Best camera 2015 – Compact, CSC & SLR picks and buying guide

Best camera 2015 – Compact, CSC & SLR picks and buying guide

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Discover the best digital cameras to buy in 2015. Read our top picks from DSLR, CSC, ultra-zoom and compact cameras. Not sure which camera is right for you? Then we’ve got a complete buying guide too. There’s something for everyone here, from shiny, easy-to-use compacts that will slip in your pocket, up to the best budget DSLRs. Our always up-to-date list will help you make the right choice. Click through to our full reviews for sample shots and more details and the latest prices.

Jump to our Best Compact cameras, Ultra-zoom cameras and Bridge cameras

To make this article easier to browse, and to make it easier for you to find the camera you’re after, we’ve split it into two. This page has our favourite DSLR cameras and Compact System Cameras (CSCs), below which are our best Bridge cameras, Ultra-zoom cameras and Compact cameras. On page two we have a detailed buying guide, with a handy flowchart to help you choose the right kind of camera for your needs. 

DSLR AND CSC CAMERAS

If you want the ultimate image quality and flexibility then a digital SLR or Compact System Camera is for you. There’s a lot of variation within this category, from hulking semi-pro DSLRs to fairly compact budget CSCs, but all of them have interchangeable lenses so you choose the best tool for the job. Generally speaking, sensor size is far bigger than on a compact camera, with this being the best, simple indicator of image quality, although big sensors do restrict zoom multipliers. Most of these cameras have plenty of manual controls, for those who want to fine tune their exposures, though this isn’t always the case with the more budget CSC offerings.

NEW ENTRY: Fujifilm X-T10 – Class-leading image quality

With retro designs and hands-on controls for enthusiasts, Fujifilm’s X-series cameras have built a solid following, mainly those who fondly remember the days of film cameras. it doesn’t matter if you like the look though as the cameras also have stunning image quality for their price, and the Fujifilm X-T10 is no exception.

This is the cheaper model in the current range, so there’s no metal body or weather-proofing here. You do still get plenty of dials and switches to play with, great ergonomic design and a well-thought-out control system. Still image quality is stunning, among the best you’ll see from a APS-C based CSC. Video isn’t its strongest point though and neither is raw speed, but pictures look great. At this price it’s something of a bargain, shooting pictures just like cameras twice the price.

BUY NOW: Fujifilm X-T10

Price when reviewed: £595. For more info see our full Fujifilm X-T10 review Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.6×15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x,Viewfinder: Electronic (2,360,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (920,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm),35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Fujifilm X Mount, Weight: 576g, Size (HxWxD): 85x130x116mm

1. SAMSUNG NX3000 – A cracking CSC deal but hurry!

Samsung NX range of cameras has always been respectable but never quite risen to the top of the closely fought CSC category. That’s all changed with the incredible NX3000, which is not only excellent, it’s mind-blowingly cheap at present too, you can pick it up for merely £200 from Argos. Don’t let that low price fool you, though, this is a seriously stylish-looking and compact camera with some great features, such as best-in-class Wi-Fi remote controls, and a flip-up screen for easy selfies.

Controls are excellent, thanks to a lens ring that can be assigned to numerous different functions. Speaking of the lens the 16-50mm power zoom is very compact when stowed. Inside is an APS-C sensor with 20.3 megapixels, which produced fantastic looking images, highly-detailed and with low noise. Better still you get a copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 free with the camera, so you can easily improve your shots on a PC or laptop later.

BUY NOW: SAMSUNG NX3000

Price when reviewed: £279. For the latest prices, see our full Samsung NX3000 review 
Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5×15.7mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: No, LCD screen: 3in (460,800 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Samsung NX, Weight: 386g, Size (HxWxD): 67x126x78mm

2. SONY Alpha A6000 – The classiest CSC around

Sony’s NEX brand is no more, and with it went the much-loved NEX-6, however it’s no cause for concern as the Sony A6000 is its direct predecessor in all but name and it lives up to the billing. This is a serious CSC, from its aluminium shell to its wide range of controls, including nice and chunky mode and command dials, so you can quickly set up the camera as needed.

The sensor now has a big 24 megapixels, and is the same size as the sensors found on most consumer DSLRs, so there’s no lack of detail. Sony’s cameras continue to impress us for their low noise, with ISO 1600 being practically noise free and even ISO 6400 being usable.

It’s fast too, bursting at up 11fps and the phase detect autofocus system covers practically the whole frame and is blisteringly quick and accurate. It’s also amongst the best video cameras you can buy at this price. In fact the A6000 is so good, and so reasonably priced, that it really could be the beginning of the end for consumer-grade DSLR cameras.

BUY NOW: SONY Alpha A6000

Price when reviewed: £650For the latest prices, see our full Sony Alpha A6000 review
Sensor resolution24 megapixels, Sensor size23.5×15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier1.5x, ViewfinderNo, LCD screen3in (921,600 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths)3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperturef/5.2-8.4, Lens mountSony E mount, Weight460g, Size (HxWxD)70x120x70mm

3. NIKON D610 – Full-frame for a lot less than you’d think

Full-frame photography took a price crash last year, with both Canon and Nikon selling such cameras for around £1,500 for the first time. We preferred the Nikon D600 over its Canon rival, but then it started to suffer problems with dirt on the sensor. Now the problem wasn’t critical but it did through a spanner in the works of a great camera.

So now we have the D610, essentially the same camera but with the problem well and truly fixed. There have been a number of other minor tweaks, notably faster continuous shooting of 6fps, up from 5.5fps, and a new quiet continuous mode at 3fps.

Most things stay the same then, but that’s not a problem. Image quality is sublime, with colours that both sizzle and subtly recreate skin tones with ease. There’s barely any noise, even at high ISO speeds. There’s all the controls you need and this should be high on you’re list if your serious about buying a DSLR.

BUY NOW: NIKON D610

Price when reviewed: £1,449. For the latest prices, see our full Nikon D610 review Sensor resolution: 24.2 megapixels, Sensor size: 35.9x24mm, Focal length multiplier: 1x, Viewfinder: Optical TTL, LCD screen: 3.2in (921,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): , 35mm-equivalent aperture: , Lens mount: Nikon F, Weight: 850g, Size (HxWxD): 113x141x82mm

4. PANASONIC Lumix DMC-GF6 – The best budget CSC

The GF-series are Panasonic’s cheapest model in its G-series CSC range. The latest example, however, doesn’t feel cut-back with a handy mode dial on top and a tilting LCD touchscreen for shooting over your head or picking a focus point at a tap. A pop-up flash is included, although there’s no accessory shoe.

It’s the fastest budget CSC we’ve seen, running at 4.2fps in continuous mode. It also performs well shooting video, with impressive 50fps Full HD footage and plenty of manual controls for a camera of this type. The 16-megapixel stills looked good up to ISO 1600, which is respectable, but it was the reliability of its automatic setting that really impressed, coping well with high-contrast scenes, along with sharp autofocus. It’s a great all-round camera and a perfect choice if you’re looking for a first CSC.

BUY NOW: PANASONIC Lumix DMC-GF6

Price when reviewed: £400. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6 review
Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 17.3x13mm (Micro Four Thirds) Focal length multiplier: 2x, Viewfinder: No, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3x (28-84mm), Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds, Weight: 439g, Size (HxWxD): 65x112x97mm

5. CANON EOS 70D – Our favourite enthusiasts’ SLR 

The Canon EOS 70D is the new top-end model in Canon’s APS-C range, so if you’re looking for a great DSLR but aren’t ready to move to professional-class full frame cameras then this is a good choice. It’s extremely consistent with features, image and video quality all impressing. It has a new sensor-based autofocus which makes it far easier to use in live view (and for video) plus an articulated screen for shooting at unusual angles.

The new sensor has 20 megapixels, automatic exposures were brilliantly judged and the details were precise. Noise levels were low up to ISO 5000, but it’s not the best performer in this area admittedly. The consistency of the images it produces is the real highlight here, plus its flexibility as both a stills and video capture device. It’s our narrow favourite though pure photographers should seriously consider the Nikon D7100 as well.

BUY NOW: CANON EOS 70D

Price when reviewed: £999. For the latest prices, see our full Canon EOS 70D review
Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 22x15mm (APS-C) Focal length multiplier: 1.62x, Viewfinder: Optical, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: EF-Mount, Weight: 755g (body-only), Size (HxWxD): 104x139x79mm

6. PANASONIC Lumix DMC-GH4 – In a 4K league of its own

The GH series has long stood out among CSCs. Rather than use a mirrorless design to simply reduce the size of the device, Panasonic has concentrated on the technology’s leaning toward video capture. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 then builds upon its predecessors’ reputation for excellent video quality and features with support for 4K footage, which looks stunning.

Even if you’re not yet in a position to enjoy such video, shooting in 4K has its advantages. When you downsample 4K footage to Full HD the new camera is capable of twice the colour resolution of previous efforts. Shooting this way also lets you crop into the frame in editing without a big noticeable loss in quality. There’s loads of video quality options, mic inputs and outputs, and uncompressed video can be streamed from the HDMI port.

As a camera, it’s also impressive, though you’ll find better examples at this price admittedly. Still it keeps up with most CSCs and image quality is solid and consistent rather than outstanding. For video though it has no peers given its price and portability, so if you’re a video enthusiast looking for a new camera, look no further.

BUY NOW: PANASONIC Lumix DMC-GH4 

Price when reviewed: £1,299. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review Sensor resolution: 15.9 megapixels, Sensor size: 17.3x13mm (Micro Four Thirds) Focal length multiplier: 2x, Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (1,036,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds, Weight: 560g, Size (HxWxD): 95x144x84mm

BRIDGE, ULTRA-ZOOM AND COMPACT CAMERAS

Once you could clearly define between a small compact camera and a hulking ‘bridge’ or ultra-zoom camera. These days though you can get huge zooms on very small devices, while many of the larger models have sacrificed telephoto shots for superior image quality. Still, there’s something for everyone here, from the tiniest compacts, to feature-packed bridge cameras and even retro-styled fixed lens rangefinders.

1. PANASONIC LX100 review – A tour de force, the best compact

Our Expert Opinion Panasonic has crafted the best compact camera we’ve ever seen in the LX100. Using the same-sized sensor as Micro-Four Thirds CSCs it has a huge advantage in terms of light gathering ability when compared to other compacts. Strictly speaking it doesn’t use the whole sensor, but factor in its bright F1.7-2.8 aperture lens and you get something truly special. It’s an extraordinary achievement, producing photos that a full-frame DSLR would be happy with.

In addition, there’s a huge range of well-conceived physical controls, with two lens rings and chunky dials on top. The flash is a removable unit, with a hotshoe so you can add other accessories. It shoots great video too, with support for 4K resolutions. It’s a fantastic camera and one that competes with CSCs and DSLRs, other compacts are smaller, but there is none better.

BUY NOWPANASONIC LX100

Price when reviewed: £699. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic LX100 review Sensor resolution: 12.8 megapixels (effective), Sensor size: 17.3x13mm, Viewfinder: Electronic (2,764,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (921,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/3.7-6.2, Weight: 407g, Size (HxWxD): 67x126x70mm

2. SONY WX350 – A superb balance of zoom, camera size and price

Camera design is all a matter of balance: big zooms and big sensors mean big cameras. The WX350, however, gets the balance just right for casual photographers. It packs a 20x zoom lens, the one thing you can’t get on a smartphone, into a body measuring just 26mm across. Not that it won’t play with your smartphone, though, thanks to Wi-Fi and NFC you can quickly share any pic you take with friends. It’s stylishly designed too, with an all-black finish.

Impressive image quality across our tests was good, with the lens providing impressively sharp focus across its full range, from a nice wide 24mm equivalent to a fairly long 480mm at the zoom end. It’s not a DSLR obviously, but image quality is good enough to share online in practically any situation. It’s our pick of the point-and-shoot cameras this year, and you can pick one up for Christmas for as little as £180.

BUY NOW: SONY WX350

Price when reviewed: £199. For the latest prices, see our full Sony WX350 review Sensor resolution: 18 megapixels, Sensor size: 1/2.3in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (460,800 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 20x (24-480mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/20-36, Weight: 164g,Size (HxWxD): 57x96x26mm

3. Nikon Coolpix S9900 – Packed with great features and the price is right

A big zoom is the one thing you can’t get from a smartphone still, and the 30x zoom packed into this Nikon S9900 lets you get closer to subjects and frame shots far better than any phone. That zoom reaches from a fairly typical 25mm right up to a huge 750mm, so picking out people or wildlife from a distance is easy. It also comes with an articulated screen for taking shots over your head, or framing selfies.

It comes in a range of colours and is packed with features, such as Wi-Fi for sharing photos and GPS for keeping track of what you shot where. Image quality isn’t outstanding admittedly, but it holds up remarkably well even in tougher lighting conditions and at the long end of its zoom range. This means you can take good-looking snaps in almost any conditions, and they certainly look good enough to share online. It’s a great camera for the money and was our top choice from ten in our compact camera roundup this year. 

BUY NOW: Nikon Coolpix S9900

Price when reviewed: £279. For the latest prices, see our full Nikon S9700 review Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 1/2.3in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (921,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 30x (25-750mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/21-36, Weight: 294g,Size (HxWxD): 67x113x41mm

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 – A strong all-rounder that’s packed useful features

Smartphones may have largely deposed compact cameras for day-to-day snapping, but none can rival a compact ultrazoom’s reach, such as this 30x zoom lens on the excellent little Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60. This isn’t just a point-and-shoot camera, though, as it has good access to manual tweaks thanks to a lens ring control on the front and the usual wheel on the back. It’s also fairly special in having a small viewfinder, quality isn’t up to much, but it makes framing shots in bright sunlight a breeze.

It has all the latest features you’d expect, with Wi-Fi built in so you can control the camera from a smartphone, and pair it easily with NFC. Video capture is good with Full HD in various quality options and the results looked smooth and natural, with good low light footage. Image quality is pretty impressive at the long end of the zoom, and the optical image stabilisation helped keep things largely blur-free. It can even capture images in RAW format, letting you get more out of them later on your PC.

The TZ60 does what a good travel camera should, it packs lots of features into a small body and delivers consistent, dependable results.

BUY NOW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60

Price when reviewed: £339. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 review
Sensor resolution: 18 megapixels, Sensor size: 6.2×4.6mm (1/2.3in), Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (920,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 30x (24-720mm), Weight: 240g, Size (HxWxD): 66x111x37mm

5. SONY Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 – Outstanding photos and videos and a pleasure to use

With its Sony RX10 the company continues to break new ground, this time pairing the relatively large 1in sensor found in the Sony RX100 II with a large zoom lens to create an amazing all-rounder.

At first glance the RX10 looks similar to many ultra-zoom or bridge cameras, but with a sensor four times the size it has far better image quality. The downside is that a bigger sensor means a smaller zoom multiplier, at only 8.3x. This means the RX10 sits between CSCs, which typically have 3x kits lenses and bridge cameras, with their tiny sensors.

The design makes it an amazing all-rounder then, image quality is nearer to that of a CSC or DSLR, but it has a zoom that reaches further than most such cameras. It’s very capable whether shooting close up in low-light or framing shots from range. Another boon is the constant F2.8 end-to-end zoom, so zooming in doesn’t through off your exposure settings. It’s brilliant for video too, with great image quality plus mic and headphone jacks for audio.

There’s a great range of manual controls too, making the RX10 perfect for those who like to tinker. It’s an amazing camera, arguably the only one you’ll ever need, and well worth the high price.

BUY NOW: SONY Cyber-shot DSC-RX10

Price when reviewed: £949. For the latest prices, see our full Sony RX10 review

Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in (13.2 x 8.8mm), Viewfinder: Electronic (2,400,000), LCD screen: 3in (1,288,000), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 8.3x (24-200mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/7.6, Weight: 834g, Size (HxWxD): 90x130x130mm

6. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 – Groundbreaking lens provides excellent quality

Yet another Panasonic camera but this one is a full-sized ultra-zoom model with a 25-600mm zoom range. There are ultra-zoom cameras that better that, but the FZ200 is the only one that maintains a fast F2.8 aperture across the whole focal range. This means you can shoot in low-light conditions without too much worry, and you won’t find your careful selected exposure settings thrown out of whack if you decide to tighten up your framing.

With 4x the light entering the lens – compared to a typical F5.6 ultra zoom – you can shoot in far wider conditions. The lens also provides nice depth of field effects so you can pick out your subject easily.

In addition to the lens, there’s good controls, great-looking video, fast shot-to-shot times and a super-sharp 1,312,000 dot viewfinder. It’s the ultra-zoom to buy if you want a great camera but aren’t interested in a full-on DSLR.

BUY NOW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Price when reviewed: £440. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 review
Sensor resolution: 12 megapixels, Sensor size: 6.2×4.6mm (1/2.3in), Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (1,312,000), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 24x (25-600mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/15.5, Weight: 588g, Size (HxWxD): 87x125x110mm

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