Because of this, there have been many new models we've had to talk about since we published our last guide in 2019. Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm and Panasonic track Sony in the full frame and APS-C mirrorless market, while Olympus is the only place where only Micro Four Thirds cameras are built. Meanwhile, Sony is not resting on its industry-leading market share as it unveiled a full-frame mirrorless camera that tops many critics' list, including mine.
What we're seeing this year are cameras with more and better AI autofocus technology, faster recording speeds, and videos that go well beyond 4K. It's all great, but you may be confused about which model to buy. We are here to help you. Our 2020 guide will help you figure out which camera is best for your personal needs, depending on your budget.
To see why mirrorless cameras have replaced DSLRs, let's go back to the basics. While DSLRs allow photographers with a reflex mirror a direct optical view through the lens, they are bulkier than mirrorless models. In addition, the mirror jumps out of the way during a shot and blocks the view of the decisive moment. Traditionally, DSLRs also provide faster auto focus than mirrorless cameras with dedicated phase detection sensors, but even this advantage disappears.
Most mirrorless cameras now have phase detection pixels directly on the sensor, so you get almost as fast and accurate auto focus as DSLRs. At the same time, they also use an AF with contrast detection, which processes the entire image and offers you the advantages of AI-supported functions such as face detection and object tracking. And many mirrorless models like the X-T3 offer blackout-free shots with the electronic shutter.
Only mirrorless models from Panasonic still use the auto focus only with contrast detection. Others, including models from Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, Nikon and Canon, have hybrid contrast and phase detection systems. The phase detection pixels are integrated directly into the sensor, so that theoretically they can work just as quickly as the systems on DSLRs. The problem is that they can reduce the sensor area and introduce horizontal stripes in images. However, this is only noticeable when you are really looking for it.
At the same time, the electronic viewfinders (EVFs) that are used instead of optical viewfinders in mirrorless cameras are better than ever. Most mid-range and high-end cameras contain at least 2.4 million point LCD models, and many have higher-resolution and clearer OLED EVFs. In contrast to an optical viewfinder, an EVF shows exactly what the final image will look like. Overall, DSLRs have only a few advantages, apart from lower power consumption.
High-end DSLRs like the Nikon D850 generally use faster auto focus systems than mirrorless cameras. However, models like the Sony A9 II have effectively closed this gap and at the same time offer more sophisticated eye and face tracking software. In addition, unlike DSLRs, which have to switch to "Live View" mode, mirrorless cameras do not have to switch between modes to record videos.
Although they do not technically belong to the mirrorless category, compact cameras are identical except for the fixed lenses and cannot be removed or replaced. While that's good for mobility, a single lens means you'll sacrifice something. The Fujifilm X1
DSLR vs. mirrorless vs. Compact camera
So should you buy a DSLR, mirrorless, or high-end compact camera? And do you need a 1-inch, Micro Four Thirds, APS-C or full-frame sensor? How many megapixels? What about sensitivity to poor lighting?
Let's break these things down with a few diagrams. Note that the points apply in most, but not all, cases. For example, newer DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have improved autofocus when viewed live and have closed the AF performance gap considerably.
Sizing of sensors
Larger sensors are ideal for professional photographers because they offer more control over the image. However, there are more that can go wrong if you make a mistake.
If you wanted a mirrorless full-frame camera for most of the past year, you had only one choice (without Leica, which is from most people). Budget). That would be Sony. In the past two years, however, Nikon, Canon and Panasonic have each presented several mirrorless full-frame cameras. The only problems are Fujifilm, which is doing well with APS-C sensors and Olympus, the last company to use Micro Four Thirds only.
With a size that corresponds to 35 mm film (36 x 24 mm), full screen offers the best performance in terms of image quality, low-light capability and depth of field. It is also the most expensive and fussy. While blurred background "bokeh" can look nice at 1: 1.4, the depth of field is so thin that the nose of your subject is sharp, but not the eyes. This can also make video recordings more difficult.
The next size class is APS-C (approx. 23.5 x 15.6 mm for most models and 22.2 x 14.8 mm for Canon), that for Fujifilms X-T3 and X-T30, Sonys A6400, which is offered, Canon mirrorless models of the M series and several compact ones, among others. It's cheaper than full screen for both the camera body and the lenses, but still has the most advantages. You still get dreamy bokeh, high ISO values for shooting in low light and a relatively high resolution. With a sensor size of 35 mm film, it is ideal for video recordings and the focus is less demanding than with full-frame cameras.
Micro Four Thirds (17.3 x 13 mm), a format and mount that Panasonic and Olympus share mirrorless cameras, is the next step in sensor size. It offers less bokeh and light collection than APS-C and full screen, but enables smaller and lighter cameras and lenses. For videos, with good prime lenses you still get a relatively shallow depth of field, but the focus is easier to control.
The other common sensor size is Type 1 (1 inch). This is mainly used by compact models like the Sony RX100 VI and the Superzoom FZ-1000 II from Panasonic. The size allows for a smaller camera body and lens, but still offers a much better picture quality than a smartphone. Most high-end compact devices, unlike many DSLRs and mirrorless models, offer 4K video.
It is worth noting that Sony today manufactures the sensors for almost all other camera manufacturers, with the exception of Canon and in some cases Nikon. Oddly, Sony's latest A6600 with APS-C features an older sensor, while Fujifilm's latest X-T3 and X-T30 have brand new, higher-resolution X-Trans sensors, which were probably made by Sony.
When you buy a mirrorless or DSLR camera because video and decent photos are just a bonus, you have different requirements. For vlogging, you'll likely need a fold-out selfie screen – an element found on models like Canon's EOS R / RP and Panasonic GH5 / GH5. The latest models A6100, A6400 and A6600 from Sony have popup displays, but as I discussed in my review, an external microphone with hot shoe blocks the device.
Here are some other things you need to think about: your camera line skip for video recording or reading out the entire sensor? For example, the A7 III from Sony reads the entire sensor to create razor-sharp, artifact-free videos. However, the more expensive A7R IV can only do this in cropped APS-C mode due to the higher resolution. It can process full-screen 4K, but skips lines, which creates so-called moire (rainbow colors) and aliasing (jagged diagonal lines).
The same applies to Nikons Z6 (full screen display) and Z7 (cropped), Canon M6 Mark II (full screen / line skip) and Panasonic S1 (full screen display) and S1R (cropped). The A6400 from Sony, the Fujifilm X-T3 / X-T30, the Z50 from Nikon and the GH5 from Pansonic scan the entire sensor and the super sample, delivering razor-sharp videos without any nasty artifacts.
Is a rolling shutter or the "Jello" effect can videos and photos be distorted, well controlled? Almost all digital cameras have it, but it varies greatly depending on the model and resolution. It's pretty brutal on Sony's A7 III and A6600 at 4K, but much better on Fujifilms X-T3 and the Panasonic GH5.
Other things to consider: What is the form factor for video (smaller is not necessarily better)? How long can you shoot before the camera warms up or stops? Does it support 10-bit HDR video? Is there a microphone and / or a headphone jack? (If you do a lot of interviews, it is preferable to have both.) What is the video autofocus? With its fast, precise dual-pixel AF, Canon models like the EOS R are the gold standard for vloggers and one-man band shooters, but the latest models from Sony are catching up.
Our top picks at all costs
Sony's A7 III is still the best mirrorless full-frame camera on the market? Or have some of the newer models made it? If you have the money, no, it was usurped by the incredible A7R IV. It's still the best model in its price range, but not for video shooters.
Sony A7 III / A7R III / A7R IV
The A7R III has been replaced by the A7R IV, but is still available at an affordable price of $ 2,500 from $ 3,200 last year. It combines a 42.4 megapixel sensor and a maximum ISO of 102,400, so that you get both high-resolution pictures and pictures in low light conditions. It can even be used where high-resolution cameras are not supposed to do this. 10 fps are recorded in series and 4K videos are recorded internally with a complete (albeit cropped) sensor display. Like the A7 III, it also has real-time eye and animal eye AF and delivers incredible autofocus speeds when tracking a subject's eyes.
If your budget can handle it, the $ 3,500 A7R IV is the camera you need to get into in 2020. It works better than the A7R III and leaves competitors with a 61-megapixel sensor in terms of the dissolution in the dust. At the same time, with Continuous AF activated, you can shoot at 10 frames per second – quite a feat considering that each RAW photo is over 100MB in size. Sony has also improved its color science, making images more vivid and skin tones more natural, while reproducing fine details with incredible clarity. The A7R IV can even hold its own with videos, allowing you to take 4K full-frame frames or downsampled videos that are tailored to an APS-C size.
Sony had the chance to outperform Fujifilm with the introduction of the A6600, but was unsuccessful (more on that shortly). The $ 1,300 X-T3 has thus retained its title as the best APS-C camera. The compact, weatherproof retro body has this Fujifilm charm and is therefore ideal for street and travel photography. At the same time, thanks to a brand new sensor with higher resolution, faster recording speeds and good autofocus, it is the most technically advanced model of the X series ever. Fujifilm has dramatically improved the video and added Cinema 4K recording at up to 60 fps, 10-bit color depth, and microphone and headphone jacks. Although it is still the best mirrorless APS-C camera on the market, you should wait to buy it as the price may drop as soon as Fujfilm releases the X-T4 on February 26th.
Nikon Z6 and Z7
It is fair to summarize these models because, apart from the resolution and the video functions, they are largely identical. If you're more interested in portrait or landscape and on a budget, the 45.7-megapixel Z7 is a great option. The new Z frame is huge and allows Nikon to develop some incredible lenses. The selection is currently limited to four not very interesting models. However, with a $ 100 adapter, you can add any standard Nikon F-mount DSLR lens. 4K videos are surprisingly good, although skipping lines can make them a little blurry if you don't crop them. The biggest problem I had with the Z7 was autofocus, which is slow and can't keep up with Sony's models.
The Z6 is Nikon's answer to Sony's outstanding A7 III and beats it in one area: video. It delivers razor-sharp 4K images in full-screen mode, but unlike its competitor, outputs 10-bit 4: 2: 2 videos for maximum dynamic range. It has 5-axis stabilization in the body, an excellent ability in low light conditions and delivers sharp, color-accurate images. Nikon has five lenses, including three zooms and two prime numbers, and you can customize F-mount DSLR lenses with a $ 250 adapter. However, the single XQD card slot is a sign of it, and auto focus is slow in continuous tracking mode – but better with the latest firmware updates.
Panasonic S1, S1R and S1H
The $ 2400 24.2 megapixel S1 was one of the best cameras released last year and is suitable for both videos and photos. It offers stabilization in the body, one of the best electronic viewfinders on the market and 10-bit video, both internally and externally. In addition, Panasonic has achieved even better results with a $ 200 firmware update that offers more 10-bit video options, plus V-log recording and more than 14 stops of dynamic range. The downside is that it's more expensive than competitor models like Nikon's A7 III and Z6. It is also based on an auto focus with contrast detection, which can cause the camera to hunt while recording video.
The 47.3 megapixel $ 3,700 S1R is not quite as desirable because it is more expensive than Sony's A7R IV and has an inferior autofocus system. It's a lot harder too. However, it is still a good camera for high-resolution portrait and landscape photography with features like stabilization in the body and a high-resolution EVF with 5.7 million points.
The 24.2 megapixel Panasonic S1H is another animal overall. It's much more expensive at $ 4,000, but was specifically designed for video shooters with features like 6K video, 60 fps, 10-bit 4K video, and a fold-out, tiltable display. You can also rely on video quality as it is the first mirrorless camera to be approved for Netflix productions.
Panasonic GH5 and GH5s
Despite Smaller Sensors Compared to the S1 / S1H, the GH5 and 2,500 GH5 models are still great options for $ 2,000 for affordable video shooters. They are among the few mirrorless consumer cameras that deliver 10-bit 4K video recordings with a high data rate. This gives you a high degree of control over videos in post-production so that you can fine-tune the colors. In addition, producers can create HDR videos that are perfect for today's modern TVs and projectors. The GH5s, with which I personally record most of the Engadget camera test videos, also offer excellent low-light performance for a Micro Four Thirds camera thanks to the double ISO sensor.
Canon EOS R / EOS RP ]
I and others struck the Canon EOS R – and rightly so – because of a lack of stabilization in the body and poor 4K video implementation , However, the $ 1,800 32-megapixel EOS R has some advantages. The dual-pixel autofocus system is better for video than any other camera, and Canon has some excellent native RF lenses. After using it last year, I found that thanks to the excellent image quality and handling, I also liked to take pictures with it – apart from this touch bar, which was a bad idea.
If you are not ready to pay this type of cash, you still want a full-frame mirrorless camera from Canon. Consider the EOS RP. It's now available for just $ 1,000, a pretty big discount off the original price. For $ 800 less than the EOS R, you get a 26.2 sensor instead of a 30.3 megapixel sensor, lower burst capture speeds of 5 fps, and a lower resolution EVF. Nevertheless, it is a solid mirrorless full-frame camera that works with all of Canon’s excellent RF lenses and many EF lenses through a choice of three different adapters.
Canon could soon regain its full-frame mirrorless crown. It will bring out a new mirrorless full-frame RF camera called EOS R5 that will address almost anything I didn't like about the EOS R. You can expect features like stabilization in the body, two card slots and incredible 8K video
Olympus OM-D E-M1X / E-M1 Mark III
The $ 2,500 OM-D E-M1X is a mirrorless pro-level camera with very high speed recording speeds and a brand new image stabilizer that helps both video shooters and photographers. It is larger than any other Olympus camera thanks to a dual battery setup and not a big improvement over the O-MD E-M1 Mark II from 2016. It offers the same 20.4 megapixel sensor and a recording speed of 18 pictures per second when AF is also locked or an exceptional 60 frames per second when settings are locked. Though it's big for a Micro Four Thirds camera, sports pros like the sturdy body and relatively compact telephoto lenses.
If you prefer your Olympus cameras smaller, the recently announced OM-D E-M1 Mark III for $ 1,800 is very popular, much like its bigger brother. It is an excellent camera for animal photography and weighs half of the competition from full-frame models with a 600mm equivalent lens. Compared to its competitors, however, it has only limited video recording options and uses the same sensor as its four-year predecessor.
Finally if you are I am looking for an APS-C camera without a mirror. My second choice after the Fujifilm X-T3 is Sony's $ 1,200 A6600. Although I considered it a "misstep" due to ongoing handling issues and the lack of a new sensor, it still has the best auto focus system of all APS-C cameras with incredible AF speed and intelligent AI eye detection features. And unlike the X-T3, it has a 5-axis stabilization system in the body that makes it easier to take pictures of the hand in poor lighting conditions. It can also process 4K video, but you need to be aware of the problem with the bad shutters.
Our cheapest picks
] Fujifilm lowers the price and in my opinion surpasses Sony again with the $ 899 X-T30 , a slightly slimmer version of the X-T3. It has been significantly improved over its predecessor, the X-T20, and has a focus joystick and a touchscreen. It also features the 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS 4 BSI sensor (backlit) and the X-T3's quad-core X processor, which offers better resolution and faster recording speeds. It has a similarly classy but much smaller body that only weighs 383 grams (0.89 pounds) compared to 539 grams for the X-T3. It handles videos pretty well, with 4K videos at 30 frames per second internally and surprisingly for a camera of this price, 10-bit external 4K videos.
Canon M6 Mark II
 There's a lot to like about the Canon M6 Mark II for $ 850, especially the very high-resolution 32.5 megapixel sensor and the rapid recording speed of 14 frames per second. With these things, you can take the sharpest APS-C images you can get with Canon's realistic colors, and at very high speed. It's a long way to go beyond the problems I'm having with this camera, including the lack of a built-in EVF and very mediocre lens placement. While you can record 4K video with a full sensor, the M6 II skips line breaks and provides a very soft picture.
While Canon Nikon has two completely different mounts for its APS-C and full-screen systems and chose the same Z-mount as its full-screen Z6 / Z7 camera for its first mirrorless APS-C camera, the $ 850 Z50. This provides a wider choice of lenses and is a great camera with good image quality and auto focus. Sampled 4K videos are also recorded with the full width of the sensor. It would be high on that list if it came out a year ago, but with the arrival of the X-T30 and Canon M6 II, it has to settle for the bronze medal.
Sony A6400 / A6100
The $ 900 A6400 has the same autofocus system as the A6600 with incredible real-time eye tracking speed. Thanks to the flip-up screen and 4K video with full sensor, it's also a decent vlogging camera – just be aware of the awful rolling shutter. In fact, the A6100 might be a better choice, which has most of the same features (it has a lower resolution EVF and no log video recording), but it only costs $ 600.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III
Money is an object for many of us, and here comes Olympus & # 39; sweet, poorly named OM- D E-M10 Mark III into play. For just $ 650 you get everything A shooter for beginners to advanced users might want manual dials, a compact size, an electronic viewfinder with 2.36 million points, five-axis stabilization in the body and 4K videos at 30 frames per second. The disadvantage is the 16.1 megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, which has both a smaller and a lower resolution than that of competing cameras. The picture quality is good, but in low light conditions you get more noise and less dynamic range. The battery life isn't the best either.
Sony A7 II
* Sony A7 instead of A7 II.
Canon EOS M50
Images: Steve Dent / Brett Putman for Engadget (all except); Canon (EOS M50)