Nail the shot, anywhere, anytime.
Sony a99 II ($3,199)
Gear of the Year
The best image makers feature some combination of high resolution, great low-light sensitivity, and smart focusing tools that help you document the action. Sitting at the very top of the heap is the Sony a99 II, which excels in all these categories and folds them into a highly portable package. The a99 rocks a giant 42-megapixel full-frame sensor that allows you to crop in tiny or print huge (think bus advertisement). The wicked-fast autofocus tracking system has 79 points you can use to lock onto your subject, and the ability to shoot 12 frames per second means you’ll get crisp photos of your buddies ripping singletrack every time. It gets better: the ISO goes to an absurd 102,400, and the whole sensor floats on a five-axis stabilizer—features that help keep the image sharp even as light fades. Moviemakers can shoot 4K at 30 frames per second and, just like still photographers, benefit from Sony’s A-mount lenses, many of which feature Zeiss glass. Simply put: if you can’t make great-looking pictures or video with this thing, it ain’t the camera’s fault.
Fuji X-T2 ($1,599)
Best For: The aspiring pro.
The Test: If the Sony a99 II and the Canon 5D Mark IV are too much camera but you still need more than a point-and-shoot, the X-T2 nails the middle ground. Its respectable 24-megapixel APS-C sensor captures crisp portraits and landscape shots so detailed that you can pick out individual needles on evergreen trees hundreds of feet away. It logs 4K video, but more importantly, the footage looks great right out of the camera—no post-processing necessary in most cases. We appreciate its small details, like intuitive menus and buttons. The rear LCD is mounted to a dual hinge, twisting and turning to accommodate any view.
The Verdict: The most capable pro-sumer camera you can buy.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 ($700)
Best For: Punching above its weight.
The Test: Think of the ZS100 as a point-and-shoot on steroids. The 25–250mm focal range is massive for this pocket-size camera, allowing you to capture print-worthy images even if you’re a football field away from someone tip-toeing across an alpine ridge. The autofocus performs a neat trick: simply tap your subject on the LCD to lock the focus as it moves through the frame, then fire away. Like the other cameras on this page, the DMC-ZS100 shoots 4K video that also produces eight-megapixel stills. And it’s easy to send images directly to your smartphone, thanks to the well-designed Panasonic app (free).
The Verdict: Way more powerful—and just slightly bigger—than your phone.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV ($3,499)
Best For: Magazine-quality shots.
The Test: The original Canon 5D, introduced back in 2005, was the benchmark for photojournalists: it stuffed the features you normally saw in bulky DSLRs into a body nearly half the size. As a result, the 5D immediately became the go-to for adventure shooters who wanted something lighter to haul up mountains. Twelve years later, the fourth version is still a photographer favorite that makes detail-rich 30.4-megapixel
images. And, of course, it puts Canon’s giant ecosystem of pristine lenses at your disposal—everything from fast, tack-sharp wide-angle lenses ideal for landscape shots to the longer zoom lenses needed to capture BASE jumpers hucking off cliffs.
The Verdict: The best gets better.
DJI Mavic Pro ($999)
Best For: Nailing creative shots.
The Test: When it comes to consumer drones, the Mavic Pro occupies an airspace all its own. It’s tiny—just over 1.5 pounds and about the size of a Nalgene—and is loaded with top-shelf features, including a four-mile range, 4K video at 30 frames per second, and 12-megapixel stills. It can automatically follow a predetermined subject that you tag via the included controller, and it will take a picture (or “dronie”) when you stand in front of it and make a rectangle with your fingers. Set the route and it will fly itself to the location specified, leaving you free to work the camera via the controller or DJI’s free smartphone app.
The Verdict: 5Point Adventure Film Festival, here you come.