Top Cameras of 2020

I think it goes without saying that all of us are looking forward to putting 2020 in the rear-view mirror. It was a forgettable year on almost every front – except one.

This past year was actually quite an impressive one for camera releases. We saw new flagship models from Canon and Nikon, a crop-sensor that set the industry standard from Fuji, a fantastic video-centric mirrorless camera from Sony, and a few other standouts that we’ll get to.

It’s a great time to be a photographer so we compiled our list of top cameras of 2020. Most of the cameras on the list were released in 2020, but we added some fantastic models released in recent years that saw a price cut in 2020, making them even more enticing.

If you’re in the market for a new camera, that’s great news, because there are excellent options available no matter what system you prefer. More than likely, the camera you’re looking for was released in 2020. So, let’s shut the door on 2020 by paying homage to a few of the really awesome cameras released within. Then, we can turn the page to 2021 and hope for a great year!


#1 – Canon EOS R5

Key Features

  • 45MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • 8K30 Raw and 4K120 10-Bit Internal Video
  • Sensor-Shift 5-Axis Image Stabilization
  • 12 fps Mech. Shutter, 20 fps E. Shutter
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with 1053 Points
  • .5″ 5.76m-Dot OLED EVF
  • 3.2″ Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD
  • CFexpress & SD UHS-II Memory Card Slots

2020 brought one of Canon’s best cameras ever – the EOS R5. It has turned into Canon’s flagship mirrorless model and it is excellent. The EOS R5 received big boosts in dynamic range and noise handling to level it with similar offerings from Nikon and Sony. Plus, you still get those iconic Canon colors. It’s a do-it-all machine – excellent for landscapes, incredible AF and fast burst speeds for wildlife, and 8K30 video capabilities along with internal 4K120 10-bit internal video. No other full-frame mirrorless comes close to those video specs right now.


#2 – Nikon Z7 II

Key Features

  • 45.7 MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Dual EXPEED 6 Image Processors
  • UHD 4K60 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
  • 10 fps Cont. Shooting, ISO 64-25600
  • 493-Point Phase-Detect AF System
  • 3.6m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 5-Axis In-Body Vibration Reduction
  • Dual Memory Card Slots

The Nikon Z7 was an excellent first take from Nikon. It received a lot of flak due to focus issues and its lack of dual card slots. I’ve used the Z7 since release, and I really love the camera. The Z7 II was just released and looks to be a nice improvement over the original. Users now get an updated AF system that will continue to get improvements via firmware, and an added SD slots with the XQD/CFexpress slot.

The Nikon Z7 II is top of the line – it has excellent dynamic range, noise handling, and overall image quality. The Canon EOS R5 does excel when it comes to burst rate and the R5 is one of the best video cameras out there…the Z7 II cannot even do 10-bit internally, unfortunately.

All in all, though, the Z7 II is a fantastic camera.


#3 – Fujifilm XT-4

Key Features

  • 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
  • X-Processor 4 Image Processor
  • 5-Axis In-Body Image Stabilization
  • DCI/UHD 4K at 60 fps, Full HD at 240 fps
  • 425-Point Hybrid AF System
  • 3.69m-Dot 0.75x OLED EVF
  • 3.0″ 1.62m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • ISO 160-12800, up to 15-fps Shooting
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Film Simulation Modes

The XT-4 is the best APS-C camera on the market. Fujifilm has cemented its position in the mirrorless market as a producer of state-of-the-art APS-C bodies. The XT-4 is the fourth iteration, as the name might imply, and it’s the best yet.

The XT-4 features a sensor with 26.1 MP, which is a great resolution for all types of photography. The image quality and AF system are excellent. Plus, it can do 20 fps at 26.1 MP, but downscale the resolution to 20.1 MP in-camera, and it can do 30 fps!

It also has the ability to internally record 10-bit cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at up to 60 fps. The XT-4 is a still and video beast. It’s one of our favorite cameras. It also has a unique and beloved body design that’s much different from other manufacturers. If you have no interest in full-frame and video is an important consideration for you, this is the camera for you, hands down.


#4 – Sony A7s III
Key Features

  • 12MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • UHD 4K 120p Video, 10-Bit 4:2:2 Internal
  • 16-Bit Raw Output, HLG & S-Log3 Gammas
  • 759-Point Fast Hybrid AF
  • 9.44m-Dot QXGA OLED EVF
  • 3.0″ 1.44m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Extended ISO 40-409600, 10 fps Shooting
  • Dual CFexpress Type A/SD Card Slots

The Sony A7s III was released in 2020 and is the only ‘dedicated’ video camera on this list. It can still be used for still work, but its bread and butter is video. It features a 12 MP sensor, which makes downscaling for 4K video a breeze.

The A7s III can do 4k120p 10-bit 4:2:2 internally and does not have the 15-minute soft cap like the EOS R5. Amazingly, it can record 16-bit RAW video via HDMI. The focus system is flawless, much like in Sony’s other pro bodies.

The A7s III is a nature cinematographer’s dream. With that said, it’s pretty incredible that the EOS R5, with a 45 MP sensor, can compete with a lot of the A7s III video features. If you are shooting an extended video (15-30+ minutes) and doing it externally, the A7s III wins out. But, the EOS R5 can do 8K and offers 45 MP for stills…so you can see, why the R5 is at the top of the list.


#5 – Canon EOS R6
Key Features

  • 20MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC X Image Processor
  • 4K60p and FHD 120p 10-Bit Internal Video
  • Sensor-Shift 5-Axis Image Stabilization
  • 12 fps Mech. Shutter, 20 fps E. Shutter
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF II with 1053 Points
  • 0.5″ 3.69m-Dot OLED EVF
  • 3″ 1.62m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD
  • Subject Tracking with Deep Learning
  • Dual SD UHS-II Memory Card Slots

The EOS R6, another newcomer in 2020, is the younger sibling of the EOS R5. I really think that Canon’s new mirrorless cameras stole the show in 2020. The EOS R5 offers the best of the best, but the EOS R6 is a fantastic body with only a few fewer features.

The biggest change is the downsizing of the sensor from 45MP to 20MP. Although, I think 20MP is plenty if you’re not doing excessive cropping. We also lose the 8K and 4K120p capabilities. But, the EOS R6 can still do 10-bit 4K60p internally, which’s better than Nikon’s Z6 II and Sony’s A7 III.

The AF system is similar to the R5 and is industry-leading. The R6 actually features better low light focusing than the R5. The super-speedy burst rates of 12 fps with the mechanical shutter and 20 fps with the electronic shutter are available with the R6 too.

Really, it comes down to resolution and video. If those two things are really important to you, it might be better to go with the R5, but if not, the R6 will be a workhorse for you.


#6 – Nikon Z6 II
Key Features

  • 24.5 MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
  • Dual EXPEED 6 Image Processors
  • UHD 4K30 Video; N-Log & 10-Bit HDMI Out
  • 14 fps Cont. Shooting, ISO 100-51200
  • 273-Point Phase-Detect AF System
  • 3.6m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 5-Axis In-Body Vibration Reduction
  • Dual Memory Card Slots

Just like the Nikon Z7 II, the main upgrades for the Nikon Z6 II lie in an updated image processor, an improved AF system, and dual card slots.

The Z6 II is a fantastic camera for Nikon shooters. It has great resolution, it’s faster than the Z7 II, it can do awesome video externally, and it now has dual card slots.

The Z6 originally released as Nikon’s hybrid camera. The Z6 II is one of the best stills mirrorless cameras out there for the price, but Canon has definitely crept past it with the R6 for video. The Z6II is promised a 4k60p update, but for the best 10-bit quality, you need an external recording.

But, the Z6 II is awesome. I’d like to see a fully articulating screen on these Z bodies in the future, but that’s trivial. If you want a do-it-all camera for landscape and wildlife. I think the Z6 II is a great choice.


#7 – Canon 1D X Mark III
Key Features

  • 20.1MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC X Image Processor
  • EOS iTR AF X 191-Point AF System
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF, 525 Selectable Areas
  • Up to 20 fps Shooting, ISO 100-102400
  • 4K60 10-Bit 4:2:2 Internal Recording
  • Canon Log and 5.5K Raw Video Support
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS
  • Dual CFexpress Memory Card Slots

2020 was quite the year for Canon. Huge announcements across the board, EOS R5, EOS R6, and an update to their flagship DSLR with the 1D X Mark III. It’s safe to wonder though if the new flagship Canon camera is the R5.

The 1D X Mark III is geared towards wildlife photographers. You will be hard-pressed to find a better AF system for moving subjects, plus it can hit 20 fps.

Canon kicked off the year with this one, but I think an important question is – why go with the 1D X when the EOS R5 is there? The R5 can do 20 fps, has an equally good AF system, has more resolution, and better video capabilities.

Yes, those Canon super primes you have won’t be native with the R5, but they will work great. I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments if you are going 1D X Mark III over the R5.


#8 – Nikon Z5
Key Features

  • 24.3MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processor
  • UHD 4K and Full HD Video Recording
  • 3.6m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 3.2″ 1.04m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD
  • 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Vibration Reduction
  • ISO 100-51200, Up to 4.5 fps Shooting
  • Built-In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Dual SD UHS-II Card Slots

The Nikon Z5 was a welcomed addition to Nikon’s Z line. It surprised a few of us but ended up slotting in really nicely with the current offerings. The Z5 is Nikon’s most affordable mirrorless full-frame camera. Its price point and features make it very valuable for users looking to take that step up to full-frame.

At first glance, the Z5 looks very similar to the Z6. But, the Z5 uses an FSI sensor versus a BSI, which means low light performance is better on the Z6. The Z6 also has a higher resolution LCD and more robust video features.

With that said, I’ll emphasize that the Z5 is the perfect transition camera to full-frame. It really is much more than that too, it’s one of the best cameras for the price.


#9 – Nikon D6
Key Features

  • 20.8MP FX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 6 Image Processor
  • Multi-CAM 37K 105-Pt. All Cross-Type AF
  • 14 fps Shooting, Extended ISO 3280000
  • 4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps
  • 3.2″ 2.36m-Dot Touchscreen LCD Monitor
  • .72x-Mag. Pentaprism Viewfinder
  • 180k-Pixel RGB Sensor and Group Area AF
  • Built-In Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS
  • 1000 Base-T Gigabit Wired LAN Support

Nikon also updated its flagship action DSLR for 2020. The Nikon D5 welcomed the new Nikon D6. Looking back, the D6 seems to be a little bit of a disappointment. For a price point of almost $7,000, the specs just seem lacking. The AF performance is excellent, yes, but only 14 fps and a few other limited features.

Just like with the 1D X Mark III. Is there a reason to spend this much on the D6 when you could buy a Canon R5 and use the extra money for lenses? Even the Z7 II is approaching this class for almost half the price. But, I think it’s important to note that we need some real-world tests with the new AF system on the Z7 II for a true comparison because the focus system on the D6 is top of the line.

I really don’t know the right answer. I think it will be interesting to see what Nikon and Canon do with their DSLR flagships, as they both seem keen on developing their mirrorless line.


#10 – Panasonic S5
Key Features

  • 24.2 MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • UHD 4K60 Video,10-Bit Internal Recording
  • V-Log, HDR, and Dual Native ISO
  • 2.36m-Dot 0.74x-Magnification OLED LVF
  • 3.0″ 1.84m-Dot Free-Angle Touchscreen
  • Contrast-Detect 225-Area DFD AF System
  • 5-Axis Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization
  • ISO 100-51200, Up to 7 fps Shooting
  • 96MP High-Res Mode, Dual SD Card Slots

Panasonic, along with Olympus, go a bit under the radar. Their MFT has slowly developed into offering some of the best bangs for the buck out there. Panasonic has also invested in its full-frame mirrorless line and has quietly developed some of the best hybrid cameras on the market.

The Panasonic S5 is new for 2020 and slots in around that $2,000 price range, making it a direct competitor to peers such as the Nikon Z6 II, the Canon EOS R6, and the Sony A7 III.

The S5 is a great camera. It offers excellent image quality to its peers. It even trounces the Z6 II and A7 III when it comes to internal video, but the big question with the S5 is its focus system. It solely relies on a Contrast-Detect system, where almost all other mirrorless cameras are using a hybrid system with contrast detection and phase detection.

It makes a huge difference, from my personal experience with all of these cameras, the Nikon, Canon, and Sony will have better AF systems. That’s a huge piece of the puzzle too. Now, the S5 features some of Panasonic’s best AF technology, so it’s still really good, but just not at the level of some of the other big players.

Matt Meisenheimer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com


Don’t miss the next session of BCJ Live!

Video for the Wildlife Photographer
with Russell Graves

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021
11 am – 12 pm Mountain Time

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.