WIRED Recommends the best cameras of 2019, from enthusiast to professional level
Despite steadily declining camera sales, photography is more popular than ever. How’s that possible you cry? Smartphone cameras are largely responsible for the 3.2 billion images shared online daily but in that deluge of imagery, the genuine quality is typically captured using a dedicated camera.
Those shots are then edited and crushed down to web resolution so that the lives of people with impeccably curated timelines look that little bit shinier, more vibrant and more beautiful than the rest of ours. Even if you’re not swayed by picture envy, there comes a point when your old camera or phone just aren’t cutting it anymore.
In order to upgrade the look of the images you capture, it still pays to invest in something that offers more in terms of functionality and image quality. Try as they might, even the latest flagship smartphones can’t hold a flashgun to this year’s best cameras, which is why we’ve rounded them up for you to take your pick.
What are the best cameras of 2019?
The best camera all around is the LUMIX S1 from Panasonic, it offers a commanding array of professional photography and video capabilities, including up to 180fps slow mo in Full HD and 4K/60p. It’s also built to last and performs brilliantly in all lighting conditions.
If you want excellent image quality, but don’t want to break the bank, the Fujifilm X-T30 is our pick of the best advanced enthusiast camera. Compatible with Fujifilm’s extensive range of quality X-mount lenses, the X-T30 is styled like a vintage film camera but is packed with the latest tech including wireless file transfer.
The Nikon Z6 is one of the first ever mirrorless cameras from Nikon and it’s the best camera for creative work. But despite being late to the game, the Nikon Z6 offers superb stills and video performance. It’s also compatible with the extensive family of Nikon F-mount lenses via an adapter.
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Panasonic Lumix DC-S1
WIRED Recommends: A solid all-rounder and true DSLR-killer
Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame CMOS | Focusing: DFD Contrast AF | ISO: 100-51200 | Continuous burst: Up to 30fps 6K (18MP) | Display: 3-way tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 5.76-million dot | Video: 4K/60p | Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body | Size:148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7mm | Weight: 1,017g | Memory: 1 x SDHC/SDXC, 1 x XQD
When the full-frame Lumix S1 was announced – the first of its kind from Lumix – the expectation was high. Fortunately, the Lumix S1 (£2,999) delivers in spades.
Firstly, the camera’s all-new L-mount has been created via a 3-way collaboration between Panasonic, Sigma and Leica. This means that there’s an extensive lens collection being built around it, by some of the greatest minds in the imaging world. There’s also an L-EF mount adapter, produced by Sigma, that opens a world of Canon-full-frame fit lenses for this camera body. When paired with an EF-mount lens, the S1 can still deliver single autofocus, but continuous AF is out of the picture unfortunately. Still, having access to so much quality glass is a huge boost for people investing in this new system.
The Lumix S1’s 24.2-megapixel sensor can capture a broad dynamic range, making it ideal for shooting in high contrast and low-light scenarios. And thanks to its Venus image processing engine, the S1 can capture images in candle light with very little visible noise artefacts. It also features an intelligent depth-from-defocus AF system that can detect and track faces, bodies, eyes and animals.
Panasonic’s impressive 5-axis dual image stabilisation technology is featured in the S1 and makes shooting stills and video handheld significantly more viable. For landscape and product shooters, the S1’s High Resolution Mode will be a boon. When used with a tripod, the S1 uses the same tech for its stabilisation to pixel shift its sensor and create 96-megapixel stills. It’s an impressive bonus feature, even if it isn’t a main selling point. As for video, the Lumix S1 leads the pack and can record up to 4K/60p and up to 180fps Full HD.
Few cameras can compete on all fronts like the Lumix S1, which is why it holds the WIRED Recommends title for now.
Pros: Superior photography and video; great dynamic range
Cons: Heavy; limited native lens range; contrast AF system
Price: £2,999 with 24-105mm kit lens | Check price on Amazon
Olympus OM-D E-M10 III
The best interchangeable lens camera under £700
Sensor: 16.1-MP micro-four-thirds | Focusing: 121-focus point contrast detection | ISO: 200-25600 | Continuous burst: Up to 8.6fps | Display: 3in tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 2.36-million dot | Video: 4K/30p | Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body | Size:121.5 x 83.6 x 49.5mm | Weight: 410g | Memory: Single SD card slot
Closely modelled on the OM film cameras of old, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 III (£629) offers cracking stills quality and performance in a compact form factor. Olympus OM-D is synonymous with classically refined style and this model carries on this strong legacy.
Once you get over how cute and retro the E-M10 III looks, there are some very respectable features to be discovered. Firstly, its design allows for all key functions to be accessed without having to dive into its convoluted menu system – a big plus. And it’s not littered with buttons and dials, making this camera approachable for beginners. On its rear, sits a 3in touchscreen display that can be tilted to face up or down. This is good for capturing shots at creative angles and getting above crowds if you choose to be that person at a concert.
The size of the E-M10 III makes it ideal for street and travel photography. It’s small enough to both avoid attracting unwanted attention and prevent people from being intimidated when staring down its barrel, which is ideal for portraits and capturing candid moments. Housing a 16.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor with Olympus’ tried and tested TruePic VIII imaging engine, you won’t be disappointed with the results. Unless of course you’re hoping for more resolution; if that’s the case, you may want to look elsewhere.
One of the best features of the E-M10 III is its 5-axis in-body image stabilisation. It’s excellent, and will allow you to drop your shutter speed in low-light situations and shoot scenes handheld that would typically result in a blurred mess.
Based around the popular micro-four-thirds lens mount, there are tonnes of affordable lenses for the E-M10 III, making it a great investment for people hoping to build their kit as they grow in experience.
Pros: Fantastic image quality; compact body, extensive lens range
Cons: Autofocus not suitable for action; dated menu system
Price: £629 with 14-42mm kit lens | Check price on Amazon
Best for stylish retro design and replicating classic film looks
Sensor: 26.1-MP APS-C | Focusing: Intelligent Hybrid AF system approx. 100% sensor coverage | ISO: 160-12800 | Continuous burst: Up to 30fps | Display: 3in tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 2.36-million dot | Video: 4K/30p | Stabilisation:Lens only | Size: 118.4 x 82.8 x 46.8mm | Weight: 383g | Memory:Single SD card slot
The smaller sibling of Fujifilm’s hugely popular X-T3, the X-T30 (£869) has a lot going for it. Vintage-look cameras will often grab the eye of photography fans. But unlike the cheap retro models you find in the accessory sections of fashion stores, the X-T30 offers both style and substance.
Coming in at under £1,000, the Fujifilm X-T30 produces similar outstanding picture quality to its higher-end stable mate, but sacrifices some premium features. The X-T30’s fourth gen 26.1-megapixel X-Trans CMOS sensor and X-Processor image engine are the same ones housed in the X-T3, which costs over £500 more with a lens. Fujfilm has built a reputation for producing cameras that deliver tone-rich and detailed JPEGs straight out-of-camera and the X-T30 continues the trend. The X-T30 performs well, even in challenging light, delivering relatively clean JPEGs at higher ISO sensitivity settings.
If capturing action is your thing, the X-T30 won’t let you down. Armed with phase detection focus sites covering almost 100% of the frame, this camera is swift AF. It also features advanced Eye Detect and (selectable) Face Detection. Capable of mechanical and electronic shutter, the X-T30 can shoot at up to 30fps silently in electronic shutter mode. When using its mechanical shutter, it tops out at 8fps, but that’s still decent. If you can’t get the shot with this camera, you’re not doing it right.
Moviemakers will appreciate that the X-T30 can record up to 4K/30p, although it’s capped at ten minutes recording time at this resolution. We also wish its touchscreen display featured a greater range of motion, rather than just tilting up and down. But for the money there aren’t many cameras that can match this camera’s features and performance. The diminutive size of the Fujifilm X-T30 belies the quality of the pictures it can produce.
Pros: Retro look; great for beginners and semi-pros
Cons: 4K video cap; no in-body stabilisation; small viewfinder
Price: £869 with XC15-45mm kit lens | Check price on Amazon
Quality stills and video in a compact frame
Sensor: 24.5-MP BSI full-frame CMOS | Focusing: 273-hybrid phase detection system | ISO: 100-51200 | Continuous burst: Up to 12fps | Display: 3.2in articulated touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 2.36-million dot | Video: 4K/30p | Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body | Size: 134 x 101 x 68mm | Weight: 675g | Memory:Single XQD card slot
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. The Nikon Z6 (£1,529) only has a single card slot. And it’s no regular slot, it’s an XQD – a card type created by Sony and designed for robust use and high speed data transfer. The cards themselves are great, but at present, the XQD is by no means a standard format, meaning you won’t find them stocked commonly and they are about three to four times the price of comparative capacity SD cards. SD cards have been a standard format for digital camera memory for a long time, so only giving it a single XQD slot is a big misstep in our opinion.
However, if you can overlook that and have the budget for uber pricey memory, the Nikon Z6 has an impressive specs sheet. Using the newly developed Nikon Z-mount, the Z6 has opened up the potential for some exciting lenses on its horizon, such as the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct. But it is also compatible with all existing Nikkor F-mount lenses via an adapter, making this a great option for existing Nikon DSLR shooters who have been patiently waiting to join the mirrorless party.
Powered by Nikon’s EXPEED 6 image processor, the Z6 can shoot 24.5-megapixel stills at up to 12fps. That, coupled with a highly capable 273-point hybrid phase detection autofocusing system, the Nikon Z6 is at home capturing fast-moving action. And for videographer types, it can record 4K/30p video and Full HD video at 120fps – for smooth, cinematic slow motion. It’s even possible to take pictures while recording video, a very neat trick. Want to keep things quiet? The Z6 has an electronic shutter mode, for taking pictures in environments where silence is paramount; such as music recitals, golf tournaments or photographing wildlife.
Pros: Fast AF; great ergonomics; compatible with older glass
Cons: Only has one XQD memory slot
Best for image quality and reliable performance
Sensor: 45.7-MP BSI full-frame sensor | Focusing: 153-point AF | ISO: 64-25600 | Continuous burst: Up to 9fps (with grip) | Display: 3.2in tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: Optical | Video: 4K/30p | Stabilisation: None | Size: 146 x 124 x 78.5mm | Weight: 1,005g | Memory: 1 x SDHC/SDXC, 1 x XQD card slot
With DSLR sales steadily falling off a cliff edge, you might wonder why we’ve recommended one in the best cameras of 2019. However, greatness cannot be denied.
The result of a formula that’s been tried and tested over decades, the Nikon flagship DSLR is a chiseled and finely tuned masterpiece. Years from now, the Nikon D850 (£2,639) will be fondly looked back on as the glorious last samurai of the DSLR camera world. It packs a high-resolution 45.7-megapixel back-side illuminated full-frame sensor and is powered by Nikon’s EXPEED 5 image processor. The result is that it delivers consistently strong images in a broad range of scenarios. From photographing wildlife to capturing events, such as weddings or concerts, a photographer armed with the D850 can take it all on without fear.
To keep up with the action, the D850 uses the same 153-point AF system as the Nikon D5 – the camera of choice for many press and sports photographers. And when paired with the optional MB-D18 battery grip, it can shoot continuously for up to 9fps. In terms of additional features, DSLR cameras typically struggle to keep up with their mirrorless counterparts and it’s a mixed bag for the D850 in this regard. It features an impressive 8K time-lapse mode for creating stunning sequences that will raise the production level of any location video. However, it can only do 4K/30p, limited to 30 minutes recording time and uses sluggish contrast detect AF, which isn’t the best at tracking subjects during video.
But despite its shortcomings, and the fact that DSLR cameras are a dying breed, the Nikon D850 is one of the greatest models ever made in its class. This camera will not let you down.
Pros: Professional build and image quality; highly reliable
Cons: Video specs are lagging behind the competition
The money-no-object pick for high-end photography
Sensor: 102-MP BSI medium-format | Focusing: 3.76m PDAF pixels, 100% sensor coverage | ISO: 100-12800 | Continuous burst: Up to 5fps | Display: 3.2in 3-way tilting touchscreen LCD | Viewfinder: 5.76-million dot EVF | Video: 4K/30p 10bit 4:2:0 | Stabilisation: 5-axis in-body | Size: 156.2 x 163.6 x 102.9mm | Weight: 1,400g (removable EVF) | Memory: Twin UHS-II SD card slots
If image quality is king and ultimate detail and resolution are required, look no further than the Fujifilm GFX 100 (£9,999). It houses a whopping 102-megapixel back-side illuminated medium-format sensor. And it also introduces a number of class-leading world firsts in the digital medium format camera segment, including 5-axis image stabilisation and recording 4K/30p 10bit 4:2:0 video internally.
The GFX 100 was designed primarily with high-end photography work in mind, capturing beautiful fashion, breathtaking landscapes and close-up details of technically impressive products, as well as wildlife. And having seen the quality of its 16-bit RAW files (another world first), we can confirm, there aren’t many cameras that can live at this camera’s altitude.
We also love the GFX 100’s distinct, signature retro styling, which effortlessly blends vintage aesthetics with cutting-edge technology and intuitive functionality. The GFX 100 has two information LCD displays, top and rear. And its body is comprised of a unique magnesium alloy construction, which sees the front and rear frame act as an outer shell for the lens mount and sensor housing. This minimises the impact of movement when taking pictures, further enhancing its detail reproduction capabilities.
The GFX 100 can do things that no rival medium format camera can do. With 5 frames-per-second burst-mode shooting and a nifty phase detection AF system (with face/eye detection), this camera will work wonders in the right hands.
Pros: Class-leading video and stabilisation; outstanding images
Cons: If you can afford it, there aren’t any
Price: £9,999 body only | Check price on Wex Photo Video