• Nikon Z7

  • Sony Alpha a9

  • Nikon D500

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III

  • Nikon D810

Nikon Z7

Along with the slightly lower-end Z6, the Nikon Z7 is Nikon's first stab at a true professional-grade mirrorless camera. For Nikon, "professional grade" has a very specific meaning, and it's not something the company throws around lightly. Generally speaking, it's something Nikon reserves for only the very best cameras in its lineup, with previous full-frame models like the D610 notably falling short of the mark.

With the Z7, Nikon is finally coming around to the same conclusion as the rest of us: mirrorless designs are the future. The Z7 sheds the traditional mirror box that sits at the heart of DSLRs, resulting in a lighter, slimmer camera overall. The Z7 still feels like a Nikon camera in your hand, but with a more streamlined internal design everything can (and does) happen faster, with fewer steps, and fewer compromises.

The end result is perhaps the best camera body Nikon has ever made. Though long-standing Nikon enthusiasts will have to decide what to do with their existing gear—the Z system has a new lens mount and requires adapters to work with older F-mount lenses—Nikon already has enough support in the form of native Z lenses and adapters to make the switch relatively painless.

Sony Alpha a9

The Sony Alpha A9 is the kind of camera that only comes along once every couple of years. It's a world-beating mirrorless camera with the kind of autofocus and burst shooting chops to credibly stand toe-to-toe with the best Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Though maximizing its potential means living with a few quirks pros may not be used to, it's well worth it thanks to the irresistible power Sony has achieved.

Perhaps the only issue we have with the A9 is that many of the target market are going to be loyal Canon and Nikon uses, both of whom have pro-grade mirrorless options to choose from that don't require switching to a new system. For anyone not currently married to an existing system, or anyone simply willing to entertain switching, Sony's A9 has a significant head start on the pro-grade mirrorless systems from the other big two, especially with regard to both video capture and autofocus.

Shockingly, autofocus is the biggest advantage in Sony's favor at this moment, thanks to its Eye AF tracking algorithm, which can effortlessly track a subject's eyes even behind obstacles and if they turn their head. It is the most challenging task most photographers face, especially with erratic subjects like children and athletes, and Sony's system turns anyone into an expert in no time flat.

Nikon D500

Nikon's best-ever APS-C DSLR might be the best crop-sensor camera we've ever tested. With 4K video shooting, plenty of advanced features, and 10 FPS continuous bursts, Nikon's pulled out the stops in the D500, making this an exceptional pro DSLR. If you need speed (whether that's AF or burst speed), the D500 delivers for less than a third the price of the flagship D5.

Though the shine is a little big diminished on the D500 in light of all the new pro-grade mirrorless options on the market, it's still a rough-and-ready DSLR for anyone who likes the classic look, feel, and heft of a DSLR but doesn't require a full-frame digital sensor and doesn't envision themselves doing much wide-angle shooting.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Compared to previous models, the Canon EOS Mark III has the benefit of faster shot-to-shot times, dramatically improved autofocus, superb metering, and substantial upgrades to video performance. It handles better, shoots faster, offers more control, and is better suited to all kinds of still and video applications. Whether you're a hobbyist or a professional whose livelihood depends upon a camera, this is a solid choice.

As with the other cameras in Canon's stable, it feels a bit long in the tooth compared to the new mirrorless options, but there are worse models to consider if you're looking to utilize Canon's ageless library of lenses.

Nikon D810

For stills photographers who want a dependable, powerful, flexible camera, it's difficult to beat the D810. It takes incredible shots, works with almost any Nikon lens from the past 50 years, and is fast enough for all but the most demanding news and sports work. It's a superb camera in every way, and one of the best Nikon DSLRs we've tested. If you're looking to step up your skills, the D810 should be on your radar.

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