Best Camera for Professional Photography in 2023 (All Budgets)
Most modern digital cameras can be used professionally if you have the skills and experience. However, certain models can make your job much easier.
By Andrew Dilks
The best camera for professional photography will be different depending on your budget and the type of photos/video you want to shoot.
The majority of professional photographers use cameras with full-frame sensors due to their superior low-light performance and the ability to extract more dynamic range from the files.
However, many photographers shoot professionally with APS-C and even micro 4/3 sensor cameras – after all, if you’re charging for your photography, you really should be able to use any camera.
In this guide, we’ve selected what we believe are the best cameras to use if you’re becoming a pro or have an established photography business.
We’ve ignored medium format cameras for now since they’re still rather niche and prohibitively expensive, even to professional photographers.
So let’s take a closer look at the recommended cameras below.
What is the Best Camera for Professional Photography in 2023?
Sony a7 IV | Best all round: Filmmaking, Wedding Photography, etc.
- Gorgeous full-frame 33MP sensor
- Simple but powerful AF technology
- Great 4K video recording and processing ability
- Very customizable
- Superb image quality for both photos and videos
- Great dynamic range
- Long battery life
- Rotating LCD screen
- Automatic sensor cover
- Sony’s newer A7R cameras are better performers
- Video stabilization could better
- Lower-res rear screen than competitors
Sony’s A7 IV is a robustly strong choice for photographers who want full-frame mirrorless quality and crispness without dishing up the money for a truly pricey Sony camera model.
This excellent all-around camera goes well beyond basic photography chops to deliver powerful professional performance for still photography, fast movement and for creating high-quality 4K 60p videos in 10-bit S-Cinetone.
Sony’s autofocus technology is almost unmatched in the world of mirrorless cameras, and the A7 IV delivers it in spades. This makes it particularly great for wedding, event, street and nature photography across the board.
The camera’s 33MP Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor has a back-illuminated design that also makes the A7 IV a wonderful shooter for clear, crisp shots with rich color and minimal noise even in particularly low-light conditions. The camera’s 100-51200 ISO helps this along quite nicely too.
The Alpha 7 IV’s 15 stops of dynamic range also give its photographic output a major boost – post-processing the files is a joy, with vast amounts of data recoverable from shadows and highlights.
Topping things off for the quality of the A7 IV’s recording capabilities is the camera’s BIONZ XR processor, which processes images with remarkable speed and lets this model deliver on lightning-fast AF performance.
Continuous shooting is also a strong suit of the Sony A7 IV, considering that the camera can output photo sequences at 10fps with either its electronic or mechanic shutters enabled and with AF/AE activated.
With its buffer running, this particular Alpha camera can even shoot as many as 828 consecutive images, uncompressed, in both RAW and JPEG output as long as it has a large and fast enough memory card installed inside it.
The A7 IV’s video shooting specs are strong, too, letting the camera record in 4K 30p XAVC HS 10-bit with the full sensor size while oversampling at 7K resolution.
When filming at 60p and 10-bit, the A7 IV can also handle 4K, but with a Super 35 crop and 4.6K capture area.
Overall, while not as powerful as Sony’s top-shelf A7R IV, A7R V and A1 camera models, the A7 IV is completely suited for filming major events such as weddings or simply photographing them despite any ambient lighting conditions or constant subject movement.
The Sony a7III was our pick of the best mirrorless camera last year, and now the a7IV has taken its place.
- Read more: Sony a7 IV review
Sony a7R V | Best for Portraits, Landscapes, etc
- Sharp and vibrant images
- Huge 61 MP sensor allows heavy cropping
- Enhanced autofocus
- Excellent in-body stabilisation
- Improved ISO handling
- Articulating 4-axis touchscreen
- Improved Sony camera menu system
- Camera menus could be better indexed
- Relatively low burst rates
- 4K video only to 60fps
Sony’s A7R V is another popular mirrorless camera used by professionals looking for well-balanced performance across a broad spectrum of applications. It represents an impressive upgrade over the hugely popular A7R IV.
It features a new 61MP sensor, paired with the BIONZ XR processor, to deliver more power than previous iterations, with more advanced AI algorithms to improve exposure, focus, and white balance.
This processing power enhances the autofocus capabilities of the A7R V, with improved focus and tracking of human subjects with facial and eye recognition offering increased control over your coverage.
Sony has expanded the subjects you can identify with additional autofocus settings for animals, birds, insects, cars, trains, and aircraft, with each setting featuring additional customisable parameters.
The A7R V has also beefed up its image stabilization, with up to eight stops of compensation when shooting stills, making it easier to shoot sharp hand-held images at a low shutter speed.
The burst rate has also been improved with the A7R V to ten frames per second.
However, this is still lower than the A9 II, so if you’re looking for a professional camera primarily to shoot action, the A7R V might fall short of expectations.
Video quality is on par with stills performance, recording rich, detailed footage up to 8K at 24fps, with colour profiles such as S-Log3 and S-Cinetone available for professional videographers.
The rotating LCD screen allows you to quickly flip it up and down (without having to rotate it first), and there’s enough room to use it in this way with a tripod L-bracket – perfect for landscape photographers.
Overall performance is impacted by choice of lens, and to really get the best out of the A7R V, Sony’s native lenses, such as their prime G lenses and G Master series, are optimal choices.
The Sony A7RV is a versatile camera with a new and improved autofocus system, while its large sensor and detail-rich picture quality make it a solid performer when shooting portraits, landscapes and studio photography.
Canon EOS R5 | Best for Wildlife Photography
- Outstanding picture quality
- Incredibly fast burst shots
- Versatile AF modes
- Pristine 8K video
- Video shooting has recording limits
Widely regarded as one of Canon’s best entries into the mirrorless cameras market, the EOS R5 combines the best features of its range of full-frame cameras in one exceptional product.
First and foremost a stills camera, the EOS R5 uses a cutting-edge autofocus system with exceptionally accurate eye detection and tracking that makes it ideal for capturing wildlife with its animal detection AI.
On paper, Canon’s Deep Learning algorithm is only certified for dogs, cats, and birds, but in practice, it’s adept at recognising any creature with a face and eyes with remarkable accuracy, making it a game-changer for nature-loving photographers.
Combined with its impressive burst rate, capable of 20fps with the electronic shutter, this allows for rapid shooting speed with accurate continual focus, enhancing its appeal among wildlife photographers.
In-body image stabilisation is on par with the quality of AF and tracking, with up to 8 stops of CIPA-rated stabilisation when using RF-mount glass, further improving accuracy when shooting on a long lens.
The 45MP CMOS full-frame sensor, first featured on the EOS-1D X Mark III, delivers outstanding performance with rich, detailed images, impressive ISO performance, and solid dynamic range.
For videographers, the EOS R5 was Canon’s first camera to include full-width 8K recording, in addition to 4K video at 30p, producing best-in-class video footage that can be shot smoothly without a gimbal, thanks to the impressive IBIS.
With that said, the EOS R5 is prone to overheating when shooting. The recording limits necessary to get around this issue mean the camera has limited applications for video-first users.
Canon has also improved the overall ergonomics of the camera body over previous iterations, delivering a well-balanced, rugged feel that feels solid and durable while still remaining comfortable to use.
Ultimately, the Canon EOS R5 is a near-perfect stills camera with impeccable design and picture quality, with professional-level autofocus and animal detection, making it outstanding for wildlife photography.
- Read more: Canon R5 Review
Fujifilm X-T5 | Best for Travel Photography
- Small yet durable build
- Excellent 40.2MP APS-C sensor
- Effective IBIS
- 60p 10-bit 4K internal video
- A fun shooting experience
- Limited burst shooting buffer
- Autofocus could be swifter
Photographers who are looking to save money and choose a more compact and lightweight camera for travel photography or casual use would do well to consider Fujifilm’s flagship X-T5.
Eschewing the bulky and cumbersome body size and design associated with more expensive cameras, the X-T5 bears a closer resemblance to a classic 34mm SLR, with its rectangular design and external exposure controls.
This retro aesthetic belies a powerful camera that brings on board even more advanced features than were available on its predecessor, with a new BSI X-Trans CMOS sensor and an increase in megapixel count from 26.1MP on the X-T4 to 40.2MP on the X-T5.
The IBIS is also better than on the X-T4, allowing for steadier handheld shots up to 7 stops, which is particularly useful for run-and-gun videographers who don’t want to rely on using a gimbal for smooth tracking shots.
There’s also Deep Learning technology for Auto White Balance, making it more accurate when recognising the colour of warm light and delivering improved shots.
Fujifilm has also improved autofocus tracking accuracy in the X-T5 with more advanced algorithms to detect animals and vehicles.
The picture profiles that helped make Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras so popular are all included here, with the Film Simulation setting taking Fujifilm’s film stock as a point of reference, resulting in warm, analog-looking photographs.
In addition to the colour profiles for stills, there are multiple video-based profiles, including Cinema 4K video mode, F-Log, and HLG colour profiles, to allow for fine-tuning with post-production grading.
- Read more: What is the best Fuji camera?
Sony a9 Mark II | Best for Sports
- 20fps blackout-free photography
- World-class autofocus system
- 5-axis IBIS
- Plenty of connectivity options
- Splash and dust protection
- Battery life could be improved
- Lacks S-Log video profiles
- The menu system is awkward
Finding a professional camera that combines exceptional quality with rapid speed can be a tricky combination to strike, and the Sony Alpha A9 II is one of the fastest full-frame cameras currently on the market.
Indeed, while the A9 II might not be the best professional camera in terms of resolution and overall image quality, its dedication to getting everything right in terms of high-speed performance makes it among the best sports cameras available.
The Sony Alpha A9 II excels when it comes to burst shooting, capturing 20 frames per second on a 24.2MP full-frame Exmor RS CMOS sensor and using the same BIONZ X processor found on the A7R 5 and A7 IV.
Images are sharp, with rich colour and pleasing detail, as well as solid ISO performance and a decent amount of dynamic range that allows for the extraction of lots of detail through post-processing.
Its hybrid autofocus system featuring 693 points phase detection is geared towards fast and reliable tracking of erratically moving subjects, making it ideal for shooting gymnastics or fast-paced sports such as football.
What’s more, it does all of this with no black0ut on the viewfinder, so it’s even easier to ensure you’ve composed the action correctly, regardless of how swiftly the subjects are moving.
Pro photographers have a range of connectivity options to transfer large batches of images quickly and easily to other devices, including an upgraded 1000BASE-T Ethernet port, transferring data ten times faster than the 100MB/s terminal on the previous A9.
Wi-Fi support goes up to 5G, compared to the standard 2.4GHz on the A9 and other cameras in this price bracket, allowing for direct transfer to FTP servers, with the additional option to save up to ten FTP settings.
Battery life can be an issue when shooting high volumes of images. The Alpha A9 II delivers on this front, with this model rated at 690 shots using the viewfinder and 500 with the viewfinder, compared to 650 and 480, respectively for the previous A9 model.
The Sony A9 II is a true workhorse camera for sports and photojournalists, delivering unrivaled speed with a great range of connectivity options for those working away from their offices.
- Read more: Sony a9 Mark II review
Nikon Z7 II | Best for Family Photography
- Gorgeous image quality
- Ergonomic design and build quality
- 5-axis image stabilisation
- Impressive high ISO handling
- Quick and reliable eye AF
- Action AF could be better
- Memory card door can pop open by mistake
- The display is tilt-angle, not vari-angle
While some of the best professional cameras are geared towards specific applications, such as the Sony Alpha A9 II’s exceptional burst rate for sports and action, others lean towards versatility and a Jack of all trades approach.
The Nikon Z7 II is one such camera, offering balanced performance in a variety of photography scenarios, combining processing power and speed with an easy-to-use interface that increases its appeal with more casual photographers.
Nikon has form when it comes to comfortable camera designs, and the Z7 II’s fully weather-sealed body fits snugly in the hand, with a range of easy-to-access controls and an all-around chunky feel to its construction.
The 3.2-inch, 2.1-million-dot tilt touchscreen can be used for a comprehensive range of controls, and while it’s a tilt-angle screen rather than a vari-angle screen, it’s bright and easy to view, as well as responsive when used to navigate menus.
Detailed and vibrant images are captured via the 45.7MP full-frame sensor, while the dual Expeed 6 image processors are over 3 times more powerful than the processors used in the previous model.
The Z7 II also improves on low light performance and eye-tracking autofocus, making it a wonderful performer for family photography, such as birthday parties, campfires in the woods, and other family adventures.
Indeed, human and animal eye/face detection is much improved on the A9 II and can be used in the wide-AF mode and prevent subjects away from the middle of the frame from dropping out of focus.
The inclusion of 5-axis image stabilisation helps keep details nice and sharp, especially when combined with optically stabilised lenses such as Nikon’s well-regarded Z lenses.
More affordable than comparable cameras from Canon or Sony, the Nikon Z7 II full-frame mirrorless camera is an intuitive-to-operate all-rounder that handles like a dream to produce stunning imagery.
- Read more: Nikon Z7 II review
Canon EOS M50 Mark II | Best Professional Camera on a Budget
- Excellent stills and video
- Compact and lightweight
- 24MP APS-C imaging
- Vertical video recording
- Fast eye AF
- Affordable price
- 4K video is heavily cropped
- Short battery life
- No USB charging
While many of the professional cameras featured here come with eye-watering price tags, there are budget-friendly alternatives available that can still deliver stylish photographs in a host of scenarios.
The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is one such entry-level mirrorless camera, featuring a company lens system and lightweight yet robust construction that makes it ideal for run-and-gun and travel photography.
Despite its smaller size, it’s a feature-rich camera with versatility and solid performance across the board, as comfortable shooting video as it is stills, using the 24.1MP APS-C sensor from the previous model.
Sports and wildlife photographers can get an impressive burst speed of 10fps, a feature you’ll be hard pushed to find on comparable cameras in its price range, with colourful and rich images.
Beginners and amateurs who are just moving away from smartphones will face a shallow learning curve with the EOS M50 Mark II, which features a creative assist feature that walks users through its various options and settings.
It’s an intuitive and engaging guide that introduces the camera’s various manual settings, such as aperture priority, shutter speed, and ISO, further easing the transition from point-and-click smartphones to fully customisable cameras.
It’s also a strong video recorder. While the 4K is cropped, its vertical video recording mode will likely appeal to online content creators who don’t need to worry about exceptional resolution for their TikTok videos or Instagram Reels.
The EOS M50 Mark II may lack the image detail and features of more expensive professional cameras, but it will serve video podcasters and amateur enthusiasts well without breaking the bank.
Sony a6600 | Best Professional Camera for Beginners
- Excellent real-time tracking focus system
- Impressive battery life
- 4K video recording
- Plenty of lenses and other accessories
- 5-axis image stabilisation
- Solid low-light performance
- Single UHS-I memory card slot is slow
- Fiddly controls
While it stands to reason professional cameras are aimed primarily at professional photographers, amateur enthusiasts and beginners with a suitable budget and expectation of quality can justify splashing out for pro gear.
The Sony A6600 strikes a perfect balance between price, design, and features to make it an ideal camera that beginners can use without sacrificing the functionality and quality professionals expect.
Popular among professional videographers, internet content creators, and photographers, the A6600 comes in a sturdy weather-sealed magnesium alloy body housing in-body sensor-shift image stabilization and a battery with an exceptional lifespan.
Sony’s reputation for outstanding autofocus on their more expensive models is replicated here, with real-time eye autofocus that also works impeccably on video, increasing its appeal among vloggers and filmmakers.
Indeed, it’s a camera that leads with its bespoke video options, with 4K recording in Super 35mm format, unlimited video recording length, and 120fps slow motion when recording at full HD resolution.
The ability to shoot video in S-Log3 and S-Log2 Gamma profiles is another great reason why beginners should consider the A6600, opening up the option to venture into post-production colour grading for even more control over the look of your footage.
The A6600 is designed to take Sony’s E-mount lenses, so beginners who use this camera will have access to some of the best lenses on the market, from sub-£50 second-hand lenses to their G Master line of premium lenses.
While there are cheaper cameras available that cover many of the bases found with the A6600, its comprehensive ecosystem of accessories and on-point image stabilisation and AF ensures beginners with the cash to invest will get their money’s worth.
What’s the Most Popular Camera Used by Professional Photographers?
We surveyed 1,000 photographers to answer the question: What Camera Do Most Professional Photographers Use?
The results revealed that the Sony a7III was the most popular camera used by professional photographers, despite being an older model in the Sony Alpha series.
While the a7III is still an excellent camera, we’ve recommended its successor, the Sony a7IV, in this article since it’s superior in several ways.
We believe that it’s worth investing in the latest camera model for professional photography pursuits – your clients deserve the best results, and it’s important that you, as the photographer, take advantage of the latest technology to make your work easier and more efficient.
Another popular camera for professional photographers is the Fujifilm X-T4, a camera with a crop sensor.
While the low light capabilities of a camera with a crop sensor will never surpass a camera with a full-frame sensor, it can be more than adequate for some professional photography endeavours.
In addition, with a crop sensor camera, you gain access to smaller, cheaper and lighter lenses designed for the APS-C system, not to mention the ability to get more reach from lenses due to the multiplication factor.
Professional cameras can sometimes seem daunting, both in terms of the price tag and the many features and tools that make them such versatile machines.
Fortunately, you don’t have to take out a loan to get started with professional-level cameras and can dip your toes into high-end photography and video content creation on a moderate budget.
For more experienced photographers, there are cameras tailored to a wide range of situations, optimised for everything from weddings and portraits to wildlife and sports photography.
If you’ve had any experiences with the cameras featured in this article you’d like to share, or have a recommendation for an outstanding professional camera you’ve used, feel free to leave a comment below.
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