learning AF, an optical Smart Controller, HEIF and HDR PQ support, CFexpress, 12-bit internal 4K RAW, head tracking and so much more. Canon has combined the advantages of DSLR and mirrorless to produce a hybrid body that can shoot according to what the situation demands. While it lacks some of the luxuries of mirrorless models, this camera does so much that no other system can – it's a genuine glimpse into the future. Offering the best of both worlds, with the sheer speed of an optical DSLR with the advanced accuracy of mirrorless, it’s a true hybrid system that moulds to the needs of individual professionals and individual shooting scenarios. The DSLR is not dead. The tank-like EOS-1D X Mark III has absorbed the technical advances of mirrorless cameras and added a few of its own to product an awesome professional sports and action photography tool.

Read more: Canon EOS-1D X Mark III review

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3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

An old-school DSLR that still delivers, even now

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | LCD: 3.2in touchscreen, 1.62million dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Responsive touchscreen
Impressive live-view AF
4K video crop
Middle of the road resolution

On paper, the EOS 5D Mark IV looks a distinct second best to rival cameras with higher resolutions, faster frame rates and better 4K video features – the EOS 5D Mark IV applies a heavy 4K video crop that makes ‘wide’ shots more difficult. Nevertheless, the 5D Mark IV has proved itself a very effective, durable and versatile camera for countless professional photographers, and its Dual Pixel AF technology gives it a peppy autofocus performance in live view and video modes. This camera was launched way back in 2016, though, and with no replacement announced or even rumored, it's getting harder to recommend this solid but ageing workhorse.

Read more: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review

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4. Canon EOS R

It pales next to Canon's latest mirrorless models, but if the price is right...

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS, 36x24mm | Megapixels: 30.3MP | Lens Mount: Canon RF | Autofocus: 5,655 Dual Pixel AF positions | Screen type: 3.15-inch fully articulating touch screen, 2.1M dots | Max burst speed: 8fps | Movies: 4K UHD at 29.97P | User level: Enthusiast

Highly customisable
Fully articulated LCD
No in-body stabilisation
Unambitious specifications

The EOS R is Canon’s first full frame mirrorless camera, and while it received a lukewarm reception in some sections of the camera community, it’s still a powerful and effective tool for professionals who want to migrate to mirrorless, or even step up to full frame from Canon’s smaller APS-C models. It has the same resolution and 4K crop factor of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and only one memory card slot, but it does have a more powerful Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and promises the same kind of all-round capability as the 5D Mark IV. The good news is that following the launch of the EOS R5 and EOS R6, EOS R prices are steadily eroding and it's becoming an ever more attractive buy. It might not offer cutting edge tech any more, but the EOS R could still offer very compelling value.


Like Canon, Nikon also offers a huge range of professional lenses, and a choice of pro camera bodies. Nikon has also taken its first steps in the full frame mirrorless market with the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 and, as with the Canon EOS R, these cameras can use existing current Nikon DSLR lenses, without restriction, via an adaptor, so Nikon users can try a ‘sidegrade’ to mirrorless a step at a time rather than having to swap out a whole system.

See also: Best Nikon cameras

Best professional camera: Nikon D6

(Image credit: Nikon)

5. Nikon D6

Nikon’s answer to the EOS-1D X Mark III is more conventional

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 20.8MP | Autofocus: 105-point AF, all cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch, 2,360,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 14fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Professional

Sturdy build
Pro connectivity and workflow
14fps shooting and 4K video
Its speed doesn’t come cheap
AF system yet to be tested fully

Canon made some big technological leaps with the EOS-1D X Mark III, but the Nikon D6 is more conventional. Nikon will no doubt have wanted to make sure that owners of the D5 will be able to make a seamless switch to the new camera, which has a band new 105-point AF system, 14fps continuous shooting and a 10.5fps silent mode. Nikon has also concentrated on professional workflow and connectivity options, not just headline-grabbing technologies. If you're buying your firs pro sports DSLR, the Canon has the edge, but if you're a long-time Nikon user with a bag full of lenses, the D6 is the obvious candidate for your next upgrade.

Read more: Nikon D6 hands on review

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6. Nikon D850

The ultimate DSLR? The D850 has power, resolution and speed

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | LCD: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2.3million dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Large, bright viewfinder
Sophisticated, proven AF system
Superb resolution
Slow live view focusing

Where the Nikon D6 is built for sheer speed, durability and responsiveness, the D850 is built for resolution – though it can still capture images at 7fps, or 9fps with the optional battery grip. Some may say the D850 is the high-point of DSLR resolution and perhaps that last great DSLR release, but it does not feel like a dinosaur. Its big, chunky body feels good in the hand and great with bigger lenses, and while its live view AF may be sluggish, it’s a very powerful, modern-feeling camera – a superb all-rounder that actually feels as tough, rugged, fresh and exciting now as when it was launched back in 2017. 

Read more: Nikon D850 review

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7. Nikon Z 7

Nikon's first full frame mirrorless camera hits the ground running

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS, 35.9x23.9mm | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Lens Mount: Nikon Z | Autofocus: 93-point phase detection AF | Screen type: 3.2-inch LCD, tilting, 2,100K-dot resolution | Max burst speed: 9fps | Movies: 4K UHD | User level: Enthusiast

Excellent EVF
In-body stabilisation works well
45.7MP resolution
Single XQD card slot

Nikon took its time launching its first full frame mirrorless cameras, but its unhurried, careful development process has paid off – both the 45.7 megapixel Z 7 and the 24-megapixel Z 6 already feel like fully mature, finished products. The Z7 is the model we’d recommend for pros, offering huge resolution, good 4K video, a great autofocus system and a compact but wieldy design. Nikon's steadily beefing up its Z-series lens range and, in the meantime, you can use current Nikon DSLR lenses via the Nikon FTZ adaptor. If you don't need the Z 7's mighty resolution but you do need professional videos, take a look at the cheaper but equally robust Nikon Z 6 instead – it's actually a little more accomplished for video than the Z 7. We've put the D6 and D850 above the Z7 in this list, but it's all a matter of priorities. Nikon's two pro DSLRs are big, tough and bulletproof, but if you're looking for a smaller, more video-friendly alternative, this is it.

Read more: Nikon Z7 review


Sony launched its full frame mirrorless camera system from scratch, and although you can use older Alpha lenses designed for its SLR cameras on the new A7 and A9 bodies, in practice you’re much better off investing in native FE mount lenses. There are now 31 native FE lenses with more to come, so although swapping to Sony might be expensive initially, these cameras have a lot more native lens support than other mirrorless camera brands.

See also: Best Sony cameras

Best professional camera: Sony A9 Mark II

(Image credit: Sony)

8. Sony A9 Mark II

Sony’s flagship is a very strong rival in the pro sports photography arena

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full Frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | LCD: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.44million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps electronic shutter, 10fps mechanical | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Blistering burst shooting
Best AF we've used... so far
Unrivaled connectivity
Menus remain obtuse
Isn't it time for CFexpress?

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! 

Read more: Sony A9 Mark II review

(Image credit: Sony)

9. Sony A7R IV

A stunning blend of resolution, speed, 4K video and value

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full-frame | Megapixels: 61MP | Lens mount: Sony | LCD: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1.44 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 5.76m dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Compact for full frame
Highest full frame resolution yet
Still capable of 10fps
Poor balance with larger lenses

The A7R IV is Sony’s new highest-resolution full frame mirrorless camera, with a record-breaking 61 million pixels and yet still capable of shooting continuously at 10fps. It also has Sony's usual very good 4K video capabilities, though still capped at 30p. The latest iteration of Sony's eye AF, however, is stunningly effective at tracking portrait subjects, even in continuous AF. While the Sony A9 is designed for out-and-out speed and responsiveness,  the A7R Mark IV is much more suitable for all-round photography at the highest quality levels. It continues the 'R' line by offering the highest resolution of any full frame camera, but while its 10fps burst shooting looks good on paper for sports photography, it doesn't have the buffer capacity and responsiveness of the A9, so its high frame rate is useful to have, but the A7R Mark IV would not be your first choice for sports. HOWEVER, for outright resolution, the A7R Mark IV reigns supreme, and not just in the Sony camp but amongst full frame cameras in general. You have to switch up to medium format to beat this, with all the costs and limitations that go 

Read more: Sony A7R IV review


Fujifilm has moved into the professional arena very successfully with two separate camera ranges. The APS-C X-series flagship is the X-T4, which is pretty cheap in this company but offers exceptional performance for the money and video features that challenge or beat those in much more expensive pro cameras. And then two sensor sizes larger, there's Fujifilm's GFX range, which has redefined what medium format cameras can do – and who afford them.

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10. Fujifilm X-T4

The most powerful APS-C mirrorless camera you can get

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3in articulating touchscreen, 1,620k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69 million dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 30/15fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Expert/professional

6.5-stop in-body stabilisation
4K video at up to 60/50p
High-speed shooting
New and expensive

Is the Fujifilm X-T4 a pro camera? We think so, for its combination of speed, AF system and video capabilities. The X-T3, first announced in 2018, was already a seriously impressive camera, lacking only a few key features – in-body image stabilisation and a vari-angle touchscreen. The X-T4 simply adds those in, building on what came before to become one of the best mirrorless cameras around. It still has the sophisticated 26.1MP X-Trans sensor, the super-fast autofocus and the capacity to shoot 4K video. Fujifilm have even improved the shutter over the X-T3, producing a model that lasts longer and can achieve higher sustained burst speeds, and also swapped out the battery for a newer model that lasts much longer. 

Read more: Fujifilm X-T4 review

11. Fujifilm GFX 100

It's expensive, but not for medium format. It's also quite exceptional

Sensor: Medium format | Megapixels: 102MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm G | LCD: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 2.36 million dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 5.76 million dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K at 30fps | User level: Professional

Incredible resolving power
Full frame 4K video
Controls may divide opinion
In-body stabilisation isn't foolproof

The GFX 100 is big and expensive compared to regular cameras, but in the world of medium format photography (sensors larger than 35mm full frame), it's a positive bargain. It's also a groundbreaking camera that changes our expectations about what medium format cameras can do. Its 100-megapixel resolution challenged our own testing procedures, its in-body stabilisation is a medium format first, and its hybrid AF (thanks to a recent firmware update) is a huge step forward. On the downside, the in-body stabilisation is valuable extra insurance, but you'd be unwise to rely on it, and while the body is relatively compact, when it's matched up with Fujifilm's medium format glass, the combination gets quite tiring for prolonged handheld use. But this camera's image quality is simply spectacular, and once you've seen what it can do, any handling quibbles are instantly forgotten.

Read more: Fujifilm GFX 100 review


Panasonic’s range is now split between its existing Micro Four Thirds cameras with smaller sensors but legendary 4K video capabilities, and its new full frame mirrorless Lumix S models – and with no upgrade path at all between these systems. There are an increasing number of native Lumix S lenses right now, thanks to the L-Mount Alliance and the work of other lens makers like Sigma and Leica. The Lumix S system is developing fast but will require heavy investment in an all-new system.

See also: Best Panasonic cameras

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12. Panasonic Lumix S1R

The Lumix S1R is a big, hefty, impressive camera but not a game-changer

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 47.3MP | Lens mount: L-Mount | LCD: 3.2in tri-axial touchscreen, 2.1million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

47.3MP resolution
Superb EVF
Waiting for new lenses
Only 6fps with continuous AF

The new Lumix S range is a very interesting proposition for professional photographers, especially now that the range of L-mount lenses available is now quite good, and growing fast. The Lumix S1R is the most enticing proposition for pros, combining 4K video capture with a high-speed 6K photo mode and huge 47.3MP resolution. The 5.76-million dot electronic viewfinder is amazing, and the S1R handles very well too. The 24MP Lumix S1 is cheaper and a little better at video, but that's a cost decision – if you're really serious about video, the pricier Lumix S1H is the one to go for. 

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S1R review

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12. Panasonic Lumix GH5

A great choice for video-first shooters, and certainly the cheapest

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds mount | LCD: 3.2in touchscreen, 1.62million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Excellent video specs
Superb viewfinder
Works wells as a stills camera too
Smaller MFT sensor

If 4K video is at the top of your wish-list ahead of high-resolution stills, the weather-sealed, dust-proof and even freeze-proof GH5 is a very strong contender (there’s also the even more video-centric GH5S, but that’s limited to 10MP stills). You get fast continuous shooting and also Panasonic’s 6K Photo mode for extracting 18MP stills from 30fps capture. The GH5 can’t compete with the rest for still images, but for video-first users, it’s a much cheaper alternative to full frame. It's also benefiting from some heavy discounting these days, so it's an opportunity to get into professional level video, without paying the usual prices. It feels like it's been around forever, but if you compare the GH5's video specs with the best of its rivals, it's clearly still right up there with the best.


Compared to the spectacular developments from other camera makers, Olympus has had a pretty quiet time of it. It's soldiered on with its relatively modest Micro Four Thirds format in a maelstrom of medium format bombshells and armies of full frame mirrorless cameras. In this environment, a 20MP Micro Four Thirds sensor seems hopelessly outgunned. And yet it isn't. The MFT format's size brings substantial cost and weight advantages that its fans will be only too pleased to tell you about.

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14. Olympus OM-D E‑M1 Mark III

Olympus has used much of the tech from its flagship E-M1X here

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k vari-angle touchscreen | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 15fps | Max video resolution: 4K/C4K | User level: Professional/Enthusiast

15fps burst, with 60fps option
Impressive image stabilisation
Complex menu system
Is 20MP enough?

It's unlikely Olympus will ever fully overcome resistance to its smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format, which is one quarter the size of those in its full frame rivals, but that's a pity because this system has a lot to offer. The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III is actually a very effective all-round professional camera for general photography. When shooting sport, its autofocus and frame rate are a good match for more expensive full frame rivals and its Pro Capture mode (up to 60fps) is just jaw-dropping. When high resolution is essential, its 50MP and 80MP options can square up against many medium format cameras, admittedly with static subjects not moving ones. And when shooting absolutely anything, its 7.5 stops of image stabilization outperform every camera on the market. 

Read more: 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III review

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15. Olympus OM-D E-M1X

Olympus aims for the pro sports market with its flagship camera

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Screen: 3.0-inch 1,037k vari-angle touchscreen | Viewfinder: Electronic 2,360k | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Continuous shooting speed: 15fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Pro build quality
Next-generation AF
Smaller MFT sensor
Pricey next to E-M1 II

Olympus raised a few eyebrows when it launched the OM-D E-M1X, a big new professional camera aimed squarely at the sports market, but with what looked like very similar specs to the existing E-M1. But dig deeper and you find the E-M1X is a very different beast, with an integrated grip for bigger battery capacity and duplicated horizontal/vertical shooting controls and a dual processing system that dramatically ups the game for autofocus tracking, with a new AI system for recognising and tracking subjects. What many won't realise, too, is that Olympus has an extremely compelling pro lens line-up, especially for telephoto lenses, and while the Olympus MFT sensor is smaller than the full frame sensors used by Canon, Nikon and Sony pro cameras, it will cost a lot less to build a full professional system – and it will be a lot lighter to carry around. If 20MP is enough (it is for EOS-1D X Mark III and Nikon D6 devotees!), then the E-M1X is a very powerful professional proposition indeed. It's undermined slightly by the E-M1 Mark III, which borrows some of its tech, but the E-MX's big, chunky body gives it a serious handling advantage, especially with bigger lenses.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M1X review

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