Okay, we admit it – it’s an impossible question. The best camera for a pro photographer is a million miles from the best camera for an adventure sports nut. So what we’ve done is pick out what we think are the standout cameras in their fields. This may be because they have the most amazing features and specifications, because they’re amazing value for what they offer or because they are just brilliant at the job they’ve been designed for.
Along the way we’ll explain some of the jargon and the differences between cameras, though if you need a bit more help deciding what kind of camera you need, you can get a lot more information from our special step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
On the other hand, you may already have a clear idea of the kind of camera you want, in which case you could go straight to one of our more specific camera buying guides:
Last year we saw some stunning cameras launched – many of them making it onto our list below, but if you want to know what else might be coming along later this year, take a look at our in-depth Camera Rumors 2017 article.
But if you just want to know what we think are the top ten standout cameras you can buy right now – regardless of user level or price point – then keep on reading.
All these are cameras have been extensively tried and tested by ourselves, so if you want to know any more about any of them as well as check out sample images, just click the link to the full review.
The update to the X-T1 may look similar at first glance, but there have been some huge improvements made to Fujifilm's follow-up flagship mirrorless camera. Perhaps the biggest update though is the autofocus. A huge leap forward compared with the system found in the X-T1, AF tracking of moving subjects is very snappy, while the level of sophistication and customisation is impressive. Add in 8 frames per second burst shooting, a clever double-hinged rear display, bright EVF, Fujifilm's excellent 24.3MP X Trans III CMOS sensor and plenty of body mounted controls and you're left with one of the best cameras available today.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X-T2
Canon's EOS 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame DSLR photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it. With a new 30.4MP sensor that delivers pin-sharp results through the ISO range, a 61-point AF system that's incredibly advanced and some very polished handling, the EOS 5D Mark IV has to be one of the best DSLRs we've seen.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Nikon has taken their flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip, so it hasn't got quite the same resolving power as the D7200, but the small sacrifice in resolution is worth it for a number of reasons. ISO performance is brilliant, with an expanded setting that hits an equivalent of ISO1,640,000, while it can rattle off a burst of 200 raw shots at 10fps. That's not forgetting the 153-point AF system that is perhaps the best autofocus system out there right now. A brilliant all-rounder, it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography.
Read the full review: Nikon D500
Once, if you wanted a professional quality full frame camera it had to be a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Sony's growing range of mirrorless full-frame cameras offer a great alternative and the Alpha A9 sits at the top of the range. The AF system Sony has blessed this camera with is not only incredibly quick, the tracking performance needs to be seen to be believed. Partner that with incredibly fast 20fps burst shooting, and a large and bright EVF that doesn't blackout when you're shooting, and you've got a camera that can mix it with the best that Canon and Nikon have to offer when it comes to shooting action. The Alpha A9 doesn't fail to impress.
Read the full review: Sony Alpha A9
Nikon's D3400 might have replaced it, but the D3300 is still our top pick when it comes to entry-level DSLRs. Why? Unless you want improved connectivity that the D3400 offers, then the D3300 is pretty much identical to the D3400 and that bit cheaper. The 24.2MP sensor resolves bags of detail and like much like pricier Nikon DSLRs, it does away with an anti-aliasing filter to maximise image sharpness. This is also a very easy camera to live with thanks to its clever Guide Mode feature. This is great for first-time users as it gives real-time explanations of important features to help you learn as you shoot.
Read the full review: Nikon D3300
The X100F is a thing of beauty both to look and and to use, but it's not for everyone. It's a relatively large, retro-styled compact camera with a fixed focal length 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens, and designed for photographers who hanker after the weighty feel and manual external controls of traditional 35mm film rangefinder cameras. It's a relatively specialised camera and most owners are likely to have other cameras too. It may be a touch pricey, but there's nothing quite like it – it's an exquisite camera to look at and to shoot with.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X100F
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value for money, but the E-M10 II adds features that take it to another level. The old camera’s 3-axis image stabilization system has been uprated to the 5-axis system in Olympus’s more advanced OM-D cameras, the viewfinder resolution has been practically doubled and the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8fps, creeps up to 8.5fps. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It’s small, but it’s no toy – the E-M10 II is a properly powerful camera.
Read the full review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 II
Similar in size to earlier ZS/TZ-series cameras, Panasonic however has managed to squeeze a much larger sensor into the ZS100 (TZ100 outside the US). This enables the pixels to be about 2.4x bigger than they are in models like the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90, and this helps the ZS100 produce much higher quality images. The zoom lens isn't quite so extensive though, but you still get an electronic viewfinder that makes it easier to compose images in bright sunny conditions and in addition to 4K video recording, there's Panasonic's 4K Photo mode to help capture 8MP images of fleeting moments. It all adds up to be a powerful compact camera.
One of the best entry-level DSLRs out there, the EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside) is an update to the EOS Rebel T6i / 750D. The resolution stays the same, but it's a new design with an improved high ISO performance. The autofocus also gets a boost over the older model, now with a 45-point arrangement that's backed up by excellent live view AF system that's as quick as mirrorless rivals, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users. The absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint, but despite this the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D is a great entry into the world of DSLR photography.
Our final camera is a 'bridge' camera, a type of camera that we don't normally like very much because the ultra-zoom design forces the makers to use titchy 1/2.3-inch sensors the same size as those in point-and-shoot cameras. You get the look and feel of a DSLR, but you certainly don't get the image quality. But the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US) is different. It sacrifices a huge zoom range in favour of a much larger 1.0-inch sensor – a compromise most serious photographers will applaud. While the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that's still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use. We'd certainly sacrifice a little for of zoom range for better and faster optics. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range, while also offering full manual and semi-manual controls, the ability to shoot raw files and 4K video.
- What camera should I buy?
- Best compact camera
- Best DSLR
- Best mirrorless camera
- Sensor sizes explained: what you need to know