The right professional camera isn’t just about the unit that boasts huge sensors and high-resolution capabilities. It depends on the needs of the users, so there is really no perfect camera for all. So, while most individuals are looking for high-res cameras perfect for casual portraits and still life, some might need cameras with a fast and reliable AF system for capturing moving subjects.
Canon EOS R5 is probably, by far, the unit that can only tick most of the boxes on your list. Besides the 45 MP full-frame CMOS which should be more than what you’ll need to shoot quality images. Yet, its Dual Pixel CMOS AF II is its true icing on the cake. This latest technology from Canon lets users track split-second movements of even the most elusive of subjects, be it a moving bird in flight or a dancing figure skater on the rink. Truly, this is the AF system to die for. Flawless, as if the R5’s AF system itself has its own brain in tracking subjects.
R5’s downside, however, is its 8K which might find videographers greatly unfavorable. In such a case, A1 is a good alternative. Sony claims it has an improved passive heat dissipation system which allows it to film in 8K longer.
You see, there is really no perfect camera. This is why keeping track of your specific interests in cams is crucial. Some other major considerations include lens compatibility, handling and build, LCD screen, price, and - of course - the brand. Some of the top major brands worth checking are Canon, Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, and Nikon. And while there are more noteworthy brands in the market, we will be sticking with the first few brands mentioned to trim down the list and make your purchasing decision easier.
Together with our Photography Editor, Evangeline Summers, our team personally compared the units below to give you unbiased verdicts. After some series of tests and research, we highlighted their best strengths and some caveats to ponder about. We give you their latest and most reasonable deals on Amazon, so don’t forget to click the images and links below. Now, let’s dive in!
1. Canon EOS R5
5,690k-dot OLED EVF
It is true that there is no perfect camera on the market, regardless of how much you are paying. It’s all about having the right combination of features you need. With that, we say that Canon EOS R5 is probably the closest to perfection you could ever get.
It has an astounding 45 MP full-frame CMOS that is 36 x 24 mm and it is the first EOS camera to have the 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization, making it a true darling among Canon cameras. It has a continuous shooting speed of 12fps for mechanical shutter and 20fps for electronic. It can also deliver 8K videos at 30p. However, there is a caveat here which is the infamous overheating when you shoot anything above standard 4K 30p video. Yet, for very short clips, we still consider the 8K feature as a good add-on.
On the other hand, R5 boasts the Dual Pixel CMOS AF II which is one of Canon’s current pride in terms of its AF system. It covers both still images with 5,940 AF points and videos with 4,500 points. According to Summers, you can enjoy the latter at any frame rate and resolution, which is truly amazing compared to other cam models with very limited AF experience.
“The performance is unbeatable that finding your subjects (regardless of the movements) will bring you to tears. The way the AF locks and stays with the subject is really overwhelming; be it face, head, or eye-tracking.
“Once the camera has recognized the human subject, the focus stays where it should be even if the bride is wearing a veil or momentarily gets her face blocked with a bouquet or hands and whatsoever,” Summers said.
What’s even better is that R5 is capable of applying the AF even on animal subjects on the move! With just the right simple settings, you are ready to track even the wildest and shyest deer in the forest. That being said, we would confidently suggest it to almost all sorts of photography, even for wildlife shooting!
2. Sony A1
Sony E Mount
Sony A1 is probably one of the best cameras with an all-in-one package every photographer is looking for. All the specs you probably need can be found here which makes it a versatile camera for pros. Name it - video, speed, and details - and it will certainly deliver. It wrapped up everything in one body, giving you an all-rounder on the market.
“It comes with a 50.1 MP full-frame EXMOR RS CMOS back-illuminated sensor which will assure you that you have great quality stills and videos,” said Summers. “You can capture a decent amount of detail for night shots with this. Also, besides the amazing 50.1 MP capability, users also have the option for pixel shift Multi Shooting mode which even improves your resolution up to 199 MP.”
Further, it offers a max 8K video resolution just like the mighty Canon EOS R5. But unlike it, A1 will give you more favorable liberty in your films since it doesn’t suffer from the old issue of cameras easily heating up at 8K resolution. Compared to EOS R5, A1 can last up to 30 minutes of 8K recording; thanks to its passive heat dissipation system. Also, its ability to shoot 4K at 120fps is an alluring detail.
The AF system of A1 also hits the subject with a bull’s eye precision. Thanks to the 759-point phase-detect AF that covers at least 92% of the frame, it can comfortably track subjects. Compared to Canon EOS R5, however, A1 has specific settings you must set to prioritize your specific subject. This includes the ‘Bird’ and ‘Human’ options. Hence, with the right settings between the human, animal, and bird eye-detection, it will automatically follow the moving subject on the frame.
3. Olympus OM-D E‑M1 Mark III
Micro Four Thirds
Micro Four Thirds
OM-D E‑M1 Mark III owns one of the best formulas on the market. This makes it greatly capable, be it in the world of photography or videography.
E‑M1 Mark III still bears that relic EVF, screen, and 20.4 MP image sensor. There is a handful of other same features it inherited such as the in-body Focus Stacking and Focus Bracketing, 7 stops of image stabilization, 80 MP High Res Shot, 4K / C4K videos at 30fps, 60fps burst shooting, and 1080p video at 120fps. Despite all those conventional features from the old models of the brand, E‑M1 Mark III also offers great additions and improvements.
First is the AF system that is now faster and more accurate. According to Summers, it can compete with the performance of full-frame models on the market.
“The Face Priority / Eye Priority AF now comes with a more aggressive and faster tracking, making it a good choice for moving subjects. Regardless of the movement of the subject’s head, the AF follows. With this, it is still a reliable professional camera even if your subject stands next to two or more people. This also makes it as powerful as the famous AF system of Canon. This improvement can also be experienced with the old features it has inherited such as the Focus Stacking / Bracketing autofocus.”
The Pro Capture mode is also one of the reasons why E‑M1 Mark III becomes the best camera of Olympus at the present time. With this feature, users can capture 35 to 120 frames which means it won’t miss a single bit of the subject’s action.
Lastly, it comes with a brand new TruePic IX processor which enables it to do more and offer new features such as the handheld 50 MP High Res Shot, Starry Sky AF, Intelligent Subject Detect AF, and Live ND filters.
4. Fujifilm GFX 100S
Producing a powerful camera often entails cutbacks in some areas. For instance, in order to give you a big sensor, older cameras had to come in bulky body sizes. Thankfully, this is not the case with the Fujifilm GFX 100S.
“It is a medium format mirrorless camera that comes with a 102 MP BSI-CMOS medium format sensor measuring 43.8 x 32.9 mm,” said Summers. “Nonetheless, despite having the same big sensor of GFX 100, Fujifilm decided to fashion it with a relatively compact body compared to other medium format cameras on the market. It also inherited a lot of things from GFX 100 such as the max shutter speed, sync speed, and more.”
Further, despite this aggressive move of the brand to cramp everything in a small shell, its in-body image stabilization stays untouched. As a matter of fact, it is even improved since it now comes with 6 stops of correction while GFX 100 has 5.5 stops.
It also comes with the same 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen. This lets you shoot 4K videos at 30fps with ease since the screen can be adjusted. Truly helpful for awkward angles of shots. This gives you one capable medium format camera perfect for detailed photography projects. Fujifilm even added a new Film Simulation mode which is the Nostalgic Neg. With this new feature, you won’t just have 100 MP images that you can crop without losing too many details; you’ll also enjoy its new ability to play with the saturation and highlights of stills.
Moreover, the AF system of GFX 100S is relatively good. It isn’t as great as the EOS R5 but if you would just focus it on a single subject, the autofocus isn’t a headache. In relation to that, it isn’t one of those sports and wildlife cameras. Instead, it can excel more on still life, portraits, and landscapes.
5. Nikon D6
Nikon D6 is another option to consider for capturing still images. Though it only comes with a 20.8 MP full-frame CMOS, the process of delivering your shots is a breeze due to its excellent AF system.
It comes with a Multicam 37K sensor and 105 AF points that are all cross-type. These things back up the AF performance. Together with the added eye AF, Summers said that attaining the focus becomes faster and more consistent.
“You can almost compare it to the stills AF of EOS R5 that as soon as you point your camera to the subject, the focus will be established instantly,” she said. “Keeping up with the movement of the subject is also something that will amaze you about it. Besides the movement of the subject, any momentary blocking of other objects like hands and passersby will intelligently keep the AF aggressively active.”
However, Summers explained that there are few restrictions about its AF system. This includes the fact that the AF points are somehow confined at the middle part of the frame. Also, it is a bit disappointing that this brilliant phase-detect AF system is purely limited to D6’s viewfinder. Once you use the autofocus for the Live View option, you’ll end up with the contrast-detect AF.
“Telling you point-blank, it’s where the D6’s AF system fails and becomes inconsistent in tracking the faces of subjects. That said, it really isn’t the most versatile camera, especially if you are planning to use it for different projects where Live View is concerned,” Summers added.
The touchscreen LCD, nonetheless, is very useful for other reasons; especially if you are someone who loves to do tweaks and dive into your camera settings. You can also easily manage the images you’ve taken using the new touch commands of the screen.
Best Professional Cameras - Buyer's Guide
The lens ecosystem of the camera you are about to choose is as important as the major features of the camera. If you are a professional photographer who has varying needs, you probably have a set of lenses. Purchasing new lenses just for the new professional camera you are about to get means additional costs for you. The same goes for the overall existing system you have.
DSLR and mirrorless cameras have their own strengths and weaknesses. A DSLR oftentimes excels in battery and a wider selection of lenses. However, they are usually larger and heavier. This is where mirrorless units come to action due to their relatively smaller bodies. They compensate in other areas to improve the experience of users since they don’t have a mirror mechanism. For instance, better image stabilization.
It is true that you can’t have it all in a single camera. Even the most celebrated EOS R5 has its flaws. This makes all cameras unique in their very own ways. If you are all about stills, the 102 MP BSI-CMOS medium format sensor of Fujifilm GFX 100S might be a good consideration. On the other hand, the Canon EOS R5 will give you the sweetest experience with moving subjects such as in sports. And for 8K videos, the Sony A1 can deliver the best.
The best professional cameras are not cheap; they are reasonably priced. Their prices depend on their sets of features and if you think they exactly offer what you need, it is up to you to decide.
Best Professional Cameras - FAQs
While mirrorless units are getting more and more familiar now, DSLR cameras still have a lot to offer. Though the latter type is hefty, they have a wider selection of lenses and can last longer in terms of battery.
Cameras from famous brands often have better and more reliable quality. They also come with better features such as weather-sealed camera bodies, a faster and precise AF system, 8K videos, and bigger sensors. This improves user experience and allows you to capture stunning stills and videos without much effort.