We've tested 12 Nikon cameras. There's no doubt you've heard of Nikon before. It's one of the oldest camera brands around, having been making cameras since the mid-twentieth century. Once a pioneer in the world of SLR and DSLR cameras, it's been pouring more and more of its energy into mirrorless cameras. Whether you're looking for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, a full-frame or crop sensor, or a simpler point-and-shoot camera, Nikon has something for everyone.
The Nikon Z 6II is one of the most versatile cameras in Nikon's Z-series lineup, and it's not only one of the best Nikon cameras we've tested, but it's also one of the best mirrorless cameras we've tested for wildlife photography. Sitting above the entry-level Nikon Z 5 and below the higher-end Nikon Z 7, it's a very well-rounded hybrid camera, with a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor, a large high-resolution viewfinder, and a tilting touchscreen. It can shoot continuously at up to 13 fps with a virtually instantaneous buffer clearing time, meaning you can fire off uninterrupted bursts of photos for wildlife and sports. It has in-body image stabilization to help reduce camera shake when shooting handheld, and its out-of-the-box image quality is excellent, with fantastic RAW noise handling performance at higher ISO values for low-light shooting. It's also a good option for video recording, with several frame rate options, including 4k / 60 fps (with a crop) and 1080p / 120 fps.
While its autofocus system will serve you well in most scenarios and includes a range of autofocus area modes, it isn't as intuitive as other AF systems. For instance, the camera's face and eye detection feature is only available when using the auto-area or wide-area AF, where the camera will automatically search for human subjects. There's also a subject tracking feature that can lock onto a particular target. However, it requires an additional button press to toggle it, so all in all, the system gives you a lot of different AF features, but they aren't the most seamlessly integrated. Still, the camera has many customization options, and its menu system is very easy to navigate, meaning you can get the most out of your camera.
For those who prefer to shoot with an optical viewfinder, the Nikon D780 is the best DSLR we've tested from Nikon and one of the best all-around DSLRs that we've gotten our hands on. Though it sits below the very high-end flagship Nikon D850, the D780 is a great choice for pros and hobbyists alike, combining DSLR and mirrorless technology to give you the best of both worlds in a comfortable-to-use DSLR body. The camera has a unique autofocus system that acts like a typical DSLR AF system when shooting through the viewfinder, with fewer but more accurate focus points, which is great for shooting still subjects. When shooting through Live View, the camera borrows its AF system from the mirrorless Nikon Z 6, giving you a much larger focus area and quicker phase-detect focusing, ideal for fast-moving subjects. In addition, the camera's 24.5-megapixel full-frame sensor has fantastic RAW noise handling for low-light situations and delivers amazing JPEG image quality right out of the box.
That said, the biggest drawback of the D780 is that it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, so if you tend to shoot handheld, be sure to use an optically stabilized lens. All in all, it's a very capable video camera, too, with several uncropped frame rate options to choose from, including 4k up to 30 fps, but it does lack some more advanced video capabilities like 10-bit internal recording. It's also one of the heavier cameras we've tested, so it likely won't be your go-to travel camera. On the upside, it has a very intuitive control scheme and menu system, with a ton of customization options to set your personal shooting preferences.
The best Nikon camera for beginners we've tested is the Nikon Z 50. This entry-level mirrorless model feels well-built and comfortable to use. It has a simple design and well-spaced physical controls, along with a tilting touchscreen that makes it easier to shoot from different angles. It can also flip down to face forward for vlogs or selfies, and the camera's menu system is highly intuitive, with a guide mode to explain core settings to new users. Going with a mirrorless camera is also a good choice for beginners since you can see how your image changes directly in the EVF or through Live View on the screen as you adjust exposure settings. It uses a 20-megapixel APS-C sensor that delivers impressive overall image quality, and it has great noise handling at higher ISO levels for taking photos in low light.
That said, its autofocus system isn't the most reliable. It supports eye and face detection, but it does just an okay job of tracking and keeping moving subjects in focus. Its battery performance also leaves a little to be desired. Its advertised battery life in photos is approximately 300, which is passable, though battery life also varies heavily depending on your shooting habits. There are also fewer compatible lenses available compared to a DSLR option like the Nikon D5600, though that model may be harder to find and doesn't support 4k video. For absolute beginners, the Nikon D3500 features an extensive 'Guide' shooting mode that walks you through photography basics, and it's cheaper, so it may be a preferable alternative.
The best Nikon camera that we've tested with a superzoom lens is the Nikon COOLPIX P1000. This bridge camera stands out for its incredibly long 125x zoom lens, which translates to an astounding 3000mm full-frame equivalent max focal length. What you lose in image quality with its small 1/2.3-inch sensor, you gain in sheer focal reach, allowing you to take wider-angle landscape shots or zoom in on incredibly far-away subjects and even capture details on the surface of the moon. Its image quality is good overall, with excellent dynamic range to bring out a wider array of detail, although it's not as well-suited to shooting in more dimly-lit conditions due to its smaller sensor, which introduces more noise at higher ISO levels. Still, the camera feels sturdy and well-built, and it has a fully articulated screen to help you compose shots.
That said, its extended zoom lens makes the camera very big and heavy, so it can be uncomfortable to shoot with for extended periods, particularly when you don't have a tripod. For a similar bridge camera with a still very long focal length but a bit less bulk, the Nikon COOLPIX P950 may be a good alternative. While the P1000 has an optical image stabilization feature that does a good job steadying the camera, you'll likely still need to use a tripod when shooting at the end of its focal length range. On top of that, its autofocus system isn't very reliable at tracking moving subjects. All that said, if you're looking for an incredibly long zoom range with the convenience of a fixed-lens camera, this is a solid choice.
Similar to rival Canon, Nikon has a diverse range of cameras meant to suit everyone from first-time photographers to industry professionals. That said, most of their cameras do share some similarities. They're often built very well, with higher-end models being rated as weather-sealed. Image quality is also often impressively sharp and well-rendered. They also tend to clear their photo buffers faster than the alternatives offered by most other manufacturers. Unfortunately, few Nikon cameras have fully articulated screens, similar to most models found in Sony's lineup. The autofocus systems found in cheaper models also aren't especially effective.
Nikon has a varied selection of model lineups to suit different users and their needs.
Feb 04, 2022: Verified accuracy of picks with no change to recommendations.
Dec 07, 2021: Replaced the Nikon D5600 with the Nikon Z 50 as the 'Best Nikon Camera For Beginners'. Removed the Nikon COOLPIX A1000 as the 'Best Nikon Point-And-Shoot' and added the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 as 'Best Nikon Superzoom Camera'.
Oct 08, 2021: Replaced Nikon D3500 with Nikon D5600 as 'Best Nikon Camera For Beginners' pick to maintain consistency with other recommendation articles.
Nikon cameras are best known for their amazing out-of-the-box image quality, sturdy construction, and easy-to-use menu systems. Some of the manufacturer's more affordable models offer poor autofocus performance, and in-body image stabilization is a feature generally only reserved for the priciest models in the lineup.