Best Sony camera 2019: from pocket-friendly premium compact cameras to pro-level mirrorless

How to choose and buy the best camera from Sony’s line-up of brilliant cameras

Best Sony camera 2019
(Image credit: Sony)

If you’re ready to make the leap from a standalone camera, Sony is one of the most innovative and exciting camera brands at the moment. 

The electronics giant has been a bit of a disruptor in a market which was once dominated by Canon and Nikon. It made big inroads into mirrorless at a time when others were failing to catch on - now they’re all at it. 

But it’s not just mirrorless cameras where Sony is a pioneer. It also makes some wonderful premium compact cameras which are packed with class-leading technology and can help you get the shots you need.

What kind of cameras do Sony sell?

Over the years, Sony has made and sold many different kinds of cameras. As we’re seeing pretty much with every brand, it has streamlined its output a little in recent years to offer an easier to understand line-up.

Although now often seen as a mirrorless pioneer, Sony once made DSLRS, before moving on to what it called “DSLTs” (the T stood for translucent - the cameras had a non-moving mirror which would let the light through). Lately though, Sony hasn’t released any new DSLRs or DSLTs, so although they are still supported by the company, you won’t see them on our list. 

What the company majors in right now is full-frame mirrorless cameras in its A7 and A9 range. It also has some mirrorless APS-C models which make for great options for enthusiasts and beginners. 

In the compact camera sector, Sony has some very interesting options. It’s pocket-friendly RX100 series was a pioneer when it came to introducing a larger than average one-inch sensor into a small body. Now there’s lots of competition from Panasonic and Canon - but Sony once had this market all to itself (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all).

Sony also manufactures other intriguing models in the RX range. The latest RX10 - the Mark IV - is an interesting “bridge” type model, but offering far higher quality than you’d normally expect from this sector of the market. There’s also the RX1R II which is technically a compact camera, but features a huge full-frame sensor.

How to buy the best Sony camera

As with all camera-buying decisions, the best way to choose which type of camera you need is to think about what kind of photographer you are.

If you’re looking for a camera to take with you on a trip of a lifetime, Sony has got some fantastic options here. The Sony RX10 IV gives you a huge zoom range to work with, without the hassle of having to change lenses. If you want to grab something that you can stuff in a pocket, you won’t go far wrong with the RX100 VII (if you can stretch to the asking price - look out for older models to save cash).

Maybe you’re making your first steps into the world of “proper” photography and want your very first interchangeable lens camera. Sony has an extensive range, here too. The a6000 is a relatively old model now, but represents fantastic value for money if you’re after a camera to learn with but don’t have a huge budget to work with. 

If you’re a little bit more serious and perhaps class yourself as an enthusiast, the a6500 is a wonderful choice. It can handle a wide range of different subjects, so it’s well suited to those who like to photograph lots of different things. If you’re keen to go full-frame, the Sony A7 III is a great first full-frame camera, offering a huge amount for the price.

Finally, if you’re a working photographer and your heads have been turned by the other stunning A7 and A9 range of cameras, there’s still some thinking to do. If you want the best of the best, the Sony A9 is a professional level camera - but it comes with a price tag to match. 

Meanwhile, the newly announced Sony A7R IV offers a huge amount - a very high resolution sensor (the highest on the market), as well as a pretty decent frame rate and the ability to record 4K.

Best Sony camera: Sony A7R IV

(Image credit: Sony)

Best overall Sony camera: Sony A7R IV

High resolution and fast shooting - quite possibly the perfect “do all” camera

Specifications
Sensor: 61MP full-frame Exmor R CMOS
Mount: FE
Video: 4K
Frame Rate: 10fps
Battery Life: 530
Memory Card(s): 2xSD UHS-II
Reasons to buy
+Highest resolution in class+Respectable frame-rate+Dual fast SD card slots
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Screen only tilts -Convoluted Sony menu system

Although not on sale at the time of writing, early reviews of Sony’s powerful A7R VI suggest it could be one of Sony’s best ever cameras. It packs a 61-megapixel full-frame sensor (the highest of any mirrorless) into a typically small and compact Sony A7 body. 

Normally when you go for such a high resolution, you have to sacrifice frame rates. Although 10fps isn’t as blistering fast as what the A9 can achieve, at 10fps, it’s pretty respectable and should still suit many sports and action scenarios. 

That makes the A7R IV well suited for photographers who like to shoot a bit of everything. Landscapes - tick, portraits - tick, sport - tick, there’s not a whole lot that is not suited to this camera. 

The high price of £3,500 may sound like a lot, but considering what you get for your money - and what £3,500 would have bought you just a few years ago - it’s actually arguably fantastic value for money.

Best Sony camera: Sony A6000

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony camera for beginners: Sony A6000

A couple of generations old, but fantastic value for learners

Specifications
Sensor: 24.3MP APS-C CMOS
Mount: E
Video: Full HD
Frame Rate: 11fps
Battery Life: 360 shots
Memory Card(s): 1xSD
Reasons to buy
+Good value +Fast hybrid autofocus+Great range of E-mount lenses
Reasons to avoid
-Older tech -Limited battery life -No 4K video

Although now a few years old, the A6000 stays in our list for offering a set of fantastic features for beginners, without the downside of a super-hefty price tag. 

Pick it up for less than £500 including a kit lens and you’ll have a very capable compact system camera with which to learn your craft. Despite being a little older, it still boasts a high-resolution sensor, a decent built-in electronic viewfinder and a decent frame rate of 11fps.

Sony’s APS-C E-mount cameras have been on the market long enough now to be supported by a fantastic ecosystem now, with lots of different lenses to upgrade to when you feel it’s time to move on and expand your horizons.

If you have a little more money to spend, take a look at the a6300, a6400 and even the a6500, but if you’re looking to save cash, the a6000 shouldn’t disappoint.

Best Sony camera: Sony RX1R II

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony camera for size: Sony RX1R II

A niche camera that crams the best technology into a highly portable size

Specifications
Sensor: 42.4MP full-frame CMOS
Lens: Fixed 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens
Video: Full HD
Frame Rate: 5fps
Battery Life: 220 shots
Memory Card(s): 1xSD
Reasons to buy
+Full frame in a small body +Great handling +Great viewfinder
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No 4K-Limited battery life

The RX1R II is a bit of a strange beast. It marries a full-frame sensor with a portable body and a fixed 35mm f/2 lens. In many ways it’s the ideal street photography camera, but it also has its uses for landscape, travel, and just as an everyday “walkaround” camera.

Trouble is though, putting a full-frame sensor and high-performing lens in a body like is an expensive business - you won’t find the RX1R for less than £3,500, which is no small change for what is essentially a niche camera. 

There are other problems too - such as a fairly limited battery life (buy a spare), and the lack of 4K video recording. So why are we recommending it here? Well, with its 42.4 megapixel sensor, it produces images which are drop-dead gorgeous. 

Plus it’s bloody nice to use, too. With manual controls and a small body - it’s a joy to walk around and use a camera like this. If you truly want something small(ish) but don’t want to sacrifice quality - this is the one for you.

Best Sony camera: Sony RX10 IV

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony camera for travel: Sony RX10 IV

An expensive bridge camera that is ideal for travel - especially safaris

Specifications
Sensor: 20.1 MP one-inch stacked Exmor RS CMOS
Lens: 25x optical zoom (24-600mm equivalent, f/2.4-4)
Video: 4K
Frame Rate: 24fps
Battery Life: 400
Memory Card(s): SD
Reasons to buy
+Great zoom range+Good handling+Fast frame rate
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Fairly bulky -Touchscreen could be better

If you’re looking for a great camera to take on your travels - and don’t want the hassle of changing lenses (nor have the luggage space), then the RX10 IV could be just the ticket. 

With its 25x optical zoom - giving you an equivalent of 24-600mm - it’s fantastic for safaris, while having a wide aperture of f/4 even at that furthest reach is quite impressive too. 

Boosting its action credentials is 24fps shooting, meaning it’s almost impossible not to get at least one shot you want, while 4K video is the cherry on the cake. 

So what’s the downside? Well - it’s the price. The camera won’t leave you much change from £2000, but it will do everything but take the picture for you - so perhaps it’s good value?

Best Sony camera: Sony RX100 VII

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony compact camera: Sony RX100 VII

Professional features in a pocket-friendly marvel - but with a price tag to match

Specifications
Sensor: 20.1 MP 1-inch Exmor RS CMOS
Lens: 8.3x optical zoom (24-200mm equivalent), f/2.8-4.5
Video: 4K
Frame Rate: 20fps
Battery Life: 260 shots
Memory Card(s): 1xSD
Reasons to buy
+Great for vlogging +Class-leading tech+Flexible zoom length
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly operation -Limited battery life -Enormous asking price

It’s hard to believe that the RX100 series is already in its seventh iteration, but here we are. Often used as Sony’s “look what we can do” model, the RX100 distils all of Sony’s best technology into something that fits neatly in your jeans pocket. 

For the RX100 VII, some new features include a mic-input for the benefit of vloggers, as well improved video stabilisation and Movie Eye AF. For stills shooters, there remains the very flexible 8.3x optical zoom lens, plus 20fps shooting for action shots.

You do really pay a premium for the latest RX100 model, with the VII setting you back around £1200. The good news is though that every time a new version is released, it pushes down the cost of the older ones. 

If you don’t need all that video jazz, the RX100 VI will see you right, while if you don’t care about zoom, the even older RX100 V and IV are still cracking cameras in their own right.

Best Sony camera: Sony A9

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony camera for experts: Sony A9

A superb all-rounder for professionals who can’t afford to miss a shot

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2 full-frame stacked CMOS
Mount: FE
Video: 4K
Frame Rate: 20fps
Battery Life: 480 shots
Memory Card(s): 2xSD UHS-II
Reasons to buy
+Super fast, silent shooting+Great image quality +Flip-up screen
Reasons to avoid
-High price-Limited battery life -Hard to balance body with large professional lenses

Sony’s professional level camera is designed for speed. Being able to shoot at 20fps, completely silently and blackout free, is fantastic news for professional news, sports and action photographers - with obvious benefits for wildlife photographers too. 

If none of those are your bag, the A9 excels elsewhere too, with a great sensor producing fantastic images and video. The flip-up screen helps you to frame those awkward shots, but the relatively small body of the A9 can sometimes lead to a feeling of imbalance when working with longer lenses. 

Other specifications of note to high-level photographers include a 693-point focusing system which just about nails every single shot, a high resolution electronic viewfinder and double UHS-II SD card slots. The only major downside is battery life - but if you’re a pro, adding a second battery to your shopping cart likely won’t be too much of an ask.

Best Sony camera: Sony A7 III

(Image credit: Sony)

Best Sony camera for enthusiasts: Sony A7 III

If you like to shoot lots of different subjects, this well-featured all-rounder is a great choice

Specifications
Sensor: 24.2MP full-frame CMOS
Mount: FE
Video: 4K
Frame Rate: 10fps
Battery Life: 710
Memory Card(s): Dual SD UHS-II
Reasons to buy
+Great value+Great focusing +Good range of features
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best handling -Can’t use touchscreen for everything

Full-frame sensors were once the preserve of professional users - or at the very least amateurs with a very high budget. That has changed in recent times, with amazing cameras available for relatively little money. 

The A7 III is a perfect way for enthusiasts to enter the full-frame market, and it can be picked up for less than £2000 with a 28-70mm lens. You get a sensor which can produce fantastic images, while the autofocusing system can keep up with pretty much any subject. 

Although 10fps isn’t super fast by comparison to even some of the others on this list, it should suit most action-type subjects, making the A7 III a good all-round choice for enthusiasts who like to shoot many different types of subject.

There’s very little not to like about the A7 III, but one downside is the slightly fiddly operation thanks to a fairly small body using fairly small buttons - but it’s something you do get used to with time. 

If you want to stick with APS-C - perhaps you like the overall smaller size of the system - the a6500 also makes for a great choice for enthusiasts. 

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