The Best Digital Cameras – 2017 (Including 2010 – 2016)

Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR

The holiday season is here and I am getting the usual questions about which digital cameras I recommend. The camera lists below will point you to the highest rated models. You can start with these lists and then narrow it down to a camera with the specific features you are looking for. I will help you in that regard with some information and advice on choosing a camera. The lists below will be updated throughout the holiday season as new reviews for highly rated cameras become available.

This is one in a series of articles on The Best of the Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.

Choosing a Camera

Before I get to the lists of top rated cameras, here is some information on picking a camera. Your first decision is to decide which of three broad categories of digital cameras is best for you.

Not long ago, there were two broad classifications of digital cameras, the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras and fixed lens, point-and-shoot (P&S) cameras. Over the last several years a whole new category has grown up, mirrorless, interchangeable lens compact (ILC) cameras.

Nikon D500 DSLR

Nikon D500 DSLR

DSLR

DSLR cameras have a reflex mirror that bounces light up through a pentaprism (or mirror box) and out through an optical viewfinder. This allows you to see through the viewfinder exaclty what the camera sees through the lens. When taking a photo, the mirror moves up out of the way (hence the name “reflex”) so the light can strike the digital sensor. One of the key advantages of a DSLR is the ability to change lenses. Most DSLRs give you a wide variety of lenses and accessories for tackling specialized photographic projects. No matter what you want to do, there is a lens or accessory to help you do it. As a group, DSLRs are also faster and more responsive than P&S cameras. DSLRs excel at fast action, high speed photography. They also give you “cleaner” images with less digital noise when shooting in low light at high ISO settings (more about ISO settings on the bottom third of this article). The downside is most DSLRs are usually bigger, heavier, and more expensive than most P&S and ILC cameras.

With so many DSLRs receiving high ratings, which camera should you choose? The answer usually comes down to lenses and systems. If you have a lens or set of lenses that you like, get a digital camera that will take the lenses you want to use.

If you need certain specialized lenses, then pick a camera brand that has the lenses you need.

If you need highly specialized equipment, you will want to go with a manufacturer that provides a wide range of specialized accessories.

If you don’t have specialized needs, almost any high-rated camera from any manufacturer will work very well. Check the lists below and the reviews at DP Review to narrow down your choices. Pick out several models and brands of cameras in your price range. Go to a well equipped camera store and try the cameras out to see how they feel and work in your hands. Narrow down your choices to your top two models, but don’t buy a camera just yet.

Rent both of your favorite models (with a lens) for a few days to a week and use them a lot. Online camera and lens rentals have become quite reasonable. A few days to a week with each camera will tell you which one you most like to work with. And remember, you can’t go too far wrong with most any recent, high-rated DSLR.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100/TZ100

Point-and-Shoot (P&S)

Point-and-shoot cameras used to be smaller, lighter, and less expensive than other kinds of digital cameras, and many of them still are. But bigger, fuller featured, more expensive models are appearing with regularity. They don’t have a reflex mirror and they have one, fixed (non-interchangeable) lens. They are perfect for people who want a convenient, all-in-one camera, with no need for a wide variety of lenses or accessories. If you want to push a button and let the camera do the rest (at least most of the time), a P&S is probably your best choice. Some P&S cameras give you a lot of manual controls for those occasions that you want to make the photographic decisions. The size variation is huge from smaller than a deck of cards to as big as a smaller DSLR. The right P&S fixed lens camera can give you convenience and simplicity when you want it an a lot of controls if you need them. They vary widely in the focal length range their zoom lenses cover. Decide on the features that are most important to you, then pick a highly rated camera that has those features.

Fujifilm X-T2 ILC

Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Compacts (ILC)

Mirrorless, interchangeable lens compacts (ILC) mix some of the features of DSLRs and Point and Shoot cameras. For some photographers, they combine the best of both worlds. Many of them are smaller and lighter than DSLRs (like point and Shoot cameras), but they do take interchangeable lenses like a DSLR. Some ILCs show you an electronic image on the back of the camera so you have to hold the camera away from your face to see the image, just like with most P&S cameras. Others have an electronic eye level viewfinder so you hold the viewfinder to your face just like you would with a DSLR which is much better for wildlife, sports, and action photography. ILCs have come long way over the last few years and some of them, like the Sony Alpha 7RII, handle just like a DSLR and are in many ways as good for portrait and landscape photography as the best DSLRs.

P&S and Mirrorless ILC Features

Within both groups, Mirrorless ILC and P&S fixed lens cameras can be hugely different in terms of functionality and feature set. In both groups some are almost as big as a DSLR, others are shirt pocket tiny. Some are pretty full featured and some have a more limited feature set. If you are going to be in auto mode most of the time, a full feature set wont be important to you. But if you are a take charge, choose the controls kind of person, you will want a camera with a full feature set.

In the P&S group, some have lenses with a fairly limited focal length range. Others have a very long zoom lens range so you can zoom in on your child or grandchild at a sporting event, even if they are on the far end of the ball field. If you want a “carry anywhere” shirt pocket camera, your choice will be very different than if you want to photograph wildlife at a distance with a camera that has a long range zoom lens. Make your focal length decision wisely and check out the focal length examples in this article. Once you buy a P&S you are stuck with that lens. With an ILC camera you can buy whatever lenses you want so focal lengths wont be a limiting factor in your initial purchase decision.

Decide on what you want a camera to do and then read some full reviews at DP Review before you make your final camera choice. It wouldn’t hurt to look at the cameras on your short list at a local camera store. Don’t get talked into buying a camera that you haven’t thoroughly checked out ahead of time at DP Review. There are some really poorly designed cameras out there, no matter how pretty they look, how much they cost, or how much the sales person is trying to get you to buy it.

Camera Ratings

DP Review is my favorite camera rating site. They have been doing this for a long time. I recommended the purchase of a camera that receives a “Gold Award” or a “Silver Award” with DP Review’s new rating system, or a “Highly Recommended” under the old system. DP Review also began giving cameras an overall percentage score with the system, but the scores are only comparable within the same class of cameras. Don’t compare the score of a P&S fix lens camera with the score for a DSLR. I provide the DP Review ratings in the list below. With rare exceptions noted in the list, I do not include cameras that don’t receive a Gold or Silver rating from DP Review.

The cameras listed below received a Gold or Silver Award from DP Review under the new system or a “Highly Recommended” rating under the old system. I also included the overall percentage score. You can compare percentage scores within a group, but not between groups. In other words, A 90% DSLR is better tha and 80% DSLR, but a 90% P&S is not necessarily better than an 80% DSLR.

Cameras are listed back through 2010 since there are some excellent camera models that came out prior to 2014 that are still available on the new and used market. An excellent example is the Canon 60D which came out in 2010 and would be an excellent choice on the used camera market.

Buying These Cameras Online

You can find most of the more recent DSLR and ILC camera models listed below at my photography store. Go to the Canon and Nikon section, the Olympus, Pentax, and Sony DLSR section, and the Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony ILC section

If you are looking for used cameras and lenses, start at Adorama.

The lists below go back to 2010. Some excellent current camera models came out before 2016 (like the excellent Canon 7D Mark II which came out in 2014). When a new model comes out (like the Canon 5D Mark IV, prices drop dramatically on the price of the prior model which you can still buy new. Or you might be looking for a great deal in a high quality but somewhat older used camera.

THE LISTS

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2017

Canon EOS Rebel SL-2 – 78% – Silver
Canon EOS Rebel T7i – 80% – Gold
Canon EOS 77D – 82% – Silver
Nikon D850 – 89% – Gold
Nikon D7500 – 86% – Silver
Nikon D5600 – 79% – Silver
Pentax KP – 82% – Silver

The Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2017

Canon EOS M6 – 80% – Silver
Canon EOS M5 – 82% – Silver
Fujifilm X-E3 – 84% – Gold
Fujifilm GFX 50S – 85% – Gold
Fujifilm X-T20 – 82% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 – 85% – Gold
Sony Alpha a9 – 89% – Gold
Sony Alpha a99 II – 85% – Silver
Sony Alpha a6500 – 85% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2017

Fujifilm X100F – 83% – Gold

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2016

Canon EOS 1D X Mark II – 89% – Gold
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – 87% – Gold
Canon EOS 5DS/5DS R – 83% – Silver
Canon EOS 80D – 84% – Silver
Nikon D5 – 85% – Gold
Nikon D500 – 91% – Gold
Nikon D810 – 86% – Gold
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II – 85% – Gold
Pentax K-1 – 84% – Silver
Pentax K-70 – 79% – Silver

The Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2016

Fujifilm X-T2 – 86% – Gold
Fujifilm X-Pro2 – 83% – Silver
Olympus Pen-F – 82% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G8 – 82% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G85/G80 – 84% – Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX85/GX80 – 82% – Silver
Sony Alpha a6300 – 85% – Gold

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2016

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II – 81% – Silver
Leica Q (TYP 116) – 80% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100/TZ100 – 82% Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10/15 – 81% – Silver
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1R II – 82% – Silver
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III – 84% – Silver
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV – 83% – Silver

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2015

Canon Rebel T6s – 77% – Silver
Nikon D7200 – 84% – Silver
Sony SLT-A77 II – 80% – Silver
Nikon D5500 – 79% – Silver

The Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2015

Fujifilm X-T10 – 80% – Silver
Olympus OM-D EM10 II – 80% – Silver
Olympus OM-D EM5 II – 81% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-G7 – 90% – Silver
Samsung NX-1 – 87% – Gold
Samsung NX 500 – 81% – Silver
Sony Alpha 7RII – 90% – Gold
Sony Alpha 7II – 82% – Silver
Sony Alpha 7S – 86% – Gold

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2015

Canon PowerShot G5 – X – 78% – Silver
Sony DSC-RX10 II – 82% – Gold
Olympus Tough TG-4 – 79% – Gold
Sony DSC-RX100 IV – 85% – Gold
Fujifilm X100T – 81% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-GM5 – 77% – Silver

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2014

Nikon D750 – 90% – Gold
Canon EOS 7D Mark II – 84% – Silver
Nikon D610 – 87% – Gold
Nikon D3300 – 77% – Silver
Nikon D5300 – 79% – Silver
Pentax K3 – 83% – Gold

The Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2014

Fujifilm X-T1 – 84% – Gold
Fujifilm X-E2 – 80% – Gold
Olympus OM-D E-M10 – 80% – Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 – 85% – Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM1 – 78% – Gold
Samsung NX-30 – 77% – Silver
Sony Alpha a6000 – 80% – Gold
Sony Alpha 7R – 82% – Gold
Sony Alpha 7 – 80% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2014

Canon G1 X Mark II – 77% – Silver
Canon G7 X – 77% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 – 82%- Gold
Panasonic Lumic DMC-LX100 – 85% – Gold
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 – 80% – Gold
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100III – 82% – Gold

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2013

Canon EOS 70D – 83% – Gold
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (100D) – 78% – Gold
Canon EOS Rebel T5i (700D) – 76% – Silver
Pentax K-5 IIs – 81% – Gold
Pentax K-5 II – 80% – Gold
Nikon D5200 – 79% – Silver
Nikon D7100 – 85% – Gold
Canon EOS 6D – 83% – Silver
Sony SLT-A99 – 84% – Gold

The Best Hybrid Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2013

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7 – 79% – Silver
Olympus OM-D E-M1 – 84% – Gold
Olympus PEN E-P5 – 78% – Silver
Fujifilm X-M1 – 77% – Gold
Olympus PEN E-PM2 – 77% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH3 – 79% – Gold
Sony Alpha NEX-6 – 78% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2013

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II – 79% – Silver
Fujifilm X100S – 81% – Gold
Nikon Coolpix AW110 (underwater) – 73% – Silver
Pentax MX-1 – 74% – Silver
Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS (underwater) – 72% – Silver
Ricoh GR – 79% – Gold
Nikon Coolpix A – 75% – Silver
Nikon Coolpix P7700 – 75% – Silver
Fujifilm X20 – 77% – Silver
Fujifilm X-E1 – 79% – Gold
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1 – 79% – Gold
Canon PowerShot G15 – 76% – Gold

Cameras to watch that will likely be highly rated

Nikon Df
Nikon D5300
Canon PowerShot G16
Nikon D610
Sony Alpha A7 / A7R
Canon EOS 1D X

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2012

Sony SLT-A99 – 84% – Gold
Nikon D600 – 87% – Gold
Pentax K-30 – 78% – Silver
Canon EOS Rebel 4Ti – 77% – Silver
Nikon D3200 – 73% – Silver
Nikon D800 – 82% – Gold
Nikon D800E – 84% – Gold
Canon EOS 5D Mark III – 82% – Gold

The Best Hybrid Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2012

Sony SLT-A57 – 78% – Gold
Sony Alpha Nex-F3 – 74% – Silver
Samsung NX210 – 78% – Silver
Fujifilm X-Pro1 – 79% – Silver
Olympus OM-D E-M5 – 80% – Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 – 77% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2012

Canon PowerShot G15 – 76% – Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 – 80%- Gold
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 – 75% – Silver
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 – 78% – Silver
Fujifilm X10 – 76% – Silver
Nikon Coolpix P510 – 75% – Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 – 76% – Silver
Canon PowerShot G1 X – 76% – Silver

The Best Underwater P&S Cameras – 2011

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3 – 72% – Gold
Sony Cyber-shot TX10 – 71% – Silver

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2011

Sony A580 – 75% – Silver
Nikon D5100 – 76% – Silver
Canon Rebel T3i – 77% – Silver
Nikon D3100 – 72% – Silver
Pentax K-5 – 83% – Gold
Nikon D7000 – 80% – Silver
Canon EOS 60D – 79% – Silver

The Best Interchangeable Lens (ILC) Cameras – 2011

Sony NEX-7 – 81% – Gold
Sony SLT-A65 – 78% – Gold
Olympus Pen E-PM1 – 71% – Silver
Sony SLT-A77 – 81% – Silver
Sony NEX-5N – 79% – Gold
Sony SLT-A35 – 73% – Silver
Olympus PEN E-PL3 – 72% – Silver
Sony NEX-C3 – 74% – Silver
Olympus PEN E-P3 – 74% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-G3 – 75% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-GH2 – 79% – Silver
Olympus PEN E-PL2 – 71% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens (P&S) Cameras – 2011

Canon S100 – 72% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-TS3 (waterproof) – 72% – Gold
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX10 (waterproof) – 71% – Silver
Fujifilm FinePix X100 – 75% – Silver
Olympus XZ-1 – 74% – Gold
Canon G12 – 73% – Gold
Canon S95 – 72% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-LX5 – 73% – Silver

The Best Digital SLR Cameras – 2010

Nikon D7000 – 80% – Silver
Canon EOS 60D – 79% – Silver
Canon Rebel T2i – 77% – Gold
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV – 89% – Gold
Nikon D3S – 89% – Gold
Nikon D3100 – 72% – Silver
Nikon D3000 – 72% – Highly Recommended
Nikon D300S – 82% – Highly Recommended
Canon 7D – 84% – Highly Recommended

The Best Hybrid Interchangeable Lens Cameras – 2010

Sony SLT Alpha A55 – 76% – Gold
Panasonic DMC-G2 – 72% – Silver
Sony NEX-5 – 71% – Silver
Sony NEX-3 – 70% Silver
Sony E-PL1 – 69% – Silver
Olympus E-P2 – 69% – Silver

The Best Fixed Lens Cameras – 2010

Canon G12 – 73% – Gold
Canon S95 – 72% – Silver
Panasonic DMC-LX5 – 73% – Silver
Canon SD 4000 IS – 74% – Gold
Samsung TL500 – 73% – Silver
Panasonic FZ35 – 75% – Gold
Canon SX20 IS – 73% – Gold
Nikon P100 – 70% – Silver
Casio EX-FH 100 – 72% – Gold
Samsung HZ35W – 72% – Gold
Canon S90 – 75% – Silver
Canon G11 – Highly Recommended

Links

Canon and Nikon cameras, lenses and flashes at my photography store.

Olympus, Pentax, and Sony DLSRs at my photography store.

Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony ILCs  at my photography store.

My photography store with direct links to Amazon.co.

This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.