Best All-Around Interchangeable Lens Cameras

This category skips over quite a few models. In between the small interchangeable lens cameras and the cream-of-the-crop to-end cameras from each brand—e.g. Canon 1DX m2, Nikon D5, Sony A9 m2—live dozens of competent cameras. My belief is that most of you are going to choose in that intermediary group based upon your camera history or on price. I would suggest that you choose the best-all-around camera instead, particularly if its within the brand you already own.

The following two great all-around cameras are what I currently consider the best choices for most people these days, the cameras you should be thinking about if you're truly serious about photography and want a well-rounded camera that can do any task you throw at it. Both of my choices can shoot sports and wildlife, events, landscape, portraits, studio, street, and more, and not leave you wanting.

So, let's get to my top two all-around camera choices:

bythom nikon d850

  1. The Nikon D850 is still, more than two years after it was introduced, the best all-around interchangeable lens camera you can buy, in my opinion. I've used it for landscape, nature, wildlife, sports, event, and pretty much every type of photography there is at one point or another. It's proven strong at every one of those things (though you might need a battery grip like the Vello BG-N19-2 and a D5 battery if you need top frame rates for sports). 

    Couple the D850 with the right lens and it will net you images that are state-of-the-art and print very big. It's rugged enough to take a fair amount of abuse. It has Nikon's excellent handling and ergonomics. At base ISO the 45mp sensor is a dynamic range champ when pushed just right, and even at higher ISO values when you compare same sized output to other full frame cameras, it holds up well against even the so-called low light cameras.

    Nikon Z7 gets an honorable mention here. The Z7 is "most" of a D850 in a mirrorless body that leads you to the future. Wildlife and sports shooters are taking a slight step backwards picking the Z7 over the D850.
bythom sony a7riii
  1. Second on my all-around list is the Sony A7R Mark...wait for it...wait for it...III. Yes, I wrote III and not IV. This is a really, really tough choice. If ergonomics are the only thing holding you back from Sony, then you really have to opt for the Mark IV, which fixes so many of the small ergonomic problems of the Mark III. I agonized over this choice for a couple of reasons. First, there's the huge implied discount on the older model over the newer one (note: that may vary by the time you read this, but as I wrote this the difference was US$1000). Yes, price factors into "best all-around." 

    But here are the other things that held me back from saying Mark IV over Mark III for most people: (1) Sony's inefficient file sizes really start piling up storage needs at 60mp; (2) the 60mp sensor is only a 29% resolution increase and that's really tough to take advantage of due to lenses, diffraction, and camera handling; (3) the firmware updates to the Mark III really fixed a number of small handling and performance issues that the model originally had, and upped its autofocus performance, too; and (4) are you really going to output beyond 24" prints? If not, then #1 and #2 are going to make you less and less happy over time.

    Personally, I agonized over this decision myself and went the other way (kept the IV and sold my III). For what I use the A7R models for—which is mostly landscape and travel at this point, and not "all around"—the Mark IV just seemed like the right choice for me. You can't go far wrong with either model, though. 

    One thing to note is that the A7R bodies are smaller than the D850 body. But when you start comparing apples-to-apples in lenses, you don't really tend to save any significant size in many Sony FE lenses over equivalent Nikon F mount lenses. So be careful of how you judge that size/weight factor.

What, no Canon? No Olympus? No Pentax? 

As I noted, there are a lot of cameras between the small interchangeable lens cameras I recommend and the all-around best cameras I recommend. Tons of them. What I've found is that most people tend to stay within brand in this range, and they have plenty of choices both in and out of brand to consider. So a long-time Canon user might gravitate automatically towards a 5D m4, for example. Unfortunately, I simply don't consider the 5D m4 at the same level as the Nikon and Sony mentioned above, though. This is a recommended list, after all. 

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