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The 10 best cameras for enthusiasts: cameras for your next steps in photography

Best cameras for enthusiasts
Best cameras for enthusiasts

The best cameras for enthusiasts offer many of the features of professional cameras, but without the price tag. This is where manufacturers have to think outside the box, packing as many advanced features as they can into a camera body without making it too heavy or jacking the price up too high. Photography enthusiasts are spoiled for choice, and picking out the best cameras for enthusiasts is actually quite a challenge.

The best camera for any particular enthusiast can mean any number of different things to different people. Accordingly, we've ensured that our list includes a range of different types of models, including both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, and a mix of full frame, APS-C  and Micro Four Thirds cameras too.

We've included all the major manufacturers on this list, and we've also made sure to factor in the price tag of cameras when making our list, so you can be sure you're getting a good deal. 

This is why our list doesn't just contain the latest models from each manufacturer, but a number of older models that have really proved their worth and have plummeted in price at the same time.

Best cameras for enthusiasts in 2021

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony A7R II

You won't find this much resolution, for this little money, ANYWHERE

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 42.4MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3in tilting touchscreen, 1,229k dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,359k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

42.4 million tack-sharp pixels
4K video
Amazing value with price drops
Only 5fps continuous shooting
Two versions behind the latest model

Pricing for the Sony A7R II does go up and down, and does vary according to territory, but it's now one of the best cameras for enthusiasts. Sony has a strategy of keeping older versions of its mirrorless cameras on sale, long after new versions are released. This means you can still get the 42.4MP Sony A7R Mark II, even though the A7R Mark IV is out. Normally, it's difficult to get excited about older cameras when new ones have come out, but the Sony A7R Mark II is different. First, it gives you more megapixels than any other camera at this price – or anywhere near it. Second, it might be two versions old, but it uses very modern technology. The 5fps continuous shooting speed is half that of its successors, but not everybody needs that – and the A7R II still has in-body image stabilization and 4K video capture. It might not have the latest Sony autofocus tech or burst shooting speeds, but it still delivers more bangs for your buck than you'll find anywhere else. 

Read more: Sony A7R Mark II review

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

2. Fujifilm X-S10

Fujifilm's latest X-mount camera is brilliant for enthusiasts

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360k dots | Max continuous shooting speed: 30/8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Intermediate/Expert

Small size & excellent build quality
Vari-angle touchscreen
In-body image stabilisation
Conventional mode dial

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 one of the best cameras for enthusiasts right now.

Read more: Fujifilm X-S10 review

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

3. Fujifilm X-T4

Spectacular stills, excellent video, in-body stabilisation... it has the lot

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor:: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | LCD: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.62million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 30fps (electronic shutter, 1.25x crop mode) 15fps (mechanical shutter) | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

6.5-stop stabilisation
Top-notch image quality
Expensive for APS-C
Average buffer depth

While full-frame mirrorless cameras do feel like the celebrities of the photo world right now, APS-C models are still coming along leaps and bounds, and many are replete with spectacular features. Case in point, the Fujifilm X-T4, which may have an APS-C sensor, but also happens to be one of the finest mirrorless cameras ever made. Superb retro styling meets a spectacular image sensor that produces fabulous images straight out of camera, and now with fast burst shooting and 6.5-stop image stabilisation, the X-T4 is very much able to roll in the big leagues. Then there's the vari-angle touchscreen that makes it possible to shoot from all sorts of different angles, the 4K 60p video that looks fantastic, the Film Simulation modes... well, we could gush about this camera all day (see our review below if you would in fact be happy to read us gush all day about this camera).

Read more: Fujifilm X-T4 review

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4. Sony A7 III

Sony's entry-level A7 model is actually a powerful all-rounder

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

Image quality and speed
5-axis image stabilisation
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.

Read more: Sony A7 III review

Nikon Z5

(Image credit: Nikon)

5. Nikon Z5

It's a good camera, and a great way into the Nikon Z system

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24MP | Monitor: EVF, 3,690k dots, 100% coverage | Continuous shooting speed: 4.5fps | Viewfinder: EVF | Max video resolution: 4K UHD at 30p | User level: Enthusiast

Easy to get to grips with
5-axis IS system
Only 4.5fps burst shooting
4K video gets a 1.7x crop

The Z5 is Nikon's new entry-level full-frame mirrorless camera. Rather than starting with a clean sheet of paper, Nikon's pretty much used the same design for the Z5 as it has for the Z6 (and Z7 for that matter). The most noticeable thing on the body that differs from the Z6 is the arrival of a more beginner-orientated mode dial in place of the LCD top-plate display. The Z5 also borrows much of the tech inside the Z6, with the most noticeable difference being the sensor. The resolution might be the same, but the Z6 benefits from a back-illuminated chip and images from the two are very similar, with the Z6 having the edge at higher ISOs. The 4K video is a little restrictive with a 1.7x crop, while the burst shooting speed is a modest 4.5fps. The Z5 is better than its budget rivals the Canon EOS RP and Sony Alpha A7 II, however, and good value in today's full frame mirrorless camera market.

Read more: Nikon Z 5 review

Best Panasonic cameras: Panasonic Lumix S5

(Image credit: Panasonic)

6. Panasonic Lumix S5

Panasonic's new compact mirrorless camera is just stunning

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle, 1,840k dots | Viewfinder: Electronic, 2,360k dots | Lens: L-mount | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Video: Uncropped 4K UHD up to 60/50p | User level: Intermediate/expert

Best in-class video performance
Magnesium frame and vari-angle screen
Dual SD card slots
HDMI port not full-size
Only contrast AF

Despite its compact size, the Lumix S5 shares the impressive 24MP CMOS sensor housed in the Lumix S1, but with improved AF. It also has a tough weather-resistant body and delivers up to 6.5-stops of image stabilisation with compatible lenses. Its standout features include class-leading dynamic range and 4K video recording, as well as 96MP high resolution RAW+JPEG capture. It’s tough to beat in this category. The Lumix S5 is smaller than the Lumix S1 and S1R before it, and cheaper too. It matches the Lumix S1 for stills and beats it for video, coming close to the capabilities of the far more expensive Lumix S1H. What a camera! It's not cheap, especially compared to the Nikon Z5, but it's a better choice for video shooters.

Read more: Panasonic Lumix S5 review

(Image credit: Canon)

7. Canon EOS R

Canon's first full frame mirrorless camera is now a terrific deal

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 30.3MP | Lens mount: Canon RF | Screen: 3.15-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 2.1m dots | Viewfinder: EVF, 3.69m dots | Max burst speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Great control customization
5,655(!) focus positions
Fully articulating screen
No in-body stabilization
Cropped 4K video
Single SD card slot

When it was launched we called the Canon EOS R capable, customizable, but compromised. Two years later it's a much more appealing proposition, thanks to firmware-improved performance and a more competitive price tag. It still suffers the same limitations, namely the lack of IBIS and the cropped 4K, though its 30.3MP sensor continues to make it an appealing system. However, if you don't mind losing about 6MP in resolution, we would also recommend the Canon EOS RP as it comes with an even lower price tag for largely the same results. For enthusiasts, however, the EOS RP is a more appealing camera, and a lot cheaper than the newer EOS R6, which actually has a lower resolution, or the flagship EOS R5.

Read more: Canon EOS R review

(Image credit: Canon)

8. Canon EOS 6D Mark II

Canon's entry-level full frame DSLR is actually very versatile

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 26.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Max burst speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Excellent vari-angle touch screen
Great AF in Live View, plus accurate AF overall
Only 98% viewfinder coverage
4K video missed out

Like the feel and handling of a traditional SLR and want to step up from APS-C to full-frame photography? Then the second-generation, weather-resistant EOS 6D has got to be near top of your list, particularly with its headline feature being a new 26.2MP full-frame sensor and a sensitivity range that can be expanded to ISO 50-102,400 equivalents. We also get a latest-generation DIGIC 7 processor, but perhaps the most noticeable difference from the previous model on the outside is the 3in vari-angle display, which responds to touch. What's been left out, however, is 4K video, although there is a 4K time-lapse option that stitches together images into a 4K video, plus a microphone input to help you give audio capture a performance boost. AF performance is very good, and the camera handles a variety of lighting scenarios with ease, while battery life at 1,200 shots is likewise commendable. While the EOS 90D is a newer camera, we're still recommending this one for enthusiasts as it's currently one of the cheapest routes into full-frame around.

Read more: Canon EOS 6D Mark II review

(Image credit: Olympus / Amazon)

9. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Rugged, fast and packed with features, the E-M5 III is a pocket powerhouse

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: MFT | Megapixels: 20.4MP | Lens mount: NFT | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Electronic | Continuous shooting speed: 30fps (Pro Capture mode), 10fps (mechanical shutter) | Max video resolution: c4K/4K | User level: Enthusiast/Expert

Stunning Pro Capture mode
Exceptional 152 raw file buffer
Size and handling
Range of lenses
MFT sensor smaller than APS-C
'Only' 20.4MP

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is an exceptional camera and a worthy successor to the highly regarded E-M5 Mark II. This new camera uses Olympus' flagship 20.4MP Micro Four Thirds sensor, and while this might put some people off (these sensors are smaller than APS-C) the image quality is top notch – particularly when this camera can shoot 50MP images via pixel shift. Its other abilities are equally amazing, including 6.5 stops of in body stabilization, 30fps burst shooting (including via Pro Capture mode with 14-shot pre-buffering), C4K and 4K video, Olympus' brilliant Live Composite modes and plenty more. It's probably one of the last models to have the Olympus name as the company rebrands as 'OM Digital Solutions', but we hope the cameras keep on coming, even if the name enters the history books.

Read more: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III review

Best cameras for enthusiasts: Panasonic Lumix G9

(Image credit: Panasonic)

10. Panasonic Lumix G9

One of Panasonic's top Lumix G models, great for both stills and video

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor:: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | LCD: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04million dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps (60fps electronic shutter) | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Huge OLED viewfinder
Magnesium alloy used for solidity
Smaller sensor format than APS-C
Lacks DSLR battery life

The G9 is a 20.3MP addition to Panasonic's impressive G-series line of mirrorless cameras, which looks and feels like a miniaturised DSLR, and can be used in conjunction with its maker’s wide range of Lumix G lenses. Being Panasonic, 4K video shooting is right up there on its spec list, though you’ll also want to look at its GH5 and newer GH5S if video is your specialism. An OLED electronic viewfinder delivers a life-like view for those preferring to shoot with the camera to their eye, while the construction shows its semi-pro mettle by being protected against dust, water and freezing temperatures. For studio or landscape photographers wanting that extra bit of resolution, an 80MP composite mode is also available, with images saved in the user's choice of JPEG or Raw formats. If you like your cameras petite, get the OM-D E-M5 III, but if you like a Micro Four Thirds camera you can get your fist around, the Lumix G9 is the one.

Read more: Panasonic G9 review

Related articles:

The cheapest full frame cameras
Best cameras for beginners
Best professional cameras
Best DSLRs
Best mirrorless cameras
Best full-frame cameras

Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio. Previously he has been Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. 

Rod's near-encyclopedic knowledge of cameras both old and new makes him an invaluable resource, whether we need to ask a question about transparencies or the latest X-Trans sensor. He owns all manner of cameras, from Nikon DSLRs through Olympus, Sony and Fujifilm bodies, and on any given day you'll see him using kit from just about every manufacturer.