Are you struggling to determine the best camera brands that exist today? Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of camera brands on the market, and you’re just not sure where to turn?
You’ve come to the right place.
Because this article is going to give you an overview of all the best camera manufacturers out there. You’ll discover who they are and what they offer.
First, I’ll talk about the biggest and most relevant players in today’s camera market: Canon, Nikon, and Sony. For many years, Canon and Nikon have dominated the digital photography space–but in recent years, Sony has become the main competitor (particularly in the mirrorless market).
Next, I’ll discuss smaller brands, such as Fujifilm (which creates APS-C cameras and recently entered the medium-format market), Panasonic (which uses its own Micro Four Thirds system to create quality cameras), and Olympus (which designed the original Four Thirds system and working on an impressive mirrorless lineup).
By the time you’ve finished this article, you’ll know all about the major camera brands–and you’ll come away knowing the best camera brand for your photography.
Let’s dive right in.
Best Camera Brands Today
As I explained above, this article reviews the biggest camera brands and explains their place in today’s digital camera world.
The first brands on this list are the most relevant to photography today
And while the remaining brands are still important, they don’t come close to competing with the big players in the camera space.
Now let’s take a look at the biggest camera company out there:
The Canon brand is the current leader in the camera space, though Canon is most known for its high-quality DSLRs and DSLR lens lineup.
The Canon company was founded in 1937 and is responsible for a number of milestones across the 20th century: Canon was the first company to include a micro-computer in a camera, it was the first company to produce a camera with eye-controlled AF, and it was the first company to produce an image-stabilized lens available to the masses.
Even as the market has shrunk, Canon has maintained the largest product line in the camera industry. The company still produces its own (full-frame and APS-C) sensors, as well as cameras, lenses, and accessories.
Today, Canon offers several lines of hobbyist and professional DSLRs, including the vaunted 1D X series, the 5D series, and the Rebel series. New iterations of Canon cameras include Canon’s Dual-Pixel autofocus, allowing for ultra-fast focusing in Live View (something other camera brands still struggle with). Canon also offers high-quality point-and-shoot cameras, such as the Canon Powershot series.
For many years, Nikon has been Canon’s main competitor – but the rise of Sony has added another contender for the top spot in the imaging business. While Canon has dominated Sony in the DSLR space, Sony has been a mirrorless powerhouse; this is an area where Canon is currently lagging but making great strides in an effort to become competitive.
Over the next few years, expect to see Canon shift its focus more heavily to its full-frame mirrorless lineup.
For many years, Nikon has been Canon’s main competitor, with the two imaging companies battling it out in the consumer and professional camera field. While Canon has consistently claimed the top spot, the Nikon Corporation is actually older–it was founded in 1917 by three big manufacturers of optics and quickly rose to become a leading optics business.
Nikon’s current product lineup includes some of the best DSLRs available, such as the Nikon D850 and the Nikon D5 (soon to be followed by the D6), as well as three powerful mirrorless options (the Z6 and Z7 for full-frame users and the Z50 as an APS-C snapper). Nikon also owns the Coolpix lineup of point-and-shoot cameras.
In some areas, Nikon is the most vaunted imagining company out there, frequently chosen by professionals due to its incredible image quality and dynamic range capabilities. But Nikon has recently fallen behind Sony in several key areas, including overall camera sales, and is scrambling to catch up in the mirrorless market. Plus, Nikon struggles to compete with Canon and Sony’s phase-detection focusing technology – which holds back Nikon DSLRs when working in Live View.
Like Canon, Nikon has lagged in terms of mirrorless adoption and is currently feeling the effects of this shift; while the Nikon Z6 and Z7 were hailed as an impressive entry into the full-frame mirrorless kingdom, the company has a long way to go before it can go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Sony A7 series.
While Sony was founded back in 1946, the company only produced its first digital camera in 1988. And it wasn’t until Sony acquired Konica Minolta’s camera division in 2006 that Sony’s camera business really took off, putting Sony in a position to compete with the other leading camera makers allowing the corporate giant to dominate the mirrorless industry.
Today, Sony is the world’s largest manufacturer of digital sensors – and even supplies some of its main competitors with camera sensors, including Nikon, Fujifilm, and Panasonic. Not to mention that Sony dominates the smartphone camera sensor market, producing around 70% of the world’s smartphone sensors.
This dominance in sensor technology gives Sony a key advantage when it comes to producing their own APS-C and full-frame cameras: Sony leverages this expertise to build cameras with incredible image quality and the most accurate focusing system available. Plus, Sony’s huge market cap allows the company to innovate with incredible speed, to produce cameras such as the Sony a7R IV, the a6600, and the a9 Mark II.
Sony’s only weakness, if you could call it that, is its ergonomics – the small camera bodies, combined with small grips, don’t offer the ease of use that, say, Canon’s DSLR cameras offer.
Fujifilm is a company known for its APS-C mirrorless cameras, and, most recently, its medium-format cameras. At the time of writing, Fujifilm ranks as the fourth-largest player in the digital camera industry.
Fujifilm has a long history in the camera market, going all the way back to 1934 – and it spent a number of years competing with the dominant force in the camera industry at the time, Eastman Kodak.
While Canon, Nikon, and Sony focus heavily on technical prowess and cutthroat profitability, Fujifilm is known for its unusual products and unique method of doing business. Fujifilm cares deeply about camera aesthetics, creating carefully-designed retro-style cameras that feature mechanical dials and an old-timey film look (though the cameras themselves pack high-quality digital sensors).
Related: Switching from Sony to Fujifilm
Fujifilm also invests heavily in color science in order to mimic the look of Fuji classic films, and the company regularly releases firmware updates years after a camera has been released, something unusual in today’s innovation-focused world.
These days, Fujifilm is most known for its APS-C mirrorless cameras, including the X-T3, a very affordable but high-quality crop-sensor body, as well as its medium format cameras, including the 100 megapixel GFX 100.
The Olympus camera business goes all the way back to 1936 and has successfully navigated the waves of digital and mirrorless explosions to offer high-quality mirrorless and DSLRs to today’s consumers.
Olympus designed (with Kodak) its own camera system, designed specifically for DSLRs: the Four Thirds System. This was then developed by Olympus and Panasonic into the Micro Four Thirds system, which is used by a number of companies (Olympus and Panasonic among them).
The Four Thirds System utilizes crop-sensor technology to create high-quality digital images, and with Olympus’s camera bodies has come effective in-body image stabilization and impressive weather-sealing. While Olympus is hardly at the top of the digital camera pack, it has remained a solid contender in the industry thus far.
Panasonic began as an electrics company back in 1918 but went on to become the producer of Lumix digital cameras, including the lauded Panasonic Lumix S1R and Panasonic Lumix S1 full-frame mirrorless cameras. Panasonic teamed up with Leica to create full-frame mirrorless lenses, resulting in Lumix Leica lenses.
Despite its recent forays into a full-frame mirrorless territory, Panasonic invests much of its business in Micro Four Thirds cameras, having developed the Micro Four Thirds System with Olympus. This is reflected in lens compatibility, as you can use Olympus lenses on Panasonic cameras.
Note that Panasonic also specializes in video recording and is a leading brand among videographers.
These days, it’s tough to find a camera brand that isn’t investing heavily in mirrorless tech–unless you look at Pentax.
While Canon and Nikon struggle to catch up to Sony’s mirrorless lineups, Pentax stubbornly remains a producer of full-frame and medium-format DSLRs, including the Pentax K-1 and the Pentax 645 series.
Pentax was created in November 1919, though the company has experienced some turbulent changes in recent years. In 2006, Pentax merged with Hoya. Then in 2011, the Pentax imaging business was purchased by Ricoh, which is now pushing its current focus on DSLRs.
While Pentax is famous for its impressively durable DSLRs, it remains to be seen whether the company’s DSLR-focused approach will survive the mirrorless onslaught.
Leica was founded in 1869 and was a big player in the film game–though the digital turn has left Leica treading water in recent years.
These days, Leica focuses on its L-mount mirrorless cameras, including APS-C and full-frame camera bodies. And in 2018, Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic created a series of L-mount lenses that can be used on both Leica and Panasonic camera bodies.
While Leica offers beautiful aesthetics and amazing design, cameras and lenses are overpriced and underdeveloped; in other words, the company has struggled to stay fresh in an increasingly tech-focused world.
Hasselblad is an imagining company with a rich history, going all the way back to 1841. Hasselblad produces high-end imagining equipment, and focuses almost entirely on medium-format cameras (which were used to capture images by Apollo program astronauts).
In 2020, Hasselblad offers a number of medium-format cameras, including the X1D-50c, which was hailed as the first mirrorless medium-format digital camera ever made. Cameras like these consistently cost over $6000, making Hasselblad cameras a tool of professionals alone.
Mention film photography, and people immediately think ‘Kodak,’ – for a good reason. Eastman Kodak is the company that invented color film photography and dominated the film photography business for much of the 20th century.
Though Kodak was the company to invent digital photography, it failed to account for the digital explosion. This led to financial insolvency in the 2000s, at which point the company declared bankruptcy and sold off a slew of its patents. While Kodak still exists as a company, it no longer produces camera equipment.
So while you can find used Kodak equipment at camera shops and on eBay, any new camera gear bearing the Kodak label is produced by none-Kodak manufacturers who license the Kodak name.
Best Camera Brands: Conclusion
Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be familiar with the top ten camera brands out there today–and you should have a sense of the perfect camera brand for your needs.
Remember that Nikon, Canon, and Sony are the ‘big three’ among the digital camera companies, while Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic are more specialized brands. Pentax, Leica, and Hasselblad, are struggling to remain relevant unless you’re in the market for a medium-format camera (Hasselblad), and Kodak is now completely obsolete.
So pick a camera brand and get shooting!