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The best Sony camera in 2021: from full-frame Alphas to simple Cyber-shots

Best Sony camera
(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)

Technically speaking, the best Sony cameras are its Alpha line of full-frame mirrorless bodies. However, the truth is that the 'best' Sony camera is entirely down to what you will be shooting, how you will be shooting it, and what your budget is.

The entire industry was shaken up by the launch of the Sony A1 – which, technically speaking, is probably the best Sony camera all-round. A powerhouse professional body that packs a 50MP sensor, 30fps bursts, 8K video and a 6K price tag, it's a monster performer but also overkill for most shooters.

So here we've highlighted 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. 

Sony's Alpha mirrorless cameras take interchangeable lenses and are aimed at keen photographers, from the entry-level Sony A6100 to the Sony A9 II pro sports camera. And Sony also makes Cyber-Shot compact cameras with fixed lenses for all kinds of users, from family snappers to travel photographers to 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.

Use the section headings at the top of this page to go straight to the section you need, or just keep scrolling!

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

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1. Sony A7 III

This full-frame model gets our vote for the best overall, but it's close

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 922k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Image quality and speed+5-axis image stabilisation
Reasons to avoid
-Unbalanced by larger lenses-24MP no higher than APS-C models

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.

Best Sony cameras: Sony A7R Mark IV

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony A7R Mark IV

If we could make this joint first, we would

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+61 megapixel resolution+10fps continuous shooting+Advanced Eye AF
Reasons to avoid
-Unbalanced with bigger lenses-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 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.

Best Sony camera: Sony A9 Mark II

(Image credit: Sony)

3. Sony A9 Mark II

This camera proves mirrorless cameras can rival pro DSLRs

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Blistering burst shooting+Best AF we've used... so far+Unrivaled connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-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! 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.

(Image credit: Sony)

4. Sony A1

This incredible powerhouse of a camera has a price to match!

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 50.1NP
Lens mount: Sony FE
Screen: 3-in tilting, 1.44m dots
Viewfinder: Electronic, 9.44m dots
Max burst speed: 30fps
Max video resolution: 8K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+50MP resolution+8K video+30fps continuous shooting
Reasons to avoid
-Stratospheric price!

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:
• Best cameras for professionals
 The best mirrorless cameras right now

Sony Alpha APS-C

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5. Sony A6000

An APS-C bargain from Sony’s back-catalog, but its days are numbered

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.3MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 921k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Small and lightweight build+Built-in electronic viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K video-Relatively old model

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.

Read more:
• The best cameras under £500/$600 right now
• Best mirrorless camera

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6. Sony A6400

Perfect for vloggers with its 4K video and a 180-degree screen

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.3MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 921k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Great 4K video and AF+180-degree screen
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilisation-Design feeling dated

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.

(Image credit: Sony)

7. Sony ZV-E10

Sony's best APS-C camera for newbie vloggers is also its cheapest

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E mount
LCD: Vari-angle
Viewfinder: None
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps for 116 JPEGs
Max video resolution: 4K 30p
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Autofocus features and performance+Vari-angle screen+Clip on wind muffler
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body stabilization-Rolling shutter (the 'jello' effect)-No touch control for menus

The Sony ZV-E10 is definitely not going to win any awards on the photography front, but it is a great option for content creators cutting their teeth in vlogging and videography. While Sony hasn't moved its APS-C 4K video tech along much in recent years, the ZV-E10 is the manufacturer's first APS-C body to feature an articulating touchscreen (which is obviously vital for vlogging). It also packs a large and well-performing internal microphone (with clip-on muffler), Sony's excellent autofocus, and an appealing price tag. It's a shame that there is no in-body image stabilization, and the menus can't be touch-controlled (a rather glaring omission for a vlogging camera), but for a very specific YouTube-era audience this hits the nail on the head. 

8. Sony A6100

The successor to the A6000 is more advanced... but also more expensive

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Screen: 3in 180-degree touchscreen, 1,440k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 1,440k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Real-Time Tracking Autofocus+4K video recording+180-degree screen
Reasons to avoid
-No in-body sensor-shift stabilization-Low resolution EVF-Much pricier than the older A6000

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. 

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9. Sony RX100 V/VA

Not the latest RX100 model, but perhaps the best for value

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1in type
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm (equiv) f/1.8-2.8
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 1,229k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 24fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Relatively large sensor for a compact+High-resolution EVF
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty expensive-Small size can be fiddly

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 Mark VI and Sony RX100 VII, but you'll also be paying for burst speeds, AF modes and video capabilities which we feel are overkill in a pocket camera.

Read more:
Sony RX100 III vs RX100 IV vs RX100 V vs vs RV V1 RX100 VII
Best compact digital camera

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10. Sony HX99

A compact camera with a big zoom – the best Sony travel camera

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in type
Megapixels: 18.2MP
Lens: 24-720mm (equiv) f/3.5-6.4
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 922k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 638k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Huge 30x zoom range+4K video+Built-in GPS for geotagging
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen

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

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11. Sony Cyber-shot WX220

A powerful little camera for novices – the best Sony family camera

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3in
Megapixels: 18.2MP
Lens: 25-250mm equivalent f/3.3-5.9
Screen: 2.7in, 460k dots
Viewfinder: No
Continuous shooting speed: 1.5fps
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+10x zoom range in a slim body+Decent ISO range
Reasons to avoid
-Weak 1.5fps burst mode-Small 2.7-inch screen

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

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12. Sony RX10 IV

It’s the ultimate Sony bridge camera both for sports/action and 4K video

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-in type
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-600mm (equiv) f/2.4-4
Screen: 3in tilting screen, 1,440k dots
Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots
Continuous shooting speed: 24fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Phase detect AF system+Great still/video quality+Excellent lens
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive

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

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Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.