>> This roundup has been replaced with a newer version - click to read it <<

The $500-$800 category (based on US MSRP) features quite a few strong offerings, some of which should satisfy first-time camera buyers with easy-to-use interfaces and point-and-shot style functionality. Others are aimed more at seasoned-enthusiasts, offering direct manual controls and high-end features.

At this price point, all of the cameras use either Four Thirds or larger APS-C-sized sensors and all of the cameras can shoot Raw. And while a larger sensor can mean the potential for better image quality and more control over depth of field, the difference in size between APS-C and Four Thirds is not enormous. As such, the vast majority of cameras here have what we would consider to be very good image quality.

You’ll also notice that this category contains both DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Most of the mirrorless cameras at the price level offer built-in electronic viewfinders, but not all. If you’re likely to be shooting in bright light on a regular basis (or you prefer that way of working) we’d recommend that you consider either a mirrorless camera with either a high-resolution EVF, or a DSLR with an optical viewfinder.

Autofocus performance is another major differentiator in this product class. While all of the cameras in this roundup acquire focus quickly and accurately in good light, only a few can successfully use continuous autofocus to stay with a moving subject. And even fewer can lock focus on a subject and stay with that subject as it moves through the X, Y and Z (depth) axes. This is important for shooting erratically moving subjects, like newborns, running kids, or birds in flight. Another considerable differentiator is something seemingly simple: face detection. And yet none of the DSLRs in this roundup are capable of it in viewfinder shooting. Although they offer face-detect AF in live view, actual performance is nowhere near what the better mirrorless cameras in this class comfortably offer.

Furthermore, all of the cameras in this selection are reasonably small in size (compared to pricier ILC’s), but the number and arrangement of control points, grip size, build quality and weight all vary quite a bit. As do the inclusion of features like like 4K video capture, Wi-Fi and image stabilization.

So as you, the potential buyer, work your way through our list below, consider which of these traits and features are most important for your dream camera. You might not find a perfect match here at this price point, but chances are, you'll find something pretty darn close.