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Which DSLR or mirrorless camera brand to buy in 2019

By Hollie Hennessy

Unique Which? reliability data can help you choose a camera brand that lasts, as we survey owners of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Fujifilm and Pentax DSLR and mirrorless cameras to find out which develop the least faults over time

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In this article:

Issues with focusing is the most common problem with DSLR and mirrorless cameras, with 14% of people reporting this as a fault in our survey.

DSLR and mirrorless cameras are fantastic pieces of kit, made up of electronics and optics. But they have lots of moving parts, which can increase the risk of something going wrong with your camera. Our reliability survey ensures that you can choose a DSLR or mirrorless camera that won't leave you wanting.

Every year we ask thousands of Which? members to tell us whether they are pleased with their mirrorless and DSLR cameras, or have experienced problems.

Our survey data takes into account the reported fault rates, severity of these faults and how quickly they occurred. In our latest analysis we've looked at the performance of the biggest DLSR and mirrorless camera manufacturers – including Canon, Panasonic, Nikon, Sony and Olympus – and have calculated a reliability rating for each.   

 Difference between the best and worst DSLR and mirrorless camera brands

Overall, DSLR and mirrorless cameras are pretty reliable across the board. But there's still a 10% difference between the most and the least reliable brands.

 The most reliable DSLR and mirrorless camera brands

The table below summarises this year’s reliability results. Customer score relates to whether their customers would recommend it. The more stars for reliability, the fewer the problems reported.

Only logged-in Which? members can view which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Brand Reliability rating Reliability score Customer satisfaction score
96% 83%
89% 92%
97% 84%
94% 82%
99% 80%
96% 70%
98% 79%
Table notes
The above data is based on a survey conducted with 1,103 Which? members from April-July 2019.

Key

Member Content

 Common DSLR and mirrorless camera problems

There are three main faults we saw with DSLR and mirrorless cameras. 

14% of faults were with the focus. Although it's likely that you'd be able to take photos with this problem, it's annoying if the camera focuses before or after the intended point of focus, resulting in blurry photos. 

The second most common fault was with the flash, at 11%. This is less of a dealbreaker. A lot of DSLR and mirrorless models will have a hotshoe, which allows you to attach an additional, more powerful flash anyway. DSLR and mirrorless models are also far more capable of taking good photos in low lighting than other types of digital camera. 

Finally, 7% of faults were with the battery or charger. This might lead to you having to replace one or both of them. 

 Which DSLR and mirrorless camera brand stays fault-free for longest?

The graph above shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the worst brand, as well as the overall average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table below.

Only logged-in Which? members can view which brands achieved the ratings and verdicts in the table below. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access. 

Brand name % fault-free after one year % fault-free after three years % fault-free after six years
97% 95% 94%
95% 89% 89%
99% 97% 96%
94% 93% 93%
99% 99% 99%
100% 94% 94%
100% 99% 97%
Table notes
Results based on feedback from more than 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners, surveyed in April-July 2019.

Key

Member Content

How we measure faults and reliability in DSLR and mirrorless cameras

Our reliability scores don't just take into account the number of faulty products. We also look at how severe these faults were and when they happened. We judge major or catastrophic faults more harshly than minor annoyances, and also penalise faults that occur when the product is new and hasn't had much use. We ask our respondents to describe their faults as minor, major or catastrophic based on the following guidelines:

  • Minor: a fault that doesn’t affect the product’s performance significantly or a fault that only occurs occasionally with minimal impact. This issue may be irritating or annoying but it isn’t frequently problematic and you can easily work around it. For example, not being able to record audio with video.
  • Major: a fault that has a noticeable effect on the product’s performance. This fault affects how you use the product and can be problematic. For example, a fault with the lens.
  • Catastrophic: a fault that renders the product unusable, with the fault needing to be repaired or parts replaced before it can be used again. For example, problems with the shutter or failing to capture photos/video.

 DSLR and mirrorless camera brands rated

Choose a brand from the list below to find out more detail about its performance in our survey.

Canon DSLR and mirrorless cameras rated
Number tested in the past three years 11
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Canon DSLR and mirrorless cameras score for reliability, and how one of the biggest names in photography compares with smaller ones such as Pentax and Olympus.
  • See which faults are most likely to affect a Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera, from buttons not working to the shutter not operating.
  • See how Canon fared based on its customer score – we asked those in our survey how satisfied they were with its cameras, and whether they’d happily recommend one to friends and family.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Fujifilm DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 9
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how well Fujifilm DSLR and mirrorless cameras score for reliability, compared with other brands on the market such as Nikon and Canon.
  • Problems can range from flash issues to the focus malfunctioning. See which fault is most likely to affect a Fujifilm model.
  • A brand being reliable doesn't necessarily mean that owners are going to stick with them, or be satisfied with their purchase. See our customer score to see whether they'd recommend a Fujifilm to a friend.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Nikon DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 5
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Nikon might be one of the biggest camera brands on the market, but see how it fares when it comes to reliability, compared with other big photography names like Canon, Panasonic and Sony.
  • Even though cameras are quite reliable, there are still faults which develop. See whether those that affect Nikon cameras are deal-breakers, or not too bad.
  • Find out how popular Nikon is as a brand: our data tells us how likely owners are to recommend Nikon DSLR and mirrorless cameras and also how likely they are to stick with the brand when repurchasing.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Olympus DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 3
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Olympus might not be the dominating brand in the photography industry, but see how it really compares with the four most popular: Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony.
  • From issues with the battery not working to a broken LCD screen, find out which problems are most likely to affect a DSLR or mirrorless camera from Olympus.
  • How popular is Olympus? We found out whether owners would recommend an Olympus DSLR or mirrorless camera to their friends.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access
Panasonic DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 11
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Find out how major player Panasonic stands up to its photography rivals such as Canon, Nikon and Sony.
  • Wondering which faults are likely to affect a Panasonic DSLR or mirrorless camera? They can range from major issues such as the camera failing all together to something small like the battery not working.
  • Find out how satisfied Pansasonic customers are with their DSLR and mirrorless cameras – we ask them to tell us if they'd recommend the brand to a friend.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access
Pentax DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 1
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • Pentax is a smaller camera brand than the likes of Canon, Nikon and Sony. See how it compares to them when it comes to reliability.
  • Find out which issues are most likely to affect Pentax models.
  • Are owners happy with their Pentax DSLR or mirrorless cameras? Find out what our members said when we asked them if they'd recommend the brand.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access
Sony DSLR and mirrorless cameras overview table
Number tested in the past three years 3
Number of Best Buys
Average test score
Brand reliability rating
Customer score (%)
Loyalty score
Typical spend
Table notes Average test score based on results of models tested in the past three years (as of 14 October 2019) that are still available. The customer score and brand reliability rating are based on a Which? member survey conducted in July 2019 of 1,103 DSLR and mirrorless camera owners. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and reliability is based on members’ experience of that brand. Table last updated 14 October 2019.

Key

Member Content
  • How reliable are Sony cameras? See how they compare to brands like Canon and Nikon.
  • Camera faults can range from some pixels in the LCD screen not working properly, to the camera not turning on at all. Find out which fault is most likely to affect a Sony DSLR or mirrorless camera.
  • Is Sony making its customers happy? See how likely owners are to recommend a Sony DSLR or mirrorless camera to their friends.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access

Head to our DSLR and mirrorless camera reviews

Know which DSLR or mirrorless camera brand you want? Use the links to go straight to our reviews and find your ideal model:

 How we calculate the best and worst brands

Every year we survey thousands of mirrorless and DSLR camera owners, asking how satisfied they are with their cameras and how likely they would be to recommend it to a friend. We also track faults, taking into account when these issues occurred and how severe they are. We use this data to create customer and reliability scores for the most popular DSLR and mirrorless camera brands.

Our reliability surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best DSLR or mirrorless camera you should buy.

This data is crucial for our testing, too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy awards and won’t recommend any of their products unless a marked improvement in reliability is shown.

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