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10 Next-Level Cameras Way Better Than Your Smartphone

Don't get caught fumbling with your phone while you miss the perfect shot.

Anyone can just take a picture. A photographer makes an image. Today's phone cameras are amazing, but they're not without limitations. When you find yourself wanting more control, like the ability to zoom in from a distance, shoot fast-moving sports, or make wall-sized prints, it's time to consider a dedicated camera. And if you're concerned that there is too much involved in learning how to use one effectively, rest assured that with a little practice, you'll be hooked and continue to enjoy a hobby that lasts a lifetime. To get the most out of a camera, though, it pays to understand the fundamentals of photography.

Fujifilm X-T2: For the Enthusiast and Street Photographer

fujifilm digital cameras

$1,899; buy now at

The X-T2 mirrorless camera features interchangeable Fujifilm X mount lenses and comes equipped with a 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor. Fuji cameras produce gorgeous images, even in low light. Capture fast action at up to 8 frames-per-second with full autofocus tracking, or at up to 14 frames-per-second using the silent electronic shutter. Packed with Ultra High Definition 4K video recording complete with Fuji's array of film simulations for both photo and video. For the best deal, go for the body and lens kit with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

Nikon D500: Perfect for Aspiring Action Photographers

nikon digital cameras

Bundled with the DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E lens kit for $2,497, or $1,945 for the body only; buy now at

From Nikon's DX-format DSLR line comes this robust, tough-as-nails, compact action camera, understudy to the pro-level FX line. Equipped with a 20.9-megapixel sensor, it excels for both still and video shooters with fast, ten frames-per-second continuous capability along with 4K UHD video recording. The unique sensor and processor combination delivers an astonishing 164,0000 ISO rating permitting shooting in virtual darkness.

It features a 153-point autofocus system for fast performance and accurate subject tracking. An articulating LCD touchscreen allows for comfortable shooting from high and low angles. It comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless image sharing. Its rugged magnesium alloy chassis is both dust- and weather-sealed for intrepid adventure travelers.

Fujifilm X100F: Compact and Simple for the Travel Photographer

digital cameras

$1299; buy now at

The retro-styled compact X100F recalls the classic Leica M cameras of decades past. With a fixed-focal length 35mm equivalent f/2.0 lens, the small Fuji is for photographers who enjoy a weightier feel in their hands with the simple, manual, external controls of traditional 35mm rangefinder cameras. Its advanced 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor captures high-resolution still images and video even in low-light situations. Quick, accurate auto-focusing, fast shooting speeds, and compact size make this handsome gadget a faithful travel companion.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 II: High Performance In a Small Package

olympus digital cameras

$657; buy now at

Another classic-inspired camera, the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds fixed-lens body with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens. Capable of refined still captures and movie recording capabilities in nearly any situation, its 16.1-megapixels can fire at up to 8.5 frames per second. It also packs full high-def 1080p/60 video with impressive low-light performance. In-camera image stabilization compensates for up to 4 stops of camera shake, and its contrast-detection autofocus system features dedicated subject tracking modes.

A variety of shooting functions includes Silent Mode, which utilizes an electronic shutter for perfectly quiet image captures up to 1/16,000 of a second. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to pair the camera with your smartphone or tablet for wireless sharing and remote camera control, and the interval shooting mode can be used to produce in-camera 4K time lapse movies.

Pentax K-S2: Budget-conscious Sophistication and Flexibility

digital cameras

$499; buy now at

The compact, rugged, K-mount K-S2 Digital Single Lens Reflex with 18-50mm f/4.0-5.6 zoom lens features a 20.1-megapixel APS-C sensor in a weather-resistant body, ideal for active-lifestyle shooters who want versatility in a lightweight package. Built-in Wi-Fi allows wireless image transfer and camera control with your mobile device. Its Sensor-Shift image stabilization limits the camera shake that results from slower shutter speeds, as well as full HD 1080p video recording at up to 30 frames per second.

Enhanced image capture comes courtesy of high-speed auto-focusing, and extreme angles simplified by a variable-angle swing-out LCD monitor for reviewing and composing images. With a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000 second and continuous shooting rates of up to 5.5 frames per second, the K-S2 features advanced HDR and clarity enhancement modes for even more detailed and cleaner photographs with maximized dynamic range. Compatibility with Eye-Fi wireless flash memory cards makes sharing self-portraits captured with the selfie-button a snap.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500: The Point-and-Shoot That Does Everything Well

panasonic digital cameras

$1,198; buy now at

A favorite take-along camera among professionals, the Lumix DMC-FZ2500 boasts a mix of advanced photographic capabilities, starting with its far-reaching super-telephoto Leica Vario-Elmarit f/2.8-4.5 zoom lens. With state-of-the-art sharpness delivering stunning results over an incredible 24-480mm equivalent zoom range, it's paired with an outstanding 20.1-megapixel, high-sensitivity sensor providing top-notch video performance, including 4K format, with professional grading capability.

The built-in neutral density filter allows shooting wide-open apertures in bright light for capturing images with creamy depth of field. With creative control modes—including panorama and focus-stacking—too numerous to mention, the possibilities for making extraordinary images with the Lumix are infinite.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500: The Point-and-Shoot That Does Everything Well

panasonic digital cameras

$1,098; buy now at

The Alpha a7 is a full-frame (equivalent to 35mm film; APS-C and micro four-thirds cameras use smaller 'cropped' sensors) mirrorless body that can be fitted with interchangeable Sony lenses or compatible third-party brands. At 24.3-megapixels, high resolution, richly detailed images—even in low light—are effortless. The enhanced Hybrid Autofocus system combines a 117-point phase-detection autofocus system delivers speed and accuracy for capturing the decisive moment.

Sony's amazing Eye AF Control offers precise eye-detection that place focus directly on the subject's eye, even when partially turned away. Complete with full-feature video and audio capability, all Wi-Fi enabled for easy image transfer and remote control from smartphones and tablets. Go for the Alpha a7 kit which includes the new FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 optical SteadyShot E-mount lens. This wide-to-portrait zoom incorporates image stabilization for shooting at low shutter speeds.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i: Perfect for Emerging Photographers and Videographers

canon digital cameras

$749; buy now at

Loaded with a high-resolution 24.2-megapixel sensor, the compact T6i DSLR punches above its weight class, delivering pro-grade stills and video. With Canon's versatile 18-55mm standard zoom lens it's ready for everything from bright sunlight to dim nighttime settings. Wi-Fi connectivity allows for wireless transfer of images and video to social networks and cloud storage via the Camera Connect mobile app, with Near Field Connectivity enabling fast connections to mobile devices.

The Movie Servo auto-focus mode allows for smooth and silent continuous AF in video mode when paired with an STM-designated lens, Canon's Stepper Motor technology designed specifically for video shooting. The T6i is a full-frame camera ideal for low-budget filmmaking, travel, and photojournalism, and compatible with Canon's excellent full line of specialty prime and zoom lenses.

Nikon D610: Perfect for the Enthusiastic Beginner

nikon digital cameras

$1,997; buy now at

The D610 occupies the sweet spot between entry-level full frame DSLRs and professional outfits like Canon's 5D Mark III and Nikon's D810—even outperforms those bad boys with a faster burst rate and a much lower price barrier for entering full-frame professional-level DSLR photography. It features an FX-format 24.3-megapixel sensor for high-resolution stills and full HD 1080p video with magnificent image detail and impressive low-light sensitivity with wide dynamic range for smooth color and tonal gradations.

With a continuous shooting rate of 6 frames per second and a quiet shooting mode that allows sequential recording minus the prism mirror slap. Get the kit including the superb Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR (Vibration Reduction), wide-angle to portrait-length zoom lens.

Leica Q: For Those Who Want the Very Best

leica digital cameras

$4,250; buy now at

Considered one of the best compact travel cameras ever, the no-compromise Leica Q (Typ 116) sports a full-frame 24.2-megapixel sensor within its portable, exquisitely designed body. Powered by the Leica Maestro II series image processor, you can fire away professional-grade images at the blazing rate of 10 frames per second.

The camera features that oh-so-special Leica glass, in this case, a fixed Summilux 28mm f/1.7 lens that, when used wide-open, allows for dramatic separation of subjects from the background. Its electronic viewfinder is class-leading with live through-the-lens viewing in addition to fully manual controls using the aperture and focus rings on the lens. Auto focus is instantly available at the click of the shutter or via touchscreen LCD monitor by tapping on the subject. Image sharing is simple with the integrated Wi-Fi module.

The Q also features an NFC chip for tap-to-connect functionality with compatible devices and the free Leica Q app lets you take remote control of the camera for adjusting exposure while shooting from extreme angles. The Leica Q's intuitive, minimal design, compact form, and leading-edge technology conspire to produce optimal image quality, which all make you look good.

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