Finding the best professional camera for you depends very much on the types of photos or video you're looking to take. Unless you can stretch to landmark all-rounder like the Sony A1, specialist tools remain the best choice for professionals – and whether you're a landscape photographer, portrait snapper or hybrid shooter, we've rounded up all of the best ones here.
Our best cameras for professionals round up mainly focuses on stills photography in the higher end of the mirrorless and DSLR market – though we have also included a couple of our favorite video-focused options and, yes, a Leica for the those who want something that's just a little bit more than a photographic tool. If you're looking for cine camera comparisons, though, it's best to look elsewhere.
We've picked our favorite choices covering an array of photography disciplines, including action, landscapes and reportage. DSLR fan? You'll find our favorite option, the Nikon D850, in our list. Branching out to mirrorless and the hybrid world of photo and video? There's a bit more choice here, from the Canon EOS R5 to the more affordable Fujifilm X-T4.
With smartphones monopolizing beginner-level cameras, manufacturers are investing heavily in this pro-level part of the market – and professionals are well and truly enjoying the fruit.
As things stand, the Canon EOS R5 is currently our top pick as the best professional camera. Aside from its initial overheating issues and video recording limits, it's a formidable camera that has well and truly raised the bar for photo and video performance, all in a compact body.
We're treading on new and exciting ground and there's never been an easier time to raise your game as a pro – so make sure you check out our whole guide to find the right match for you. Whatever scenarios you find yourself making images in, you'll know how important a reliable camera system is – and all of the ones below will both support your craft and stand the test of time.
The best cameras for professionals 2021:
The bar was well-and-truly raised when the Canon EOS R5 was launched. Boasting 8K video, a 45MP resolution, up to 20fps burst shooting, an EVF with 5.76-million dots, and a 3.2-in fully articulating touchscreen, the R5 crammed all of this crammed into a body that weighs a mere 650g. It all read like an unrealistic wishlist. Too good to be true? For the best part, the EOS R5 well and truly delivers.
This is Canon's most competent mirrorless camera for photography. The high-resolution sensor is well supported by an incredibly effective autofocus system, while its competitive 12fps continuous shooting is gobbled up by the powerful DIGIC X processor.
Then there is 8K video recording, not found on any other camera at this price point. Video image quality is incredibly sharp, complemented by easily graded color profiles and Canon's first in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system. There is one well-reported caveat; overheating with lengthy cooling down periods. Consequently, 8K video recording time is limited and therefore unusable for heavy-use pros. However, 4K video recording fares better, even if there is still a video recording cap.
It's not out-and-out hybrid perfection, but the EOS R5 still takes the crown as the most well-rounded camera for pro photographers.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS R5 review
When 4K video recording is your primary concern, then the Sony A7S III is hands-down our top hybrid camera. This is a pro's tool, totally reliable and with no real limitations. Being the video-centric A7 model, some hoped to be blown away by 6K or 8K video recording, but instead Sony clearly focused on getting 4K video right, with no nasty surprises. What we have is a technically perfect camera.
Its lightweight 600g body is durable and boasts lovely ergonomics, the articulated screen has full touch control, there's truly effective IBIS, decent battery life and comprehensive 10-bit 4K video frame rates at up to 120fps with no record limit and no overheating. Autofocus is an absolute dream, while rolling shutter is very well controlled.
Image quality-wise, the dual native ISO 640/ISO 16,000 offers unparalleled low light performance and dynamic range. What's more, the A7S III recently enjoyed a firmware update that introduced the gorgeous S-Cinetone color profile originally found in the Sony FX9 cine camera. If you don't mind the low 12MP resolution, stills look lovely, too. Really, we could keep banging the drum for the Sony A7S III, it really is that good.
Read our in-depth Sony A7S III review
The Canon EOS 1D X III is the company's flagship DSLR, a camera typically seen in the hands of professional action photographers at big events. It's a substantial and rugged bit of kit, designed for speed and to withstand harsh conditions. They don't come tougher than this.
You'll be able to rattle off 20.1MP still images at a rate of 16fps until the memory card fills up. Truly, there is no limit in the camera's performance for action and it is backed up by a staggering battery life of nearly 3,000 shots (which in real use for continuous shooting is much higher, too). Subject-tracking autofocus performance is also simply jaw-dropping.
But this isn't just an action camera – the EOS 1D X III is a brilliant video tool too, with 5.5K RAW 10-bit video up to 60fps. Beware, you'll need to save up for a handful of expensive CFexpress cards because those video files are huge. Unlike other competing DSLRs, Canon's Dual Pixel AF works exceptionally well in Live View, where you virtually get equal AF performance to when you're using the bright optical viewfinder. The only real downside is that there has been a price hike in this third 1D X installment.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 1D X Mark III review
When only digital medium format will do, the two current players competing for your attention are Fujfilm and Hasselblad. There are pros and cons for each system, and arguably Fujifilm is pushing the boundaries more, as seen in the new GFX100S. Like the Fujifilm GFX100, the GFX100S features a whopping 102MP medium format sensor. What grabbed the headlines, though, was an almost unfathomable price drop of almost 50%.
The GFX100S ditches the vertical grip and the battery life is reduced to a still-respectable 460-shots, because the camera now only houses a single battery unit. On the plus side, the camera is about two-thirds the size and weight of the GFX100. Yes, that medium format goodness is housed in a DSLR-size body. Oh, and in-body stabilization effective up to 6EV is introduced, too.
As far as medium format goes, the GFX100S packs some impressive tech from its X-Series, including its mostly responsive autofocus system. And if that 100MP resolution is not enough, there's a new 400MP high-res mode (combining 16 shots using pixel shifting). Being a Fujifilm, the GFX100S is a fine looking camera, too. Overall, the GFX100S is the most compelling option to switch to from full-frame mirrorless cameras or DSLRs.
Read our in-depth Fujifilm GFX100S review
The Panasonic Lumix S1R was part of the company's first foray into the full-frame mirrorless camera market – and it's and an exceptionally capable camera. The company has wasted no time in building the system up either, with regular launches of new L-Mount lenses that have already covered almost all conventional pro choices, like the 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8's.
And what of the S1R itself? Well, it's the high-resolution option with 47MP, ideal for landscape photography especially. It is also a highly capable video performer – we'd expect that from Panasonic. The company is steadily improving the S1R which has already had five firmware updates, recently including 5K/30fps video recording in addition to the already existing 4K/60fps 10-bit video.
In the hand, the S1R is bigger and heavier than the competition – there's really no advantage compared to a DSLR. However, the ergonomics are great, the build quality is exceptional and the 5.76-million dot EVF gives a great viewing experience. The only real downsides are that autofocus is the least effective among high-resolution full-frame options, and we'd also like a better battery life. But like most cameras today there is the option of USB-C charging on-the-go.
Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix S1R review
The Nikon Z7 II is the company's best mirrorless camera today. Being a high-resolution flagship with excellent image quality and dynamic range, it competes against others in this roundup, such as the Sony A7R IV and Panasonic S1R. For the most part, the Z7 II holds its own, and at a lower price point.
Perhaps what's most intriguing about the Nikon Z7 II is the system that it is part of. The Nikon Z lens mount is the most versatile full-frame lens mount available today, boasting the largest diameter and shortest flange distance, and therefore the largest angle of incidence in a full-frame lens mount.
If you're scratching your head right now, the larger the angle of incidence, the easier it is to make high performing lenses. Two years since the system was launched, we are starting to see some really exciting lenses, while the edge-to-edge quality of standard lenses like the 50mm f/1.8 Z is excellent. If you're starting from scratch and basing your buying decision on the whole system, the Nikon Z series could be for you – and the Z7 II is the jewel in its crown.
Read our in-depth Nikon Z7 II review
The Olympus OM-D E-M1X is a technological tour de force, armed to tackle action photography in particular. For continuous shooting at 20.3MP, the mechanical and electronic shutters offer up to 18fps and 60fps respectively, with no real limit to the sequence length. There's even a Pro capture mode that acquires 35 shots before you press the shutter, just in case your reflexes aren't quite up to scratch.
As with most Olympus OM-D cameras, the E-M1X is a joy to use day-to-day, slotting in the hand perfectly. Solid as a rock, it is the largest and heaviest Micro Four Thirds camera available. It's admittedly hampered by low light image quality when compared to large format rivals, but there's plenty of reason to pick up the E-M1X instead – especially for action photography.
Its like-for-like lenses are significantly smaller and lighter than its rivals. Take the new 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25x lens that has a maximum equivalent reach of 1200mm – it's an incredible bit of kit, supported by arguably the most effective camera image stabilization available today, plus a new bird autofocus mode. The smaller sensor format also gives you greater depth of field at like-for-like apertures, ideal at those long focal lengths. Really, it's a win-win for action photography, even if Olympus itself is in a moment of flux.
Read our in-depth Olympus OM-D E-M1X review
If you're a DSLR fan who can't quite bring yourself to buy a mirrorless camera just yet, then the Nikon D850 would be our pick. Armed with a 45.4MP sensor and class-leading image quality at its base ISO 64, the D850 is particularly suitable for landscape photography. You'll also enjoy the proven autofocus system borrowed from the action-focused Nikon D5, which will happily handle more demanding scenarios such as weddings and even action photography, too.
Build wise, the camera is practically bomb-proof, and enjoys comprehensive weather-sealing, a significant battery life and a wonderfully large and bright optical viewfinder. This is a camera that you can simply rely on. When you consider the system as a whole, DSLR tech is a lot cheaper than mirrorless rivals too, with like-for-like lenses typically two thirds of the price.
The clear drawback to a Nikon DSLR compared to mirrorless rivals is video performance. While you can still shoot lovely looking 4K videos, Live View autofocus is sluggish at best and there is no in-body stabilization. Also, this isn't a true action camera, with a 7fps continuous shooting limited to sequences around 50 shots.
Read our in-depth Nikon D850 review
Offering a wholly different experience to most of the other cameras in this roundup, the Leica M10-R is a prestige, rangefinder-style mirrorless camera that's widely adored by reportage and street photographers. Compared to its predecessor, the M-10R enjoyed a significant bump in resolution, now at a competitive 40MP. That divine Leica M lens quality can now be enjoyed on a larger scale.
The M10-R is also the most expensive camera here, though it will likely retain its value. It offers double-image rangefinder manual focusing that gives all of the feels to photographers familiar with this method, in a way that no autofocus system can match. It may sound corny, but the experience is wonderful. This is also a stylish yet discreet camera, with a virtually silent shutter that's well-suited to street scenes.
This is a stripped back experience, too. There's no video recording, no autofocus and a simple control layout. There are digital touches, with a fixed touchscreen offering Live View operation and image playback. But really the M10-R is the most niche camera in this roundup and you'll probably already know if it is the one for you. The Fujifilm X-Pro 3 is a decent alternative at about a quarter of the price.
Read our in-depth Leica M10-R review
Our camera of the year in 2019, the Sony A7R IV is still a formidable camera two years later. The headline-grabber was its class-leading 61MP resolution, which is still unmatched today in full-frame and holds its own against the digital medium format. Those extra pixels support large printing and unparalleled flexibility for cropping, with the APS-C crop mode boasting a decent 26.2MP resolution.
Even at such a high resolution, the A7R IV has excellent dynamic range and can record 10fps sequences with continuous autofocus thanks to the able Bionz X processor, though there is a limit to the length of sequences. You've also got Sony's proven autofocus system and a decent in-body image stabilization. Add the lovely 5.76-million dot EVF with 120fps refresh rate and the A7R IV was what raising the bar looked like in 2019.
Video performance is good but outsmarted by rivals today. Downsampled from 6K, the 4K videos up to 30fps enjoy a number of Sony's color profiles. Lens choice is wide, with the recently launched Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 G lens becoming the 60th native lens in the system (and soon followed by three more primes). For years now Sony has been an innovator in camera tech, and the real-world performance largely backs up the numbers.
Read our in-depth Sony A7R IV review
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro is just about the most affordable way to shoot delicious 6K videos. By focusing on video – there's no real photo capability with this camera – the 6K Pro offers video smarts not available with any other camera here, such as built-in ND filters.
Users can enjoy the Blackmagic RAW and ProRes codecs, stunning preset LUTs, all edited in Blackmagic's own DaVinci Resolve Studio software included with the camera. The Super 35 sensor is a little smaller than full-frame, but the 6K Pro is still a capable low-light shooter, too, with dual native ISO 400/3,200. There's the Canon EF lens mount, meaning a great choice of lenses.
If you are moving from photography to video, there will be some acclimatization with a number of handling quirks in the 6K Pro, while its EVF is an expensive optional extra. Build quality is passable – we're looking at a plastic build rather than metal, plus there's no image stabilization. While we're on build, this is actually quite a chunky camera. But if 6K video image quality is your prime concern, there's no better bang for your buck.
Read our in-depth Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro review
Do pros really, really need full-frame or medium format? We don't think so and the stylish Fujfilm X-T4 is the best APS-C format mirrorless camera available today. On the outside it's all retro dials and analogue chic, but inside is Fujfilm's best tech. A true photo-video hybrid, at the flick of a switch the control layout, operation and menus of the X-T4 can move between dedicated setups for 26.1MP stills and 4K videos (10-bit up to 60fps with F-Log profile).
For ultimate handling we'd like a bigger handgrip and the omission of a headphone jack seems strange considering that the X-T4 is a hybrid camera (even if you can add one via an adaptor). Stabilization and autofocus performance is impacted by the lens attached to the camera, with some older lenses not quite as effective as others. But otherwise, there's very little to pick apart.
We test cameras from all brands, and the X-T4 is up there as the most immediately enjoyable camera to use. It will also stand the test of time with its solid and attractive build, competitive battery life, new in-body stabilization and a flip-out screen with full touch operation. Being part of the X-Series, there are some delicious lenses to choose from, too.
Read our in-depth Fujifilm X-T4 review
Five things to look for when choosing a professional camera
1. Build quality
Needless to say, life alongside a pro is rarely dull. Exposed to inclement weather, being thrown around the place and rattling through thousands of pictures, your camera will be taken through its paces and will need to stand up to the challenge. Ideally, the camera body will be both weather-sealed and made from hard-wearing metal.
2. Real-world performance
Sometimes you'll need to look beyond the spec sheet and into real world experience. One example, 20fps continuous shooting might sound impressive for action, but if the camera slows up after a second, that mode is of no real use. Or is that the electronic shutter affected by banding? A true pro camera for action should just keep going without slowing up.
3. Lens choice
Sometimes we can get so drawn into what the camera can do, while forgetting that it is part of an interchangeable lens system. Lens quality and choice is just about as important as the camera itself. Even within this roundup, the camera systems vary in age and therefore breadth. Does the system offer the lens you want?
4. Listen to other pros
The feel in the hand, the control layout, potential customization, reliability, the little features that don't make the headlines. It's worthwhile reading up what other pros have enjoyed about the camera you are interested in, because they have that real-world experience. Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference with the camera that you intend to rely on.
Memory cards, additional batteries, grips, supports, audio, wireless transmitters, lighting. The list goes on. Not all pros are made of money and the camera is only your initial outlay. The best option might not be what camera you can afford, but building a system within your budget. For example, new memory card types can be particularly expensive.
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