Best camera 2016 - Compact, CSC & SLR picks and buying guide
It may be cold outside but the winter is still a great time for taking photos. Those long sunsets provide dramatic light and there's always the (slim) possibility of snow to liven things up. It's also a great time of year to buy a camera, with numerous sales and deals on offer to pique your interest. In this guide we've included all the best cameras we've reviewed in the last couple of years, as it's often older models that you'll find at bargain prices, we've included everything from hulking semi-pro DSLRs to pocketable compacts.
If you're not sure which one is right for you, then be sure to read our complete in-depth buying guide. There's something for everyone here, from tiny compacts that will slip into your pocket right up to the best budget DSLRs. We regularly keep this up to date to make sure you make the right choice but make sure you click through to our full reviews for sample shots and more details about the latest prices.
To make this article easier to browse, and to make it easier for you to find the camera you're after, we've split it into two. This page has our favourite DSLR cameras and Compact System Cameras (CSCs), below which are our best Bridge cameras, Ultra-zoom cameras and Compact cameras. On page two we have a detailed buying guide, with a handy flowchart to help you choose the right kind of camera for your needs.
New Entry: Canon G7 X Mark II - pocket-sized brilliance
Our Expert Opinion An update to the brilliant G7 X, one of our favourite cameras of 2015, this new model has astounded us by being better yet. The core concept is still the same, take a 1in sensor and marry it with a bright lens in order to provide SLR kit lens quality in a far smaller and more portable package.
The small camera still fits into most pockets. Inside there's a faster processor for quicker shooting and a better grip on the front, which is greatly appreciated for those times you're holding a £500+ camera with a single hand. The LCD screen on back now tilts up and down, it's still a touchscreen, so entering settings can be done using this and with the lens ring around the front, alongside a wealth of other dials and buttons.
It's photo quality that really stand out, though. The 20-megapixel sensor and f/1.8-2.8 lens produce incredible results in almost all lighting conditions. There's also a fairly wide 4.2x zoom range, bigger than most SLR kits lenses, so framing shots is a breeze too. The results are packed with detail, with great colours in JPEGs and a lack of noise that's surprising for such a small camera.
The G7 X Mark II is already a strong contender for our camera of the year, if you need something more portable than a CSC or SLR this is the camera to buy.
BUY NOW: Canon G7 X Mark II
Price when reviewed: £549. Now available for £549. For the latest prices, see our full Canon G7 X Mark II review. Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in,Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 4.2x (24-100mm),35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5-7.7, Weight: 319g,Dimensions (HxWxD): 64x108x42mm
If you want the ultimate image quality and flexibility, a digital SLR or Compact System Camera is for you. There's a lot of variation in this category, from hulking semi-pro DSLRs to fairly compact budget CSCs, but all of them have interchangeable lenses so you choose the best tool for the job. Generally speaking, sensor size is far bigger than on a compact camera, with this being the best, simple indicator of image quality, although big sensors do restrict zoom multipliers. Most of these cameras have plenty of manual controls, for those who want to fine tune their exposures, though this isn't always the case with the more budget CSC offerings.
1. Canon EOS 750D – Consistent all-round quality
The new Canon EOS 750D eschews fancy features to concentrate on what's truly important from a camera - consistent image quality. Images from its new 24-megapixel sensor are consistently brilliant, with the camera's new metering system providing enviable results in practically any conditions -measuring the brightness across the frame at 7,560 points, with 19 autofocus points.
It's got a great liveview mode too, handy for those making the leap from compact cameras or smartphones, with responsive subject tracking for sharp shots of moving subjects. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to make sharing photos easier via your smartphone. It's the perfect SLR for those buying their first one or upgrading from an older model.
BUY NOW: Canon EOS 750D
Price when reviewed: £617. Now available for £570. For the latest prices, see our full Canon EOS 750D review Sensor resolution: 24 megapixels, Sensor size: 22x15mm (APS-C) Focal length multiplier: 1.6x, Viewfinder: Optical, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: EF-Mount, Weight: 771g (body-only), Size (HxWxD): 104x132x148mm
2. Fujifilm X-T10 - Class-leading image quality
With retro designs and hands-on controls for enthusiasts, Fujifilm's X-series cameras have built a solid following, mainly those who fondly remember the days of film cameras. it doesn't matter if you like the look though as the cameras also have stunning image quality for their price, and the Fujifilm X-T10 is no exception.
This is the cheaper model in the current range, so there's no metal body or weather-proofing here. You do still get plenty of dials and switches to play with, great ergonomic design and a well-thought-out control system. Still image quality is stunning, among the best you'll see from an APS-C based CSC. Video isn't its strongest point though and neither is raw speed, but pictures look great. At this price it's something of a bargain, shooting pictures just like cameras twice the price.
BUY NOW: Fujifilm X-T10
Price when reviewed: £595. Now available for £570. For more info see our full Fujifilm X-T10 review Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.6x15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x,Viewfinder: Electronic (2,360,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (920,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm),35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Fujifilm X Mount, Weight: 576g, Size (HxWxD): 85x130x116mm
2. Sony Alpha A6000 - The classiest CSC around
Sony's NEX brand is no more, and with it went the much-loved NEX-6; however, it's no cause for concern as the Sony A6000 is its direct predecessor in all but name and it lives up to the billing. This is a serious CSC, from its aluminium shell to its wide range of controls, including nice and chunky mode and command dials, so you can quickly set up the camera as needed.
The sensor now has a big 24 megapixels, and is the same size as the sensors found on most consumer DSLRs, so there's no lack of detail. Sony's cameras continue to impress us for their low noise, with ISO 1600 being practically noise free and even ISO 6400 being usable.
It's fast too, bursting at up 11fps and the phase detect autofocus system covers practically the whole frame and is blisteringly quick and accurate. It's also amongst the best video cameras you can buy at this price. In fact, the A6000 is so good, and so reasonably priced, that it really could be the beginning of the end for consumer-grade DSLR cameras.
BUY NOW: Sony Alpha A6000
Price when reviewed: £650. Now available for £494. For the latest prices, see our full Sony Alpha A6000 review Sensor resolution: 24 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5x15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (921,600 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/5.2-8.4, Lens mount: Sony E mount, Weight: 460g, Size (HxWxD): 70x120x70mm
3. Nikon D610 - Full-frame for a lot less than you'd think
Full-frame photography took a price crash last year, with both Canon and Nikon selling such cameras for around £1,500 for the first time. We preferred the Nikon D600 over its Canon rival, but then it started to suffer problems with dirt on the sensor. Now the problem wasn't critical but it did through a spanner in the works of a great camera.
So now we have the D610, essentially the same camera but with the problem well and truly fixed. There have been a number of other minor tweaks, notably faster continuous shooting of 6fps, up from 5.5fps, and a new quiet continuous mode at 3fps.
Most things stay the same then, but that's not a problem. Image quality is sublime, with colours that both sizzle and subtly recreate skin tones with ease. There's barely any noise, even at high ISO speeds. There are all the controls you need and this should be high on your list if your serious about buying a DSLR.
BUY NOW: Nikon D610
Price when reviewed: £1,449. Now available for £1,049 (body only). For the latest prices, see our full Nikon D610 review Sensor resolution: 24.2 megapixels, Sensor size: 35.9x24mm, Focal length multiplier: 1x, Viewfinder: Optical TTL, LCD screen: 3.2in (921,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): , 35mm-equivalent aperture: , Lens mount: Nikon F, Weight: 850g, Size (HxWxD): 113x141x82mm
5. Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 - In a 4K league of its own
The GH series has long stood out among CSCs. Rather than use a mirrorless design to simply reduce the size of the device, Panasonic has concentrated on the technology's leaning toward video capture. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 then builds upon its predecessors' reputation for excellent video quality and features with support for 4K footage, which looks stunning.
Even if you're not yet in a position to enjoy such video, shooting in 4K has its advantages. When you downsample 4K footage to Full HD the new camera is capable of twice the colour resolution of previous efforts. Shooting this way also lets you crop into the frame in editing without a big noticeable loss in quality. There's loads of video quality options, mic inputs and outputs, and uncompressed video can be streamed from the HDMI port.
As a camera, it's also impressive, though you'll find better examples at this price admittedly. Still it keeps up with most CSCs and image quality is solid and consistent rather than outstanding. For video though it has no peers given its price and portability, so if you're a video enthusiast looking for a new camera, look no further.
BUY NOW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4
Price when reviewed: £1,299. Now available for £967. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 review Sensor resolution: 15.9 megapixels, Sensor size: 17.3x13mm (Micro Four Thirds) Focal length multiplier: 2x, Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (1,036,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds, Weight: 560g, Size (HxWxD): 95x144x84mm
6. Canon EOS 70D – Our favourite enthusiasts' SLR
The Canon EOS 70D is the new top-end model in Canon's APS-C range, so if you're looking for a great DSLR but aren't ready to move to professional-class full frame cameras then this is a good choice. It's extremely consistent with features, image and video quality all impressing. It has a new sensor-based autofocus which makes it far easier to use in live view (and for video) plus an articulated screen for shooting at unusual angles.
The new sensor has 20 megapixels, automatic exposures were brilliantly judged and the details were precise. Noise levels were low up to ISO 5000, but it's not the best performer in this area admittedly. The consistency of the images it produces is the real highlight here, plus its flexibility as both a stills and video capture device. It's our narrow favourite though pure photographers should seriously consider the Nikon D7100 as well.
BUY NOW: Canon EOS 70D
Price when reviewed: £999. Now available for £939. For the latest prices, see our full Canon EOS 70D review Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 22x15mm (APS-C) Focal length multiplier: 1.62x, Viewfinder: Optical, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): N/A, Lens mount: EF-Mount, Weight: 755g (body-only), Size (HxWxD): 104x139x79mm
Once you could clearly define between a small compact camera and a hulking 'bridge' or ultra-zoom camera. These days though you can get huge zooms on very small devices, while many of the larger models have sacrificed telephoto shots for superior image quality. Still, there's something for everyone here, from the tiniest compacts, to feature-packed bridge cameras and even retro-styled fixed lens rangefinders.
1. Fujifilm X70 - Beautiful camera, beautiful pictures
Our Expert Opinion Imagine you could buy a beautifully designed compact camera, with a wealth of manual controls, with an SLR-sized image sensor and a bright lens, letting you take sumptuous photos with something small enough to fit in your pocket, and at very reasonable £549. Well, you can, and it's called the Fujifilm X70. The only drawback is that this amazing camera has a fixed lens, not fixed as in not interchangeable (though you can't change it admittedly) but fixed as in there's no optical zoom whatsoever.
Now we're all used to taking photos on zoom-less smartphones but on a proper camera, it's something of a retro oddity still. However, if you're happy to frame your shots by walking closer or further from your subject, or cropping the big and detailed images a little if that's not possible, then you'll be very, very happy with the X70. It's not entirely retro either, it has an articulated touchscreen for example and can shoot Full HD video too. But the real reason to buy it is that it packs exquisite image quality into a teeny-weeny body.
BUY NOW: Fujifilm X70
Price when reviewed: £549. Now available for £549. For the latest prices, see our full Fujifilm X70 review. Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.6x15.6mm (APS-C),Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 1x (28mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/4.2,Weight: 349g, Dimensions (HxWxD): 66x125x47mm
2. Canon G5 X review - An SLR in your pocket?
Our Expert Opinion With its numerous dials, central bump and hotshoe the G5 X looks remarkably like an SLR, although one that's been shrunk down to measure just 112mm across. It uses a 1in sensor, putting it in direct competition with Sony's RX range of cameras, and pairs that with an integrated, bright lens. The combination means it can gather more light than most SLRs with their basic kit lenses, while still providing a slightly wider 4.2x zoom ratio. Even when the lens is retracted, you can't quite squeeze it into your trouser pocket but it's still incredibly compact and effortless to carry about all day.
The controls are comprehensive and easy to get to grips with, as is the camera itself with its good ergonomics. There's a viewfinder for those who prefer to compose shots in isolation as well as a touch screen display that can be rotated every which way if desired. Image quality is excellent, with crisp details and lifelike colours, as well as a shallow depth of field for striking compositions. It's not the fastest camera, in terms of shot-to-shot times, but if speed isn't a priority this is a corker at a great price.
BUY NOW: Canon G5 X
Price when reviewed: £575. Now available for £579. For the latest prices, see our full Canon G5 X review Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in,Viewfinder: Electronic (2,360,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 4.2x (24-100mm),35mm-equivalent aperture: f/4.9-7.6, Weight: 377g,Dimensions (HxWxD): 76x112x52mm
3. Panasonic LX100 review - A tour de force, the best compact
Our Expert Opinion Panasonic has crafted the best compact camera we've ever seen in the LX100. Using the same-sized sensor as Micro-Four Thirds CSCs it has a huge advantage in terms of light gathering ability when compared to other compacts. Strictly speaking it doesn't use the whole sensor, but factor in its bright F1.7-2.8 aperture lens and you get something truly special. It's an extraordinary achievement, producing photos that a full-frame DSLR would be happy with.
In addition, there's a huge range of well-conceived physical controls, with two lens rings and chunky dials on top. The flash is a removable unit, with a hotshoe so you can add other accessories. It shoots great video too, with support for 4K resolutions. It's a fantastic camera and one that competes with CSCs and DSLRs, other compacts are smaller, but there is none better.
BUY NOW: Panasonic LX100
Price when reviewed: £699. Now available for £539. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic LX100 review Sensor resolution: 12.8 megapixels (effective), Sensor size: 17.3x13mm, Viewfinder: Electronic (2,764,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (921,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 3.1x (24-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/3.7-6.2, Weight: 407g, Size (HxWxD): 67x126x70mm
4. Canon G7 X review - SLR quality in a truly pocketable package
This relatively small camera is a real feat of engineering. It packs in a big 1in sensor and a 4.2x zoom lens into a body that will still easily slip into a jacket pocket. The combination of the lens and sensor can capture as much light as a typical SLR or CSC with its standard kit lens. It lacks a digital viewfinder, but that makes it smaller and less expensive than its immediate competition, the Sony RX100 III.
The rear touchscreen and various dials make it easy to take full control of exposures if you want a more creative take. It's friendly and responsive and will please both beginners and serious photographers. There are Wi-Fi and NFC too, so you can easily share your shots with others via a smartphone. Image quality was as good as you'd expect, it's simply one of the best compact cameras ever made.
BUY NOW: Canon PowerShot G7 X
Price when reviewed: £499. Now available for £290. For the latest prices, see our full Canon G7 X review Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 4.2x (24-100mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/4.9-7.6, Weight: 301g, Size (HxWxD): 64x107x40mm
5. Sony WX350 - A superb balance of zoom, camera size and price
Camera design is all a matter of balance: big zooms and big sensors mean big cameras. The WX350, however, gets the balance just right for casual photographers. It packs a 20x zoom lens, the one thing you can't get on a smartphone, into a body measuring just 26mm across. Not that it won't play with your smartphone, though, thanks to Wi-Fi and NFC you can quickly share any pic you take with friends. It's stylishly designed too, with an all-black finish.
Impressive image quality across our tests was good, with the lens providing impressively sharp focus across its full range, from a nice wide 24mm equivalent to a fairly long 480mm at the zoom end. It's not a DSLR obviously, but image quality is good enough to share online in practically any situation. It's our pick of the point-and-shoot cameras this year, and you can pick one up for Christmas for as little as £180.
BUY NOW: Sony WX350
Price when reviewed: £199. Now available for £139. For the latest prices, see our full Sony WX350 review Sensor resolution: 18 megapixels, Sensor size: 1/2.3in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (460,800 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 20x (24-480mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/20-36, Weight: 164g,Size (HxWxD): 57x96x26mm
6. Nikon Coolpix S9900 - Packed with great features and the price is right
A big zoom is the one thing you can't get from a smartphone still, and the 30x zoom packed into this Nikon S9900 lets you get closer to subjects and frame shots far better than any phone. That zoom reaches from a fairly typical 25mm right up to a huge 750mm, so picking out people or wildlife from a distance is easy. It also comes with an articulated screen for taking shots over your head, or framing selfies.
It comes in a range of colours and is packed with features, such as Wi-Fi for sharing photos and GPS for keeping track of what you shot where. Image quality isn't outstanding admittedly, but it holds up remarkably well even in tougher lighting conditions and at the long end of its zoom range. This means you can take good-looking snaps in almost any conditions, and they certainly look good enough to share online. It's a great camera for the money and was our top choice from ten in our compact camera roundup this year.
BUY NOW: Nikon Coolpix S9900
Price when reviewed: £279. Now available for £199. For the latest prices, see our full Nikon S9700 review Sensor resolution: 16 megapixels, Sensor size: 1/2.3in, Viewfinder: None, LCD screen: 3in (921,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 30x (25-750mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/21-36, Weight: 294g,Size (HxWxD): 67x113x41mm
7. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 - A strong all-rounder that's packed useful features
Smartphones may have largely deposed compact cameras for day-to-day snapping, but none can rival a compact ultrazoom's reach, such as this 30x zoom lens on the excellent little Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60. This isn't just a point-and-shoot camera, though, as it has good access to manual tweaks thanks to a lens ring control on the front and the usual wheel on the back. It's also fairly special in having a small viewfinder, quality isn't up to much, but it makes framing shots in bright sunlight a breeze.
It has all the latest features you'd expect, with Wi-Fi built in so you can control the camera from a smartphone, and pair it easily with NFC. Video capture is good with Full HD in various quality options and the results looked smooth and natural, with good low light footage. Image quality is pretty impressive at the long end of the zoom, and the optical image stabilisation helped keep things largely blur-free. It can even capture images in RAW format, letting you get more out of them, later on, your PC.
The TZ60 does what a good travel camera should, it packs lots of features into a small body and delivers consistent, dependable results.
BUY NOW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60
Price when reviewed: £339. Now available for £219. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 review Sensor resolution: 18 megapixels, Sensor size: 6.2x4.6mm (1/2.3in), Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (920,000 dots),Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 30x (24-720mm), Weight: 240g, Size (HxWxD): 66x111x37mm
8. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 - Outstanding photos and videos and a pleasure to use
With its Sony RX10 the company continues to break new ground, this time pairing the relatively large 1in sensor found in the Sony RX100 II with a large zoom lens to create an amazing all-rounder.
At first glance the RX10 looks similar to many ultra-zoom or bridge cameras, but with a sensor four times the size it has far better image quality. The downside is that a bigger sensor means a smaller zoom multiplier, at only 8.3x. This means the RX10 sits between CSCs, which typically have 3x kits lenses and bridge cameras, with their tiny sensors.
The design makes it an amazing all-rounder then, image quality is nearer to that of a CSC or DSLR, but it has a zoom that reaches further than most such cameras. It's very capable whether shooting close up in low-light or framing shots from range. Another boon is the constant F2.8 end-to-end zoom, so zooming in doesn't through off your exposure settings. It's brilliant for video too, with great image quality plus mic and headphone jacks for audio.
There's a great range of manual controls too, making the RX10 perfect for those who like to tinker. It's an amazing camera, arguably the only one you'll ever need, and well worth the high price.
BUY NOW: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10
Price when reviewed: £949. Now available for £599. For the latest prices, see our full Sony RX10 review Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 1in (13.2 x 8.8mm), Viewfinder: Electronic (2,400,000), LCD screen: 3in (1,288,000), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 8.3x (24-200mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/7.6, Weight: 834g, Size (HxWxD): 90x130x130mm
9. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 - Groundbreaking lens provides excellent quality
Yet another Panasonic camera but this one is a full-sized ultra-zoom model with a 25-600mm zoom range. There are ultra-zoom cameras that better that, but the FZ200 is the only one that maintains a fast F2.8 aperture across the whole focal range. This means you can shoot in low-light conditions without too much worry, and you won't find your careful selected exposure settings thrown out of whack if you decide to tighten up your framing.
With 4x the light entering the lens - compared to a typical F5.6 ultra zoom - you can shoot in far wider conditions. The lens also provides nice depth of field effects so you can pick out your subject easily.
In addition to the lens, there's good controls, great-looking video, fast shot-to-shot times and a super-sharp 1,312,000 dot viewfinder. It's the ultra-zoom to buy if you want a great camera but aren't interested in a full-on DSLR.
BUY NOW: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
Price when reviewed: £440. Now available for £298. For the latest prices, see our full Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 review Sensor resolution: 12 megapixels, Sensor size: 6.2x4.6mm (1/2.3in), Viewfinder: Electronic, LCD screen: 3in (1,312,000), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 24x (25-600mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/15.5, Weight: 588g, Size (HxWxD): 87x125x110mm