There's no doubt you've heard of Nikon before. It's one of the oldest camera brands, having made 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 slowly-growing lineup of killer lenses. 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 cameras for a range of budgets and needs.
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 and versatile camera body for hobbyists and enthusiasts.
With a 14 fps mechanical burst rate and good autofocus, it's an especially good choice for wildlife and sports photography. It's no slouch in the video department, either, with 4k 60 fps video recording, dual memory card slots (including a high-speed CFexpress card slot), and in-body image stabilization (IBIS). That aside, it handles like a dream, with excellent ergonomics and a highly intuitive user interface.
The Nikon Z 5 is a great 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. Still, if you're primarily interested in photography, there's a lot to love here.
Its high-res sensor captures images with excellent quality. Like the higher-end Nikon Z 6II, the ergonomics stand out, and the camera is even weather-sealed. On top of that, you still get a large high-resolution EVF as well as IBIS to help you shoot at slower shutter speeds when shooting handheld. The higher-end Z 6II is your best bet if you're looking for a camera with better video specs. If you want 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 the budget to match, an APS-C model is a great way to save some money, as well as a great option for those who prefer a more portable camera. Nikon has plenty of excellent entry-level DSLR cameras, but the mirrorless Nikon Z 50 takes the cake. It's the best Nikon mirrorless camera you can get at this price point.
While it isn't the most portable APS-C option on the market, 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 camera for those on a tighter budget.
If you're particularly style-conscious, you can't go wrong with the beautiful, retro-inspired Nikon Z fc. It's a very similar camera overall to the Nikon Z 50, though its exterior, designed to look like a vintage Nikon FM2 SLR, comes with 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.
For 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 screen that makes it a little better for vlogging. You also get dedicated exposure dials that give you more hands-on control over settings. 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 like it was ripped straight out of the past.
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. Though it sits below the pro-level Nikon D850, it's a great choice for pros and hobbyists alike, combining DSLR and mirrorless technologies 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 when shooting in Live View, giving you a more adaptable autofocus system for both photo and video. That, along with its incredible battery life and excellent ergonomics, make this a standout among DSLR cameras.
While the Nikon D3500 is a very basic camera, it's one of the best cameras on the market for beginners. The simple controls and intuitive user interface are great for those just getting started, and it's relatively portable for a DSLR. What makes the D3500 stand out among beginner cameras, however, is its unique 'Guide' shooting mode, which guides you through the basics of photography, so you can learn the ropes as you go.
Besides its simplicity and ease of use, it has an amazing battery life 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. Overall, 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.
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.
Like 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, and 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.
Apr 17, 2023: Added the Nikon Z 5 as the 'Best Mid-Range Nikon Camera', renamed the Nikon Z 50 to 'Best Budget Nikon Camera', and renamed the Nikon D3500 to 'Best Nikon Camera For Beginners'.
Feb 09, 2023: Renamed the Nikon Z fc from 'Best Nikon Camera For Retro Lovers' to 'Best Vintage-Style Nikon Camera'.
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.
Nikon cameras are best known for their amazing ergonomics, sturdy construction, and easy-to-use menu systems. While their autofocus doesn't quite reach the reliable heights of 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.