If you're looking for the best cameras you can buy right now but without spending a fortune, then you're in the right place.
Before you choose, though, you'll need to decide what type of camera you want — because they come in all shapes, sizes and form factors, and with prices ranging from less than $100 to more than $10,000.
We've focused on the slightly lower end of the scale in our guide, so there's nothing here that will set you back more than about $2,500. But even up to that limit you can pick from full-frame mirrorless options that let you swap lenses, DSLRs that do the same but with a few key differences, point-and-shoot models that fit in a pocket, instant cameras that give you a retro shooting experience and action cameras that will shoot fantastic video. It's worth remembering too that a $2,500 is often perfectly capable of even professional photography work, so even if you've got some experience under your belt, this list will have something for you.
We've personally tested every model on this list, evaluating them for picture and video quality, handling, features, and value to come up with our recommendations.
The quick list
Best mirrorless for most
The best mirrorless camera for most people
The Sony a6100 is more than enough camera for most people, packing beautiful stills, 4K video and fast, reliable autofocus into a tiny package thanks to its APS-C sensor.
Best enthusiast mirrorless
The best mirrorless camera for enthusiasts
The Fujifilm X-T5 is an outstanding APS-C enthusiast tier camera. With a 40.2MP sensor, fast AF system and IBIS, it's built primarily for photographers, but packs 6K video for hybrid shooters too.
Best advanced mirrorless
The best mirrorless camera for advanced shooters
The R6 Mark II is as good a camera as you can buy within our price limit, offering fantastic AF, video and stills, albeit at a hefty price.
Best DSLR for most
The best DSLR for most people
If you're still after a DSLR, the EOS Rebel T8i delivers great stills and 4K video in a relatively compact and affordable form. There are lots of lens choices for this camera, too.
Best camera for vloggers
The best camera for vloggers
The Sony ZV-1 is a dedicated compact camera for vlogging, and can output steady 4K video thanks to its built-in optical stabilization.
The best cameras you can buy today
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We've split this list into the best mirrorless, DSLR, compact, action and instant cameras. There's no way of getting around it, DSLRs are no longer the priority for manufacturers, who have mostly pivoted to mirrorless. As such, it's now increasingly difficult to find DSLR models, so the list is pretty short. However, there are still some to be found, so we've included a few of the best.
The best mirrorless cameras
While it's a little old now, thanks to its excellent image quality, great feature set and bargain price, the Sony a6100 isn't just one of the best mirrorless cameras — it's also our favorite camera overall for most people in the casual and enthusiast categories.
The a6100 is compact and well built, with excellent ergonomics: it'll fit comfortably into your hand and all of the controls are easy to reach. In our testing, we were also impressed with the Sony a6100's ability to take sharp, clear photos no matter the situation; its intelligent, fast autofocus certainly helped, as did its 11fps shooting speed. Plus, with a rated battery life of 420 shots, you should be able to get through an entire day without needing a recharge.
The a6100 can also record 4K video, and has a microphone jack for picking up better audio. However, you'll need to look to the Sony a6500 or the a6600 if you want in-body image stabilization.
Still, that's a fair compromise at a price of around $750, or $850 with a lens — it really is a photographic bargain.
The Fujifilm X-T5 is the best mirrorless camera for enthusiast photographers. It may look and feel retro, but under the hood it boasts Fujifilm’s latest 40.2 MP X-Trans CMOS 5 image sensor and X-Processor 5 pairing. The high resolution sensor delivers outstanding image quality and leaves plenty of flexibility for cropping or large-format printing. With so many megapixels to play with, a manual shutter speed of 15 fps and electric shutter speed of 20 fps is impressive. However, in testing, the X-T5's buffers filled very quickly due to the lack of CFExpress ports, so you wont be able to utilize those faster shooting rates for long. Nevertheless, with a deep-learned AI autofocus system, the X-T5 will be able to keep up with even fast-moving subjects.
The ISO range is expandable to 51,200, and while its noise suppression is effective (it has to be when packing this many pixels onto an APS-C sensor), it does lead to an artificial smoothing effect and a loss of detail in images shot at higher sensitivity. Still, we came away with usable images even at ISO 12,800. Strong light metering and a range of Fujifilm’s beautiful color simulation profiles helps the X-T5 offer users a quality result without the need to be a post-production master, while its compact and lightweight design and 5-axis IBIS make it an excellent option for on-the-move shooting. Video performance is decent, offering up to 6K at 30p and 4K at 60p, but this camera is primarily designed for demanding enthusiasts and professional photographers — and there it excels.
Read our full Fujifilm X-T5 review
The original Canon EOS R6 long held the position of the most expensive camera on our best mirrorless cameras list. And the Canon EOS R6 Mark II continues that legacy. That said, while it's pricey, you get a lot for your money, The R6 Mark II is a camera designed for serious enthusiasts and professionals, with a feature set to match.
The EOS R6 Mark II is a professional hybrid camera, meaning it's designed for both stills and video. Its relatively modest megapixel count of 24.2 means it won't be the best for large photography printing jobs, but on the flip result in larger photosites (essentially pixels) than on a higher resolution sensor and therefore better low light performance. For video, there's 4K at 60p in 10-bit color, HDR PQ and C Log 3 available, all of which provide greater post-production flexibility for pro filmmakers.
Canon's deep-learned AI autofocus is just phenomenal, and can track human eys and faces, animals and vehicles, making this a versatile tool for different genres of photography.
If we're nitpicking, we'd have liked to see Canon's highest level BSI (Back Side Illuminated) sensor equipped, and pro users might have liked an OLED top panel display, as you'd find on the similarly priced APS-C Fujifilm X-H2S, and the EOS R5 (this camera's bigger sibling). However, if you have the budget, this is the camera to get.
Read our full Canon EOS R6 Mark II review.
Sony proudly boasts that its mirrorless A7C is the smallest and lightest interchangeable lens full-frame camera in the world, and it really is a marvel of engineering. Gone are the days when you'd get shoulder-ache from carrying around a hefty full-frame DSLR — with a weight of just 17 ounces, you'd hardly know the A7C was even there. Add in the similarly featherweight 28-60mm kit lens and you have a quality camera that you can easily take with you on trips out. Sony has made some compromises to achieve that small footprint, though; it lacks some of the controls you might expect and the EVF could be bigger. It's not cheap, either — but on the plus side it's a great performer, serving up sharp images and video with a wide dynamic range. If size is you main consideration, it's well worth a look.
Read our full Sony A7C review
The Fujifilm X-T30 II is one of the best mirrorless cameras you can pick up for under $1,000. We loved the original Fujifilm X-T30, as it offered many of the same features as higher end cameras in the Fuji lineup. Given the formula was such a good one, we can forgive the X-T30 II for not being too much changed from its predecessor.
The X-T30 II offers stunning image quality to match its beautiful retro looks, performing well in most lighting conditions, thanks to its brilliant X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4 combo.
The X-T30 II is an ideal mid-range choice for enthusiast photographers wanting beautiful, artistic imagery, as it comes packaged with 18 of Fuji's legendary film simulation profiles. It's lightweight, built extremely well and offers a respectable 1.62m dot LCD (upgraded from the 1.04m dots screen in the original) and decent 3.62m dot EVF.
There's an awfully annoying Q button on the back, though, and video performance is limited thanks to a lack of IBIS, and a cap of 30p and 30-minutes when shooting in 4K. If your main purpose is video, check out the Sony a6600 instead, as the X-T30 II is first and foremost a camera for photography.
Read our full Fujifilm X-T30 II review.
At the top end of Sony's Alpha line of APS-C mirrorless cameras is the Sony a6600, which has everything you want: an excellent processor that delivers a wide ISO range (100-32,000), AI-enabled eye autofocusing in both still and video, 5-axis in-body image stabilization, 4K/60 fps video, and a speedy 11 fps shooting speed. Top that with a battery that can last up to 720 shots, and you've got one of the best camera options for the price.
In our Sony a6600 review, we were impressed with the image and video quality, as well as the camera's handling. It's made of a solid magnesium-alloy frame, and is both dust and moisture-resistant. It has a large, bright electronic viewfinder, as well as a 3-inch touchscreen that flips up a full 180 degrees and down 74 degrees. If you don't want to pay full freight for one of Sony's full-frame a7 cameras, the a6600 is the one to check out.
The a6600 is now ageing a little, though, and is soon to be succeeded by the a6700. There are also other APS-C mirrorless cameras that boast stronger video credentials, such as the Fujifilm X-T5. Nevertheless, the a6600 is still a decent video performer, especially if you're already a user or a fan of Sony.
Read our full Sony Alpha a6600 review.
The EOS R10 is aimed at casual and intermediate photographers and can be had for around $1,000 with a kit lens. However, we've seen this camera go for much less than that on offer, potentially making this a great choice for beginners too.
The Canon EOS R10 is super lightweight and relatively compact — ideal for a street or travel camera. Our Cameras editor Peter Wolinski spent a few days using it and was impressed with its autofocus system, which can track both human and animal eyes. This makes it great for anyone who likes taking photos of animals and wildlife, too.
The EOS R10 also offers some impressive video features, shooting 4K/60p — a rare feature in its price range — and offering up to 10-bit color for a wide color gamut. The R10 doesn’t feature IBIS or a 720-shot battery like our best mirrorless camera for video, the Sony a6600. But if your budget can’t stretch to the Sony, the R10’s 4K/60p and superb autofocus make it an ideal tool for aspiring video-creators stepping up from a smartphone.
However, the EOS R10’s lightweight design causes the body to feel cheap in-hand. Currently Canon’s RF-S lineup of bespoke APS-C lenses for their mirrorless R-System, is also lacking, meaning you’ll have to settle for non-native full frame RF lenses if you want fast maximum apertures or prime lenses.
Read our full Canon EOS R10 review.
The Nikon Z50 isn't a full-frame mirrorless camera like the Z6 and Z7 models, but it's available at a much cheaper price of around $850 (body only) and comes in a much smaller package, making it a great choice for Nikon fans who don't want to spend upwards of $1,000.
It offers a solid feature set including a 3.2-inch touchscreen that flips down by 180-degrees and a sharp 3-inch electronic viewfinder, and its 20.9MP stills are detailed and colorful. It's a fine performer in low light, too, handling noise well up to ISO 6400. The lack of in-body image stabilization counts against it, but otherwise it's an impressive option in an increasingly crowded space.
Read our full Nikon Z 50 review.
The best DSLR cameras
DSLRs are no longer the priority for most camera manufacturers, save Pentax. However, if you're still a DSLR lover at heart, most casual photographers will find the Canon EOS Rebel T8i to be the best camera for them if they're looking for them. Like its predecessors, the T8i takes excellent photos and has a number of handy built-in guides to help newbies learn the ins and outs of the camera.
The EOS Rebel T8i can also shoot video at a resolution of 4K; while the framerate is capped at 24 fps, it should suffice for those who want to capture higher-quality movies. It also has a microphone jack for better audio and can even shoot vertical video, ideal for social media.
You'll need to bear in mind though, that Canon have completely stopped development of their DSLR system and EF lens mount in favor of the mirrorless R-System and RF lens mount. As such, while you can still pick up lots of EF lenses easily both new and second hand, you should consider whether a Canon DSLR is the best long term option.
Read our full Canon EOS Rebel T8i review.
Sporting a 24-megapixel sensor, 3.2-inch swiveling touchscreen and compatibility with a huge range of lenses, the Nikon D5600 is the best camera for most people looking for a Nikon DSLR. In our tests, we found it took great photos, and has a nice wide usable ISO range. We also liked its battery life; rated at 970 shots, we were able to easily make it through a day's worth of shooting. With Nikon's traditional d-pad and a number of dials and knobs, it's great for experienced photographers looking for full-featured manual controls, while still including a number of assisted shooting modes to help teach and educate beginners.
One of our quibbles with the D5600 is that it can only capture video at a maximum resolution of 1080p/60 fps. However, that's not unreasonable for a camera at this price, and it has a dedicated microphone jack. All in all, it's a great kit.
Read our full Nikon D5600 review.
The Pentax K-3 III is the newest DSLR on the block, and it's a very good one — albeit with a few irritations. On the plus side, image quality from the new 25.7-megapixel APS-C sensor is outstanding, serving up bags of detail and accurate colors. Noise is supremely well controlled, and together with 5-axis in-body image stabilization that helps you get great shots in low light. Build quality is also excellent, with full weatherproofing, and there are plenty of manual controls; it's a fine camera to use.
Against that, autofocus can miss the mark at times and 4K video is only available in cropped mode. It won't rival the best mirrorless cameras in those regards, but as a straight still shooter it's an excellent addition to Pentax's line-up.
Read our full Pentax K-3 III review.
The best compact cameras
The Sony ZV-1 is the only entry in our best camera list that's aimed squarely at vloggers — and if filming yourself for videos on YouTube or similar is important to you, then it's well worth considering.
Although based on Sony's RX series of high-end point-and-shoot cameras, it comes with a number of features to make vlogging that bit easier. For instance, it has a swiveling touchscreen LCD screen that opens on the side rather than vertically, so it doesn't get in the way while filming. And it has several specialist modes, including one that smooths out skin and one that swiftly switches focus from person to product. There's also a directional mic and an included wind muff to improve audio performance.
Autofocus is generally good and the 4K video and 20MP stills are high quality too, but image stabilization isn't the best — if you're shooting on the go, a DSLR or mirrorless camera on a gimbal will be a better bet. Still, it's well priced and can also act as a webcam thanks to a firmware upgrade.
Read our full Sony ZV-1 review.
Packing a fantastic, sharp 20-MP 1-inch sensor and 15x optical zoom lens in a pocket-friendly body makes the Panasonic Lumix ZS200 as the best camera for those who want to take great vacation photos, but don't want to schlep a larger mirrorless or DSLR around. This camera measures just 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.8 inches and weighs 12 ounces, so you can stuff it in a pocket with ease.
The ZS200 has plenty of physical controls for its size, and still manages to pack in an electronic viewfinder — a must for those days when the sun washes out the camera's non-swiveling 3-inch touchscreen. We found that the ZS200 performed well in a variety of situations, including low-light photography; we were able to shoot as high as ISO 6400 without image noise becoming too much of a distraction. While there's no hot shoe, the camera does have a pretty robust built-in flash. And, the ZS200 can record 4K video as well, which should get you some really nice vacation home movies.
Read our full Panasonic Lumix ZS200 review.
The best action cameras
The GoPro Hero11 Black has a large 1/1.9-inch image sensor with an 8:7 aspect ratio. This squarish format lets you capture expansive views, but more importantly, gives you much more flexibility when editing the video afterwards. In the GoPro Quik app, you can output your video in a number of formats, including the TikTok-friendly 9:16 ratio.
What also makes the Hero11 Black the best action camera overall is its superior image stabilization — you can literally rotate the camera all the way around, and it will keep the horizon level. New shooting modes also let you capture star trails and try your hand at light painting, and GoPro's Quik app makes editing your videos a real pleasure.
Read our full GoPro Hero 11 Black review.
If you're after something small, you can't really beat the Insta360 Go 3 — a tiny, thumb-sized action camera that builds upon the great reputation of its predecessor, the Go 2.
The Go 3 offers up to 2.7K video at 30fps, as well as FreeFrame video, where you can change the aspect ratio of your footage after shooting. It's water resistant down to 16 feet small enough to take pretty much everywhere. What's more, Insta360 offer a range of awesome accessories to allow you to use the tiny Go 3 in pretty much any scenario you can imagine. It's truly designed to go on any adventure with you.
Thanks to the new Action Pod, which replaces the Go 2's case, the Go 3 is now a bonafide vlogging tool — featuring a flip up screen and up to 170 minutes of battery life.
However, the size of the Go 3 means some sacrifices have had to be made. There's no removable storage, no external microphone support and no 4K video. As such, if you're looking to shoot professional-grade video, you'd be better off looking at the GoPro Hero11 Black, which costs a similar amount of money at the expense of size.
Read our full Insta360 Go 3 review.
The best instant cameras
The Mini 40 is more than just an instant camera — it's an instant camera in a seriously cool retro body. Alright, so that alone isn't enough to make it worthy of recommendation, but the fact that you'll actually want to take it out and show it off certainly doesn't hurt. Fortunately, Fujifilm hasn't forgotten the really important stuff here: the Instax Mini 40 is incredibly simple to use and takes lovely photos, with vibrant colors and good exposures.
While it lacks the bells and whistles of some instant cameras — there's no smartphone app and it can't double as a printer, for instance — it's not without any features either. So, you do get a selfie mode, plus a constantly firing flash that gives it better skills in low-light conditions. At less than $100, it's the kind of camera you could treat yourself to for a holiday or special occasion and have lots of fun with.
Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 review
How to choose the best camera for you
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best camera for you. The first question you should ask yourself is what do you plan to shoot? If you're doing more portrait photography, and don't plan on moving the camera around a lot, a DSLR may be the best way to go. If you're looking for something more mobile, a mirrorless camera is probably a better bet. Be sure to check out our DSLR vs. mirrorless camera guide, which goes into detail about those two camera systems, and also scroll down for a bit more info about all of the options.
It's important to be realistic about your abilities and your intended use, as you can easily spend thousands of dollars on equipment that you don't need, or don't know how to use. Before making a purchase, it's also worth your time to go to a camera store to see how a particular model feels in your hands, and how comfortable you are holding it.
What different types of camera are there?
DSLRs — or digital single-lens reflex cameras — use a mirror to reflect light from the lens on to the sensor, and as a result are bigger and heavier than mirrorless cams. But they're still a great choice for beginners and enthusiasts alike, thanks to the ability to swap out lenses, good handling, sturdy build quality and excellent battery life. Some are also quite cheap these days, and they also benefit from large lens and accessory lineups. Canon and Nikon are the main players, with Pentax another option. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, but you can get a good one for as little as $450.
Here's our guide to the best DSLR cameras.
These do away with the mirror of a DSLR but have the same advantage of being able to change the lens. As camera makers have switched to mirrorless they tend to get the latest tech, so they are often faster and have better autofocus and video options, plus features such as in-body stabilization. They're smaller and lighter, too, but battery life is not as good and there aren't as many lenses. Canon and Nikon both make mirrorless cams now, but the biggest player is Sony. Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic are all alternatives. Prices are similar to DSLRs.
Here's our guide to the best mirrorless cameras.
Also known as compact cameras, they can't swap lenses but are much smaller and lighter than either DSLRs or mirrorless cams. Some are small enough to fit in a pocket and they make great travel cameras. This is a broad category, with many different options; you can choose one for under $100 that you use simply as an alternative to a smartphone, or spend $1000 and get something with a big sensor and that takes photos to rival those from a DSLR. Sub-categories include tough cameras that you can use underwater or in extreme conditions and bridge cameras, which have a large body and very long zoom range.
Here's our guide to the best point-and-shoot cameras.
As the name suggests, instant cameras give you a physical photo as soon as you press the shutter (or a few seconds afterwards). They're basically what the old Polaroid cameras were, but updated — and indeed, Polaroid still makes some of the best. Many of them use different film formats that vary in size, so make sure you choose one that fits your needs. And also look out for extra features such as app integration and a flash.
Here's our guide to the best instant cameras.
These tend to be focused more on video than stills, although they will all do both. GoPro is the main player here (check out our guide to the best GoPro cameras for more), but all are designed to capture your daring exploits in (ideally) 4K footage.
Here's our guide to the best action cameras.
Cameras vs smartphones: Do you even need a digital camera?
These days, almost everyone has a very capable camera in their pocket, in the form of a smartphone. So is there still a need for a dedicated camera in 2023? To an extent, that depends on what type of camera you're talking about.
The best camera phones have now reached a level that would have seemed impossible a few years, with the likes of the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra packing multiple lenses, large sensors (for a phone) and advanced software tricks. People can and do take incredible photos with their phone every day, and in some situations there really is no need for a dedicated camera.
But some types of camera still have key advantages over a phone. DSLRs and mirrorless cams, for instance, are still capable of taking better images than a smartphone in many situations.
That's partly due to sensor size — even the biggest smartphone sensors are many times smaller than those in an enthusiast DSLR. And because sensor size plays a key role in how much light a camera gathers, that has a massive effect on the overall quality of an image.
Lenses are another factor: while smartphones may have one or two wide-angle lens plus one telephoto lens, mirrorless cams and DSLRs have a choice of dozens, each optimized for its specific focal length or task.
Instant cameras can also do something that smartphones can't, while rugged cameras also have an advantage in one specific area (namely that they won't break if dropped down a mountain). With compact cameras, it's a different matter though, and unless you're looking for a really long zoom range, a smartphone may now be a perfectly good alternative.
Of course as the old adage has it, the best camera is the one you have with you — so either way, just make sure you get out there and use it.
How we test the best cameras
Regardless of the type of camera we review, they're all subjected to a similar testing regimen: we use them in a variety of settings, including low light, outdoors, indoors and more. We also photograph a number of subjects, such as people and pets, to see how well the camera captures skin tones. If a camera comes with a kit lens, we generally use that lens with the camera, to more closely emulate the same experience as consumers purchasing the camera.
In addition to still and video quality, we also rate the camera based on its ease of use: are the physical controls easy to access, and are the menus logically laid out? Finally, we evaluate the camera's battery life and other features, such as wireless control. Once we've done all that, we're in a position to decide whether a model deserves to be on our best camera list.
Be sure to check out all of our camera picks:
Best DSLR cameras | Best action cameras | Best waterproof cameras | Best point-and-shoot cameras | Best instant cameras | Best mirrorless cameras | Best cheap cameras | Best GoPro camera | Best GoPro accessories | Best drones | Best 360 cameras | Best iPhone lenses | Best iPhone tripods |DSLR vs. mirrorless | Best Nikon accessories | Best Sony a6000 accessories | Best ring lights | Best ring lights for phones | best cameras for vlogging
The best apps and software for editing, managing, and sharing your photos:
Best photo organizer apps | Best photo storage sites | Best photo editing software | Best photo editing apps | Best photo collage apps