5 Best cameras around $2000: Digital Photography Review

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

It’s not so long ago that $2000 would buy you the lowliest, entry-level full-frame camera. Now, for around the same money, you get a choice of high spec cameras that shoot excellent stills and video, and include autofocus systems approaching the performance of professional sports cameras.

Choosing a camera also means committing to a lens mount, and the wider system that goes with it, so we advise checking whether the lenses you want to use are available at a price you’re willing to pay. Not all camera makers allow other lens makers to produce lenses for thier mount, for instance, which can limit choice.

It’s worth noting that the latest lens designs for mirrorless cameras regularly out-perform their older DSLR counterparts. If you have any lenses already, it’s worth considering whether they’re good enough that you need to stick with a camera to which they can be adapted. You might get better results by selling-up and buying modern equivalents of your most-used lenses.

Several cameras have arrived in this price bracket fairly recently, and we’ve not yet completed our full reviews. We’ve only recommended cameras we’ve used extensively enough to be confident you’ll be happy with them.

Our recommendations:

Best camera around $2000: Canon EOS R6 II

24MP Dual Pixel AF CMOS sensor | 40fps burst shooting | 4K/60 from 6K capture

Photo: Dale Baskin

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What we like:

  • Simple, powerful AF for stills
  • Fast 40fps shooting with continuous AF
  • Excellent battery life

What we don’t:

  • AF less reliable in video mode
  • SD cards limit burst duration
  • E-shutter can distort fast-moving subject

The EOS R6 Mark II is Canon’s second-generation full-frame enthusiast mirrorless camera, and is based around a stabilized 24MP Dual Pixel CMOS sensor.

The R6 II has a substantial hand grip and well spaced controls that pair with a simple touchscreen interface and logically-arranged menu system. It fits comfortably in the hand even with larger lenses.

Autofocus performance is consistently reliable, even when capturing images at 40fps. A wide variety of subject detection modes and a surprisingly clever ‘Auto’ detection mode allow the camera to choose appropriate AF areas and algorithms for many commonly-photographed subjects.

The EOS R6 Mark II is a great stills and video camera, with fast burst shooting being its standout feature.

Rolling shutter is surprisingly well controlled in 40fps electronic shutter mode, though like most of its peers, the R6 Mark II drops to 12-bit capture, reducing dynamic range. In the less fast modes, the image quality is excellent.

Video is substantially improved over the original R6, with full width oversampled 4K up to 60p, and greatly improved thermal management. Video autofocus still has a tendency to jump to the background, requiring the user to continually redirect the camera to your chosen subject while filming.

Aside from the maximum burst rate, the Canon R6 Mark II might look like a minor upgrade from its 2020 Camera of the Year precursor, but the impressive number of small improvements add up to one of the most well-rounded full-frame cameras in its price range.

Best camera under $2000: Nikon Zf

24MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor | Full-width 4K/30 video, cropped 4K/60 | Stabilization rated to 8EV

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Distinctive design with direct controls
  • Effective subject recognition
  • Strong stills and video features

What we don’t:

  • Weight and minimal grip can become uncomfortable
  • Slow MicroSD second slot
  • Few custom buttons

The Nikon Zf is a retro-styled camera built around an image-stabilized 24MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor.

The Zf gives the choice of using the dedicated control dials or customizable command dials. In most respects it copies its well-polished control system from other recent Nikons. Not everyone will enjoy the angular early 80’s handling but it handles just as well as the cameras it resembles.

The Zf’s autofocus is impressive, with both subject recognition and AF tracking both working well. It’s perhaps not quite as confidence-inspiring as the latest Sony cameras, but it’s not far off. It’d be nice to have an AF joystick but the rear control pad does a decent job.

“The Zf’s looks may date from 1981, but its performance is completely contemporary”

The Zf uses a very familiar 24MP BSI sensor that has underpinned numerous cameras in recent years, and the results are predictably good. There’s plenty of dynamic range and enough detail capture for all but the most demanding applications.

The Zf has a very solid video feature set. Oversampled 4K/30 and cropped 4K/60 is standard for this sensor, but the Zf also adds a waveform display that’s especially useful for exposing its 10-bit Log footage.

The Nikon Zf’s performance lives up to its looks. It’s not as comfortable to hold for long periods as more modern designs, but it’s also distinctive and engaging in a way they’re arguably not. We’re still completing our testing, but it hasn’t disappointed yet.

The compact option: Sony a7C II

33MP BSI CMOS sensor | 4K/60p video with 10-bit color | Dedicated ‘AI’ processor for AF system

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Big camera features in a small body
  • Outstanding AF performance
  • Auto Framing video mode

What we don’t:

  • No joystick control
  • No fully mechanical shutter

The Sony a7C II is a compact, full-frame mirrorless camera with a 33MP BSI CMOS sensor.

The a7C II’s viewfinder is a little small and rather low resolution for this price, but it’s part of what helps the camera stay so compact. Modern full-frame lenses are often so large as to make the difference in camera size fairly trivial but Sony’s E-mount has the widest range of lenses available, so there are some relatively compact options.

The a7C II is impressively small for a full-frame camera. The addition of a front control dial improves handling significantly and brings it closer to its peers. A fully articulating screen anchors the back and features an extremely responsive touch interface. Unlike many cameras at this price, there’s no joystick control.

Autofocus performance on the a7C II is fantastic and is helped by having a processor dedicated to handling machine learning-derived algorithms. Subject recognition is quick, and the AF system tracks subjects tenaciously around the frame in both stills or video. 10 fps burst shooting with continuous AF results in a dependably high hit rate.

“The a7C II is a surprisingly capable camera for its size.”

The a7C II’s 4K/30p video is downsampled from 7K, but with fairly high rolling shutter. There’s also 4K/60p from an APS-C crop, all in 10-bit color. S-Log3 and S-Cinetone profiles provide flexibility in post, and the camera supports internal LUTs. Auto Framing mode punches in on subjects, keeping them framed and in focus. The camera includes mic and headphone jacks.

The a7C II is a surprisingly capable camera for its size. It essentially provides the same level of image quality, video capabilities, and AF performance as Sony’s a7 IV, but in a smaller package. In exchange for the small size, you make a few tradeoffs, like no AF joystick, but if compact size is a priority the a7C II will get you there with few compromises.

Should I buy the Sony a7 IV, a7 III or a7C?

The Sony a7 IV is, in several ways, a better camera than the a7C II. It has a much nicer viewfinder and slightly better ergonomics. It also has a full mechanical shutter, which means there’s no risk of the slight image glitches that can occur if you shoot images at very high shutter speeds with wide apertures. But it’s also larger, heavier and offers less effective image stabilization than the newer, generally less expensive model. If compactness doesn’t matter to you then it might be worth your while to pay a little extra for the a7 IV’s larger, higher resolution viewfinder, but only if the price difference is small.

It’s a similar story with the a7 III and a7C. These are from an older generation of products with less sophisticated autofocus, video and image stabilization. They also use an older, more awkward-to-navigate menu system which we’d happily pay to avoid ever having to use again. The a7C lacks the version II’s front control dial and features an even smaller viewfinder, so we’d be inclined to save up for one of the newer models.

What about APS-C?

There are a couple of high-end APS-C cameras that fall in the realms of our ‘around $2000’ guide, and they’re certainly worth a look. The smaller APS-C sensor format generally gives the Canon EOS R7 and Fujifilm X-T5 an image quality disadvantage, compared with the full-frame models in this guide, but also means they can give smaller lens/camera combinations. They’re also markedly less expensive than the other cameras we’d recommend.

In the case of the Fujifilm X-T5, you gain access to a wide range of lenses that includes some well-priced options and a healthy selection of prime lenses, that can be fun to shoot with. Fujifilm’s X-T series significantly pre-dates Nikon’s Zf and Z fc throwback models and arguably has a more refined shooting experience. Its autofocus isn’t up with the best cameras in this guide, nor is its video output, but it’s a camera we really like, if a compact kit and prime lenses appeal to you.

Best for video and stills: Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II

24MP BSI CMOS sensor | 6K/30p 10-bit video | 96MP high-resolution mode

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • Great ergonomics
  • Effective subject recognition
  • Fan gives long video record periods

What we don’t:

  • Subject tracking could be stickier
  • E-shutter not as fast as rivals
  • Middling battery life

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II is an enthusiast-level camera with impressive feature sets for both stills and video, It’s built around a 24MP CMOS sensor and uses the L-mount shared with Leica and Sigma.

The S5 II can’t quite keep up with the latest Sony and Canon bodies for AF reliability, but it’s pretty close, and its video feature list is particularly strong. Features such as waveforms and a built-in fan for recording dependability make it the strongest option in its class if you plan to shoot both stills and video.

The mid-sized, weather-sealed body has good ergonomics. It includes a lot of external control points, including a dedicated AF mode switch, which isn’t common at this level, and an articulating rear screen. The menu system and touchscreen interface are among the best at any level.

Phase detect autofocus provides more predictable AF than previous Panasonic models. Human subject recognition is effective, prioritizing the eyes, followed by faces, heads, and bodies. An 8-way joystick makes manual AF point selection easy. 30fps bursts use e-shutter, with moderate risk of rolling shutter distortion.

“The Panasonic S5 II is one of the most well-rounded cameras in its class… For an enthusiast-level camera, there’s a lot to like.”

The S5 II captures detailed video in a variety of resolutions and aspect ratios, all in 10-bit color. There are also advanced video tools that are rare or unique in this class of camera, including waveform and vectorscopes, shutter angle, and advanced audio options like dual input gain.

There’s also an S5 IIX model which can record video directly to an external SSD, allowing higher quality capture in All-I and ProRes codecs. It’s a better choice if you’re serious about video.

The Panasonic S5 II is one of the most well-rounded cameras in its class. Its excellent ergonomics make for great handling, and its AF system is adept at identifying subjects, though subject tracking could be stickier and more decisive. It produces great photos and video and includes one of the deepest video feature sets for its price range.

What’s best for video?

If you’re only interested in video, Sony’s FX30 might be a better choice than the S5 II or S5 IIX. The Panasonics offer full-frame 4K up to 30p, which give a potential image quality benefit over the APS-C FX30, but the Sony will exhibit less rolling shutter distortion. The FX30 also has the benefit that its 60p footage isn’t cropped-in, compared with its 24 and 30p capture, meaning you won’t have to zoom or swap lenses if you change frame rates. It applies a heavy crop for its 4K/120p mode, but that’s something the Panasonics can’t offer at all.

The S5 II also offers a waveform display and control in terms of shutter angle, which the Sony lacks, but the Sony’s gimbal or rig-friendly design and superior autofocus make it the better choice if video is your primary focus.

Best for vlogging

Full-width 4K/60p, 120p with minor crop | Auto cropping/framing modes | Subject recognition AF

Photo: Richard Butler

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What we like:

  • 4K footage up to 120p
  • Auto-cropped modes aid one-person operation
  • Effective autofocus

What we don’t:

  • Recording times can be short in warm conditions
  • 12MP resolution not optimal for stills
  • Cropped footage is upscaled to 4K

The Sony ZV-E1 is a full-frame E-mount mirrorless camera aimed at vloggers and ambitious content creators.

The ZV-E1 is a specialist tool designed for vlogging. It shares many of its capabilities with the more expensive FX3 and a7S III but adds a series of modes that automatically frame and follow a presenter around the scene, if you’re trying to shoot video single-handed. The lack of fan and single card slot significantly dent its recording endurance, so it’s unlikely to work as a cheaper alternative to the FX3 for serious video work.

The ZV-E1 has two command dials, both on the back of the camera, which makes manual video control a little fiddly, there’s a touchscreen-led interface to encourage more automated presenter/operator working, though.

The ZV-E1’s subject recognition system is highly reliable. The lack of a fan means it’s much more susceptible to overheating than the otherwise similar FX3. It adds automated modes that crop and follow a recognized subject around the frame, adding dynamism to single-operator footage.

“The ZV-E1 has some clever automated modes but can be a bit fiddly to operate. It’s hard to match the power for the price, though”

The camera’s 4K footage (up to 120p) is detailed with relatively little rolling shutter, but you’ll want to use the strongest level of image stabilization (with crop) for hand-held shooting as it’s a little juddery in less intensive modes.

The camera’s 12MP sensor takes perfectly attractive images with plenty of dynamic range and pleasant JPEG color but the low resolution means it wouldn’t be our choice if stills shooting is important to your work.

The ZV-E1 tries to marry the capability of the FX3 cinema camera with automated ease-of-use, but can end up being quite confusing in the auto modes and quite fiddly if you try to take a more hands-on approach. It’s hard to match the power for the price, though.

Why you should trust us

This buying guide is based on cameras used and tested by DPReview’s editorial team. We don’t select a camera until we’ve used it enough to be confident in recommending it, usually after our extensive review process. The selections are purely a reflection of which cameras we believe to be best: there are no financial incentives for us to select one model or brand over another.

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