Best Digital Cameras

Updated February 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

86 Models Considered
15 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
144 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Shopping guide for best digital cameras

Last Updated February 2019

A good digital camera can be a great purchase for unlocking your creativity, exploring the world around you, and even making a living. Digital cameras offer a lot of features and capabilities, especially when you add in different accessories such as lenses, tripods, filters, and travel bags.

To find the right camera, you’ll want to think about the size and the capabilities you need out of it. Smaller point-and-shoot cameras are ideal for travel or people on a tight budget. If you want something more capable or professional, larger DSLR and mirrorless cameras will be a better investment.

This guide can help you determine what features and specifications you need out of a camera. In addition to some helpful information and considerations, you’ll also find a few of our favorites to get you started.

If you use a DSLR camera for video recording, invest in a good microphone for audio, too. You can find shotgun microphones that fit into the camera’s hot shoe, so you can carry it on the camera and not take up extra space.

Key considerations

Sensor size

A digital camera uses a built-in sensor that collects light to make a digital picture. The size of this sensor determines how much of a view the camera can capture. This size also affects the camera’s depth of field, meaning images shot with a smaller sensor appear closer, as if zoomed in. Larger sensors result in more detail. Most digital cameras use a one-inch sensor or an APS-C.

One-inch sensor: This sensor is common in point-and-shoot cameras, but the view captured is smaller than with other sensors.

APS-C: The APS-C (Advanced Photo Sensor) is somewhat larger than one inch, which is why typical DSLR cameras use at least this size.

Full-frame sensor: Full-frame cameras use a 35mm sensor, the same size as traditional 35mm film. This creates images with the same detail and depth of field as film cameras. Given the larger size, most full-frame cameras are bigger and more expensive.

Body

Digital cameras have become more varied and complex in design as DSLR and mirrorless styles have become popular. The design of the camera’s body influences how comfortable it is to use and what kind of control layout you can expect.

Size: The size of the body affects many things about a camera, including the sensor size, lens type, portability, and durability. Smaller point-and-shoot cameras are great for travel if durability isn’t a big priority. If you plan to shoot in snow or other challenging weather conditions or just want a higher-end camera, a true DSLR or mirrorless body is a better choice. DSLR cameras are bulkier because they use a traditional mirror for the optics. Mirrorless cameras, as the name suggests, are much slimmer since they use an electronic shutter instead.

Controls: The control interface of a camera is made up of physical buttons and/or switches and an LCD screen. Most cameras have physical controls for common features and settings like shutter speed. Nearly all settings can be controlled through menus on a touchscreen if the camera has an LCD panel on the back. Different brands and models have different positions for common buttons, so try out a few to see what feels comfortable.

Affordable all-rounder

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 manages to deliver a lot of high-end features in a small, compact frame with an equally small price tag. The interchangeable mount holds any lens from Canon’s large EF-mount line, giving you access to a large selection of glass for telescopic, macro, portrait, and casual shooting.

Resolution

Megapixels (MP) can be a confusing specification with digital cameras since camera manufacturers rarely take the time to explain what they are. In short, a megapixel is one million pixels. This spec refers to the number of pixels on the camera’s sensor. The more pixels, the higher the resolution.

Most cameras have between 10MP and 50MP. Higher resolution means larger images. However, this doesn’t mean that more megapixels are always better. To get a higher count on a sensor, manufacturers use smaller pixels that can struggle to collect light in dark environments. As a result, lower-megapixel cameras tend to do a better job in low-light conditions.

Lens mount

Beyond the camera itself, one major component to any camera setup is the lens. Since the glass collects light for a photo, the lens dictates the distance and details you can capture. Some lenses are perfect for up-close or portrait photography. Bigger lenses are for long-distance photography.

Point-and-shoot and some DSLR and mirrorless cameras have a built-in lens. While this design is more convenient and protective of the lens, it also limits your choices when it comes to the glass at your disposal. Cameras that use interchangeable lenses have a mount to hold the lens in place. This means you can swap one out for another, giving you more options.

Lens compatibility is important with many DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Since each camera manufacturer uses a different type of lens mount, lenses made for one brand won’t work for another in most cases. Several lens companies make lenses for multiple camera brands, so do some research to see what works with any cameras you check out.

 

EXPERT TIP

To blend a little bit of old school film with digital photography, consider an instant camera. The modern-day cousin of the old Polaroid, instant cameras can print photos from the camera body.


Staff  | BestReviews

Digital camera features

Video recording

The advantage of a digital camera is that it isn’t limited to taking still photos. In fact, several videographers prefer high-quality DSLR cameras to camcorders because of the higher resolution and smaller form factor.

Nearly all cameras can record in 720p or 1080p high definition (HD). This is a common resolution for online videos and HD computer screens and TVs that lack 4K capabilities. A few higher-end cameras now sport 4K recording in addition to lower resolutions. While the recording quality is higher with 4K, the video files take up more space, meaning the camera’s capacity is more limited.

Other camera specifications can affect video recording quality as well. For example, a camera’s low-light capabilities influence the quality of video shot in the dark. The sensor size also determines how large the final picture is and affects the depth of field.

Image stabilization

Pictures get blurry if the camera moves. Even a little movement of the hands when using a camera can mar a potentially clear image. Tripods and monopods are effective at keeping a camera stable if the subject is still, but in most cases, image stabilization is needed to get clear action shots.

While some lenses have their own image stabilization, the most effective is optical stabilization built into the camera’s body. This means you can use any type of lens on the camera and still get a clear shot. Larger camera bodies, especially high-end DSLR and mirrorless cameras, often include optical stabilization that works for both still photos and video recording.

Mobile connection

If you want to easily transfer photos from the camera, you need a mobile connection via WiFi or near-field communication (NFC). This technology connects to a smartphone or tablet via an app to transfer images and control camera settings. This feature isn’t required to take great photos or to transfer them to a computer quickly. It’s simply an extra convenience.

To upgrade in size from a full-frame camera, you’ll need to go to a medium-format sensor. Nearly 70% larger, these cameras start at around $5,000 and skyrocket in price from there – just for the body alone.

Digital camera prices

The range of digital camera prices is like that of other electronic devices: large. The ultimate cost depends on the size of the camera’s quality, sensor, built-in features, and accessories. Given the large selection of cameras, however, it’s easy to find something that works with your budget and produces high-quality photos.

Inexpensive: Below $1,000, most options are point-and-shoot cameras packed with convenience features. Great for travel and street photography, these cameras are usually an all-in-one solution, coming with a built-in lens and some basic accessories like a camera bag. There are also a few low-end DSLR cameras in this range.

Mid-range: Most APS-C cameras come in between $1,000 and $3,000. Good for beginning, intermediate, and professional photographers, there’s a good selection of DSLR and mirrorless camera bodies that come with either a built-in lens or an interchangeable lens mount. The cost of the latter will increase because you’ll have to buy any lenses separately.

Expensive: The cost of some high-end, professional cameras can rival the price of a car. However, between $3,000 and $5,000, most professional DSLR and mirrorless cameras are perfect for normal use. Full-frame sensors are becoming more popular, while certain capabilities like 4K video recording and 30MP+ photo resolution have become common.

Good bet for beginners

With one of the largest zoom lenses available on a budget model, the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 leaves little to be desired. The built-in optical stabilization does a good job of reducing shake and blur when shooting without the use of a tripod, too.

Tips

  • Shoot for contrast. A camera with a high dynamic range can capture more detail in shadows and bright areas, giving your shots more contrast.
  • Take control. While automatic camera modes are great for getting quick shots, learn to use the camera’s manual mode for more control over the final photo.
  • Don’t run out of space. Carry a few extra SD cards so memory doesn’t become a major issue.
  • Take advantage of all the camera’s capabilities. You don’t have to invest in a lot of expensive photo editing software. Many cameras come with effects and basic settings that can change the look of each shot you take.
DID YOU KNOW?

If you like to take selfies but want something better than what your phone can produce, a camera with a tiltable LCD screen is the way to go. Some screens can turn a full 180°, allowing you to see yourself while in front of the camera.

Other products we considered

While most people like to start with or upgrade to a DSLR camera, there are plenty of options if you want something more compact. Point-and-shoot digital cameras are great for vacation photos or street photography where extra bulk and weight can get tiring. The Canon PowerShot ELPH 180 is a powerful little camera that has a 20MP sensor for high-quality shots. For limited budgets, the Sony DSCW830 packs many high-end features like panorama shooting and image stabilization into a small frame. On the higher end, the Canon PowerShot SX620 is a mobile-connected camera that can transfer photos to nearly any smart device through a WiFi or NFC connection.

Looking at different lens options? Most lenses range from $250 to $3,000 depending on size, type, and quality. If you want to save some money, invest in a few prime lenses that lack a zoom.

FAQ

Q. How many megapixels do I need?
A.
Unless you need to print large photos for something like a mural, you don’t need the most megapixels possible. A great range is 15MP to 30MP, common for budget and mid-tier cameras, which will give you plenty of resolution and detail.
 

Q. Are certain cameras better for certain types of photography?
A.
In general, most cameras can handle any kind of photography. A DSLR or mirrorless body with an interchangeable lens mount will give you the most versatility. Some options, like budget models and cameras with fixed lenses, can be limited depending on the amount of zoom they have. Likewise, larger, heavier cameras may be awkward to use for street photography.
 

Q. What accessories do I need for a camera?
A.
You don’t need much to get started with a camera. A good bag or case will protect the camera from most drops and scratches. A strap for the neck or wrist is also a good idea to keep the camera safe as you use it. To expand your accessory collection, check out some tripods and flashes that are necessary for certain types of photography.

The team that worked on this review
  • Alvina
    Alvina
    Photographer
  • Amos
    Amos
    Director of Photography
  • Branson
    Branson
    Videographer
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Production Assistant
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor
  • Steph
    Steph
    Web Producer

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