Best APS-C Cameras: what to look out for and what to buy in 2020

Nikon Z50 Review
Buyers Guide

APS-C is a very popular choice for sensor size, appearing in both DSLRs and compact system cameras (and even some premium compact cameras, too). In this buyer’s guide, we help you choose the best cameras with an APS-C sized sensor.

Although not as large as a full-frame sensor, APS-C sensors larger than most other types, including Four Thirds, one-inch, and the smaller sensors found in the average mobile phone. This means you get advantages such as better noise control and greater depth of field, without the bulk of a full-frame camera.

Here we’ll be taking a look at a range of different cameras currently available, showing you the best of what the APS-C market has to offer. We’ve chosen the finalists based on high image quality, a good range of features and superlative handling.

What does APS-C mean?

APS-C is short for Advanced Photo System Type-C, which was a late addition to to film photography. The Advanced Photo System was a new size of film negative that measured 25.1mm x 16.7mm and provided a 3:2 image aspect ratio.

The APS-C, or crop, sensor matches the size of a single APS-C film negative in the same way that a full-frame sensor matches a single frame of 35mm film.

Nikon Z50 Review

Nikon Z50

A little gem of a camera with some powerful features

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 20.88 Lens mount: Nikon ZAF System: Phase detection with 209 AF points, Eye AF and Subject Tracking Viewfinder: 2.36million-dot electronic viewfinderScreen: Tilting 3.2-inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen, Max video Resolution: 4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps 

Pros: Great size and shape, Nikon’s camera heritage
Cons: Screen tips down for viewing from in front, no joystick for setting the AF point

Nikon may have been late to get serious about mirrorless cameras but the Z50 isn’t playing catch-up with anyone. It’s a very nice, solid-feeling camera with well-implemented touch-control and superb image quality.

Its autofocus system is also excellent and can cope with moving subjects in poor light.

There are currently only two Nikon DX format Z lenses but more are in the pipeline and F-mount lenses can be used via an adapter. Also, as Nikon has used the same Z mount on the Z50 as it has for its full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z6 and Z7, the lenses are interchangeable.

Read our Nikon Z50 review

 

 

Nikon D500

Nikon D500

A superb all-rounder, well suited to lots of different subjects

Sensor: APS-C CMOS, Megapixels: 20.9, Lens Mount: Nikon F Mount, AF System: Phase Detection AF, 153 point, Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism, 100% coverage, 1.0x magnification Screen: 3.2-inch, tilting, 2359k-dot, touch-sensitive Max video resolution: 4K, Max frame rate: 10fps

Pros: Touch-sensitive screen, dual card slots
Cons: Screen doesn’t articulate, Live View shooting a little stilted

Sharing many of the same specifications as the top-of-the-line (and full-frame) D5, the D500 has a vast swathe of appealing specifications. Designed to perform well in a variety of situations, there’s an excellent AF system and processor (shared with the D5) that copes brilliantly with action and fast-moving subjects – which you can shoot at 10fps.

The sensor has a relatively modest 20.8 million pixels, which sees it in good stead to cope with low light shooting across a very wide sensitivity range.

With a robust body, and plenty of buttons and dials to give you direct access to commonly used controls, the D500 also has an excellent viewfinder and a tilting touch-sensitive screen.

 

Fujifilm X-T4 review

 

Fujifilm X-T4

Style and substance with this well featured and attractive option

Sensor: X-Trans CMOS 4 APS-C sensor Megapixels: 26.1 Lens Mount: Fuji X AF System: Intelligent hybrid with up to 425 selectable AF points Viewfinder: 0.5 inch, 3.69 million dot OLED, 100% coverage Screen: Vari-angle 3-inch 1.6 million dot touch screen LCD Max Video Resolution: C4K (4096×2160) at 59.94p/50p/29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p 400Mbps/200Mbps/100Mbps, 4:2:0 10bit internal SD card recording; 1080/240p 

Pros: Fast AF and frame rate, 4K video, IBIS
Cons: It’s hard to fault this camera

It may have the same 26.1MP X-Trans CMOS 4 sensor and X-Processor 4 processing engine as the X-T3, but the Fujifilm X-T4 also has 5-axis in-body image stabilisation with a shutter speed compensation value of 6.5Ev, a quieter shutter, a bigger battery, a great new Film Simulation mode and a vari-angle touchscreen.

Like the X-T3, the X-T4 can shoot C4K (4096 x 2160) MOV video at up to 60p. However, it can also record in MP4 format.

In addition, its possible to record Full HD video at up to 240p (with continuous focusing), twice the rate possible with the X-T3. That’s great news for those who like to see action in slow-motion.

All this combined with Fujifilm’s image-quality knowhow makes the X-T4 the company’s best X-series camera to date, not to mention one of the best mirrorless cameras you can buy today.

It may not be an automatic upgrade choice for X-T3 users, but X-T1 and X-T2 photographers will love it. More significantly, it’s very attractive to anyone contemplating their first serious Fuji camera.

 

 

Sony Alpha A6500 badge

Sony A6500

A great camera with a super array of specs for your money

Sensor: APS-C Exmor CMOS Megapixels: 24.2 Lens Mount: Sony E-Mount AF System: Hybrid AF, 425 points / 169 points Viewfinder: 0.39-inch, 2.36 million-dot XGA OLED, 100% coverage Screen: 3-inch, 921,600-dot, touch-sensitive, tilting Max Video Resolution: 4K Max Frame Rate: 11fps

Pros: Great autofocusing, high-speed shooting
Cons: Can feel unbalanced with bigger lenses, buttons a little fiddly

The market for high-end APS-C cameras is a pretty crowded one, but the Sony A6500 stands out by offering a great range of features.

There’s a high-performing sensor, capable of resolving very fine detail, but it’s the speed specs that lovers of high-speed subjects, such as action and sports will likely to be drawn towards. There’s 11fps shooting, plus an extremely capable hybrid AF system.

If you’re someone who mainly shoots still subjects (such as landscapes, posed portraits), then you might want to consider the very good Sony A6300 which is available even cheaper.

For this camera, after what seemed like years of begging, Sony finally implemented a touchscreen, which is joined by a high-resolution viewfinder. Oh, and you can also shoot 4K video as well – overall a top range of appealing features.

 

EOS 7D Mark II

Canon 7D Mark II

A rugged all rounder, ideal to step up to from Canon’s entry-level models

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 20.2 Lens Mount: Canon EF-S AF System: 65 cross-type AF (centre point dual cross type) Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism, 1.0x magnification, 100% coverage Screen: 3-inch, 1040k-dot Max Video Resolution: Full HD Max Frame Rate: 10fps

Pros: Weatherproof, great handling
Cons: Fixed, non touch-sensitive screen, no 4K video

Despite being one of the oldest models in our list, the 7D Mark II is still a great choice for those looking for a high-performing APS-C camera.

Canon is yet to update its 7D line, so it still sits as its top offering for the smaller than full-frame sensor size. Designed to appeal to photographers who like to shoot lots of different subjects, it copes well with a variety of different tasks, including action photography with 10fps shooting and a very capable autofocus system.

Offering a rugged body which is weather-sealed, the 7D Mark II is readily equipped for shooting outdoors, while features such as a top-plate LCD make it very user-friendly.

If you’re already a Canon photographer using something lower down in the company’s line-up, the 7D Mark II is the obvious choice.

 

Fuji X100V review

Fuji X100V

A retro-styled premium compact which is ideal for street photography

Sensor: X-Trans CMOS 4 APS-C sensor Megapixels: 26.1 Lens: Fujinon 23mm f/2 (35mm equivalent) AF System:  Intelligent hybrid with up to 425 selectable AF points Viewfinder: Optical: Reverse Galilean viewfinder with electronic bright frame display, 95% coverage and x0.52 magnification, Electronic: 0.5 inch 3,690,000-dot OLED with 100% coverage, 0.66x magnification Screen: Tilting 3.0-inch 1,620.000-dot touchscreen LCD Max Video Resolution: DCI 4K (4096×2160) at 29.97p/25p/24p/23.98p, 200Mbps/100Mbps, for up to 10min

Pros: Hybrid viewfinder, 35mm focal length ideal as a walk around lens
Cons: Expensive

The Fuji X100V is a compact camera and the fifth model in Fujifilm’s widely respected X100 series. Inside it has the same 26.1MP APS-C format sensor and processing engine as the manufacturer’s recent enthusiast-level interchangeable lens cameras, the Fujifilm X-T4, X-T3 and X-Pro3.

This means that it can capture the same quality images albeit using a fixed 23mm f/2.0 lens with an effective focal length of 35mm.

It has a high-quality build and traditional exposure controls along with a hybrid viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen. It’s not for everyone but it’s a camera that many people will fall in love with.

 

Leica CL Review

Leica CL

A stylish and simple-to-use entry into Leica’s long heritage

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.2 Lens Mount: Leica L AF System: Contrast-based Viewfinder: 2.36m-dot, 0.74x magnification electronic Screen: 3-inch touch-sensitive, 1.04m-dot Max Video Resolution: 4K Max Frame Rate: 10fps

Pros: Intuitive operation, great viewfinder
Cons: Expensive, screen doesn’t tilt

Many photographers aspire to own a Leica, and the CL is a good choice for those looking to get into the system. You won’t quite need the funds required for a full-frame Leica M10, but you should still be prepared to shell out a pretty penny.

It’s also much easier to use than an M10, featuring a reliable autofocusing system and an intuitive set of dials and buttons which you can use to quickly set all the key settings.

Resulting images are crisp and vibrant, and when paired with an 18mm pancake lens, the CL is neat, compact, and ideal for travel and street photography.

 

Best APS-C Cameras

Ricoh GR III

Slim, understated and capable of great results

Sensor: APS-C CMOS Megapixels: 24.24 Lens: GR 18.3mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.8 AF System: hybrid Viewfinder: n/a Screen: 3-inch touch-sensitive, 1,037,000-dot Max video Resolution: 1920×1080 

Pros: Small size, uncomplicated
Cons: No viewfinder, screen doesn’t tilt

We might be getting ahead of ourselves a little, but after shooting with a final production sample of the Ricoh GR III shortly before its announcement, we think it’s worth adding to this list.

It’s not an all-singing, all dancing, camera but the Ricoh GR III allows you to focus on the essentials. It’s designed for snap shooting and its a nice choice for street photography.

Inside, the 24.24Mp CMOS sensor lacks anti-aliasing (AA) filter to help it capture more detail but there’s an anti-aliasing system built-in should you need it. There’s also a top sensitivity setting of ISO 102,400 and a sensor-shifting Shake Reduction (SR) system.

The 14-bit DNG raw files have buckets of detail and it’s maintained very well into the corners. Flare, chromatic aberration and vignetting are also kept under close control.

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