Okay, we admit it – it's an impossible question. The best camera for a pro photographer is a million miles from the best camera for an adventure sports nut. So what we've done is pick out what we think are the standout cameras in their fields. This may be because they have the most amazing features and specifications, because they're amazing value for what they offer or because they are just brilliant at the job they've been designed for.
Along the way we'll explain some of the jargon and the differences between cameras, though if you need a bit more help deciding what kind of camera you need, you can get a lot more information from our special step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
On the other hand, you may already have a clear idea of the kind of camera you want, in which case you could go straight to one of our more specific camera buying guides:
Last year we saw some stunning cameras launched - many of them making it onto our list below. If you just want to know what we think are the top ten standout cameras you can buy right now – regardless of user level or price point – then keep on reading.
All these are cameras have been extensively tried and tested by ourselves, so if you want to know any more about any of them as well as check out sample images, just click the link to the full review.
1. Nikon D850
High resolution meets high speed
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 45.4MP | Lens: Nikon F mount | Viewfinder: Optical | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
It may be expensive, but if you're looking for the best camera money can buy right now, then Nikon's fabulous D850 DSLR pretty much ticks every box. Packing in a brilliant 45.4MP full-frame sensor, image quality is stunning. But that's just half the story. Thanks to a sophisticated 153-point AF system and 9fps burst shooting speed, the D850 is just a home shooting action and wildlife as it is landscapes and portraits. The Nikon D850 is perhaps the most well-rounded camera we've ever tested.
Read our in-depth Nikon D850 review
2. Fujifilm X-T2
A stunning camera perfect for enthusiast photographers
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.3MP | Lens: Fujifilm X mount | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
The update to the X-T1 may look similar at first glance, but there have been some huge improvements made to Fujifilm's follow-up flagship mirrorless camera. Perhaps the biggest update though is the autofocus. A huge leap forward compared with the system found in the X-T1, AF tracking of moving subjects is very snappy, while the level of sophistication and customisation is impressive. Add in 8 frames per second burst shooting, a clever double-hinged rear display, bright EVF, Fujifilm's excellent 24.3MP X Trans III CMOS sensor and plenty of body mounted controls and you're left with one of the best cameras available today.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X-T2
3. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
One of the most complete DSLRs we've seen
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 30.4MP | Lens: Canon EF mount | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Canon's EOS 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame DSLR photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it. With a new 30.4MP sensor that delivers pin-sharp results through the ISO range, a 61-point AF system that's incredibly advanced and some very polished handling, the EOS 5D Mark IV has to be one of the best DSLRs we've seen.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
4. Sony Alpha A9
Taking the fight to Canon and Nikon
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Sony E mount | Viewfinder: EVF | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1440,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 20fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Once, if you wanted a professional quality full frame camera it had to be a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Sony's growing range of mirrorless full-frame cameras offer a great alternative and the Alpha A9 sits at the top of the range. The AF system Sony has blessed this camera with is not only incredibly quick, the tracking performance needs to be seen to be believed. Partner that with incredibly fast 20fps burst shooting, and a large and bright EVF that doesn't blackout when you're shooting, and you've got a camera that can mix it with the best that Canon and Nikon have to offer when it comes to shooting action. The Alpha A9 doesn't fail to impress.
Read our in-depth Sony Alpha A9 review
5. Sony Alpha A7R II
Sony's top mirrorless camera is a real show-stopper
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: Full-frame CMOS | Resolution: 42.4MP | Lens: Sony E mount | Viewfinder: EVF | Monitor: 3.0-inch tilt-angle display, 1,228,800 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Once, if you wanted a professional quality full frame camera it had to be a Nikon or Canon DSLR. But Sony has changed all that with its mirrorless A7 series cameras, and the A7R II is its highest resolution model. Its 42.4 megapixel sensor is second only to the 50-megapixel sensor in the Canon EOS 5DS for resolution, yet the A7R II is only two-thirds the size and weight of the Canon. It has a high-resolution electronic viewfinder and 5-axis image stabilization built into the camera body, and the full-time live view that's integral to the mirrorless design gives Sony's A7-series cameras a real advantage for video.
Read the full review: Sony Alpha A7R II
6. Nikon D3400
Not the most expensive entry-level DSLR, but we think it's the best
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Nikon F mount (DX) | Viewfinder: Optical | Screen type: 3.0-inch screen, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Nikon's D3400 builds on the brilliant D3300 and is our top pick when it comes to entry-level DSLRs. Sharing pretty much the same design and specification as its predecessor, the D3400 adds Nikon's SnapBridge bluetooth connectivity to transfer images directly to your smart device to make it that much easier to share images. The 24.2MP sensor resolves bags of detail, while the D3400 is also a very easy camera to live with. Its clever Guide Mode is a useful learning tool that gives real-time explanations of important features. There's no touchscreen, but otherwise, this is our favorite entry-level DSLR right now.
Read our in-depth Nikon D3400 review
7. Fujifilm X100F
Classic design and controls make it the perfect enthusiast compact
Type: High-end compact | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.3MP | Lens: 23mm f/2 | Monitor: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: Hybrid | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
The X100F is a thing of beauty both to look and and to use, but it's not for everyone. It's a relatively large, retro-styled compact camera with a fixed focal length 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens, and designed for photographers who hanker after the weighty feel and manual external controls of traditional 35mm film rangefinder cameras. It's a relatively specialised camera and most owners are likely to have other cameras too. It may be a touch pricey, but there's nothing quite like it – it's an exquisite camera to look at and to shoot with.
Read the full review: Fujifilm X100F
8. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
Top-notch performance in a super-small package
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: MFT Live MOS | Resolution: 16.1MP | Lens: Micro Four Thirds | Screen type: 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,370,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
We loved the original E-M10 for its size, versatility and value for money, but the E-M10 II adds features that take it to another level. The old camera's 3-axis image stabilization system has been uprated to the 5-axis system in Olympus's more advanced OM-D cameras, the viewfinder resolution has been practically doubled and the continuous shooting speed, already impressive at 8fps, creeps up to 8.5fps. Some will criticise the smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor format (roughly half the area of APS-C) but the effect on image quality is minor and it means that the lenses are as compact and lightweight as the camera itself. It's small, but it's no toy – the E-M10 II is a properly powerful camera.
Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II review
9. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / 800D
Canon's best entry-level DSLR yet offers power and performance
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Resolution: 24.2MP | Lens: Canon EF-S | Viewfinder: Optical | Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
One of the best entry-level DSLRs out there, the EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside) is an update to the EOS Rebel T6i / 750D. The resolution stays the same, but it's a new design with an improved high ISO performance. The autofocus also gets a boost over the older model, now with a 45-point arrangement that's backed up by excellent live view AF system that's as quick as mirrorless rivals, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users. The absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint, but despite this the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D is a great entry into the world of DSLR photography.
10. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500GA
The bridge camera for the photographer who wants quality too
Type: Bridge camera | Sensor: 1.0-inch type CMOS | Resolution: 20.1MP | Lens: 24-480mm, f/2.8-4.5 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating display, 1,040,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
Our final camera is a 'bridge' camera, a type of camera that we don't normally like very much because the ultra-zoom design forces the makers to use titchy 1/2.3-inch sensors the same size as those in point-and-shoot cameras. You get the look and feel of a DSLR, but you certainly don't get the image quality. But the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US) is different. It sacrifices a huge zoom range in favour of a much larger 1.0-inch sensor - a compromise most serious photographers will applaud. While the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that's still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use. We'd certainly sacrifice a little for of zoom range for better and faster optics. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range, while also offering full manual and semi-manual controls, the ability to shoot raw files and 4K video.