With so many different types of photographers out there, it’s hard for camera manufacturers to fit everything into one device. In fact, by doing so you rule out a vast majority of users who don’t want everything all in one, but require simpler layouts and designated, specific strengths. That’s why we’ve put together this roundup of the best cameras for photography which includes a wide range of different uses.
Whether you need the convenience of a small, compact mirrorless that can slip into a jacket pocket, or the sophistication of a larger interchangeable DSLR format camera body, we’ve included it here. Use this guide to help hone your requirements, picking out the very best of each camera style. We’ve been sure to include some of the best cameras for astrophotography in this list, but also others that are better suited to different types of photography. Below, you'll find models with the ability to shoot at insane frame rates, capture high quality C4K video, detailed stills images, and have blisteringly fast autofocus to capture action shots too. If you need additional kit, we also have a guide to the best lenses for astrophotography too.
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There are lots of different features to look out for when you're buying a new camera, including choosing between a DSLR or mirrorless model and looking for things like in-body image stabilization, which can help with low light stills shooting and smooth video capture. A good ISO range is also incredibly useful when shooting handheld or when you need to capture dark night skies. Electronic viewfinders help ramp up sensitivity to light, making it easier to compose images and capture what you see, but optical viewfinders offer a filter-free real-world view for traditionalists. You name it, we’ve got it, take a read down below to find the best cameras for photography in 2021.
Best camera overall
From its expandable 204800 ISO ability to the -3EV autofocus range, the Sony A7 III is a winner for anyone looking to shoot in low light. Though it only shoots 24.5MP stills which may be a little on the low side for this price point, it’s actually the key to its incredible ability to keep image noise low on its full-frame 35mm sensor.
A hybrid shooter, the A7 III also captures video footage excellently at 4K UHD 30fps, though it does top out at ISO 51200 as it can’t make use of the expanded option as it does for stills. However, that’s still practically seeing in the dark so we’ll let it off. It has a great CIPA-rated battery life and can shoot 710 still photographs on one charge (likely much more in real world shooting conditions).
Thanks to the lens mount users can choose from the wide range of E-mount lenses on offer which give tremendous options when it comes to any style shoot. Even though this has now been superseded by the latest Sony A7 IV it’s still a fantastic camera in a compact form, and now even more affordable thanks to the latest iteration from its line-up.
- Read our Sony A7 III review
Best mirrorless camera
The Nikon Z6 is more accessible than its bigger (more expensive) brother the Z7. Sure, it has lower stills resolution, but the form factor and five-axis in-body image stabilization is identical. In fact, even though it lacks some of the extra frills the Z7 has, the Z6 actually has lower image noise because it shoots at only 24.5MP – making it ideal for capturing the night sky, especially when teamed up with a good astro lens.
Five stops of IBIS, sharp Z-mount lenses, and the ability to use Nikon’s back catalog of lenses through the FTZ adapter mean the Z6 is a go-to for almost any kind of shooting. Wildlife, sports, portraits, landscapes, product photography, you name it – the Z6 can do it. For fast captures it runs at up to 12fps for stills, and has eye/animal eye AF (if updated to the latest firmware version) to make sure you never miss focus again. If you need the professional video capture of ProRes RAW then the Z6 outputs 12K raw video to an external recorder – but you might need to have this set up at a Nikon service center first.
Best Micro Four Thirds camera
A brilliant recent addition to the Olympus OM-D line-up, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III replaces the Mark II with a better image sensor now capable of capturing 20MP stills and improved image stabilization ability. Amazingly, it even records video well too, fitting C4K video on the small Micro Four Thirds sensor with options for 4K UHD at 30fps and full HD slow mo at 120fps.
Perfect for those who want to avoid to step-up from entry-level cameras but aren’t ready for the high-end professional bodies, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III provides excellent specs at a reasonable price and all in a teeny, tiny, lightweight body which could even slip into a coat pocket. It’s perfect for solar or lunar photography, as well as sports or wildlife thanks to the 10fps stills shooting, extendable to 15fps with continuous autofocus or which can ramp up even higher to 30fps in Pro Capture mode, though the focus will be locked on the first frame. Overall, the OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a lightweight MFT camera body that can keep up with the bigger mirrorless and DSLR competition.
Best budget camera
If you need a camera that can do anything, and we mean anything, then the Nikon D850 is the first camera you should pick up. Even though it’s four years old (at time of writing) it still competes with the best mirrorless cameras around today. It’s equally at home shooting wildlife or sports with up to 9fps (with additional battery grip) or capturing portraits with amazing clarity when paired with one of the huge range of F-mount lenses in Nikon’s heritage.
Traditionalists will like the optical viewfinder as it allows them to view the scene directly, rather than through a screen (something you can’t do with mirrorless cameras). 4K UHD 30fps video gives awesome detail to movie footage and slow motion video capture can be achieved through the use of the 1920 x 1080 30p (x4) option providing 120fps full HD video to slow down fast-paced action by four times.
Shoot anytime in any conditions with its renowned weather sealing and rugged body capable of taking a real pounding. It even lights up with backlit illuminated buttons which show major camera settings for use in the dark, making it ideal for astrophotography without ruining night vision.
Best beginners DSLR
Also known as the EOS 250D, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is suited to any photographer who wants to lose weight, in the camera bag that is. Billed as the lightest DSLR in the world with a movable screen it’s certainly ideal for travel photographers, those wanting to take a camera with them on holiday, or if their gear acquisition syndrome has them bogged down with a camera bag full of heavy kit.
The vari-angle touchscreen makes it easy to compose images whether held up above or down low to provide fresh vantage points without the need to climb up or lay down in awkward positions. Pros will want to give this camera a miss though as it’s much better suited for beginners or semi-pros since it only has 9AF points and can only utilize UHS-I SD cards - great for keeping the cost down.
There’s even a useful Guided UI mode that puts the camera into a kind of tutorial mode to help guide users new to photography (and the camera) through shooting options. Creative Assist mode works by providing a set of filters, effects, and color adjustment tools to perfect images while shooting, or used to improve images after capture - perfect for creatives that don’t want to get bogged down with image editing software, at least initially.
Best for street and fast photography
Fujifilm has packed a lot of camera into a small body in the X-T4 and certainly operates well enough for semi-pros to shoot with and even professionals should they want a second body. As standard it can capture stills at a blistering 15fps mechanically, and should you want to go further this little camera can use an electronic shutter with a 1.25x crop mode to reach up to 30fps – that means sports, wildlife, or any fast-paced action (even tracking solar or lunar events) is perfectly suited to the X-T4.
Nail focus every time thanks to the 425 AF points dotted throughout the X-T4’s frame as it uses a hybrid of contrast and phase-detection for accurate autofocusing. Never worry about losing a shot again as it conceals two helpful SD card slots which are both UHS-II compatible to keep up with the fast burst speed and C4K 60fps video shooting. Aided by its classical and wonderfully elegant styling the Fujifilm X-T4 is more reminiscent of the older SLRs with none of the drawbacks thanks to its latest mirrorless features. A beautiful camera with great specs makes this one of the best APS-C cameras you can buy.
Best for beginners
An entry-level, do-it-all camera, the Nikon D3500 is designed for those who want to get started in photography without committing the big bucks. A crop-sensor body, the D3500 adds an extra 1.5x crop to all lenses, which is useful for astrophotography, wildlife, and sports because it means longer reach with cheaper lenses, making distant subjects appear larger in the frame.
Its 24.5MP stills produce more than enough detail for photographs to be used online and in print, matching that of many flagship DSLR cameras across brands. This gives extra scope to crop in on subjects should composition need tweaking after capture. The D3500 records 60fps full HD video footage which is great for a camera of this size and price point. It means smooth movie capture perfect for YouTube, social media and more. It looks small and lightweight even when compared to mirrorless cameras which are known to be smaller than DSLRs. That, plus the reasonable price make this camera perfect for beginners.
It has 11 autofocus points which sit quite central in the frame. But that’s not so much of an issue since you can autofocus, lock the focus and recompose, but it does mean that focus is slightly missed when using wide apertures on telephoto lenses as the movement between focus and shutter release changes the distance of lens to subject, so users should be aware of that.
Best for online content creators
This compact mirrorless camera is aimed at a content creator market who want to focus on producing good quality stills and video content for use on YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms. It comes with a 180 degree rotating monitor screen for selfie shooting, and it simultaneously enhances depth of field while using face tracking so that it can keep both you and the background nice and sharp.
While there is no in-body image stabilization (a surprise as this is the case with almost all the mirrorless bodies on this list) it does have 5-axis IS. This hybrid approach to image stabilization uses the lens’ optical stabilization and combines it with the camera’s electronic stabilization to produce smooth results. Note, however, that this drops to 4-axis IS when shooting 4K video.
Pushing forward on the content creator design the G100 also features intelligent microphone audio designed by Nokia called Ozo – this changes the directionality and sensitivity of the in-built microphone based on face-recognition for clearer audio without the need for an external mic.
Other upsides to this compact mirrorless include vertical video capture for social media posting without the need to edit into different aspect ratios and simple Bluetooth connectivity with a dedicated button to share content to a smartphone.
Overall, there are many different cameras to suit each individual photographers’ needs. If you’re a beginner looking to get into photography for the first time you may want to get something a little less intimidating and choose a compact mirrorless or entry-level DSLR which can help guide you through camera settings and filters to make the best creative choices upfront. However, those looking for a little more from their kit can rely on the bigger mirrorless and DSLR camera bodies to benefit from powerful in-body image stabilization, fast burst shooting speeds, high quality 4K video capture, and an interchangeable lens format to suit almost any shooting conditions.
It’s not all about the camera body though. Lenses play a huge part in creating the image, so take some time to research what lens ranges are available (if the camera you’re looking at allows for interchangeable lenses) because some have more than others. Wide-angle lenses offer a bigger field of view for landscapes and astro, but telephoto lenses zoom in to far-away subjects like birds and athletes. Each will come with different maximum apertures, altering the camera’s settings whilst shooting to maintain good exposures.
It’s also important to bear in mind that you’ll likely need a tripod too, especially if you’re interested in astrophotography or landscape photography. That way you can keep the camera steady with low ISO sensitivities (reducing image noise) and/or use longer shutter speeds to capture beautiful blurs of moving subjects like waterfalls or star trails.