Best Nikon cameras in 2020

Best Mirrorless Cameras: Nikon Z 7
Buyers Guide

With the introduction of the full-frame Nikon Z6 and Z7 towards the end of 2018, and the APS-C or DX format Z50 at the end of 2019, Nikon now has enticing mirrorless and DSLR cameras. There’s something for every type and level of photographer, so let’s take a look at our pick of the best Nikon cameras of 2019.

Best for Beginners: Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500: price, specs, release date confirmed

  • Camera type: APS-C (DX) format DSLR
  • Sensor: 24.2Mp APS-C (23.5 x 15.6mm)
  • Lens mount: Nikon F
  • Autofocus system: Viewfinder: 11-point with 1 cross-type, Live View: Contrast detection
  • Viewfinder: Optical with pentamirror 95% coverage
  • Screen: 3-inch TFT LCD with 921,000 dots
  • Dimensions: 124 x 97 x 69.5mm
  • Weight: 365g body only

The Nikon D3500 has a lot in common with its predecessor, the D3400, but it’s smaller, lighter and less expensive. That makes it a superb DSLR for beginners.

Thanks to its 24Mp APS-C format sensor and Expeed 4 processing engine, the D3500 is capable of capturing detail-rich images. What makes especially suited to novice photographers, however, is its Guide Mode that explains how to take control of the camera in simple language. SnapBridge is also integrated to simplify sharing images direct from the camera.

  • Camera type: APS-C (DX) format mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: 20.88Mp
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: Tilting 3.2–inch 1,040,000-dot touchscreen
  • Autofocus: Phase detection with 209 AF points, Eye AF and Subject Tracking
  • Continuous Shooting: 11fps with continuous AF and exposure metering
  • Video: 4K at 30fps and Full-HD at 120fps
  • Storage: SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-I
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 126.5 x 93.5 x 60 mm / 5 x 3.7 x 2.4-inches
  • Weight: 450 g / 15.9oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 395g /14oz body only

While the D7500 is still a great camera, the new Nikon Z50 has some great advantages as a result of its mirrorless design. The 2.36million-dot electronic viewfinder, for example, can show the image as it will be captured, complete with any exposure, white balance and Picture Control settings applied. And you can switch seamlessly from shooting using the viewfinder to using the 3.2-inch screen.

Further good news is that the 209-point autofocus system, which uses phase detection, is excellent even in low light. You’ll have no problem shooting sport or action with it.

If you’re getting into video, or thinking about it, you can also shoot 4K video at up to 30fps, and there’s a mic port to connect an external microphone. You can also shoot Full HD footage at up to 120fps, which means you can really slow down action if you want to add a bit of drama.

Nikon’s SnapBridge technology is also built in and it does a great job of firing low-resolution copies of your images to a paired phone. It’s amazing how useful that is.

The only grumble is that if the Z50 is on a tripod, you can’t see the downward-flipping screen from in front of the camera.

Read our Nikon Z50 review

Honourable mention: Nikon D7500

Nikon D7500

  • Camera type: APS-C (DX) Format DSLR
  • Sensor: 20.9Mp APS-C (23.5 x 15.7mm) CMOS
  • Lens mount: Nikon F
  • Autofocus system: Viewfinder: 51-point with 15 cross-type, Live View: Contrast detection
  • Viewfinder: Optical with pentaprism 100% coverage
  • Screen: 3.2-inch TFT LCD with 922,000 dots
  • Dimensions: 135.5 x 104 x 72.5 mm/5.4 x 4.1 x 2.9 in
  • Weight: 640g body only, 720g with battery and card

If you would prefer a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, take a look at the Nikon D7500. It’s an APS-C format DSLR that uses the same 20.9 million pixel sensor and Expeed 5 processing engine as the pro-level Nikon D500.

This combination enables a top shooting rate of 8fps (frame per second) with autofocusing and metering.

Nikon has also given the D7500 a top native sensitivity setting of ISO 51,200 and a 51-point AF system.

In addition, there are seals to keep out dust and moisture, a tilting screen that’s touch-sensitive and a full complement of button and dial controls along with SnapBridge technology for easy remote control and image sharing via a paired smartphone.

It all adds up to make the D7500 a great choice for enthusiast photographers who aren’t interested in a mirrorless camera.

Best Full-Frame Camera for Enthusiasts: Nikon Z6

Nikon's Tim Carter answers questions about the Nikon Z6 and Z7

  • Camera type: Full-frame (FX) mirrorless
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Sensor: Full-frame (FX) 24.5MP backside illuminated (BSI) sensor
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with phase and contrast detection
  • Phase detection points: 273
  • Viewfinder: 0.39-inch 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot tilting touch-screen
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 34 x 100.5 x 67.5mm / 5.3 x 4 x 2.7-inches
  • Weight: 675 g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 85 g/1 lb. 4.7 oz. camera body only

The 24Mp full-frame Nikon Z 6 something of an all-rounder and perhaps best thought of as a mirrorless Nikon D750.

Its 273-point AF system is fast and reliable and the burst depth (35 large images at 12fps) is deep enough to make it useful for shooting sport. Add in the fact that the Z6 has the same solid weatherproof build and lovely handling as the high-resolution Z7, and Nikon has a success on its hands. The only downside is the single card port, but for many, especially those who started out shooting on film, it’s not a major issue.

Best High-end Camera: Nikon Z7

Best Mirrorless Cameras: Nikon Z 7

  • Camera type: Full-frame mirrorless camera
  • Sensor: Full-frame (FX) 45.7MP backside illuminated (BSI) sensor
  • Lens mount: Nikon Z
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid with phase and contrast detection
  • Phase detection points: 493
  • Storage: XQD/CFexpress
  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm / 5.3 x 4 x 2.7-inches
  • Weight: 675 g / 1 lb. 7.9 oz with battery and memory card but without body cap, 585g/1 lb. 4.7 oz. body only
  • Viewfinder: 0.5-inch 3.69-million-dot electronic viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch 2,100,000-dot tilting touch-screen

The 45.7Mp Nikon Z 7 is a high-resolution full-frame alternative to the Z 6. It has the same user interface, which I think is the best of any Nikon digital camera to date. The touch-control has been superbly implemented, the electronic viewfinder is very good, the AF system is very capable and the images are excellent. It means the Sony A7R IV has some serious competition.

Nikon’s decision to use a new, larger mount may be brave but it should give the company a bright future. Not least because it will be possible to use faster lenses than is feasible with the Nikon F Mount.

Best All-rounder: Nikon D850

Best Camera: Nikon D850

  • Camera type: Full-frame (FX) DSLR
  • Lens mount: Nikon F
  • Sensor: 45.7Mp full-frame 35.9 x 23.9mm
  • Autofocus system: Viewfinder: Multi-CAM 20K autofocus sensor 53 focus points (including 99 cross-type sensors and 15 sensors that support f/8), of which 55 (35 cross-type sensors and 9 f/8 sensors) are available for selection, Live view: Contrast detection
  • Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism type
  • Screen: Tilting, touch-sensitive 3.2-inch TFT LCD with 2,359,000 dots
  • Dimensions: 146×124×78.5mm / 5.8×4.9×3.1inches
  • Weight: 1,005g / 2lb 3.5oz with battery and XQD memory card but without body cap; 915g /2lb 0.3oz camera body only

The Nikon D850 is a full-frame or FX format DSLR with 45.7 million pixels on its backlit CMOS sensor. It sits below the Nikon D5 in the company’s DSLR line-up and above the D810. While the 45.7Mp sensor ensures plenty of detail is captured, the maximum shooting rate of 7fps, which can be boosted to 9fps with the optional battery-grip, plus the superb 153-point AF system (the same as is in Nikon’s flagship D5) gives the D850 all-round appeal for experienced photographers, professionals and dedicated enthusiasts.

The Expeed 5 processing engine has enabled Nikon to give the camera a standard sensitivity range of ISO 64-25,600. There are also expansion settings that extend the range to the equivalent of ISO 32-102,400.

Best for Pros: Nikon D5

  • Camera type: Full-frame (FX) DSLR
  • Sensor: 20.8Mp Full-frame (35.9 x 23.9mm)
  • Lens mount: Nikon F
  • Autofocus system: Viewfinder: 153-point with 99 cross-type, Live View: Contrast detection
  • Burst Mode with C-AF: 12fps
  • Burst Mode with S-AF: 14fps
  • Viewfinder: Optical with pentaprism 100% coverage
  • Screen: 3.2-inch TFT LCD with 2,359,000 dots
  • Dimensions: 160 x 158.5 x 92mm
  • Weight: 1405g with battery and two XQD cards

While the D6 is just around the corner, we’ve yet to learn its full specification so for now, the D5 remains the best choice for proessional photographers looking for a Nikon camera.

The D5 is Nikon’s top-flight DSLR and it’s aimed at professional news and sports photographers. It has a 20.8Mp full-frame sensor and can shoot at a maximum rate of 12fps with full AF and metering function. It’s 153-point focusing system is superb, getting images sharp even in terrible light.

Don’t pay too much attention to the headline-grabbing maximum sensitivity setting (ISO 3,280,000) as the results are awful in the low-light conditions that require that setting. However, images shot at more sensible values like ISO 51,200 look very good indeed. It’s a superb camera that can be relied upon in tough conditions.

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