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The best cameras of 2022: buying guide and favorites

The race for the title of best camera 2022 is on. 

Canon, Nikon, Sony and several other camera manufacturers are vying for the favor of photographers. But which manufacturer makes the best cameras?

Whether you’re looking for a camera for beginners or a professional camera, I’ll help you find the best camera for you. After all, there are currently more than 100 different digital camera models on the market. It’s easy to lose track of them all.

I’ll also reveal my personal test winner – a real all-rounder for all situations – and affordable, too.

How I choose my favorites

From more than 100 digital cameras currently available on the market, I’ll tell you my personal favorites in each price range. How do I arrive at this (subjective) selection? For one thing, I take pictures with different cameras myself and am always testing new camera models. I also discuss current camera trends with fellow photographers and see new cameras in action time and again at my photo workshops in the Alps. And then, of course, I read test reports in trade magazines.

In the process, I get excited about innovations – the price doesn’t play such a big role. But of course I don’t just present professional cameras here, but also good photo cameras for beginners.

The best cameras at a glance

You don’t have the time to read my detailed buying guide right now? Here you’ll find a practical overview of my top camera models. If you want to know more about my assessment of the individual photo cameras, I recommend you read my camera advice to the end. It’s worth it, I promise!

By the way, according to DxOMark’s camera best list, the best camera in the world is the Hasselblad X1D-50c, which was already released in 2016, closely followed by the Pentax 645Z and the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R. For your purchase decision, however, you should pay attention to other criteria – and that’s exactly where I’ll help you with my camera advice.

DSLR or DSLM – which camera suits me?

Which digital camera is right for you? Before buying a new photo camera, you have to decide between: digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR; “digital single-lens reflex”) or digital mirrorless system camera (DSLM; “digital single lens mirrorless”)?

The biggest difference between the two camera systems is the mirror construction in the DSLR camera. This is no longer present in the more modern system camera (DSLM). This saves space and weight. However, the weight advantage of a DSLM is less than often claimed.

The DSLM also has an electronic viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder displays all the data that is also shown on the camera display. The histogram in particular is a great help here. In addition, the DSLM shows you before the shutter is released how the photo will look (approximately) after the shutter release button is pressed. This is an advantage, especially for beginners. After all, you can immediately see the effects of a different aperture or ISO value on the photo.

Many sports and wildlife photographers, on the other hand, still rely on the good old DSLR because of the absolutely lag-free viewfinder (although cutting-edge professional DSLMs are on a par here).

Presumably, the DSLR will disappear from the stores in the next five to ten years. Most camera manufacturers will only focus on the development of mirrorless system cameras. In 2021, with the exception of the Pentax K-3 Mark III, not one new DSLR was introduced by a major camera manufacturer.

Nevertheless, there are still good reasons that speak for the DSLR. By the way, there is no difference in image quality between the two systems – provided the same image sensor is installed. Here you can find a detailed comparison of DSLR vs. DSLM.

To take good photos, it doesn’t matter whether you buy a DSLM or a DSLR. Personally, I usually recommend the system camera (DSLM). The only thing that matters for image quality is the image sensor and especially the lens. If every gram of weight is important to you or if you want an electronic viewfinder, go for the DSLM. If the selection of lenses (even used ones) is more important to you, you can’t get around the DSLR.

Here you can find out at a glance what you should buy with a DSLM and what you should buy with a DSLR:

Advantages and disadvantages of a system camera (DSLM).

Often (but not always) more compact and lighter (applies especially to cameras with APS-C sensor and to the “Micro Four Thirds” system).

✅ The electronic viewfinder shows the finished photo even before the shutter is released

✅ Various aids can be displayed in the viewfinder (such as the spirit level)

✅ You can view the photos in the viewfinder (useful in bright sunlight)

✅ No danger to the eyes when looking directly into the sun through the electronic viewfinder

✅ The autofocus covers almost the entire field of view

✅ Technologies such as eye focus and animal focus are mostly in the DSLM

✅ High continuous shooting speed

✅ Silent shooting possible

✅ Mostly superior autofocus when filming (compared to DSLR)

❌ High battery consumption due to electronic viewfinder and autofocus calculation

❌ Sometimes limited choice of lenses

❌ Comparable lenses are often more expensive than for DSLRs

❌ With silent shutter release and fast shutter speeds, the unsightly rolling shutter effect occurs with fast movements (info at Wikipedia; here, motifs are displayed distorted)

❌ Dust often gets onto the image sensor when changing lenses. DSLMs of the R series (Canon) and the Nikon Z9 do not have this annoying problem.

Advantages and disadvantages of single-lens reflex cameras (DSLR)

✅ Often better handling for large men’s hands.

✅ Quasi unlimited choice of lenses

✅ Many used lenses on the market at reasonable prices

✅ Extremely long battery life

✅ The optical viewfinder of a DSLR displays the image without delay or image noise

✅ The folded-down mirror protects the image sensor from dust when changing lenses (this feature is also offered by some DSLMs – here the mechanical shutter protects)

❌ Usually larger and heavier than digital system cameras (DSLMs)

❌ The mechanical mirror mechanism causes vibrations and noise

❌ Design-related lower continuous shooting speed

❌ Presumably discontinued technology

Tip: Only if you go for less fast lenses instead of fast lenses (they are more compact and lighter) and accept more image noise in certain situations (by using a higher ISO value), you can really save weight in your camera backpack. And even if you choose a system camera (DSLM): Your photo equipment will only become really light and compact if you travel with an APS-C or a “Micro Four Thirds” camera and do without fast lenses.

The full-frame sensor

As a rough rule of thumb, the larger your camera’s image sensor, the more expensive and powerful it is. A full-frame sensor (with the same number of pixels) has larger sensor pixels than a digital camera with an APS-C or MFT sensor.

So at high ISO values, you’ll have less image noise. Full-frame cameras (except those with an extremely high megapixel count) therefore have an advantage when shooting handheld in low light (such as in wedding and concert photography, but also at dusk in nature).

The full-frame camera Sony Alpha 7 IV with the Sony 24-105mm lens

Full-frame cameras like the Sony Alpha 7 IV are often larger and heavier than digital cameras with a smaller image sensor.

There is another reason for buying a full-frame camera: If you want to take very detailed pictures (in order to crop the pictures later on the computer) or if you want to print your photos in large format, a digital camera with the highest possible number of megapixels is an advantage. This is another argument in favor of buying a full-frame camera. Full-frame sensors simply have more space.

In the field of APS-C cameras, the Canon EOS 90D is the front-runner with 32.5 megapixels.

In the field of full-frame cameras, the Sony Alpha 7R IV is the front-runner with 61 megapixels.

Among medium format cameras, the Hasselblad H6D-400C (purchase price around 48,000 euros(!)) with a resolution of 400 megapixels is at the top of the list.

In addition, full-frame cameras, which are aimed at professionals and ambitious hobby photographers, are usually protected against dust and splash water. In addition, camera manufacturers are rapidly developing their full-frame ranges and stuffing them full of innovations.

Full-frame cameras are the first choice for photographers who want the best image quality and, in particular, a wide selection of top-notch lenses (I’m leaving out the expensive medium format here). If size, weight and price don’t scare you off, you can think about buying a full-frame camera.

Medium format cameras provide even more detail (assuming an even higher megapixel count). However, these are even more expensive and larger and are really only suitable for professional photographers who, for example, take advertising photos in a photo studio. For amateur photographers, there is no sensible reason to buy a medium format camera (except for the good feeling of owning such a noble “sweetheart” and earning envious glances from other photo enthusiasts).

The APS-C sensor

In recent years, I have unfortunately noticed that many camera manufacturers remain guilty of innovations in the APS-C range. This may be due to the fact that there is more money to be made in full-frame, and that smartphone cameras are getting better and better, specifically beating out the hobbyist camera segment.

After all, top smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or the iPhone 13 Pro Max convince with sophisticated camera technology. In addition, the best camera is always the one you have with you – and that is usually the smartphone. In a direct comparison, APS-C cameras with interchangeable lenses naturally have the edge in terms of image quality and variability.

Compared to full-frame cameras, APS-C cameras are significantly lighter and more compact and also much cheaper. This also applies to the lenses. APS-C cameras are therefore usually ideal for all beginners and newcomers who do not want to spend a fortune on photographic equipment. If money is not such a big issue: treat yourself to a full-frame camera right away.

The MFT system

Cameras with “Micro Four Thirds” sensors, which are even smaller than APS-C format sensors, are becoming increasingly popular. The advantage lies in the weight and size of the MFT cameras.

If you are looking for a powerful and very compact camera for on the go, you should definitely take a look at the camera models from the MFT range. However, in terms of megapixel count, image noise and dynamic range, larger image sensors are superior.

There’s everything in the MFT range, from inexpensive beginner cameras to professional cameras costing several thousand euros.

Advantages and disadvantages of full-frame cameras

✅ The sensors usually have a very high resolution (megapixels), the photos are very detailed

✅ Photos from a full-frame camera (with a high megapixel count) can be cropped (“cropped”) well on the computer

✅ Full-frame cams have better noise performance (with the same number of pixels as smaller image sensors)

✅ The larger pixels (with the same number of pixels as a smaller image sensor) provide a higher dynamic range (important in landscape photography)

✅ The data/images can be better recognized/judged in the larger viewfinder

✅ Full-frame cameras are relatively stable in value

✅ The shallow depth of field makes for great portraits (in landscape photography, this is a small disadvantage that you compensate for with a wider closed aperture.

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