The Best Camera of 2020

The Best Camera of 2020

2020 has seen some remarkably good cameras released and perhaps a dud or two. Which was the best? Here is my pick.

2020 showed a mirrorless market that continues to mature and offer some remarkable technology, with upper-end features beginning to trickle down into more affordable bodies and higher-end bodies pushing into new realms. What was the best of the bunch?

The Best

When Canon announced the EOS R in the 2018, the response was middling. At the time, most of the mirrorless hype centered around Sony, which was absolutely torching the industry with an entire range of models that offered top-level autofocus and burst rates (the a9), great all-around performance (the a7 III), high resolution with great dynamic range (the a7R III), and dedicated filmmaker tools (the a7S II). In fairness to Canon, no one expected them to immediately put out four cameras that competed with the aforementioned Sony models, but what they did put out, the EOS R, didn't really compete with any of them. Issues like a very heavy crop factor in 4K (1.8x) and a single card slot disappointed a lot of users, particularly since Canon and Nikon's seemingly glacial pace in getting to the full frame mirrorless market left a lot of people anxiously awaiting something that would impress them. It was even more frustrating considering they also announced the RF 28-70mm f/2L alongside the EOS R, an unbelievably impressive lens that begged for a powerful camera to pair with it. It felt like buying a Ferrari only to drive it in residential areas with a lot of school zones.

The answer finally came this year in the form of the EOS R5. But what made the EOS R5 so impressive was that it not only finally gave the company a competitive mirrorless camera, it blew the doors off the industry by putting every other company on notice. If you had asked pretty much anyone in 2019 what they thought Canon would produce when they released the EOS R5, they would probably have told you to expect something akin to the 5D in mirrorless form: a perfectly competent if somewhat unexciting camera that improved on the EOS R without shooting for the stars. It would be a jack of all trades, master of none — the sort of conservative and carefully considered camera we have come to know the company for. 

I expected one of these without a mirror.

Then, rumors began to trickle out, but they were so extreme that they seemed to be a game of telephone gone wrong at best and simple lies at worst: a 45-megapixel sensor that also shot 20 fps bursts, 8K raw internal video, and a price under $4,000. It seemed absurd, even more so coming from a company with Canon's design philosophy. Except the rumors continued unabated, leading some to wonder if by nothing more than their sheer persistence that there was some impossible sliver of truth to them. And sure enough, the rumors were true. If I had told you in 2019 that Canon would come out with a camera that shot 8K raw video before the Sony a7S III was even announced, you would have thought I was insane, yet here we are.

And the craziest part is that the R5 is the mirrorless equivalent of the 5D in terms of where it sits in Canon's mirrorless lineup. In other words, there is still a flagship R1 to come, and given the R5's features, I am giddy to see what the company has in store, as it seems on a spec-for-spec basis, the EOS R5 is much closer to the 1D line than the 5D line. 

We got this too.

It is also worth mentioning the EOS R6, the smaller cousin to the EOS R5. The EOS R6 is akin to the 6D, but it does not follow the same sort of design philosophy differences embodied between the 5D and 6D lines. Traditionally, the 6D offered a weaker autofocus system, poorer video, slower burst rates, and other drawbacks, as it was Canon's most basic full frame DSLR. On the other hand, the EOS R6 has the same wickedly powerful autofocus system as the EOS R5, the same ultra-fast burst rate, in-body image stabilization, and still offers 4K at 60 fps, making it a very well-balanced and powerful camera at a competitive price. Sure, you lose 8K raw and 4K at 120 fps and the high resolution, and the EVF and rear screen are lower resolution (along with a few other minor design differences), but it was a far more capable camera on its release than the 6D was in 2012 or the 6D Mark II was in 2017. 

And what is even better is that that does not mean Canon has simply foregone a budget full frame model and raised the price of entry for full frame users; in fact, it has lowered the barrier of entry significantly by offering the EOS RP, which gives users the option of a full frame mirrorless camera for under $1,000. Sure, you will not be shooting 8K raw video with it, but as a first full frame camera or a backup body, it is hard to beat that price. In other words, Canon has maintained the same general tiers of full frame bodies but significantly upgraded the capabilities of each level and tacked on an ultra-affordable tier as well. It is certainly a massive shift from their design philosophies of a few years ago. All these cameras also work seamlessly with EF lenses via an adapter, making the transition as easy as possible for the many photographers with deep investments in the EF lens library. 

I do not know what prompted this shift; maybe it was Sony's aggressive approach that began to pull photographers and filmmakers away from their Canon kits, or maybe this was planned long before that began to happen. Regardless of why it happened, I am thrilled that it did. The EOS R5 represents the first step in that direction, and it is more of a running leap than a step. And it is both on the merits of its specs and what it represents that I think it is the best camera of 2020.

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Daniel L Miller's picture

After 25 years of shooting professionally with Canon I gave up. All of my Canon bodies went to KEH and my new Sony a7R IV just arrived yesterday.

The R5 has some great tech and better ergonomics than Sony but the the lack of ethics that Canon displayed with the overheating issue was too much. They essentially put the customer at the bottom of the hierarchy. I have to keep the TS-E Canon glass for work but I will do my best to give them as little money as possible.

EDIT: For those who think I was over-reacting, fine. I must have a different standard for the companies I give my money to.

Bill Blackbeard's picture

You made your living for 25 years with Canon, then sold everything and switched to an entirely different camera system to re-learn the user interface, new lenses, new flashes, etc?? I would have just returned the R5 if I didn't like it. But you do you, Boo!

Tammie Lam's picture

They posted a list of all video modes with approx. video length for each mode before the camera starts overheating... Not sure what exactly is unethical? Neither the R5 nor the A7r4 are good for video imho. The A7s3 is the way to go. If you don't shoot video - why would you worry about overheating though?

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I see the "8K video" as a marketing-gimmick since the recording times are so limited. This tech either shouldn't have left the R&D lab yet, or better cooling should have been added to the camera so heat doesn't stay trapped inside the body.

That's my own personal take on it.

Get people all excited by headline-feature that makes all go "Wowzers!", then reveal that actually it's beyond useless in just about any practical situation.
I guess that some people find that unethical even if Canon did disclose the limitations upfront.

I don't shoot video, so I don't really care. But if video was a priority for me, and 8K video something to prepare for for the future, I guess I'd probably feel pretty upset too.

Deleted Account's picture

I guess you showed them by God!

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

If you're just trolling us than bravo, if not 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

Travis Johansen's picture

Sorry to hear that. I got my start as a professional photographer in Minneapolis MN on Canon Cameras. Switched from Nikon to Canon because Nikon was lieing about full frame being better (remember DX lenses)? Yeah I switch to full frame Canon and then Nikon was like "jk, we are going to do full frame after all!".

I needed 4k and Canon said we don't need it - so I had to switch to Sony.
Now I primarily do video and have Panasonic / Sony / BlackMagic 6k and 4k.

Still use Canon glass though.

Steven Dente's picture

Nice article. I am not generally a fan of the "Best Camera...." type of articles. But Canon deserves accolades for their latest mirrorless releases.

Tony Northrup's picture

We picked the same camera! It's an actual leap forward that I haven't seen since the launch of the Sony a9. I'm sure the other camera companies will catch up soon, but for now, the R5 is a full generation ahead of the competition.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Another utterly incorrect comment from Mr Northrup... If you haven’t already checked out DPReviews image comparisons of the R5 against even 3 year old cameras, the R5 is NOT a “full generation ahead of the competition”, but rather still lagging behind.

I hate hyperbole and click bait.

Dan Jefferies's picture

Sony users need to "rescue" their shots, this is true. They NEED that dynamic range. I've heard raves about Sony's "full auto" and am, of course, completely impressed. Canon users are a more simple folk who prefer to go manual and set exposure right the first time. Canon users are older so of course they're a "generation ahead".

Edison Wrzosek's picture

I use my histogram, and zebra’s to ensure proper exposure every time, and have never had the need to “rescue” any of my shots. And when I need more dynamic range, which with Sony is a rarity, I do exposure bracketing and then blend with luminosity masks when needed.

I shoot my images in either Aperture priority or Manual modes, my histogram and zebras never get turned off, and I never have exposure issues needing a rescue, unless it’s a scene with insane dynamic range. Even then, sometimes having some blown out specular highlights in your image is desirable depending on the subject matter.

Dan Jefferies's picture

So you agree you never get blow outs. I just said that... )

Edison Wrzosek's picture

My bad, I totally missed the sarcasm of your post, my apologies :(

Deleted Account's picture

While we may not agree on attitudes from Sony users and sometimes other things too I guess, I am a fan of your work. And that's all that matters no matter what brand you use. The end result. ;-)

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Couldn't have said it better myself! Thank you!

Sam Sims's picture

What sort of crazy generalisation is this? I am an older photographer, currently using a Sony camera with manual lenses and always shoot in manual for maximum control I rarely need to ‘rescue’ my shots as the exposure is usually pretty spot on. I would never insult users of other cameras by claiming to know how they use their equipment or make some sort of generalisation about the type of photographer who uses that equipment.

Dan Jefferies's picture

There was a time when I could track a butterfly with a 400mm, no image stabilization, manual focus, because there was no auto focus, and be quite confident of getting the shot. It's a fun thing to do, even today. Gently ribbing people about the equipment they use is also fun in it's own way. At least we're not using Olympus *shudder* DSLRs....

Torgeir Hansson's picture

The day I got rid of all—all—my Canon gear was a particularly good day for me. I find their technology unrefined, bloated, and clunky. If you want heavy lifting, go to the gym.

David Pavlich's picture

I'm an official geezer. I shoot a 5DIV with grip. I carry it all day. I have no problem with it. And yes, I do go to the gym. Well, I did until it was deemed a 19 spreader. Take a Sony and stick their 600mm lens on it and you now have a reason to go to the gym as well. The body weight thing is WAY overblown.

Of course, there is micro 4/3. ;-)

Jan Holler's picture

And it simply is not that important at all what brand one uses. All deliver superb results.

Torgeir Hansson's picture

Of course!

Tammie Lam's picture

Gym is good for all ages! Concerning the weight difference between the R5 and A7r4 - it's 738 g vs 665 g. If someone is considering extra 73 g a "heavy lifting", well... I don't have much to say ;) Actually I do! The Sony menu is famous for being NOT "unrefined, bloated, and clunky" /s.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

I also love the Sony argument of Canon having overpriced glass. 🤣

Deleted Account's picture

From looking at the comments and downvotes ( I cast a few back too) and by whom, and considering all comments that I have read over the past 5 plus years on several sites, I have concluded that Sony cameras come with a chip for the user's shoulder. I have never understood why. I don't dislike Sony or their cameras but I do dislike the attitude of some of their camera users.
BTW, I own lots of Sony products too. Including a couple of their action cams.

Torgeir Hansson's picture

I have never held a SONY camera in my hands.

Lawrence Huber's picture

Good to stay uncontaminated:)

Sam Sims's picture

There are a lot of Sony haters too who like to claim how inferior Sony cameras are. Personally, I think pretty much all cameras made today are capable of great reults.The right tool for the right person.

Deleted Account's picture

"Personally, I think pretty much all cameras made today are capable of great reults.The right tool for the right person."

I totally agree! They're all good. As good as the user is at using them. I'd own a system of every brand if I had the money. There's "Gear Snobs" everywhere. I see it in music too. My other passion. ;-)

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I don't think it's Sony users so much, it's users of other camera systems who have a chip on their shoulder that their camera system is so superior to Sony.

For that matter, I too have an irrational aversion against Sony cameras. I guess it's that feeling that they are not one of "original" old-time camera manufacturers, and that they are just buying their way into the market and trying to push out the other players.

But hey there are plenty of great cameras on the market that I don't have to live in angst that Sony will crush my own beloved brands, or my own camera will suddenly stop shooting because Sony's so almighty.

They all have great cameras, there's great glass for each serious brand, and mount-adapters are a fantastic thing to expand your options.

Deleted Account's picture

Good comment Tim!

Especially "They all have great cameras, there's great glass for each serious brand, and mount-adapters are a fantastic thing to expand your options."


Paul Scharff's picture

I'm glad to read this. Even DPReview picked this as the best camera of 2020, and they are no fans of Canon.

Tim van der Leeuw's picture

I don't know if DPReview are not Canon fans. Whenever they criticize Canon cameras for something, I tend to find myself in agreement when I look at some pictures, but I never got the impression that DPReview is "against" Canon or anything like that.

Perhaps that just reveals my own biases. 😅

But despite my bias towards underdogs and more unique things, and my like for Nikon as a brand, I can only say that the Z6ii / Z7ii were underwhelming. I mean, great that they fixed some of the biggest complaints with the Z6 / Z7 but they could have done so much more to make these cameras better.

Paul Scharff's picture

I think they have less bias now, but for a couple of years, all DPR was concentrating on was ISO invariance, which kicked every Canon review down to a Silver while Nikon kept collecting Golds. Fine I guess, but then the Nikon D5 came out, and it got a Gold anyway.

"The D5 is not ISO Invariant....Either way, in our opinion, we'd try not to over-stress the importance of the fact that the D5 has poorer base ISO dynamic range than its current peers....For its intended audience, the D5's high ISO imaging capabilities, advanced autofocus and durability are likely to be much more important."

I was peeved that DPR never offered these "excuses" for the 1DX3, which got a Silver. So I did see clear bias. But I am happy to see a thawing of that, and DPR has been very complimentary of the R5 and R6.

Rich Bind's picture

New Canon ML cameras flagged as "the best in the class" however the prices are certainly not the best in terms of price. Canon and Nikon clawing back professionals from Sony which has the most complete range of ML cameras and lenses.

The deciding factor will be the roll-out of new lenses and prices. These three companies have started a camera arms race. But it is too early to say which camera will catch on as in terms of sales and popularity. The best is purely subjective. For me FUJIFILM X cameras are the most interesting system than the others in terms of value and practicality. That said my new Sony A7RIII is a design marvel and good value right now.

Ziggy Stardust's picture

It was good to see Canon bring some ambition to mirrorless FF.
Nikon produced 2nd-rate models to protect its DSLR sales.
As for 'top-level auto focus' in Sony the A9 still can't match a 4-year old D500 in AF accuracy and reliability - easier yes, but with time you discover Sony's naked emperor.

Joseph Haubert's picture

I use Sony and Canon mirrorless cameras. Each do something better than the other. Never understood why someone would use just one brand of camera. I feel Canon is getting better at mirrorless but they definitely hold out their features for their higher end cameras unlike Sony who just give you all the features at different values. Why I went to Sony after years of Canon. I still love Canon and it's color profiles and user friendly interface.

Joseph Haubert's picture

I use Sony and Canon mirrorless cameras. Each do something better than the other. Never understood why someone would use just one brand of camera. I feel Canon is getting better at mirrorless but they definitely hold out their features for their higher end cameras unlike Sony who just give you all the features at different values. Why I went to Sony after years of Canon. I still love Canon.

Ankur Bagai's picture

Hell No, Sony A7SIII was the best camera of the year.

Overheating, Errors, Unable to edit, 8K with a limiter...

While Sony A7SIII is a beast in every way possible while closely followed with A7C