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 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 70 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. 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 advertised to be weather-sealed to protect against rain and humidity. It has a touchscreen that can flip out if you want to shoot at a lower angle or up for selfies. Its battery life is also good and should last throughout the day, though this can vary with real-world conditions and settings.
It has a 24.2-megapixel 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.
It lacks in-body image stabilization, 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 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 prefer the convenience and portability of a point-and-shoot, consider the Sony RX100 VII. It's less comfortable to use than the Sony α6400 due to its more compact size, and it's less effective in low light since it uses a smaller 1-inch sensor, but it's incredibly portable and has a built-in zoom lens with a fair amount of focal reach. Its lens ranges from a full-frame equivalent 24 to 200mm, giving you a lot of flexibility to frame shots and zoom in on subjects while traveling. The camera is also small enough to slip into a coat pocket or travel bag, and despite its size, it still features a pop-up EVF if you prefer to shoot through a viewfinder. Its screen can also tilt out or flip up for selfies and vlogs. It delivers excellent image quality, and it has a superb autofocus system that reliably tracks and keeps moving subjects in focus. However, it has a poor battery life, though battery performance can vary with settings and usage habits.
Get the α6400 if you want an interchangeable lens camera with better ergonomics and longer battery life. However, the RX100 VII is a good alternative if you want an even more compact point-and-shoot camera.
The Sony α7 III is the best camera for landscape photography that we've tested. It has a high-resolution full-frame sensor with 24.2 megapixels, so you can take clear, detailed images that are suitable for social media or high-quality prints. The camera also feels remarkably well-built and has a tilting screen that can help when taking landscapes from a lower angle.
It delivers fantastic image quality and has an incredible dynamic range at its base ISO, so it can bring out a wider array of detail in highlights and shadows when taking high-contrast landscape shots. It's very well-suited for shooting in low light thanks to its full-frame sensor, which has superb noise handling capability at higher ISO levels, so you can shoot in dimmer lighting without introducing too much visual noise.
That said, this camera isn't weather-sealed, which shouldn't be a deal-breaker but means you'll have to be more careful when shooting outdoors in rainy or humid conditions. It also has a somewhat confusing menu system that makes it difficult to find relevant settings on the fly. On the upside, though, it has an outstanding battery life that should last throughout a day of shooting, depending on your usage habits. Overall, this is one of the best cameras for photography that we've tested.
The best camera for photographers interested in sports and wildlife is the Nikon Z 6II. This full-frame interchangeable lens model has a weather-sealed body that feels well-constructed and very comfortable to shoot with. It has an intuitive menu system and a large, high-resolution EVF. It also has a very good battery life that you can extend further by using a portable battery pack for longer days of shooting.
It shoots at a fast 13 fps in its high-speed continuous shooting mode, meaning you can capture quick bursts of fast movement. It also has a range of shooting speed options in its low-speed drive mode, giving you more precise control over its burst rate. It features two memory card slots, including a high-speed CFexpress card slot, which gives it a virtually limitless photo buffer that ensures you can shoot continuously without interruption. Its image quality is also excellent overall, and it has fantastic noise handling for low light conditions.
That said, it doesn't have the most effective autofocus on the market, and it struggles especially to track moving faces consistently. Still, it does an excellent job tracking and keeping moving objects in focus, and it has a lot of detection points. It also features in-body image stabilization and does a good job of stabilizing camera shake when shooting handheld. Overall, this is one of the best cameras for wildlife photography that we've tested.
If you'd rather use a DSLR for sports or wildlife photography, check out the Nikon D780. While its maximum continuous shooting speed of 8 fps is slower than the Nikon Z 6II's, it has an optical viewfinder that gives you an unfiltered view of your subjects. Going with a DSLR opens you up to Nikon's vast selection of F-mount DSLR lenses. This camera also has a virtually instantaneous buffer empty time if you manage to fill up its buffer, more likely if shooting in RAW format. Image quality is excellent, and it has an incredibly effective autofocus system that can reliably track moving subjects and keep them in focus. Unfortunately, it lacks in-body image stabilization, but it does a superb job stabilizing photos when shooting handheld and using its kit lens. It's also bulkier and heavier.
Get the Z 6II if you want a camera that's easier to carry around and has a faster burst rate, but if you prefer the feel and features of a DSLR camera, the D780 is a great alternative.
The best camera for photographers on a budget is the Sony α6100. It has a very compact body for an interchangeable lens camera, making it easy to take with you on the go. It's also well-built and feels comfortable to use with evenly-spaced physical controls and a comfortable handgrip. Its screen can also flip out and up to face you for selfies and vlogs.
It uses a 24.2-megapixel crop sensor and delivers impressive overall image quality, with excellent dynamic range at its base ISO and good noise handling capability at higher ISOs, so you can take photos in more dimly-lit conditions without introducing too much visual noise. On top of that, it has an amazing autofocus system that reliably keeps moving subjects in focus whether you're taking photos or shooting video. It also delivers good overall video quality.
That said, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, meaning that stabilization performance depends on your chosen lens. While it does a good job smoothing out camera shake in 1080p with its kit lens attached, it performs poorly when shooting in 4k. Sony's menu system is also a bit convoluted and can be hard to navigate. Overall, this is one of the best cameras for photographers on a budget, thanks to its reliable autofocus system, impressive image quality, and lightweight design.
Nov 23, 2021: Moved the Canon EOS RP to Notable Mentions and renamed the Sony RX100 VII from 'Compact Alternative' to 'Point-And-Shoot Alternative'.
Nov 02, 2021: Checked picks for accuracy and availability; no change to recommendations.
Oct 14, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate; no change in recommendations.
Sep 23, 2021: Replaced the Fujifilm X-T200 with the Sony a6100 as the 'Best Budget Camera For Photography' and added the Canon EOS M50 Mark II to Notable Mentions.
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.