The best digital camera 2018: which one should you buy?


Choosing the best camera can be tricky. The market is flooded with fantastic options, from quality compacts and mirrorless cameras through to full-frame DSLRs with high-end features for professional users. Fortunately, whether you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful compact or the best DSLR out there, we’ve got you covered in our best camera buying guide.

We’re lucky enough to get our hands on all the latest cameras here at Digital Camera World. We subject them to rigorous testing procedures, which often throw up interesting results. Sometimes a camera will smash our expectations and deliver excellent performance for its price. Other times, a highly anticipated camera may fall short of what we believe it should offer, whether that’s in the lab or out in the field.

To help you pick the best digital camera for your needs and budget, we’ve compared everything we’ve recently reviewed, along with our favourite older models, and come up with a comprehensive list of the very best cameras on the market right now.

As you might expect, we've factored value for money into our decision-making process. Naturally, this means there's a handful of otherwise excellent cameras that haven't made the cut. But don't worry – we'll be revisiting this list regularly, and as prices drop we'll adjust our guide accordingly.

(Looking for the best camera for a specific use? Check out our other camera buying guides below this article.)

The best cameras in 2018

1. Nikon D850

A speedy and versatile full-frame performer, with 4K video to boot

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
Pedestrian live view AF
Lower buffer capacity at 9fps

Nikon has had a fair few smashes in the last couple of years, but the D850 has, unquestionably, stood out among them as one of the best DSLRs out there. As with the Sony A7 III (below), this appears to be largely down to 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, while 4K video shows it's no slouch when you need to record moving footage 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 cameras you can buy.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

2. Canon EOS 80D

This mid-range marvel is a great option for live-view shooting and video

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast

Great ergonomics
Superb image quality
No 4K video
ISO range could be wider

Another strong contender for best DSLR is Canon's EOS 80D. Canon has overhauled its entire DSLR lineup in the past year or so, but the EOS 80D still stands out from these latest arrivals. The fact that it follows so many successful cameras in Canon’s double-digit EOS stable is clear from the small changes the company has made to the now-familiar template, while the feature set has a fresh 24MP APS-C sensor, Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, 7fps burst shooting and built in Wi-Fi and NFC among its highlights. As we noted in our full review of the camera, image quality is a strong point, with accurate colours, well-controlled noise levels and impressive dynamic range, particularly at lower sensitivities. Just like the D7500 mentioned above, its specs, price and approachability mean that it has huge appeal – and explaining why we have it at number two in our best camera round up.

Read more: Canon EOS 80D review

3. Nikon D750

A superb full-frame sensor inside a portable body

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,228,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast/Professional

Wide dynamic range
Compact body
No 4K video
Live view AF slow and unreliable

While Nikon’s latest DSLR arrivals may have overshadowed the D750, you can’t argue with what it manages to offer for its very reasonable asking price. It’s not quite Nikon’s most affordable full-frame DSLR, as that honour goes to the D610, but by comparison it offers a redesigned 24MP sensor, a broader ISO range, a far superior focusing system, tilting LCD screen and built-in WI-Fi among a slew of perks. Thanks in part to low noise and strong dynamic range performance, its image quality is very impressive too. Perhaps the only mark against it is that video recording tops out at Full HD, rather than the more future-proof 4K that's now fast appearing elsewhere, but if video isn't your bag then it's well worth a look.  

4. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Top-quality build, superb image quality and 4K video makes this a smasher

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2-inch display, 1,620,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Professional

Great image quality
Robust body
4K video has its limitations
Screen is fixed in place

Canon's EOS 5D line has arguably been the most popular full-frame DSLR series to date, managing to satisfy the needs of the professional user while being compact and affordable enough to appeal to a much wider demographic. This most recent fourth iteration in the series blends a 30.4MP full-frame sensor with 4K video capture and a robust magnesium alloy body, which makes it an obvious choice for everything from landscapes and weddings to photojournalism and more, although the 7fps burst-shooting mode and 61-point AF system also prove that it's hardly a slouch when needing to capture a moving subject. True, competition from Nikon and Sony have meant that the series perhaps isn't quite as unique as it has been in the past, but it remains popular for very good reasons.

5. Sony A7 III

A mirrorless camera for the masses with a well-rounded spec sheet

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

10fps burst shooting
Solid video specs
Inbalance with larger lenses
Burst-shooting buffer could be better

The Sony A7 line has traditionally been the more affordable, general-purpose proposition in the A7 line of cameras, next to the resolution-hungry A7R series and the sensitivity-focused A7S range. With the A7 III, its latest member, Sony has struck gold with one of the most versatile cameras we've seen for some time. It improves on the Mark II version in a variety of ways, with better video specs (now 4K), a bigger battery, a fresh sensor, a burst speed that's twice as fast as before and a significantly overhauled AF system. As we found in our review, image quality is stellar, overall speed is great and the AF system shines. We do have minor reservations regarding the buffer depth, ergonomics and handing with weightier lenses, but these are minor marks against an otherwise-formidable performer. 

Read more: Sony A7 III review

6. Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus's most advanced mirrorless camera to date by some margin

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 60fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Excellent image quality
Superb build
Complex menu and control system
MTF sensor smaller than rivals

The current top dog in Olympus’s acclaimed OM-D series, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is another one of those cameras that just delivers far more than anyone expected it to. Targeted at the sports shooter and anyone else needing rapid response, the fact that it’s capable of shooting at a speed of 60fps at its full 20MP resolution is impressive enough, but the drop to 18fps when using continuous focus still edges it ahead of rival pro DSLR bodies. The camera’s 121 phase-detect AF points also gives Canon and Nikon something chew on, while the superb image stabilisation system – with a staggering maximum 6.5-stop benefit – make it a fitting choice for low-light photography too. It even boasts 4K video, a first for an Olympus camera. Although lab tests reveal the camera doesn’t quite rise above its peers where things like noise and dynamic range are concerned, it’s really not that far behind for it to make too significant a difference. Indeed, overall image quality is still mightily impressive. Bravo Olympus.

Read more: Olympus O-MD E-M1 Mark II review

7. Fuji X-T20

Plenty of goodness from the X-T2 in a smaller and cheaper body

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Fuji X | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Beautiful OLED viewfinder
Very good kit lens
Only one card slot
Minor ergonomic issues

While Fujifilm’s X-T2 is still the camera that many aspire to own, the fact that Fujifilm managed to squeeze so much of its feature set into the smaller, lighter and significantly cheaper X-T20 is why this model makes it onto our best camera list. Frankly, what the X-T20 manages to offer for the money puts similarly priced DSLRs to shame, from the company’s very latest X-Trans CMOS III sensor technology and 4K video recording to its 8fps burst shooting mode and an AF system that can be expanded to 325 points. And this is before we get to that 2.36million dot OLED EVF and tilting touch-sensitive display, both of which make shooting in awkward conditions a cinch. It’s beautifully designed, with analogue-style control provided through solid metal dials, and it even comes with a very capable kit lens, which is a rarity. Not many cameras manage to get a full five stars upon being reviewed, but the X-T20 is one of the handful that deserve the accolade completely.

Read more: Fujifilm X-T20 review

8. Panasonic Lumix G80

Bags of features for a very reasonable asking price

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 9fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Excellent detail
Great video specs including 4K
16MP a little behind competition
Cluttered shooting interface

The Lumix G85 – or G80 depending on where you are – might resemble many of Panasonic’s previous mirrorless cameras aimed at the upper-entry-level user, but it still manages to stand out for a number of reasons. First, Panasonic's decision to remove the anti-aliasing filter from the sensor is no doubt partly responsible for the excellent detail that can be seen in images. The company has also shoehorned masses of tech into its small splash-proof body, from 4K video and built-in image stabilisation to its clever Post Focus option that lets you select the point of best sharpness after the image has been captured. The Lumix G Vario 12-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that's available as a kit option with the camera also has a very useful focal range equivalent to 24-120mm in 35mm terms, and all of this comes at a strong price point. It may only have a 16MP sensor, but it’s still one of the best cameras for those just getting started who want plenty of growing room, or alternatively, enthusiasts after something versatile.

9. Sony Alpha 6000

An older model but still one that packs a punch

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 921,600 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Viewfinder: Electronic | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Superb AF system
Great EVF
No 4K video
No touchscreen

Despite the arrival of the A6300 and A6500, the A6000 remains in Sony’s Alpha lineup – and that’s a smart move on Sony’s part. While the latter two models can satisfy enthusiasts and those keen on shooting 4K video, the A6000 serves as a more affordable introduction to the system – one that still absolutely holds its own against even pricier cameras. Thanks in part to a 179-point phase-detect AF system spread broadly across the frame, it's particularly adept at tracking moving subjects, with its 11fps burst shooting option helping you to get the decisive moment. The 1.44million-dot OLED viewfinder and tilting LCD screen also stand out from the spec sheet, even if the latter isn't touch sensitive, while Wi-Fi and NFC round things off nicely.

10. Sony RX100 IV

Powerful pocket camera with a 1in sensor

Type: Compact | Sensor size: 1in | Resolution: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 | Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 1,228,000 million dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Excellent image quality
High-quality EVF
LCD lacks touch sensitivity
No in-camera raw processing

Sony has made a habit of updating its various Cyber-shot and Alpha strands while keeping previous models in those series available, and that’s resulted in there typically being a number of capable options at different price points, at any one time. Having been updated by a Mark V option, the RX100 Mark IV is one example of this, and it’s this latter option that gets our vote for best camera. It’s far cheaper than the RX100 Mark V but it still manages to offer much of what that camera provides, such as a 20.1MP sensor (albeit a slightly different one) and 24-70mm f/1.8-2.8 lens, along with the same EVF and tilting screen. It actually has a few advantages over that camera too, such as considerably better battery life, while videographers should be happy with the option to record both conventional 4K video and slow-motion footage at lower resolutions.

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