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Best camera 2020: The very best DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and compacts

Best camera 2020: The very best DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and compacts
(Image credit: Phil Hall)

The best camera you can buy right now is there for the taking, if you can find it. But the best camera for you may not necessarily be the best for another photographer. It really comes down to what you want to shoot and what kind of budget you have to play with. 

Right now we pick the Sony Alpha A7 III as the best camera for most people out there, from enthusiast photographers needing an all-round option for general use through to professionals who may be working across different applications. Its relatively small and light, takes great images and videos, and works with a growing collection of high quality lenses, both from Sony and many third parties. 

What if you’re not quite sure what you need? It helps to think about a specific need, a price point, or a way of working. Perhaps you want to enter the world of mirrorless shooting and you’re on a tight budget? Maybe high-quality video recording is your focus? Or maybe you just want a small camera for beginners to take on holiday or travelling? Even starting from the question of whether you want a camera that can work with different lenses, our one that has one built into it, can immediately narrow your selection into something more manageable.

Part of the difficulty is that there is lots of crossover between formats. It’s possible, for example, to buy superzoom bridge cameras with huge lenses that rival the quality of the best DSLRs and mirrorless cameras under certain conditions. It’s also now possible to buy full-frame mirrorless cameras that are smaller than DSLRs that have smaller APS-C sensors.

If you demand the best quality of output, then an interchangeable-lens camera makes a lot of sense. Large sensors that can gather lots of light, combined with many lens options and the support of further accessories, make these the choice of discerning photographers worldwide. Don’t want to carry more than a compact camera for everyday use of travels? Then make sure it has a nice large 1-in sensor as this will elevate image quality beyond what we normally get from compacts. Or consider a bridge-style superzoom, as what you lose in portability over a compact you can gain in zoom range.

Here are the best cameras right now, whether you’re just looking to get started with more considered photographer or you’re a pro with greater demands or anyone in between.

1. Sony Alpha A7 III: Best camera overall

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Sony Alpha A7 III

A perfect all-rounder at a great price

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 921k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, approx. 2.3 million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Great image and video quality
Sensor-based image stabilisation is a huge bonus
EVF could be higher in resolution
Menu system could be better

The Sony Alpha A7 III is the camera that many DSLR users have ended up switching too - it's that good. Aside from its headline features (above), it offers sensor-based image stabilization, a hybrid autofocus system that covers around 93 percent of the frame and far better battery life than before. Sony has also been crafting some impressive lenses alongside, and now has more than 50 native options available.

Sony offers a stunning 693-point autofocus system that works with the 15-stop dynamic range and 5-axis image stabilization. The result is that the 24.2MP full-frame back-illuminated CMOS sensor makes the most of any scene. All that means even in the hands of a novice this camera will make any photo have the potential to the look the best it can be. But in reality this is definitely a camera with enough performance to suit even a pro. This also has the power to capture 4K video and since this uses WiFi all that video can be quickly uploaded directly to where you need it to go.

If you don’t quite have the budget for the body and one of these lenses, the older Alpha A7 II would be a good alternative still offering plenty of power and performance. 

2. Nikon Z6: Best mirrorless camera

Nikon Z6

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon Z6

Best full-frame mirrorless camera right now

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.5MP | Lens mount: Nikon Z | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.1 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, 3.69 million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Superb handling
Touchscreen interface
High-res EVF
Limited buffer depth
XQD card format has limited support

The Nikon Z6 is one of two cameras that kickstarted the company’s latest Z series, the Z7 being the other. It's the Z6 that offers slightly less power, saving you a grand or so. This blends an excellent 24.5MP full-frame sensor with 4K video recording at 30fps, a beautiful viewfinder and great handling thanks to a generously proportioned grip. 

This features a body that’s lighter and more compact than the company’s equivalent DSLRs, thanks to that mirrorless design. You can use it with F-mount lenses thanks to the FTZ adapter, although partnering it with the NIKKOR Z 24–70mm f/2.8 S makes for a killer combination. 

The 273 phase-detect AF pixels help with focusing but don't stand up to the Sony A7 III offering. This also doesn't offer NFC, but with Bluetooth and WiFi that's more than enough wireless connectivity for most. For the pros there's a 5-axis stabilization system built right into the camera – as opposed to the lens – effective to five stops. 

Want something similar but different? The Sony Alpha A7R III is perhaps its closest rival right now.

3. Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III: Best Micro Four Thirds camera

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

(Image credit: Olympus)

Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Micro Four Thirds at its best

Sensor size: Micro Four Thirds | Resolution: 20.4MP | Viewfinder: EVF, 2,360,000 dots | Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/Intermediate

Upgraded sensor power
Superb image stabilization
Enhanced 4K video specs 
Smaller sensor than rivals
No metal shell
Bigger grip might be nice

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III is a very stylish and portable way to shoot without sacrificing a lot of power. This Micro Four Thirds shooter features the same 20.4MP sensor as the higher-level OM-D E-M1 Mark II. That's backed by some of the most impressive image stabilization and fantastic processing on any camera at this price point. The on-chip phase detection autofocus is a really nice addition which helps to make even the most rushed shots look the best they can be.

Video has had an upgrade here too with Cinema 4K recording (4096 x 2160) at 24fps and a 237Mbps bit-rate. Impressive stuff. Or go slow-motion with Full HD video at 120fps, and plenty more settings in between the two.

The form is compact which makes this portable but the lack of metallic frame of previous models and smaller hand grip than larger equivalents, may be negative points for some users. 

4. Nikon D850: Best DSLR

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon D850

A robust and rugged powerhouse that delivers on all fronts

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.4MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.36 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

High MP with fast burst rate
Supremely solid build 
Live view and video AF could be better
SnapBridge system needs work

Probably one of the most well-rounded, versatile DSLR options out there, there D850 caters for enthusiast and professional photographers who need everything from speed and resolution through to high-quality video. 

The body is built from a weather-resistant magnesium alloy and is finished with buttons that can be illuminated for use in low light, while the generous 153-point AF system has 99 cross-type points to help keep things extra sensitive. 

Its age has meant it’s dropped quite some way in price too, making it a cost-effective option for the landscape, wedding, sports or nature photographer - but if you don’t own any optics already, the AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR would be a perfect partner. And if you need a full-frame Nikon DSLR but money won't stretch this far, check out the Nikon D750.

5. Canon EOS Rebel SL3: Best cheap DSLR

Canon EOS Rebel SL3

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

Best DSLR for beginners on a budget

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 95% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Beginner

Superb battery life
Top Dual Pixel CMOS Af system
Great touch controls
AF system is a bit dated
4K video crop

The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D is one of the best cameras you can buy as a beginner. Despite being priced at a welcoming level, this crams in lots of tech including that powerful 24.1MP APS-C sensor which works with Dual Pixel CMOS AF and the DIGIC 8 processing engine. All that means you can use this as a point and shoot camera for great results, or dive deeper into the manual settings and have a play to learn too.

Burst shots are kept to 5fps which isn't that high but will serve most well. But it's the video we were impressed by, capturing 4K resolution at 24p. The only downside is there is a little cropping of the full wide screen at that top quality level.

While metering is covered by a 63-zone sensor, the AF system being limited to 9-points is on the low side when compared to most other cameras these days. What is very modern is the connectivity with USB 2.0, HDMI, Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi onboard.

The EF lens mount gives you lots of options, that 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen is easy to use and with lots of Picture Styles to pick from this is fun right out of the box. 

6. Sony Alpha A7 II: Best cheap full-frame camera

Sony Alpha A7 II

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony Alpha A7 II

Best for the budget-conscious enthusiast

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Sony E | Screen: 3-inch tilting, 1.23 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, approx. 2.36 million dots | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Great image quality from the sensor
Sensor-based stabilisation a huge plus
LCD not touch-sensitive
No 4K video recording

While Nikon’s Z6 may be a great, affordable full-frame camera that many users have switched to, we reckon Sony’s A7 II is a great all-round option if you’re really looking to save money without compromising on quality. Right now, it’s significantly cheaper than the Z6 and offers such the same idea, such as a 24MP full-frame, a tilting LCD and sensor-based image stabilisation. 

It doesn’t have 4K video and its EVF isn’t quite as detailed by comparison, but in terms of value for money you’re not going to find a better full-frame option this cheap. The fact that it works with a healthy range of high-quality lenses from Sony and third parties also means that the case you save on the body can be put towards some tasty glass. We love it, but the A7 III (position 1) is a stronger option if you can stretch to it.

7. Fujifilm X-T30: Best cheap 4K camera for video

Fujifilm X-T30

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

Fujifilm X-T30

Best tiny and powerful video tool at a nice price

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 26.1MP | Lens mount: Fujifilm X | Screen: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.04-million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Viewfinder: Electronic, approx. 2.36 million dots | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Excellent image quality and great videos too
Comprehensive AF system with wide coverage 
Small body a bit fiddly at times
No sensor-based image stabilisation

The X-T30 takes the best bites from the excellent X-T3 and packs them into a learner and more affordable body. Indeed, it’s surprising just how much you get from the more senior camera here, from the 26.1MP X-Trans APS-C sensor and X-Processor 4 engine though to 4K video recording and a collection of popular Film Simulation modes. 

It’s nicely balanced with the XC 15-45mm F3.5-5.6 OIS PZ kit lens but if your budget has a little stretch, the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS would be recommended. Need something more powerful? The X-T3 is where to turn, although you get far better value for money here.

8. Nikon D3500: Best for beginners

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon D3500

Best for beginners

Type: Mirrorless | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3-inch fixed display, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical | Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p | User level: Beginner

Very long battery life
Compact wit great handling
Excellent image quality
No 4K video
No touchscreen
No Wi-Fi

The Nikon 3500 is the company’s latest and greatest budget DSLR, and it’s a lovely camera for the price. It’s a relatively inexpensive body that supports the DX sensor system, and is compatible with most of Nikon’s F lens system. The F series has a large number of compatible lenses available for new or - even better - second hand, which is perfect for the beginner or someone with less money to invest in their photography. 

We love the shape and handling of the D3500. Yes, it’s heavier than mirrorless counterparts (although it’s light for a DSLR) but we find this offers more stability for handheld shooting, especially when combined with Nikon’s excellent VR lenses. The deep grip makes it easy to handle and carry, the control wheel is well placed, and changing lenses on the go is extremely easy. Button layout is simple to navigate and, despite not being touch-compatible, the digital display on the reverse of the camera is sharp and clear.

In terms of specs, it has an effective resolution of 24.2MP, which is plenty. For beginners there are a range of pre-set shooting modes including ‘Effects’ that will over saturate images, make colors more vivid, and even offer selective-color shooting. This is in addition to Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Exposure / Programed Auto mode, which you’ll find on most cameras. The autofocus is responsive, and you get a decent 5fps shooting, which is great for budget DSLRs.

The D3500 has an excellent set of features, but does lack a few settings that you may want to graduate to, like batch exposure. Battery life is average, at around 1500 shots per charge, and there’s a single SD card slot. The kit lens that comes with the camera - a 15-55mm VR AF-P lens - is excellent, and versatile enough for newbies. For the cost of less than $500, you get a LOT of camera here for your money, and plenty of features to help newcomers get started.

9. Panasonic Lumix G100: Best for vlogging

Panasonic Lumix G100

(Image credit: Panasonic)

Panasonic Lumix G100

Best for vlogging

Type: Micro Four Thirds | Sensor: MOS | Megapixels: 20.3MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds lenses | Screen: 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 1840K-dot | Continuous shooting speed: 30fps | Viewfinder: EVF / LCD 3680K-dot | Max video resolution: 4K 30fps | User level: Beginner / intermediate

Triple microphone recording system
Fully articulating display
4K and 30fps video
4K video is cropped
Older autofocus system

The Panasonic Lumix G100 is the mirrorless camera of choice for vloggers and YouTubers. This is thanks to its ability to shoot in 4K at 30fps, albeit with a crop, but also to show yourself on the fully articulating screen. But it doesn't stop there, this also has a world first in that this is a Micro Four Thirds camera which also crams in a Nokia Ozo audio-equipped microphone system. That means the three built-in microphones pick up sound from all directions and do a great job of prioritizing voice over background traffic or wind interference. 

The 20.3MP MOS sensor is backed by 5-axis hybrid image stabilization and a great selection of lens options. As such colors are punchy and detail is excellent. It's only when you go into low light situations that this doesn't perform as well as some of the other cameras on this list. 

The compact size makes this ideally portable for vloggers and the battery life of real-world 45 minutes for 4K video recording isn't bad for that form factor. The fact this can charge via USB is a really big appeal, meaning a battery pack can keep you going as long as you need without stopping to find mains power.