Buying a camera can be a daunting process, with a huge range of different shapes, sizes, specs and features to look out for. In this guide you’ll find everything from hulking semi-pro DSLRs to pocketable compacts, and while some of the cameras here are getting on a bit, that doesn’t mean you should discount them completely – older models are even more likely to be available for bargain prices.
If you’re not sure which one is right for you, then be sure to read our complete in-depth buying guide on page two. There’s something for everyone here, from tiny compacts that will slip into your pocket right up to the best budget DSLRs, so it pays to make sure you’re choosing the right camera for your purposes. We’ve summarised the key points and specifications you need to know, but there are also quick links to our full reviews where you’ll find the results of our in-depth testing, including a selection of sample photographs for each camera.
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. On this page you’ll find our favourite DSLR cameras and Compact System Cameras (CSCs), and over on page 2 you’ll find our pick the best Bridge cameras, Ultra-zoom cameras and Compact cameras. On page three we have a detailed buying guide, which will help you choose the right kind of camera for your needs.
The best cameras to buy in 2016: The definitive guide
The best DSLR and CSC cameras
If you want the ultimate image quality and flexibility, a digital SLR or Compact System Camera is for you. There’s a lot of variation in 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.
1. Canon G7 X Mark II: The best compact camera there is
Price when reviewed: £599
An update to the brilliant G7 X, one of our favourite cameras of 2015, this new model has astounded us by being better yet. The core concept is still the same, take a 1in sensor and marry it with a bright lens in order to provide SLR kit lens quality in a far smaller and more portable package.
The small camera still fits into most pockets. Inside there’s a faster processor for quicker shooting and a better grip on the front, which is greatly appreciated for those times you’re holding a £500+ camera with a single hand. The LCD screen on back now tilts up and down, it’s still a touchscreen, so entering settings can be done using this and with the lens ring around the front, alongside a wealth of other dials and buttons.
It’s photo quality that really stand out, though. The 20-megapixel sensor and f/1.8-2.8 lens produce incredible results in almost all lighting conditions. There’s also a fairly wide 4.2x zoom range, bigger than most SLR kits lenses, so framing shots is a breeze too. The results are packed with detail, with great colours in JPEGs and a lack of noise that’s surprising for such a small camera.
The G7 X Mark II is already a strong contender for our camera of the year, if you need something more portable than a CSC or SLR this is the camera to buy.
Read our full Canon G7 X Mark II review for details
SPECS – Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 4.2x (24-100mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5-7.7, Weight: 319g, Dimensions (HxWxD): 64x108x42mm
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: The best high-end DSLR
Price when reviewed: £3,599
It’s not like the 5D Mark III was a bad camera – it was one of the best high-end DSLRs money could buy. But as you’d hope, Canon has revisited its legendary DSLR and pushed it to ever-greater heights. You now get impressively crisp 4K video recording as part of the package, and autofocus – traditionally a weak point – is now good enough that you can rely on it in most situations. This is a huge step forward for shooting video, but the quality of the photographs you get from the 5D Mark IV is better than ever.
The upgraded 61-point autofocus sensor is a welcome addition; the full-frame sensor now has 30.4 megapixels to play with; and continuous shooting now hits 7fps, up from the 6fps on the previous model. Apart from a few nit-picks, this is a DSLR to be reckoned with. Whether you’re a deep-pocketed amateur or a professional that’s looking for an upgrade on an older model, this is one purchase you’re unlikely to regret.
Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review for details
SPECS – Sensor resolution: 30.4 megapixels, Sensor size: 36x24mm (Full frame), Focal length multiplier: 1x, Viewfinder: Optical TTL, LCD screen: 3.2in (1,620,000 dots), Lens mount: Canon EF, GPS, Wi-Fi, Weight: 800g, Size (HxWxD): 116x151x76mm
3. Fujifilm X-T10: The best CSC for photos – but not video
Price when reviewed: £595
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 an 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.
Read our full Fujifilm X-T10 review for details
SPECS – 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
4. Sony Alpha A6000: The best CSC for photo and video
Price when reviewed: £650
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.
Read our full Sony Alpha A6000 review for details
SPECS – Sensor resolution: 24 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5×15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (921,600 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Sony E mount, Weight: 460g, Size (HxWxD): 70x120x70mm
5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4: The best CSC for 4K video
Price when reviewed: £1,299
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.
SPECS – 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
6. Canon EOS 750D: The best DSLR under £700
Price when reviewed: £617
The new Canon EOS 750D eschews fancy features to concentrate on what’s truly important from a camera – consistent image quality. Images from its new 24-megapixel sensor are consistently brilliant, with the camera’s new metering system providing enviable results in practically any conditions -measuring the brightness across the frame at 7,560 points, with 19 autofocus points.
It’s got a great liveview mode too, handy for those making the leap from compact cameras or smartphones, with responsive subject tracking for sharp shots of moving subjects. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to make sharing photos easier via your smartphone. It’s the perfect SLR for those buying their first one or upgrading from an older model.
Read our full Canon EOS 750D review for details
SPECS – Sensor resolution: 24 megapixels, Sensor size: 22x15mm (APS-C) Focal length multiplier: 1.6x, Viewfinder: Optical, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: EF-Mount, Weight: 771g (body-only), Size (HxWxD): 104x132x148mm
7. Nikon D610: The best full-frame DSLR under £1,500
Price when reviewed: £1,449
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 are all the controls you need and this should be high on your list if you’re serious about buying a DSLR.
Read our full Nikon D610 review for details
SPECS – 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
8. Canon EOS 70D: The best sub-£1000 DSLR for enthusiasts
Price when reviewed: £999
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.
Read our full Canon EOS 70D review for details
SPECS – 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