There's no doubt you've heard of Nikon before. It's one of the oldest camera brands, having been making cameras since the mid-twentieth century. Once a pioneer in the world of SLR and DSLR cameras, Nikon has been increasingly investing in its mirrorless camera lineup, with more and more models to suit different budgets and experience levels and a killer lineup of lenses (though the selection is still somewhat limited). Whether you're looking for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, full-frame or crop sensor, or a more straightforward point-and-shoot camera, Nikon has something for everyone.
We've bought and tested a dozen Nikon cameras, and below you'll find our picks for the best Nikon models for most users.
If you're looking for an excellent enthusiast-level camera, the Nikon Z 6II is one of the best Nikon cameras for photography that we've tested. Sitting below more expensive, pro-grade models like the Nikon Z 7 II and the Nikon Z 9, this is a fantastic camera body for most people, and it's versatile enough for a range of different photography and video work. With 4k 60 fps shooting, dual memory card slots (including a high-speed CFexpress slot), and in-body image stabilization (IBIS), it's no slouch in the video department. The Z 6II's upgraded processor bumps its burst rate to 14 fps, making it an excellent choice for wildlife and sports photography.
The Nikon Z 5 is also a solid choice if you're looking for a more affordable full-frame camera. It's one of the best entry-level full-frames on the market—though its relatively low price comes with some trade-offs. Most notably, it can only shoot 4k video with a heavy crop, and its burst rate maxes out at about 5 fps. If you're looking for a hybrid camera, the Z 6II is your best bet, but if you're looking for full-frame image quality on a budget, the Z 5 is a tempting choice that'll leave more money in your pocket to invest in lenses.
If you don't need full-frame image quality and don't have a budget to match, a mid-range APS-C model is a great way to go. Nikon has plenty of excellent mid-tier DSLR cameras, but the mirrorless Nikon Z 50 takes the cake for us. It's the best Nikon mirrorless camera you can get at this price point.
While it isn't the most portable APS-C option, the handling, build quality, and features are all excellent for the price. It's even weather-sealed, giving you more peace of mind when shooting outdoors. Inside is an excellent 20 MP crop sensor that performs admirably in low light, and the camera can shoot at a respectable max burst rate of 11 fps. Topped off with a solid autofocus system and 4k video up to 30 fps, it's a very capable and well-rounded mid-level camera.
While it's a very basic camera, the Nikon D3500 is one of the best Nikon cameras for beginners and budget-conscious buyers. If you don't even know what kind of camera you need, a simple model like this makes it super easy to jump from your smartphone to a dedicated camera with interchangeable lenses. The D3500 stands out among beginner cameras for its unique 'Guide' shooting mode, which breaks down the basics of photography for you, so you can learn the concepts behind what you're doing as you go.
Besides its simplicity and ease of use, it's affordable, relatively portable, and punches above its weight for image quality, thanks to an excellent high-resolution APS-C sensor. There's a wide array of native lens options available, too, including full-frame FX-mount lenses, making it easy to upgrade your kit as your skills improve. All in all, it's an excellent starter camera that comes at a reasonable price, especially if you can do without 4k video and blazing-fast burst rates.
Although mirrorless cameras have overtaken DSLRs in popularity in recent years, DSLR cameras still offer some benefits, from unbeatable battery life to lag-free optical viewfinders. If you're interested in getting an old-school DSLR but still want the latest camera tech, the Nikon D780 is among the best you can get. Though it sits below the very high-end Nikon D850, it's a great choice for pros and hobbyists alike, combining DSLR and mirrorless technology to give you the best of both worlds in a sturdy DSLR body.
While it acts like a typical, albeit advanced, DSLR when using the viewfinder, the camera borrows the on-sensor phase-detection autofocus system from the mirrorless Nikon Z 6 (predecessor to our top pick above), giving it super quick autofocusing when shooting through live view. This hybrid system makes it incredibly versatile, even for video work. That, along with its incredible battery life and excellent ergonomics, make this a standout among DSLR cameras.
If you're particularly style-conscious, you can't go wrong with the Nikon Z fc with its beautiful, retro-inspired design. It's a very similar camera overall to the Nikon Z 50, though its exterior, which is designed to look like the vintage Nikon FM2 SLR, comes at a bit of a premium in price. Internally, however, the two cameras are nearly identical, so it's the perfect camera if you want something as eye-catching as it is effective.
In terms of ergonomics, the Z 50 feels a bit more comfortable thanks to its hand grip, but the Z fc does away with the tilting screen and adds a fully articulated one that makes it a little better for vlogging. You also get dedicated exposure dials that make adjusting settings on the fly easy. Otherwise, you can expect similarly solid autofocus, video performance, and image quality as the Z 50—all the trappings of a modern mirrorless camera in a camera body that looks ripped straight out of the past.
Canon and Nikon have long been competitive, especially when DSLRs dominated the market, and both are generally well-loved by professionals and consumers alike. Though Nikon has been a bit slower out of the gate in establishing itself in the mirrorless market, its more considered approach has resulted in a small slew of consistently high-quality camera bodies and lenses, whereas Canon can sometimes be hit-or-miss. Ultimately, you can't go wrong with either brand, though they each have their own approach to ergonomics and design that some may prefer and others may not.
Similar to rival Canon, Nikon has a diverse range of cameras meant to suit everyone, from first-time photographers to industry pros. That said, most Nikon cameras share some similarities. They're often built very well and feel great in hand, with an intuitive user interface. Image quality is a given, but Nikon colors are some of the best when taking photos straight out of the camera. They're also often ahead of the game for wildlife photography, with fast burst rates and deep photo buffers. That said, they aren't always the most portable option, and autofocus generally still falls a bit short of the benchmark set by the latest cameras from Sony and Canon.
Nikon has various model lineups to suit different users and their needs.
Dec 13, 2022: Added the Nikon Z fc as the 'Best Nikon Camera For Retro Lovers'.
Oct 14, 2022: Restructured article for clarity and to better reflect user 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 ergonomics, sturdy construction, and easy-to-use menu systems. While they're autofocusing doesn't quite reach the reliable heights achieved by Sony and Canon, Nikon's care and investment in its Z-series mirrorless lineup have kept the brand relevant as the camera market has continued to evolve.