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.
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.
Style and substance with this well featured and attractive option
Sensor: APS-C X-Trans CMOS IV Megapixels: 26.1 Lens Mount: Fuji X AF System: Intelligent Hybrid AF, 425 points Viewfinder: 0.5 inch, 3.69 million dot OLED, 100% coverage Screen: 3-inch, tilting, 1040k-dot Max Video Resolution: 4K (4096×2160) Max Frame Rate: 20fps at full-resolution, 30fps for 16Mp images
Pros: Fast AF and frame rate, 4K video
Cons: Viewfinder blocks the view of the screen, AF hesitant in low light
With a beautiful retro body adorned that has plenty of direct access buttons and dials, the X-T3 marries together both style and substance.
The stylish facade conceals a superb sensor, the fourth generation of Fuji’s impressive X-Trans devices, which makes use of an AA-filter less design for maximum detail. There’s also plenty of other features here to draw in enthusiasts, including 11fps full-resolution shooting with the mechanical shutter (20fps with the electronic shutter), 4K video recording and shutter speeds up to 1/32000.
The screen has a dual-tilt mechanism and is touch-sensitive, with gesture control being possible. It’s an all-round snappy-performer that produces delightful images.
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.
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.
A retro-styled premium compact which is ideal for street photography
Sensor: APS-C X-Trans CMOS III Megapixels: 24.3 Lens: Fujinon 23mm (equivalent to 35mm) f/2 lens AF System: Intelligent Hybrid AF, 91 points Viewfinder: Hybrid optical and digital viewfinder Screen: 3-inch, 1040k-dot TFT colour LCD Max Video Resolution: Full HD Max Frame Rate: 8fps
Pros: Hybrid viewfinder, 35mm focal length ideal as a walk around lens
Cons: Fixed, non touch-sensitive screen
Now in its fourth generation, the popular Fuji X100 series uses a fixed length lens in conjunction with an APS-C sensor.
Arguably a little niche, and certainly not cheap, what you get for your money is something fantastic to use which produces lovely images. There’s lots of great dials and buttons, while the hybrid viewfinder means you can switch between an optical and electronic finder depending on your preference, and the shooting circumstances.
The lens gives you an equivalent focal length of 35mm, which is great as a walk around lens and ideal for street photography – I found it was the perfect camera for a trip to New York.
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.
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.