Looking for a new DSLR? You’re in the right place. Here, we round up the best DSLRs whatever your skill level or budget.
DSLRs may have lost some of their shine to the newer mirrorless format, but professionals, enthusiasts, and novice users worldwide still rely on them for an endless assortment of applications. The best DSLR cameras offer comfortable handling and many physical controls, and they typically accept a wide range of lenses to make them supremely versatile.
Canon and Nikon have almost the entire market to themselves, and both companies craft everything from lightweight, cheap and simple models to solid, high-performance options that can withstand all kinds of weather and abuse.
Our best tip? Look out for previous-generation models that have crashed in price as retailers make space for newer models. Many of these, such as the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 and Nikon D5300, still hold up well today, and you could save yourself a nice chunk of cash.
The 8 Best DSLR Camera Reviews
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner
The D3500 is the most affordable DSLR Nikon currently carries, not to mention tiny in size and ultra-lightweight. It works with countless lenses from Nikon and third parties, and while it might not stretch to things like 4K video recording or a tilting LCD screen, its spec sheet remains sound for those looking to get started.
Key features include a generous 5fps burst mode and Full HD video recording to 60p, together with a sensor that lacks an anti-aliasing filter to help get extra detail into images. The interface has also been designed very much with the first-time user in mind.
Top tip: the camera usually comes with an 18-55mm kit lens, but make sure to get the version with ‘VR’ in the title. This stands for Vibration Reduction and it’s absolutely worth the small premium as it will help you to get sharper shots. For something similar but more powerful, check out the Nikon D5600
- Very light
- Super affordable
- LCD fixed in place
- Plasticky body
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1.62 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional
Canon’s EOS 5D line has been the darling of many wedding, portrait, and event photographers, not to mention videographers and countless others, and the EOS 5D Mark IV is the series’ best-specced model yet. While it’s not quite as strong on the spec sheet as Nikon’s D850, it’s a little cheaper and still a strong choice for that same demographic, with masses of features packed into a weather-sealed shell.
The 30.4MP sensor and 7fps burst mode strike a good balance between speed and resolution, while 4K video recording is also on hand – albeit with some limitations. If you’re an existing Canon user and the cheaper EOS 6D Mark II doesn’t quite cut it for you, this more powerful alternative would be a great choice.
- Great build quality
- Excellent stills and video
- 4K video has some limitations
- Screen fixed in place
Canon EOS Rebel SL2
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner
Canon may now have the newer EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the EOS 250D outside the US) vying for the novice user’s attention, but we reckon the older EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) is still worth a look if you’re just getting started. It has a sound 24MP sensor, a flip-out LCD screen that responds to touch, and Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system to keep focus swift and fluid when you’re shooting videos and using live view.
The newer EOS Rebel SL3 adds 4K video, faster burst shooting, and a handful of smaller updates, but none of these are really critical if you’re just looking to find your feet in DSLR shooting. That said, it’s not significantly more expensive, so it may be one to consider if you think you might benefit from those features.
- Very lightweight
- As many lens options as you could want
- No 4K video recording
- AF system is a little basic
Canon EOS 80D
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast
The EOS 80D is a perfect step up on more junior Canon EOS DSLRs once you want a little more to play with. Key reasons for this are faster burst shooting, a nicer viewfinder, and a menu pad dial that lets you speed through the menus and captured images.
You also get better battery life, weather sealing, and a headphone port for when you want to record some video, together with a large top-plate LCD that’s missing from the likes of the EOS Rebel T7i. This would be a fine camera to partner up with high-performing glass, like the Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 USM Macro if you like close-up shooting or the EF 70-200mm f4 L USM Lens if sports is your thing.
- Nice viewfinder
- Top-plate LCD makes adjusting settings convenient
- No 4K video recording
- There years old and starting to show it
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.7MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2.36-million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
The D500 is currently the most senior APS-C model in Nikon’s DSLR lineup, which makes it as much a great upgrade model for users of older cameras as a backup to a more senior full-frame option like the D850. With 10fps burst shooting for up to 200 raw frames and a wonderful 153-point AF system that’s inherited from the most senior D5 model, the camera has no issue keeping up with the speedy sportspersons.
With its rugged, weather-resistant body, it also has no issue when shooting in inclement weather. If you like what you see but you’re cash-strapped, the D7500 would be a fine alternative with a similar idea in mind.
- Tough, weather-sealed body
- Superb AF system
- Quite pricey
- AF is not quite fluid in video recording
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle screen, 1,037k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner
With its onboard GPS system and a kit option that includes the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, this slightly older option from Nikon is an obvious candidate for the traveling photographer. The fact that the sensor lacks a low-pass filter means that you should see a little more detail in those landscapes and cityscapes, while the 39-point AF system is a little more generous than the norm for this level, helping you to get focus more precise without any hassle. 5fps burst shooting shows it’s no slough for action too, and the 3.2-inch LCD can be flipped out and adjusted to a range of positions – great when shooting in the harsh sun, or when you’re looking to get more creative by shooting from a more unorthodox position.
- GPS is not normally found on such cameras
- Great sensor with no low-pass filter
- Video limited to Full HD
- Screen not touch-sensitive
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 922k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast
The fact that the D7500 has been around for some time now means that it offers brilliant value for money, having fallen some way from its original RRP. With the benefit of its crop factor, and both a superb AF system and 8fps burst shooting for up to 50 raw frames or 100 JPEGs, it’s totally at home when faced with wildlife or other more distant subjects in motion.
4K videos are also very nice and detailed, and the fact that they’re subject to a slight crop factor arguably only makes it more suitable when your subject is further away. Partner it with something like the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR or 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR and you’ve got yourself a cracking setup for nature and wildlife, or indeed sports and other activities.
- High-performance AF system
- Great burst shooting and a generous buffer
- Single card slot
- AF during video could be better
Canon EOS Rebel T7i
Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
The EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) is an ideal option if you’re looking to get plenty of camera for your money, with much of its functionality clearly positioning it above the more basic EOS Rebel T7 and EOS Rebel SL2. This includes an excellent 45-point AF system, with every point being cross-type for enhanced sensitivity, together with speedy 6fps burst shooting.
That makes it a fine choice for action, but otherwise, what you get is similar to the EOS Rebel SL2, such as the flip-out touchscreen, Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and Wi-Fi. The fact that it’s a slightly older model now means it’s subject to the odd discount and cashback promotion too. The default kit lens is the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, which is fine, but a camera like this really shines with superior lenses.
- Great handling and many direct controls
- All-cross-type AF system
- Body isn’t weather sealed
- No 4K video recording
Mirrorless vs. DSLR
Going for a camera with interchangeable lenses? DSLRs have optical viewfinders, which show you the scene as it appears to the eye, while mirrorless cameras either have an electronic version or don’t have one at all. This really divides opinion, and it’s a major reason photographers are drawn to one camp or the other.
Other features to think about are 4K video recording, which is common to compacts and mirrorless cameras, but still making its way to DSLRs, as well as LCD screens that flip out to face the front or simply tilt up and down. You may prefer one or the other, although the vast majority are at least now sensitive to touch.
What We Evaluated, What We Found
Image Quality: Colors, Detail, and Low-Light Performance
Image quality among Best DSLRs is mainly influenced by two things: lens quality and sensor performance. In order to make our reviews of DSLRs as far as possible, we evaluated the potential image quality of each model based on the performance of its sensor alone. Our metrics on sensor performance come from independent sensor testing available at DxOMark.com.
For many years, the resolution was considered by most consumers as a good indicator of a camera’s image quality. In the early days of digital photography, when high-resolution sensors were yet to be seen, this may have been helpful. But today, cameras almost always offer more resolution than a typical user takes advantage of, and so, it has only a minor role in image quality evaluations.
For this reason, we instead focus on attributes like color depth, dynamic range, and low-light performance. Measured in bits, Evs, and ISO sensitivity respectively, these attributes allow us to gauge a camera’s ability to accurately reproduce colors, to capture details in highlights and shadows, and to minimize noise when shooting in low light. Although shooting performance, features and design are also important, these sensor qualities determine the potential quality of your photographs.
The Best DSLRs that we reviewed average about 23.6 Evs for color depth, with the Nikon D3200 leading the pack at an impressive 24.8 Evs. For dynamic range, which represents a camera’s ability to capture details in highlights and shadows, the cameras averaged 12.9 Evs, which is 0.9 points above DxOMark’s threshold for excellent dynamic range. This time, another Nikon camera, the D5500, took first with 14 Evs. The D5500 also had the best low-light performance on our lineup, besting the category average of 1110 ISO, with a score of 1438 ISO.
Many cameras also have an anti-aliasing filter placed in front of the sensor in order to reduce the risk of moiré in your photos. Moiré is a strange-looking patterning effect caused by a sensor’s inability to reproduce intricate repeating details and can show up in clothing, buildings and more. Unfortunately, this filter also reduces the sharpness of your sensor and limits the details that it can record. As cameras become more equipped to handle moiré without the filter, some Best DSLRs have begun to leave it out altogether, opting instead for increased sharpness.
Video quality is another important attribute to consider when looking at Best DSLRs. Aside from the sensor qualities that we’ve already discussed; maximum resolution and framerate have the greatest impact on your images. Resolution is essentially the size of your videos and influences the size of displays on which you can clearly view them. Frame rate determines how smoothly your videos playback, especially when slowed down. Think of it like a flipbook – the more pages you have, the smoother the animation.
Performance: Capturing Moments With Precision
Beyond image quality, performance plays the next largest role in the way your images turn out. Your camera may have the specifications to deliver accurate colors and sharp details, but without the ability to focus accurately or shoot quickly, these benefits are useless.
The performance deals with features like battery life, continuous shooting, auto-focus, and more, and allows you to determine how well your camera will operate in typical use. Although it has the least impact on your images, battery life is perhaps the most important. It is, after all, the one element of your camera upon which everything else depends.
Using a standard developed by CIPA – the Camera and Imaging Products Association – manufacturers measure battery life in shots per charge. The average for the products that we reviewed was 522 shots per charge, though there was a wide variation among them. The worst battery life on our lineup belongs to the Canon Rebel SL1 with 340 shots per charge, and the best belongs to the Nikon D5500 with 820 shots per charge.
Continuous shooting enables you to hold down the shutter during an action sequence and capture multiple frames more quickly than you could otherwise. Using this technique, you can capture the subtle moments that you’d normally miss if it were up to your timing alone. Obviously, the more frames you can capture during a sequence, the more likely you are to get the shot you were trying for. On average, the cameras we tested provided about 5 frames per second, only varying one frame in either direction.
Auto-focus points are a huge part of how your camera focuses. Each of these points corresponds to a specific location on the frame and is equipped to determine when an image is in focus. The more sensors you have, the more adept your camera is at providing an accurate focus, regardless of your subject’s location in the frame.
Shutter speed range and maximum ISO are two ways of controlling the amount of light you’ll have in your photographs. With a faster shutter speed, you can use wider apertures without over-exposing your images. Higher maximum ISOs allow you to capture brighter images in low light.
Features & Design: Convenience, Size, and Ease of Use
Best DSLRs vary very little in design – they all have basic adjustment dials, roughly 3.2-inch screens, and sizable grips. For this reason, the actual image quality and performance of each camera are all the more important. However, there are a few axillary features that may make the difference when all else remains equal.
One such feature is an articulating display. While it seems like a subtle difference, a display that can be tilted up or down can prove very useful in many circumstances. Rather than getting on the floor to frame a low shot, you can simply move the camera low and tilt the screen towards you, and rather than guessing when shooting over a crowd, you can angle the screen down so you can see the subjects and get accurate framing.
Another helpful display-related feature is a touchscreen. Touchscreens provide a way for beginners to learn settings adjustment, focus on subjects and explore the menus. Although you can do these things using the camera’s physical buttons and dials, the touchscreen simply makes things much more intuitive.
Built-in Wi-Fi is probably the next most popular feature among Best DSLR users, although it has as of yet to make a widespread appearance. Wi-Fi allows you to do a few things, the most important of which is using your phone or tablet to remotely adjust settings or frame and capture images. You can also transfer images over Wi-Fi for quick editing or sharing.
GPS allows you to tag your photos with geographical information for later use. This information lets you see exactly where you took your photos. This way, you’ll never forget the location of a particular landmark or subject. It also makes it possible to filter your photos by location, which can make it easier to find a specific shot in your catalog.
Lastly, it is a good idea to consider the size and weight of each of the cameras on our lineup. If you’re looking for the lightest and smallest option, you may want to consider cameras like the Canon Rebel SL1 because it’s the most compact DSLR on our lineup. Just be aware, smaller cameras typically make compromises for their size, particularly when it comes to battery life.
We seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison on loan from their respective companies. The manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.