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Best professional camera

 

If you're shopping for a high-end professional or semi-pro camera, you've come to the right place! At Camera Labs I write in-depth reviews of cameras but understand you're busy people who sometimes just want recommendations of the most outstanding products. So here I'll cut to the chase and list the best professional DSLRs and mirrorless Compact System Cameras around right now.

On this page you'll find the best semi-pro and professional models. These are aimed at demanding enthusiasts or people for whom photography is a part or full-time profession. Typically these models will feature tough build often with some degree of weather sealing, fast handling and continuous shooting speeds, the best viewfinders and screens and a high degree of control and customization. They'll also be larger, heavier and more expensive than a mid-range model, and often lack the guidance and help of cheaper cameras, but if you take your photography very seriously or make your living from it, these are the models you should be looking at.

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Gordon's favourite semi-pro DSLR / system camera right now: Sony Alpha A7r

Sony Alpha A7r review

 

The semi-pro category is where the camera companies really get to pull out all the stops to deliver high-performance bodies which are a delight to use. Choosing one is however difficult as at this end of the market many photographers have specialist requirements. For sports I'd go for the Canon 1Dx or 7D, for pro video the EOS 5D Mark III remains tough to beat, for the highest resolution traditional DSLR go for the D800e, and for a great all-rounder there's the Olympus OMD EM1. But my personal pick right now as a landscape and travel photographer would be the Sony Alpha A7r. The focusing may be leisurely, there's no touch screen nor built-in IS, but the quality from this tiny body is unbeatable and while there's only a handful of native lenses, the opportunity to mount third party options without a crop is unparalleled. It's a game-changer for landscape, architecture and considered shooting.

Sony's Alpha A7r is the smallest and lightest mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses, AF and a full-frame sensor. Sony's gone all-out to impress with this camera which essentially delivers the same 36 Megapixel resolution as the Nikon D800e but from a body that's roughly similar in size to an Olympus OMD EM1. It's weather-sealed, features a large high quality viewfinder, tilting screen, 1080p movies, built-in Wifi and NFC, focus peaking, a 1/8000 shutter, microphone and headphone jacks and no fewer than four control dials. Sony's launched the A7r (and its lower resolution brother the A7) with five native lenses, but it can also use existing E-mount NEX lenses in a crop (or uncropped with vignetting) mode, and can exploit a vast array of third party lenses from the likes of Canon, Nikon and Leica via various adapters - and unlike other mirrorless cameras, it does so without a crop. There's no built-in IS, the AF is fairly leisurely, there's no touch controls and you have to shoot carefully to maximize the quality, but caveats aside it remains an amazing piece of kit at a very fair price.

Pros: Full-frame sensor; weather-sealed; great EVF; tilting screen; Wifi; peaking.
Cons: Leisurely AF and poor CAF. No touch controls. Screen not fully-articulated.
Overall: The World's smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless is very impressive.





Highly Recommended alternatives


Canon EOS 6D review

 

Canon's EOS 6D is the company's 'affordable' full-frame DSLR aimed at those upgrading from a mid-range camera, or looking for a backup for a pricier model. It features a new 20.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor packed into what Canon describes as the smallest and lightest full-frame DSLR to date - indeed it's roughly similar in size to the EOS 60D and only 15g heavier. The EOS 6D is equipped with the same movie modes as the EOS 5D Mark III, and also offers 4.5fps continuous shooting and an 11-point AF system which can operate in very low light levels. Most uniquely it becomes the first Canon DSLR to boast both GPS and Wifi built into the body, the former allowing location tagging and the latter offering wireless remote control with compatible smartphones and direct uploading of images to the internet. The AF and continuous shooting may not be ideally suited for action photography, but Canon's aiming the EOS 6D at landscape, travel and portrait photographers who'll appreciate its quality, size and connectivity. A great option for those upgrading to full-frame, but also consider the Nikon D610 below and the Sony A7 / A7r.

Pros: Great quality; AF in very low light; built-in Wifi and GPS; tough body.
Cons: Single SD slot; no built-in flash; limited number of AF points; not 100% v/f.
Overall: Canon's most affordable full-frame DSLR is its first with Wifi and GPS.




Nikon D610 review

 

The Nikon D610 is a 'budget' full-frame DSLR aimed at enthusiasts upgrading from mid-range models or pros looking for an affordable backup for a higher-end body. It's positioned roughly between the full-frame D800 (below) and the crop-format D7000 and combines many aspects of both. Along with a 24 Megapixel full-frame FX-format sensor, you get the 100% viewfinder coverage and 3.2in screen of the D800 in addition to most of its movie features including microphone and headphone jacks and uncompressed HDMI output; you also get the build and twin SD card slots of the D7000. The D610 also features a 39-point AF system, 5.5fps continuous shooting and a built-in flash, and supports the optional WU-1b for wireless remote control with compatible smartphones. Most important is the price: with the EOS 6D, it's the joint-cheapest new full-frame DSLR and brings this cropless factor to a wider audience than before. Great quality, features and value. What more could you want from a DSLR at this price-point? Do compare closely with the Canon 6D and Sony A7r / A7 though.

Pros: Superb quality, only out-resolved by the D800 and A7r. Great movie options.
Cons: Basic 3-frame bracketing. Lacks built-in Wifi and GPS of EOS 6D.
Overall: A more affordable version of the D800 with few compromises. A great DSLR.



Olympus OMD EM1 review

 

The OMD EM1 is the flagship mirrorless camera from Olympus, taking the concept of the original OMD EM5 and upgrading it in several important aspects. Like the EM5 it offers a fully weather-sealed body with a built in viewfinder, tilting touch-screen and highly effective built-in image stabilisation that works with any lens you attach. The body's been beefed up a little with a more comfortable grip and extra controls, but remains more portable than a DSLR of this class. Olympus has greatly upgraded the viewfinder size and resolution, added Wifi, doubled the maximum shutter to 1/8000 and offered interval timer facilities and focus peaking, albeit only for stills not movies. The sensor quality in RAW may be no different to the EM5 or indeed the Lumix GX7, but it's as good as any APS-C model and the addition of embedded phase detect AF points allow the EM1 to better focus continuously and support faster AF with older Four Thirds lenses, further expanding the 'native' selection. The video capabilities remain basic compared to Panasonic or Canon, but in every other respect the EM1 is a triumph and arguably one of the best all-rounders in this category.

Pros: Built-in IS, weather-sealed, superb EVF, Wifi, 1/8000, tilting screen, great lenses.
Cons: No built-in flash, no peaking or PDAF for movies, no panorama mode.
Overall: One of the most capable and enjoyable system cameras around right now.




Fujifilm XT1 review

 

The X-T1 is Fujifilm's sixth X-mount camera, but the arguably the first where all the company's goals and technologies come together in a truly coherent and desirable product. The XT1 takes everything good about the series so far, including a great quality sensor and retro controls, adds a huge viewfinder with clever display modes, a tilting screen, continuous autofocus that actually works and repackages the lot into the increasingly popular mini-DSLR form factor; the body also features built-in Wifi and as the icing on the cake is sealed against dust and inclement weather. The result is a very impressive camera that's a joy to use and delivers superb results. There are some downsides including basic AE bracketing, no 1/8000 shutter, no RAW at 100 ISO, the viewfinder becomes noisy in low light, and the face detection / single AF speed isn't as slick as some rivals. But it's testament to the things that work, that coupled with the small but excellent range of lenses makes the XT1 one of the most satisfying cameras at its price point, whether mirrorless or DSLR.

Pros: Superb quality, huge EVF, weather-sealed, good CAF, tilting screen, Wifi.
Cons: Basic AEB, no touch controls, no 1/8000, screen not fully-articulated.
Overall: One of the best cameras at its price. Compare with EM1.



Panasonic Lumix GH4 review

 

The GH4 is Panasonic's flagship camera, and like earlier GH models places equal importance to high-end video and stills photography. The headline feature is being record 4k video (either in the UHD or slightly wider Cinema 4K formats) internally to a sufficiently fast SD memory card; many rivals require exotic storage or external recorders. 1080p Full HD video is also well-catered for with bit rates up to 200Mbit/s and 96fps options for slow motion. Focus peaking, zebra patterns, timcode and adjustable luminance and master pedestal levels round-off the professional video features. The GH4 is also great for stills with a weatherproof body, wealth of customizable controls, fully-articulated touch-screen, high res EVF, fast 12fps continuous shooting and quick AF even in very low light. As you'd expect for the sensor size, the GH4 inevitably suffers from noise at high sensitivities, and while Panasonic has improved continuous AF, it's still not as confident as a hybrid system with PDAF assistance. But you if you can shoot at lower ISOs, you can't argue with a camera that can shoot ultra crisp 4k video for the money. For movie makers on a budget it's a game-changer.

Pros: 4k and great 1080p movie quality; pro video features; good handling for stills.
Cons: Noise at high sensitivities, especially for 4k video. CAF improved but not best.
Overall: A great all-rounder, but a game-changer for budget movie makers.




Canon EOS 5D Mark III review

 

The Canon EOS 5D Mark III is a highly satisfying all-round full-frame DSLR. It feels tough, handles quickly and delivers great-looking 22 Mpixel photos and 1080p video. Canon has pretty much addressed all the complaints of the Mark II and also included all the nice extras commonly offered by Nikon, like 100% viewfinder coverage, twin card slots, deep bracketing and an AF system packed with points. This is a camera which out-performs the Mark II on everything other than photo resolution, and in use feels a world-apart from its predecessor. In particular the video quality is a triumph and if this is your priority it remains the best choice even a couple of years after launch. It is the camera the Mark II always wanted to be - or arguably should have been. But it's also a lot more expensive and potential buyers should also consider the D800 or indeed the Mark II.

If you're building a system from scratch and pro video isn't a priority, then also consider the Sony A7 and A7r. If you desire 4k video, check out the Lumix GH4 above.

Pros: Great photo and superb video quality; powerful AF; 6fps.
Cons: No built-in flash, wifi, GPS, movie AF or flip-out screen.
Overall: A superb all-rounder, but detail fans may prefer D800 or A7r.



Nikon D800 review

 

Nikon's D800 is the highest resolution DSLR to date, boasting a 36 Megapixel full-frame sensor which delivers images jam-packed with fine detail. The D800 is about more than just resolution though: it'll also do 1080p video with mic and headphone jacks and clean HDMI output, it sports a 51-point AF system, 3.2in screen, 4fps shooting and unlike the Canon 5D Mark III, sports a popup flash which can also act as a wireless controller. And the icing on the cake? It's cheaper than the Mark III and there's even a D800E version for those who prefer to manage moire themselves. The Mark III is quicker and delivers better quality video, but the D800's detail is very seductive. Like the Mark III it's highly recommended, but if you don't need 36 Megapixels, also consider the more affordable D600 below. If you'd prefer 36 Megapixels in a smaller body, also consider the Sony Alpha A7r, above.

Pros: Incredible detail. Superb ergonomics and handling.
Cons: 'Only' 4fps in FX mode. Some moire in video.
Overall: Top-end photos, but video fans may prefer 5D3. D600 & A7r also tempting.





Canon EOS 7D review

 


Canon's EOS 7D is an ageing but still compelling 18 Megapixel cropped-frame DSLR. The 7D boasts a viewfinder with 100% coverage and LCD graphics, 8fps continuous shooting, a fast 19-point AF system with zoning, built-in wireless flash control and a metering system which takes colour information into account. The body is also tough, which all adds up to one of the most confident DSLRs on the market at this price. It may be a few years old, but remains a fantastic and quick DSLR for those who don't need or can't afford either a full-frame or pro sports model. Do compare the feature-set closely with the newer EOS 70D in my mid-range camera buyer's guide though as it may end up being better for you.

Pros: Tough build, big viewfinder, HD video, zonable 19-point AF.
Cons: Needs a good lens to exploit resolution. Basic 3-frame AEB.
Overall: Pro sports performance at a lower-semi-pro price.


     
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