As the holidays draw near and 2020 comes to a close, it’s time to make some serious headway with our holiday gift lists. Modern cell phone cameras have gotten pretty good in recent years, with some standouts such as the iPhone 12 Pro Max even offering sensor-shift image stabilization, Dolby Vision HDR, and advanced computational photography. But if you’re looking for the absolute best image quality and video capture, you’re still better off with a dedicated camera instead.
There’s only one problem: Cameras are pretty expensive if you shop retail. Luckily, Swappa is here to help with the perfect gift ideas for the photographer in your life — and save you money in the process. So keep reading as we cover all the best cameras that you can buy in 2020 and beyond.
Table of Contents:
- What type of camera is best?
- Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras
- Best Mirrorless Cameras
- Best DSLRs
- Best action cameras
- Best cameras for kids
- Best cameras for vlogging
- Swappa’s quick picks
What type of camera is best?
A few years ago, this used to be a very simple question to answer: If you wanted the very best image and video quality, you’d get a full-frame DSLR camera such as the Canon 6D. If you cared about image quality but wanted something a bit smaller, you’d get a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses like the Sony Alpha A6400. And if you wanted the best action camera, you’d get the latest GoPro camera.
Today, the photography landscape is a little different. Mirrorless cameras have largely caught up with DSLRs when it comes to sensor and autofocus technology. And for many, smaller bodies and lenses have made mirrorless cameras the ideal choice. Conversely, DSLRs have long been too expensive for casual photographers, but they’ve gotten cheaper than ever in the last few years.
So which camera is best? For most people who want great image and video quality from a compact device, mirrorless cameras are best. But there simply is no one-size-fits-all “best camera” — and that’s a good thing because it means we have more choice as consumers. Instead, picking the “best” camera means choosing based on the types of pictures and video you’ll be taking, as well as how much money you want to spend to get those results. And thanks to recent advancements in sensor and lens technology, you’ll get stellar image quality with almost any modern camera.
Mirrorless cameras vs DSLRs
Mirrorless cameras are very similar to DSLR cameras. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras use interchangeable lenses to focus your picture onto an image sensor. These sensors range in size, with the most common formats being APS-C and full-frame (35mm). The bigger the sensor, the better the image quality and low-light performance — but this also leads to more expensive cameras and larger lenses at equivalent focal lengths.
So what’s the difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR? The main difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR is size. As their name implies, mirrorless cameras do not have the viewfinder reflex mirror found in DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras. This means you get a smaller overall camera body — and also smaller lenses.
Because there’s no mirror, you don’t get an optical viewfinder on a mirrorless camera — you get an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead. Early mirrorless cameras had low resolution and laggy electronic viewfinders, but modern cameras have great electronic viewfinders that many consider to be comparable to the optical viewfinders found on DSLRs.
The image quality on a modern mirrorless camera is just as good as on an equivalent DSLR. This is because mirrorless cameras are available with large, full-frame sensors. Mirrorless cameras also offer robust lens compatibility — spanning the entire gamut from wide-angle to telephoto. For example, the Canon R series mirrorless cameras work with Canon RF lenses and can use converters to work with traditional Canon EF lenses (also known as EOS lenses).
Best Mirrorless DSLR cameras
Now that you’re probably convinced that a mirrorless camera is for you, which mirrorless camera is best? There are plenty of great mirrorless camera deals on Swappa, but we feel that Sony mirrorless cameras and Canon mirrorless cameras generally give you the most bang for your buck since both brands offer great camera bodies with high-resolution image sensors and versatile lens catalogs. Both companies have budget-friendly and professional options, so it really comes down to how much you’re willing to spend and which lens system you prefer.
Sony offers exceptional cameras at all price points, ranging from the budget-friendly (but still capable) 24.2-megapixel Sony Alpha A6400 and culminating with the range-topping 61-megapixel Sony A7R IV. All Sony mirrorless cameras feature interchangeable lenses and great image sensors, but the higher end products in Sony’s lineup offer professional-grade autofocus, full-frame image sensors, and 4k video capture.
There are plenty of choices when it comes to Canon mirrorless cameras as well, ranging from the affordable M line to their prosumer R line. Just like Sony’s offerings, getting an R gets you a full-frame image sensor, professional autofocus speed, and image quality rivaling the very best full-frame DSLRs. And perhaps most importantly, Canon mirrorless cameras can use adapters to work with existing Canon EF lenses for DSLRs. This gives you access to thousands of wide-angle, ultrawide, telephoto, and specialty lenses.
Best of all, you can save hundreds when you shop on Swappa. Remember that Sony Alpha A6400 we recommended earlier? It starts at just $720 on Swappa — or $750 with a 16-50mm zoom lens. This is over a hundred dollars cheaper than eBay (typically $850+) and significantly less than its $999 MSRP with kit lens.
Best DSLR cameras
Next up, we have DSLRs. Due to their enormous lens lineups, we’ll be sticking with Canon DSLR cameras and Nikon DSLR cameras. Other manufacturers such as Sony also offer great DSLRs, though they’re a bit more limited when it comes to lens compatibility.
Just like their mirrorless counterparts, DSLRs range from entry-level APS-C cameras (also known as “crop factor”) to prosumer full-frame (35mm) models. High-end models from both Canon and Nikon offer full-frame sensors, incredible dynamic range and low-light performance, and basically give you professional quality results when paired with good lenses.
All Canon DSLRs are compatible with EF lenses (also known as EOS lenses), and all Nikon DSLRs are compatible with F-mount lenses. There are thousands of zoom and prime lenses, ranging from ultrawide and wide-angle to telephoto, and everything in between — even specialty tilt-shift lenses. The more affordable Canon APS-C cameras are also compatible with EF-s lenses, and APS-C Nikons are compatible with Nikon DX lenses.
You can pick up a Canon Rebel T3i with kit lens and accessories for just $185 on Swappa. This is approximately half the going rate on eBay and just a small fraction of its original $799 price. Similarly, you can get the Nikon D5000 for as low as $120 on Swappa, which is cheaper than the going rate on eBay of nearly $200 or its original $850 MSRP.
Best action cameras
What if you’re not looking for the absolute best image quality, but rather have a lightweight and tough camera that can go wherever you go? This is where action cameras come in.
GoPro is the 800-pound gorilla in action cameras, offering the most popular and capable action cameras that you can buy today. This popularity is well warranted, as GoPro HERO cameras are durable, light-weight, and offer great image quality and features.
The best GoPro is the 12-megapixel HERO 8, which can record at 4K resolution and 30 fps. But if you want something cheaper, you can get a great deal on the 11-megapixel HERO3 Plus, which can capture 720p video and starts at just $105 on Swappa. Both cameras can capture ultra-wide video and are extremely durable. Alternatively, if you want something with better image quality but a slightly less rugged housing, you can pick up a 4K-capable Samsung Gear 360 2017 4K for just $125 on Swappa.
Best cameras for kids
What if you don’t need the absolute best image quality, but instead want something simple and durable for your kids to use? This is where fixed-lens cameras come in. Just like mirrorless and DSLR cameras, fixed lens cameras come in all shapes, sizes, and price points. But as their name implies, fixed-lens cameras come with one lens that is permanently attached. This makes for a simpler and more durable camera, but it also means that you get a little less versatility.
There are plenty of great fixed-lens cameras to choose from, and you’ll typically get the best results sticking to cameras from Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Panasonic, and Sony. Availability is limited, but there are plenty of great deals to be had on the Swappa Marketplace.
Currently, some of the best fixed-lens camera deals you can get are the 24.2-megapixel Fuji X-A7, the 20.1-megapixel Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, and the prosumer 20-megapixel Sony Cyber-Shot RX100 VII. All of these offer fantastic, high-resolution sensors — but the Panasonic Lumix offers the most ergonomic controls and most versatile lens. On the other hand, the Cyber-Shot offers the best overall image quality on its large sensor, but it’s more than twice the price of the other two.
Best cameras for vlogging or YouTube
Finally, we arrive at the internet’s favorite hobby: vlogging. Whether you’re a social media influencer or trying to become one — or you just want to share some entertaining videos with loved ones — you’re going to want a quality camera.
You need five things from your vlog camera:
- An LCD screen that flips around to the front
- Smart autofocus with face and eye detection
- 4K video capture
- Great still image quality
- External microphone port
Swappa’s Quick Picks
Made it this far and still don’t know what camera to pick? Don’t feel bad — there are so many excellent camera options that it can be hard to choose. To make things a bit easier, here are our quick picks on the best cameras you can get today:
- Best cheap mirrorless camera: Sony Alpha a6000
- Best professional camera: Sony A7R IV
- Best affordable DSLR: Canon 6D
- Best action camera: Any GoPro HERO
- Best camera for kids: Any fixed-lens camera
- Best vlogging camera: Sony Alpha A6400
It doesn’t matter which camera you buy, you’ll always get the best deal on Swappa. Our safe and easy-to-use marketplace makes finding the best deals a breeze. And because our expert moderation team reviews every listing before it goes live, junk devices are nowhere to be found.
So what are you waiting for? Get the perfect gift for the photographer(s) in your life on Swappa.