Are you interested in taking up photography, perhaps as a hobby? If the answer is yes, you've come to the right place. We've picked out nine of our favourite cameras that'll get you started. Here are the best cameras 2016.
Note that we're talking about compact system cameras (CSCs) and digital SLR cameras here. These have interchangeable lenses and offer excellent image quality, and many of them are small enough to carry around on a day-to-day basis. However, they do come at a price and may be more than many of you are looking for if you're simply looking to snap some shots on a family holiday, perhaps. For the best and most popular compact cameras, we'd recommend taking a look at our sister title PC Advisor's best compact cameras round-up, complete with expert buying advice.
If it's a CSC or DSLR you're looking for, though, continue reading for reviews of our favourites.
Best camera 2016
The Fujifilm X-T10 is our pick as the best bang for your buck. It's Fuji's entry-level X0series interchangeable lens camera, but thanks in part to a solid-feel metal build and rangefinder-like dials, sure doesn't feel like it's been compromised in order to arrive at its commendably affordable body-only price tag. For example we still get a large, APS-C sized sensor and in this respect the X-T10 proves a match for last year’s pricier yet still range topping X-T1. Said chip provides a sufficiently detailed resolution of 16.3 effective megapixels, which we found suitable for most, if not all, subjects. Alternatives to the X-T10 include the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF7, or numerically similar E-M10 from Olympus, yet both possess a physically smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor.
Part of the reason for the X-T10’s solid feel when gripped are its die-cast magnesium top and base plates, though arguably the real attention grabbers are those triple rangefinder-style top plate dials controlling shooting mode, exposure and sensitivity. We also get the relative luxury of a 2.36 million-dot resolution electronic viewfinder complete with comfortable-feel eye cup. But the fact that the 3-inch back screen also tilts meant we often ended up referring to the larger 920K-dot resolution LCD for shot composition instead, as it obviously affords a wider range of framing options.
While there are plenty of manual controls for those who relish getting hands on, an auto mode switch lever provides the option to disengage brain and point and shoot with a simple flick. The camera’s performance here is consistent and resulting images are both detailed and colour rich.
Price wise it’s also good news: the camera body was a suggested £499 in black or silver on launch, with the most affordable kit lens option being body plus XC16-50mm lens for £599.
Alternatively the standard 18-55mm lens we played with will set you back £800 with the camera. All kit lenses are black. As any first time Fuji X-series purchaser will be buying into a whole new camera system with the X-T10, you’ll want to know there are currently plenty of Fujinon X mount lenses directly compatible with the camera. In short this is our current ‘go to’ compact and proves a jack-of-all-trades option for anyone wanting DSLR-like results, without DSLR bulk.
Sensor: 16.7 megapixel APS-C X-Trans CMOS II (23.6x15.6mm) | Lens mount: Fujifilm X mount | Screen: 3-inch, tilting LCD (920K dot)| Video: 1920x1080 pixels at 60fps | Continuous shooting: 8fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 19 | Weight: 331g body only
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
Our favourite camera for ease of use is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8. With Panasonic’s DSLR-styled flagship GH4 recently joined by the GH4R, which ramps up its video capabilities, there was a gap just below it in the range for photographers wanting just as many features, yet a more compact form factor. Said ‘gap’ is now filled by the modern yet retro styled GX8, which, in updating the GX7, now also offers 4K-video capture at 30fps and the ability to extract an 8 megapixel frame from a movie sequence in-camera. We also get Wi-Fi, NFC and QR code compatibility.
Dedicated stills resolution has been upped to a very respectable 20 megapixels via a new sensor and the camera feels reassuringly chunkier than previous consumer models in the hand, and larger than it looks in photos. This is partly due to a usefully tilting eye-level electronic viewfinder offering life-like 2,306K-dot resolution, plus 3-inch, angle adjustable 1040K-dot resolution OLED touch screen just below. This proves particularly handy for framing videos. The camera is fast to respond too, rapidly becoming an extension of your own arm, or eye, with 49-area AF challenging the likes of Fuji’s X-T1 or Olympus OM-D cameras.
Like most current CSCs or DSLRs, the GX8 is best viewed as a hybrid product – one that will deliver better stills and videos than your smartphone, should you need that extra level of detail. Whereas once Panasonic offered anti shake just via attached lens, this contender features the belt and braces of in-body image stabilisation, whilst the magnesium alloy build shows its semi-pro mettle by being dustproof and splash-proof. There is no integral flash, rather an option to add one. Picture wise, a wealth of in-camera digital effects options allowed us to capture vividly detailed results, even in a downpour, so the camera is versatile despite the slightly high asking price. Available in black or silver, there’s the choice of purchasing just the body, or bundles adding 12-35mm, 14-42mm or 14-140mm zooms – the better option if you don’t own any Micro Four Thirds lenses, of which there are currently 25 own brand optics available. Whilst this isn’t a full frame DSLR, the GX8 is a serious contender for anyone wanting manual features, 4K video and a chunky weather-resistant chassis.
Sensor: 20.3 megapixel 4/3-inch CMOS sensor (17.3x13mm) | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch, tilting LCD (1,040K dot) | Video: 4K | Continuous shooting: Up to 10fps | Number of compatible lenses: 25 | Weight: 487g body only
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
Now it's time for our favourite camera for enthusiatic amateurs. A year after it was first introduced, Olympus’ well received entry level OM-D system model – based on the same company’s acclaimed OM film cameras of old – got a ‘Mark II’ upgrade. Once again the ideal benefactor would be the travel or reportage photographer wanting to take advantage of its fully featured spec list, along with compatibility with around 40 lenses, and stylish yet unobtrusive size and design. We can debate endlessly whether the Olympus’ 16.1 effective megapixel resolution from Four Thirds sensor – in being physically smaller than competing APS-C or full frame chips – is sufficiently competitive. But the advantage is double the 35mm equivalent focal length for any lens attached – thus a 14mm becomes a 28mm, and so on; the bonus of a greater reach from a smaller size of optic more apparent when we get to telephoto lenses.
For keen amateurs, the E-M10 Mark II is best viewed as a more affordable version of its E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II bigger brothers. This second generation compact offers an all-metal body and Wi-Fi for sharing images with handset or iPad. More noteworthy is an enthusiast pleasing high resolution OLED electronic viewfinder at 2,360k dots; practically double the resolution of its predecessor. This is 2015, so of course we also get attention-grabbing 4K Time Lapse and Slow Motion video capture options (or Full HD movies otherwise), whilst burst capture speed has nudged from 8fps to 8.5fps. As with the competing Panasonic GX8, there is a tilting 3-inch touchscreen to play with, one of the features of which is focusing by touch, with the other being the ability to fire a shot by tapping the screen.
For anyone thinking of ditching their Canon or Nikon DSLR and moving over to the lighter, smaller Olympus series, the advantage is that older Olympus Four Thirds lenses can be affixed via adapter, whilst many third party manufacturers are offering custom made solutions for affixing just about any type of lens to any type of camera. Being an Olympus there are also creative options in spades here, courtesy of 14 Art Filter and nine Art Effects, whilst the retro styled CSC is available in classic silver or sensible all-black options, furthering the suggestion that this is an entry level camera with ideas above its stated class.
Sensor: 17.2 megapixel 4/3-inch CMOS sensor (17.3x13mm) | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch, tilting LCD (1.037K dot) | Video: 1920x1080 pixels at 30fps | Continuous shooting: 8.5fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 40+ (some via adapter) | Weight: 342g (excluding accessories)
Canon EOS M3
- Buy from Canon
Here's one for smartphone-owning upgraders. Unlike the majority of its rivals, who are into double digits in terms of their mirror-less camera bodies, Canon has yet to decisively throw its market leading weight behind interchangeable lens compact system cameras. So the 24.2 megapixel M3 is only its second ever such model to hit the UK, succeeding the plain EOS M of three years back. If it weren’t for the fact that Canon has a massive range of available accessories and lenses available, compatible for the most part via adapter, and incorporates a larger APS-C sensor than Olympus, Panasonic and Nikon rivals, the M3 would have some serious catching up to do.
Smaller in size than a DSLR – the obvious selling point here for Canon fans – once again it matches its competitors in terms of the creative flexibility when it comes to framing offered by a tilting rear panel touch screen. On the M3, said screen is adjustable upwards via 180° for ‘selfies’ or downwards by a more restricted but still useful 45° for high angle shots. As one would imagine, given that the camera is consumer targeted, we get Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for sharing of stills while a 49-point AF system and Canon’s generation Digic 6 processor ensure reliability and swiftness in operation.
If a burst shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second capture is a little so-so compared to rivals, at least this is possible even when shooting data-hungry Raw files. Unsurprisingly there is video capture offered here too, even if Full HD 1920x1080 pixels at 30fops feels a little last year compared to the glorious 4K possibilities being promised by the likes of Panasonic and Sony. Unfortunately we don’t get an eye level viewfinder built in either, but one can be affixed as an optional extra. More positively, the M3’s sensitivity range, expandable up to ISO25600 equivalent, is key to low light work.
For those buying into the EOS M series from scratch, we’d recommend the kit lens option coming with a standard 18-55mm (3x) zoom to get you started out of the box. Ultimately this is an unthreatening, approachable option for someone upgrading from an iPhone and looking to take first steps into interchangeable lens photography, whilst the all-black finish and nicely detailed grip indicate a seriousness of intent.
Sensor: 24.7 megapixel APS-C CMOS (22.3x14.9mm) | Lens mount: Canon EF-M (other lenses via adapter) | Screen: 3-inch fixed LCD (1.040K dot) | Video: 1920x1080pixels at 30fps | Continuous shooting: 4.2fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 70+ if using adapter | Weight: 366g with battery and media card
Nikon 1 J5
- Buy from Nikon
Another one for smartphone photographers is the Nikon 1 J5. Having seemingly flirted coyly with CSC for ages with its J and V series models, the newest ultra compact and very lightweight for its class J5 suggests a more purposeful chapter in Nikon’s relationship with smaller format system cameras. For this is a budget CSC that doesn’t feel compromised to hit its price point, thanks to classic styling and technology trickled down from its Nikon ‘1’ system bigger brothers – the ‘1’ in its name referring to the one inch sensor at its core. This is a physically larger chip than the 1/2.3-inch sensor that used to be found in most fixed lens compacts. But, yes, it’s still smaller than the majority of competing CSCs and all digital SLRs, with their APS-C or full frame sensor alternatives. This is something of a potential issue for those who feel that bigger is better (a larger surface area allowing for more or less tightly packed pixels, which has the added benefit of less grain/noise, better light gathering). However in its favour the 20.8 megapixel J5 feels the most grown up of Nikon’s efforts to date – and not least because of its higher than average resolution 20.8 effective megapixel images.
Most notably the ‘hook’ here is that it is its maker’s first to offer 4K video capture; ensuring the J5 joins a select handful of premium quality video-shooting rivals in Panasonic’s GH4/GH4R, GX8 and G7, Samsung’s NX1 and Sony’s R7S – all bulkier, much pricier cameras than this entry-level Nikon interchangeable lens camera. That said the Nikon can only manage a frame rate of 15fps, as opposed to just under 30fps when recording Full HD. An added bonus however is the flip-up 3-inch ‘selfie’ enabling screen to appeal to any smartphone photographer making the step up. Even when a lens is bundled with the body, such as the compact 10-30mm PD Zoom here, the package is still a very affordable £429.99, which is fair value for anyone not already welded to a rival brand. For casual observers a newly implemented retro design that matches competing Fujifilm and Olympus in the style stakes may swing it. But ultimately this feels the most grown up ‘J’ series camera yet.
Sensor: 23.01 megapixel one-inch CMOS sensor (13.2x8.8mm) | Lens mount: Nikon 1 | Screen: 3.0-inch, 1,037K dot resolution LCD |Video: 4K | Continuous shooting: 20fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 60+ | Weight: 231g body only
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7
If you do like your compact system camera to resemble a regular DSLR rather than, well, a compact such as the same manufacturer’s GX8, then the G7, as a more affordable alternative to the similarly styled GH4/R which sits above it in the Lumix G line up, will hold obvious appeal. This robust yet lightweight 16-megapixel compact system camera again features the brand’s big push for this year: 4K video. As with the similarly styled GH4 flagship, the Lumix DMC-G7 allows the extraction of 8 megapixel stills from 4K (3840x2160 pixels) video footage originally captured at 30fps. The theory is that since you are effectively capturing stills frames at a rate of 30 per second, you’ll never miss that decisive moment (even if you do then have to tab through the frames to select and save your ‘best’ shot, which can be done in camera). Another big part of the pitch is that the G7 weighs just 410g, making it an option for travel photography, as well as looking the part in terms of its mini DSLR-like styling and familiar control layout for those who want to appear more ‘professional’.
Other features of note on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 include an OLED eye level viewfinder – a real draw for enthusiasts who like composing their frames at eye level rather than waist level – or, alternatively, a very useful 3-inch 1040k dot resolution free-angle LCD display at the back for anyone wanting either low or high angle shots without having to scrabble around on the ground or stretch to shoot over the heads of a crowd. Further fun features include a panorama mode for capturing those landscapes in all their glory, a 3.5mm microphone socket for improved audio when shooting video, comforable eye cup and reactive eye sensor, focus peaking, silent mode, a level gauge, plus 22 creative effects filters. Competing with the Olympus OMD and Fuji X systems, this is ideal for those who are seduced by the portability and convenience of a CSC but still want the look and feel of their old SLR. Combining DSLR-like handling with DSLR-like results for a very reasonable price, there is every reason therefore to give the G7 serious consideration as your next interchangeable lens camera.
Sensor: 16.84 megapixel Four Thirds CMOS (17.3x13mm) | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds mount | Screen: 3-inch, tilting LCD (1,040K dot) | Video: 4K | Continuous shooting: 40fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 25 | Weight: 360g body only
While this may not seem like a revolutionary upgrade, the main draw here is that Nikon’s highest-end APS-C sensor DSLR has been given Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity to bring it bang up to date. And, in fairness, though many of us may aspire to own one, we don’t all need or want the alternative of a pricier full frame camera, such as the Nikon D750 that the 24.2 megapixel D7200 sits below in the range. This is a camera that will also appeal to those who like the look, feel and handling of a traditional SLR, but one with all the modern digital bells and whistles today’s photographers expect. It's our pick for enthusiasts.
Tweaks this time around include a more responsive auto focus (AF) system that could be classed as ‘pro-grade’, in that it is still able to acquire subjects in the relative dim of -3EV equivalent lighting. It also benefits from 51 AF points covering the entire frame plus 15 centrally positioned cross type sensors. Aiding manual focus in Live View mode is its bigger than usual 3.2-inch LCD, though, unlike others here, said screen is fixed rather than tilting.
Video is included too, though not at 4K resolution. Instead we get Full HD 1920x1080 pixels recording at up to 30 frames per second. A 1.3x crop mode boosts this to 60fps and continuous stills shooting from 6fps to 7fps, for up to 27 Raw files or 100 JPEGs. We liked its D7100 predecessor, if at the time of its launch in 2013 we did question what it offered over a £500 APS-C DSLR to justify the price hike. The thought also nags us that if one is going to spend nearly £1,000 for the D7200, could a wiser investment be made in an older full frame DSLR, such as the Nikon D610? Ultimately this is a competent if non-revolutionary upgrade of a range topping APS-C DSLR with better low light AF response, Wi-Fi and NFC added.
The D7200 is available as a weather-sealed body only option for £939.99 or with 18-105mm VR zoom for £1119.99 all-in, which obviously provides a very comprehensive range of framing options without the photographer actually having to take a step forward or back.
Sensor: 24.72 megapixel APS-C CMOS (23.5x15.6mm) | Lens mount: Nikon F mount | Screen: 3.2-inch, 1229K-dot | Video: 1920x1080 pixels at 60fps | Continuous shooting: 7fps maximum in 1.3x crop mode | Number of compatible lenses: 60+ | Weight: 675g body only
Sony A7S Mark II
- Buy from Sony
Our next pick is the camera we'd recommend for photographers who also want to shoot lots of video. You only have to look at that price tag or the A7S Mark II’s specification to know immediately that this is a heavy duty option for the pro wanting to travel light, or the enthusiast seeking to up their game. There are two major selling points here: a full frame sensor – by which we mean one that’s a physical match for a frame of 35mm film – plus the fact that the ‘II’ can record 4K video with it. For those working hand held, the five-axis in-body stabilization system is a distinct advantage, as is the ability to dial light sensitivity up to a whopping ISO409600 equivalent. In fact, sensitivity – and therefore better reproduction of fine detail in a variety of otherwise challenging conditions – is what this camera is really all about. Whether that’s worth paying such a high premium for is largely down to how sensitive you are about, well, sensitivity itself.
As this is as much a tool for shooting video as it is taking photographs, it’s no surprise that this second generation model adds greater support for a wider variety of recording formats, including XAVC, S-Gamut/S-Log 2, popular among videographers. Again detail is key, its manufacturer suggesting that, thanks to full pixel readout without any pixel binning, the 4K video shooting camera collects info from approximately five times as many pixels as would be required to generate Full HD images.
Further under-the-bonnet tweaks for the solid-feel, magnesium alloy construction ‘II’ include a silent shooting mode deployable even when burst shooting at speeds of 5fps, plus, in a first for the series, the ability to record 120fps footage at 100Mbps, thereby enabling 4x/5x slow motion video. Unsurprisingly, in order to crunch such large amounts of data at speed, a UHS Class 3 memory card is recommended.
Sony’s growing line up of compatible lenses now comprises of over 60 different models – a real enticement for anyone buying into this system from scratch – including 13 full frame ‘FE’ lenses, obviously a key selling point for this particular full frame model. Though resolution is a modest 12 megapixels, both camera and lens line up very much indicate the A7 series is for power users.
Sensor: 12.2 megapixel full frame Exmor CMOS (35.6x23.8mm) | Lens mount: Sony E-mount | Screen: 3.0-inch, 1.2 million dot LCD | Video: 4K | Continuous shooting: 5fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 64 | Weight: 584g body only
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
- Buy from Canon
This upgrade of the five-year-old 7D again offers itself up as an APS-C sensor workhorse ideal for semi professionals. That large a gap between models is unheard of for digital cameras, which tells you how respected its predecessor was, plus how much anticipation there is for a new model. Competitors in this price bracket include the Sony A77 Mark II, Nikon D7100, and Pentax K-3. The Mark II version arrives priced as a body only deal; so there is not an official boxed option complete with standard lens or lenses. That said, as more than 70 compatible lens choices are offered in the current Canon EF/EF-S line-up, no photographer will be spoilt for creative choice. At the core of the Mark II is a newly designed 20.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. The auto focus system offers a whopping 65 cross type AF points for pinpointing your subject no matter where it is in the frame and, given that the older 7D was popular with fledgling filmmakers, the ante has been further upped in terms of video with Full HD capture at 60P. We also get a microphone input for more professional sound results via an optional external microphone, plus a headphone jack provided.
Showing its semi professional mettle by offering a tough, weather sealed magnesium alloy build and a 100% field of view optical viewfinder – so what you see at eye level is what you get in the resulting image – further improvements come in the form of dual pixel AF, built in GPS and compatibility with a Wi-Fi unit. Delivering a respectable 610 shots from a full charge is the Mark II’s LP6N battery. Suitable for both amateurs upping their game, or a pro looking for s second camera s back up, the EOS 7D Mark II is compatible with both SD and CompactFlash. This variety also enables video to be written to one card and stills to the other, if desired. Overall with this model it appears as if Canon has rather taken the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach. In the EOS 7D Mark II it has delivered another workhorse for those who don’t need the next (larger file size) step up of a professional-grade full frame sensor, and are therefore quite happy with the nevertheless bigger than average standard APS-C chip provided here.
Sensor: 20.9 megapixel APS-C CMOS (22.4x15.0mm) | Lens mount: Canon EF, EF-S | Screen: 3-inch fixed LCD (1.040K dot) | Video: 1920x1080pixels at 50fps | Continuous shooting: 10fps maximum | Number of compatible lenses: 70+ | Weight: 910g body only
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