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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: Sony A7R III

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 Sony A7R III currently occupies the top spot with a Camera Elo of 3326, followed by the Nikon Z6 with a rating of 3284. 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. Sony A7R III 3326100 Full Frame 42.24K/30p Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
2. Nikon Z6 3284- Full Frame 24.34K/30p Aug 2018 1,999 i i Nikon Z6
3. Nikon Z7 3250- Full Frame 45.44K/30p Aug 2018 3,399 i i Nikon Z7
4. Sony A9 325092 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
5. Sony A7 III 320596 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
6. Panasonic G9 3200- Four Thirds 20.24K/60p Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
7. Nikon D850 3156100 Full Frame 45.44K/30p Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
8. Canon R 3149- Full Frame 30.14K/30p Sep 2018 2,299 i i Canon R
9. Panasonic GH5 313277 Four Thirds 20.24K/60p Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
10. Zeiss ZX1 3123- Full Frame 37.44K/30p Sep 2018 .. i i Zeiss ZX1
11. Fujifilm X-T3 3122- APS-C 26.04K/60p Sep 2018 1,499 i i Fujifilm X-T3
12. Sony A99 II 309992 Full Frame 42.24K/30p Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
13. Panasonic GH5s 3069- Four Thirds 9.94K/60p Jan 2018 2,499 i i Panasonic GH5s
14. Fujifilm X-H1 2999- APS-C 24.04K/30p Feb 2018 1,899 i i Fujifilm X-H1
15. Pentax K-1 II 2997- Full Frame 36.21080/60i Feb 2018 1,999 i i Pentax K-1 II
16. Canon 5D Mark IV 299191 Full Frame 30.14K/30p Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
17. Fujifilm GFX 50S 2966- Medium Format 51.11080/30p Sep 2016 6,499 i i Fujifilm GFX 50S
18. Pentax K-1 296596 Full Frame 36.21080/60i Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
19. Olympus E-M1 II 295980 Four Thirds 20.24K/30p Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
20. Fujifilm GFX 50R 2944- Medium Format 51.11080/30p Sep 2018 4,499 i i Fujifilm GFX 50R
21. Samsung NX1 294283 APS-C 28.04K/30p Sep 2014 1,499- i Samsung NX1
22. Canon M50 2895- APS-C 24.04K/24p Feb 2018 779 i i Canon M50
23. Canon 1D X Mark II 289388 Full Frame 20.04K/60p Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
24. Nikon D500 289383 APS-C 20.74K/30p Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
25. Leica SL 287788 Full Frame 24.04K/30p Oct 2015 7,450 i i Leica SL
26. Sony A6500 287685 APS-C 24.04K/30p Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
27. Canon 6D Mark II 285985 Full Frame 26.01080/60p Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
28. Fujifilm X-T100 2855- APS-C 24.04K/15p May 2018 599 i i Fujifilm X-T100
29. Nikon D7500 282086 APS-C 20.74K/30p Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
30. Canon G1 X Mark III 2818- APS-C 24.01080/60p Oct 2017 1,299 i i Canon G1 X Mark III

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 2800 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 2800 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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