Nikon is a popular brand among photographers, known for producing high-quality cameras with advanced features. Choosing the right camera is essential for achieving excellent results in photography. In this article, we will discuss the best Nikon cameras for photography, taking into consideration different factors such as budget, shooting style, type of photography, and level of experience.
Are you a landscape photographer, a wildlife photographer or a portrait/wedding photographer? Whatever your budget may be, there is likely a Nikon camera that is an excellent choice for your photography.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Nikon Camera for Photography
Before selecting a Nikon camera, it is crucial to consider various factors that affect the type of camera that will best suit your needs. The first factor is the budget. Nikon offers cameras at different price points, and in fact, it is one of the best brands at spreading its range from some of the best entry-level options all the way to high-end flagships. Either way, it is essential to find one that fits your budget.
Photographic and creative style are other crucial factors. Some photographers prefer DSLR cameras, while others prefer mirrorless cameras. (Remember, this article is for those whose focus is photography; for video, we do acknowledge the many advantages of mirrorless!)
The actual subject of your photography is also a significant factor; different cameras are suited for various types of photography. (Action sports will require a faster camera, for example, whereas photographing a landscape on vacation may not.)
Finally, the level of experience also matters, as some cameras are more advanced and require a higher skill level to operate. Many, of course, are very user-friendly, which is again one reason why we love to recommend Nikon in general: Even if you want to buy an advanced camera and “grow into it”, you’ll find it is very easy to get familiar with a Nikon camera.
Best Mirrorless Nikon Cameras for Photography
Nikon Z9 ($5,496)
Nikon’s current flagship camera is revolutionary, and we don’t use that word lightly! It is blazing-fast, offering 20 frames per second (FPS) when shooting 45-megapixel raw photos, and 30 FPS when shooting 45-megapixel JPGs. Here’s the truly impressive part: the Z9 achieves a staggering 120 FPS when capturing 11-megapixel JPGs.
It achieves this speed by completely foregoing a mechanical shutter; the shutter speeds (which soar up to 1/32000 sec, and go as slow as 900 sec) are all electronic. It is Nikon’s only full-body flagship pro camera, with a built-in vertical grip and added buttons & dials for vertical orientation photos such as portraits.
Offering 45 megapixels means that it isn’t just a high-speed action camera, though. Its resolution and base ISO of 64 mean it is one of the best all-around professional cameras on the market; just as capable for traditional landscape photography as it is for high-speed action.
Pros: High-resolution sensor, in-body image stabilization, fast autofocus, tilting touchscreen, and high-resolution electronic viewfinder.
Cons: Expensive, rather large & heavy compared to all other Nikons.
Recommended for: Primarily action sports & wildlife photography, but also well-rounded for all types of professional work.
The Nikon Z7 II is a full-frame mirrorless camera with an excellent 45.7-megapixel sensor, in-body image stabilization, and fast autofocus. This camera is versatile and well-suited for a variety of photography genres. The Z7 II is smaller and lighter than its DSLR ancestor, the D850, making it easier to carry around for travels and adventures.
It also features a tilting touchscreen and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. The camera’s autofocus system is fast and accurate, making it easy to capture sharp images of moving subjects.
Pros: High-resolution sensor, incredible dynamic range with ISO 64, in-body image stabilization, fast autofocus, smaller and lighter than the D850, tilting touchscreen.
Cons: Expensive, autofocus slightly less high-performance than Z9.
Recommended for: Versatile and suitable for a variety of photography genres. Especially adept at landscape, nature, & wildlife photography.
The “little sibling” to the Nikon Z7 II is, of course, the Nikon Z6 II. Imagine the Nikon Z7 II but with a 24-megapixel sensor instead of 45. For most photographers, of course, 24 megapixels has proven to be the “sweet spot”, making this an excellent choice for all types of casual and professional photography.
We especially love this camera for work as wedding photographers, where a single day of work can involve capturing literally thousands of frames, filling up memory cards very fast. (Another advantage of almost all Nikon cameras: You can use 12-bit NEF files, and lossy compression, to save on space with virtually zero visible loss of image quality. If you capture tens of thousands of photos for your work every month/quarter, get a Nikon Z6 II!)
Pros: Excellent image quality, in-body image stabilization, fast autofocus, compact & durable body (identical to Z7 II).
Cons: Resolution considered “modest” for large printmaking, autofocus slightly less high-performance than Z9.
Recommended for: Versatile and suitable for all types of photography. Particularly well-suited for hard-working professionals who capture higher volumes of images and want to keep storage costs down.
The Nikon Z5 is, quite simply, the best entry-level full-frame camera we have ever seen, even across all camera brands! With a shockingly affordable price tag of $1,096, and sometimes a sale/rebate price under $1K, you just can’t beat its overall value.
The main compromises you make by opting for such an affordable camera have to do with the video specs (which we assume you’re not that concerned with; it does 4K though!) …and for high-speed action.
Simply put, the Nikon Z5 is a bit slow, however, its sensor delivers incredible image quality and its body is built just as ruggedly as the Z6 II. This makes it a perfect camera for many photographers, though not all. If you do a lot of high-speed action work, consider the Z6 II, otherwise, the Z5 is an incredible full-frame mirrorless camera.
Pros: Incredible value, excellent image quality, in-body stabilization, dual card slots, compact & durable body.
Cons: Slightly slower than Z6/Z7 options, slightly different control layout.
Recommended for: All types of casual, everyday, and other types of photography from travel & landscapes to portraits & weddings.
The Nikon Z50 is a compact and lightweight DX-series (crop sensor) mirrorless camera with a 20.9-megapixel sensor, fast autofocus, and great low-light performance. This camera is an excellent choice for casual, candid photography, as well as travel, landscape, and portraiture.
The Z50 features a tilting touchscreen and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder, making it easy to compose shots from different angles. It is also compatible with Nikon’s DX-format lenses, making it a versatile camera that offers more value for those on a tighter budget.
Pros: Compact and lightweight, fast autofocus, good low-light performance, tilting touchscreen.
Cons: Only has one memory card slot, and battery life could be better.
Recommended for: Casual, travel and candid/street photography.
Best Nikon DSLR Cameras for Photography
Nikon’s DSLRs are still legendary, even with mirrorless technology beginning to take over the market in recent years. There is a lot to love about an optical viewfinder, because when you raise one of these cameras to your eye, you’re still looking through a prism at the real world.
Some photographers consider this an advantage, while others will consider this a drawback. (The optical viewfinder, that is) The only way to know for yourself is to pick one up and try it for yourself!
One added benefit of choosing a Nikon DSLR is that since all of these models are quite a few years old now, they offer excellent value. If you’re willing to shop used, you can often find a truly shocking value on a camera that will still last you a lifetime.
Nikon D850 ($2,796)
The Nikon D850 is a full-frame DSLR camera with a 45.7-megapixel sensor, a fast autofocus system, and impressive dynamic range. (This sensor is very similar to the Nikon Z7 II!) This camera is ideal for landscape, portrait, and wildlife photography.
The D850 is well-built and has a weather-sealed body, making it durable and optimized for outdoor photography in tough conditions. The optical viewfinder and the lack of sensor stabilization mean that battery life is another incredible advantage compared to mirrorless cameras.
It also features a tilting touchscreen, and the optical viewfinder is beautiful to experience, making it easy to operate in challenging shooting situations. The camera’s autofocus system is fast and accurate, allowing photographers to capture sharp images of moving subjects.
Pros: High-resolution sensor, fast autofocus system, impressive dynamic range, and extremely rugged, durable body.
Cons: Expensive, large and heavy, and only has one XQD card slot, (second card slot is SD) no sensor-based stabilization.
Recommended for: Landscape, wildlife, and portrait & wedding photography.
Nikon D780 ($2,196)
Nikon’s D780 is a fully professional DSLR, in a slightly more affordable package. If you’re looking for one of the best values in full-frame digital cameras, then the Nikon D780 is equivalent to a mirrorless Nikon Z6 II, but with an optical viewfinder. As one of the newest Nikon DSLRs, its features are as cutting-edge as possible.
Pros: Excellent 24-megapixel image sensor, rugged, durable body, dual card slots
Cons: More expensive than other entry-level full-frame cameras, no sensor-based stabilization.
Recommended for: Versatile and suitable for all types of photography, especially those who simply want an optical viewfinder experience.
Nikon D7500 ($996)
The Nikon D7500 is an excellent all-around DSLR camera with a 20.9-megapixel sensor, fast autofocus, and impressive low-light performance. This camera is an excellent choice for all types of photography from sports and wildlife, to portraiture, landscapes, and travel.
The D7500 features a weather-sealed body, making it durable in the long term. It also has a tilting touchscreen and a decently large optical viewfinder. The camera’s autofocus system is fast and accurate, making it easy to capture sharp images of moving subjects.
Pros: Fast autofocus, impressive low-light performance, weather-sealed body, tilting touchscreen, good value.
Cons: Only has one memory card slot, and the buffer can fill up quickly when shooting in burst mode. (The slightly older Nikon D7200 has dual card slots, but for professional work, we recommend upgrading to an FX (full-frame) camera anyways.)
Recommended for: general photography, especially those who simply want an optical viewfinder experience.
Nikon D500 ($2,699 w/lens)
The Nikon D500 is a flagship DX-format DSLR camera designed for action and wildlife photography. It features a fast autofocus system, high frame rate, and a weather-sealed body. The D500 has a 20.9-megapixel sensor and can shoot up to 10 frames per second.
The DX sensor (1.5x crop) with a professional (D850 style) body makes this camera a top choice for telephoto work, tracking high-speed subjects such as action sports or birds/wildlife.
Pros: Fast autofocus system, high frame rate, professional, weather-sealed body, tilting touchscreen, dual card slots. (Only one is high-speed XQD)
Cons: Expensive, large, and heavy. Lacks in-body stabilization.
Note: The Nikon D500 is now a discontinued camera, however, it is still one of the best DSLRs ever made! Nikon will likely continue to service it for the foreseeable future, as it is one of their top-tier pro cameras, and the value is incredible: lightly used copies of this professional camera can sell for under $1,200!)
Recommended for: Action sports and wildlife photography, professional work.
Conclusion | Best Nikon Cameras For Photography
Choosing the best Nikon camera for photography depends on your specific needs and preferences. The Nikon D850, Z7 II, D7500, Z50, and D500 are all great options, each with its unique features and capabilities. Consider factors such as your budget, shooting style, type of photography, and level of experience before making a purchase. With the right camera, you can achieve excellent results in photography and capture beautiful images that will last a lifetime.