2014 Best of Year Camera Awards

From professional DSLRs to pocket powerhouses, these are our favorite cameras of the year.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

The camera industry has undergone a great deal of change in the past few years, but 2014 proved to be a year of relative stability. Though the industry is still shrinking as smartphones devour point-and-shoot sales, manufacturers have been steadily improving their products.

Traditional DSLR makers like Canon, Nikon, and Pentax have updated some of their most popular models. Mirrorless camera makers have continued to develop their lens systems while producing ever more capable high-end cameras. Even fixed-lens compacts have made great strides, resulting in some of the best point-and-shoots we've ever seen.

Whether you're a pro or an amateur, it's a great time to buy a camera. Here are our favorites from the past year.


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Best Camera of the Year

Nikon D4S

The Nikon D4S is, without question, the best camera we've ever tested. It's a true professional-grade DSLR, with an excellent full-frame sensor that can capture bursts of up to 12 frames per second while tracking a moving subject. Add to that the ability to shoot in pitch black conditions with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 409,600 and you've got the perfect tool for professional news, sports, and wildlife photographers. (MSRP $6,499.95, body only)

Read our full review of the Nikon D4S.

Runner-up: Samsung NX1

Samsung doesn't have nearly as much experience designing cameras as rivals like Canon and Nikon, but with the NX1 it has produced one of the best cameras we've seen this year. With 15fps continuous shooting, the ability to record 4K video, and one of the most advanced autofocus systems we've seen in a mirrorless body, the NX1 is a high-performance flagship that Samsung can build its ecosystem around. (MSRP $1,499.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Samsung NX1.


Best Enthusiast Camera

Fujifilm X100T

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Fujifilm X100T

If you love photography, it's impossible not to respect what Fujifilm has done with its X100 series of fixed-lens cameras. The X100T, an update to last year's X100S, ups the ante with an improved hybrid optical/electronic viewfinder and a host of welcome control refinements.

The end result is a camera that, once again, feels like a love letter to photographers. It pulls all the best design elements and physical controls from film cameras and smoothly integrates them into the digital age. For the true photo enthusiast, Fuji can't be beat. (MSRP $1,299.99)

Read our full review of the Fujifilm X100T.

Runner-up: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

The LX100 can't claim the authentic retro flair that makes the X100T so special, but it's every bit as appealing to hardcore photographers. And better still, its asking price is $300 less than Fuji's offering. With a multi–aspect ratio Four Thirds sensor, 4K video capture, and a superb electronic viewfinder, the Panasonic LX100 would be welcome in our camera bag any day. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.


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Best Innovation in Cameras

Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Lens

Over the past couple of years, Sigma's has transformed from a purveyor of third-rate kit lenses into a high-end exotic glass powerhouse. The company's Art-series lenses have earned a reputation for excellent construction, top-notch image quality, and superb value. But even by those standards, the Sigma 18–35mm f/1.8 DC HSM lens is something of a miracle.

Designed for APS-C DSLRs, it's the the world's first f/1.8 constant-aperture zoom lens. That alone would be enough to earn our admiration, but the fact that it's this good (and this affordable) is simply jaw-dropping. (Est. price: $799.00)

See our sample gallery from the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Lens.


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Best High-End Mirrorless Camera

Samsung NX1

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Samsung NX1

As traditional DSLRs have begun to stagnate, we've seen a wave of high-end mirrorless cameras hit the market. While we've been impressed with virtually all of them, the Samsung NX1 earned the distinction of being the best performer in our labs. With excellent overall image quality, 15fps burst shooting, class-leading autofocus, and built-in 4K video, the NX1 is the mirrorless camera to beat. (MSRP $1,499.99, body only)

Our full review of the Samsung NX1 is coming soon.

Runner-up: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

As good as the NX1 is, Samsung's lens family leaves a lot to be desired. The Panasonic GH4 doesn't provide quite the same still image quality or autofocus performance, but it makes up for its few shortcomings with an incredible array of compatible lenses and superior 4K video. We give a slight edge to the NX1, but you simply can't go wrong either way. (MSRP $1,699.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4.


Best Mid-Range Mirrorless Camera

Olympus PEN E-PL7

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Olympus PEN E-PL7

If you're in the market for an interchangeable lens camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL7 may offer the best bang for your buck. It performs as well as DSLRs that cost twice as much, shoots incredibly fast, and is compatible with the extensive family of Micro Four Thirds lenses.

On top of its performance pedigree, the E-PL7 is just plain fun to use. It's compact, approachable, and has features that will appeal to both advanced and novice shooters. And of course, it's got a flip-down LCD—perfect for all those selfies you'll be taking. (MSRP $599.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Olympus PEN E-PL7.

Runner-up: Sony Alpha A6000

The Sony A6000 falls just slightly behind the E-PL7 in terms of all-around performance, but it's a great camera in its own right. It's a little more expensive, but for the extra cash you get an electronic viewfinder and a larger APS-C image sensor. You also can use not only Sony's native E-mount lenses, but with cheap mechanical adapters you can use almost any other lens you can think of. (MSRP $649.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Sony Alpha A6000.


Best Value Mirrorless Camera

Sony Alpha A5000

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Sony Alpha A5000

If you're looking for an affordable interchangeable lens camera, well... you've got more options than ever. While it can be a lot of fun to go hunting for discounts on last year's models, the Sony Alpha A5000 makes a compelling case for buying brand-new.

Though it's not quite as cheap as the entry-level Alpha A3000, the A5000 is a far better performer. It's also more compact, with a combination of manual and automatic controls that make it a great starter camera. With the kit price bound to fall even further in the next few months, there's simply no better low-cost option around. (MSRP $499.99 w/ 16-50mm lens)

Read our full review of the Sony Alpha A5000.

Runner-up: Samsung NX3000

If you've got a budget of around $500, the Samsung NX3000 is nearly as good a value as the A5000. The two cameras have similar image quality and all-around performance, but we prefer Sony's lenses to Samsung's—at least for the time being. The NX3000 is the better camera in low light, however, outperforming far more expensive models. (MSRP $499.00 w/ 16-50mm lens)

Read our full review of the Samsung NX3000.


Best Professional Camera

Nikon D4S

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Nikon D4S

There's no surprise here: The best camera we've ever tested is also the best camera you can buy if you make your living behind a viewfinder. The D4S is a modest improvement over its predecessor, with practically identical handling and the same impressive multimedia prowess. Our favorite upgrade is definitely the new "Group AF" mode, which helps keep erratic subjects in sharp focus. (MSRP $6,499.95, body only)

Read our full review of the Nikon D4S.

Runner-up: Canon EOS-1D X

The EOS-1D X was our Best Camera of the Year two years ago, and it's still one of the best we've ever tested. Though Canon hasn't elected to replace it just yet, Canon has added tons of new features and tweaks via firmware updates. Add it all up and you've got a camera that's nearly the equal of the D4S and a body that any Canon-aligned professional can count on. (MSRP $6,799.00, body only)

Read our full review of the Canon EOS-1D X.


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Best Prosumer Camera

Nikon D810

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Nikon D810

Canon didn't release a new full-frame DSLR this year, and Nikon picked up the slack by releasing four. Of those, the D810 may offer the biggest improvements over its predecessor. Compared to the D800, the D810 is much faster, boasts superior dynamic range, and features the same 36-megapixel resolution that made the D800 such a hit. (MSRP $3,299.95, body only)

Our full review of the Nikon D810 is coming soon.

Runner-up: Nikon D750

Of Nikon's new full-frame bodies, the D750 is the only one that's entirely new. Slotting in between the low-end D610 and the pro-grade D810, the D750 brings a number of fresh ideas to Nikon's slowly evolving full-frame lineup. With dual card slots, onboard WiFi, an articulating touchscreen LCD (the first in a full-frame DSLR), and loads of video controls, the Nikon D750 is designed to adapt to whatever your needs may be. (MSRP $2,299.95, body only)

Our full review of the Nikon D750 is coming soon.


Best High-End DSLR

Canon EOS 7D Mark II

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Canon EOS 7D Mark II

The Canon 7D Mark II may be a mid-range DSLR with an APS-C sensor, but it's a flagship through and through. It offers the absolute best tech Canon has to offer, from the 70D's innovative Dual Pixel CMOS AF to the EOS-1D X's extensive autofocus control, along with weather sealing that will satisfy even demanding professional news and sports photographers. (MSRP $1,799.00, body only)

Read our full review of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

Runner-up: Sony Alpha A77 II

Though it lacks the professional feel and features of the Canon 7D Mark II, the Sony A77 II does have a 79-point autofocus system and 12fps burst shooting. It also features a handy articulating LCD, making it a flexible option for anyone in need of a speedy high-end DSLR. (MSRP $1,199.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Sony Alpha A77 II.


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Best Mid-Range DSLR

Nikon D5300

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Nikon D5300

If you're dead set on buying a traditional DSLR, the Nikon D5300 is one of the best values on the market. It offers top-notch performance with 5fps burst shooting, a high-resolution 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, a fast 39-point focus system, and superb 1080/60p video. All that raw power is backed up by built-in WiFi and a flip-out LCD, adding up to one of the most well-rounded DSLR packages you can buy. (MSRP $799.95, body only)

Read our full review of the Nikon D5300.

Runner-up: Pentax K-50

Most people think of Canon and Nikon when they think "DSLR," but Pentax makes some of the best cameras you can buy. The K-50 is a perfect example, with great low-light performance, dynamic range, and—unlike most competitors—full weather sealing. Available in custom colors and benefiting from a recent price drop, the Pentax K-50 is absolutely worth checking out. (MSRP $499.95 w/ 18-55mm lens)

Read our full review of the Pentax K-50.


Best Value DSLR

Nikon D3300

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Nikon D3300

Just a step down from the Nikon D5300 is the D3300. Despite its status as Nikon's "entry-level" DSLR, the D3300 feels like anything but. It still has a 24-megapixel sensor, excellent video quality, and a lovely optical viewfinder. Better still, it's likely to wind up in a number of bundle deals this holiday season, making it a perfect gift for budding shooters. (MSRP $649.95 w/ 18-55mm lens)

Read our full review of the Nikon D3300.

Runner-up: Sony Alpha A58

Sony's Alpha A58 is an excellent all-around DSLR that shoots quickly, captures good (though not great) 1080p video, and has an articulating LCD. Though its original $600 price was a bit steep, it's now available for a little more than half that price. (MSRP $499.99 w/ 18-55mm lens)

Read our full review of the Sony Alpha A58.


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Best Prosumer Compact Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

Maybe you don't want to deal with changing lenses. Maybe you already have a system you're happy with, and want a more portable second camera. Either way, if you're in the market for a great compact camera, the LX100 is your best bet. With an excellent Four Thirds sensor, a razor-sharp lens, and 4K video, the LX100 is one of the coolest cameras of the year. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.

Runner-up: Ricoh GR (GRD V)

Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Fuji are fighting to own the high-end compact market, but it's Ricoh that's produced our second-favorite camera in the category. The GR doesn't look sexy, it doesn't shoot 4K, and it can't zoom. But it's one of the best, purest photography tools you can find. With a tack-sharp 28mm lens, a superb APS-C sensor, and insanely adaptable controls, it's an incredible value. (Est. price: $650–700)

Read our full review of the Ricoh GR.


Best High-End Point-and-Shoot Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10

For several years now, Sony's RX100 series has stood as the gold standard for point-and-shoots. With the new RX10, Sony has taken everything that's great about the RX100 template and scaled it up to superzoom size. In the process, it has created one of the most fascinating cameras on the market today.

Within its rugged, ergonomic body, the RX10 includes virtually everything you could want in a fixed-lens camera: a great 1-inch sensor, a versatile 24–200mm f/2.8 zoom, a gorgeous electronic viewfinder, an articulating rear screen, and a well thought-out control scheme that will suit both beginners and experts. And until just a couple months ago, it was easily the best fixed-lens camera we'd ever tested—by a huge margin. (MSRP $999.99)

Read our full review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10.

Runner-up: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

After reviewing the RX10, we thought it would take years for other manufacturers to catch up. Turns out it took less than two months. Panasonic's FZ1000 employs a very similar formula, with very similar results. 4K video and a 16x zoom sweeten the deal, and made this cagtegory a much closer call than we expected. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000.


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Best Extended Zoom Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

Though there are plenty of superzooms available—some offering as much as 65x magnification—most fall short in ultimate image quality. The FZ1000 may have "only" a 16x zoom lens, but its output runs rings around every other extended zoom camera on the market. Compared to the otherwise similar Sony RX10, the FZ1000's extra reach is worth it—especially if you're trying to capture 4K video from the cheap seats. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000.

Runner-up: Canon PowerShot SX60 HS

If you're willing to sacrifice some image quality in the name of ridiculous optical zoom range, the Canon SX60 HS is the way to go. It's a Faustian bargain, but if you absolutely need the SX60 HS's 65x zoom, at least you can lean on Canon's excellent optical image stabilization to help you out. (MSRP $549.99)

Read our full review of the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS.


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Best Pocket Camera

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III

You used to have to choose: great image quality or a camera that could travel with you anywhere. The Sony RX100 III won't slip into skinny jeans, but it'll fit virtually anywhere else. In the bargain you get a fast lens, a large 1-inch sensor, and excellent 1080p video quality. (MSRP $799.99)

Read our full review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III.

Runner-up: Canon PowerShot G7 X

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Though we're still in love with Canon's wonderful (and universally pocketable) PowerShot S120, the new PowerShot G7 X takes the fight to Sony. Featuring a 1-inch image sensor that matches the RX100 III, along with the user-friendly PowerShot menu system, the G7 X is the best compact that Canon has ever made. (MSRP $699.99)

Read our full review of the Canon PowerShot G7 X.


Best Value Point-and-Shoot Camera

Canon PowerShot S120

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Canon PowerShot S120

If the $700 Canon G7 X is a bit too rich for your blood, the S120 is still the pocket option to beat. Frequently available for $350 or less, the S120 remains one of the best values on the market. (MSRP $449.99)

Read our full review of the Canon PowerShot S120.

Runner-up: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

The original RX100 was acclaimed as "the best point-and-shoot ever made" when it first hit the scene a couple years ago. Though unquestionably a more powerful camera than the S120, its price and availability has been erratic. It hit the market for $650, but now sells for closer to $500. If you see it for less, snap it up right away. (Est. price: $450-500)

Read our full review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100.


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Best Waterproof Camera

Olympus Tough TG-3

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Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-3

As good as all of our Best of Year cameras are, none can handle falling in the pool or going with you for a swim. The Olympus TG-3 can, surviving sustained dives as deep as 50 feet underwater. It's also crushproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and has a bright f/2 lens that's great for macro photography. (MSRP $349.99)

Read our full review of the Olympus Tough TG-3.

Runner-up: Nikon 1 AW1

If you need higher-quality underwater shots, Nikon's 1 AW1 is the best off-the-shelf option. It's the only waterproof interchangeable lens camera on the market, and it's capable of capturing far better photos than any of its waterproof competition thanks to a 1-inch sensor. Just be real careful with all those rubber seals. (MSRP $799.95 w/ 11-27.5mm lens)

Read our full review of the Nikon 1 AW1.


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Best System Camera for Video

Panasonic DMC-GH4

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4

Since Nikon first offered an interchangeable lens still camera that shot video, we've been waiting for a camera that combined superb still image quality with truly pro-level video chops. The GH4 is that camera. It's one of the best stills cameras around and can instantly transform into a 4K-ready run-and-gun documentary camcorder on the fly. Add in the YAGH breakout box and an external recorder and you've got a studio-ready solution that can churn out 10-bit 4K to rival far more expensive cinema cameras. (MSRP $1,699.99, body only)

Read our full video performance review of the Panasonic DMC-GH4.

Runner-up: Sony Alpha A7S

Though only Samsung's new NX1 can rival the GH4 for in-body 4K recording, Sony's Alpha A7S is simply a monster. It has a full-frame sensor, can record cinema-quality HD internally (or 4K with an external recorder), and has a top ISO of 409,600. With the full-frame aesthetic so many filmmakers are after and the sensitivity to record your very own Barry Lyndon tribute, the A7S is one of the best system cameras for shooting video. (MSRP $2,499.99, body only)

Read our full video performance review of the Sony Alpha A7S.


Best Value System Camera for Video

Nikon D5300

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Nikon D5300

Though the fixed-lens options detailed below are both 4K-ready and provide excellent footage right out of the box, it's hard to beat the lens options of a DSLR. Nikon's D5300, in particular, provides sharp 1080/60p footage, an articulating LCD, native Nikon lens support, and a plethora of video-centric controls at a sub-$1,000 price. It doesn't do 4K and the lack of a dedicated video mode is baffling, but for the price it's hard to complain. (MSRP $799.95, body only)

Read our full review of the Nikon D5300.

Runner-up: Sony Alpha A6000

If you're looking for an affordable hybrid solution but don't want the bulk of a DSLR, give Sony's A6000 a gander. Though you'll need a $100 hotshoe attachment to add mic/headphone jacks, the A6000 has an EVF, shoots superb HD video, and offers better still photos than typically seen at this price point. (MSRP $649.99, body only)

Read our full review of the Sony Alpha A6000.


Best Point-and-Shoot Camera for Video

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

If you don't want to mess with interchangeable lenses but still want to enjoy superlative image quality and 4K video, the Panasonic FZ1000 is the way to go. We found it shot video nearly on par with the GH4 and its 16x f/2.8-4 lens is sharp and effective even in limited light. There's no headphone jack for monitoring audio, but an external mic jack provides support for higher-end audio solutions. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000.

Runner-up: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

The Panasonic Lumix LX100 can't hope to match the total package provided by the FZ1000, but it still provides 4K video in a compact form factor with a fast f/1.7-2.8 lens. That's saying a lot. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.


Best Compact Camera for Video

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100

As good as the FZ1000 is, there's no getting around the fact that it's a big camera. The LX100 is one of the best compacts ever made, and its unique 4K video abilities are a big part of that. (MSRP $899.99)

Read our full review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100.

Runner-up: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III

Of course, 4K isn't everything. If the "compact" part of the equation is more important than shooting UHD, then the Sony RX100 III is a great choice. It shoots better video than most any other compact thanks to the improved XAVC S codec, and easily slips into your jacket pocket when you don't need it. (MSRP $799.99)

Read our full review of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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