- Our choice for the #1 Best Overall digital camera is the Canon EOS R6.
- Digital cameras are a step up from smartphone cameras for both photos and video.
- Compact cameras can be a good stepping stone to interchangeable lens cameras.
- Interchangeable lens cameras are the best choice if you are looking to invest in professional-grade equipment.
- When shopping for the best digital camera, keep in mind the type of digital camera you want, the software, the type of sensor it has, and the price.
If you find yourself growing weary of the limitations of smartphone photography and aren’t intimidated by terms like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, upgrading to a digital camera probably makes sense for you.
There are many types of digital cameras with models that can accommodate any number of budgets and experience levels. Both comfortable ergonomics and large lens selections have made DSLR cameras the standard for many years. However, mirrorless cameras have been taking over the top of the market, thanks to superior autofocus systems and cutting-edge video features like low light performance. Compact cameras, or point-and-shoots, have been making a comeback, due to advances in tech and the convenient but professional results they can provide with built-in superzoom lenses.
Such a wide selection of cameras can be a double-edged sword. It can be difficult to narrow down your options and find the right camera for you. Hopefully, this list can assist you in your search for the best digital camera. Due to the extensive range of choices, we have limited our focus to interchangeable-lens cameras, meaning mirrorless and DSLR. If you’re not quite ready to make the jump to prosumer, consider looking at looking for a compact fixed-lens camera, instead. So, after reviewing dozens of options, our choices for the top digital cameras are:
- Best Overall: Canon EOS R6
- Best for Photography: Fujifilm X-T30 II
- Best for Video: Sony Alpha A6600
- Best on a Budget: Sony Alpha A6100
- Best DSLR: EOS Rebel T8i
#1 Best Overall Digital Camera: Canon EOS R6
- Full-frame mirrorless camera
- Incredible autofocus
- Great low-light performance
- Crisp and detailed images
The Canon EOS R6 full-frame mirrorless camera is our pick for the #1 Best Overall digital camera. It’s an expensive option, but worth the cost. Equipped with a 20MP full-frame sensor, the R6 has excellent autofocus, as well as accurate subject tracking. The built-in image stabilization feature is a cut above the competitors. When equipped with a wide-angle Canon lens, it can provide you with remarkably steady video footage. On top of all that, it’s fantastic in low-light conditions. It can go as high as 6400 ISO with little to no noise.
There are a few trade-offs, however. It has a 20-megapixel sensor, which may not be high enough for everyone. It has a tendency to overheat when shooting 4K/60fps video, which means it can only do so for about 30 minutes before needing to cool down. If high-quality video isn’t a priority and the $2,299 body-only price isn’t an obstacle, this camera is hard to beat.
|It has incredible image stabilization.||The resolution is lower than many of its competitors.|
|The stills are crisp and detailed.||Extended 4K video recording can make it overheat.|
|It performs very well in low-light conditions.||It is expensive.|
Check out the Canon EOS R6 on Amazon.
Best for Photography: Fujifilm X-T30 II
The Fujifilm X-T30 II is one of the best mirrorless cameras for photographers. It provides stunning image quality that rivals its eye-catching vintage body. Thanks to an incredible combo of an X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4, it performs well in a wide variety of lighting conditions.
It’s an ideal mid-range camera for fledgling photographers who are looking to create artistic images. Fuji’s signature film simulation profiles help you achieve a unique look with minimal effort. The stylish body is also well-built and lightweight. The lack of IBIS, as well as a time limit of 30 minutes when shooting in 4K, mean video performance is not its strong suit. If you are a videographer, this may not be the camera for you. The X-T30 II was built for, and remains an ideal choice for, photography.
|It has a cool vintage look.||It does not have IBIS.|
|Fuji’s creative film simulation modes are built in.||The menu button is not conveniently placed.|
|The image quality is superb.||It does not perform as well in low-light conditions.|
Check out the Fujifilm X-T30 II on Amazon.
Best for Video: Sony Alpha A6600
Sony’s Alpha line of mirrorless cameras is a favorite among videographers, and the Sony Alpha A6600 has many features video-first people love. For starters, the a6600 has a top-of-the-line processor that provides an extremely wide ISO range. For photos and movies, the ISO is 100-32000. This is expandable to 50-102400 for photos. It also has AI-enabled autofocusing that can be used for photos and video. The in-body image stabilization has 5-axis points, for ultra-smooth footage. It can shoot 4K/60 fps video and has a remarkably fast shooting speed, making it perform well in low-light conditions.
|The tracking and autofocus features are some of the best on the market.||There is only one memory card slot.|
|It has 5-axis image stabilization.|
|It has an extremely wide ISO range.|
Check out the Sony Alpha A6600 on Amazon.
Best on a Budget: Sony Alpha A6100
The Sony Alpha A6100 is a great camera for those who have a tight budget. It will fit comfortably in your hand as it is compact and well-built. It also has excellent ergonomics, which means all of the controls are well-placed and easy to reach. The Sony a6100 can provide sharp, clear photos in a variety of situations. The intelligent and fast autofocus and its max 11fps continuous shooting speed are remarkable for a camera of its price. The battery will get you about 420 shots before you need a recharge.
On the video side, the a6100 can record in 4K and has a microphone jack that will allow you to improve your audio. Like most Sony cameras, it is great for video, however, this model lacks in-body image stabilization. If you are a serious videographer you may want to consider a different model.
|It has an incredibly fast, AI-driven autofocus system.||The menu system is not intuitive.|
|The 4K video capture is sharp and high quality.||The video record button is inconveniently placed.|
|It has an external mic jack.|
Check out the Sony Alpha A6100 on Amazon.
Best DSLR: Canon EOS Rebel T8i
The Canon EOS Rebel T8i is a great camera for casual photographers, especially those who are looking for a DSLR. Like most models in the Canon family, the T8i takes extraordinary photos. It also has quite a few handy guides built in, that can assist new users when they are trying to learn the basic functions of the camera.
When it comes to video, the EOS Rebel T8i can shoot video at 4K resolution. The framerate is capped at 24fps, which will give a cinematic look but doesn’t allow for you to capture video that can be converted to slow motion. It does come equipped with a microphone jack so you can upgrade from the onboard mic. Social media users will love this camera, as it can shoot vertical video.
|It has vertical video recording capabilities.||It can only shoot 4K video in 24fps.|
|Guides for basic functions are built into the camera.||There is no USB charging port.|
|The menu is intuitive and easy to use.|
Check out the EOS Rebel T8i on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Digital Camera: Step by Step
When choosing a digital camera there are four main considerations for most buyers.
- Type of Camera
- Type of Sensor
Let’s review each of these criteria in more detail.
Type of Camera
Digital cameras mostly fall into three major categories: compact cameras, DSLRs, and mirrorless cameras. Because there are no compact cameras on the list we will only discuss them briefly so that you can understand some of the trade-offs.
Compact or point-and-shoot cameras have become a dying breed as smartphone cameras became commonplace. They have made a niche comeback thanks to things like providing a portable way to preserve battery and memory on your smartphone. These typically offer more control over things like aperture, shutter speed, and depth of field than the average smartphone camera but not as much as most interchangeable lens cameras.
More control without the need to lug around a bag of lenses may sound ideal, but the portability has its downsides too. The smaller bodies mean smaller sensors and as a result, they don’t provide the image quality or the low-light performance of the interchangeable lens cameras.
Compact cameras allow beginners to learn some of the basic technical and artistic aspects of photography and videography without the enormous price tag that accompanies lenses. However, anyone serious about photos and video should consider an interchangeable lens, even if they start with a compact and then grow into it.
When it comes to capturing the very best quality images, sometimes lenses matter more than camera specs. So if you are looking for professional results, you need a tool that allows you to use the right lens for the job.
Before the digital revolution, the film-based single-lens reflex (SLR) camera allowed interchangeable lens cameras to become the staple of professional photography. SLRs use a mirror positioned at a 45-degree angle behind the lens to reflect light up through the viewfinder. This tech allowed the photographer to see what the sensor would see which allowed a sensor that could adapt to different lenses, giving photographers ultimate control over their images.
Naturally, the analog film sensor was replaced with a digital sensor when digital photos became the norm, and thus the Digital SLR (DSLR) was born.
DSLRs became the go-to for anyone who wanted the best quality camera. However, as the technology around digital sensors and displays developed, mirrorless cameras were soon competing with DSLRs for the favorite tool of professional photographers.
As the name implies, these cameras do not contain a mirror the way SLRs do. Instead, a digital signal is sent from the sensor to a viewfinder or display on the back of the camera. This was a significant development because it allowed cameras to be smaller since no room was needed for the mirror assembly. The lack of a mirror also makes them quieter, since there is no noise from the mechanism that movies the mirror out of the way prior to exposure of the sensor.
This has led to the major manufacturers pouring all their R&D into mirrorless, many even discontinuing DSLR entirely. Some of the best cameras on the market are still DSLRs but expect that to change in the next several years as we witness mirrorless become the dominant interchangeable lens choice.
In this context we’re not talking about companion software for your computer, but rather the actual software that helps a digital camera operate. Capturing a photo in a digital format does take a bit of computation, after all. Digital cameras typically take a “pre-photo” to gauge the brightness and color balance of the image before capturing the actual photo. These calculations are important factors when it comes to the quality of your image.
Color balance is maybe the most important of the settings as the colors of different light sources can radically change the quality of your image. Daylight has a different quality than incandescent light, which is different than fluorescent light, and so on. Incandescent light tends to be “warmer” and gives everything an orange tint. Backwards as it sounds daylight is ”cooler” and makes things bluer. This wasn’t a huge problem with film, because most of these color shifts could be corrected during development. With digital photography, however, it’s necessary for the camera to do some color compensation which requires software.
How does this factor into your decision? Well, the cost of the camera is one way to spot quality software, also as time goes on we will most likely see the software in mirrorless get more and more sophisticated.
Type of Sensor
The type of sensor you have will greatly impact the sensitivity, which in turn will impact your camera’s performance In low-light conditions. Low-light images were infamously noisy in the past but a lot of that changed when mirrorless cameras started offering full-frame sensors.
When it comes to noise, the size of individual pixels makes a huge difference. For better low-light performance, you actually want a big sensor and fewer pixels. Fitting tons of Megapixels onto tiny sensors can only be achieved through very tiny pixels. Small pixels create more noise in low-light images.
As odd as it may sound, in today’s market, a camera’s resolution should not be a top priority. Most current digital camera models have resolutions of at least 10 Megapixels. That means the quality of your image will depend more on sensor resolution. Looking for a camera with a full-frame sensor will get you a better camera than focusing on the megapixel count.
Obviously, the type of camera you get will depend greatly upon your budget. Compact cameras mean you don’t have to buy several expensive lenses but also aren’t a long-term substitute for a professional camera. You should find the camera within your budget that has the most features that fit your needs.
What to Know Before Buying a Digital Camera
If you’re looking to make an investment in professional-grade equipment that you won’t outgrow, we recommend you choose an interchangeable-lens camera. At the moment you can find quality options in both DSLR and mirrorless, although mirrorless cameras will typically provide more models with larger sensor sizes. Full-frame cameras not only have a sensor the same size as 35mm film, but they also perform better in low-light conditions. Bigger sensors mean less noise no matter what kind of camera you choose, but they also mean cameras that are bigger and heavier. This is why a full-frame mirrorless would provide the best of both worlds.
It’s also worth remembering that interchangeable lens cameras will likely mean spending a lot of money in the long run on lenses. However, it’s also worth remembering that a lot of these lenses are fairly future-proof and can be used in a new camera body if and when you finally upgrade.
Using Digital Cameras: What it’s Like
Most digital cameras whether they are compact or interchangeable lens cameras, such as DSLRs and mirrorless will provide higher quality photos and video compared to a smartphone. Sensor size plays a factor in the quality, but lenses do too. Lenses are a double-edged sword. Having options will give you better control over your image, but they can also be expensive and cumbersome. Mirrorless cameras and DSLRs typically give you dozens of lens choices of differing focal lengths, each optimized for a specific situation.
Compact cameras are somewhat of a stepping stone, they will provide better control and quality than a smartphone, but not as much as an interchangeable lens camera. If you are looking for a step up from your phone, but aren’t looking to invest in lenses, a compact may be a good alternative. If you’re looking for the best results, however, you should look at investing in a mirrorless.
|#1 Best Overall Digital Camera||Canon EOS R6||Excellent autofocus, accurate subject tracking, superior image stabilization, performs well in low-light conditions.|
|Best for Photography||Fujifilm X-T30 II||Stunning image quality, ideal for fledgling photographers, unique look with minimal effort, well-built and lightweight.|
|Best for Video||Sony Alpha a6600||Top-of-the-line processor, wide ISO range, AI-enabled autofocusing, 5-axis image stabilization, performs well in low-light conditions.|
|Best Budget Digital Camera||Sony a6100||Compact and well-built, excellent ergonomics, sharp and clear photos, fast autofocus, high-quality 4K video capture, external mic jack.|
|Best DSLR||Canon EOS Rebel T8i||Extraordinary photo quality, handy built-in guides, shoots 4K video, vertical video recording capabilities, intuitive and easy-to-use menu.|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©solominviktor/Shutterstock.com.