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Getting your hands on the best professional camera is often a pretty expensive proposition, so ensuring that you're getting the most value possible is of paramount importance. If you do invest in a truly pro camera, whether one of the best DSLRs or best mirrorless models, however, it can be a transformative piece of tech. Even if you're not a working photographer, getting your hands on one of the models on this list can change the way you take (and even view) photos in a massive way.
While we've been spoiled by decent camera technology being progressively integrated into our smartphones, getting the full user experience of a top-end DSLR and seeing the stunning, sharp, detailed results proves that there's still a sharp contrast between a dedicated camera and the tiny lenses tucked in our pockets. We've tested and isolated the best models from a number of leading brands, as well as the best option for sports photography, or if you're not looking to spend a fortune, to make sure there's a camera on our list for everyone.
Massive ISO range
Dual memory card slots
Occasional white balance issues
Canon products have long been a favorite with professional photographers, but the Canon E0S 5D Mark IV takes the cake as the best professional camera for any shooting environment, complete with all the features a pro could ever need.
This full-frame 30.4-megapixel DSLR boasts an ISO range of 100-32,000. Shooting at up to seven frames per second, with 61 autofocus points, it’s a strong camera with fast processing and an easy-to-use touchscreen. The Mark IV also shoots 4K video and is part of Canon’s beloved 5D series.
For longer shoots, dual memory card storage is a handy feature. Wi-Fi and GPS are also built-in. When it comes to editing photos, Dual Pixel Raw comes in handy, as it allows for additional editing in post, whether that means tweaking the color or adjusting the bokeh.
Overall, the Canon E0S 5D Mark IV an incredible camera that delivers exceptional, high-quality results.
Gorgeous image and video quality
Shoots up to 12fps
In-body image stabilization
Sensor can attract dust
The Nikon Z6 is one of the best mirrorless, full-frame cameras on the market, one that might convince even the most seasoned photographer to convert. Images and videos come out beautifully, and the camera is much lighter and easier for travel than a heavier DSLR.
It is designed to work well in all settings and can shoot up to 12 frames per second. If you're shooting without a tripod, you'll appreciate the in-body image stabilization. Though, even if you're not, the 24.5-megapixel resolution wows, producing gorgeous high-quality images at the press of a button.
The Z6 works especially well for filming. It shoots 4K video in full-frame, with no video cropping, and can shoot 4K timelapse footage. The frame is compatible with Nikon’s Nikkor Z lenses, so you have a wide range to choose from.
Takes clear, gorgeous photos
Amazing 102,400 max ISO
Capable of LAN transfers
The Nikon D5 is a top-of-the-line camera, complete with all the bells and whistles a pro would need. It’s a full-frame DSLR, capable of shooting up to 12 frames per second and a 20.8-megapixel resolution. With it, you can take gorgeous, clear shots with stunning color composition for any type of photography.
The D5’s ISO reaches up to 102,400, great for shooting in low-light, and the 153-point autofocus helps ensure moving subjects are captured with clarity and accuracy. For video, you can film in 4K, but only for about three minutes at a time, so it's not the best option for video recording.
For moving your work from camera to desktop, on the other hand, the D5 is designed with the professional photographer in mind. Using LAN transfer, you can move up to 400 MPS or 130 MPS with the optional wireless transmitter. (Neither Wi-Fi or GPS are included).
It’s a solid, rugged camera frame designed with weatherproofing and a high-performance product for the experienced or professional photographer.
42.4 megapixel resolution
425 tracking points
Compatible with Sony's E-mount lenses
Subpar battery life
Comparable to the Nikon D850, this full-frame mirrorless rig yields precise, high-resolution results. Expect professional-standard 42.4-megapixel images, with 425 focus tracking points and 4K HDR video capabilities. A back-illuminated sensor (CMOS) ensures this camera works beautifully in low-light environments.
The Sony a75 111 works with Sony’s E-mount lenses, making it a top choice for existing Sony Alpha fans. A fast processor, tilting touchscreen monitor, and built-in Wi-Fi make it easy to work efficiently, and the high resolution provides images similar in quality to what you’d get from a much heavier DSLR. If you’re shooting video or capturing wildlife at close range, the silent shooting feature is a really useful one to ensure you’re not interfering with the natural environment.
The battery life is not as long as some other cameras, and an intervalometer is not included for timelapse shooting. But overall, this is one of the best professional mirrorless cameras on the market.
45.7 megapixel resolution
Performs well in dim light
Can shoot 8K video
Intended for experienced photographers
Widely considered one of the best, the Nikon D850 is a full-frame, 45.7-megapixel DSLR. Its high resolution leaves little room for error, and experienced pros will relish the premium build quality and versatility of this top-of-the-line Nikon.
It performs favorably in low light, thanks to autofocus down to -4EV (exposure value) and the built-in BSI, or back-illuminated sensor. This lets an increased amount of light into the camera, improving the quality of the photo in dark settings.
The D850 can also shoot 4K and 8K timelapse movies, slow motion video, and ISO from 64-25,600. A touchscreen LCD display streamlines the setup process. This sturdy, solid camera admittedly comes at a hefty price. It’s best for experienced users who will best make use of its features.
Shoots beautiful 4K video
Great for motion
The 26.1-megapixel Fujifilm X-T30 mirrorless camera packs a lot into a small package. In addition to recording beautiful 4K video footage, it excels at shooting objects in motion. Fantastic for sports and wildlife photography, it can shoot up to 30 frames per second. An 18-55mm lens is included; however, it is also compatible with Fujifilm’s X-series lens mounts. Autofocus is included, too, and doesn’t disappoint. To accurately focus, it has 425 points of detection.
Wi-Fi connectivity is robust on the X-T30, and you can connect it to your phone via Bluetooth to remotely control the shot using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app. While it is a leader from Fujifilm, the X-T30 isn’t weather-sealed, and its small size may not suit those who prefer a larger frame.
Compact and lightweight
Built-in Wi-Fi and flash
Adjustable LCD screen
Part of the popular Sony Alpha series, the a6000 is an exceptional value, best suited to pros on a tight budget. The small and lightweight mirrorless camera takes stunning photos and videos without breaking the bank.
The 24.3-megapixel Sony a6000 has a 16-50mm lens, along with a built-in flash, adjustable LCD screen, and Wi-Fi. It makes use of Sony’s Fast Hybrid AF (autofocus) with 179 detection points — ideal for keeping tabs on moving subjects. ISO ranges from 100–25,600.
While not a full-frame, professionals and amateurs alike can take clear, stunning photos with an a6000. Note, it doesn’t have a touchscreen, like many of the models listed here, and the battery life is limited to about 300 shots, fewer than that of its competitors.
Excellent for fast-motion
Great, speedy autofocus
No Wi-Fi connectivity
This full-frame DSLR is a remarkable camera for fast-motion photography, marrying rapid shooting, clarity, and precision. While not cheap, it’s worth the investment for sports, wildlife, and action photographers.
The 20.2-megapixel Canon 1DX Mark II has an ISO range from 100-51,200. It is capable of recording 4K video and capturing up to 14 frames per second, or 16 in Live View Mode, perfect for capturing all the detail and movement of a soaring eagle, a football game, or a motorcycle zooming past. The autofocus works well and quickly, and a built-in GPS helps you geotag your images.
There’s no built-in Wi-Fi or intervalometer, but otherwise, this camera is an impressive piece of technology and one of Canon’s best.
The Canon E0S 5D Mark IV takes top marks on our list because it's hands-down the best all-around camera, and the most fully-featured, delivering incredible photos and stunning video without forcing you to take out a second mortgage to afford it. But if a mirrorless is more your speed, the Nikon Z6 is the best out there, a full-frame beauty that also delivers absolutely gorgeous pictures and video but packed in a lighter, more compact frame than a comparable DSLR.
Katie Dundas is a digital camera expert, and an experienced writer for a wide variety of tech and travel publications. She's also done extensive writing on a variety of other tech and tech-adjacent topics, including fitness, wearables, and drones.
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.