- What is the best digital camera?
- Which camera should I buy?
- what’s the best digital camera in my price range?
Did you know that every single product can use the word “best” in describing itself in advertising? As long as they don’t provide criteria by which that term can be measured. (If they do provide a criteria, then they must measurably be the best in that criteria).
This is because the word “best” is meaningless without a frame of reference.
In an attempt to answer all of these questions and lighten the load on our inbox, we’ve launched this guide to the Best Digital Cameras, which represents what we currently think are the best cameras in each category.
1) Sony A7R II
The Sony a7R II is a 42MP full frame mirrorless camera with 5-axis image stabilization, featuring the world’s first (and currently only) 35mm BSI CMOS sensor, and including a hybrid autofocus system and 4K video capabilities. It’s the fifth in the company’s a7 range of full frame cameras and the second high-resolution ‘R’ model. However, although its name and appearance are very similar to the first round of a7s, the R II arguably represents just as significant a step forwards as those first full frame mirrorless models did.
The reasons for suggesting this are two-fold. Although the a7R II’s body is essentially the same as that of the 24MP a7 II (albeit with more substantial magnesium alloy construction), the camera includes two significant changes:
The first is that this is the first full frame camera to feature a sensor based on BSI CMOS technology. Although Sony always stressed that the benefits of BSI designs are most valuable in small sensors, its application on larger scales should reduce the pixel-level disadvantages of moving to higher pixel counts (which means an improvement in quality when viewed at a standard output size).
Secondly, and perhaps, most unexpectedly: the camera’s phase-detection autofocus capabilities have been increased to the point that it not only focuses quickly and effectively with its own lenses but can also do so with lenses designed for other systems. This may not sound like a big deal until you think about what Sony needs to do to make the camera a success: win-over dedicated photographers, many of whom are already committed to other systems.
Sony a7R II Highlight specifications:
- 42MP Full Frame BSI CMOS sensor
- 399 on-sensor Phase Detection points
- 5-axis image stabilization
- Internal 4K recording from full sensor width or ‘Super’ 35 crop
- Picture Profile system including ITU-709 and S-Log2 gamma
- Full magnesium alloy construction
- 2.36m dot OLED viewfinder with 0.7x magnification
- High speed AF with non-native lenses
2) Nikon D500
The Nikon D500 is a 21MP APS-C DSLR capable of shooting at up to 10 frames per second and featuring an autofocus system derived from the one in the D5. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of high-end DX format body that appeared to have become extinct with the D300S.
The six-and-a-half years that have passed since the D300S’ launch have seen the camera market move on considerably but the D500 does much to reclaim the position as one of the preeminent APS-C camera on the market.
As you might expect, much of the improved capability of the camera centers around sports and high-speed shooting, with significant upgrades to the shooting rate and autofocus system, but there are also major upgrades to the viewfinder, video capabilities and connectivity options which expand its utility beyond one particular niche.
- 20.7MP APS-C (DX-format) sensor
- 153 point AF module with 99 cross-type points
- 180,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering and subject recognition
- AF point joystick
- 10 fps shooting for up to 200 shots (lossless compressed 14-bit Raw to XQD card)
- 4K (UHD) video from 1.5x crop of sensor
- 100% coverage viewfinder with 1.0x magnification
- 2.36M-dot tilting touchscreen display
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity with NFC for setup
- Mic and headphone sockets
- USB 3.0 connector
- Anti-flicker option for working under artificial lighting
Olympus’s OM-D E-M5 II is, like its predecessor, a small, attractive and usable 16MP camera. In fact, at first glance it looks relatively unchanged. The most obvious additions are its more advanced movie capabilities and a clever multi-shot 40MP mode, but you have to look a bit more closely to see how much work Olympus has put into this new model.
How do you follow up a classic? A little more time is going to have to pass before the E-M5 can truly wear that mantle but I have little doubt that that’s the question Olympus’s engineers and product planners have been asking themselves. And, it must be said, it’s quite a challenge. Technology has moved forward since the first OM-D was launched but simply bringing the camera up-to-date risks feeling like a let down.
Sure enough, the E-M5 II doesn’t feel like as big a step forward as its predecessor was. But how could it be? Cameras such as the Sony’s a6000 and a7, and Samsung’s NX1 have raised the expected level of capability so far that it would be hard for any new model to represent as much of a breakthrough. Nonetheless, Olympus has probably done as much as it can to move things forward.
Close examination of the camera shows that almost every aspect of its design has been tweaked, refined and polished. Without access to a higher pixel-count sensor, it’s not obvious what else Olympus could have added to the Mark II.
Olympus E-M5 II key features:
- 16MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor
- 40 MP multi-exposure mode
- 1080/60p shooting and 1080/30p at up to 77Mbps (All-I)
- Improved 5-axis image stabilization in both stills and movie modes
- 10fps continuous shooting, 5fps with AF
- 1/8000th sec maximum shutter speed (1/16000th with electronic shutter)
- Built-in Wi-Fi
- Clip-on rotating, bounceable flash
Sony rejuvenated the premium compact market in 2012 when it introduced the Cyber-shot DSC-RX100. The RX100 took a 1″-type sensor and relatively fast zoom lens and put it into a body that can slip into your pocket. Every year since has seen the arrival of a new RX100 model. The RX100 II added a new BSI CMOS sensor and hot shoe. Last year’s RX100 III lost the hot shoe but gained a faster (but shorter) lens and clever pop-up EVF. The latest model inherits all of those things but adds a new stacked CMOS sensor that, according to Sony, is literally years ahead of the competition.
While we’ll get into the technology behind the new Exmor RS stacked CMOS sensor below, here are the major benefits. All the camera’s main capability increased come from the enhanced speed of the new sensor. This translates into incredibly fast continuous shooting (16 fps to be exact) and high frame rate video (up to 960 fps), as well as support for 4K video recording with full pixel readout. And, when the Exmor RS is used in electronic shutter mode, the faster readout means there’s less of a delay between starting to read the sensor and finishing: meaning rolling shutter is essentially eliminated.
We’ll look at the ways that Sony is trying to turn fast readout into photographic benefits throughout this review. For now let’s take a look at the RX100 IV’s standout features:
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV key feautres:
- 20.1MP 1″-type stacked CMOS sensor
- F1.8-2.8 24-70mm equivalent Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens
- Optical image stabilization
- 1/32000 sec max shutter speed (1/2000 using mechanical shutter)
- 16 fps continuous shooting (with metering and focus fixed at the first shot)
- Slow motion video recording up to 1000 fps (960fps in NTSC mode)
- 4K (UHD) video recording with full sensor readout and bit rates up to 100Mbps
- Picture Profile modes including S-Log2 gamma setting
- Dual recording captures 17MP stills while recording up to 1080/30p video
- Tilting 3″ LCD with 1.3m dots
- Pop-up 2.36m dot OLED electronic viewfinder
- Built-in ND filter (with Auto mode)
- Wi-Fi with NFC
Canon has added to its EOS 5D range with the launch of two 50MP cameras, the 5DS and the 5DS R. Both cameras are high resolution full frame models, primarily aimed at stills photographers. The only difference between the models is that the ‘S’ has an optical low-pass filter, while the ‘S R’ has a self-cancelling filter (the same relationship as Nikon’s D800 and D800E models shared).
The two cameras will exist alongside the EOD 5D Mark III, acting as dedicated high resolution cameras primarily intended for studio, landscape and wedding shoots, rather than the all-round capability offered by the existing model. The Mark III still trumps the S and S R in terms of maximum ISO and continuous shooting speed.
Canon EOS 5DS / 5DS R key features:
- 50MP CMOS sensor
- 5 fps continuous shooting
- ISO 100-6400 (Extends to 12,800)
- 61-point AF module with input from 150k pixel metering sensor
- Dual Digic 6 processors
- 3.0″ 1.04M-dot LCD
- CF & SD slots (UHS-I compatible)
- 1080/30p video
- M-Raw and S-Raw downsampled formats
- 30MP APS-H crop and 19.6MP APS-C crop modes
- USB 3.0 interface
The Sony α6300 is equipped with a newly developed 24.2MP (approx.. effective) APS-C sized Exmor CMOS sensor that works together with a BIONZ X image processing engine to produce outstanding image quality throughout the entire ISO sensitivity range ISO 100 – 51200. It can also shoot and record high resolution 4K video with full pixel readout and no pixel binning in the popular Super 35mm format. The camera boasts a ‘4D FOCUS’ system with 425 phase detection AF points that are densely positioned over the entire image area, and can shoot images at up to 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus and exposure tracking.
The body is made of a magnesium-alloy and is sealed against dust and moisture. As with most Sony cameras these days, the a6300 has onboard Wi-Fi with NFC.
- 24MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100 – 51200
- 3″ Tilting Screen
- 2359k dot Electronic viewfinder
- 11.0 fps continuous shooting
- 4K – 3840 x 2160 video resolution
- 120 High-Speed Video
- Built-in Wireless
- 404g. 120 x 67 x 49 mm
- Weather Sealed Body
7) DxO ONE
DxO has released a firmware update for its ONE connected camera. The main additions in firmware version 1.4 are support for copyright/author metadata as well as watermarking. Users can now preview aperture and exposure compensation settings in real-time on the ‘viewfinder,’ better known as an iPhone or iPad. DxO has also tweaked the user interface, with quicker access to camera and app settings. And, as with most firmware updates, overall camera performance has been improved.
Version 1.4 of the DxO ONE app for iOS is now available in the iTunes Store. The camera firmware is updated via the app.
20.2MP Still Resolution – (5406×3604 pixels)
1080p/30fps HD Video Resolution – 720p/120fps
1″ format Sensor Size (13.2×8.8MM)
Compatible with below versions:
iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3, iPad Air, iPad mini 2, iPad (4th gen), iOS 8 or later
The Fujifilm X-T2 is an updated version of the company’s top-level DSLR-shaped APS-C camera. It’s built around the same 24MP X-Trans sensor as the X-Pro2 but ends up being much more than an X-T1 with more pixels. Instead, the X-T2 is a camera that does much to address the X-System’s remaining weaknesses, which can only broaden its already considerable appeal.
- 24MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor
- 325 AF points (169 of which offer phase detection)
- AF point selection joystick
- 2.36M-dot OLED EVF with 0.005 sec refresh time (60 fps or 100 fps in boost mode)
- 3″ 1.04M-dot articulating LCD
- 4K UHD video at up to 30 fps for up to 10 min (30 min with booster grip)
- F-Log flat profile and 4K out over HDMI
- 8 fps continuous shooting with AF (11 fps with booster grip)
- 5 fps continuous shooting with live view updates between capture
- 14 fps continuous shooting with electronic shutter
- Dual SD card slots (UHS-II compatible)
- USB 3.0 socket
This premium high zoom compact camera comes with a 25x optical zoom and a large 1.0 inch-type CMOS sensor. Equipped with Canon lenses with a focal distance ranging from 24mm (wide angle end) to 600mm (telephoto end), high image quality is ensured throughout the entire zoom range. Besides its improved, Zoom Framing Assist function with enhanced user-friendliness, it also supports serious, Full HD 60P movie recording. This is indeed a camera that promises to satisfy all users who prize image quality.
- Optical Zoom:16x & Above
- Resolution:123.3 x 76.5 x 105.3mm (4.85 x 3.01 x 4.15in.)
- Image Sensor:1.0 inch type
- Image Processing Technology:DIGIC 6
- Other Features:Touch-screen panel (capacitive type), Vari-Angle
- Video Display Resolution:iFrame Movie: 1920 x 1080 Short Clip: 1280 x 720 Miniature Effect: 1280 x 720 / 640 x 480 Other than the above: 1920 x 1080 / 1280 x 720 / 640 x 480
- Digital Zoom:Yea
- SUPC: SDL000856687
10) Nikon 1 J5
While Nikon’s DSLRs tend to get the most attention, its 1-series mirrorless cameras have become more and more capable since their introduction in 2011. Nikon has divided its 1-series models into three segments, covering entry level (S-series), midrange (J-series), and high-end (V-series). The company’s latest midrange offering is the Nikon 1 J5, which sports a more upscale, classic look than its predecessor (the J4). There are more exciting changes than just appearance, as you’ll see in the following slides.
The most obvious change to the J5 is its appearance, which is less boxy than its predecessor and more in line with the Panasonic GM-series cameras. The J5 has an actual grip which, if the faux leather has some ‘stick’ to it, will make the camera easier to hold.
Like all Nikon 1-series cameras, the J5 uses a 1″-type sensor and CX-mount lenses, of which there are now thirteen. The crop factor on the 1-series cameras is 2.7x. Those who want to use Nikon F-mount lenses can do so via the FT1 adapter.
- 21MP – 1″ BSI-CMOS Sensor
- No Anti-aliasing (AA) filter
- ISO 160 – 12800
- 3″ Tilting Screen
- 60.0 fps continuous shooting
- 4K – 3840 x 2160 video resolution
- 1200fps High-Speed Video
- No Optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter
- Built-in Wireless
- 231g. 98 x 60 x 32 mm