Phone cameras have gotten very good, but if you really want to take your Instagram account to the next level, a dedicated camera is the way to go. There isn’t a single formula that makes one camera better suited to social media than another, but throughout our testing — we’ve reviewed nearly 25 cameras in the past 12 months — the best camera we’ve found for Instagram is the Sony A7 III, a full-frame mirrorless camera that is both compact and high quality. It has a large selection of lenses available, good speed, and incredible low-light performance, making it great for a wide variety of situations.
Since Instagram downsizes photos to a maximum of 1,080 pixels wide, you don’t need the highest-resolution camera out there, and the A7 III’s 24-megapixel sensor is more than adequate. Cameras like the Panasonic S1R, Sony A7R III, or Nikon Z 7 that offer 40-plus megapixels can certainly be used for Instagram — but at more that $3,000, you’re paying extra for resolution that will just be thrown away.
The A7 III isn’t exactly cheap, either, at a hair under $2,000, so we’ve compiled a list of other great choices for a variety of budgets, from professional models to pocket point-and-shoots you can take anywhere.
Best Mirrorless Camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: Full frame bokeh, versatile performance and 4K video
Who’s it for: Enthusiasts to professionals
Why we picked the Sony A7 III:
The Sony A7 III is one of the best cameras on the market. At just under $2,000, it isn’t cheap, but it does offer a lot of value for that price. With a full-frame sensor and wide selection of both zoom and prime lenses, it is a versatile camera suitable for both enthusiasts and professionals. It’s one of the best low light cameras we’ve ever tested, where it’s large sensor helps produce natural results even at very high ISO settings, where phones either fail miserably or rely on computational tricks. That big sensor also helps create a shallow depth of field, which will help your portraits, food photos, or product shots stand out in your followers’ feeds.
Besides great image quality, the A7 III offers fast autofocus, very impressive face and eye-detection, and continuous shooting at 10 frames per second, so it can keep up with the action, be that your dog running on the beach or a pro sports event. The modern design keeps things relatively simple and easy to use, with quick access to the most important controls, dual SD card slots, and a tilt screen — while still being compact enough for travel.
The Sony A7 III competes closely with the Nikon Z 6, another $2,000 full-frame mirrorless camera. Either will produce great results, but the A7 III scores slightly higher in autofocus performance and has more native lenses available for it, as it’s an older system.
Our full Sony A7 III review
Best compact camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: Pocketable portability that still manages solid image quality
Who’s it for: Travelers and any Instagrammer where compact size is a big priority
Why we picked the Sony RX100 VI:
You can’t capture a great ‘gram if your camera is too big to haul around with you — and the Sony RX100 VI is a camera that’s small enough to fit in many pockets. While the camera won’t add a lot of weight to your hike or carry-on bag, the RX100 VI offers a one-inch sensor that’s quite a bit larger than the typical compact camera (or phone). It’s not as big as the full-frame sensor in the Sony A7 III, but it’s big enough that it will will offer more background blur than you can get with a smartphone, especially if you take advantage of the 8x zoom lens. Stand back and zoom in, and you’ll get creamy soft bokeh that people won’t believe you shot on a point-and-shoot.
Besides being small enough to go pretty much anywhere, the RX100 VI has a super fast, 24 fps burst mode thanks to a unique stacked sensor design that moves data more quickly. That’s a big plus if you’re planning on filling your Instagram with action shots. For sharing short videos or IGTV content, 4K video is included, too.
The $1,200 list price is expensive for a compact camera — you can find better image quality for less, but not in a pocketable form factor. If you want a great camera that’s small enough to always have with you, the RX100 VI is an excellent choice.
Our full Sony RX100 VI review
Best Sub-$1,000 Camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: Excellent image quality in a beautiful, affordable camera
Who’s it for: Enthusiasts
Why we picked the Fujifilm X-T30:
The Fujifilm X-T30 is one of the top sub-$1,000 mirrorless cameras available, thanks to its mix of image quality and performance. The X-T30 is built around a 26MP APS-C sensor, bigger than the 1-inch sensor in the RX100 but smaller than the full-frame sensor of the A7 III. This keeps it fairly compact, especially for an interchangeable lens camera. As all of its lenses are also built for the smaller APS-C format, they will be more compact than the equivalent full-frame Sony lenses, as well.
Despite its small size, the X-T30 still produces excellent images with good low light performance and plenty of detail. Fujifilm is known for its fast prime lenses, which will yield excellent results and shallow depth of field. Its 425-point autofocus system is also very fast, and includes face and eye-detection for tack-sharp portraits.
You may not think the X-T30 is a fast camera just by looking at it, but it offers a respectable 8 fps with the mechanical shutter — or up to 20 with the electronic shutter. It also boasts a very good 4K video mode, and even includes an option for 10-bit recording over HDMI — perhaps not important for Instagram uses, but that’s something not even the A7 III can do. What it doesn’t have is in-body stabilization; look for stabilized lenses if you need stabilization for video or slow shutter speeds.
The X-T30 also just looks great with its retro-inspired design, and that doesn’t hurt. You may dig it out of the box and want to take a picture of the camera for Instagram — we won’t judge.
Our full Fujifilm X-T30 review
Best waterproof camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: An adventure camera you can take anywhere
Who’s it for: Travelers and adventurers
Why we picked the Olympus Tough TG-5:
Sand and water can quickly ruin an expensive camera — but the TG-5 isn’t a camera that you’ll be forced to leave behind when you head out snorkeling, kayaking, rock climbing or whatever adventure your Instagram followers tap that heart button over. The TG-5 can survive under 50 feet of water, and can withstand 7-foot drops, dust, dirt, and freezing temperatures.
The TG-5 uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor, which is not going to produce the best images compared to other cameras with a larger sensor. But it will keep shooting where you can’t take that fancy mirrorless camera — which means more of your photos won’t look like everyone else’s because your camera can go places everyone else’s can’t. Compared to other waterproof cameras, the TG-5 has a bright f/2 lens and an impressive 20 fps burst rate. The rugged cam also boasts 4K video and image stabilization, plus there’s a ton of fun tools like live composites for making star trails, focus tracking for increasing depth of field on macro shots, and geo-tracking to accurately record where every photo was taken on your adventures.
If you want a camera that can snap Instagram photos anywhere, the TG-5 is one of the best options out there.
Our full Olympus Tough TG-5 review
Best video camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: Shoot first, edit later with Rylo’s 360-degree capture
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to share short video clips
Why we picked the Rylo:
360-degree video may be a fad, but the Rylo is different. Like any 360 cam, it captures a spherical area around the camera, but it lets you select the exact point of view you want in post using its excellent mobile app. Not only that, but you can then change perspectives on the fly, panning, zooming, and even following objects as if using a standard video camera on an advanced motion control rig. All of this leads to more interesting video clips that are sure to stand out in an Instagram feed.
With the optional rugged case, the Rylo also becomes an adept action camera, letting you set it and forget it and choose the best perspective later. Not that we would recommend trying it, but if you mount it to the handlebars of your bike and you happen to crash, you’ll capture both your point of view and the reaction to the crash at the same time, and can even play them back in the same frame using the Rylo’s FrontBack feature. Never have extreme sports accidents been so entertaining!
The Rylo fits in the palm of your hand and can with you just about anywhere. It puts a unique twist on the 360 camera, and opens up new creative opportunities that are perfect for short-format video platforms like Instagram.
Our full Rylo review
Best smartphone camera for Instagram
Why you should buy this: The best image quality you’ll find from a smartphone
Who’s it for: Phone photographers
Why we picked the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL:
Sometimes, you really do just want to bring your phone — and nothing more. The Google Pixel 3 camera isn’t great because of hardware, but because of software. Where smaller sensors can’t typically capture great bokeh or solid low light photos, Google has added software to fake that background blur and Night Sight that uses artificial intelligence to capture some of the best low light shots that we’ve seen from a smartphone.
Video is excellent, with 4K at 30 fps and HD at up to 120 fps for slow motion. Two cameras at the front improve the selfie-snapping capabilities.
Is a smartphone camera going to beat the top cameras on this list? Nope. But, if you want a smartphone to keep the “Insta” in Instagram for quick sharing and always having a good camera with you, then the Google Pixel 3 or larger Pixel 3 XL is one of the best smartphone camera options for Instagram.
Read our picks for the best camera phones
- The best digital cameras for 2020
- The best travel cameras of 2020
- The best mirrorless cameras for 2020
- The best cameras for street photography in 2020
- The best video cameras of 2020