These days, most digital cameras come with advanced video features that would impress any videographer, but the bread and butter of most DSLR, mirrorless, and compact cameras is still photography. Whether you're looking for the perfect camera to document your travel adventures, a model that can capture beautiful landscapes, or a fast camera to keep up with sports and wildlife, there's no shortage of options out there, including many that are well-rounded enough to suit all manner and styles of photography. What's most important is choosing a camera that fits your budget, ergonomic preferences, and the type of photography you're interested in.
It's worth noting that a camera's overall performance can vary drastically depending on what kind of lens you use. Your lens influences the amount of light entering the camera, an image's depth of field, autofocus behavior, and stabilization performance. That's without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens: a larger lens with a longer zoom length and a wider maximum aperture might make it easier to take the kind of photos you want, but it could make your camera more of a hassle to carry around. As a general rule, it's better to invest in a less expensive camera body and higher-quality lenses than it is to invest in an expensive camera body and cheap lenses. That said, for the sake of consistency and user-friendliness, we currently test cameras with their standard kit lenses.
We've tested over 60 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras to buy for different kinds of photography. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. For more options, see our recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras, the best DSLR cameras, and the best cameras.
The best camera for photographers who do a lot of traveling is the Sony α6400. This versatile mirrorless camera is fairly small and lightweight for an interchangeable lens camera, and it's weather-sealed to protect from rain and humidity, although we don't currently test this. It has a touchscreen that can flip out if you want to shoot at a lower angle or all the way up for selfies. Its battery life is also good and should last throughout the day, though this can vary drastically with real-world conditions and settings.
It has a 24.2 MP APS-C sensor that delivers impressive JPEG image quality, with photos that look sharp and detailed even at higher ISO levels. Its RAW noise handling capability is good, too, so you can shoot in low light at higher ISOs without sacrificing too much quality. Like most Sony cameras, it has an amazing autofocus system that reliably keeps moving subjects in focus, whether taking photos or shooting video. Its overall video quality is also impressive.
That said, it lacks in-body image stabilization, unlike the more expensive Sony α6600, so photos and videos can look shaky when shooting without a tripod or in more dimly-lit conditions, though its kit lens still does a good job of reducing camera shake when taking photos. Despite that, this is one of the best travel cameras that we've tested, and most people should be happy with it thanks to its lightweight design, great image quality, and excellent autofocus system.
If you'd prefer a compact point-and-shoot camera, check out the Sony RX100 VII. Its RAW noise handling capability and low-light performance aren't as good as the Sony α6400's due to its smaller sensor, but it's incredibly compact and easy to carry around while traveling. This premium model comes with a built-in zoom lens with a long 200mm equivalent max focal length, so you can zoom in on far-away subjects or take close-ups as well as wider angle shots. It also manages to fit a pop-up viewfinder and pop-up flash into its compact body. It delivers excellent overall image quality when shooting in JPEG, with relatively little visual noise and remarkable dynamic range. Video quality is okay overall, and it has a fantastic autofocus system. That said, its battery life is disappointing, and it tends to overheat when shooting video for extended periods, especially in 4k. It also lacks weather-sealing, though we don't test for this.
Go with the α6400 if you want a travel camera with better low-light capability and an interchangeable lens, but if you want something more compact and don't want to worry about lenses, the RX100 VII is a great alternative.
The best camera for photographers who do a lot of landscape photography is the Sony α7 III. It's a mirrorless camera with a full-frame sensor that's ideal for capturing high-quality, high-resolution landscape shots. It feels incredibly well-built and very comfortable to use. While it doesn't have a fully articulated screen, its screen is bright enough to overcome glare and tilts out.
It's well-suited to landscape photography thanks to its remarkable image quality and 24.2 MP sensor. It has an exceptional dynamic range, so it can easily capture an incredibly wide range of detail in highlights and shadows. Its noise handling capability is superb, so you can raise the ISO in more dimly lit conditions without sacrificing too much quality. It also has decent in-body image stabilization, which should help when shooting in low light without a tripod. Its autofocus system is excellent as well.
Unfortunately, it's not weather-sealed, so it won't be protected from the elements if you're shooting in rainy weather conditions, though we don't currently test for this. Sony's menu system can also be somewhat confusing and hard to navigate. On the upside, it has a remarkably long battery life that should last through long days of shooting in remote locations. This camera's high-resolution full-frame sensor, exceptional image quality, and in-body image stabilization make it a great choice for landscape photography.
If you want to save some money on a great camera body that will leave more in your budget for a good lens, consider the Canon EOS RP. While it doesn't feel as premium and well-constructed as the Sony α7 III and has a significantly worse battery life, it's more portable and is considerably cheaper. This full-frame mirrorless model feels comfortable to use and has an easy-to-use menu system. Like the Sony, it isn't weather-sealed, but it has a fully articulated touchscreen that gives you more flexibility to compose shots from unconventional angles. Image quality is amazing, with excellent dynamic range and great noise handling capability. However, it lacks in-body image stabilization, so it's less suited to shooting handheld than the Sony is.
The Sony is a better overall choice for landscape photography thanks to its superior battery life and exceptional image quality. If you don't want to spend as much money, the Canon is a great alternative.
The best camera for photographers interested in sports and wildlife photography is the Nikon Z 6II. This full-frame mirrorless camera feels incredibly comfortable to use, with a well-organized menu system and bright tilting screen. It's also weather-sealed to protect from dust and rain, though we don't currently test for this. It adds a second processor and slightly faster continuous shooting speed, improving upon the Nikon Z 6.
It can shoot continuously at an impressive 13 fps in its high-speed drive mode, making it ideal for capturing moments of fast action. It also has a virtually infinite photo buffer with no buffer clearing time when using a CFExpress card, so you should be able to shoot continuously without interruption, ensuring you don't miss a critical moment. Its image quality is also excellent, with great dynamic range and incredible noise handling capability.
While its autofocus system is good overall, its face-tracking performance is disappointing. That said, it's very consistent when tracking objects and has a large number of detection points. It also comes with in-body image stabilization, which is great for stabilizing photos taken at longer focal lengths or without a tripod. Given its quick shooting speed, excellent image quality, and in-body image stabilization, this is one of the best cameras we've tested for action photography.
If you'd prefer a DSLR camera, consider the Nikon D780 for sport and wildlife photography. This full-frame model doesn't have as fast a continuous shooting speed as the Nikon Z 6II, but it's a DSLR, which offers an optical viewfinder for an unfiltered view of subjects and gives you access to a wider selection of lenses through Nikon's F-mount system. That said, we don't currently evaluate lens mount systems or lens selection. Otherwise, it delivers incredibly high-quality images. While it can't shoot as fast as the Z 6II in its continuous shooting mode, it still shoots at a relatively quick 8 fps and has a virtually instant buffer empty time, so that shouldn't slow you down. Also, its autofocus system is remarkable and consistently tracks moving subjects. Unfortunately, it's bulky and may be cumbersome to carry around for long periods.
Go with the Z 6II if you want a faster continuous shooting speed and a CFExpress card slot, but if you prefer the design and lens options of a DSLR, the D780 is a great alternative.
The best camera for taking pictures on a budget is the Fujifilm X-T200. This APS-C mirrorless camera is very lightweight and portable, and it offers a lot of value for its price. Fujifilm's menu system is fairly intuitive, and the camera has a large, fully articulated touchscreen to help you shoot from unconventional angles. It also comes with a full array of inputs and outputs and wireless connectivity options to easily transfer images or connect to an external display.
Its image quality is amazing thanks to its remarkable noise handling capability, resulting in photos that look sharp and free of visual noise even when shooting in low light at higher ISO levels. While it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, the optical stabilization of its kit lens does a fantastic job of reducing camera shake when taking photos without a tripod. Its autofocus system also has a remarkable 425 detection points and supports both eye- and face-tracking, but it's not very reliable in action.
Unfortunately, its battery life is disappointing, and while it supports USB charging, you can't use it while it charges, which is somewhat inconvenient. However, battery life can also vary drastically depending on real-world usage habits and settings. Overall, the dials feel stiff, and it's not the most comfortable camera to use. That said, its excellent image quality and feature set deliver a ton of value for your money.
Sep 02, 2021: Replaced the Fujifilm X100V with the Sony RX100 VII as the 'Compact Alternative' to the 'Best Camera For Travel' and moved the X100V to Notable Mentions.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best photography cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our camera reviews. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.