What is the best camera for photography? You would be surprised how often we’re asked that question.
The answer you don’t want is: the best camera for photography is one that won’t put you into debt buying it. Luckily we know what you do want to hear, so we’ve compiled a list of the leading products you can choose this year.
Please note we are not affiliated with any of these companies so we earn nothing for recommending this gear.
What is the right camera for photography beginners?
It would be best for beginner photographers to invest in an entry model. It’s not that we believe you deserve less than stellar equipment. In fact, the newest beginner equipment can be better than older models that were once used by professionals.
These beginner cameras are often designed to teach you what the settings on your model mean. It gives a short description of what each setting does, which is invaluable for those that know nothing about their model settings.
Another reason to invest in an entry model as a beginner is that not everyone that buys a camera ends up using them often. Not everyone that buys a camera has the knowledge or the work ethic to make their photography business successful.
We believe that anyone who wants it badly enough can have a successful business, but it takes HARD work. If that’s not your end goal then it’s wise not to invest a large chunk of money into a camera you’ll only use occasionally.
Scroll down to the sections below for the best beginner model for each camera brand. This is another great resource to help you figure out which beginner camera is best for you.
What are the best cameras for professional photographers?
Due to many photographers having brand loyalties, the right camera for photography at the professional level is listed under each brand below. If you’re considering upgrading your camera, we’ve got some interesting points to factor into your decision before taking the plunge. Some factors professionals tend to look for in their cameras are high ISO capability, fast shutter speed, and image stabilization.
They also look for full-frame sensors, shutter lag and speed, and the resolution the camera shoots at. These full HD high-tier models are a big upgrade compared to beginner cameras. A big reason the images from these cameras look so fantastic is that they are also paired with incredible lenses.
What are some of the greatest lenses?
A majority of people looking for the right cameras for photography are likely looking for soft, creamy bokeh in their images. To achieve this look, one needs lenses with a large aperture rather than any specific camera. It is difficult to name a single best lens since the lens a sports photographer needs is completely different than what lenses a landscape photographer needs.
Most brand’s products also do not work for another brand’s cameras. There are some lens makers that make high-quality lenses and lens mount for big cameras brands at a significantly better cost (e.g. Sigma and Tamron). But be wary of buying a lens that is not made by the same cameras company as the cameras body.
Look into lots of cameras reviews of that off-brand lens before buying it. Without further adieu, here is a small selection of our favorite cameras lenses:
Sigma 85mm f/1.4
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 is ideal for a full frame DSLR due to extremely precise bokeh and an impressive focus area with high resolution.
- It has equipped newly designed hyper sonic motor (HSM) for nimble AF control, 1.3 times better...
- This lens is compatible with Mount converter MC-11 , so Sony E-mount users can also enjoy this lens...
Canon 85mm f/1.4
The Canon 85mm f/1.4 is a telephoto lens that brings the subject quickly into focus with a natural angle of view for portraits.
- Canon’s First 85mm L-series Lens with IS Capability.
- Large, Bright f/1.4 Aperture.
- Image Stabilization at up to 4* Stops of Shake Correction.
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS III
The Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS III is a dust and water-resistance Canon EOS lens with a powerful image stabilizer system that is perfect for rigorous professional use.
- Constant f/2.8 Maximum Aperture throughout Entire Zoom Range.
- Canon’s Air Sphere Coating (ASC) Minimizes Ghosting and Flare.
- Optical Image Stabilization at up to 3.5 Stops of Shake Correction.
Nikon 35mm 1.8
The Nikon 35mm 1.8 is a compact and lightweight prime lens that is ideal for continuous shooting with not enough light as well as creating softly blurred backgrounds.
- F mount lens/DX format. Picture angle with Nikon DX format 44 degree
- 52.5 millimeter (35-millimeter equivalent). Rear focusing; Manual focus override
- Aperture range: F/1.8 to 22; Dimensions(approx.) 70 x 52.5 millimeter
Canon 35mm f/2.0
The Canon 35mm f/2.0 is a wide-angle lens with superb build quality, image stabilization, and construction perfect for use on any Canon EOS Rebel digital camera.
- Focal length and maximum aperture: 35mm 1:2
- Lens construction: 10 elements in 8 groups
- Diagonal angle of view: 63 Degree
Canon EF 100mm f2.8L (macro)
The Canon EF 100mm f2.8L is a lens with focal length appropriate for flattering portraits that put emphasis on facial features.
Note these are primarily Canon lenses, however, these lenses can be found with almost the exact same specifications in other brands as well!
- 100 mm focal length and 1:2.8 maximum aperture. The EF1.4X II/EF2X II extenders cannot be used with...
- Lens construction consists of 15 elements in 12 groups
- 23.4-Degree diagonal angle of view
Best Nikon camera
Nikon users rejoice, Nikon has the newest and top camera for photography on the market at the professional level (at the time of writing). This is partly because rival Canon’s top professional camera got released a year earlier.
It has been argued that the brand currently has better quality sensors in their DSLR’s which results in outstanding quality. Here are our top Nikon contenders:
Beginner: Nikon D3500
The Nikon D3500 is a point-and-shoot model with sturdy and balanced controls, as well as autofocus points for fast-moving subjects.
- A DSLR that's as easy to use as a point and shoot camera
- Compact, comfortable design that's great for travel and special events
- Image sensor that's 15x larger than those used in typical smartphones for sharper, clearer pictures
Intermediate: Nikon D7500
The Nikon D7500 has a lightweight yet rugged body that is suitable for on-the-go photographers with a great battery life.
- Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award...
- Large 3.2” 922k dot, tilting Lcd screen with touch functionality. Temperature: 0 °c to 40 °c (32...
- 51 point AF system with 15 cross type sensors and group area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous...
Professional: Nikon D850
The Nikon D850 boasts a top-quality and fast autofocus system at its price range.
- Nikon designed back side illuminated (BSI) full frame image sensor with no optical low pass filter
- 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of...
- Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance
BONUS: Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera
The Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera is a full frame mirrorless camera that ensures high-speed resolutions and low-light performance.
- New larger Z mount for revolutionary optical performance
- Nikon designed 24.5mp backside illuminated image sensor
- 273 point on sensor phase detect AF system
Best Canon camera?
Need help getting off AUTO-MODE and mastering your camera in Manual? Click here to get our best resources for photography fundamentals
This company might not have the newest camera on the market (at the time of writing) but that doesn’t detract away from the amazing quality of their gear. This brand arguably is the leader in camera speed, and lens quality. Here are our top camera contenders from this company:
Beginner: Canon EOS Rebel T7i (aka 800D)
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is great for high-speed continuous shooting with an optical viewfinder and a vari-angle tilting touchscreen. The Canon EOS Rebel t7i is one of the most advanced Canon EOS rebels yet.
- 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS C) sensor
- Built in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth Lens used: EF S 18-55 millimeter f/4-56 IS STM (at focal length of...
- High Speed continuous shooting at up to 60 fps Weight Approx 1877 ounce/532 grams (including battery...
Intermediate: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
The Canon EOS 7D Mark II is a great Canon EOS model with a rugged, ergonomic design that supports Live View. This Canon EOS model will give you fast operation, dynamic range, and sharp-looking, high-resolution pictures.
- 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
- High speed continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
- 65-point all cross-type AF system
Professional: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
This Canon EOS 5D Mark IV offers you great dynamic range and versatile continuous shooting in almost any light with multiple video resolution options.
- 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting. Aspect ratio 3:2
- Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
- 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
BONUS: Canon EOS R mirrorless camera
This Canon EOS R mirrorless camera with Live View enables an exceptional combination of image quality, performance, dynamic range, and compact lens design.
- 30.3 Megapixel Full frame CMOS Sensor and DIGIC 8 Image processor
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF with 5,655 manually selectable AF points
- 4K 30P with Canon log and 10 bit 4:2:2 HDMI output; Dust and drip resistant
Best Sony camera?
Sony excels against Nikon and Canon in the mirrorless cameras department. Sony beat both its competitors into the mirrorless cameras market by at least a year. It surpasses both competitors (at the time of writing) in 4K video, and they managed to fix the battery life issue mirrorless cameras were having. Here are the top Sony contenders:
Entry-level: Sony A6000
The Sony A6000 has a fast autofocus guarantees superb moving-object tracking performance that ensures high-quality photographs.
- Advanced 24.2MP back Illuminated 35 millimeter full frame image sensor
- ISO 100 25600 (expandable to 51200). Lens compatibility: Sony E mount lenses
- Hybrid AF with 179 point focal plane phase detection and 25 contrast detect points
Intermediate: Alpha A6500
The Alpha A6500 has in-body image stabilization that steadies every lens with continuous autofocus and exposure tracking.
- 24.2MP APS-C Exmore sensor w/ advanced processing up to ISO 51.200
- Wide 425 phase detection AF points, Fast 0.05 sec. AF acquisition
- 5-axis in-body image stabilization steadies every lens.APS-C type (23.5 x 15.6 mm)
Professional: Sony A9
This Sony A9 combines high resolution, sensitivity, dynamic range, processing speed, and continuous shooting response into a strong, compact body.
- World's first Full-frame stacked CMOS sensor w/ integrated memory
- World's first1 blackout-free continuous shooting up to 20 fps
BONUS: Sony Alpha A7 III (mirrorless)
The Sony Alpha A7 III is a full-frames sensor, high-speed response, dynamic range, and good autofocus in frame mode.
- Advanced 24.2MP BSI full frame Image Sensor w/ 1.8X readout speed
- 15 stop dynamic range, 14 bit uncompressed RAW, ISO 50 to 204,800. Compatible with Sony E mount...
- Up to 10fps silent or mechanical shutter with AE/AF tracking. Battery life (Still Images): Approx....
Many other companies are also coming out with their own cameras that were not reviewed. Canon, Nikon, and Sony have been making cameras much longer than other competitors, so we focused on them.
There are also plenty of decent compact cameras on the market with great resolution. I chose to eliminate them from this article as those are not the types of cameras those looking to start a photography business tend to choose. There is no shame in having a compact camera (I started off with one too), they just don’t give users as much control over the camera’s settings.
How to Choose the Finest Cameras for Photography
When investing in the best cameras for photography, there are some considerations to ensure you can take high-quality images.
Type of Device
There are several types of cameras because each is designed for specific photography purposes. The choice depends on the area or niche you want to focus on, as well as the specifications you want to maximize.
- DSLR: The standard, most popular type because of its versatility and high image quality.
- Mirrorless: Interchangeable like DSLR, yet lighter, more compact, and faster for video quality, some models use a Micro Four Thirds sensor.
- Medium format: Utilizes an imaging sensor that mimics a 120 film size.
- Compact: Lightweight yet has excellent continuous shooting quality.
- Superzoom: An all-in-one kind that supports photographic zoom lens with unconventionally large focal length factors.
The crop factor is the ratio of a camera sensor’s size to a 35mm film frame. You can use it to calculate focal lengths and compare one lens from another.
If you’ve ever shot in film, then you might recall that a 35mm film frame is pretty much the same as a full-frame camera sensor. This is considered a standard size, whereas an APS-C sensor (or a cropped sensor) is a bit smaller than this.
This means that when you attach a lens to a camera with a crop sensor, it will magnify the scene and give you a crop factor of roughly 1.5x. For example, if you place a 50mm lens on a cropped sensor, it will act like 75mm lens.
Number of Megapixels
Megapixel resolution plays a key role in how large you can print your images. The more megapixels you have, the more the camera can record high-resolution details. In this way, you can produce larger prints without worrying about the pixel structure becoming visible.
Speed and Performance
Most models are fast, even for casual uses. DSLRs and mirrorless models usually provide better performance than compact ones. They will focus and track subjects faster and take more images per second.
It’s advisable to choose a model with at least five frames per second, although you may need more if you’re into action shots.
The best cameras must have pre-programmed settings that allow you to choose the optimum aperture and speed value for continuous shooting the pictures you want to take.
- Manual Mode: Let’s you take full creative control over the exposure of a picture.
- Auto Mode: Automatically adjusts the shutter speed and aperture for optimal exposure.
- Shutter-Priority Mode: Enables you to pick the aperture while the mode automatically sets the aperture.
- Aperture-Priority Mode: Allows you to choose the aperture while the device modifies the shutter speed.
ISO sensitivity is a measure of the camera’s ability to take light and indicates the sensor’s sensitivity to light. Digital cameras convert the light that falls on the sensor into electrical signals for processing. The lower the number, the less sensitive your camera is to light.
Camera shakes are inevitable, especially if you don’t use a tripod. A camera with in-body optical image stabilization helps eliminate blur from your photography by physically shifting elements within the lenses.
Autofocus is a camera feature that ensures your subject is sharp within the photograph. With autofocus, when sensors detect how far away the subject is from the camera, the photography information relays through the lens. Then, the camera adjusts the focal distance of the lens.
Another thing to consider when buying a camera is how it feels in your hands. Remember it’s best if the device feels like an extension of your hands and arms, and therefore, shouldn’t put much strain on your body.
Ergonomically speaking, you must consider if the size and weight are the best for your needs. If you prefer lightweight ones, then opt for mirrorless or compact models. If size and weight aren’t problems, then you can go for DSLRs.
Aside from that, choose the best body made of sturdy magnesium alloy internal frames and weather sealing.
While a viewfinder gives you a sharper and more accurate view of a photograph, they are less convenient to use, especially if you wear glasses.
On the other hand, an electronic viewfinder or an LCD screen can provide you a broader view of an image. However, bright sunlight washes out the details, and using the electronic viewfinder or LCD screen drains the battery life fast.
Additional specifications help make photographing images easier and convenient without impacting too much on battery life. The best specifications include card slots, support for Wi-Fi, GPS, remote control, and computer control.
You are more than your camera!
Here at Cole’s Classroom we’re big believers of “I taught my camera everything it knows”. While the latest photography gear has fancy features and improved settings, it is you that takes the photo. YOU aim the camera at the people or scenery around you and press the shutter button.
Composing the shot and changing the settings to account for the amount of light is all done by YOU. YOU interact with your clients and say the right thing at the right time to take those perfect smiles.
Remember that a camera is just a tool to capture moments; without you, the camera can’t do a thing. So invest in yourself too. Pay for photography courses that will teach you about the settings on your camera.
Learn how to run a photography business and work social media to your business’s advantage. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of Photoshop and Lightroom so that your images pop out of your client’s screens. You can buy any camera in the world – we’re here to help you learn the rest.