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Camera Elo: Which Camera is Best?

Similar to the ranking of chess players, the Camera Elo uses a series of matchups of competitors to derive a rating of digital cameras. It thereby uses the pair-wise scores obtained from the CAM-parator App as rating input.

The fundamental principle of the Elo rating is that outscoring a strong opponent yields a larger improvement in the aggregate rating value than beating a weaker one. Conversely, losing to a highly rated competitor has relatively little impact on the rating, while a loss to a low-rated opponent results in a substantial downgrade (see below for details of the calculation).

Compared to other review-ratings, the Camera Elo presents several advantages: It is based on a transparent comparison of a large number of cameras across a wide range of body, sensor and feature characteristics. Further, it makes it possible to compare very different cameras according to a consistent measure. And finally, it is dynamic in the sense that it evolves as new cameras are released and is, thus, always up to date.

The rating

Top Elo
The camera with the highest Elo: Canon R5

Given the fast pace of technological development in the camera industry, it is not surprising that the list of highest rated cameras is dominated by relatively recent releases. The Canon R5 currently occupies the top spot with a Camera Elo of 3645, followed by the Panasonic S1H with a rating of 3619. Most of the top-rated cameras are full frame or medium format cameras, but there are also several "crop sensor" models that excel with their strong feature sets. The following table shows the 30 highest ranked cameras in descending order of their Elo.

Camera Elo: The Top-Rated Models
    Camera
Model
Camera
Elo
DXO
Score
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Video
Format
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
1. Canon R5 3645- Full Frame 44.88k/30p Jul 2020 3,899 i i Canon R5
2. Panasonic S1H 3619- Full Frame 24.06K/30p May 2019 3,999 i i Panasonic S1H
3. Nikon Z6 II 3564- Full Frame 24.34K/60p Oct 2020 1,999 i i Nikon Z6 II
4. Panasonic S1 353395 Full Frame 24.04K/60p Feb 2019 2,499 i i Panasonic S1
5. Nikon Z7 II 3523- Full Frame 45.44K/60p Oct 2020 2,999 i i Nikon Z7 II
6. Panasonic S1R 3514100 Full Frame 46.74K/60p Feb 2019 3,699 i i Panasonic S1R
7. Sony A7R IV 3511- Full Frame 60.24K/30p Jul 2019 3,499 i i Sony A7R IV
8. Leica SL2 3495- Full Frame 46.74K/60p Nov 2019 5,999 i i Leica SL2
9. Canon R6 3466- Full Frame 20.04k/60p Jul 2020 2,499 i i Canon R6
10. Panasonic S5 3428- Full Frame 24.04K/60p Sep 2020 1,999 i i Panasonic S5
11. Sony A7S III 3416- Full Frame 12.04K/120p Jul 2020 3,499 i i Sony A7S III
12. Sony A9 II 341393 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Oct 2019 4,499 i i Sony A9 II
13. Nikon Z5 3374- Full Frame 24.24K/30p Jul 2020 1,399 i i Nikon Z5
14. Sony A7R III 3342100 Full Frame 42.24K/30p Oct 2017 3,199- i Sony A7R III
15. Panasonic G9 3335- Four Thirds 20.24K/60p Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
16. Sony A7C 3325- Full Frame 24.04K/30p Sep 2020 1,799 i i Sony A7C
17. Canon 1D X Mark III 331791 Full Frame 20.04K/60p Jan 2020 6,499 i i Canon 1D X Mark III
18. Fujifilm X-T4 3307- APS-C 26.04K/60p Feb 2020 1,699 i i Fujifilm X-T4
19. Nikon Z6 329295 Full Frame 24.34K/30p Aug 2018 1,999 i i Nikon Z6
20. Nikon D780 3290- Full Frame 24.34K/30p Jan 2020 2,299 i i Nikon D780
21. Fujifilm GFX 100 3290- Medium Format 101.84K/30p May 2019 9,999 i i Fujifilm GFX 100
22. Hasselblad X1D II 3288- Medium Format 51.3- Jun 2019 5,750 i i Hasselblad X1D II
23. Nikon Z7 327799 Full Frame 45.44K/30p Aug 2018 3,399- i Nikon Z7
24. Olympus E-M1X 3237- Four Thirds 20.24K/30p Jan 2019 2,999 i i Olympus E-M1X
25. Olympus E-M1 III 3230- Four Thirds 20.24K/30p Feb 2020 1,799 i i Olympus E-M1 III
26. Nikon D6 3192- Full Frame 20.74K/30p Feb 2020 6,499 i i Nikon D6
27. Canon R 319189 Full Frame 30.14K/30p Sep 2018 2,299 i i Canon R
28. Fujifilm X-T200 3182- APS-C 24.04K/30p Jan 2020 699 i i Fujifilm X-T200
29. Fujifilm GFX 50R 3177- Medium Format 51.11080/30p Sep 2018 4,499 i i Fujifilm GFX 50R
30. Leica Q2 316196 Full Frame 46.74K/30p Mar 2019 4,995 i i Leica Q2

The table also reports DXO Mark sensor quality scores (if these are available). Imaging quality is, of course, an important characteristic of a camera and features prominently in the derivation of the Elo. However, the DXO score and the Elo do not correlate perfectly, as the Elo also reflects a broad range of camera characteristics beyond the sensor.

The overall ranking above comprises very different camera types. Here are some rankings by category:

How is the Camera Elo calculated?

The Elo rating system for two-player games is named after Arpad Elo, the Hungarian-American chess master and professor of physics, who invented it. The system has been adopted by the World Chess Federation FIDE and is also used in some team sports, such as baseball or basketball. The Elo rating essentially compares an expected outcome according to the prior rating of the contestants to the real outcome. If the result of a matchup is in line with expectations, little adjustment to the Elo is made. If a surprise occurs, more profound updates of the scores are undertaken. The concrete steps on how to calculate an Elo rating are nicely described on Metin Bektas' math blog.

For the derivation of the Camera Elo, the K-factor that controls the intensity of the rating adjustment is set to 32, the same value that FIDE uses for its rating of chess players. The initial rating of a new camera is established as 2000 (which by design then also becomes the average camera rating). To calculate the individual Camera Elo, all cameras available in the CAM-parator database are matched up against each other in chronological order of their announcement dates. Cameras with an Elo of 3000 or higher are considered to offer exceptional quality and versatility, and as such receive the label camera grandmaster.

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One useful property of the Camera Elo is that the measure makes it possible to rank cameras over time and across different market segments consistently. Other camera review-systems often assign their ratings only in relation to concurrent comparators or to those in the same category. This practice can sometimes create confusion. For example, a camera that received a "Highly Recommended" distinction in 2013 is unlikely to be a match for another camera that obtained the same grade five years later.

Similarly, it is unclear whether a camera that was awarded 5 stars in one category, say entry-level DSLR, is a superior imaging device to another camera that got 4.5 stars in another market segment (for example, bridge cameras). In addition, it is not always evident which cameras exactly are in the respective comparator groups or segments. – The Camera Elo avoids these problems by ranking each camera against virtually all other digital cameras that are available on the new and pre-owned market. It hence represents an aggregate measure of the outcome of a large number of pair-wise camera comparisons.

While the Camera Elo is more transparent and more consistent than some other camera review-ratings, it still involves some reviewer choices. In particular, the scores from the CAM-parator app, which serve as input for the rating, are a simple count of relative body, sensor, and feature advantages. All identified differences carry equal weight.

This "uniform importance" weighing scheme will perhaps not correspond to your personal requirements, so that you should always complement the Camera Elo information with a review of the cameras under consideration and assess their relative strength in light of your own preferences and imaging needs. To do this, just enter two comparators into the search boxes below and you will promptly be taken to a respective comparison.

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    Unlike other camera review-ratings, the Camera Elo is not static, but will change over time. There are several drivers of these dynamic adjustments. First, new information about a camera might become available (for example, DXO Mark sensor quality scores) that influences the camera's own Elo, as well as the rating of its comparators. Second, new cameras are being launched. Since new releases normally improve upon earlier models, the Elo of the latter will tend to drop. And third, technological developments might lead to cameras obtaining additional features or capabilities that trigger an update of the CAM-parator app and the camera characteristics the tool covers.

    Camera Elo FAQ

    Below is a collection of frequently encountered questions regarding the Camera Elo with corresponding responses.

    My camera is clearly superior to camera X, but has a lower Elo. How is this possible?

    The Camera Elo gives equal importance to a large number of body, sensor, and feature characteristics. This weighing scheme might not correspond to your particular preferences and imaging needs. In this case, you should apply your own weights to the relative advantages that the different cameras have in order to judge their suitability for your requirements.

    Camera X outscores camera Y in the direct comparison, but it has a lower Elo. Is there something wrong with the calculation?

    This outcome is possible and the result of camera Y outscoring, for example, cameras A, B and C against which camera X comes up short. If you are exclusively interested in the direct comparison between X and Y, you should rely on the CAM-parator app and ignore other (in your case irrelevant) alternatives that are covered via the Elo.

    My camera has an Elo of 2679. How do I interpret this rating?

    The Elo is an ordinal measure whose sole purpose is to rank cameras (higher is better). The numerical value does not have an interpretation by itself.

    Is the Camera Elo subject to rating inflation or deflation over time?

    No, new cameras enter the rating calculation at the system average of 2000.

    What are the requirements for a camera to achieve grand master status?

    All cameras with an Elo of 3000 or higher are awarded the grand master distinction.

    Camera X is not listed among the top-30. How can I find out about its Elo?

    You can find the Elo on the camera's review page. Move across to the CAM-parator tool and compare the camera in question to a credit card.

    The camera brand X offers a much better/broader/more affordable lens selection than brand Y. How does this enter the calculations?

    The Elo is focused on cameras. Lens characteristics are only taken into account when comparing two fixed-lens compacts.

    Which cameras exactly are considered for the Elo calculation?

    You can scroll through the full list of cameras via the drop-down search menu on the CAM-parator page.

    How does the Elo rating take the differential in camera-scores as derived via the CAM-parator app into account?

    The Elo calculation only distinguishes between wins, draws, and losses. The score itself does not enter the calculation.

    Does a camera with a higher Elo produce better images?

    Not necessarily. The rating reflects a range of camera and imaging characteristics, including, for example, aspects of portability and usability.

    My camera does not have the highest Elo in its category. Should I switch to the top ranked model instead?

    Yes. The camera industry is going through a difficult adjustment process and needs our continuing support to fund future imaging innovations.

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