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Best Sony camera 2021: the top Sony choices for both stills and video

Included in this guide:

Sony Alpha A6400
(Image credit: Future)

Looking for the best Sony camera you can buy? Whether you’re a seasoned snapper or just starting out, the tech giant has a sizable line-up of cameras to suit every skill level. From APS-C to full-frame models, the list below will help you find the best Sony camera for your needs and budget.

It should be no surprise that Sony cameras are some of the most technologically advanced on the market. No stranger to innovation, Sony was the first manufacturer to launch a full-frame mirrorless camera with autofocus back in 2013. Besides giving Sony a significant head-start over rivals Nikon and Canon, that also means the system today benefits from a healthy catalogue of lens options.

Several generations after the game-changing A7, Sony’s full-frame mirrorless models continue to win acclaim among enthusiasts and professionals alike. Take the Sony A1: it’s arguably the ultimate mirrorless camera that money can buy, offering an astonishing combination of speed, resolution and video specs – with a price tag to match.

But you don’t necessarily need the deepest pockets to find your perfect Sony camera – and full-frame mirrorless isn’t the only format to consider. The Sony RX100 VII (and the more affordable Sony RX100 V), for example, pair the top-end performance of a larger CMOS sensor with the pocketable form factor of a premium compact.

Sony also offers several models specifically designed for vloggers and videographers – such as the powerful and versatile Sony ZV-1 – as well as a whole spectrum of mirrorless cameras for hobbyists and enthusiasts.

Whatever your style, experience or price range, we’ve rounded up and reviewed the very best Sony cameras from each category in the buying guide below. Read through to the end and you’re sure to find an option that hits the sweet spot.

Best Sony cameras 2021 at a glance:

  1. Sony A7R IV
  2. Sony A7 III
  3. Sony ZV-1
  4. Sony A7S III
  5. Sony A6600
  6. Sony A1
  7. Sony RX100 Mark II
  8. Sony A6100
  9. Sony RX10 IV
  10. Sony RX100 Mark V / VA
  11. Sony A6400
  12. Sony Cyber-shot WX220
  13. Sony A9 II
  14. Sony RX0 II

The best Sony cameras in 2021:

The Sony A7R IV resting outside on a tree trunk

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

Super-high resolution brings Sony into medium format waters

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame stacked CMOS
Megapixels: 63MP
Lens mount: Sony FE
Autofocus: 567 phase detection points, 425 contrast detection points
Screen type: Tilting 3-inch touchscreen LCD, 1,440,000 dots resolution
Max burst speed: 10fps
Video: 4K
User level: Professional
Reasons to buy
+Swift and sophisticated AF+Superb results from sensor provided
Reasons to avoid
-Limited touchscreen capability-Battery life could be better

Sony certainly isn't one to do things by halves when it comes to new camera technology. Jumping to a huge 63MP, there are few full-frame cameras (mirrorless or otherwise) that boast this kind of resolution. Images are output at a still-bonkers 61MP, while Sony claims that the camera can deliver up to 15EV stops of dynamic range from the sensor. 

You also get useful functions such as image stabilization incorporated into the body, which gives you 5.5EV stops of compensation along with Pixel Shift Multi Shooting to create even higher resolution images. Rounding out the spec sheet we have 4K video recording, a superb electronic viewfinder and a useful tilting touch-sensitive screen. Ultimately, if you want the best of the best – this is the one to go for. If the budget is tighter but you still crave high resolution, keep an eye on the prices of the Sony A7R III, which still gives you 42.2MP.

The Sony A7 III resting on a table

Image Credit: TechRadar

Still a fantastic all-rounder, but will we see an A7 IV soon?

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame back illuminated CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony FE
Autofocus: 693-point AF
Screen type: Tilting 3-inch touchscreen LCD, 921,000 dots resolution
Max burst speed: 10fps
Video: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Compact body yet huge sensor+Whopping 693-point AF system
Reasons to avoid
-Touchscreen control is limited-Weather sealing could be better

The Sony A7 III is now fully deserving of classic status in the mirrorless camera world, having landed in January 2018 and completely changing what we could expect from a full-frame camera at this price. The only reason it isn't top of our list is because of its slightly grey hairs and rumors that we could see a Sony A7 IV later this year. That's just speculation at this stage, though, and until then the A7 III still offers a real sweet spot of value, performance and lens choice. 

Its specs include a 24.2MP back-illuminated sensor, as well as five-axis image stabilization and uncropped 4K video capture. The tilting rear LCD screen is handy for shooting from awkward angles, and works together with the range of buttons for great handling. While the 2.36-million dot viewfinder has a slightly dated 60fps refresh rate, it's still perfectly usable in practice, while two SD card slots rounds out the specs nicely (especially as one of them supports the faster UHS-II variety). This camera still ticks an incredible amount of boxes – especially for the price.

Sony ZV-1

(Image credit: Future)

The best compact vlogging camera around

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor size: 1-inch
Resolution: 20.1MP
Effective focal length: 24-70mm
Viewfinder: None
Monitor: 3.0-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 0.921-million dots
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Max movie resolution: 4K 30p
Size, weight: 105.5 x 60.0 x 43.5 mm, 294g
Reasons to buy
+Class-leading autofocus+Hot-shoe and mic input
Reasons to avoid
-Average video stabilization-Limited touchscreen

Simply the best compact vlogging camera on the market, the Sony ZV-1 puts a powerful video option in your pocket. Borrowing the best bits from the RX100 series, it pairs a capable 1-inch sensor with a class-leading autofocus system. Sony’s Real-time Tracking and Eye AF systems mean you can reliably shoot high-quality footage while locked-on to your subject, while the bright 24-70mm lens is capable of creating lovely background blur. Image stabilization is less impressive, but it’s passable for walking and talking. 

A hot-shoe, 3.5mm microphone input and flip-out LCD display all enhance the ZV-1’s versatility for vloggers – and while the touchscreen menu isn’t the easiest to use, that’s balanced by an arsenal of features. To compliment its crisp, detailed 4K/30p footage, the ZV-1 offers a useful built-in ND filter, plus all of Sony’s picture profiles, including HLG. Its compact size naturally results in some compromises: there’s no headphone port or viewfinder, and battery life isn’t the best. All the same, the Sony ZV-1 packs more power and video features than any other pocket camera.

The Sony A7S III sitting on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)

Sony's best camera for video shooters

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor Size: Full Frame
Resolution: 12.1MP
Lens: Sony E
Viewfinder: 9.44MP EVF
Monitor: 1.44m-dot articulating screen
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps
Movies: 4K at 120fps
User level: Intermediate / expert
Reasons to buy
+Impressive low light skills+Fully articulating touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey -Less well-suited for stills

A favorite among videographers and well-heeled YouTubers, the Sony A7S III is the best video camera outside of its cinema range. Its main aim is to be the best 4K camera you can buy, and it achieves by keeping its resolution low and avoiding the temptation of moving up to 8K. Along with superb video quality, you also get the option of 4K/120fps for slo-mo sequences, plus the ability to shoot 16-bit raw via its full-size HDMI port.

It's a fun camera to use, too, thanks to its incredibly high-resolution, 9.44-million dot OLED viewfinder, plus a fully-articulating screen with a much-improved touch menu system. As you'd expect for a pro-level camera, the A7S III's audio options are also strong, with headphone and microphone ports, plus compatibility with the XLR-K3M hot-shoe accessory from Sony for up to four audio inputs. It's certainly pricey, but the Sony A7S III remains the best at what it does.

The Sony A6600 resting on some stone steps

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

An APS-C flagship to compete with the best

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Sony E
Autofocus: 425 phase detection AF points, 169 contrast detection AF points
Screen type: Tilting 3-inch touchscreen LCD, 921,000 dots resolution
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Capably swift AF+Respectable buffer capacity
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is average,-No headphone port 

Cameras like the A6600 prove that Sony very much still cares about its APS-C range, which is largely aimed at hobbyist photographer and vloggers. You get a 24.2MP sensor, which is paired with an A9-level BIONZ X processor, which supports useful features like 11fps shooting and 4K video recording. There's also a very nifty 425-point phase-detect AF system, with help from Real-time Tracking, Real-time Eye AF and Animal Eye AF, which is the best around at this price point.

Where the A6600 diverts from the cheaper models in the Sony APS-C line-up is the inclusion of five-axis, sensor-based image stabilization, a headphone jack (along with a microphone port) as well HDR video and Real Time AF for movies. There's also a better viewfinder, and a high capacity battery which delivers (at least) 720 frames according to its CIPA rating. You do of course pay the price for all this exciting technology – the A6600 still doesn't come cheap, despite arriving in late 2019 – so if you're struggling to justify the cost, take a look at the A6400 instead.

Sony A1

(Image credit: Future)

Astonishing performance – if you can afford it

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS
Megapixels: 50.1MP
Lens: Interchangeable
Autofocus: 759-point phase-detection, 425-point contrast detection
Screen type: 2.95-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000-dot resolution
Max burst speed: 30fps
Video: 8K/30p
User level: Expert
Reasons to buy
+Blisteringly quick AF and burst+8K raw video
Reasons to avoid
-Prohibitively expensive-Complicated menu system

With a rare blend of speed, resolution and video skills, the flagship Sony A1 is arguably the ultimate mirrorless camera. The downside? Its performance comes with an equally breathtaking price tag that makes it overkill for all but the wealthiest of photographers. If you can afford it, though, the A1 is probably the most versatile professional camera ever made: lightning-fast AF, super speedy burst shooting, top-end connectivity and a supremely detailed 50.1MP full-frame sensor mean it’s as useful for shooting portraits as it is for sports. 

Not only can it capture detail-rich images at up to 30fps, courtesy of the dual Bionz XR processors, but it’s also capable of recording video at up to 8K at 30fps in 10-bit 4:2:0, or 4K at 120/60fps in 10-bit 4:2:2. And if you’re familiar with Sony’s full-frame mirrorless range, you’ll find the A1 is very familiar in the hand, with a build and handling that borrows the best bits from the A7 and A9 series cameras. If money is no object and you’re a pro who shoots a wide range of subjects, this camera can do it all.

The Sony RX100 VII resting on a park bench

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

A premium compact that's still unrivaled

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch Exmor R CMOS
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-200mm equivalent, f/2.8-4.5 zoom
Autofocus: 399 phase detection points, 425 contrast detection points
Screen type: Tilting 3-inch LCD, 921,000 dots resolution
Max burst speed: 24fps
Video: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Built-in electronic viewfinder+24fps burst capture option
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive -Limited touchscreen operation

Incredibly, we're now on the seventh iteration of Sony RX100 series, but when you consider just how popular the line has been over the years, it's not hard to see why. These models are traditionally very expensive, but give you the best image quality that it's possible to stuff in a pocket. The last two versions of the RX100 have seen a longer lens than ever before – and it's the same for the RX100 VII, with a 24-200mm optic reappearing from the RX100 VI. 

We've also got a tilt-up touch-sensitive screen, plus an electronic viewfinder that can be pushed into the camera's body for sleekness when you don't need it. Sony likes to show off exactly what it can do with its latest technology, and to that end we've got a frankly ridiculous 90fps burst speed (a much more reasonable 20fps gives you full AF/AE tracking). Other improvements come in the form of tweaks to video performance – including adding a mic input socket. If you don't need the absolute latest technology, it's worth looking back through the previous models to find an RX100 which matches your budget, such as the RX100 Mark V (below).

The Sony A6100 camera sat on a table with the 16-70mm lens.

(Image credit: Future)

A fine mirrorless camera for beginners and hobbyists alike

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor size: APS-C
Resolution: 24.2MP
Lens: Sony E-mount
Viewfinder: EVF
Screen type: 2.95-inch tilting touchscreen, 921,600 dots
Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps (mechanical)
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Excellent tracking autofocus+Compact yet feature-packed
Reasons to avoid
-Takes time to understand capabilities-Relatively low-res LCD and EVF

Sony's A6000 was a hugely popular model for beginner photographers. We had to wait for a while, but we were finally treated to an upgrade in August 2019 in the shape of the A6100. It's a big evolution of the concept, with 24.2MP sensor, Bionz X processor and impressively swift 11fps burst shooting. There's also a three-inch tilting LCD screen, and a very usable electronic viewfinder. The A6100's calling card, though, compared to other APS-C cameras at this price point, is it autofocus. It uses the same system as the Sony A6600 (see above) which means excellent continuous tracking skills. 

You also get 4K video, as well as some impressive features from elsewhere in Sony's range, such as Eye-AF. Battery life is also solid and the tilting screen is touch-sensitive, though sadly with Sony's slightly convoluted, older menu system. If you don't need the latest tech, it's still worth considering the A6000, but as a great all-rounder for a wide range of different subjects, the A6100 is a great choice for newbies.

The Sony RX10 IV being held in two hands

Image Credit: TechRadar (Image credit: Future)

This class-leading bridge camera doesn't come cheap

Specifications
Type: Bridge camera / super zoom
Sensor: 1-inch Exmor R CMOS
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-600mm equivalent, f/2.4-4 zoom
Autofocus: 315 point phase detection AF
Screen type: Tilting 3-inch LCD, 1.44 million dots resolution
Max burst speed: 24fps
Video: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Superb stills and video quality+High quality EVF and tilting LCD
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky and heavy-AF slow at long focal lengths

If your budget can stretch to it, the RX10 IV is without a doubt the best bridge camera on the market right now – and not just within the Sony brand. You get a 24-600mm equivalent zoom, which is coupled with a very capable one-inch sensor. The setup is fairly bulky, but compared to carting around a camera and a slew of lenses, it's a decent option for traveling photographers who need something for all kinds of situations. 

As well as fantastic stills quality, you also get superb video recording too. On top of that, you get a touch-sensitive screen, plus an excellent EVF and generally very good handling. The five-axis image stabilization comes in handy when using that long lens, even if there is a slight hint of vignetting at the far edges of the frame. You can shoot both raw files and JPEGs, while a full complement of shooting options are available for keen photographers. It's bulky and expensive, but for sheer versatility it's hard to beat the RX10 Mark IV.

The Sony RX100 V on a table with a black background

(Image credit: Future)

A compact powerhouse with plenty of pace

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens: 24-70mm (2.9x optical zoom), f1.8-2.8
Autofocus: 315-point phase-detection, 25-point contrast detection
Screen type: 3.0-inch, 1,228,800-dot resolution
Max burst speed: 24fps
Video: 4K/30p HD
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+24fps burst shooting+Excellent image quality
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen-Handling quirks

When it launched in 2017, the Sony RX100 Mark V was one of the most advanced premium compacts on the market. With a 1-inch CMOS sensor, 4K/30p video capture and 24fps burst shooting, it redefined pocketable performance. Then in 2018, Sony increased its buffer, improved its Eye AF and subject-tracking performance, upgraded its processor and introduced a range of firmware tweaks to create the Mark VA. 

What didn’t change was the limited 2.9x optical zoom range, the missing touchscreen or the lack of a decent handgrip – but the RX100 Mark VA still represents a very capable and versatile compact, and better value than ever. Image quality is excellent, with detail only really dipping above ISO800, and dynamic range is impressive. The tilting screen is clear and useful, even without a touch interface, while the understated metal shell still feels slick. If you can look past its shortcomings, the RX100 Mark V continues to offer outstanding performance in a very convenient package.

The Sony Alpha A6400 being held in two hands

(Image credit: Future)

A familiar mirrorless model with top-class autofocus

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Interchangeable
Autofocus: 425-point phase-detection, 425-point contrast-detection
Screen type: 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 921,000-dot resolution
Max burst speed: 11fps
Video: 4K/30p
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Advanced autofocus+Solid video specs
Reasons to avoid
-No IBIS-No headphone port

Virtually identical to the A6300 before it, the Sony A6400 in many ways represents a minor upgrade. Sure, it gains a flip-out touchscreen and a faster BIONZ X processor, but it also retains some of its predecessor’s shortcomings – notably the lack of in-body image stabilization. But it’s the addition of an advanced autofocus system that really sets the A6400 apart from the mid-range mirrorless pack: touted as the world’s fastest autofocus in 2019, speeds of 0.02 sec remain impressive in 2021 – as do the A6400’s Real-time Tracking smarts. 

Deploying a sophisticated subject-recognition algorithm, the A6400 locks and tracks subjects with accurate, speedy ease, backed up by automatic face- and eye-detection. Video specs are solid, too, with 4K video capture (using 6K oversampling) at 100Mbps, plus support for log2. There’s no headphone port, but you do get a mic input, while the E-mount unlocks plenty of lens possibilities. Provided the price is right and you can do without IBIS, the A6400 remains a tempting proposition – especially as it becomes more affordable.

The Sony WX220 resting on a leather handbag

Image Credit: Sony

A neat, all-rounder compact for those on a budget

Specifications
Type: Compact
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS
Megapixels: 18.2MP
Lens: 25-250mm (10x optical zoom), f3.3-5.9
Autofocus: Contrast detection AF
Screen type: 2.7-inch, 460,800 dot resolution
Max burst speed: 10fps
Video: Full HD
User level: Beginner
Reasons to buy
+Compact yet boasts a 10x zoom+Built-in Wi-Fi
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks a grip or thumb rest-Some image smearing

While compact cameras face increasingly stiff competition from premium smartphones, one area that compact cameras such as the WX220 still have the edge is with zoom range. This camera marries a useful 18.2MP resolution with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and a 10x optical zoom. 

The screen is small and isn't touch sensitive, but for an affordable, pocket-friendly camera, it's good for chucking in a bag for family vacations and trips. Video here is Full HD, rather than 4K, which is another compromise these days, but if cost and portability is your main concern, it remains a good choice.

The Sony A9 II being held in two hands

(Image credit: Techradar)

A rapid full-frame option for photographers in the field

Specifications
Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens: Interchangeable
Autofocus: 693-point phase-detection, 425-point contrast detection
Screen type: 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,440,000-dot resolution
Max burst speed: 20fps
Video: 4K/30p
User level: Enthusiast/Expert
Reasons to buy
+Superb AF performance+Next-gen connectivity
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly menu system-Limited touchscreen

It might look like an incremental upgrade to its predecessor, but the 43 little tweaks made to the Sony A9 II add up to a significant improvement. In the hand, the only major change is a larger, deeper grip that makes it more comfortable to hold for hours on end. Under the hood, the A9 II can shoot twice as fast with its mechanical shutter, while the upgraded Ethernet port is ten times quicker for transferring files. In fact, connectivity has been boosted across the board, with USB-C and upgraded Wi-Fi catering to users for whom speed is of the essence – think sports photographers and photojournalists. 

This second-gen mirrorless model also gets a slightly beefier battery, as well as image stabilization that’s better by half a stop. Dynamic range can’t match Sony’s top-end models, and its thunder has been somewhat stolen by the Sony A1, but with fast, reliable eye-detect autofocus, along with excellent ISO performance and sharp, detailed results from the full-frame sensor, the Sony A9 II still shapes up as an efficient, effective tool for photographers in the field.

The Sony RX0 II being held in a hand

Image Credit: Sony (Image credit: Sony)

14. Sony Cyber-shot RX0 II

Now in its second generation, this action cam is worth investigation

Specifications
Type: Compact / action cam
Sensor: 1-inch Exmor R CMOS
Megapixels: 15.3MP
Lens: 24mm equivalent, f/4.0
Autofocus: Contrast detection AF
Screen type: Tilting LCD, 230,400 dots resolution
Max burst speed: 16fps
Video: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Compact and tough construction+Large 1-inch sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Boringly box design-Expensive

With the claim of being the world's smallest and lightest premium camera, this diminutive second-generation one-inch sensor based model now boasts the ability to shoot 4K video. As well as being super small, it's also waterproof and crushproof – putting it squarely in action camera territory. 

Alongside the 15.3MP Exmor RS CMOS sensor, you get a Zeiss Tessar T* 24mm f/4 fixed wide-angle lens, plus a 1/32000 second shutter speed and 16fps shooting. Other useful features include Eye AF, a tiltable LCD screen and a Soft Skin Effect Mode. Finally, the fact that the kit version comes complete with a nifty VCT-SGR1 shooting grip for extra stabilization is something we really like. It's not as convenient or affordable as a GoPro Hero 9 Black, but it's quality is right up there with the best action cams.

Mark Wilson

Mark is the Cameras Editor at TechRadar. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won the Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.