Best Camera for Artwork Photography in 2021

Purchasing a digital camera specifically for taking pictures of, or digitizing, your artwork is one of the best and most intelligent investments you’ll ever make – especially if you get the right one. So let’s have a look at the best camera for artwork in 2021!

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If you are in a hurry, here is my pick for the best camera for photographing your artwork in 2021. If you have more time, then keep on reading.

  1. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)
  2. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)

    Best Overall Digital Camera for Artwork Photography

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens
  4. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens

    Goes with Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera above

    

    Buy Now on Amazon

Table of Contents

A good camera is one of the most important investments you will ever make. If you want or need to show your art to clients, or display it online for sale, having really good, professional quality images of your artwork will pay enormous dividends. But that is just one reason to get a great camera, and as a commercial artist, fine artist, art student or crafter you will find thousands more!

  • What is the Best Camera for Photographing Your Artwork?
  • What is the Best Camera for Copying Artwork?
  • What is the Best Camera for Digitizing My Art?
  • What is the Best Camera for Photographing Art for Prints?
  • What is the Best Digital Camera / DSLR for Taking Pictures of My Artwork?
  • How do professionals photograph their artwork?
  • Is it better to scan or photograph artwork?

In fact, a good camera is one of the most inspiring and exciting tools an artist can have. As it turns out, the best cameras for capturing images of your artwork also tend to be the best cameras for artists in general, and you will find that the possibilities, ideas, creative avenues and inspirations are seemingly endless, and that your new camera will help you see your art, and art in general, in exciting new ways.

So let’s get into this buyer’s guide for the best cameras for taking pictures of your artwork, and we’ll see that, while every camera we’ll recommend here really is specifically chosen to be great for capturing and digitizing any kind of art or craft piece, they are all great cameras in every way!

Why Do You Need a Digital Camera?

I almost didn’t even write about this, since it seems like such an obvious decision – that any artist or crafter should purchase a good camera, that is. But I realize that some readers may be here not because they have already decided and just need help finding the best cameras for artists, but because they actually haven’t actually decided yet.

A good digital camera will offer images that are so dramatically better than a smartphone that you’ll wonder why you ever thought your phone’s camera was so hot. Sorry, not to get personal, or to challenge your love and devotion for your phone, but it’s true – even if specifications are similar, there’s no comparison.

Since this is a buyer’s guide for the best cameras for photographing your artwork, let’s list a few reasons why you might want or need to do this:

  • To Create a Professional Portfolio
  • To Show Best-Quality Examples to Potential Clients or Employers
  • To Enter Contests or Competitions
  • To Display Online – Either as an Exhibition or for Sale
  • To Create Beautiful Prints on Paper or Canvas (or pretty much anything else…)
  • To Use in a Multi-Media Work or Other Art Piece / Installation
  • To Manipulate, Edit or Combine the Art with Other Work as a Creative Process

…and lots more!

But, again, we artists and crafters are creative, and having a good camera seems to really bring out our creativity, and for some of us makes us want to explore photography itself as a creative path. And for my money anything that makes me even more creative, more expressive and more engaged in my own artistic energy is well worth the investment.

The question of whether it is better to scan your artwork with a good, high quality flatbed scanner, or to photograph it, is not so very clear. You can find more information on my article on the Best Art Scanner for Artworks in 2021, but for now I would say that each has its advantages. Scanners may be easier, and offer more consistent results (or, at least, more easily obtained consistency), but though there’s more work in set-up and ensuring proper lighting, alignment and framing and all that, cameras will generally offer better image quality, and again have so many other uses and attractions that they’re pretty irresistible, and for many artists will be the obvious choice. 

What Should You Look For in the Best Cameras for Photographing Artwork?

My buyer’s guide for the best cameras for digitizing art may look a lot different than others on the web, because, coming from my own experience and work, I have a very clear idea of what is important and what you really need in a great art camera.

The most basic, and most important, features you should look for are:

  • A large, clear and articulated screen – you will hopefully be using a tripod when shooting your art, and a screen that folds out, moves around and is easy to see from various angles and in various situations is a must.
  • A fast lens – when I say “fast,” I don’t mean how quickly it will roll off the desk if you set it down, but how much light it will let in. A faster lens will work better in low light, and allows a lot more flexibility in photographing your art in all kinds of conditions.
  • A large sensor and good resolution – for the sharpest, most detailed images of your artwork – whether to create a beautiful professional portfolio, to make large, blown-up prints or the most vivid screen displays, or for further digital editing and creative manipulation, sensor size and resolution are crucial.
  • Accuracy – here we’re talking about as close to absolute accuracy as possible in color reproduction, and also in geometry – the cameras we’re recommending here are especially well known for their lack of distortion from edge to edge.
  • Manual controls – being able to manually adjust focus and exposure will allow you to get the perfect image every single time (which even the best cameras, in fully auto mode, can’t always do), and to achieve certain kinds of special effects and results, which can enhance and optimize the basic image or offer new creative possibilities.
  • Tripod Mount – ok, this is a pretty basic thing, but not all cameras have it, and you need it. One of my basic rules for getting the best possible digital images of my own artwork is, if you don’t need a tripod, use one anyway.

And again, these features are important to professional and fine art photographers as well, and are key elements in making a camera not just great for capturing and digitizing your artwork but for anything else you might do, and in making sure that all of your new creative experiments and explorations are as successful – and fun – as possible.

How Can You Find the Best Camera for Art Photography?

We are going to consider three basic types of digital cameras for photographing your artworks:

DSLR Camera

Or Digital Single Lens Reflex type of camera, which allows you to look directly through the lens for absolute framing accuracy and, for lots of users, a more comfortable and natural feeling when aiming, framing and shooting. These are the choice of almost all top-level professional and art photographers, and generally offer the best image and the best quality all around.

Mirrorless Camera

A camera that often looks a lot like a DSLR but shows you instead a digital image when you look through the eyepiece. Younger photographers, who may not have used old film cameras, often prefer this, and mirrorless cameras do offer often high quality images and overall superb quality – almost as good as a DSLR – but for less money. One, at least, is in fact far better than even the best DSLRs (see Leica below).

Compact Camera

Not as good as the two categories above (though that’s not always true – our top choice in compact cameras is one of the finest overall digital cameras on the market), compact cameras do offer great value, simple controls, intuitive interfaces and real usability, and incredible value. Plus, they can slip into a pocket that couldn’t even hold the lens of most DSLRs!

Should you Choose DSLR, Mirrorless or Compact Camera for Photographing Your Artwork?

And so, as we move down the list, the cameras become less and less expensive, and have somewhat lower quality in many ways. Still, it’s important to realize that all of the digital cameras I am recommending offer really incredible image quality, great build quality, durability and reliability, and clear, intuitive user interfaces. 

A DSLR camera is great if you want simply the best – best image quality, best control and flexibility, and the best lenses and accessories.

Still, for absolutely the best image quality, the most flexibility and control, the most rugged construction and the most evolved and complete systems (that is, add-on lenses and other accessories) DSLR camera is usually the way to go. If you are a fine artist digitizing very high quality works, a serious commercial artist, if you want the most professional and finest quality digital or print portfolio, or if you just want no limits in any creative pursuit, you may want to consider either my Best Premium DSLR or Best Value DSLR.

A mirrorless camera is great if you are on a budget (although they can also be quite expensive) and you want to enjoy the benefits of the newest technology.

For professional artists of any kind who are on a bit more of a budget, but still want nearly first-tier quality, the right mirrorless camera will give you truly superb pictures, the kind of control and adjustment you need to make the images even better (or to make them whatever your creative heart desires), intuitive interfaces and controls and real usability, and excellent material quality and durability. And, again, to be clear, a non-SLR mirrorless camera like the Leica below is actually better in pretty much every way than even the highest level professional DSLRs.

A compact digital camera is great if you are on a tight budget or you are taking photos of your artwork on the go and you need a highly portable camera.

Finally, if you are on an even tighter budget, or simply don’t want to spend a mint on a camera, you can still get beautiful results, and a beautiful camera in every way, by looking at the best compact digital cameras for shooting artwork. In fact, they are so good that, with a little practice, a little creativity and a clear artistic eye, you can get better results with the right compact camera than many people get with much more expensive cameras. Ultimately the image quality and build quality are not as high, but you will be surprised at just how good they can be!

This buyer’s guide to the best digital cameras for photographing artwork will include seven basic recommendations:

  • Best Digital Camera Overall for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Premium DSLR Camera for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Value DSLR Camera for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Premium Mirrorless Camera for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Value Mirrorless Camera for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Premium Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork
  • Best Value Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork

At the end of the article, in the Bonus section, we will look at a couple of great choices for tripods. But for now, let’s get a clear picture of the best digital cameras for artists in 2021!

Overview: Best Digital Camera for Photographing Artwork in 2021

DSLR Cameras

  1. Nikon D780 w/AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR
  2. Nikon D780 w/AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

    Best Premium DSLR Camera for Artwork Photography

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Canon EOS REBEL SL3 Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm Lens
  4. Canon EOS REBEL SL3 Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm Lens

    Best Value DSLR for Photographing Artwork

    Built-in Wi-Fi, Dual Pixel CMOS AF and 3.0 Inch Vari-Angle Touch Screen


    Buy Now on Amazon

Mirrorless Cameras

  1. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)
  2. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)

    Best Overall Digital Camera for Artwork Photography

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens
  4. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens

    Goes with Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera above

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  5. Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XF18-55mm Lens
  6. Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XF18-55mm Lens

    Best Premium Mirrorless Camera for Photographing Artwork



    Buy Now on Amazon

Compact Cameras

  1. Canon EOS M200 Compact Digital Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens
  2. Canon EOS M200 Compact Digital Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens

    Best Value Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork

    Vlogging Camera with EF-M 15-45mm lens, Vertical 4K Video Support, 3.0-inch Touch Panel LCD, Built-in Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Technology, Black


    Buy Now on Amazon

Best Overall Digital Camera for Artwork Photography

  1. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)
  2. Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera (Body Only)

    Best Overall Digital Camera for Artwork Photography

    

    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens
  4. Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH Lens

    Goes with Leica SL2 47MP Mirrorless Full-Frame Camera above

    

    Buy Now on Amazon

I have a photographer friend who is fond of saying that professional photographers usually buy Nikon or Canon, but artists have Leicas. Come to think of it, while he is truly a gifted artist, he may have missed his true calling in advertising.

The inclusion of a 9,000 dollar camera and lens combination in this buyer’s guide may seem like a bit of a shock, but I am simply staying true to the category – the best overall. And there is absolutely no better digital camera on the market today than the Leica SL2 mirrorless full-frame digital camera.

It is hard to imagine better picture quality than you can get from the Nikon D780 DSLR below, but when you see what the Leica SL2, coupled with the stunning Summicron-S Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm zoom lens, is capable of you realize that this is a whole different world, where images are so beautiful, so energetic, deep and real that they have a literally physical impact on the viewer that no other camera can come close to.

Perfect color fidelity, range and saturation, unsurpassed actual resolution with its full-sized digital sensor, perfect physical precision and lifetime-use robustness, the best lenses ever made, incredible manual control and absolutely the best and most consistent fully-auto results of any system available, all of these make the Leica SL2 a perfect camera for digitizing art, and the best choice by all standards for any artist or photographer.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are in fact better cameras. The Leica S, just plain S, is a medium format camera that is more than twice as expensive than the SL2, and that without a lens! And then there’s Alpa, hand-crafted Swiss cameras that can easily run into six figures with a bit of associated kit.

But while the difference between the Nikon D780 and the almost unbelievably good Leica SL2 is obvious, the difference between the SL2 and the more expensive Leica S, or the legendary Alpa, is actually quite subtle, and it is easy enough to call the SL2 the finest digital camera that is actually affordable (to some, at least). It is, without question, the finest camera for artists, and the best camera available for photographing artwork. 

Best DSLR Cameras for Artwork Photography

Best Premium DSLR Camera
Nikon D780 w/AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR

Best Premium DSLR Camera for Artwork Photography



Wow, after all that high-level praise of the Leica SL2, this may seem like a bit of a letdown. But make no mistake – the Nikon D780 is as good as it gets in the sub-Leica realm of mere mortals, and the finest DSLR by far in its price range. 

It is, in fact, not the most expensive DSLR, or the most expensive Nikon for that matter, but the D780 is a considerable investment, and yet represents not just best of class performance, but a substantial value.

With a bright, clear and accurate fully articulated LCD view screen, amazingly user-friendly interface, complete manual control and perfect results in fully automatic mode, the D780 seems designed specifically for high quality digitization of artwork, but it is the quality of the full-frame Nikon FX full-frame sensors, the perfect precision of the physical body, the legendary Nikon lenses and the brilliance of every level of engineering that make this camera so beloved among the top professional photographers and artists, and so ideal for capturing professional quality images of your art.

One of the finest cameras in the world, and in my opinion the finest in its category, the Nikon D780 is a truly top-level choice that, at under 3,000 dollars, is surprisingly affordable. It is easily the best DSLR available today for photographing artwork, and a wonderful companion and creative partner for any artist.

Best Value DSLR Camera
Canon EOS REBEL SL3 Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm Lens

Best Value DSLR for Photographing Artwork

Built-in Wi-Fi, Dual Pixel CMOS AF and 3.0 Inch Vari-Angle Touch Screen


I have never seen a fairly expensive item get such high customer ratings on Amazon (4.8 stars!), but this is easy to understand if you’ve ever used a Canon EOS Rebel SL3, or seen the pictures it is capable of making.

The SL3 is incredibly small and light for a large CMOS sensor (APS-C) digital single lens reflex camera, and incredibly easy to use, and the quality of image from edge to edge makes it ideal for photographing / digitizing artwork. The wonderful Canon zoom lens is really versatile for pretty much any use or situation or use, and offers such accurate geometry at each focal length that you can make sure your art will be reproduced with utmost precision – the same is true of the EOS’s color fidelity and resolution, which are both simply amazing at this low price.

If there is one drawback, it is that the beautiful Canon lens is not as fast as some others, which is not optimal for hand-held photos of art in darker environments. That said, for the most professional results you will probably be using a tripod, and you will often be working in your well-lit studio or with lights, and anyway the low-light capabilities of the sensor are quite good, so this is not really a big deal.

Speaking of big deals, though, it is important to realize that this superb camera and lens combination, for all of its near-perfect results, incredible ease of use and really top-notch physical quality and durability, is way less than a thousand dollars – easily the best value camera for beginners on the market today. The incredibly popular and highly rated Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is the best affordable DSLR for photographing artwork, or for any other use you can think of, and an absolute joy to use!

Best Mirrorless Cameras for Artwork Photography

Best Premium Mirorless Camera
Fujifilm X-T3 Mirrorless Digital Camera w/XF18-55mm Lens

Best Premium Mirrorless Camera for Photographing Artwork



One of the first things you’ll notice about the Fuji X-T3 camera is its incredible solidness and its premium quality fit and finish, which is really accentuated by the whisper-quiet operation. Also striking is the remarkably clear and visible range of controls and dials, which not only appear as they might on an old film camera but just make sense in their placement and function, as well as the easy and intuitive overall user interface.

Yes, the Fujifilm X-T3 is definitely a wonderful, and wonderfully easy, camera to use, but the reason it is so incredibly high rated, has won so many awards and gained such passionate, even fierce, loyalty among owners, is the beauty of the images. To be clear here, this beauty is not due to some kind of artificial digital enhancement, but to accuracy, clarity and resolution, and a stunning range of light values, all of which is made possible by  the superlative Fuji lenses and the large (APS-C) high resolution sensor, not to mention the superb overall engineering.

This all makes the Fujifilm X-T3 a perfect camera for photographing any type of artwork, as do the bright and clear articulated LCD display, the full range of manual controls and the performance in automatic mode, and the low distortion and high speed of the aspherical lens. A great camera for artists in every way, and (short of the three grand Leica above) definitely the finest premium mirrorless digital camera for photographing artwork.

Best Value Mirrorless Camera
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IIIs M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 IIR Lens

Best Value Mirrorless Camera for Photographing Artwork



Like the Fuji above, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IIIs hearkens back to the style and layout of old film cameras (if in a super-cool tiny and light version), but while they also share great image quality, and great quality all around, the Olympus is about a third of the price of the Fuji.

No, it is not the equal of the expensive Fujifilm X-T3, but this Olympus has best-of-class color accuracy, range of light, detail and actual resolution, and exceptionally low distortion edge to edge. Everything else we would want to see in a great camera for shooting art is in place, but it is the way this OM-D presents the original art with such faithfulness and accuracy, and such life, that make this a truly special camera. Of course that is true whatever type of photography you do, and the Olympus is an incredibly usable and versatile camera overall.

Still expensive to many people, at around 600 dollars with the wonderful 14-42mm Olympus M.Zuiko lens, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IIIs is without a doubt an amazing value – quite possibly the best value on this list – and it is easy to see why anybody who has one loves it so very much. It is my choice for best value mirrorless digital camera for photographing artwork.

Best Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork

Best Premium Compact Camera
Fuji X100V Digital Camera with Fujinon 23MM F2 Aspherical Lens

Best Premium Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork



The choice of commercial and fine art photographers who want a pocket-sized second camera that offers superb results on the level of their “serious” equipment, the beloved Fuji X100V often becomes their go-to camera, and in fact frequently produces even better images than their big, bulky and complicated gear.

Of course, while the X100V is probably much less expensive than their professional DSLRs, it is still not a cheap camera, coming in at around 1,400 dollars. Still, anybody who has used it is stunned that an affordable, small, easy to use camera, with a smaller sensor (though still a large and very high resolution APS-C) can possibly perform so well. 

Especially notable are the glorious colors, deeply saturated, subtle and wide in range and exceptionally accurate, the incredible detail and resolution, the lack of distortion from edge to edge, and the life and energy of the images. And in addition to a beautiful articulated LCD display screen, the X100V has a cool hybrid electronic and optical viewfinder, which is great for all kinds of shooting situations and can be especially nice when shooting artwork.

And while it has a fixed focus lens (that is, not a zoom), it is such a superb lens, with, again, such low distortion at every point on the frame, that this is actually one of the camera’s greatest advantages.

The Fujifilm X100V is certainly the best compact camera going for photographing / digitizing your artwork, but again, as we creative types will tend to take a great new art tool and run with it in so many inspired directions, I have to say that it is also, and by a wide margin, the finest compact camera I have ever used for any kind of photography or any situation.

Best Value Compact Camera
Canon EOS M200 Compact Digital Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens

Best Value Compact Camera for Photographing Artwork

Vlogging Camera with EF-M 15-45mm lens, Vertical 4K Video Support, 3.0-inch Touch Panel LCD, Built-in Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth Technology, Black


The Canon EOS M200 is about the least expensive camera you can get that will give really professional quality photographs of your artwork, allowing you to display your pieces in their full glory – in print or on the screen – and/or put together a portfolio that will wow potential clients or investors.

No, there are no 200 dollar cameras on this list of best digital cameras for artists, but from personal experience, and from the feedback I get from pretty much any commercial or fine artist I know, it is so important to have a portfolio, or digitized display pieces, that not only fully represent the beauty, life and attractiveness of your work, but that also reflects your commitment to quality and your personal work ethic. If your portfolio or online presence isn’t first rate – really, fully professional and beautiful – what will that say about your level of craft?

And the Canon EOS M200 does indeed truly, accurately and beautifully capture your artwork, and offers actual professional quality images. Billed as a simple camera for everyday use, vlogging and even HD video, all of which it does beautifully, the M200 is a ridiculously high resolution camera which produces images with a full range of light and color, incredibly high accuracy and low distortion, and presents them with real energy.

With highly precise automatic focus and exposure, full manual control of either (including a highly useful magnified-focus mode), an articulated LCD screen that is bright and accurate, and good low light capabilities, the Canon EOS M200 ticks all the boxes. It is designed to be the perfect affordable all-around camera, and it may very well be, but it is definitely the best value digital camera I know of for photographing artwork, and a phenomenal performer for the money.

Bonus: Best Tripods for Photographing Your Artwork

  1. Magnus VT-4000 Tripod System with Fluid Head
  2. Magnus VT-4000 Tripod System with Fluid Head

    A very solid and stable tripod, with a high quality fluid head which provides smooth movements of horizontal and vertical adjustments


    Buy Now on Amazon
  3. K&F Concept 62'' DSLR Tripod
  4. K&F Concept 62'' DSLR Tripod

    Lightweight and Compact Aluminum Camera Tripod with 360 Panorama Ball Head Quick Release Plate for Travel and Work


    Buy Now on Amazon

I could really go off here with a whole section of tips and hints for photographing artwork, a list of all the accessories you might want or need, advice for creating a portfolio or presenting art to clients, lots of ideas about digitizing and playing around with art in cool and creative ways, on and on.

But all the tips, advice, creative ideas and all that, well maybe that’s a whole different article for another time. Anyway, creative types like us can figure a lot of that stuff out on our own, and in our own style.

And as far as gear goes, I really think you only truly need two things: a great camera and a TRIPOD. Sorry, I didn’t capitalize that to yell at you, but to emphasize that a tripod is an absolute necessity for shooting any kind of artwork for any reason – whether for display, for art installations or multi-media work, for portfolios or promotional copies. No matter how steady your hand is, or how good you are with a camera, you will never get the absolute accuracy – especially in focus and alignment/geometry – that you can with a tripod.

Selecting the best tripod for shooting or digitizing your artwork could also be a whole new article and buyer’s guide, but to close this article I want to mention just a couple of great tripods – one premium and professional quality and one pretty darn cheap, but both just ideal for our needs.

Magnus VT-4000 Tripod System with Fluid Head – an incredibly solid and stable tripod, with a high quality fluid head which provides smooth movements of horizontal and vertical adjustments, and a design that ensures your camera stays put and doesn’t move once in position. Not too expensive, but as good as many professional tripods that are many times the price!

K&F Concept 62” DSLR Tripod – an amazing value for such a solid, over-built tripod, with full, precise and smooth adjustment control and absolute stability. Very light, and quite small when folded up, this is a perfect tripod for on-site work, but is also great for your home or studio. Less expensive tripods can tend to be a little wobbly and insecure, but more expensive ones don’t necessarily offer substantially more stability or precision than this great value Concept.

Thanks so much for reading my latest article – The Best Digital Cameras for Photographing Your Artwork: An In-Depth 2021 Buyer’s Guide –  and please visit my blog – Art Side of Life – for tons of other inspiring ideas, resources, articles, buyer’s guides and a lot more!

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