The Best Cameras in 2022
Narrowing down the best cameras in the world is no easy task when there are so many different cameras to choose from. The important thing to remember is that there is no single best camera—only the best camera to suit your particular needs, which depends on your budget, ergonomic preference, shooting habits, and experience level. The good news is that whether you’re a beginner looking to buy your first mirrorless or DSLR camera, or a seasoned photographer looking to upgrade to a newer model, there’s most certainly a camera out there for you.
It’s worth noting that a camera’s overall performance can vary drastically depending on what kind of lens you use. Your lens influences the amount of light entering the camera, an image’s depth of field, autofocus behavior, and stabilization performance. That’s without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens: a larger lens with a longer zoom length and a wider maximum aperture might make it easier to take the kind of photos you want, but it could make your camera more of a hassle to carry around. For consistency and user-friendliness, we currently test cameras with their standard kit lenses.
How to choose the best camera for you
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best camera for you. The first question you should ask yourself is what do you plan to shoot? If you’re doing more portrait photography, and don’t plan on moving the camera around a lot, a DSLR may be the best way to go. If you’re looking for something more mobile, a mirrorless camera is probably a better bet. Be sure to check out our DSLR vs. mirrorless camera guide, which goes into detail about those two camera systems, and also scroll down for a bit more info about all of the options.
It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and your intended use, as you can easily spend thousands of dollars on equipment that you don’t need, or don’t know how to use. Before making a purchase, it’s also worth your time to go to a camera store to see how a particular model feels in your hands, and how comfortable you are holding it.
What different types of camera are there?
DSLRs — or digital single-lens reflex cameras — use a mirror to reflect light from the lens on to the sensor, and as a result are bigger and heavier than mirrorless cams. But they’re still a great choice for beginners and enthusiasts alike, thanks to the ability to swap out lenses, good handling, sturdy build quality and excellent battery life. Some are also quite cheap these days, and they also benefit from large lens and accessory lineups. Canon and Nikon are the main players, with Pentax another option. Prices can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, but you can get a good one for as little as $450.
These do away with the mirror of a DSLR but have the same advantage of being able to change the lens. As camera makers have switched to mirrorless they tend to get the latest tech, so they are often faster and have better autofocus and video options, plus features such as in-body stabilization. They’re smaller and lighter, too, but battery life is not as good and there aren’t as many lenses. Canon and Nikon both make mirrorless cams now, but the biggest player is Sony. Fujifilm, Olympus and Panasonic are all alternatives. Prices are similar to DSLRs.
Also known as compact cameras, they can’t swap lenses but are much smaller and lighter than either DSLRs or mirrorless cams. Some are small enough to fit in a pocket and they make great travel cameras. This is a broad category, with many different options; you can choose one for under $100 that you use simply as an alternative to a smartphone, or spend $1000 and get something with a big sensor and that takes photos to rival those from a DSLR. Sub-categories include tough cameras that you can use underwater or in extreme conditions and bridge cameras, which have a large body and very long zoom range.
As the name suggests, instant cameras give you a physical photo as soon as you press the shutter (or a few seconds afterwards). They’re basically what the old Polaroid cameras were, but updated — and indeed, Polaroid still makes some of the best. Many of them use different film formats that vary in size, so make sure you choose one that fits your needs. And also look out for extra features such as app integration and a flash.
These tend to be focused more on video than stills, although they will all do both. GoPro is the main player here (check out our guide to the best GoPro cameras for more), but all are designed to capture your daring exploits in (ideally) 4K footage.