One of the greatest things about the modern era is being able to easily document and organize your life through digital photographs and videos. Now it’s simpler than ever to carry a camera with you anywhere, snapping pictures of your life as it happens. Whether you’re an amateur who wants take that step toward photography, an extreme sports lover who needs to capture proof of your crazy stunts or an experienced photographer who wants some top-tier equipment, this list will help you find the best camera for your needs and budget.
Here are 10 powerful, professional cameras you’ll get year of use from, whether you’re just starting out or just looking to expand and enhance your equipment.
1. A7R II – Best Mirrorless Stills Camera
It’s rare for a camera this cheap to get called “The best photography camera on the planet,” but indeed, the A7RII, short of some scientific imaging equipment, may be the best light-capturing device on Earth. According to DXOMark, a website that ranks cameras based on their sensors, the A7RII is the best overall camera– at least that’s available for under $42,500.
It’s not too surprising since the parameters DXOmark looks at are all virtually unsurpassed in the A7Rii: color depth, low light, and dynamic range metrics are all through the roof. It boasts great color depth, superb dynamic range (14 stops) and can still hang at high ISOs (considered clean to around 3200).
All of that would clinch the deal for many, but this camera also has a stratospheric 42 megapixel sensor, small body (it’s a mirrorless), it shoots uncompressed raw and shoots at a decent pace of five FPS. Autofocus is praised as rapid and effective. For video fans, it shoots 4k in Slog 2, meaning it has comparable dynamic range abilities to the a7s (though Slog 3 is what separates the a7s ii from the crowd).
So what’s not to like?
First off, it’s overkill for the vast majority of users. It’s a Lamborghini when most will do just fine with a Honda Civic. One simply does not need 42.4 megapixels to post to Instagram. Moreover, it has some marks that make it a bit annoying to use: no weather proofing, lack of a touch screen, those horrific Sony ergonomics (one can always buy a cage , however), and a pretty shot battery life (we reccomend a battery grip)
Price: $2898 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Among the best prosumer camera for stills and photography
- 42.4 megapixels and 4K video; the a7r ii captures detail in spades
- Hybrid AF is zippy and can focus quite rapidly
- ISO sensitivity up to 102,400 ISO; shoots clean up to 3200 ISO
- Top of the line dynamic range and bit depth
- Noted as a camera that has moved many from film to digital
- Sony is not known for ergonomics and interface design
- Some people find the AF performance lackluster
- No touch screen for quick auto-focusing, maneuvering
- No weather-sealing means don’t get it wet
- Battery life is short
2. Nikon D3400 With 18-55 Lens, The Best Value for Photography
On paper, the D3400 doesn’t sound too spicy. It shoots 24 megapixels at five fps. It includes a decent lens. It doesn’t really have any features that make it pop; though it does shot video that’s decent (see below). Much like the a7r ii, the D3400 is the best value not because it does something other cameras can’t do, it just takes great dang pictures because it has a superb sensor.
According to DXOMark, the Internet’s number one source for sensor information, the D3400 has around the 30th best sensor of any camera available on the market today. 30th place is nothing to buy your kid a car over, but when DXOmark’s best cameras list is mostly cameras above $2,000 and something this cheap pops up, it’s just a plain great deal. These image samples (DPreview.com) show that the D3400 punches well above its class. At this price or even well above double, one simply can’t buy better photos.
Price: $396.96 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Captures 24.2 megapixels at five frames per second
- Great battery life last for 700+ photos
- Image quality is unmatched by any sub-$1000 camera
- Shoots 60 frame per second 1080P video
- One user has a problem with a button breaking
- Small viewfinder window can make focusing tough
- Low light ability is limited; photographys can be noisy
- Some users reported issues with the flash
- Video quality is not in the same league as its photos
3. GoPro HERO5 Black, The Ultimate Action Camera
If you’re in the market for an action camera, you’ve doubtlessly heard of the GoPro. What you may not have heard is that the latest iteration is a fundamental improvement on every aspect of this hugely popular line of actions cameras. Boasting RAW photograph capability and GoPro’s video codec, cineform, GoPro has rapidly made the transition from cool toy to filmmaker tool.
Beyond the amazing footage quality, one gets other cool features like the fact that it’s waterproof, out of the box. Now, it has an LCD screen on the back; so you can see what you get. As with all other models of GoPro, their app ecosystem is more developed than ever, meaning your photo can be used to record video and also to monitor what your GoPro sees. As far as action camera go (and have gone), it just doesn’t get any better.
- Most powerful and easiest GoPro to use yet
- Better audio than any previous GoPro or action camera on the market
- No waterproof housing needing;this GoPro is h20-friendly out of the box
- Built-in stabilization feature helps makes moving shots a bit less shaky
- GoPro app ecosystem is as good as it gets for action cameras
- Battery life is short at about 80 minutes
- Might be overkill for many users
- It’s the best GoPro for low light yet, but it’s not very good
- GoPros are only for action shots; watching anything else shot with this wide of a lens can be taxing; it’s a one trick pony for action
4. AKASO EK7000 4K, The Best Value Action Camera
If in 2010, someone said that in 2017, one could get a solid 4k camera for a little bit over $83, we’d have slapped them. Alas, the Akaso EK7000 proves one doesn’t need to break the bank to get very solid action camera footage that’s as detailed as anything else out there. 4k at 25fps and 1080p at 60fps are amazing features for a camera at this price range. The Akaso also includes water proof housing.
The Akaso also has built-in Wifi and a wireless remote control, but there are a bit on the cheap side. Likewise, the inclusion of two batteries isn’t a huge boon as each one only lasts 90 minutes at best. Still, at this amazing price, it’s hard to expect much. There is but one serious drawback with the Akaso EK7000; you’ll need a decent computer to process the footage. It’s wrapped in a codec that can make processing difficult.
Still, the gripes are minor. The bottom line is that for a low price, one can get unreal action cam footage. It’s less than a 1/4 price of a GoPro, but compare the video: it’s 80% as good by my eyes.
- 60fps 1080P and Full 4K resolution at 25 fps
- Includes 2 batteries with max lifespan of 180 minutes
- Waterproof-housing makes the Akaso good for depths down to 100 feet
- Records 10 minute clips meaning long files are divided into many parts
- Lowlight performance is on the “meh” side
- Camera uses cumbersome file format meaning editing is only doable on a powerful PC
- Photograph quality isn’t great
- Audio quality is poor
5. A7S II – For The Filmmaker
The a7s ii is a low light champion and for 4k video, it’s about as good as it gets. While some will prefer GH5 for its superior ergonomics, stills, and higher bit rate, it’s hard to argue that any camera under $3,000 shoots video that looks better than this one. Still, if you’re interested in the GH5, for many it is a better overall value, read more in my article, GH5 vs a7s ii).
It’s praised for its reasonably compact codec (100mbps 4k) and insane ISO range (clean at 25,600 for video). It has a fold-out screen and while it the ergonomics are middling, this is remedied by purchasing a cage.
For all its merits as a video camera, it’s not quite as good with stills. 12 megapixels is a phone camera in this day and age, but it does still handle high ISOs pretty well, about up to 10,000 ISO.
The menus might be annoying, along with the short battery life and poor ergonomics, but these are but minor hurdles for the video shooter intent on owning a camera which shoots footage that’s sooner compared to an Arri Alexa than the market offerings of Canon and Nikon.
- Low light footage is incomparable
- Great dynamic range, better than anything in its price bracket
- Solid low light shooting for photos
- 100mbps codec is reasonably compact
- Can shoot video at 25,600 ISO with little to no noise
- Not weather sealed; sensitive to any kind of climate
- Ergonomics of a cube; menu system requires much clicking
- 12.2 megapixels isn’t much detail; it’s about what one would get from an iPhone 7
- Battery life is short
- Color correction from SLOG 3 to maximize dynamic range and color capture is time-intensive
6. DJI Mavic Pro Bundle for the Best Value Drone & Action Camera
The Mavic Pro has been insanely popular for a few reasons. It’s cheaper than the top of the line drone, the Phantom 4 by a fair margin. This “all-in” package includes everythine one needs at around the price of a Phantom 4 Advanced alone. It’s a great bargain because the only real tradeoff is that the Phantom 4 series will let one shoot 4k at 60 frames per second. Beyond this, however, the Mavic Pro is an unreal performer and even beats the Phantom 4 in a few respects.
One big feature is Ocusync. This is a new iteration of DJI’s Lightbridge technology and it allows for live transmission of 1080p footage for a farther total distance of four miles (Lightbridge is 720p at three miles max).
The Mavic Pro is also very small and portable. It can easily be stuffed into a bag; this is not true of the Phantom line of drones.
Still, there is one final perk that makes the Mavic Pro an unbelievable deal and that is that it’s so small, one can use it as a camera. For an extra $49.99 on Amazon, one can get the PolarPro Katana which permits the user to mount their Mavic Pro’s gimbal-stabilized camera, meaning that not only is your drone a flying camera, it can also be a normal one. It is important to caveat that this camera isn’t exactly for any kind of shooting; drone cameras have very wide field of views and are thus best-suited to action camera like sequences, not narrative or character-driven films, for instance.
Mavic Pros are so small they have even been flown in small homes.
The Mavic Pro, just like the top of the line Phantom 4 Professional (which this package is significantly cheaper than) also has built-in collision detection, meaning it’s not easy to crash by a long shot.
The Mavic Pro has been an insanely popular drone; it’s a great value and a ton of fun.
Price: $1299 (All-in package)
- Package includes everything one needs; no additional purchases necessary
- Shoots 4k resolution footage at 25 frames per second
- Small drones that’s reasonably portable and can be flown inside
- Ocusync technology slightly superior to LightBridge on Phantom 4
- Can be flown indoors or tight spaces, we advise buying propellor guards on Amazon)
- noisier images Low light compared to Phantom 4
- Phantom 4 flight time is longer by a few minutes
- Field of view slightly narrower than Phantom 4
- Some users had issues with blue casts in photographs and videos
- It’s a great value, but it may be overkill for some users
7. Sony Alpha a6000 With 16-50mm Lens, The Ultimate Mirrorless Value
The a6000 is a small beast. Boasting insanely fast shooting at eleven frames per second, world-class fast autofocus, and solid low light quality, it’s the mirrorless camera that will leave many saying, “Why would anyone ever want a DSLR?”
This camera has converted many firmly entrenched DSLR fans. It has interchangeable lenses and standard DSLR perks like being able to shoot RAW photographs. Some minor drawbacks: it can be a bit difficult to get shallow depth of field given this camera’s small sensor size. Some users also have had issues with the camera overheating while shooting videos. Nonetheless, for the price, this camera takes great photographs in a tiny form factor.
Price: $598 (14 percent off MSRP)
- Shoots 11 frames per second at 24 megapixel resolution
- Battery life is around 420 photographs
- Auto-focus is praised as lightning quick
- Handles low light shooting fairly well
- Shallow depth of field can be tough to achieve
- Lack of built-in image stabilization means photos can be blurry
- Long videos can lead to overheating
- Build quality found to be on the cheap side by a few users
- Sony lenses are pricey, and offer less selection than Canon or Nikon
8. Nikon P900 for the Affordable Zoom-lover
The P900 takes decent pictures. It also shoots acceptable quality video. It has built-in GPS that records your location with every shot. The display swivels around and it has Wi-Fi, so one can share with their own device.
These are all nice, but none of them are really why one would buy this camera. There’s only one reason you should: you want a monster zoom. This camera offers a stratospheric 83x zoom, about the equivalent of 2000mm, a focal length generally reserved for telescopes.
Users love the ridiculous stills and videos this can allow for. The image quality isn’t the best in the world, but let’s face it, at 83x, one is simply taking pictures they wouldn’t otherwise be able of getting (please do not use this camera for illegal things), Nothing zooms like this beast.
Price: $560.66 (7 percent off MSRP)
- Unreal zoom camera lets one capture many things they otherwise couldn’t
- Solid stills and video camera when compared to low end camcorders and other point and shoots
- Built-in Wifi and GPS
- Low light quality isn’t great
- Can struggle to focus when extremely zoomed in
- If one isn’t buying it to zoom, it’s not a particularly good deal in any other respect
9. Panasonic HC-V180K for The Affordable Camcorder
With a massive 50x zoom, this camera is ideal for someone looking to record outdoor footage like events or sports. It has excellent battery life and boasts a small profile, so it’s easy to haul around. The image stabilization features make capturing distant subjects using the zooms simple and lead to high quality output.
For sound, it has a solid quality stereo microphone. It also offers a rare feature in this price range: full touch screen functionalirty. All in all, for filming distant events outdoors, this is an awesome camcorder at an even better price.
- Small and lightweight
- Shoots sharp detailed 1080p images and boasts massive 50x optical zoom
- Superb battery offers around two hours of recording time
- Shoots 10 megapixel photographs
- Touch screen only, some users prefer buttons
- Lack of a viewfinder means bright days obscure viewing screen
- Audio quality is merely OK
10. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 V for The Versatile Slow-Mo Beast
THe RX100 V is a strange camera, but it’s an awesome one. It shoots 24 frames per second still photographs and 4k video. The quality is less than an a6000 with even less capability for depth of field, but it’s still pretty solid. Nonetheless, this camera does have one stand out feature: insane slow-motion.
The RX100V can record 960 frames in one second. 40 times slower than normal recording makes for some unreal footage. To give one an idea of how much slower this is: four seconds at this frame rate takes nearly 3 minutes to watch. Insane! It’s not the camera for everyone, but it’s a solid all-arounder with something special up its sleeve.
- Records an unheard-of 960 frames per second at 480P resolution, the most FPS of any prosumer or consumer camera
- Solid quality photos and videos
- Built-in 2.9x zoom
- Can overheat when used excessively for video
- 4K video has a 5 minute clip length
- Battery life is paltry; rated at a mere 220 stills
Still looking for the right pro camera? Browse more top-rated professional cameras on Amazon.