Serious enthusiasts don’t take pictures just to document family milestones or capture mementos of travel destinations. They view photography as a form of creative expression. Aimed at the serious shooter, we’ve selected 10 great enthusiast ILCs in the $1,000–$2,000 price range. The goal: to enable you to better serve this key market and create meaningful relationships with a class of customers much more likely to be repeat buyers.
All 10 models, whether DSLRs or mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras, deliver superb imaging performance. They include such high-tech features as: 4K video capture; ultrafast, super-precise, multi-zone autofocus (AF) systems; sizzling frame rates; high-resolution sensors integrated with advanced image processors for amazing performance at elevated ISOs; tilting, touch-screen LCDs; and sophisticated, multi-axis image stabilization systems.
They also offer an extremely high performance-per-dollar quotient, and that spells value for savvy consumers. Of course, these are not the only enthusiast-aimed cameras worthy of consideration. So be sure to check out other models offered by the manufacturers listed here as well as from other top makers.
5 Great Mirrorless ILCs
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
This seriously upgraded flagship of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds range has a timeless, downsized DSLR form and bristles with innovation. Enthusiasts will appreciate its 20.4MP High Speed Live MOS sensor and TruePic VIII dual quad core processor. The combo provides outstanding image quality, 15-fps, full-res bursts (60 fps, electronic shutter), increased responsiveness and improved performance at sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600. In addition, RAW shooting and a 50MP high-res shot mode are provided.
It also has a wide-view, high-magnification, 2.36M-dot, eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF), providing a 100% view. Its other viewing option is a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, articulating, touch-control LCD monitor. An advanced 5-axis sensor-shift IS (image stabilization) system delivers shake-free images even when shooting DCI 4K/24p (4,096×2,160) or 4K UHD/30p (3,840×2,160) video handheld. And a dual FAST 121-point AF system delivers pro-caliber performance.
In addition, built-in wireless connectivity links it to iOS/Android devices, and it has a customizable, multifunction control array similar to that in high-end pro DSLRs. This is all built into a dustproof as well as weatherproof magnesium alloy body. $1,999.99.* olympusamerica.com
Sigma sd Quattro H
The top of Sigma’s Quattro line, this inimitable camera incorporates the APS-H-size (1.3x crop factor), 44.8MP version of Sigma’s famous three-layer Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS sensor. The sensor delivers full color information at every pixel point without interpolation. And with an impressive 1:1.4 RGB pixel ratio, the sd Quattro H can create 25.5MP lossless compressed RAW images with superior color output and a spatial resolution equivalent to a 51MP Bayer sensor. Moreover, the camera’s Sigma SA lens mount is the same one used on the flagship Sigma SD1 Merrill SLR.
Other features include: an advanced Dual True III processor that provides continuous, full-res, 3.8-fps shooting; ISO 6,400; super-fine detail mode that blends seven exposures into one RAW file with a wide dynamic range; a 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD; and a 2.36M-dot EVF. Its hybrid AF system incorporates both phase-detect and contrast-detect points with up to nine selectable, and it has an operating range of -1 to 18 EV. The sd Quattro H has a distinctive ergonomic shape and an intuitive, customizable control layout. $1,199.
Note: The dust- and splash-resistant Sigma sd Quattro—with a 29.5MP, APS-C version of the Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS sensor; a 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD; and a 2.3MP viewfinder—is also offer by Sigma. $799. sigmaphoto.com
Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5
Panasonic’s latest full-featured, top-of-the-line Micro Four Thirds camera employs a 20.3MP Digital Live MOS sensor coupled to an advanced Venus Engine processor. Together they deliver 4K UHD video capture at up to 60 fps and internal 4:4:2, 4K, 10-bit video at 24 and 30 fps. The GH5 also has a maximum full-res burst rate of 12 fps with continuous AF and low noise performance at ISOs to 25,600. Its 10-bit color capability means it can record greater color subtleties. And its 6K and 4K photo modes let shooters output impressive quality still images from video clips.
Other notable features include: an advanced 225-area DFD (Depth from Defocus) AF system that focuses in as little as 0.05 sec; a 5-axis dual IS 2 system that combines in-lens as well as sensor-shift stabilization with compatible Lumix lenses; a 0.76x, 3.68M-dot OLED EVF; a 3.2-inch, 1.62M-dot, free-angle, touch LCD; built-in 5 GHz Wi-Fi; Bluetooth LE (low energy) 4.2; and dual UHS-II SD card slots. The handsome, ergonomically contoured GH5 is made of magnesium alloy with die-cast front and rear panels. Dust and moisture sealed, it is freezeproof to 14ºF. $1,999.99. panasonic.com
Sony Alpha a6500
This remarkable, 24.2MP, APS-C-format camera with an Exmor CMOS sensor and Bionz X processor set a new standard in its class with its impressive sensor design and front-end LSI. It captures enhanced 4K UHD video and full-res RAW bursts of 11 fps for 21 frames with full AF and exposure tracking.
The new sensor also combines wide-area, 425-point phase detection with 169 contrast-detection zones to deliver decisive AF in as little as 0.05 sec. It also results in superior object identification, much faster, more consistent tracking, 14-bit RAW file output and sensitivity settings of ISO 100–51,200.
The camera offers two choices for viewing and reviewing images: a 2.36M-dot OLED Tru-Finder EVF and a 3-inch, 922K-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD monitor. Furthermore, the 6500 captures 4K UHD video at 30, 25 and a cinematic 24 fps, in S-Log3 Gamma profile without pixel binning to collect 6K data. It also has an S&Q motion function (slow & quick) for recording Full HD 1,080p video at speeds from 1–120 fps. In Super 35mm 16:9 aspect ratio, recordings are captured at a 20MP resolution and output at 8MP in 4K.
Other pro-caliber features include 5-axis SteadyShot Inside IS, built-in Wi-Fi with NFC (near field communication), a more robust shutter mechanism and improved ergonomics. $1,399.99. sony.com
This rugged, weatherproof, DSLR-style mirrorless ILC is one of the two top models in Fujifilm’s impressive X series. It features the company’s upgraded, 24.3MP APS-C X-Trans CMOS II sensor, which pairs with an advanced X-Processor Pro engine. They provide a continuous, full-res burst rate of up to 8 fps and Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps.
The X-Pro2 also has an innovative hybrid multi viewfinder that permits shooters to select between OVF (optical VF) with a multi-magnification feature or a 2.36M-dot EVF with 85-fps playback.
Its intelligent hybrid AF system combines contrast- and phase-detection sensors in a 273-point matrix and includes 77 phase-detection points for enhanced AF performance. Moreover, a focus peaking display offers precise focus assessment and improved manual focus capability. Other key features include: a tilting, 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD monitor; ISO 100–51,200 settings; a mechanical shutter with speeds to 1/8,000 sec; an electronic shutter with a 1/32,000-sec speed; dual UHS-II SD slots; built-in film simulation and grain effect modes; and integrated Wi-Fi. $1,699.
Note: The Fujifilm X-T2 provides the same core features as the X-Pro2 but offers internal 4K UHD video recording at 24 fps and an F-Log Gamma setting for achieving superior color in postproduction. It also has a 2.36M-dot, 0.77x OLED EVF in lieu of the hybrid multi viewfinder. $1,599. fujifilmusa.com
5 Topnotch Enthusiast DSLRs
Nikon’s remarkable DX-format (23.5×15.7mm) flagship set the bar for its class with a 20.9MP CMOS sensor (sans a low-pass filter) married to an advanced Expeed 5 processor. They deliver a blazing, full-resolution burst rate of 10 fps and 4K UHD video at 30 fps. Furthermore, a native top ISO of 51,200 can be bumped up to an incredible ISO 1,640,000 for shooting in dark or difficult lighting. The D500 also features an anti-flickering function for shooting under fluorescent lighting, as in gymnasiums.
The digital SLR additionally employs Nikon’s advanced Multi-CAM 20K 153-point AF system with 99 cross-type points to enhance AF speed and accuracy. Moreover, its large, 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD works at high and low angles for added creativity. And an updated version of Nikon’s SnapBridge provides Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity.
This DSLR’s well-balanced ergonomic body has conveniently placed controls, is constructed of durable, lightweight magnesium alloy, and is dust and weather sealed for operating in challenging conditions. The D500 provides dual cards slots for XQD and SD media. $1,899.95. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS 80D
This outstanding DSLR incorporates an upgraded 24.2MP APS-C-size CMOS sensor and a 45-point, all-cross-point AF sensor coupled to a Digic 6 processor. It employs Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DAF) technology to achieve superior tracking of fast-moving subjects. The camera is also optimized for shooting video or high-speed action in live view. Moreover, the 80D’s anti-flicker function automatically compensates for flickering light sources to provide consistent exposure and color accuracy during continuous shooting.
Other key features are: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60/30 fps in the MP4 format for sharing on social media; a 7-fps, full-res burst rate with full-time AF; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, swiveling, touch-screen LCD monitor; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC; and sensitivity settings of ISO 100–16,000 that are expandable to ISO 25,600 (stills).
Moreover, for working with telephoto lenses and extenders, 27 of the DSLR’s AF points are capable of focusing down to f/8, and their dual cross-focus design offers enhanced precision at wider apertures. The 80D also has a glass pentaprism viewfinder, a pro-grade, 100,000-cycle shutter and Canon’s 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor that enhances exposure metering and AF performance. $1,099. usa.canon.com
Pentax’s upper tier, full-frame, K-mount DSLR incorporates an impressive, high-res 36.4MP CMOS sensor as well as a 14-bit Prime IV processor. The combination is engineered to achieve detailed, low-noise images up to a top sensitivity setting of ISO 204,800. The K-1 is also capable of a full-res, 4.5-fps burst rate. Moreover, its integrated AA filter simulator minimizes moiré patterns, omitting the standard antialiasing filter to ensure the sharpest possible images.
The DSLR’s advanced, wide-pattern SAFOX 12 AF sensor covers nearly the entire full-frame area with 33 AF points. Included are 25 cross-pattern points and three f/2.8-luminance points that operate in light down to -3 EV. In addition, it has a built-in 5-axis shake reduction system that provides a 5-stop advantage in minimizing camera shake effects.
Also noteworthy is the K-1’s distinctive 3.2-inch, 1.04M-dot, cross-tilt LCD monitor. The unique monitor tilts upward 90º, down 44º and 35º laterally. The camera also offers Full HD 1080p video capability at 30 fps in full-frame or APS-C crop modes.
Other features include: dual SD card slots; wireless LAN support; GPS with an AstroTracer function to minimize star trails during long exposures; and LED-illuminated points on its lens mount, card slots, monitor and cable switch to facilitate operation in low light. The Pentax K-1 has a rugged, stainless steel chassis and magnesium alloy outer shell with 87 weather seals that’s built to operate in temperatures down to 14ºF. $1,949.95. ricohimaging.com
Offering top-of-the-line performance in a sleek, compact, ergonomically contoured package, this enthusiast-level DSLR incorporates key assets of the very successful Nikon D500 in an attractive weather-resistant body. These features include a 20.9MP DX-format CMOS sensor that omits the optical low-pass filter to enhance resolution. Furthermore, the sensor is integrated with Nikon’s advanced Expeed 5 processing engine. As a result, the D7500 provides a maximum full-res burst rate of 8 fps with full AE and AF. It also offers a native sensitivity range of ISO 100–51,200 that’s expandable to a remarkable ISO 1,640,000.
The camera’s robust multimedia capabilities include 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps along with the capability to produce 4K UHD time-lapse movies in-camera. Its still and video performance are both enhanced with a 51-point, 15 cross-field-sensor AF system that delivers outstanding speed and accuracy.
Other key features include: a slim, tilting, 3.2-inch, 922K-dot, touch-screen LCD monitor; a convenient new auto picture control system; the same 180K-pixel RGB sensor as the D500 to detect faces and improve autofocus, especially when shooting high-speed sequences; and SnapBridge with built-in Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. $1,249.95. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
This significantly upgraded, full-frame model appeals to advanced enthusiasts because it delivers “the EOS 5D experience” at an attractive price. It has a new 26.2MP, full-frame CMOS sensor linked to a state-of-the-art Digic 7 image processor. Other enhancements include a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, vari-angle LCD with touch-sensitive controls; a revised 45-zone, all-cross-sensor autofocus system; and also a 97%-view, all-glass pentaprism viewfinder.
The DSLR has a full-res, 6.5-fps maximum burst rate and can record Full HD video at 24/30/60 fps. In addition, sensitivity settings extend from ISO 100 to ISO 102,400. Other features include: Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for sharp images in live view; movie servo AF; time-lapse and HDR modes; and also 14-bit A/D conversion.
It also offers built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low energy connectivity with NFC. It’s all built into a robust, dust- and weather-resistant body. Moreover, the performance of the 6D Mark II is sure to delight legions of enthusiast and pro Canon shooters wanting an advanced full-frame DSLR at a great price. $1,999. usa.canon.com
* All MSRPs are body only.