Best HDR Cameras in 2021: Top 8 Picks (Smartphone and Camera)

Best HDR Cameras in 2021: Top 8 Picks (Smartphone and Camera)

HDR photography is a great way to create photos with beautiful detail. You can combine several exposures together to display darker and brighter details in high-contrast situations.

But what are the best HDR cameras on the market today? In this article, we share our top 8 picks – all of which have either an automatic HDR mode or an exposure bracketing shooting mode.

(In other words: They’re very HDR-capable!)

Let’s dive right in.

HDR photography helps capture detail in darker and lighter areas.

Best HDR Cameras: Our Picks 1. Canon EOS R62. Nikon Z7 II3. Sony a61004. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro6. Canon EOS M50 Mark II7. Nikon Z508. Sony a7 III

1. Canon EOS R6

Our Pick

Canon EOS R6
Great for professional HDR shots
The Canon EOS R6 has a versatile set of HDR shooting modes and performs great in low-light situations.

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Has both Auto Exposure Bracketing and Auto HDR modes
Excellent autofocus system
Built-in image stabilization

Expensive

Let’s start with a high-quality camera for professional HDR photography, the Canon EOS R6. A fantastic full-frame mirrorless camera, the R6 boasts amazing technical specifications, great low-light performance, and a versatile exposure-bracketing mode for HDR compositions.

This mirrorless camera has a 20 MP full-frame sensor and uses the latest DIGIC X image processor. As a result, you can expect superb quality photos with great colors and contrast. This is aided by an ISO range of 100-102400, and an incredibly capable AF system that features advanced tracking and 1,053 AF areas.

The EOS R6 has both an Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) mode and an HDR mode. This gives you excellent versatility and greater control over your HDR exposures. AEB allows you to shoot a burst of three consecutive shots at varying exposures (up to +3 stops from one another). Using this mode, you have precise control over your photos, but to create a final HDR image, you’ll need to combine the three shots using HDR software.

Alternatively, you can use the HDR mode, which automatically converts 3 bracketed shots into a single JPEG image. You can select the dynamic range and you can also apply a range of effects to the JPEG image.

2. Nikon Z7 II

Also Great

Nikon Z7 II
Excellent for low-light HDR
The Nikon Z7 II offers both an Auto Exposure Bracketing and an HDR shooting mode, plus it features fantastic dynamic range.

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45.7 MP sensor
ISO range of 64 to 102400
Great dynamic range

Expensive

Next, we have the Nikon Z7 II. The Z7 II is similar to the Canon EOS R6 (featured above) and has a similarly impressive set of technical specifications. Due to its 45.7 MP sensor, excellent AF, and high ISO range, the Z7 II is well suited to professional work.

Like the Canon EOS R6, the Nikon Z 7II also has both an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode and an HDR mode. The HDR mode requires minimal effort; it creates an automatic HDR shot from several images. The end result is fantastic when combined with the excellent base detail and colors from the full-frame sensor.

You’ll also benefit from the range of top-notch Z lenses, which will allow you to create many different HDR compositions. Overall, the Nikon Z7 II is one of the best HDR cameras for high-end professional photography.

3. Sony a6100

Budget Pick

Sony a6100
Great for beginners
The Sony a6100 has multiple HDR shooting modes and an ergonomic design for beginners.

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Has several HDR modes
Fast AF with great sensor coverage
Lightweight and compact design

Touchscreen cannot rotate outward

We now move to a more beginner-friendly camera with the Sony a6100. It’s much more affordable than the above cameras, yet it still offers great quality and some good HDR options.

The Sony a6100 packs a 24.2 MP Exmor sensor and a decent ISO range of 100 to 51,200. It also has a fast and accurate AF system that features 425 detection points for great coverage, plus it’s ergonomic and has a relatively lightweight and compact design. It is a joy to use and works great as a travel camera.

For HDR images, this camera has three different options – Dynamic Range Optimizer, Auto High Dynamic Range, and Auto Exposure Difference. This gives you the best possible flexibility and an optimal balance between ease of use and control.

The Dynamic Range Optimizer is a simple mode that automatically balances the highlights and shadows in your composition to create a detailed photo. Alternatively, the Auto HDR mode takes multiple exposure shots and combines them into a single JPEG image.

4. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Great for no-fuss HDR
The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers automatic HDR shots and has a great set of cameras.

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Automatic HDR compositions
Great aperture range
Stylish and sleek design

Can be difficult to turn the Auto HDR feature off

If you don’t want to buy a DSLR or mirrorless camera, many smartphones now have high-quality cameras – and they can even shoot HDR photos! One such smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, the latest generation of the Galaxy smartphone (and featuring a fantastic set of cameras).

The S21 Ultra packs three rear cameras, two with 12 MP and one with 64 MP sensors. There is also a front camera that has a respectable resolution of 10 MP. The rear cameras also have great apertures of f/1.8, f/2.0, and f/2.2.

As for HDR imaging: the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra automatically applies HDR effects to all photos via the Auto HDR setting. It also has a scene optimizer feature that chooses the best settings and tweaks your images to get optimal results in difficult lighting conditions. With these automatic settings, you can get balanced photos and an HDR effect with little to no effort!

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Best HDR Software in 2021 High Dynamic Range Photography: The Ultimate Guide Luminance HDR Review – An Efficient and Powerful HDR Processor

5. Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Apple iPhone 12 Pro
Great for HDR video
The Apple iPhone 12 Pro includes the Smart HDR 3 feature for quick and high-quality HDR photos.

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Smart HDR 3 technology
Excellent quality TrueDepth camera
Can also record HDR video

Not as high resolution as Samsung

If Samsung isn’t your style, Apple also has some amazing smartphones with superb cameras. The best model is currently the Apple iPhone 12 Pro, the latest generation of the iPhone and it features an excellent range of cameras.

The smartphone itself is incredibly fast and uses the A14 Bionic chip. This means that you can play games and use apps with ease, and the camera works with zero lag. The camera system has also been improved and now packs a 12 MP TrueDepth camera with an aperture of f/2.2.

Also, the iPhone 12 Pro has Smart HDR 3. This is essentially AI technology that learns the best exposures and settings for different compositions. As a result, you can easily produce professional shots that have balanced lighting and details.

In addition, the Apple iPhone 12 Pro is capable of HDR video recording. This makes it a versatile device for hybrid shooting, plus it functions brilliantly as a smartphone and looks stylish, too.

6. Canon EOS M50 Mark II

Canon EOS M50 Mark II
Great for simple HDR shots
The Canon EOS M50 Mark II is an ergonomic camera featuring a high-quality sensor and great video recording.

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24.1 MP sensor
Auto HDR and Auto Exposure Bracketing modes
Excellent 4K video recording

Relatively basic HDR options

Canon also has a good range of budget mirrorless cameras, including the Canon EOS M50 Mark II – a brilliant compact model that is great for beginners.

The Canon EOS M50 Mark II centers around a 24.1 MP APS-C sensor and a decent ISO range of 100 to 25,600, so you can expect fantastic image quality even in low-light situations. The camera also excels at video recording and can record in full HD at 120 fps for amazing slow-motion footage.

For HDR shooting, the M50 Mark II has an Auto Exposure Bracketing shooting mode as well as a simple HDR mode. The HDR mode will shoot a burst of three images at different exposures and combine them in-camera to create a single photo.

It may not have the most advanced features, but the camera offers excellent quality and utility at a great price.

7. Nikon Z50

Nikon Z50
Great for beginners
The Nikon Z50 is a decent entry-level mirrorless camera with an Auto HDR shooting mode.

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Great ISO range of 100 to 51,200
High-quality 20.9 MP sensor
Ergonomic and compact design

No rotating touchscreen

Nikon’s entry-level Z50 is another great camera for beginners and intermediate photographers, plus it includes some decent HDR features and a high-quality sensor.

In terms of technical specs, this camera has a 20.9 MP sensor and uses the EXPEED 6 image processor. It also has a decent AF system with 209 AF points that cover 90% of the sensor. For video recording, this mirrorless camera is capable of 4K videos at 30 fps and 1080p at 60 fps for slow-motion footage.

The Nikon Z50 boasts an Auto HDR mode. This is like the other modes mentioned throughout the article – it takes three photos at different exposures and combines them to produce a final JPEG image. The mode is easy to use and the end results are fantastic, plus it features a high exposure compensation range of -5 to +5 EV.

8. Sony a7 III

Sony a7 III
Great for professionals
The Sony a7 III is a high-end mirrorless camera with excellent specs for HDR shots.

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24.2 MP BSI sensor
Excellent autofocus coverage
Versatile HDR shooting modes

Expensive

Our last pick is the Sony a7 III, one of the most powerful HDR cameras on the market. It has a 24.2 MP BSI full-frame sensor that shoots beautiful RAW photos.

The a7 III features an excellent ISO range of 50 to 204,800, which makes the camera amazing for low-light photos. We also like that the autofocus system has 693 phase-detection points and 425 contrast-detection points, covering a whopping 93% of the sensor.

Like other Sony mirrorless cameras, the Sony Alpha a7 III also has an AEB shooting mode, and an automatic HDR mode. When combined with the impressive technical specifications of the camera, you can create some superb HDR shots in any lighting condition.

Overall, this is another high-end mirrorless camera that could be perfect if you want to step up to professional HDR photography.

Which HDR Camera is Right for You?

Having one of the best HDR cameras can help make your photography easier. Using an automatic HDR mode, or exposure bracketing mode allows you to tackle tricky compositions and lighting conditions. You can retain detail in areas that wouldn’t usually be possible, and you can also produce some cool HDR effects.

But which HDR camera is right for you? This depends on your budget, your level of experience, and what you want to achieve. If you want to move into professional HDR photography, something like the Canon EOS R6, Nikon Z 7II, or Sony Alpha a7 III would make excellent choices.

Alternatively, if you don’t have a huge budget, but still want to create great HDR shots, something like the Canon EOS M50 Mark II, Nikon Z50, or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra make for great choices.