Nikon has been around for over 100 years, and as such has a decorated past filled with incredible cameras. And while traditionalists like to point to a few specific film cameras as the most iconic bodies Nikon has produced, nothing exceeds the intelligent complexity and sheer shooting power that it’s currently producing.
There are a range of camera types, which we’ve listed in full with this guide to the best Nikon cameras in 2022; from compact cameras to DSLR bodies, and now the newer mirrorless models. Nikon produces a camera for everyone, so where do you start? Compact cameras are quick and easy with fixed lenses and simple controls, while DSLRs offer interchangeable lenses and compatibility with a range of excellent F-mount glass. Mirrorless are the new kids on the block, comparatively speaking, and take on smaller form factors, introduce in body image stabilization, and increasingly astounding specs like 120FPS stills shooting.
Prices vary wildly among Nikon cameras, from inexpensive entry-level models to much more sophisticated cameras that come feature-packed and with price tags to match, and there are even a couple of flagship cameras in this guide that would be suitable for those with deep pockets or professionals looking for the best of the best.
If you’re unsure of what brand to go with, we have a more general guide to the best cameras for astrophotography, and a look at the best lenses for astro to go with it.
Best Nikon camera overall
The Nikon Z9 is truly Nikon’s new flagship mirrorless camera, outstripping the spec sheets of every other Nikon camera ever produced. Outstanding, fast autofocus is powered by deep-learning artificial intelligence that cleverly tracks a range of subjects from people, animals, and vehicles, maintaining focus on the eyes of living subjects even when framed upside down.
A blisteringly fast 120FPS electronic stills capture, 8K30p video, and detailed “real-live” electronic viewfinder which is the brightest in the world (at 3000-nit) show that Nikon aren’t messing around here. This is a mirrorless camera designed for professionals, but would be equally welcome in the hands of an enthusiast, should they be able to afford it. It also has dual CF Express Type B card slots for twice the speed of Type A and ultra reliability with dual card backup. We’d give it 5 stars but it’s missing half a star as it’ll be out of the price range of some.
Best full frame mirrorless for under $3000
Nearly two fifths cheaper than the Z9, this camera has much of the capability without the enormous price tag, though it still isn’t cheap. Great dynamic range and an expandable ISO range that boosts up to 102,400 is stabilized by a five-axis in body image stabilization technology that can steady shots by up to five stops.
10FPS stills shooting at maximum resolution may not sound ground-breaking, but when you consider it’s capturing a huge 45.7MP, 14bit photos, it’s pretty eye-watering. A dual card slot makes the Z 7 II compatible with both XQD (or super fast CF Express) and SD/SDHC/SDXC (up to UHS-II) cards for ultimate flexibility. 4K UHD video shoots smooth 60FPS but can go as high as 120FPS when dropped down to full HD resolution for slow motion effects.
Best for serious enthusiasts
Identical to the Nikon Z7 II on the outside, this camera is noticeably cheaper and as such lacks a few of the higher-end features found on its bigger brother. For example, the resolution is nearly halved at just 24.5MP, which is actually perfectly fine for most shooters. It does have a hidden talent due to that resolution drop though, in that it makes it ideal for astrophotography due to the lower propensity for high ISO image noise.
Full frame it can capture stills at 14FPS which is four faster than the Z7 II, and an enhanced buffer means up to 200 consecutive JPEG images (or 124 12-bit uncompressed raw images) in one burst, likely more than most owners will ever need. Flexible video frame rate recording and raw file output via HDMI (including ProRes RAW) at 4K30p UHD means it’s perfect for the hybrid shooter or filmmaker, even able to be powered through USB-C by an external power source (and charge the battery, too) for longer filming sessions.
Best for beginners
As Nikon’s first APS-C mirrorless body the Z 50 had quite a bit of ground to cover in terms of Nikon’s step into the mirrorless market. Coming in with 20.9MP stills resolution and 4K30p UHD video recording capability it’s a good all-rounder for beginners and those new to photography.
Its hybrid autofocusing system covers 90% of the frame and works great for low light shooting since it can autofocus down to -4EV. It captures up to 11FPS on continuous burst mode for speedy snapping of sports and wildlife, and when paired with an appropriate telephoto lens its 1.5x crop gives a longer effective focal length for getting in close to the action.
There are 20 creative effects in-camera perfect for eking out a style of your own whether shooting stills or video which come with an intensity slider to adjust strength. While it’s compatible with Z-mount lenses, there are only three dedicated DX lenses available at time of writing, so keep that in mind when purchasing.
Best for professionals who need reliability and speed
For a long time the D6 was the top of the tree when it came to all-round Nikon performance. Aimed at professionals, it’s still one of the most expensive Nikon cameras you can buy due to its rugged construction, extreme weather sealing, and hefty DSLR performance. It can shoot up to 14FPS continuously and has an expandable ISO ceiling of over 3.2 million.
It doesn’t have in body image stabilization like the mirrorless cameras though, so users will have to rely on the Vibration Reduction on lenses to steady the shots. It has a LAN port for wired connection to PC or FTP server for immediate distribution to clients. Definitely a pro-level camera body it’s even compatible with Kensington locks to keep kit secure when shooting with multiple bodies on location. A comprehensive button layout and quick call-up display makes it fast to use and shoot with for stills or to capture 4K30p UHD video.
Best for enthusiasts who want excellent specs
Despite being a few years old now, the D850 is so competitively priced and with such a comprehensive set of specs that it should appeal to just about anyone, whether taking photography seriously for the first time or a seasoned pro. A full frame DSLR, it benefits from 45.7MP stills, albeit at a lagging 9FPS mechanical (with the battery grip) compared to the Z 9’s electronic 120FPS, and captures 4K30p UHD video uncropped. It can continue to shoot continuously at 9FPS for up to 51 uncompressed 14 bit raw files.
A wide, bright optical viewfinder makes looking into the scene to compose a real treat and has 153 AF points (99 cross-type) in view. An in-built viewfinder cover stops extraneous light leaking through the viewfinder and onto the image sensor during longer exposures – a must for low light or astrophotography.
Best for DSLR for video and stills
An evolution from the fantastic D750 body, this DSLR builds on its legacy and improves in several areas. For those seeking a full frame Nikon DSLR but don’t want to go crazy on price this is probably the one to go for. A chunky grip feels good in the hand and a tilting 3.2” rear screen provides a nice, bright view when not opting for the optical 0.7x magnification viewfinder.
Like its predecessor it’s a bit of a low light behemoth and handles high ISO noise well on images, with an expanded ISO range up to 204,800. Though two types of autofocus (one for viewfinder, the other for the rear screen) does mean that mirrorless bodies with hybrid AF take the edge in this regard. But for those who like traditional DSLR stylings and handling, the D780 is a brilliant full frame option.
Great second camera
At the higher end of Nikon’s crop sensor DSLR bodies is the D7500 which, despite a drop in resolution compared with the previous model the D7200, actually has improved ISO performance and improved autofocus sensor in the shape of the 51-point Multi-Cam 3500 II. It can shoot 4K video which relies on contrast autofocus detections, but switch over to shooting through the viewfinder and you’re met with phase-detection autofocus which enhances accuracy even further.
Keep up to speed with the action thanks to the 8FPS continuous burst speed capture, or drop it down to continuous low which shoots between 1-7FPS based on the options set. It features a useful tilting rear screen which makes composing at awkward angles either high up or low down a breeze. Lightweight in the hand because of its carbon fiber construction it may not be as sturdy as some of the magnesium alloy bodies but it still has good weather sealing to protect it from the elements.
Best for a flexible vari-angle touchscreen
As an APS-C crop sensor DSLR sitting in between the D3400 and D7500 you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just another gap-filling camera. Instead though, it’s one of the only DSLRs Nikon makes that has a vari-angle screen. By unfolding and rotating 360 degrees it’s useful for shooting selfies, filming vlog style or composing in awkward shooting positions without having to contort yourself into strange shapes. Its 3.2” screen is touch sensitive too, which makes it easy to operate and access quick menus.
A better resolution count than its bigger brother the D7500 it doesn’t capture 4K video, but it does shoot Full HD at a smooth 60FPS. It also has an HDMI output and a 3.5mm audio input for external microphones again making it ideal for vlogging on a budget.
Best compact Nikon
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is one of those cameras that people are just aware of, regardless of camera knowledge. It has a phenomenal 125x optical zoom which Nikon reports as the world’s biggest zoom range, and its effective focal length is a wide 24mm up to 3000mm telephoto. That means taking photos of the craters on the moon is completely do-able from your backyard.
The camera also features Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction stabilization system which offers up to five stops of steadying, perfect to reduce camera shake when using that incredible zoom. For a compact it’s filled with detail by shooting 16MP stills and 4K UHD video for photographers that want to dabble in both media. It has a large 3.2” vari-angle screen and an electronic viewfinder with 2.359 dots of detail. It shoots both JPEG and raw file formats for flexible image editing, and while its ISO range is a little limited compared with DSLR and mirrorless bodies, its maximum 6400 should be more than enough for most situations.
There are many things to consider when purchasing a Nikon camera. First off there’s whether you need the option for interchangeable lenses, as their compact cameras have sharp, versatile fixed lenses that offer a wide zoom range for any occasion.
However, F-mount DSLRs contain a huge heritage of glass available compatible with just about any model, whether you want a classic film lens or the latest and greatest telezoom with all the bells and whistles. Z-mount mirrorless lenses are sharper still and can combine Vibration Reduction technology (should they have it) with in body stabilization for ultra smooth stills and video performance, all while keeping a smaller form factor.
It’s best to first home in on your budget range, then take a look at the key specification differences between models in this price bracket and consider whether you need to travel long distance (look for something lightweight) keep with you all the time (i.e. a smaller, compact body) or need the best performance you can afford (keep your eyes peeled on features and detail).