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    Ultimate Camera Buying Guide: 2020 Edition

    • 8 min read

    Camera technology has advanced at a rapid pace, with some mobile phones rivaling the best camera options from even five years ago. When it comes to the best camera of 2020, it’s a close race. It has become near impossible for the consumer eye to differentiate between different brands, and in a market saturated with great options it can be a little tricky to decide what best works for you! 

    

    What Makes a Camera the Best?

    There are many photographers who remain brand loyal and assert preference over popular and traditional brands such as Canon, Nikon, or Fujifilm. Last year Sony swept major imaging awards and showed that brand is no longer an indication of “the best”. A study showed that the best-selling images on 500px were taken by a consumer grade Olympus – not even one of the big three!

    Outside of brand, the most obvious answer to this question is that the best camera of 2020 is the camera that is best for you. Simply put, the best camera depends on your needs and these needs point to specific features and uses. Even more, how the camera feels in your hands really does matter. You want something that not only carries the features important to you, but one that is comfortable to shoot.

    Sure, a DSLR may shoot only 4k video, but maybe it’s ahead of the curve in still photography. The best is always relative. Rarely is there a significant difference in image quality and performance at the top. It often comes down to extra features (which you may or may not need!) and newer design. These are the features that we considered when evaluating the best cameras for 2020:

    • Cost – Not surprisingly, most top-of-the-line cameras are expensive. But top-of-the-line doesn’t necessarily equate to best value. In this guide to the best cameras for 2020, we aim to get you the best bang for your buck. But fair warning – the professional level high-rated recommendations are expensive. In these cases, we felt the cost was associated with enough value to justify the recommendation. If worried about cost, do look at our Best DSLR for Beginners entry, a powerful mid-range camera, at an entry level price point.
    • Ease of Use – Some cameras seem like they necessitate a PhD for operations. Comfort and ease of use is important to today’s consumer and we took this into consideration in our guide to the best cameras of 2020
    • Features –Gone are the days when the number of MPX a camera wielded served as an excellent indication of overall quality. While resolution stats have become moot, other important features certainly haven’t. Today, it’s all about sensor, image stabilization, and auto-focus. Features like body sensors, along with memory volume and speed, were included in the list of features important in the evaluation of the best cameras of 2020.

    Professional DSLR CameraNikon D850

    MSRP: $2,999.95

     

    The D850 is a full-frame professional DSLR that countless photographers swear by and the first to reach 100 points on the DxOMark sensor review. This recent Nikon edition crushed Canon in the 2018-2019 EISA awards, as the Best Professional DSLR. Since its release in September 2017, this camera has won numerous imaging and design-related awards internationally. Among them are the Camera GP (Grand Prix) 2018 “Readers Award” and “Editors Award”s, the Best DSLR Professional award at the TIPA World Awards 2018, and an iF Product Design Award 2018. In 2020 you will find this camera maintains its top-status for many reviewers, and highly-touted as top-dog on many an expert list. Until now, the Canon 5D Mark IV was the pick of many of the full-frame DSLRs on the market, but the D850 eclipses it totally.

    Main Features

    • 915g (32.3 oz.) Body only
    • Max battery life 1840 shots (70 minutes of HD footage)
    • AF-S or AF lenses fully compatible
    • 45.7MP full-frame CMOS
    • Self-Cleaning Sensor
    • Dust Deletion feature
    • 4k Video
    • Large and bright optical viewfinder
    • 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen
    • Dedicated AF sensor with 2 focusing modes
    • 153-point AF
    • 7/fps continuous shooting
    • ISO 32-108400
    • WI-FI/NFC/GPS
    • Dual Card Slots (SD/XQD)

    Top Features

    • Full-frame CMOS sensor, 45.7MP
    • Large and bright optical viewfinder
    • Tilt-angle, 3.2-inch 2,359,000-dot touchscreen
    • 4K UHD video capture

    Cons

    The biggest standout among cons is the continuous shooting mode. 7/Fps isn’t terrible, but if you compare it to the mirrorless Sony Alpha A7R III with 20/fps, it certainly doesn’t look good. But for the best camera of 2020, many professionals tend to be more concerned with the speed and auto-focus, which is why the D850 wins this category hands down.

    Why It’s the Best

    The reason this model won out over Canon has a lot to do with the auto-focus and sensor. While a favorable contender, the Canon EOS 5d Mark IV, after beating out the Nikon D850 in initial reviews just couldn’t keep up; while it’s certainly still a great camera, Nikon is simply better when evaluating all-around features and performance.

    Find it on Amazon

    Mirrorless Camera: Nikon Z6

    MSRP: $1,749.99

     

    There’s still quite a debate going on between DSLR vs. mirrorless cameras. The downside to mirrorless cameras is that they often have fewer lenses and less available accessories. But mirrorless cameras are also lighter and easier to use. They’re trending as a possible new standard as photographers ditch their heavier bodies for more comfortable choices.

    The Z6 won the EISA 2019-2020 Camera of the Year because it goes beyond the normal functions of a full-frame camera, as the best all-around option on the market for serious photographers. The robust and stable build on the camera promises extreme accuracy and image stabilization, for razor sharp images with any lens. The camera delivers on images that are utterly true-to-sight, with a sharp viewfinder, and snap-quick subject-tracking Eye-Detection AF. T3 calls the Z6, one of their Platinum Award winners, “Quite possibly the best all-around camera you can buy.”

    Main Features

    • 585g Body Only
    • 24.5 MPX
    • Expeed 6 processor
    • Nikon Z mount
    • CMOS sensor
    • 12fps Continuous Shoot Speed at Full Resolution
    • Hybrid autofocus system w/273 phase-detect points
    • ISO 50-204800
    • 5-axis image sensor shift
    • Electronic viewfinder with OLED
    • 310 Shot Max
    • 3.2” 2.1M-dot tilting touch LCD
    • 4k Video
    • 1/8000 Max shutter speed
    • SnapBridge Wi-Fi system with Bluetooth

    Top Features

    • 273 pt. Hybrid Eye-Detection Autofocus
    • 4k UHD video capture
    • 12fps burst shooting
    • Touchscreen Interface
    • Large, sharp viewfinder for preview accuracy

    Cons

    While Nikon has shown that they are more than capable of outperforming Canon and Sony in terms of image quality, the Z6 isn’t totally without complaint. For one, the camera only offers a single XQD card slot. This means a more expensive investment in the card itself, and no real backup security. Additionally, despite high ISO performance and stunning resolution, there is also the rare but possible issue of banding in brightened shadows, and minor detail concerns at extremely low or extremely high ISO when compared to the best of its competitors.

    Why It’s the Best

    It’s lightning fast and reliable, producing one stunning image after another. For many, it even gives the weightier Z7 run for its money, with a more attainable price point, the ability to capture oversampled video without a crop, and comparable image quality. Compare this innovation to the Canon EOS RP, which while cheaper and boasting an extra megapixel, cannot quite reach the same level of high and low IOS performance and offers no image stabilization.

    Find it on Amazon

    Want to try an award-winning Canon Mirrorless with a friendlier price-point? Check out the Canon EOS RP, EISA Best Buy Full-Frame winner for 2019-2020, as a great entry into the mirrorless game.

    Fixed Lens: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI

    MSRP: $999.99

     

    Yet again, Sony won the category for the compact camera for EISA 2019-2020 (and 2017-2018). This laudable camera also won silver in the DPReview and Stuff Gadget Awards rated it as the Best Compact. What catapults this camera ahead of the competition is the new sensor and processor. It has a 20.1 mpx Exmor CMOS and a BIONZ X image processor. Many of you will recognize the BIONZ X processor from higher-end models. Here, it’s been revamped and renewed for a compact camera, resulting in even better quality images from a point and shoot that is closer than ever to DSLR quality. The autofocus response time has been cut to 0.03 seconds with af tracking and it has 24 cfps. It can also shoot 4k and slow motion with a control ring not unlike those seen on consumer-grade DSLRs.

    Main Features

    • 299g
    • 1.0 type Exmor RS CMOS sensor
    • BIONZ X processor
    • Long exposure NR
    • 20 shooting modes with scene selection
    • Built-in Flash
    • WIFI/NFC
    • 330 Max images/165 minutes video per battery
    • 20.1 MPX
    • ISO 125-12800
    • 24-200mm F2.8-F4.5 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T Lens
    • 11-44x digital zoom
    • 3” TFT Tilt LCD – Touch shutter compatible
    • 0.03 second 315 point wide AF
    • 24fps continuous with tracking
    • 4k

    Top Features

    • Retractable OLED Viewfinder
    • 20.1 MPX Exmore RS CMOS with BIONZ X processor
    • World’s Fastest 0.03s hybrid AF with up to 24 fps continuous shooting
    • super slow motion 960 frames per second.
    • 4k video with full pixel readout.

    Cons

    Fixed camera lenses have certainly evolved, but these innovations have come at a cost. While one may be hard-pressed to find a poor review of this camera, the price point may exceed the budget of financially savvy shoppers. The reason for the high price tag is because this camera delivers almost as much functionality as the a9, aside from the lens capability.

    Why It’s the Best

    For those that don’t want to spend time swapping lenses or don’t want to invest in lenses – this is the closest thing you’ll get to a one-stop camera. While it’s limited by the fact that it’s a fixed lens, the market remains full of low-end, consumer grade cameras that are nowhere near as capable as this model. It’s a clear leader in the best fixed-lens camera of both 2019 and 2020.

    Find it on Amazon

    Entry-Level DSLR: Nikon D5500

    MSRP: $469.99

    Nikon again surprised us, as the perfect fit for beginners with a 2015 release that has kept on swinging for the past five years. The D5500 easily beats the cheaper Nikon D3500 (2018), outperforms fan favorite Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (2019), and even competes toe to toe with the brand-new Fujifilm X-T200 (2020)! This camera is a steady powerhouse of a midrange at an entry-level price point.

    Main Features

    • 420g
    • CMOS sensor
    • Expeed 4 processor
    • AF-S amd AF-I CPU Lens Mount
    • 7 Shooting modes with Scene Selection (25 Scene Modes)
    • Built-in Flash
    • 820 Shots
    • 24 MPX
    • ISO 100-25600
    • 3.2” Fully-articulated 1M pt. Touch-screen
    • 1/4000 Shutter Speed
    • 5fps

    Top Features

    • 3.2” 1.2M dot fully-articulating touchscreen LCD
    • Live View Shooting for Film & Video
    • Touch-to-Shoot & Touch-to-focus from Live View

    Cons

    Not quite as quick as some of the more modern innovations, and lacking in terms of live view performance and a somewhat complicated menu system. However, this offering more than makes up for it in ease of use, touch-enabled rotating flip-out LCD for extreme versatility, and unbelievable low-light handling.  

    Why It’s the Best

    If you are wanting to get into photography for clients, but don’t have the means to purchase a professional level camera, the camera is a user-friendly midrange dream hitting an entry level price-point.

    Find it on Amazon

     

    Conclusion

    Much of choosing the best camera for 2020 has to do with your needs. If you’re already an enthusiast of a certain brand, then there are definite advantages to being able to continue using the same gear. Last year Sony rose to the top with innovation after innovation to beat more traditional brands. However, it’s clear that Nikon is going to be the brand to beat in 2020. Their push for well-rounded cameras with lasting power has served them well. With several major releases on hold, who’s to say that the year will end on Nikon?

    Here is a summary of our recommendations

    • The best professional camera of 2020: Nikon D850
    • The best mirrorless camera of 2020: Nikon Z6
    • The best fixed-lens camera of 2020: Sony Cyber-shot RX100 VI
    • The best entry-level camera of 2020: Nikon D5500

     

    Already chose your perfect fit?

    Once you've got your hands on a great camera, the next step is learning and experimenting with post-processing (image editing). Our blog is FULL of great FREE training and tips. We also offer courses on photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom at luxeacademy.com that you can work through virtually, at your own pace! Once familiar with the software, feel free to check out the many digital resources we offer at The Luxe Lens (Lightroom Presets, Photoshop Actions, Photo Overlays, LUTs, and Templates for marketing and social media)!