With the proliferation of social media and the convenience of smartphones, more consumers are discovering how photography can be a fun hobby. Cameras are more accessible than they have ever been with a host of options available to consumers.
Cameras vary from the simple point-and-click models to high-end systems involving interchangeable lenses and accessories. With the right camera, users can find the perfect tool for artistic or self-expression.
Top 10 Best Rated Camera Brands
One of the most well-known photography, video and audio equipment superstores in New York, 42nd Street Photo has been in operation for over 50 years. This retailer takes pride in customer service and ships to locations worldwide.
|Read 458 Reviews|
Founded in 1934, Fujifilm began as a film manufacturer. Fujifilm has since grown into a multinational imaging company that develops photocopiers, printers, optical devices, diagnostic equipment and digital cameras.
|Read 77 Reviews|
Olympus began making optics products in 1919, specializing in thermometers and microscopes and has since become a leading manufacturer of cameras. Their products are built for harsh conditions and for retro style.
|Read 89 Reviews|
Polaroid has been a global camera brand for over 75 years. Though most famous for its iconic instant-printing cameras, Polaroid has since expanded its product line to include televisions, tablets and smartphones.
|Read 26 Reviews|
Since starting out as a camera to record athletes, GoPro has grown into one of the leading manufacturers of wearable, mountable action cameras. GoPro also develops mobile apps and video editing software for its cameras.
|Read 13 Reviews|
Founded in Germany in 1914, Leica has grown over to be an internationally operating manufacturer of cameras and optics. For over a century, Leica has cultivated a reputation for its quality of engineering and craftsmanship.
|Read 7 Reviews|
Canon is a company dedicated to finding imaging solutions for consumers and businesses alike. With its emphasis on learning and outreach, Canon makes resources available to consumers who are just getting started with photography.
|Read 421 Reviews|
Though they are synonymous with their line of cameras, Nikon has been manufacturing optical devices since 1917. From the casual Coolpix digital cameras to high-end DSLR cameras, Nikon products are made to fit a user’s need.
|Read 236 Reviews|
Founded in 1938, Samsung began manufacturing electronics products in the 1960s. The company has since grown to be one of the leading manufacturers of consumer electronics, most notably in its line of mobile phones.
|Read 18 Reviews|
Adorama has been servicing customers looking to rent or buy photo, video and audio electronics for more than 35 years. As a full-service retailer, Adorma offers photo printing, classes and numerous other services for consumers.
|Read 178 Reviews|
What features matter most when buying a camera?
The foremost consideration for most consumers looking for a digital camera is the quality of the images a camera can produce.
- Resolution: Resolution refers to the amount of pixels that can be captured in an image. The higher the quantity of pixels, the sharper and clearer the image will appear. Currently, the high mark for modern cameras is 4K resolution, though that quality may only be available on professional models.
- Bokeh: In photography, the quality of the blurred area outside the focused subject is called the bokeh. For discerning photographers, some cameras and lenses have options to edit or alter bokeh for creative effects.
- Image noise: Image noise, or grain, refers to variations in color and brightness in electronic images. High-quality lenses and cameras work to reduce or otherwise eliminate image noise and provide clearer pictures.
Modern cameras are far more portable than earlier models, though some may be more cumbersome than others.
- Weight: As a general rule, a heavier camera means there is more technology, from microchips to mirrors, in the unit. Choosing a camera that weighs less may sacrifice a bit of power for portability.
- Compactness: Weight is worth considering, but size can be just as important when evaluating a camera purchase. The larger DSLR camera systems may require a carrying case for transportation, while more compact cameras can fit in the user’s pocket.
- Extra lenses and accessories: Extra lenses can make transporting a camera more difficult. Carrying cases for multiple lenses and accessories are available to make them more portable.
- Mounts: Especially true of action cameras, mounts can enhance portability. Cameras can be affixed to sporting equipment like helmets or bike handlebars to capture footage and images in out-of-the-way places.
- Toughness: Some cameras are designed to take a hit. More rugged cameras are usually shockproof, waterproof or dustproof for use in extreme conditions.
Look and design
For many consumers, the form of the camera is about as important as its function. There are camera types that cater to consumers with particular style preferences.
- Retro style: Many DSLR cameras, and even some compact cameras, are designed to look like classic cameras from the mid-20th century. Some companies are known for their classic designs.
- Modern looks: Consumers who prefer sleeker, more angular designs should look for companies that produce more modern-looking cameras. Lens-like cameras and compact cameras have more contemporary designs.
- Accessories: Regardless of a consumer’s preference for modern or retro models, many cameras have customizable options. Choosing colors, camera covers, lens caps, straps and other accessories can help consumers make their cameras fit their styles.
Flexibility and features
Cameras, especially more professional-grade camera systems, can be outfitted with attachments. Even some of the basic models offer video and audio recording options.
- Attachments: For entry-level hobbyists and professional photographers alike, having a camera with interchangeable lenses, flashes, microphones and other attachments gives them more photography options.
- Video capability: Some cameras are capable of high-definition video as well as photography. Consumers who want the option of video should make sure their cameras have recording capabilities.
- Audio recording: Not all cameras that record video also record audio. Some cameras have built-in microphones, and others can be outfitted with a microphone attachment.
Connectivity and applications
Digital cameras offer a wealth of connectivity options to the user’s smartphone or social media profiles. These capabilities give the user even more options to share or download their photos.
- Wi-Fi: Most digital cameras have built-in Wi-Fi for sharing and downloading photos and videos immediately.
- Phone sharing: Some cameras can be hooked up to the user’s phone or use the phone’s screen as a viewfinder. These cameras can share data with the user’s phone for immediate transfer of pictures and videos.
- Image apps: Digital cameras often have photo and video editing software pre-installed in the camera’s operating system. Other apps can be downloaded and installed through the camera’s Wi-Fi connection.
- Print from camera: Cameras that connect to printers through Wi-Fi can print pictures directly from the camera’s interface, giving the user instant access to physical copies of photos.
For entry-level photographers, ease of use is often a huge selling point. Cameras are complicated devices, so some models have been designed to eliminate user frustration with intuitive controls and options.
- Controls: Digital cameras can have touch-screens or physical controls, though some have both. Consumers should take controls into consideration when making a purchase, especially since the more professional models tend to have more complicated interfaces.
- Auto-focus: For consumers who want to take pictures easily, many cameras are equipped with auto-focus. These cameras automatically adjust to make the photographer’s subject clear, minimizing user effort.
- Zoom: Most digital cameras have built-in zoom lenses. Most common in compact cameras, zoom lenses allow the photographer to get closer to the subject without moving. DSLR camera systems that allow for different lens attachments can sometimes be outfitted with a zoom lens.
- Image stabilization: Some camera lenses have optical image stabilizers (OIS). The OIS reduces blur and movement to make the picture clear and still.
What are different types of cameras?
Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras combine the optics and mechanics of a film-fed camera with a digital imaging sensor. They can be outfitted with different lenses and often look like more classic cameras. DSLR camera systems range from entry-level models to professional-grade cameras and lenses.
Also called “point-and-shoot” cameras, compact cameras are designed for maximum portability and simple operation. They are often outfitted with zoom lenses, and they usually cannot be modified with other, more complex professional lenses.
Lens-style cameras are full cameras that look like attachable lenses. Lens-style cameras often work with the user’s smartphone to increase its photography capabilities.
Action cameras are cameras that can be mounted on various vehicles or helmets that are designed for versatility. Many action cameras have 360-degree photography and video capabilities made to be experienced in virtual reality.
Rugged cameras prioritize function over form in every aspect. They are made to be weatherproof, waterproof and shockproof for users who enjoy the outdoors. They are built to be used in extreme conditions.
Who's it for?
Many people are already familiar with cameras on their smartphones, but some may want the extra options that comes with a camera and the resolution of a higher-quality lens.
Consumers who want to get into photography as a hobby will want to look at entry-level cameras and camera systems.
Established photographers are often looking for improvements in camera and lens technologies. Since manufacturers regularly update camera systems, professional photographers will want to upgrade their systems when necessary.
Athletes and people with active lifestyles
Athletes can benefit from reviewing their performances, and getting a clear perspective is key to seeing how they can improve. Action cameras can also help consumers capture images and footages of extreme sports from unique angles.
Hikers, campers, hunters, fishermen and others who like to photograph landscapes and nature may need the clarity of high-definition cameras and lenses. Many cameras have settings specifically for outdoor shooting.
GoPro manufactures action cameras that give amateur photographers access to professional photography angles. They are mountable and are built for versatile use in extreme conditions.
- Best for GoPro is best for athletes and active users who want to record sports and other activities.
For over 100 years, Leica has been manufacturing cameras with an emphasis on quality engineering in lenses and cameras.
- Best for Leica cameras are best for aspiring and professional photographers who do not mind paying a bit extra for a brand associated with quality and style.
Canon is a leading manufacturer of consumer and business imaging solutions. Cameras comprise only one branch of their vast product line.
- Best for Canon cameras are best for consumers getting started in photography, though its high-end products are designed to satisfy professionals as well.
Headquartered in Tokoyo, Japan, Nikon is a multinational corporation that specializes in images and optics. Though Nikon is most well-known for their cameras, they also manufacture microscopes, ophthalmic lenses and other precision equipment products.
- Best for Nikon cameras are best for photography enthusiasts who value device interconnectivity.
One of the leading electronic manufacturers in the world, Sony is an international entertainment company with a branch of its development devoted to cameras and video recorders.
- Best for Sony cameras are best for users who value versatility in performance and customization.
Founded in Tokyo in 1920, Olympus has become a global technology leader with its line of medical products, scientific solutions and cameras.
- Best for Olympus cameras are best for people who photograph in extreme environments or street photographers who desire a retro style.
Casio, a manufacturer of business equipment solutions and consumer electronics, was established in 1957. Their line of digital cameras is designed for casual use.
- Best for Casio’s digital cameras are best for casual users looking for cameras with straightforward designs.
Making everything from industrial business solutions to consumer electronics, Panasonic is a company designed to meet consumer needs worldwide.
- Best for Panasonic cameras are best for users who want either a complex professional-grade camera or a compact rugged camera.
Samsung is a South Korean multinational corporation that manufactures and sells electronics worldwide.
- Best for Samsung cameras are best for consumers looking for portable casual cameras or professional cameras with high-definition capabilities.
Kodak is a technology company that focuses on imaging solutions for consumers and businesses.
- Best for Kodak cameras are best for casual or entry-level photographers.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
11 – 18 Best Rated Camera Brands
Panasonic is a world leader in business solutions and consumer electronics. Panasonic produces audio/visual products, televisions and cameras. Their line of Lumix cameras is available at retailers and the Panasonic store online.
|Read 60 Reviews|
Sony is an international manufacturer of electronic and entertainment products. From lens-style cameras that fit users’ smartphone to the α line of E-mount cameras, Sony’s products emphasize adaptability as well as performance.
|Read 175 Reviews|
Founded in 1888, Kodak started as one of the first companies to make cameras affordable. Kodak dominated film sales for much of the twentieth century, and now the company focuses on image printing and camera development.
|Read 516 Reviews|
B&H Photo Video is a non-chain photo and video equipment store that has been operating in New York City since 1973. The store markets to professional photographers and videographers and ships to locations across the United States.
|Read 176 Reviews|
Fumfie has been selling cameras, camcorders and accessories below MSRP since 1999. Fumfie sold cameras through conduits like Amazon and Ebay until the online store, Fumfie.com, launched online in 2008 as a way to keep prices low.
|Read 25 Reviews|
Konica Minolta is a Japanese technology company that manufacture imaging products such as copiers, digital print systems, medical imaging products and optical devices. Its line of lenses fit most DSLR camera systems.
|Read 12 Reviews|
Vivitar is a designer and manufacturer of electronics for commercial consumers and professionals alike. From humble beginnings in 1938, Vivitar now sells mobile accessories and other electronics alongside its line of cameras.
|Read 33 Reviews|
Casio has been making consumer electronic products since 1957. Their Exilim brand of digital cameras are sleek-looking, compact cameras designed for maximum portability, making them ideal for casual photographers.
|Read 7 Reviews|