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The 4 Best Sony Cameras of 2021 Reviews

Updated
Best Sony Cameras

We've tested seven Sony cameras. Sony is a Japanese multinational company that develops and manufactures an enormously wide variety of electronics. Camera-wise, they specialize in mirrorless and compact systems that cater to beginner, enthusiast, and professional users.

Updates

Best Sony Cameras


  1. Best Full-Frame Sony Camera

    7.9
    Travel Photography
    8.4
    Landscape Photography
    7.4
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    6.3
    Vlogging
    8.5
    Studio Video
    4.9
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    Full Frame
    Tested Lens
    Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS

    The best Sony camera we've tested with a full-frame sensor is the Sony α7 III. It's a well-rounded camera that delivers high-end performance whether you're taking stills or shooting video. It captures incredibly high-quality images that stay sharp and noise-free even at higher ISO levels. It also has fantastic RAW noise handling capability and is well-suited to shooting in low light. It has a superb autofocus system with face detection that smoothly and reliably tracks moving subjects in photography or video. Its video quality is also excellent, with minimal visual noise even in low light. More advanced videographers should also appreciate its full set of inputs and outputs, including headphone and microphone jacks and a clean HDMI output that lets you connect an external recorder without overlays. It also comes equipped with two SD card slots for additional memory or backup storage. Its battery life is also remarkable and should last through a day of shooting, though this can vary drastically depending on settings and usage habits.

    Unfortunately, it isn't weather-sealed and lacks a fully-articulated screen. Sony's menu system can also be somewhat confusing, and you can't use the camera's touchscreen to navigate it, which is inconvenient. Its 4k capabilities are a little dated now, too, as it can only record in either 24 fps or 30 fps, but the latter incurs a small 1.165x crop. Still, it can record at up to 120 fps in FHD, which is great for capturing fast action or generating smooth slow-motion footage. It's also relatively portable for a full-frame camera, though not as compact as the Sony α7C, which also features a weather-sealed body and a fully-articulated screen if those features are important to you. Despite its shortcomings, the α7 III is still one of the best mirrorless cameras we've tested thanks to its versatile feature set, excellent image and video quality, and remarkable autofocus system.

    See our review

  2. Best APS-C Sony Camera

    8.0
    Travel Photography
    8.0
    Landscape Photography
    7.4
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    7.6
    Vlogging
    8.2
    Studio Video
    5.9
    Action Video
    Body Type
    DSLR
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    APS-C
    Tested Lens
    Sony E 16-50mm 3.5-5.6/PZ OSS

    The best Sony camera with an APS-C sensor that we've tested is the Sony α6400. This mirrorless camera has a compact body that makes it easy to travel with. It's also quite comfortable to use, with a deep, well-textured hand grip and dedicated exposure controls, and its magnesium alloy body feels sturdy. Depending on your choice of settings and usage habits, its battery life should be sufficient for most of a day's use. Out-of-the-box image quality is great, with a wide dynamic range and minimal loss of sharpness when shooting at high ISO levels. It isn't a bad choice for recording videos, with impressively sharp, well-rendered video quality in both FHD and 4k, though recording in the latter resolution at 30 fps does incur a somewhat noticeable 1.22x crop. Its autofocus system is also amazingly effective when tracking moving subjects in both still photography and video.

    Unfortunately, while its max continuous shooting speed of 11 fps should let you capture clear stills of fast-moving subjects, the very long buffer clearing time can slow you down if you want to fire off multiple extended bursts. Also, some functions can be somewhat tricky to find within its menu system. Unlike the Sony α6600, it lacks in-body stabilization, though the latter is considerably pricier. Still, this camera's feature set, compact size, and sturdy construction make it one of the best mirrorless cameras for travel that we've tested.

    See our review

  3. Best Compact Sony Camera

    7.7
    Travel Photography
    8.0
    Landscape Photography
    7.8
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    7.8
    Vlogging
    7.2
    Studio Video
    5.6
    Action Video
    Body Type
    Compact
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    1-inch
    Tested Lens
    Built-In Lens

    The best compact Sony camera that we've tested is the Sony RX100 VII. This compact zoom camera offers excellent image quality, a relatively wide dynamic range and good noise handling capability, and higher ISO levels, which is handy for nighttime photography. Its autofocus system offers both face and eye detection and is remarkably effective in still photography and video. You can also configure it to better track animals or people courtesy of its customizable 'Subject Detection' mode, though we don't currently test this function. It also has an incredibly fast maximum continuous shooting speed of 22 fps, which should be helpful when capturing clear images of fast-moving subjects; however, it takes a very long time to clear its photo buffer. There's also a separate single burst mode that can capture seven shots at a maximum of 90 fps, but we don't currently test this setting. The lens' max full-frame equivalent focal length of 200 mm should also be helpful when zooming in on far-away subjects.

    Unfortunately, the camera's lack of a dedicated handgrip makes it hard to maintain a secure hold on the camera. Also, like most Sony cameras, touchscreen functionality is quite limited since you can't use it to navigate the slightly complex menu system. In addition, its battery life can be pretty short, depending on your usage habits and choice of settings. It has a default recording limit of five minutes when recording 4k video to reduce the risk of overheating, but you can disable this protection and extend its recording limit to 30 minutes by changing the 'Auto Power OFF Temp.' setting to 'High' in its menu. Consider the Sony α6100 if you're looking for an interchangeable-lens alternative with superior battery performance, but be aware that it's a bit bulkier. All of that said, this camera's portable design and wide array of photo and video features make it one of the best compact cameras that we've tested.

    See our review

  4. Best Sony Camera For Vlogging

    7.5
    Travel Photography
    7.9
    Landscape Photography
    7.3
    Sport & Wildlife Photography
    8.6
    Vlogging
    7.2
    Studio Video
    5.9
    Action Video
    Body Type
    Compact
    Mirrorless
    Yes
    Sensor Size
    1-inch
    Tested Lens
    Built-In Lens

    The best Sony camera for vlogging that we've tested is the Sony ZV-1. This compact camera is designed specifically for vloggers, with a compact, lightweight design that's easy to carry around handheld for long periods. Its remarkably effective autofocus system features a 'Product Showcase' function that can quickly switch focus from subject faces to inanimate objects within the frame and back again. The 'Background Defocus' system instantly adjusts the lens aperture, allowing for quick transitions between a deep and shallow depth of field. All of that said, we don't currently test these functions. It features a bright, sharp, fully articulated touchscreen that can rotate to face you even when the camera is in a selfie position. The camera does a fantastic job of smoothing out camera shake, which is good if you plan on vlogging without using a tripod or a gimbal. The camera offers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to pair it with your smartphone or share content with other devices. There's even a windsock for its built-in mic to minimize wind noise, though we don't currently test its efficacy.

    Unfortunately, videos recorded in dark environments might exhibit a noticeable degree of visual noise. The rolling shutter effect is also somewhat apparent, which could distort moving subjects as you pan from side to side. It can only record 4k video at a maximum of 30 fps with a 1.12x crop, and it can overheat during longer recording sessions; however, this is influenced by environmental factors. While you can use the camera as it charges over USB, its single-charge battery life isn't especially impressive, though that can vary heavily depending on your usage habits. That said, its compact size and diverse feature set make it one of the best cameras for YouTube that we've tested.

    See our review

Compared to other brands


  • Highly effective autofocus systems. Sony cameras tend to have autofocus systems that do a great job of maintaining focus on moving subjects in still photography and video.
  • Relatively portable. Sony cameras are generally a little more compact than alternatives from other brands.
  • Excellent image quality. Sony cameras generally take sharp images that are low in noise, even at moderately high ISO levels.
  • Lens availability. Unlike some other manufacturers, Sony has a relatively wide selection of both first- and third-party lenses for their mirrorless lineup.
  • Unintuitive menu systems. The menu system in most Sony cameras tends to bury quite a few commonly accessed features within sub-menus.
  • Limited touch screen functionality. While most Sony cameras have touchscreens, their functionality is usually limited to adjusting focus points or setting timers, and you can't use them to navigate their menu systems.
  • Long buffer empty time. Most Sony cameras take a fairly long time to empty their photo buffer, which can be inconvenient when firing off several long bursts.
  • Few models have fully-articulated screens. Most Sony cameras use tilting or flip-out screens, which don't quite offer the same range of flexibility as a fully-articulated screen.

Generally speaking, Sony cameras offer highly effective autofocus systems that do an amazing job of tracking moving subjects. Most of their camera lineup offers excellent image quality, even when shooting in dark environments at a moderately high ISO level. Compared to their peers, they also tend to be fairly portable, thanks to their smaller size. However, their menu systems can be somewhat unintuitive, especially next to rivals like Canon or Nikon. That also isn't helped by their sometimes limited touchscreen functionality. Also, while several models have relatively fast continuous shooting speeds, most take a long time to empty their photo buffer, leading to extended interruptions in your shooting sessions.

Lineup

Sony sells a wide variety of cameras to suit different consumers.

 Mirrorless E-mount Cameras

  • α1 = Flagship mirrorless camera that can suit the needs of both professional photographers and videographers.
  • α9 Series= Full-frame mirrorless cameras intended for professional and semi-professional sports and action photographers.
  • α7 Series = Enthusiast-oriented full-frame mirrorless models. α7S models are oriented toward low-light and video performance, while α7R models are the flagships of a given product generation.
  • α6(XXXX) Series = Crop sensor mirrorless cameras meant for both enthusiast and novice users. Higher model numbers generally indicate a greater level of overall capability.

 DSLR A-mount Cameras

  • α99 Series = Professional and enthusiast-oriented DSLR camera with a full-frame sensor
  • α77 Series = Similarly designed to the α99 II, but features an APS-C sensor.
  • α68 = Entry-level APS-C DSLR.

Supercompact/Compact/Bridge

  • RX0 Series = Compact action-style camera.
  • RX10 Series = Bridge-style compact camera with a built-in lens
  • RX100 Series = Compact point-and-shoot cameras
  • RX1R Series = Full-frame compact camera with a built-in fixed focal length lens.

Recent Updates

  1. Sep 17, 2021: Verified accuracy and availability of picks.

Conclusion

Sony is a Japanese multinational company specializing in a wide variety of technology, from headphones to televisions. Sony cameras tend to have quick, reliable, and consistent autofocus systems. They're also usually smaller than alternatives from other manufacturers. However, the menu systems can be somewhat hard to navigate.

For more options, check out our list of recommendations of the best mirrorless cameras, the best cameras for YouTube, and the best compact cameras.

Test results

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