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Shopping for a digital camera? We’re here to help. PCMag reviews all types of photo gear, everything from pocket friendly cameras to high-end gear for pro photographers. It’s a diverse space, one that can be hard to navigate if you don’t spend all of your free time reading photo blogs and talking about your favorite new lens on an enthusiast forum.

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We’re here to help you find a camera that suits your needs, regardless of whether you’re a family photographer looking for something better than a basic Android phone, or an enthusiast trying to decide between an SLR or mirrorless camera system.

If you have an idea of what type of camera you’re looking for, you can look at the list up top for a quick recommendation. Otherwise, read on as we break down each type of camera you can buy, and point you toward some of your best options. PCMag reviews dozens of cameras each year, we’re here to help you find one that fits your needs.

Pocket Friendly: Entry-Level Point-and-Shoot Cameras

It’s no secret that smartphones have seriously hurt the demand for entry-level point-and-shoot cameras. The latest from Apple, the iPhone 13, is a better camera than any low-cost compact, and Android fans can net great snapshots with handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the Hasselblad-powered OnePlus 9. High-end phones cost, but if you’re already buying a fancy phone, there’s no reason to buy a low-end camera too. If you’ve embraced smartphone photography, peruse our top camera phone picks to help find your next phone (and check out tips for taking the best smartphone photos).

The Best Digital Camera Deals This Week*

*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains

  • Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera Bundle — $599.00
  • Sony Alpha 7R IV Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Body — $3,498.00

If you aren’t a smartphone user, or have opted to go for a basic model without a fancy computational camera, you can buy any number of sub-$100 no-name cameras at online retailers, but I’d avoid them like the plague. If you can spend more than a $100, you’ll get the best results by sticking to a Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, or Sony model.

Most sub-$200 cameras pack decent zoom power, setting them apart from smartphones, but are built around older CCD sensor technology. The 20MP CCD sensors used across the current generation has plenty of resolution, but suffers in dim light and limits video to 720p quality.

Moving up to the $200 to $400 price nets more modern CMOS image sensors and very long zoom lenses—30x is the standard at this point. For the most part video is still 1080p, and you’ll also see some cameras with small electronic viewfinders, Raw shooting capability, and very quick autofocus. Pure image quality isn’t any better than a midrange smartphone, with the real advantage being the zoom lens.

Adventure-Proof: Underwater and Rugged Cameras

Olympus Tough cameras are waterproof (Photo: Paul Maljak)

A rugged, waterproof camera is a good option if you’re an outdoor adventurer, snorkeler, beachgoer, or just a bit of a klutz. For around $450 the Olympus Tough TG-6 is our favorite, it’s easily the best rugged compact available today. If you don’t want to spend that much, you can get a Ricoh WG-70 for under $300, or the slim Panasonic Lumix TS30 for less than $200. We’ve broken down our favorite waterproof cameras in a separate story.

You can also go the action cam route. You’ll get better video and quality still images from the GoPro Hero10 Black or DJI Action 2, but you’ll give up zoom power to get there. It’s a trade-off you may want to make, especially if you’re interested in slow-motion video. For more, click through to see our favorite action cams.

Small Camera, Big Sensor: Premium Compacts

You may scratch your head when you see pocket cameras with fixed lenses selling for anywhere from $400 to $1,300. After all, you can get an interchangeable lens model for the same price. But these slim, premium shooters target a very specific market—photographers who already own a mirrorless camera or SLR and a bunch of lenses, but want something small as an alternative option.

Pocket cameras with 1-inch sensors compete with iPhones on image quality, offer some zoom power, and have sounder ergonomics for handheld photography. These are the type of models that dominate our top point-and-shoot list.

Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II (Photo: Jim Fisher)

If you’re interested in a basic big-sensor model, the Canon G9 X Mark II is a solid pick for under $500. You can spend more on a G7 X Mark III to add a tilt screen and step up to a better lens, or go for our Editors’ Choice G5 X Mark II and its eye-level electronic viewfinder. Canon’s G series competes with the long-running Sony RX100 family—they’re all cameras

Some enthusiast-oriented models include even bigger sensors, from Micro Four Thirds up to full-frame, typically with matched with a quality prime lens. The Fujfiilm X100V is the best of the bunch, and one of the few compacts out there with a big optical viewfinder.

Fujifilm X100V (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Its competitors vary greatly in concept and form. The Ricoh GR III and IIIx are built for urban documentary imaging, with ergonomics titled for one-handed operation and a snapshot focus mode for focus-free imaging. Going the other direction, the boutique Zeiss ZX1 includes Adobe Lightroom built-in, along with a big touch screen.

And we can’t forget to mention the Leica Q2 Monochrom, one of the few digitals out there with a sensor made just for black-and-white imaging. These aren’t big tent cameras, but it can be rewarding to stray from the beaten path.

Zoom in Close: Bridge Cameras

You can opt for a fixed-lens camera that’s sized and shaped a lot like an SLR—a bridge camera. These models tend to have really long lenses—the Nikon P1000 has the most optical zoom power, 125x. Long lenses require some extra care to use, so these cameras usually include an eye-level EVF, a hot shoe to mount accessories, and an articulating display.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS (Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Bridge models may look like interchangeable lens cameras, but typically don’t do well in dim light. Our favorite consumer model, the 65x zoom power Canon PowerShot SX70 HS, gets tight views for backyard birding and trips to the zoo, but its lens is best used outdoors under the sun.

You can spend a bit more for a big sensor bridge camera. The midrange Panasonic FZ1000 II and premium Sony RX10 IV are built around bigger image sensors and have optics that gather more light—both advantages for use in tough light.

Entry-Level Interchangeable Lens: SLR and Mirrorless

If you’re shopping for a starter camera with swappable lenses you’ve got a choice to make: go the old route and get an SLR, or spend a little bit more on a more capable mirrorless camera.

Both types of cameras use changeable lenses, backed by image sensors that dwarf those used by in pocket and bridge cameras. SLRs use an optical viewfinder and mirror to direct light to your eye, and a discrete phase detection sensor to set autofocus.

Nikon D3500 (Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Mirrorless cameras drop the optical finder, most have an OLED electronic viewfinder in its place. Autofocus is performed from the image sensor, for better subject recognition and tracking than entry SLRs.

SLRs aren’t the wonders they once were, but you can usually get started with one for less than a mirrorless camera. The NIkon D3500 is our favorite, priced around $600 with a lens. If you prefer a Canon model we recommend stepping up to the midrange EOS Rebel SL3, the basic Rebel T7 is one to avoid.

Fujifilm X-T30 (Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

Cameras from Fujifilm and Sony, and Micro Four Thirds models from the OM System (the new name for Olympus) and Panasonic, are among the leading mirrorless brands. There are many good options under $1,000 suitable for general photography. These affordable mirrorless cameras are quicker to focus than SLRs, support high-speed burst modes, and 4K video.

You’ll want to take some care selecting a camera if you expect to buy some extra lenses, but all have the basic options covered. Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm, and Sony cameras have the biggest selection of lenses, while Canon EOS M and Nikon Z lag behind.

For Serious Shutterbugs: Premium Mirrorless and SLR

When you spend more than $1,000 for a camera, you don’t necessarily see a big jump in image quality versus entry-level models. Camera makers like to streamline sensors across an entire line of models, as it allows them to develop technology once that can be used across their catalog.

Your extra money typically gets you better build quality, faster memory card slots for longer burst shooting, and higher capture rates. All of these are important for enthusiasts interested in capturing fast action, and outdoor photographers who want some level of weather protection.

Fujifilm X-T4 (Photo: Jim Fisher)

The Fujifilm X-T4 is our favorite mirrorless camera for shutterbugs and enthusiasts. We love its sturdy construction, quick autofocus, and stabilized image sensor. It’s a real do-it-all camera, with a strong system of lenses behind it. We also like the Sony a6600 and Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II.

We tend to recommend EVF cameras more highly—on-sensor autofocus leads to more in-focus shots, and models with stabilized sensors do a good job reducing the number of blurry, shaky photos you’ll take. Mirrorless cameras dominate our list of favorite interchangeable lens cameras.

Pentax K-3 Mark III (Photo: Jim Fisher)

If you prefer an optical viewfinder we recommend you take a look at the Canon EOS 90D, Nikon D500, or Pentax K-3 Mark III. The 90D has the fullest set of lenses behind it, and the best video toolkit of the bunch. The Pentax K-3 Mark III is a bit better built, and has some very specialized lenses, including a fan favorite line of compact primes, DA LimitedTweet Share

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A Bigger Sensor: Full-Frame

Full-frame cameras—those with image sensors that match the size of 35mm film—are accessible options for enthusiasts thanks to falling prices. Basic models start around $1,000, capable midrange options can be had for around $2,000. You can spend more for a specialty model, they range anywhere from $3,000 all the way up to $6,500.

Canon EOS RP (Photo: Jim Fisher)

The Canon EOS RP is our favorite low-cost model. Its feature set covers the basics, and Canon has done a fine job adding affordable lens options since its release. It is missing a stabilized image sensor, something you can get with the RP’s competitors, Nikon Z 5 and Sony a7C.

Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Our midrange pick is the Panasonic Lumix DC-S5, and L-mount mirrorless with a stabilized sensor and 10-bit video. We also continue to recommend the older Sony a7 III, it’s still one of the better midrange picks years into its lifespan. We’ve not yet reviewed its successor, the a7 IV, it has some significant upgrades, but comes with a price increase too—$2,500 versus $2,000 for the a7 III.

For more specialized recommendations and models, as well as an overview of what each full-frame camera system offers, be sure to read our full-frame camera buying guide.

Bigger Than Full-Frame: Medium Format

Medium format digital cameras used to be the tools reserved for the most successful (or well-funded) photographers. You can still drop $50,000 on a Phase One IQ4 150MP if you’d like, but for most of us the prospect is rather silly. Medium format doesn’t have to cost that much.

Hasselblad 907X (Photo: Jim Fisher)

Fujifilm’s GFX line has dropped the price of entry to medium format to its lowest point, $4,000 for a 50MP GFX 50S II or $6,000 for the 100MP GFX 100S. That’s still quite a bit of money, but loads less than in years past, especially when you consider both of these cameras have a stabilized image sensor.

Fujfiilm isn’t the only game in town. Hasselblad has its own mirrorless medium format system, one that includes the analog throwback 907X. Pentax still sells its medium format SLR, the 645Z, too, if you prefer an optical viewfinder.

What Is the Best Camera to Buy for a Beginner Photographer?

Smartphones and basic point-and-shoots are designed for automatic operation. If you want to take up photography as a hobby, or aspire to be a photojournalist or wedding pro, you’ll want to get a camera that gives you room to grow and learn the craft.This ad will end in 1 

I’d recommend getting a good mirrorless camera to start. The Sony a6400 or Fujifilm X-T30 can be used in fully automatic mode, but also offer total manual control over exposure. Because they use electronic viewfinders, you can see a preview of your final exposure before you take the shot. If you’re thinking about starting with a full-frame model—the type of camera most pros use—think about the Canon EOS RP or Nikon Z 5 as a starter model.

Nikon Z 5 (Photo: Jim Fisher)

When shopping for a starter camera, ask yourself some questions about what you want. Take a look at the size, as a camera isn’t any good if you’re not going to carry and use it. But also think about connectivity—you probably want to copy images to your smartphone easily—and price. Ease of use isn’t a huge hurdle these days—everything has an auto mode—but models with guided interfaces will let you take some sort of control over how your photos turn out, without having to know too much technical jargon.

Kicking It Old School: Film Cameras

You don’t have to get a digital camera to get a camera. Film is still an option, with instant cameras being extremely popular. Instant formats take away the hassle of getting film developed, and make it easy to share physical images with friends and family immediately after they’ve been captured. You can get an entry-level model for around $65, and film packs generally cost around $7.50. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is our favorite basic model, and the SQ1 is there if you prefer square prints.

The Lomography Sprocket Rocket captures panoramic images with exposed sprocket holes (Photo: Jim Fisher)

You can also buy a new 35mm or medium format camera. You don’t have as many options for getting film developed as you used to—if you’re in a major city it’ll be easy to find a lab, but you may have to resort to mail order if you’re not close to a metropolis. You can find old film SLRs and compacts in thrift shops and online stores pretty easily. If you’re intent on buying a new model, Lomography still makes a bunch of different ones, from toy models like the Sprocket Rocket, which captures panoramic shots with exposed sprockets, to premium options like the medium format LC-A 120.

The Best Cameras for Travelers

Not surprisingly, we find bridge models to be just about perfect for globetrotters. They pack a wide zoom range, so you don’t have to fumble with lens changes. And if you opt for a premium 1-inch model you can shoot in varying types of light. But you may want a different kind of camera to take with you on your journeys.

If you want something more pocket-friendly, a point-and-shoot can do the trick. But be prepared to get a little spendy for a camera worthy of your exotic destinations. For the rough-and-tumble crowd, I recommend the Olympus TG-6 due to its bright lens and tough build. (If you’re more of a video person, don’t forget about the GoPro Hero10 Black.)

The Sony RX100 series is sized for travel (Photo: Zlata Ivleva)

For more leisurely vacations, reach for a premium compact like a Sony RX100 model or Canon G7 X Mark III and enjoy the comfortable form factor of a camera and image quality that’s a tad better than your smartphone.

If you don’t mind carrying something larger, a good mirrorless camera (and a couple of lenses) will fit easily into a small bag and net images and videos worthy of sharing with friends and family back home. The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is a good affordable option, and there are alternatives like the Fujifilm X-E4 that are a bit more stylish.

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