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.
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 Panasonic S1H currently occupies the top spot with a Camera Elo of 3545, followed by the Panasonic S1 with a rating of 3511. 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.
|1.||Panasonic S1H||3545||-||Full Frame||24.0||6K/30p||May 2019||3,999||Panasonic S1H|
|2.||Panasonic S1||3511||95||Full Frame||24.0||4K/60p||Feb 2019||2,499||Panasonic S1|
|3.||Panasonic S1R||3502||100||Full Frame||46.7||4K/60p||Feb 2019||3,699||Panasonic S1R|
|4.||Sony A7R IV||3492||-||Full Frame||60.2||4K/30p||Jul 2019||3,499||Sony A7R IV|
|5.||Leica SL2||3450||-||Full Frame||46.7||4K/60p||Nov 2019||5,999||Leica SL2|
|6.||Sony A9 II||3408||-||Full Frame||24.0||4K/30p||Oct 2019||4,499||Sony A9 II|
|7.||Sony A7R III||3407||100||Full Frame||42.2||4K/30p||Oct 2017||3,199||-||Sony A7R III|
|8.||Panasonic G9||3385||-||Four Thirds||20.2||4K/60p||Nov 2017||1,699||Panasonic G9|
|9.||Hasselblad X1D II||3370||-||Medium Format||51.3||-||Jun 2019||5,750||Hasselblad X1D II|
|10.||Nikon Z6||3358||95||Full Frame||24.3||4K/30p||Aug 2018||1,999||Nikon Z6|
|11.||Fujifilm GFX 100||3352||-||Medium Format||101.8||4K/30p||May 2019||9,999||Fujifilm GFX 100|
|12.||Nikon Z7||3324||99||Full Frame||45.4||4K/30p||Aug 2018||3,399||Nikon Z7|
|13.||Canon 1D X Mark III||3287||-||Full Frame||20.0||4K/60p||Jan 2020||6,499||Canon 1D X Mark III|
|14.||Olympus E-M1X||3287||-||Four Thirds||20.2||4K/30p||Jan 2019||2,999||Olympus E-M1X|
|15.||Sony A7 III||3285||96||Full Frame||24.0||4K/30p||Feb 2018||1,999||Sony A7 III|
|16.||Nikon D780||3274||-||Full Frame||24.3||4K/30p||Jan 2020||2,299||Nikon D780|
|17.||Fujifilm X-T3||3264||-||APS-C||26.0||4K/60p||Sep 2018||1,499||Fujifilm X-T3|
|18.||Olympus E-M1 III||3260||-||Four Thirds||20.2||4K/30p||Feb 2020||1,799||Olympus E-M1 III|
|19.||Canon R||3255||89||Full Frame||30.1||4K/30p||Sep 2018||2,299||Canon R|
|20.||Sony A9||3254||92||Full Frame||24.0||4K/30p||Apr 2017||4,499||-||Sony A9|
|21.||Fujifilm GFX 50R||3253||-||Medium Format||51.1||1080/30p||Sep 2018||4,499||Fujifilm GFX 50R|
|22.||Leica Q2||3187||96||Full Frame||46.7||4K/30p||Mar 2019||4,995||Leica Q2|
|23.||Nikon D6||3175||-||Full Frame||20.7||4K/30p||Feb 2020||6,499||Nikon D6|
|24.||Nikon D850||3175||100||Full Frame||45.4||4K/30p||Jul 2017||3,299||Nikon D850|
|25.||Fujifilm X-T200||3161||-||APS-C||24.0||4K/30p||Jan 2020||699||Fujifilm X-T200|
|26.||Panasonic GH5||3148||77||Four Thirds||20.2||4K/60p||Jan 2017||1,999||Panasonic GH5|
|27.||Fujifilm X-H1||3140||-||APS-C||24.0||4K/30p||Feb 2018||1,899||Fujifilm X-H1|
|28.||Zeiss ZX1||3139||-||Full Frame||37.4||4K/30p||Sep 2018||4,199||Zeiss ZX1|
|29.||Sigma fp||3093||-||Full Frame||24.0||4K/30p||Jul 2019||..||Sigma fp|
|30.||Panasonic GH5s||3093||-||Four Thirds||9.9||4K/60p||Jan 2018||2,499||Panasonic GH5s|
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:
- Best DSLR Cameras
- Best Mirrorless (MILC) Cameras
- Best Superzoom Compact Cameras
- Best Travel Zoom Compact Cameras
- Best Prime Lens Compact Cameras
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.
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.
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.