Facing stiff competition from today’s top-tier mirrorless cameras, traditional DSLRs are still the go-to choice for many serious photo enthusiasts and working pros. These enthusiast ILCs deliver awesome real-world performance and dependability in familiar form factors. Moreover, they provide a full complement of advanced, cutting-edge features and have conveniently placed traditional controls. Plus, they are fully compatible with a wide range of pro-class legacy lenses.
Mirrorless cameras are today’s hot ticket among sophisticated shooters. They provide continuous autofocus (AF) during the actual exposure, which can be crucial in capturing pro-quality high-speed bursts and seamless video in 4K. Eliminating the mirror box also enables mirrorless cameras to be smaller and lighter. In addition, their shorter lens-to-sensor distance enhances optical flexibility; it allows optical designers to create smaller, lighter, high-performance lenses. Moreover, photographers can make use of a huge variety of existing lenses via simple adapters.
The current crop of enthusiast-aimed DSLRs and mirrorless cameras are both capable of capturing still images and videos of spectacular quality. Thoughtful dealers should present both interchangeable-lens camera categories and let their savviest customers decide for themselves which works best for their needs.
For a clearer picture of the amazing choices out there, we’ve selected five great DSLRs and six awesome mirrorless cameras.
Five Fantastic DSLRs
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Significantly upgraded, this popular full-frame Canon DSLR appeals to advanced enthusiasts because it delivers the “5D experience” at a very attractive price. It has a 26.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor coupled to a high-tech Digic 7 image processor. Its 3-inch, 1.04M-dot vari-angle touch LCD monitor is complemented by a 97% view all-glass pentaprism viewfinder with a revised 45-point all-cross-type AF sensor.
Moreover, the 6D Mark II delivers a respectable 6.5-frames-per-sec maximum burst rate. It also provides Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps. In addition, shooters will benefit from its Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology and movie servo AF. And for quick transfer of content, it offers built-in Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth connectivity with NFC. Other features include: time-lapse and HDR modes; 14-bit A/D conversion; in-camera RAW processing and JPEG conversion; and a sensitivity range that extends from ISO 50 to ISO 102,400. Its compact form factor is dust and weather resistant for shooting in tough conditions. $1,599.*
Nikon’s impressive DX-format flagship DSLR set the standard for its class with a 20.9MP CMOS image sensor paired to Nikon’s Expeed 5 image processor. The system produces a blazing full-resolution burst rate of 10 fps as well 4K UHD (3,840×2,160) video recording at 30 fps. Moreover, the D500’s native ISO of 51,200 can be bumped up to an astounding ISO 1,640,000. It also utilizes a MultiCAM 20K 153-point AF system that features 99 cross-type points to optimize AF speed and accuracy.
Furthermore, a 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD monitor enables shooting at high and low angles for added creativity. The D500 also employs Nikon’s SnapBridge connectivity, with built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth. Photographers will also appreciate its conveniently placed controls. Other features include a built-in interval timer and a 4K UHD time-lapse function. In addition, it incorporates dual memory card slots for XQD and SD media. Constructed of durable lightweight magnesium alloy and carbon fiber materials, its streamlined body is also weather sealed. $1,699.95.
Pentax K-1 Mark II
Pentax’s full-frame K-mount DSLR incorporates a 14-bit image processor with a Ricoh-developed accelerator unit. It reduces noise, enhances clarity and color accuracy, as well as boosts the sensitivity range up to an impressive ISO 819,200. The flagship camera employs a built-in 5-axis shake reduction system to minimize the effects of camera shake and also enable Pixel Shift Resolution II technology. It factors in the movement of the sensor to record sequential frames and merge them into a single image with greater color detail and higher resolution.
The DSLR employs a very high-res 36.4-megapixel CMOS sensor and a Prime IV processor, with a AA filter simulator that minimizes moiré patterns but omits an antialiasing filter to ensure sharper images. The system delivers a full-res burst rate of 4.4 frames per sec. Moreover, a wide-pattern SAFOX 12 AF sensor covers nearly the entire full-frame area and has 33 AF points. They include 25 cross pattern and three f/2.8-luminance points that operate in light down to -3 EV.
Also notable is a unique 3.2-inch cross-tilt LCD monitor that tilts upward 90º, down 44º and laterally 35º. Other features include: dual SD slots; Full HD 1080p video capability at 30p or 60i; GPS with an astrotracer function to minimize star trails during long exposures; and LED-illuminated points on the lens mount, card slots, LCD and cable switch. Able to operate down to 14ºF, the K-1 Mark II boasts a robust, weather-sealed body with a stainless steel chassis and magnesium alloy outer shell. $1,799.95.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The latest model in Canon’s popular EOS 5D series of DSLRs, widely used by pros and serious enthusiasts, it delivers exceptional image quality and fine detail. That’s due to a 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor that works with Canon’s advanced Digic 6+ processor. As a result, the camera achieves DCI 4K (4,096×2,160) video capture at 30 fps plus full-frame 8.8MP still grabs. It additionally offers a native ISO of 32,000, which extends to ISO 102,400. In addition, full-res bursts top out at 7 fps, with images recorded on both CF and SD memory cards.
Also notable is the DSLR’s 61-point High Density Reticular AF system with an AF area select button, Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology and movie servo AF options. Moreover, Dual Pixel RAW technology allows photographers to fine-tune image parameters, including bokeh shift and micro focus adjustment, after the picture is taken. Other features include: a 3.2-inch, 1.62M-dot touch-screen LCD monitor; a bright pentaprism-type eye-level optical viewfinder; and Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and GPS functions. Its robust body has enhanced ergonomics, including a front-mounted N3 remote port, weather resistance and a mirror vibration control system to maximize sharpness in handheld exposures at low shutter speeds. $3,099.
One of the most popular DSLRs among serious enthusiasts and pros, the D850 from Nikon is the first of the breed to combine a 45.7MP backside-illuminated (BSI) FX-format sensor with no optical low-pass filter and a cutting-edge Expeed 5 processor. That marriage delivers a full-res burst rate of 7 fps that can capture up to 51 compressed, lossless 14-bit RAW files with full AE (autoexposure) and AF. It also provides 4K UHD video recording at 30, 25 and 24 fps in full-frame or DX crop-sensor framing.
Moreover, the full-frame camera has sensitivity settings that are extendable to ISO 102,400. In addition, its Multi-CAM 20K 153-point AF system offers a choice of 24-, 72- and 153-point dynamic-area AF zones, as well as fine-focus-tuning capability. Other features include: 8K time-lapse mode; a 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot tilting touch LCD monitor; a 180K-pixel RGB sensor; and a focus-shift mode that enables sophisticated focus stacking of up to 10 image layers.
A bonus here is a negative digitizer that optimizes conversion of film negatives and slide images to high-res digital files. The D850 also integrates SnapBridge, with full Wi-Fi connectivity and Bluetooth. It’s all built into a robust, dustproof, weatherproof body with a magnesium alloy chassis. $3,299.95.
Six Stand-Out Mirrorless Cameras
Sigma’s audacious new full-frame, L-mount mirrorless camera provides pro-caliber still and video functionality in a pocketable, weather-resistant die-cast aluminum body with 42 seals. Moreover, it delivers the convenience, portability and ease of use of a smartphone plus the high-end imaging capabilities serious shooters demand.
Measuring an ultracompact 4.43×2.75×1.78 inches and weighing less than 15 ounces (without a lens), the ingenious Sigma fp employs a 24.6MP full-frame Bayer CMOS sensor sans a low-pass filter. Consequently, it provides 14-bit color depth and 18-fps, full-res bursts. It also provides a max resolution of 6,000×4,000 pixels for RAW and JPEG files. In addition, the ILC utilizes a 49-point contrast-detect AF system that provides face and eye detection along with focus-peaking readouts.
Furthermore, its ISO 100–25,600 range is expandable from ISO 6 to ISO 10,2400. Video capabilities include 4K UHD recording at up to 30p as well as Full HD recording at 120p. In addition, it supports 12-bit CinemaDNG external recording for raw video data. The ILC also incorporates Sigma’s teal and orange mode that mimics high-end Hollywood color-grading techniques. And a “director’s viewfinder” function provides simulated professional effects like those captured by Arri and Sony cameras.
Also featured are a 3.15-inch, 2.10M-dot, touch LCD; a UHS-II SDXC slot; a USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C port; and a HDMI port. In addition, photographers can mount Sigma SA and Sigma EF lenses via the optional MC-21 mount converter. $1,899.
Sony Alpha 7R IV
This Sony ILC offers a new choice for serious photogs requiring an advanced, high-res, full-frame mirrorless camera for shooting stills and video. The remarkable a7R IV boasts an ultrahigh-resolution 61MP full-frame Exmor R BSI sensor and Sony’s Bionz X processor. This impressive technology delivers a rapid 10-fps, full-res burst with AF/AE tracking. Its ISO settings of 100–32,000 can extend from ISO 50 to ISO 102,400, with 15-stop dynamic range. Moreover, it achieves 4K video capture through 5K (15MP) oversampling at 30 fps with the S-Log3 and S-Log2 Gamma curves found in high-end Sony video cameras. Plus, it supports HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma).
In addition, 5-axis SteadyShot Inside sensor-shift image stabilization works with still and video capture, providing a 5.5-stop advantage in handheld shooting. The ILC also features a sleeker body with an impressively realistic 5.76M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a 3-inch, 1.44M-dot, tilting touch-screen LCD for working at high and low angles.
Other features include: 14-bit RAW output; an anti-flicker function; Pixel Shift Multi shooting to create images up to a 240MP equivalent; a hybrid AF system with 567 phase-detection AF points and 425-point contrast AF; real-time eye AF and animal eye AF; a wireless PC remote function and Wi-Fi; dual SD slots; and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port. Its features a magnesium alloy chassis and weather sealing. $3,499.99.
Canon EOS R
Canon’s breakthrough mirrorless model is squarely aimed at serious shooters, including pros. It employs a full-frame 30.3MP CMOS sensor and a cutting-edge Digic 8 image processor. As a result, the camera offers such advanced capabilities as 4K UHD video capture at 30 fps with Canon Log Gamma for enhanced dynamic range; 10-bit HDMI output; and movie servo AF. It also provides sensitivity settings of ISO 50 to 102,400 and full-res bursts up to 8 fps.
Most significant is its new 54mm-wide Canon RF mount that accepts an advanced new line of more compact, wider-aperture lenses. Moreover, legacy Canon EF- and EF-S-mount lenses can be used with optional EF-EOS RF mount adapters. The mirrorless ILC also provides Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology with 5,655 selectable AF points and sensitivity down to -6 EV for pro-level low-light performance. In addition, Dual Pixel Raw technology enables slight focus point shifts and other adjustments after capture.
Further, a 3.69M-dot OLED EVF complements a 3.15-inch, 2.10M-dot swivel touch-screen monitor. Other features include: movie digital IS to minimize the effects of camera shake; a customizable multifunction bar for personalized control of settings; Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity; and an SD UHS-II card slot. The EOS R has a dust- and weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. $2,299.
Nikon Z 7
Nikon’s groundbreaking mirrorless full-frame ILC looks rugged and purposeful, and that’s exactly what it is. Its 45.7MP FX-format BSI CMOS sensor pairs with an Expeed 6 image processor to deliver impressive performance parameters. For example, the ILC offers 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps with N-Log for capturing an enhanced dynamic range. It also provides 8K time-lapse video; 10-bit HDMI output; and extended sensitivity settings of ISO 64–25,600. Add to that a full-res burst rate of 9 frames per sec.
The Z 7 is built around Nikon’s new wide-diameter Z mount with a shorter 16mm flange distance. This permits the use of more compact wider-aperture Nikkor Z lenses. In addition, legacy Nikkor F-mount lenses can be used via the Mount Adapter FTZ. Doing so, they gain the advantages of the Z 7’s in-body vibration reduction, silent shooting and PDAF focusing system. The optional adapter also permits functionality with E-, G- and D-type Nikkor lenses.
Moreover, the camera’s 493-point phase-detection AF system works with integral 5-axis VR image stabilization to minimize the effects of handheld shake. Also featured are a 0.8x, 3.6M-dot EVF; a 3.2-inch, 2.10M-dot, tilting, touch-sensitive LCD monitor; and a top panel dot-matrix OLED display that enables the monitoring of settings when the camera isn’t at eye level. Moreover, an XQD card slot and built-in Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity are provided. The Nikon Z 7 has a robust, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. $3,399.95.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R
The first full-frame mirrorless ILC from Panasonic is a high-spec L-mount model. It employs a 35mm 47.3MP MOS sensor that works in tandem with an advanced Venus Engine image processor. The camera achieves 4K UHD video recording at up to 60 fps as well as an impressive maximum full-res burst rate of 9 fps with AF-S (6 fps with AF-C). In addition, its sensitivity settings range from ISO 100 to ISO 51,200.
Notably, a 225-zone contrast-detection DFD (Depth from Defocus) AF system can adjust the focus position in as little as 0.08 sec with sensor-to-lens communication at rates up to 480 fps. Moreover, Dual IS 2 image stabilization technology combines 5.5-stop-rated, 5-axis sensor shift with in-lens 2-axis IS when mounting a compatible Lumix lens.
Furthermore, the S1R employs an ultrahigh-res 5.76M-dot, 0.78x-magnification OLED EVF with a selectable 60-fps or 120-fps refresh rate, a 0.005-sec lag time and a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. Also integrated is a large 3.2-inch, 2.10M-dot, triaxial tilt, touch-screen LCD as well as a top status LCD. Other features include: 187MP high-res mode; HLG mode for enhanced dynamic range and shadow detail; Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity; XQD and SD slots; USB Type-C port; and a dust-, splash-, freeze-resistant, magnesium alloy body. $3,699.99.
Olympus OM-D E-M1X
This handsome, compact flagship of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds mirrorless line has an integrated vertical grip. The grip includes two sets of controls and shutter releases for vertical or horizontal shooting. In addition, it enables the use of dual BLH-1 Li-ion batteries for 870 shots with normal settings or 2,580 shots with quick sleep mode activated. At its heart is an upgraded 20.4MP Live MOS sensor married to a TruPic VIII dual quad-core processor. They result in outstanding image quality, a notable full-res burst rate of 15 fps and increased responsiveness. They also provide enhanced performance at high sensitivity settings up to ISO 25,600.
The E-M1X has a large, wide-view, high-magnification (0.8x), 2.36M-dot eye-level EVF with a 100% view. Moreover, it offers a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, tilting, touch-screen OLED monitor. In addition, a 5-axis sensor-shift IS system delivers shake-free images with 7 stops of correction when shooting stills as well as 4K DCI 24p or 4K UHD 30p video handheld. Further, its hybrid FAST 121-point AF system delivers pro-level tracking and AI-based intelligent subject-detection AF.
Other features include: 50MP handheld high-res shot mode; an enhanced customizable multifunction control array similar to that in high-end pro DSLRs; dual battery slots; wireless connectivity; a USB Type-C port; and two UHS-II SD slots. And it’s all packed into a dustproof, weatherproof, magnesium alloy body. $2,999.99.
*All suggested retail prices are body only.