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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 ranking

Top Elo
Camera with highest Elo: Nikon Z9

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 Nikon Z9 currently occupies the top spot with a Camera Elo of 3217, followed by the Canon R5 with a rating of 3196. 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.

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Camera Elo: The Top-Rated Models
    Camera
Model
Lens
Type
Camera
Elo
DXO
Score
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Video
Format
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Nikon Z9Nikon Z 321798 Full Frame 45.48K/30p Oct 2021 5,499 amazon.com
2.
 
Canon R5Canon RF 319695 Full Frame 44.88K/30p Jul 2020 3,899 amazon.com
3.
 
Sony A1Sony E 318898 Full Frame 49.88k/30p Jan 2021 6,499 amazon.com
4.
 
Canon R3Canon RF 318596 Full Frame 24.06K/60p Sep 2021 5,999 amazon.com
5.
 
Sony A7 IVSony E 318397 Full Frame 32.74K/60p Oct 2021 2,499 amazon.com
6.
 
Fujifilm X-H2SFujifilm X 316086 APS-C 26.06.2k/30p May 2022 2,499 amazon.com
7.
 
Canon R5 CCanon RF 315896 Full Frame 44.88k/60p Jan 2022 4,499 amazon.com
8.
 
Nikon Z6 IINikon Z 312994 Full Frame 24.34K/60p Oct 2020 1,999 amazon.com
9.
 
Nikon Z7 IINikon Z 3127100 Full Frame 45.44K/60p Oct 2020 2,999 amazon.com
10.
 
Sony A7R IVSony E 310799 Full Frame 60.24K/30p Jul 2019 3,499 amazon.com
11.
 
Panasonic S1HL Mount 310294 Full Frame 24.06K/30p May 2019 3,999 amazon.com
12.
 
Leica SL2-SL Mount 309895 Full Frame 24.04K/60p Dec 2020 4,895 amazon.com
13.
 
Fujifilm GFX 50S IIFujifilm G 3071100 Medium Format 51.11080/30p Sep 2021 3,999 amazon.com
14.
 
Fujifilm GFX 100SFujifilm G 3070100 Medium Format 101.84K/30p Jan 2021 5,999 amazon.com
15.
 
Leica SL2L Mount 306095 Full Frame 46.74K/60p Nov 2019 5,999 amazon.com
16.
 
OM System OM-1Micro FT 305677 Four Thirds 20.24K/60p Feb 2022 2,199 amazon.com
17.
 
Sony A7S IIISony E 304786 Full Frame 12.04K/120p Jul 2020 3,499 amazon.com
18.
 
Sony A7CSony E 303695 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Sep 2020 1,799 amazon.com
19.
 
Panasonic S1RL Mount 3021100 Full Frame 46.74K/60p Feb 2019 3,699 amazon.com
20.
 
Panasonic S5L Mount 301894 Full Frame 24.04K/60p Sep 2020 1,999 amazon.com
21.
 
Canon R7ILC 301684 APS-C 32.34k/60p May 2022 1,499 amazon.com
22.
 
Hasselblad X1D IIHasselblad XCD 301099 Medium Format 51.3- Jun 2019 5,750 amazon.com
23.
 
Sony A9 IISony E 300193 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Oct 2019 4,499 amazon.com
24.
 
Fujifilm X-T4Fujifilm X 300084 APS-C 26.04K/60p Feb 2020 1,699 amazon.com
25.
 
Canon R6Canon RF 299990 Full Frame 20.04k/60p Jul 2020 2,499 amazon.com
26.
 
Panasonic S1L Mount 299895 Full Frame 24.04K/60p Feb 2019 2,499 amazon.com
27.
 
Fujifilm GFX 100Fujifilm G 297899 Medium Format 101.84K/30p May 2019 9,999 amazon.com
28.
 
Nikon Z5Nikon Z 297795 Full Frame 24.24K/30p Jul 2020 1,399 amazon.com
29.
 
Panasonic GH6Micro FT 296777 Four Thirds 25.05.7K/60p Feb 2022 2,199 amazon.com
30.
 
Canon 1D X Mark IIICanon EF 296191 Full Frame 20.04K/60p Jan 2020 6,499 amazon.com
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

The table also reports DXO Mark sensor quality scores. 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. 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 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 strengths 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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