The last few months have been rough in the world of cameras, to say the least. Since our last guide, Sony, Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, and Panasonic have all released new models with faster shooting speeds, autofocus, and higher quality video. That’s great if you want the newest cameras, but it also means you can find great deals on older models.
Don’t worry if you can’t figure out which models have the best AF, stability, or other features. Our guide for 2023 will tell you about all the new models and deals, so you can choose the best camera for your needs, whether you’re a blogger, a sports photographer, or a wildlife photographer.
What to look for in a camera without a mirror
Find out more about mirrorless technology and why it has taken over the world of digital cameras by reading our previous camera guide or watching our Upscaled movie on the subject.
You might ask, “Why do I need a camera when my phone takes great pictures?” Physics, in a word. Mirrorless cameras have bigger sensors that let in more light, and you can choose from a wide range of lenses with much better vision. Smartphones only have one f/stop, but cameras have a lot of them, which gives you more power over the exposure. You also get natural bokeh that isn’t made by AI, faster shots, a physical shutter, better video recording, and so on. Smartphones do have impressive AI features that make it easy to take photos, but that’s about it.
Now that that’s out of the way, the best kind of camera to buy is one that doesn’t have a mirror. Both Canon and Nikon announced recently that they will no longer make new DSLR cameras. This is because, as I explained in a recent video, most of the benefits of this type of camera have disappeared. Since they put all of their research and development into mirrorless, that’s where you’ll find the newest technology.
Compact cameras are still a thing, but just barely. Panasonic has made a number of good models in the past, but it recently said that it would only make camera models that are good for video from now on. And neither Canon nor Nikon have shown us any new ones recently. Only Sony and Fujifilm still make small cameras. The Fujifilm X100V, which costs $1,400 and is notoriously hard to find, is a good example. Most of the small cameras Sony has made lately, like the ZV-1F, are made for vloggers.
Now, let’s talk about what a compact camera needs to have. The one that has the most effect on your photos (and your budget) is the size of the sensor. Medium format is the biggest, but it’s only used by specialized, expensive cameras from Hasselblad, Fujifilm, and Leica, so we won’t talk about it here. (You can find out more in my reviews of the Fujifilm GFX 100S and Hasselblad X2D.)
Full-frame is the most expensive type of camera we’ll talk about here, and most professionals and serious hobbyists use it. There are models from Sony, Canon, Nikon, and Panasonic, among other big names, but not from Fujifilm. This format has the best picture quality, performance in low light, and depth of field, and it starts at around $1,000. You can get beautiful blurred backgrounds with the right lenses, but autofocus is more important. The cost of lenses has also gone up.
APS-C cameras are one size smaller and are made by Fujifilm, Sony, Nikon, and Canon. The cameras and lenses are less expensive than full-frame, but you still get a nice blurred background (called “bokeh”), good low-light shooting, and fairly high quality. With a camera size that’s the same as 35mm film, it’s great for making videos.
Micro Four Thirds, which is used by Panasonic and Olympus, is the smallest sensor size for digital cameras that is widely used. It has less striking bokeh and less ability to gather light than APS-C, but it lets cameras and lenses be smaller and lighter. When shooting video, it’s harder to blur the background to make your subject stand out, but it’s easier to control the focus.
The next thing to think about is the sharpness of the sensor. High-resolution cameras like Sony’s 61-megapixel full-frame A7R V or Fujifilm’s 40-megapixel APS-C X-H2 take clear pictures, but their small pixels make them less than ideal for taking video or in low light. Models with lower resolutions, like Panasonic’s 10.3-megapixel GH5s or Sony’s 12.1-megapixel A7S III, are great for shooting video and high-ISO photos, but they don’t have enough detail for taking pictures.
Image quality is a matter of opinion, but the results from different cameras are slightly different. Some shooters like the way Canon’s skin tones look, while others like the way Fujifilm’s colors look. Check out sample pictures to see which model fits your style the best.
What about taking care of? The Fujifilm X-T5 has a lot of manual dials to control shots, while the Sony A6600 uses menus more. Most of the time, it depends on what you like, but manual knobs and buttons can make it easier to find settings and shoot faster. You need a camera with a big grip if you want to use heavy lenses.
Now more than ever, video is very important. Most great cameras offer at least 4K at 30 frames per second, but some models now offer 4K at up to 120p, as well as 6K and even 8K quality. If you want results that look professional, choose a camera with 10-bit or even RAW support, as well as log settings to get the most out of the dynamic range.
Another important feature for video and low-light shooting is in-body image stabilization, which keeps the camera steady even if you move. You should also think about the specs for the electronic vision (EVF). High resolutions and update rates make it easier to judge shots, especially in bright places.
Other important features include screens that flip up or around for vlogging or taking selfies, as well as the battery life, menu system, number and type of memory card slots, ports, and Bluetooth or WiFi connection. Lens choice is also important, since some brands, like Sony, offer more options than others. Most of our suggestions will require you to buy at least one lens.
Now, let’s look at the best cameras we recommend for 2023. We’ve put the choices into four price ranges: less than $800, less than $1,500, less than $2,500, and more than $2,500. We picked these price ranges because they work well for many new cameras. Manufacturers have mostly stopped making low-end products, so there aren’t many digital cameras under $500.
Best mirrorless cameras under $800
The Canon R50 with 24.2-megapixels and a price tag of $680 is my top pick for a “budget” mirrorless camera. It’s an amazing model for beginners, especially for the price. In mechanical shutter mode, it can shoot up to 15 frames per second in a row, and it can record in 4K 10-bit at up to 30p with no cropping and no oversampling. It has a display that can be moved in all directions and, unlike most cameras in this category, an artificial viewfinder. It has a pop-up flash and Canon’s Dual Pixel AF with subject detection mode. The only problem is that it doesn’t come with a good lens that costs as little as the camera itself. People can now place pre-orders, and shipping is set for spring.