The digital camera on your phone might be impressive, but if you’re ready to move beyond what it can offer, you’ve come to the right place. The best digital cameras let you capture the world with crystal clarity, and there’s a wide variety and price range to choose from. From rugged outdoor models to those that let you walk the bridge into pro territory, you’ve got some decisions to make.
The options — point-and-shoot, compact, bridge, entry-level, and mirrorless — might make your head swim. However, your photography or video goals and interests can help you decide on a model. Keep in mind that if you choose a model with interchangeable lenses, you’re not only committing to the camera but to the brand and their lens options. We’re here to guide you through the selection process with a short buying guide and our top five digital camera picks.
— Best Overall: Fujifilm X-T4
— Best for Beginners: Canon EOS REBEL SL3
— Best Compact: Panasonic LUMIX LX10
— Best for Kids: Nikon Coolpix W150
— Best Cheap: Canon PowerShot SX420
How We Picked the Best Digital Cameras
Digital cameras are a complex piece of technology. We considered the camera’s specs, durability, ease of use, and versatility when making our picks.
Specs: A camera’s specs can give you a picture of how it will perform in certain conditions. However, the user’s skill also comes into play. We looked for models with the technology to support the kind of user they’re designed for. A pro wouldn’t be happy with a model designed for a weekend enthusiast. The latter doesn’t need to invest in a camera with features they’ll never use.
Durability: Durability comes down to the case, waterproofing, and other features that protect the camera from the elements.
Ease of use: Some cameras almost require a degree to figure out how to use them, while others are designed with features to guide you through the process. We looked at ease of use and how it related to the skill level the camera was designed for.
Versatility: Video, aspect ratio adjustment, and creative settings are all features that increase versatility.
The Best Digital Cameras: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Digital Camera Overall: Fujifilm X-T4
Why It Made The Cut: The X-T4’s in-body image stabilization, improved battery life, and continuous shooting performance make it a top choice of pros and devoted amateurs.
— Dimensions: 3.7 inches L x 5.3 inches W x 2.5 inches H
— Weight: 1.3 pounds
— Type: Mirrorless
— In-body image stabilization (IBIS)
— Flip-out screen for easier 4K video
— Improved battery performance
— Excellent RAW processing
— Dust and splash-proof body
— Can’t create low-quality clips
— No headphone jack
The Fujifilm X-T4 gets the best digital camera overall for its blend of incredible image quality, In-body image stabilization (IBIS), and versatility of use. This camera is aimed (and priced) for pros, but enthusiasts who want a weatherproof body can benefit from the investment, too. We also like this model for the dust and weather-resistant body. It can hold up in a rain shower, but make sure you’ve got a sealed lens.
Impressive image quality comes in large part from the IBIS. It allows you to get shots using longer exposure times without the use of a tripod. That also helps when using the camera for 4K video. The X-T4 offers in-camera RAW processing, broadening your options before the images leave the camera.
The X-T4 grabs onto subjects quickly, letting you snapshots of elusive targets before they get too far away. The tracking hangs onto the subject, too, giving you more time to get your shot.
On the downside, this camera comes at a high price. All the fancy settings also make it so you can’t reduce video quality to take low-quality, quick video clips. It’s all or nothing, which may not work for everyone.
Best Digital Camera for Beginners: Canon EOS REBEL SL3
Why It Made The Cut: This lightweight DSLR lets newbies develop their skills with a camera that’s easy to use and creates beautiful images.
— Dimensions: 4.81 inches L x 3.64 inches W x 2.75 inches H
— Weight: 15.9 ounces
— Type: DSLR
— Lightweight and compact for a DSLR
— Vari-angle touch screen
— Easy to adjust and use controls
— Good live view autofocus
— Thicker body than a mirrorless model
— Limited to 9 AF points
— Limited view in 4K
The Canon EOS REBEL SL3 is Canon’s answer to the entry-level DSLR, and it doesn’t disappoint, making it our pick for the best digital camera for beginners. A compact, lightweight design makes it easier to manage, though it’s still larger than many mirrorless designs. The clear optical viewfinder works well for beginners, who may find a digital viewfinder disorienting.
Canon’s guided user interface explains features and functions to walk newbies through each setting. This model teaches the basics but has the functionality and design to let them develop near professional skills. The Creative Assist mode, for example, lets you dabble in different effects. However, you can also use manual controls to fine-tune for different situations.
The vari-angle touch screen lets you adjust the camera angle while keeping the screen visible. It has nine autofocus (AF) points to help with composition. That’s not a lot in today’s market, but it’s still helpful. The SL3 can take great videos for vlogging and general use. However, when you switch to 4K, it does cut some of the picture to keep up the speed.
Best Compact Digital Camera: Panasonic LUMIX LX10
Why It Made The Cut: The LX10 offers great image quality with advanced features from a compact body that doesn’t add much weight to your pack.
— Dimensions: 4.2 inches L x 2.4 inches W x 1.7 inches H
— Weight: 9.88 ounces
— Type: Premium compact
— Excellent image quality for the price
— Great lens
— Broad set of features
— Disappointing battery life
— Slippery grip
The Panasonic LUMIX LX10 takes lovely pictures and snaps into focus without hesitation, making it one of the best compact digital cameras. It offers a better lens than similarly priced models, and the sensor doesn’t do too bad in low light.
You can also shoot RAW images to fix some of the auto color-profile settings. The RAWs are actually fairly easy to edit because there’s not a lot of fringing or distortion.
The video quality of the LX10 falls in line with the images. It does well in low light, though you might notice some noise. The autofocus adds great detail when capturing video by, basically, ignoring objects that get between you and your subject.
However, its battery life isn’t too impressive. It’s not terrible, just not great either. Finally, the body doesn’t have a lot of grip, so if you’ve got slippery fingers, it might not be the right pick for you.
Best Digital Camera for Kids: Nikon Coolpix W150
Why It Made The Cut: The Coolpix W150 is simple to use, has good autofocus, and is waterproof down to 33 feet, making it one of the best digital cameras for kids.
— Dimensions: 4.4 inches L x 1.5 inches W x 2.7 inches H
— Weight: 0.39 ounces
— Type: Compact
— Good autofocus feature
— Takes full HD video
— Waterproof to 33 feet
— Easy to share images
— Poor image stabilization
— No optical zoom while video recording
Kids don’t need a camera with bells and whistles. They need one that’s easy to use but that can take good pictures that are easy to share. The Nikon Coolpix W150 fits the bill. The compact camera doesn’t weigh much, and it’s simple to snap a shot. It’s similar to the W100, except that it can auto face frame when underwater.
Plus, this camera can withstand being underwater down to 33 feet. Not only can kids take pictures underwater, if they happen to drop the W150 in the water, it’s not the end of their digital camera.
A simple interface lets the user share images or videos using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. If you’ve got the camera connected to your phone, it automatically sends photos. That makes it easy for kids to edit their photos for social media or simply send photos to you or friends.
The downside with this model is that it doesn’t have very good image stabilization or manual features. Most kids won’t care, but they could outgrow this camera fairly quickly.
Best Cheap Digital Camera: Canon PowerShot SX420
Why It Made The Cut: The SX420 provides a long zoom in a lightweight build that creates beautiful pictures with several special effects modes.
— Dimensions: 4.1 inches L x 2.7 inches W x 3.35 inches H
— Weight: 11.5 ounces
— Type: Bridge
— 42x zoom lens coupled with a good price
— Lightweight build
— Quick to start up
— Built-in Wi-Fi for easy image transfer
— Ease of use
— Doesn’t do well in dim light
— Can’t shoot in RAW format
— Shutter lag
If you’re shooting on a budget, the Canon PowerShot SX420 provides an easy-to-use format that gives you some creative license. This model, which we consider one of the best cheap digital cameras, features a relatively compact, lightweight body for a camera with a 42x zoom. When fully extended, the lens reaches almost eight inches from the camera.
That zoom lets you get in tight and capture some amazing shots when you’re in natural light. An image stabilizer reduces camera shake for even better shots. But if you’re indoors, the image quality goes way down.
The start-up process doesn’t take long, which is great if you see the perfect shot when you don’t expect it. The SX420 includes built-in Wi-Fi for easier image transfer, a feature you don’t find often in this price range.
That said, along with poor performance in low light, this model can’t shoot in the RAW format (though that’s expected at this price range), and there’s some shutter lag you’ll have to get used to.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Digital Camera
— Point-and-shoot: Point-and-shoot cameras offer few if any manual adjustments, but they can still take excellent pictures. They’re the least expensive and easiest to use of all the camera options. However, if you’ve got the latest mobile phone, chances are its camera is better than any low-budget point-and-shoot. However, if you don’t love your phone, a point-and-shoot is another option.
— Compacts (and premium compacts): Compacts, sometimes called premium compacts, look similar to a point-and-shoot camera, but they’re definitely not the same. These cameras are designed for photographers who already have a model with interchangeable lenses but who want a compact model for travel or quick shots. They typically have one-inch sensors and a higher zoom than your phone’s camera. They’re also more ergonomic.
— Bridge cameras: Bridge models look like a camera with an interchangeable lens, except they have a fixed lens. Their lenses are longer and offer better zoom than compact digital cameras. These models shine when taking shots in the great outdoors. However, they don’t do well in indoor light.
— Entry-level interchangeable: These cameras are mirrorless, SLR, or DSLR. DSLR and SLRs are the more affordable route. They have an optical viewfinder and image sensors that put bridge cameras to shame. Mirrorless cameras have an OLED electronic viewfinder, and they have better image sensors and tracking than DSLR and SLRs. Either one can take fantastic pictures and last for years while you develop your photography skills.
— Pro mirrorless, DSLR, and SLR: Surprisingly, you won’t see a drastic improvement in image quality once you head over the $1,000 mark. Instead, you’ll see higher capture rates, more durable builds, and tech that allows for longer burst shooting. If you want to capture fast subjects or work in inclement weather, you’ll need one of these premium cameras.
Skill Level and Goals
Your current skill level and goals can help you decide how big of an investment you need to make in your camera. Are you an amateur looking to develop your skills for personal use or one hoping to turn photography into a career? You don’t need to spend over $1,000 if you won’t be traipsing through the jungle after your subject or capturing shots of speeding vehicles.
Also, consider your personal habits when buying a digital camera. Outdoor adventurers who might be fumbling with gloves may want a rugged, waterproof camera designed to take a few tumbles rather than a model with interchangeable lenses.
Your skill level and goals should play into your budget. Beginners can invest in a more complex, professional camera once they’ve learned how to use a lower-budget model.
Also, consider that some models with interchangeable lenses may not come with a lens. If they do, package lenses are often of lower quality than those you purchase separately. Factor in buying a lens (or two) if you want to take photos of good quality.
The brand of the camera will determine which lenses are compatible with the camera body. For example, if you buy a Canon, you’ll be limited to Canon’s lenses and a few third-party lens makers. In reality, you’re investing in an entire system. Make sure it’s one that grows with you to help you reach your photography goals.
Q: What resolution do I need?
Resolution is generally measured in megapixels and/or pixel count. However, you don’t need to go out and buy a camera with the highest MP or pixel count out there to create impressive photos and videos. Resolution also has to do with settings and the technique behind it. High-resolution images allow you to zoom in during the editing process and provide better prints. Anything with a pixel count of 1216 x 912 pixels is considered good enough for printing. Anything over 1600 x 1200 pixels falls into the high-res category, creating photo lab quality prints. If you want to create larger prints, look for a resolution of over 2240 x 1680 pixels.
Q: What specs should I look for in a camera?
The most important specs vary by what you do with the camera and the nature of your subject. But in general, keep an eye on:
— Sensor size: Full frame and APS-C are the most popular sensor sizes for digital cameras, with full frame being found in pro-rated cameras. APS-C sensors are smaller (and less expensive), reducing the captured scene.
— Megapixel or pixel count: Higher resolutions let you print larger pictures. Again, it comes back to what you want to do. See our answer above to determine the resolution for the size of prints you’d like to create.
— Image area and aspect ratio: Full-frame cameras create a 3:2 aspect ratio, while a 1:1 ratio creates a square picture. Some cameras can shoot in different aspect ratios.
— Number of autofocus (AF) points: AF points become important when taking action shots. More AF points capture subjects in greater detail.
— Shutter speed: Moving subjects need a fast shutter speed of around 1/8000 of a second, freezing movement in the shots.
Q: How much storage do I need?
If you’re shooting video, you’ll need more storage than if you’re only taking stills. However, the resolution at which you take the photos matters. Higher resolution photos take up more storage space. Shooting in uncompressed RAW format also requires more storage space than shooting JPEG or TIFFs. If you’re shooting video at a higher resolution, it will take even more storage space. Anything over 4K, and you’ll need one of the newer SDXC cards that have up to a 2TB capacity. Basically, buy a memory card with the highest capacity that’s within your budget. If you’re shooting video, you might have to make more of an investment in your memory card to hold all of your footage.
The Fujifilm X-T4 produces incredible images and has a durable body for intense outdoor photography. It’s an investment, but one you’ll be able to enjoy for years to come, making it our top pick for best digital cameras. If you’re not planning to enter pro territory and just want to up your photo quality, the Canon PowerShot SX420 lets you zoom in tight and easily transfer images.
Related: See the world in a new way with the best night vision goggles.
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