We've tested 12 Nikon cameras. Nikon is a Japanese multinational company specializing in a wide variety of optical and imaging equipment, from microscopes to X-ray machines for inspecting semi-conductors. For most, the company is best known for its long history of building cameras for novice and professional photographers and all users in between. It currently offers a relatively wide range of DSLR models and lenses, and more recently, has expanded its selection of mirrorless offerings.
The best Nikon mirrorless camera that we've tested is the Nikon Z 6II. This full-frame mirrorless camera feels amazingly well-built, with a magnesium alloy body that's advertised as being weather-sealed and is exceptionally comfortable to use thanks to its large textured handgrip, soft rubber eyecup, and well-spaced controls. Its menu system is remarkably intuitive, and its tilting screen makes it a little easier to snap photos from unconventional angles, but it doesn't offer the same flexibility as a fully-articulated display. This camera is a great option for sports and wildlife photography, thanks to its effective autofocus system and fast 13 fps shooting speed. Using a high-transfer-speed CFexpress card yields a virtually infinite photo buffer, so you don't have to worry about any extended blackouts after firing long bursts. Image quality is excellent, with a minimal loss of sharpness and superb noise handling capability at higher ISO levels. Its video capabilities are also fairly advanced, as it can shoot in FHD at up to 120 fps or in 4k at up to 60 fps, though recording at that latter frame rate does incur a notable 1.41x crop. Videos recorded in either resolution look sharp and well-rendered, and the camera features headphone, mic, and HDMI ports for attaching different accessories. It can also be charged while in use over USB.
That said, this is a bulky, somewhat heavy camera. If you're looking for a lighter, more portable alternative, the retro-styled Nikon Z fc is a good choice. However, it isn't nearly as comfortable to use, and its smaller APS-C sensor results in inferior video and image quality. If you want to spend less on a full-frame mirrorless camera, you could consider the similarly well-built, comfortable-to-use Nikon Z 5, though it doesn't support the use of CFexpress cards and has a much slower continuous shooting speed of 5 fps. Overall, the Nikon Z 6II's dense feature set and highly ergonomic design make it one of the best cameras for photography that we've tested.
The best Nikon camera with a DSLR design that we've tested is the Nikon D780. This full-frame camera has excellent build quality, with a magnesium alloy and carbon fiber body rated as being weather-sealed. Its well-textured handgrip, wide variety of dedicated exposure controls, and large thumb rest also make it very comfortable to use, though its bulky size and weight can make it a hassle to bring with you on the go. Its battery life is also more than sufficient for a full day of use, though this can vary in the real world. Out-of-the-box image quality is excellent, as images remain sharp and low in noise even at high ISO levels, which is great for nighttime photography. Its max shooting speed of 8 fps isn't particularly quick, but its virtually instantaneous buffer clearing time keeps interruptions in your shooting to a minimum. Its autofocus system delivers remarkable tracking performance in still photography and does a very good job of maintaining focus on subjects in FHD and 4k video. It also features a full complement of inputs and outputs, including headphone and microphone jacks, a clean HDMI output, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Unfortunately, this camera lacks in-body stabilization, so you may notice some degree of camera shake when shooting video handheld or snapping photos at an extended focal length. Its tilting screen also doesn't offer the same degree of articulation as the fully articulated display found on some other models. In addition, it's incapable of recording 4k video beyond 30 fps, though it does so without a crop. Overall, this camera's versatility and dense feature set make it one of the best DSLR cameras we've tested.
The best Nikon camera for beginners that we've tested is the Nikon D5600. This crop-sensor DSLR has a highly intuitive menu system with a built-in guide mode to help explain core features to novice users. It's also very comfortable to use thanks to its large textured handgrip and fully-articulated touchscreen display. It offers impressive image quality out-of-the-box, with a wide dynamic range and minimal loss of sharpness when shooting at higher ISO levels. It also does an excellent overall job smoothing out camera shake in both still photography and video when used in conjunction with its 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens. Since it lacks in-body stabilization, your experience may vary drastically when using another lens. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, it should also last you throughout a whole day of use on a single charge.
Unfortunately, video quality in FHD is poor, with softly-rendered object contours and edges. In addition, unlike the Nikon Z 50, it's incapable of shooting 4k video and delivers terrible FHD autofocus performance, though the latter mirrorless model is notably pricier. Conversely, if you're looking for something even more affordable, the Nikon D3500 is a solid option, but be aware that it has a fixed screen that isn't touch-sensitive.
The best point-and-shoot Nikon camera that we've tested is the Nikon COOLPIX A1000. This compact camera has a built-in lens with a maximum full-frame equivalent focal length of 840 mm, which should allow you to zoom in on faraway subjects, like athletes on a field, without too much difficulty. Image and video stabilization performance are superb, so you should be able to shoot at fairly extended focal lengths without camera shake ruining your shot. Its compact, lightweight design also makes it easy to slip into a pocket or a purse. It also has a tilting and flipping touchscreen that allows you to snap photos from unconventional angles or monitor yourself while holding the camera in a selfie position. Image quality is decent overall, with a wide dynamic range and good noise handling capability. However, image sharpness can degrade at moderately high ISO levels, so it isn't the best fit for low-light photography.
All of that said, the camera's video recording capability is fairly limited. Video quality in both FHD and 4k is middling, as videos recorded in either resolution look soft and noisy. It can only record 4k video at 30 fps, though it does so without a crop, which is helpful. Its autofocus system also has a hard time when it comes to maintaining focus on moving subjects. Battery performance is mediocre overall, though this can vary with settings and usage habits, and it's worth noting that this camera can be charged via USB while in use. If you're looking for a point-and-shoot camera with superior battery performance, the Nikon COOLPIX P950 is a good alternative, but be aware that it's a much bulkier bridge camera.
Similar to their largest corporate 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.
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.