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If you're new to the photography world, the sheer range of options, terms, brands, and accessories can make your head spin.
Professional photographers may spar over whether Canon or Nikon is the best brand, which ISO setting should be used for low-light shots, or whether or not smartphone-based or mirrorless cameras could ever beat a DSLR, but whether you're professional or a hobbyist, there are countless cameras out there which can suit your purpose.
When you're considering the purchase of a camera, it is first worth working out what you want it to do for you.
Some models will come as body-only with lenses as separate purchases, some will come with a variety pack already included, and others may come with one fixed lens and no other. If you want a camera for special occasions, holidays, or going out only, a compact and travel-friendly camera may be your best bet -- but if you want to eventually go professional, you might want to consider spending a little more on a DSLR or mirrorless to give yourself more versatility later.
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Below, you will find my top picks for cameras.
Specs: Digital camera type: DSLR | Shutter speed: 1/8000 - 30 sec | Interchangeable lenses: Not included | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K 60p video capability
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is one of the best DSLR options out there for professional photographers. The camera sports a 35mm 20.1 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, which means incredible detail and enlargements all the way up to poster size.
The ISO range of 100 to 102,400 sets you up for crisp photographs even in ultralow light, like in the early morning. This is also a good camera for wildlife photography, because the 191-point all cross-type AF system allows you to track the subject with deep learning and capture the best shot. The 4K 60p video capability means that you can also shoot high-quality video.
Your videos and photographs benefit from integrated GPS geotags, so that you can mark where you've been. The body pairs well with high-quality lenses to pull out the full potential of the Mark series. The body itself is quite durable, with dust and weather resistance so you can take this camera with you and not worry about breaking it. Fast-action shots are a breeze -- you can shoot continuously for at least 1,000 images with the dual CFexpress card slots.
Specs: Digital camera type: Point-and-shoot | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Interchangeable lenses: No | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K 30p and Full HD 120p
Canon's PowerShot G1 X Mark III is a compact, travel-friendly camera that performs well as an all-rounder. It's close enough to a DSLR, considering it sports a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, an ISO range of 100 to 25600, and built-in touch-and-drag viewfinder capabilities.
This is a good camera for streaming because of its sensor and image processor that capture high-quality, ultra-high definition video with little to no sound distortion. Those same capabilities allow the camera to take clear images quickly. The optical image stabilizer reduces the likelihood that you'll end up with blurry images if your camera shakes or vibrates, and the built-in flash and autofocus enhance picture quality. The camera also has a weather-sealed lens.
With a touchscreen LCD and print support directly from the camera, this point-and-shoot is a worthwhile option to consider.
Specs: Digital camera type: Point-and-shoot | Shutter speed: 60 - 1/4000 sec | Interchangeable lenses: No | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K (2160p) video capability
The Nikon COOLPIX P950 has one major appeal: the powerful, compact telephoto lens it's equipped with. Telephoto lenses are used to capture subjects or scenes at a distance rather than those close up, and so a camera like this will likely appeal to those interested in candid street photography or wildlife shoots.
The 16MP low-light lens with VR stabilization ensures that you have less blurriness in your images, and the built-in LCD gives you different viewing angles to preview your images in real-time. The reviews of this camera are filled with nature photography shots that highlight the dynamic fine zoom of this camera, which homes in on subjects in the distance with sharp clarity. The screen size is 3.2 inches and has a resolution of 921,000 pixels. Scene modes include landscape, sports, and portrait, along with the moon, beach, bird-watching, and more.
Specs: Digital camera type: Mirrorless | Shutter speed: 30 - 1/32000 sec | Interchangeable lenses: No | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K (2160p) video capability
If you're interested in exploring what mirrorless equipment has to offer, the Fujifilm X-T4 mirrorless digital camera should be considered. This compact camera sports a 23.5mm x 15.6mm (APS-C) X-Trans CMOS sensor, AF/MF focus modes, weather protection, and up to 10 fps in continuous shooting mode.
The camera has in-body image stabilization and a digital image stabilizer to ensure that your shots are of the highest quality. It also has a mechanical shutter that captures up to 15 frames per second, so you can take quick shots of anything from landscapes to action. The 91-point subject-tracking and zone autofocus tracks your subject to help you get the best picture.
When it comes to video, this camera shines. You can shoot movies in 4K UHD and then connect your camera to an HDTV to play the movie back. You'll need an HDMI cable on hand for this, but it's a good capability to have. For photos, you can preview your shot in the OLED viewfinder before taking it.
Specs: Digital camera type: DSLR | Shutter speed: 1/8000 - 30 sec | Interchangeable lenses: Not included | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K (2160p) video capability
You'll find the Canon DSLR Mark series in the hands of many professional photographers today. It's a high-quality camera that produces amazing results when paired with the right lenses, and it will serve you faithfully in wedding and event shoots. This camera is equipped with a 30.4 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, AF/MF modes, DIGIC 6+ image processor, continual shooting capabilities of 7.0 fps, and a robust viewfinder.
The ultrafast shooting speed of 7 frames per second at 30.4 megapixels captures every moment in full resolution, and the built-in GPS ensures that you know where you were at the time of each shot. The large, touchscreen LCD monitor helps frame the shot, and the built-in Wi-Fi allows you to share your pictures through email, text, or a simple upload to your phone or tablet. This camera accepts CF and SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards so that you can store or transfer data through dual memory card slots.
Specs: Digital camera type: Point-and-shoot | Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec | Interchangeable lenses: No | Image sensor type: CMOS | Video: 4K (2160p) video capability
If you're in the market for a camera that can handle a wide range of environmental conditions, the Olympus Tough TG-6 should be on your radar. This rugged camera contains a 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, 4K 30p and timelapse functionality, 100 to 12800 ISO options, and an LCD monitor. The camera has a 20 fps maximum video frame rate and wireless flash control options.
This camera is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, crashproof, and freezeproof, so you don't have to worry about breaking it. It's also weatherproof and fully able to handle extreme weather, as well as changes in climate. If the temperature suddenly changes, this camera kicks in with its anti-fog design that prevents condensation in the lens. The optional lens barrier keeps the surface of your lens free of scratches and clear for every shot. The underwater protection is also top-notch, with underwater white balance mode that improves red and blue tones for shots in shallow water and up to depths of 50 feet or 15 meters.
The best camera is the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, which gives you the latest technology. To see how it compares in price and features, here's an overview of its features compared to others on the list.
Digital camera type
Image sensor type
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
1/8000 - 30
4K 60p video capability
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
4K 30p and Full HD 120p
Nikon COOLPIX P950
60 - 1/4000
Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
30 - 1/32000
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
1/8000 - 30
Olympus Tough TG-6
Here we offer our expert recommendations to help you find the best camera.
Choose this camera…
If you want…
Canon EOS-1D X Mark III
The highest-quality camera and the best camera overall. This is also the most expensive option.
Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III
A camera that is close enough to a DSLR at about ⅛ of the price. You can use it to capture video with minimal sound distortion.
Nikon COOLPIX P950
A cool camera under $1,000 with a powerful telephoto lens that helps you capture things like the surface of the moon with impressive clarity. You can also use this for streaming.
Fujifilm X-T4 Mirrorless
A compact mirrorless camera with weather protection and image stabilization. This camera is perfect for video – you can connect it straight to your HDTV to watch what you've created.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
A DSLR that's far less expensive than the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, but that will still allow you to pursue professional photography. You can easily share pictures with clients too.
Olympus Tough TG-6
A rugged, durable camera that you can take underwater. This is also the least expensive option on the list.
To give you the best options available on the market, we chose products that offered a range of different technical specifications suitable for entry-level to professional users. This included compact camera models, mirrorless designs for the curious, and higher-specification, future-proof DSLRs.
When you consider investing in a camera, you need to first decide on your use cases -- as it might be overkill, for example, to purchase a top-spec DSLR for use only at birthday parties or Christmas, or you might be better off with a rugged setup if you plan to use your camera in more hazardous environments. It should also be noted for those interested in going professional that you don't need to go all-out straight away -- you can always upgrade over time. However, if you're looking for a model that is relatively future-proof, it might be best to choose an investment camera rather than a short-term option.
The best camera is the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, but it also comes at a price. It was far superior in terms of image quality, video quality, features, and more. However, the other cameras on this list might be a better buy depending on how often you'll use them and your intended purpose. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a camera:
DSLR, point-and-shoot, or mirrorless: It's important to know which camera type appeals to you the most and why. Each of these has different price points depending on their capabilities.
A mirrorless camera tends to be lighter than a comparable DSLR and they are designed to allow light to directly pass to a sensor, rather than requiring a mirror to manage image capture. A DSLR or mirrorless camera could be worth it if you are looking for a camera with functionality beyond point-and-shoot and you want equipment for a specific reason -- such as professional shoots, wildlife or sports photography, or portraiture.
How quickly do you want to be able to take an image? Speed is important to consider, as well as how well you can perform with a camera.
This generally applies to DSLR and mirrorless options, but the lenses for DSLR and mirrorless cameras are not interchangeable.
Image stabilization is important if you want to reduce blurriness while shooting at slower shutter speeds.
ZDNET's Charlie Osborne is a fan of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, bringing it to professional shoots.
In 2023, the Sony a7III mirrorless camera was the most popular overall with professional photographers, with 7% of pros using it. Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller and lighter, with 63% of professional photographers opting for a mirrorless option. Nikon, Canon, and Sony lead the way in favorite brands for photographers, with 31% of professional photographers using Nikon cameras, 28% using Canon, and 20% using Sony. Most photographers who use DSLR cameras do so because of the better lens selection.
DSLR cameras tend to be durable, with better battery life than mirrorless cameras. Mirrorless cameras, though, are lighter and tend to have more high-tech features. DSLRs have more lens options and better low-light shooting. All that said, more professional photographers prefer mirrorless cameras as opposed to DSLR options, with 63% of professional photographers using a mirrorless camera, according to a recent survey. Mirrorless cameras have in-body stabilization and are smaller and lighter than DSLRs.
Typically speaking, a lens should be upgraded before your body. Lenses allow you far more control and flexibility around image capture, and you are likely to secure better photos with a good lens and an average body than vice versa. An average body with a great lens will give you a better shot than the opposite (a great body with an average lens). The lens is more durable than the body and is worth the additional investment. In most situations, camera lenses are more important than the body.
Yes, there are. Here are the best alternatives to consider.
This 4K digital camera works for creating videos, especially for vlogging, and for HD photography. You can use it as a webcam for live streaming or video calls, and you can take high-quality pictures easily with autofocus and anti-shake. The camera weighs less than a pound -- it's light and portable and runs on two rechargeable batteries.
This beginner camera bundle gives you all the equipment you need to take high-quality pictures, even in low light. It has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology and an optical viewfinder with about 95% viewing coverage.
This camera is geared towards kids and teenagers, with enough capabilities to spark a lifelong love of photography. It's compact and can be used to create high-quality videos and images. Plus, it comes in three colors: Green, pink, and black.