Best Sony Digital Cameras

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

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

17 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
283 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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best Sony digital cameras

Last Updated April 2019

Although many people like shooting photos with a smartphone, using a digital camera has quite a few advantages. For starters, you’ll receive a higher quality lens and faster processing speeds with the digital camera.

When you’re ready to take your photography skills to a higher level than what’s available with a smartphone, Sony digital cameras are a good choice. Sony has been making high-quality cameras for decades.

Sony offers multiple types of digital cameras at a variety of price points. We’ll help you make sense of all your digital camera purchasing choices.

Sony’s point-and-shoot cameras tend to be thin, stylish models geared toward beginners. Some larger point-and-shoot Sony cameras have optical zoom lenses.

Key considerations

  • Image sensor: The image sensor is the chip that measures the light from the scene, recording the image. An image sensor’s physical size plays a key role in determining the performance of the camera. Larger image sensors deliver significantly better results, but they cost more.
  • Lens: You’ll use either a fixed lens or an interchangeable lens with your Sony camera. A fixed lens is built into the camera and cannot be removed. An interchangeable lens can be swapped out to give the camera new features. Any lens you select for an interchangeable lens camera must be compatible with the camera body.
  • Megapixels: Each image sensor can record a certain number of megapixels. One megapixel (or MP) is 1 million pixels. A pixel is a tiny dot that combines with millions of others to create the digital photograph. Having more megapixels equals a sharper photo. However, megapixels are not as important to overall image quality as the physical size of the image sensor.
  • Video: Sony cameras can record both movies and still photographs. You can pick resolutions for the videos up to 4K and select frame rates.
  • Zoom: Fixed lens cameras measure the magnification their lenses can achieve through a zoom number. Optical zoom is preferred to digital zoom. Optical zoom magnifies the scene without sacrificing image sharpness. Digital zoom uses software to magnify the scene, which causes a slight blur in the image.

Fast-performing 4K model

The a6500 has an extremely fast autofocus mechanism, meaning you won’t miss spontaneous photos. In burst mode, this camera can record up to 11 frames per second on one shutter press. If you like to shoot movies too, this model offers up to 4K video resolution. The Sony a6500 is probably a bit too much camera for beginning photographers, but its feature list is impressive.

Features

Sony digital cameras are available in different designs. Understanding these differences can help you make the best purchase for your needs.

Fixed lens cameras

Fixed lens cameras are those where you cannot remove the lens, as it’s built into the camera body. Some of these cameras are simple point-and-shoot cameras that have small image sensors. These are made for beginner photographers. Other Sony fixed lens cameras are advanced cameras with large image sensors. These cameras are expensive, but they yield excellent photographic results.

One major advantage of a fixed lens camera over a smartphone camera is the optical zoom lens. This lens can magnify the scene while maintaining image sharpness. Smartphone cameras only use digital zoom. Some Sony fixed lens cameras offer large optical zoom measurements of 25X or even 50X.

Sony only manufactures high-end fixed lens cameras now. Although you can still purchase the inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras from Sony, the company doesn’t actively manufacture these cameras anymore — so they won’t be new.

DSLRs

A DSLR camera uses a medium- to large-sized camera body. You use interchangeable lenses with this style of camera. Each lens gives you different features and must be purchased separately.

DSLR cameras have a mirror inside them that reflects the image toward the optical viewfinder at the top. This mirror mechanism causes the camera body to be thicker than other styles of cameras.

Sony’s DSLR cameras are branded as Alpha cameras. Sony discontinued manufacturing new Alpha cameras, but you can still purchase these used DSLRs.

Mirrorless cameras

Mirrorless cameras use an interchangeable lens like a DSLR. However, they do not have a mirror inside because the viewfinder is actually a display screen. This digital viewfinder is different from the optical viewfinder in a DSLR, negating the need for a mirror.

The design allows the mirrorless camera body to be much thinner than a DSLR. The lenses used with mirrorless cameras tend to be thinner than DSLR lenses, too.

Sony still actively manufactures mirrorless cameras. DSLRs have been the best performing cameras on the market for quite some time; however, modern mirrorless cameras are close to DSLRs in terms of performance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Sony mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras make use of the E-mount, so you can use any E-mount-compatible lens on these cameras.

Sony digital camera prices

You can pay anywhere from $150 to $3,000 for a Sony digital camera, depending on its feature list and design.

Fixed lens Sony digital cameras typically cost $150 to $1,500. You’ll pay more for these cameras when they have larger image sensors.

Mirrorless and DSLR Sony cameras run anywhere from $500 to $3,000. Understand that you could have extra costs with these cameras for lenses. Again, cameras with larger image sensors will cost more than those with smaller image sensors.

EXPERT TIP

If you’re shopping for a DSLR Sony camera, you’ll need to add an A-mount lens.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Some Sony cameras are older. Sony only manufactures advanced fixed lens and mirrorless cameras now. Any DSLRs or point-and-shoot cameras from Sony that you purchase are older. That doesn’t mean they’re poor cameras, it just means they don’t contain the latest technologies.
  • Stick to a budget. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on a digital camera from Sony or another company. Figure out what you can afford for a camera and stick to that amount. Remember that some Sony cameras will have additional costs such as extra interchangeable lenses.
  • Beginners don’t need lots of features. If you’re new to photography, a lower-priced digital camera should serve you nicely. Advanced, expensive cameras are made for experienced photographers. A beginner may not be able to take advantage of all the features of an advanced camera. That being said, if you’re interested in learning more about photography, an advanced camera can help you learn more over time than a beginner camera.
  • Think about your movie recording needs. Many people like to use their Sony digital cameras to record movies. Don’t forget to consider the video recording features of the Sony camera before you buy it.
  • Understand your flash options. Most Sony cameras have a little popup flash built into them. This unit works fine for average photos. For the best flash performance, consider purchasing a separate flash unit. This fits onto the hot shoe bracket on the top of the camera.

When comparing Sony digital cameras, models with the largest image sensors (in terms of physical size) will yield the best photographic results.

Thin ultra zoom camera

The Sony HX80 gives you an easy-to-use, thin camera that you can carry anywhere. Unlike other thin cameras, the HX80 has an above average 30X optical zoom measurement. The display screen tilts away from the camera to shoot odd-angle photos.

Other products we considered

There are quite a few different models of Sony digital cameras on the market. Though we’ve listed some excellent models in our matrix, there are other Sony cameras you can consider. If you have a big budget and you’re looking for the highest level of image quality, we suggest the Sony a7R III mirrorless camera. This camera has a full frame image sensor and 42.4 MP of resolution. For a huge optical zoom measurement in a Sony camera, the Sony HX400V is an excellent choice. It has a 50X optical zoom, which is great for shooting faraway subjects. If you want the image quality of a mirrorless camera but you want a fixed lens design, you’ll like the Sony RX100 V. This camera has an extremely fast autofocus capability, which allows you to shoot photos of fast-moving subjects in perfect sharpness.

Some Sony mirrorless cameras will ship with the camera body alone. Others ship as part of a kit with a starter lens or two included with the camera.

FAQ

Q. What hidden costs are there when buying a Sony digital camera?
A.
If you choose a mirrorless camera or a DSLR from Sony, you may want to purchase additional lenses in the future. Additionally, camera makers require you to separately purchase a memory card for storing photos. Some people choose to buy a second battery, a tripod, a camera neck strap, or an add-on flash unit to enhance their use of the camera.

Q. How do I know which Sony camera is the best option for me?
A.
Start by setting a budget for your purchase. Then think about how you plan to use the camera. If you just want a simple camera you can carry in a pocket, a small fixed lens model is a smart choice. When you need a higher level of image quality, look toward a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Video quality is greater with the interchangeable lens camera too. Just stick to your budget.

Q. What is an optical zoom measurement?
A.
If you have a Sony point-and-shoot camera, you may see an optical zoom number for the camera. In a fixed lens camera (one where the lens cannot be removed), the magnification level of the lens is called the zoom. The number next to the X tells you the maximum magnification the lens can reach. Optical zoom differs from digital zoom, where the camera’s software creates the magnification. Digital zoom causes a loss of sharpness.

Q. Do I need a special model of Sony camera to shoot video?
A.
No. All Sony digital cameras can shoot both photographs and video. If you’re especially interested in shooting movies, pay attention to the resolution and frame speed for video for the camera. Sony cameras can shoot at an HD or 4K resolution, or they can shoot at lesser resolutions to save storage space. You can adjust frame rate, too — typically between 24 and 240 frames per second.

Q. Can I carry a Sony mirrorless camera in my pocket?
A.
Some Sony mirrorless cameras are small enough to fit in a large pocket. However, many people choose to carry these cameras in a camera bag. The bag simplifies carrying the camera, extra lenses, and any other photography equipment you have.

The team that worked on this review
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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