The 9 Best Professional Cameras of 2020

Top of the line cameras for serious photographers

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The Rundown
"The best all-rounder for any shooting environment, offering all the features a pro will need."
Best Overall, Runner-Up:
Sony Alpha A7R IV at Amazon
"“Having a massive 61MP sensor, all sorts of connectivity options, 4K video recording, and a lot more packed in a compact body, Sony Alpha A7R IV is easily the best mirrorless camera you can buy today."
Best Mirrorless:
Nikon Z6 at Amazon
"Might convince even the most seasoned photographer to convert."
"Experienced pros will relish the premium build quality and versatility."
Best Compact:
Fujifilm X-T30 at Amazon
"Fantastic for sports and wildlife photography, it can shoot up to 30 frames per second."
Best Budget:
Sony a6000 at Amazon
"A fantastic value, best suited to pros on a tight budget."
"If you want great images but find “regular” professional cameras - and their multitude of lenses - to be too much of a hassle, Leica’s Q2 is for you."
"Stuffed with powerhouse features such as 14-bit RAW capture, a wide ISO range, dual SD card slots, and an Ethernet port, Sony’s Alpha A9 II is a premium mirrorless camera that deserves its high price tag."
Best for Flagship:
Canon 1DX Mark II at Amazon
"While not cheap, it’s worth the investment for sports, wildlife, and action photographers."

For a vast majority of people, modern-day smartphones and their funky camera setups are more than sufficient. However, there’s no denying the fact that when it comes to serious photography, you absolutely need a professional camera. Offering everything from full-blown manual controls to a vast choice of lenses, these cameras let you capture pictures (and videos) that are just not possible with a smartphone or even a point-and-shoot camera.

As awesome as it is, choosing a pro-grade camera isn’t simple. Whether you’re an expert or just starting into the world of real photography, there are hundreds of options available. These include everything from mirrorless cameras like the Nikon Z6 at Amazon to top-of-the-line DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D at Amazon, from popular manufacturers such as Sony, Canon, and Nikon. It can (and often does) get confusing real fast, so we’ve rounded up some of the best professional cameras available out there.

Best Overall: Canon E0S 5D Mark IV

What We Like
  • Integrated optical correction features

  • Dual SDXC and CF card support

What We Don't Like
  • HDMI video out limited to 1080p

Canon makes some of the finest digital cameras out there, and the EOS 5D Mark IV is no different. Featuring a 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor working in tandem with Canon’s “Digic 6+” image processor, it captures stunning photos with vibrant colors and better sharpness levels. You also get great image quality in low light settings, thanks to a wide ISO range of 100-32000 (expandable to 50-102400) and an improved noise-processing algorithm. The professional camera’s 61-point AF system extends throughout the peripheral frame, and is complemented by an intelligent tracking mechanism that automatically switches among active AF points for effortless shooting of fast-moving subjects. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV supports continuous shooting at up to 7fps, and can record DCI 4K videos at up to 30fps as well.  For wireless connectivity and I/O, everything from Wi-Fi and NFC, to micro HDMI and USB is included in the mix. Other noteworthy features include a 3.2-inch LCD monitor (with touch input), automatic GPS-based geotagging, 3.5mm ports for connecting external headphones/mics, and compatibility with Canon’s EF lenses.

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Sony Alpha A7R IV

What We Like
  • 26.2MP (APS-C size) cropped images for easy editing

  • Multiple user-configurable controls

What We Don't Like
  • Settings can’t be changed until buffer clears

Powerful and feature-laden in equal measure, Sony’s Alpha A7R IV is easily among the best professional cameras you can buy today. Its 61MP full-frame CMOS sensor works alongside Sony’s “BIONZ X” image processing engine, delivering gorgeous pictures with enhanced visual detail and rich color gradation. The camera’s wide ISO range of 100-32000 (expandable to 50-102400) works wonders for low-light photography, while the advanced in-body 5-axis image stabilization gives sharp images even at higher shutter speeds. Being a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera (MILC), Sony Alpha A7R IV is a lot more compact than traditional DSLRs. It supports continuous shooting at up to 10fps, whereas the high-density AF system (with 567 phase detection autofocus points) allows for precision tracking of subjects with no issues. Compatible with all of Sony’s E-mount lenses, the camera includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, micro HDMI, and USB as major connectivity and I/O options. Among other notable additions are dual SDXC card slots, a 3.0-inch LCD monitor (with touch input), real-time eye autofocus, and 4K video recording at up to 30fps.

Best Mirrorless: Nikon Z6

What We Like
  • N-Log video capture for easy post-production

  • Amazing build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Some focusing issues

Since they use electronic viewfinders instead of optical ones, mirrorless cameras tend to have a much smaller physical footprint than DSLRs. If that’s what you’re looking for – there are quite a few great options to choose from – but we recommend Nikon’s Z6. Its 24.5MP full-frame CMOS sensor is complemented by Nikon’s “EXPEED 6” image processing engine, resulting in sharp and detailed photos. And with a wide ISO range of 100-51200 (expandable to 50-204800) even low-light images turn out to be sharp and detailed. The camera supports continuous shooting at up to 12fps, and its hybrid AF system (with 231 phase detection autofocus points) works great for tracking moving subjects. You also get eye-detection AF for trouble-free portrait photography. Nikon Z6 can record 4K videos at up to 30fps, and includes in-camera 5-axis vibration reduction as well. In terms of wireless connectivity and I/O, everything from Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, to micro HDMI and USB is present on-board. The camera is compatible with all of Nikon’s Z-mount lenses, and shoots in 12-bit/14-bit RAW mode for convenient post-processing. Among other features are a 3.2-inch tilting LCD monitor (with touch input), support for XQD and CFexpress cards, and a high-resolution OLED viewfinder.

Best DSLR: Nikon D850

What We Like
  • Incredibly fast autofocus

  • Durable weather-sealed design

What We Don't Like
  • Focus peaking not available with video

When it comes to professional photography, Nikon is a name that needs no introduction. The company makes a whole bunch of feature-packed digital cameras, with the D850 being a case in point. Sporting a 45.7MP full-frame CMOS sensor, it delivers outstanding high-resolution pictures with vivid colors and impressive sharpness levels. You also get Nikon’s “EXPEED 5” image processing engine, which reduces noise and enables continuous shooting at up to 7fps. A wide ISO range of 64-25600 (expandable to 32-102400) not only allows for greater dynamic range, but also improves photos taken in dimly-lit conditions. The camera’s 153-point AF system is helped by a dedicated AF processor, so even fast-moving subjects can be tracked and captured with ease. Nikon D850 is capable of recording 4K videos at up to 30fps, and its “Interval Timer” mode lets create beautiful 4K/8K time-lapse sequences with up to 9,999 still images. As far as I/O and wireless connectivity go, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, micro HDMI, USB, and 3.5mm audio included in the package. Some other goodies worth mentioning are dual XQD and SDXC card slots, a 3.2-inch tilting LCD monitor (with touch input), and compatibility with a diverse array of Nikon’s lenses.

Best Compact: Fujifilm X-T30

What We Like
  • Fantastic video recording capabilities

  • Pop-up flash

What We Don't Like
  • Non-standard 2.5mm audio port

Measuring 4.6 inches x 3.2 inches x 1.8 inches and weighing a mere 13.5 ounces, Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a ridiculously compact and lightweight camera. However, don’t let that diminutive size fool you, as this thing packs some serious punch. Its 26.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor employs a unique “X-Trans” color filter array to minimize incorrect colors, without needing an optical low pass filter. Combine that with Fujifilm’s “X-Processor 4” chip, and you get magnificent pictures with enhanced tones and improved clarity. The professional camera’s wide ISO range of 160-12800 (expandable to 80-51200) makes for better low-light photography, and there’s also support for blackout-free burst shooting at up to 30fps. Tracking/capturing moving subjects is a cakewalk too, thanks to a high-density AF system that covers almost 100-percent of the frame. Fujifilm X-T30 can record DCI 4K videos at up to 30fps - complete with high-resolution audio - without requiring any extra accessories. To make things even better, its “Film Simulation” feature lets you choose from a number of built-in modes (e.g. Eterna, Acros, and Velvia) for recording videos. Compatible with Fujifilm’s X-mount lenses, the camera features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, micro HDMI, and USB Type-C as I/O and connectivity options. Other noteworthy additions include a 3.0-inch LCD monitor (with touch input), customizable function buttons, and SDXC card support.

Light enough to be mistaken for a point-and-shoot, Fujifilm’s X-T30 is a feature-rich camera that can compete with the best out there. The fact that it also lets you record splendid 4K videos, only makes things better.

Best Budget: Sony a6000

What We Like
  • Numerous built-in creative presets and effects

  • Customizable function buttons

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life isn’t exactly the best

If you’re in the market for a well-rounded professional camera that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, look no further than Sony’s Alpha A6000. Having a 24.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor and a wide ISO range of 100-25600, it lets you shoot clear and detailed photos in all kinds of lighting conditions, even at night. Under the hood, Sony’s “BIONZ X” image processing engine and a hybrid AF system (with 179 phase detection autofocus points) make tracking and shooting moving subjects a breeze. The mirrorless camera works perfectly with Sony’s E-mount lenses, and comes with a handy top-mounted “Control Dial” that makes changing settings a walk in the park. Its full manual mode allows you to push your photography skills even further, and there’s also support for burst shooting at up to 11fps. Sony Alpha A6000 can record Full-HD videos at up to 60fps, and features Wi-Fi, NFC, micro HDMI, and USB as I/O and connectivity options. Other notable additions include a pop-up flash, eye-detection AF, and a 3.0-inch tilting LCD monitor.

Featuring everything from a wide ISO range to ultra-fast autofocusing performance, Sony’s Alpha A6000 proves that you don’t always have to spend a fortune to enjoy a great camera experience.

Best Fixed-Lens: Leica Q2 Digital Camera

What We Like
  • Versatile single lens for fuss-free photography

  • Premium yet sturdy magnesium chassis

What We Don't Like
  • No USB port for data transfer/charging

If you want great images but find “regular” professional cameras - and their multitude of lenses - to be too much of a hassle, Leica’s Q2 is for you. Boasting a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor and a fixed (28mm) Summilux prime lens, it lets you capture spectacular photos with little to no effort. The camera’s fast and accurate contrast-based AF system includes a variety of modes (e.g. Multi-Field, Spot, and Tracking), and the integrated digital zoom enables flexible framing of subjects at multiple focal lengths, all while retaining high-resolution images in DNG RAW format. With a wide ISO range of 50-50000, even pictures taken at night come out to be sharp and clear. Leica Q2 features a rugged IP52-certified construction, and its OLED viewfinder (with live preview support) makes composing shots a joy. The camera supports burst shooting at up to 10fps, and can also record 4K videos at up to 30fps. As far as wireless connectivity and I/O are concerned, you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an SDXC card slot. Other goodies include a 3.0-inch LCD monitor (with touch input), multiple built-in scene modes, and automatic face detection.

Best Splurge: Sony Alpha A9 II

What We Like
  • Fast electronic shutter for lag-free continuous shooting

  • Support for background FTP transfers

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat complex menus and controls

Sony has become a force to be reckoned with in the field of professional photography over the past few years, and the Alpha A9 II just goes to show why. Aimed at those who want nothing but top-tier picture quality (and don’t mind paying a premium for it), it features a 24.2MP full-frame stacked CMOS sensor with integral memory. Then there is Sony’s “BIONZ X” image processing engine, which allows for burst shooting at up to 20fps, all while using the advanced “4D Focus” AF system (having 693 phase detection autofocus points) to continuously track fast-moving subjects with enhanced accuracy. Even the images captured in dimly-lit settings are full of visual detail, thanks to the camera’s wide ISO range of 100-51200 (expandable to an insane 50-204800). Sony Alpha A9 II can shoot in uncompressed14-bit RAW mode for increased post-processing control, and comes with a lot of creative effects and presets (e.g. Retro Photo, Partial Color, and Sepia) too. Talking about connectivity and I/O options, you get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, micro HDMI, USB, NFC, 3.5mm audio, and even Ethernet. Other noteworthy goodies include a 3.0-inch LCD monitor (with touch input), dual SDXC card slots, 4K video recording at up to 30fps, and compatibility with Sony’s E-mount lenses.

Best for Flagship: Canon 1DX Mark II

What We Like
  • In-camera RAW processing support

  • Extremely rugged construction

What We Don't Like
  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

Take one look at Canon’s EOS 1DX Mark II, and you’re bound to be awed. Measuring 6.2 inches x 6.6 inches x 3.2 inches and weighing nearly 54 ounces, this behemoth of a camera is squarely targeted at ace photographers. Its 20.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor works in conjunction with not just one - but two of Canon’s “Digic 6+” image processors – resulting in truly breathtaking photos. Thanks to a wide ISO range of 100-51200 (expandable to an astounding 50-409600), even images captured at night are clear and packed with visual detail. The professional camera supports continuous shooting at up to 14fps, and its high-density 61-point AF system makes tracking fast-moving subjects easy as pie. Canon EOS 1DX Mark II can record DCI 4K videos at up to 60fps, and even lets you save individual frames from videos as 8.8MP still pictures. Talking about I/O and connectivity, the camera comes with HDMI, USB, 3.5mm audio, and Ethernet. You can also use an optional accessory to wirelessly transfer photos/videos to your smartphone and use it as a remote control. Among other important features are a 3.2-inch LCD monitor, GPS-based geotagging, compatibility with Canon’s EF lenses, and dual CF card slots.

Final Verdict

Although each of the professional cameras detailed above is amazing in its own right, our overall vote goes to Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV. Its high-resolution sensor captures a lot of detail, and you get the ability to record DCI 4K videos. The DSLR is compatible with a lot of Canon’s lenses and includes all standard connectivity options too. On the other hand, Sony’s Alpha A7R IV is an easy recommendation if you’d rather have a mirrorless camera. Despite its compact size, the camera packs in a super high-resolution sensor, giving you a lot of cropping and zooming freedom. Then there are goodies such as 4K video capture and eye-detection autofocus, which make the whole package even better.

How We Tested

None of our top picks for the best professional cameras have been put through their paces just yet, but our team of trusted experts will be using each model in a variety of closed and real-world photography scenarios to help you determine which one is best for you. They'll be paying particular attention to the resolution of each device and the potential storage space, as well as it's available accessories and price.

About Our Trusted Experts

A technology journalist with more than six years (and counting) of experience, Rajat Sharma has tested/reviewed a lot of cameras over the course of his career so far. Prior to joining Lifewire, he worked as a senior technology writer/editor with two of India’s largest media houses - The Times Group and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited.

What to Look for in a Professional Camera

Resolution - One of the most key factors in determining the sharpness and detail of any image or video is resolution, the number of pixels from which an image is built. For cameras, this is represented in megapixels, the higher the better. Generally, a range between 24 and 50 means high-quality, professional-looking shots.

ISO - ISO (which, confusingly, stands for International Organization of Standardization, the governing body that determines standards for camera sensitivity) broadly determines how light your image is. The higher you raise the ISO, the lighter the resulting image, though you also risk introducing grain/noise. Base ISO is the setting that, independent of other factors, will determine the highest quality image.

Form factor - A big factor for many photogs is the size and shape of their gear; generally speaking, if you're looking for a more compact, lightweight camera, you'll likely want a mirrorless, whereas DSLRs are usually heavier and bulkier.