The best digital camera 2018: which one should you buy?

What’s the best camera? Okay, we admit it – it’s an impossible question to answer, but we’ll do our best to make sure you end up buying the right camera for you. 

The camera world didn’t offer up a whole lot of big surprises in 2018. The trends that became clear in 2017 were taken to new heights, with big sensor mirrorless rigs taking center stage, putting medium format and full frame horsepower into ever smaller and lighter bodies.

Medium format: The big end of town

Fujifilm GFX 50R: compact medium format camera(Credit: Fujifilm)

Compact, mirrorless medium format rigs are on the rise, and if we thought the mighty Hasselblad X1D was compact, Fujifilm took it to the next level with the GFX 50R, a 51.4-megapixel G Format (43.8 x 32.9mm) sensor in a body about the size and shape of an old-school rangefinder. Lordy.

Fujifilm teased this GFX100Megapixel concept at Photokina(Credit: Loz Blain/New Atlas)

On the other end of the scale, Fujifilm also teased a high-end consumer grade MF rig with 100-megapixel resolution, for people who really like to burn through memory cards. Shown as a concept at Photokina 2018, the GFX100Megapixels concept will likely hit showrooms in 2019.

Hasselblad’s 400-megapixel H6D-400C MS(Credit: Hasselblad)

But if 100 megapixels sounds like high resolution, Hasselblad’s got news for you. The Swedish company’s H6D-400C MS might only have a 100-megapixel sensor, but that sensor moves around during a six-shot multi-shot sequence to produce images with a ludicrous 400-megapixel, or 23,200 x 17,400 pixel resolution. That means you could print something 77 x 58 inches at 300dpi, without duplicating a single dot.

Full Frame: The mirror apocalypse

Nikon’s Z6 and Z7 full-frame mirrorless cameras(Credit: Nikon)

If you’re a camera mirror, there will soon be nowhere left to hide; the world no longer wants you or your kind. Vastly late to the party, the two biggest names in DSLR cameras got with the picture in 2018. Nikon was first, announcing its Z6 and Z7 full-frame mirrorless rigs in August, along with a new range of Nikkor Z lenses and typically outstanding Sony sensors.

The Canon EOS R system(Credit: Canon)

Canon followed suit soon after with the EOS R system, and a new range of RF-mount lenses. Its first mirrorless camera is a 30-megapixel machine that can talk to EF-mount lenses via an adapter. But honestly, Nikon and Canon, we live in the age of the Sony a9, and thus we’re looking at the Z series and the EOS R series and shrugging. It feels like it’s only legacy lens collections that are keeping the two big fish in the game at this point.

Panasonic’s Lumix S series full-frame mirrorless cameras at Photokina(Credit: Loz Blain/New Atlas)

Panasonic also threw its hat in the ring at Photokina, announcing it’s moving into full frame mirrorless as well. We got a peek at the Lumix S series cameras at Photokina, and the first two models (in 47- and 24-megapixel flavors) will hit our desks early next year.

Action cams and 360-degree rigs

The GoPro Hero 7 Black(Credit: GoPro)

We roll these two together because they may well eventually end up being one and the same. GoPro made some decent strides with its Hero7 Black and its inbuilt “HyperSmooth” stabilization capabilities. It’s also waterproof even outside its case, and capable of live-streaming, automatic timelapse and voice commands.

The Insta360 One X in its throwable holder(Credit: Insta360)

On the other hand, Insta360 is coming at this space hard with a 5.7k 360-degree action cam that can do the job of two GoPros in certain situations, and has a few other tricks up its sleeve besides. The Insta360 One X tracks inertial motion while you shoot, so it can give you ultra-smooth FlowState stabilization in post, and throwing it around, combined with some nifty motion tracking capabilities, lets you get bullet time-like shots that have simply never been possible before.

The best of the rest

Nikon’s crazy Coolpix P1000 hyperzoom(Credit: Nikon)

Nikon’s new Coolpix P1000 took the whole hyperzoom thing up a notch with a ludicrous 125x zoom. Optically, it’s capable of going from a nice, wide 24mm equivalent all the way to 3,000mm. If you’re willing to sacrifice some image quality (which you are anyway, with the kinds of wacky glass you need for these monster zooms), you can get that all the way up to 12,000mm in digital zoom. Or, you know, walk a bit closer. That’s another option. What fun!

Sony’s RX100 VI compact camera(Credit: Sony)

Compact cameras are just about pointless given the quality of a good smartphone camera these days, but Sony had a great crack at making something relevant with its RX100 VI, released in June. This clever little cookie offers a superb 24-200mm equivalent zoom range – good for the vast majority of practical purposes – with its f/2.8-4.5 Zeiss lens. It also weighs next to nothing and has what Sony describes as the world’s fastest autofocus. But it costs US$1,200. So … yeah.

And there we have it, that’s really about all that caught our eye over the last 12 months. A meagre crop, perhaps, but it all seems to be moving in good directions, with vast amounts of firepower being crammed into smaller and more portable rigs every year. Happy snapping in 2019!