Picking the best camera brand for your photography can be overwhelming, especially when starting out.
However, the camera brand you choose does matter; different brands offer different types of cameras with different focuses. And once you’ve spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a camera system, switching to another brand isn’t easy.
In other words: It pays to get your camera brand right from the start.
That’s why we wrote this article. Below, I share my 10 favorite brands on the market today. I make sure to tell you what each brand offers, why it’s a good pick, and who should think about buying.
So if you’re ready to find the perfect brand, then let’s dive right in.
The Best Camera Brands in 2021
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few decades, you’re familiar with Canon, a company that sells printers, scanners, projectors, and of course, cameras. Canon is currently the world’s most popular camera brand, thanks to its wide array of options, from powerhouse mirrorless models to DSLRs to bridge cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, and more.
In fact, Canon offers something for everyone, which is why you’ll find Canon cameras in the hands of casual photographers and enthusiasts all the way up to the most demanding professional sports and wildlife photographers.
Canon specializes in creating comfortable, easy-to-use, affordable cameras that let you capture stunning photos without breaking the bank. At the same time, Canon’s cameras offer a lot of room to grow; Canon offers a bevy of lenses to pick from, so as you begin to take your photography more seriously, you’ll always have an upgrade (or three) at your fingertips.
Plus, Canon cameras pack serious video capabilities, so vloggers and even serious hybrid shooters should take notice.
Who should pick Canon?
Go with the Canon brand if you’re after an all-around camera that feels great to use, offers plenty of cutting-edge features, and keeps your bank account intact.
Sony is arguably the current leader in mirrorless photography; the company offers an excellent series of full-frame and APS-C mirrorless models, including highlights such as the Sony a7 III and the Sony a6600. There’s also Sony’s DSLRs, as well as its popular compact cameras (including the powerful RX point-and-shoot models).
Fundamentally, Sony cameras are about packing power into a compact body. Sony’s autofocus technology is second to none, and its mirrorless low-light capabilities are truly top-notch – which makes Sony cameras a key choice for photographers aiming to shoot sports, wildlife, events, landscapes, and more.
Like Canon, Sony is something of a video powerhouse. The company offers a full-frame, video-focused mirrorless series, the latest of which is the 4K/120p-shooting a7S III.
Unfortunately, with great power comes great costs. The Sony cameras themselves aren’t too expensive, but the lenses tend to be priced several notches above the competition.
Who should pick Sony?
Go with the Sony brand if you’re looking for a camera that can perform well in high-pressure situations, including low-light events, sports photography, wildlife photography, and landscape photography. You might also consider Sony’s ultra-compact APS-C mirrorless cameras for travel and walkaround shooting.
In recent years, Nikon has struggled to capture the public’s attention, but don’t let that fool you. Nikon’s camera models are more powerful than ever, even if its mirrorless lineup lags behind Canon and Sony in both breadth and depth.
Like Canon, Nikon creates cameras of the well-rounded, affordable variety. You have your basic point-and-shoot cameras (for non-photographers and casual photographers after a pocket-sized walkaround option), as well as highly regarded APS-C DSLRs (for more serious beginners and enthusiasts), full-frame DSLRs (for semi-professionals and professionals), as well as several recent mirrorless models for enthusiasts and professionals.
While Nikon’s DSLR lineup – both APS-C and full-frame – offered class-leading high-ISO capabilities and ergonomics, it’s true that Nikon’s mirrorless development has struggled. The mirrorless cameras Nikon currently offers are certainly impressive, but there just aren’t enough cameras or lenses to entice folks away from the competition. Nikon is moving in the right direction, however, and in a few years, you’ll undoubtedly have a wide variety of mirrorless options to choose from.
Who should pick Nikon?
If you’re after an entry-level DSLR, Nikon offers the best of the best (the prices are great, too). And Nikon’s full-frame DSLRs excel at landscape photography and action photography, thanks to a combination of high-resolution sensors, stellar low-light performance, and snappy autofocus. However, unless you already own Nikon lenses, or unless one of Nikon’s mirrorless cameras has caught your eye, I’d recommend looking elsewhere for mirrorless models.
Fujifilm is a bit of an outlier in the camera world; instead of delivering sleek, ergonomics-focused designs, the company has turned back the clock, and specializes in retro mirrorless models that look like this:
Personally, I’m a big fan of the Fujifilm aesthetic, and there are plenty of photographers who are drawn in by the old-timey dials and tactile shooting experience – but there are also those who find Fujifilm cameras slow and uncomfortable. Whether Fujifilm is a good choice for you depends on your personal tastes, though I urge you to spend a few minutes with a Fuji model before dismissing the brand.
Note that Fujifilm offers plenty more than a retro look. The X-series mirrorless lineup is crop-sensor-only, but it mixes impressive low-light performance, decent autofocus, and a dozen artsy shooting modes straight out of the days of film. (Seriously, the Film Simulation modes are amazing. I wish they were offered by every camera manufacturer.)
And while full-frame mirrorless models are conspicuously absent from Fujifilm’s lineup, the company’s company’s medium format cameras are a favorite among professionals.
Who should pick Fujifilm?
If you like the Fujifilm retro aesthetic, then Fujifilm is your destiny – don’t resist it, because you’re going to love shooting with a Fujifilm camera. You might also consider Fujifilm if you’re looking to do street or travel photography.
Panasonic isn’t the flashiest camera brand out there, and it’s certainly not the most popular. But once you get past the chunky designs, you’ll find plenty to love – especially if you’re a fan of space-saving sensors.
You see, many of Panasonic’s most powerful cameras pack the Micro Four Thirds sensor, which is smaller than the APS-C sensors used by competitors and therefore encourages smaller, lighter camera bodies. MFT sensors are great for photographers and videographers aiming to keep their camera kit to a reasonable size and weight, which makes Panasonic an excellent option for travel and walkaround photographers.
Micro Four Thirds sensors offer another advantage: They produce a 2X crop factor, so all focal lengths are effectively doubled. A 50-200mm lens becomes a 100-400mm lens, and a 10-40mm lens becomes a 20-80mm lens, except the 50-200mm lens still looks like a 50-200mm lens and the 10-40mm lens still looks like a 10-40mm lens. (In other words, you get a lot of reach in a very compact package.)
Related Post: Panasonic GH5 vs GH5S
While long focal lengths aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, photographers who do require extra reach will love the opportunity to shoot distant subjects with a pocket-sized lens.
The Panasonic MFT lineup also includes a healthy mix of stills- and video-leaning cameras, so videographers and hybrid shooters should pay careful attention (note: all video-lovers should check out the GH5s, which boasts 4K/60p recording, dual card slots, and plenty more). Also, for those who aren’t a fan of the Panasonic MFT lineup, I recommend checking out Panasonic’s full-frame cameras; the lineup is only just getting started, but the current options offer excellent still and video image quality.
Who should pick Panasonic?
If you’re a fan of small-but-powerful cameras or you’d rather avoid carrying a backpack that feels like a brick, Panasonic is a great choice. Also consider Panasonic if you’re a hybrid shooter because several of Panasonic’s cameras are videography favorites.
Leica is one of the only luxury camera brands on this list. So while Leica cameras offer stunning image quality, access to incredible lenses, and the beautiful, one-of-a-kind Leica design, they’re also incredibly expensive.
In other words: If you’re after a reasonably affordable camera – as in, a camera that costs less than $4000 – just skip this section and continue down the list.
However, if you do have money to spend, and you’re up for a challenge, Leica is certainly worth a look. Leica cameras might be the most beautiful machines you’ll ever encounter, and there’s just something powerful about holding a Leica camera in your hands.
Note that Leica produces several camera types, including rangefinder models for street and photojournalistic photography, as well as full-frame and APS-C mirrorless models for landscape, portrait, and even video shooting. Leica also features capable compact cameras (though even these cost in the thousands!).
Who should pick Leica?
Leica rangefinder cameras are great for street photographers and photojournalists, assuming the price and difficulty don’t scare you off. For the more budget-conscious, there are plenty of other, non-Leica options worth considering.
The last few decades have been tumultuous for Pentax; in 2008, Pentax merged with Hoya, and in 2011, Pentax sold its camera division to Ricoh.
But while Ricoh has attempted to keep Pentax relevant by developing rugged, all-purpose DSLRs, including a medium format model, Pentax has continued to struggle. Critics have attacked Pentax for a refusal to develop mirrorless cameras, and as mirrorless technology has become more and more popular, Pentax’s DSLR-only strategy seems increasingly ill-founded.
That said, Pentax’s DSLRs are high quality, and the company has taken an alternative approach to camera-making that helped develop a loyal (if small) following. For one, Pentax’s DSLRs offer impressive build quality, a feature that appeals to landscape, wildlife, and outdoor action photographers, in particular. And while Pentax low-light performance isn’t exactly class-leading, Pentax DSLRs do possess in-body image stabilization, so you can handhold without camera shake long into the evening.
While Pentax cameras don’t offer the same mix of power, image quality, and comfort found in a Canon or Nikon DSLR, there is something special about Pentax cameras – and for the right user, a Pentax camera really can hit the spot.
Who should pick Pentax?
If you’re an outdoorsy photographer who shoots in all sorts of weather, and you don’t mind the bulkiness of a DSLR, take a look at some of Pentax’s latest offerings. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.
Hasselblad cameras are insanely high quality.
They’re also insanely expensive, which is why most photographers, including professionals, will never even touch one.
Hasselblad produces medium format cameras, which produce mindblowing detail and incredible low-light performance. But while medium format often sounds appealing, it’s worth recognizing key drawbacks:
For one, medium format cameras are huge, thanks to a bigger sensor and bigger lenses. And while Hasselblad does offer a series of portable medium format cameras, they can’t compete with Fujifilm’s APS-C cameras or Panasonic’s MFT options on travel-readiness.
Plus, medium format cameras are painfully slow, both in autofocusing and continuous shooting. They’re not for action photography, so if you’re interested in shooting sports, wildlife, street, or event photography, medium format isn’t the way to go.
Then, of course, there’s the price. Hasselblad cameras run from around $5000 up, with some Hasselblad cameras – such as the H6D-100C – pushing $35000, body only. (And no, that number is not a typo.)
Who should pick Hasselblad?
You should go with Hasselblad if you’re an experienced photographer with a lot of money to spend, and you specialize in product photography or landscape photography. Otherwise, choose one of the other amazing camera brands on this list.
Up until a year ago, Olympus was a niche camera company, but one that was generally well-regarded for its compact, Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras – cameras that delivered class-leading in-body image stabilization and excellent image quality to boot.
So what happened?
Olympus sold off its camera division to an investment firm, and while the firm (called Japan Industrial Partners, or JIP) promises to continue camera development, the future of Olympus is very much up in the air.
Which is why, right now, I’d caution folks against buying into the Olympus brand.
Yes, Olympus is a great camera company, or at least it used to be. Its Micro Four Thirds cameras were – and still are – powerful and compact. I own an Olympus mirrorless camera, myself, and it offers surprisingly good autofocus capabilities, a comfortable shooting experience, and great in-body image stabilization for handholding in low light.
Plus, Olympus boasts several ultra-compact, vacation-friendly mirrorless models (such as the PEN E-PL10). And the lens lineup you get with an Olympus camera is truly exceptional, because in addition to the (high-performing, low-cost) native Olympus lenses, you also gain access to Micro Four Thirds lenses produced by Panasonic.
Who should pick Olympus?
Unless Olympus cameras really appeal to you, I’d recommend looking elsewhere, at least for the time being.
Once a popular camera company, Kodak struggled to adapt to the changing market of the 1990s and 2000s. Then in 2012, Kodak filed for bankruptcy – and while the company does still exist, it no longer makes cameras.
You can find Kodak cameras on shelves today, but these are sold by another company that licenses the Kodak name. And the selection is limited: you can buy a handful of instant cameras, as well as film and point-and-shoot cameras, none of which are especially well-regarded.
Who should pick Kodak?
If you’re looking for an instant camera, the Kodak-brand cameras will do just fine. But for point-and-shoot cameras, Canon, Sony, and Nikon offer better choices.
Best Camera Brands: Conclusion
Well, there you have it:
The 10 best camera brands in 2021.
As I emphasized at the beginning of this article, the brand does matter – and you can hopefully see why, now that you’re familiar with the top brands in today’s world.
Here’s a quick recap of my recommendations:
If you’re after a user-friendly, well-rounded model, you can’t go wrong with Canon or Nikon.
If you’re seeking a cutting-edge mirrorless camera, Sony is the way to go, assuming you can handle the lens prices.
For a more retro shooting experience, Fujifilm is a great pick. And if you’re after a luxury retro experience, Leica is a great alternative.
Finally, Panasonic and Olympus offer impressively compact and lightweight Micro Four Thirds mirrorless models, whereas DSLR-lovers who aren’t drawn in by Nikon or Canon might consider a Pentax model.
That depends on the type of photography you do, your budget, your goals for yourself, and your experience. There are plenty of great camera brands – the trick is determining the one that fits you!
Canon is the most popular camera company, though Sony’s mirrorless lineup is very impressive, and Nikon’s DSLR lineup is arguably better than Canon’s for still shooters.
Most professionals use Canon, Nikon, and – more recently – Sony. However, most of the camera brands on this list are currently used by some professional photographers, because each brand caters to a slightly different subset of photographers.
That depends on what you want to do! Both Canon and Nikon offer powerful DSLRs, though Canon DSLRs tend to be stronger on video and vlogging, whereas Nikon DSLRs tend to offer better autofocus and low-light performance. For mirrorless, however, Canon currently boasts more (and better) options for professionals and beginners.
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