DSLR cameras have long been the recognized standard for both digital videography and photography, and despite a sudden influx of mirrorless cameras offering many of the same features in a more lightweight and cheaper frame, they continue to sell. Why is that? Decades of innovation have allowed DSLR cameras to reach a point of quality that’s impressive, and that means they’re still well respected by professional photographers.
A good DSLR camera won’t come cheap, but it’s an investment that can pay off for years to come. You shouldn’t pull the trigger right away. We’re here to help you navigate the best DSLR cameras around and provide you with some guidance during the camera shopping process.
The Best Dslr Cameras
- Canon EOS 6D Mark II Camera
- Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
- Canon EOS Rebel T7 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Kit
- Sony a68 Translucent Mirror DSLR Camera
- Pentax KP Weatherproof DSLR
- Canon Rebel SL3 with 18-55mm Lens
- Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR Body
- Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera
- Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm
- Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera
- Pentax K-1 Mark II Weather Resistant Camera
- Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame
1. Canon EOS 6D Mark II Camera
If you're looking to pick up your first digital SLR camera, you're unlikely to find an option that better suits your needs than the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. It doesn't offer the best image quality in the business, but it's an incredibly well rounded gadget. The live view autofocus and versatile vari-angle LED touchscreen are both of superior quality and easy to learn, and the shape, build, and controls are equally sensible in their design. DSLR cameras have a reputation for being difficult, but the 6D makes itself accessible from day one. Its 26.2 megapixel sensor puts it in line with major the best DSLR models from big names like Sony and Nikon. This new sensor, combined with the DIGIC 7 processor allows for sharp and reliable low light performance as well.
2. Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera
There's no doubt that Nikon's D850 is expensive, but professional photographers and amateurs with some extra cash on hand will flip for its great performance and breadth of modern features. This professional DSLR camera doesn't just offer an astounding 46 megapixels of sensor coverage, it also constitutes one of the fastest shooting cameras that Nikon offers. Those are impressive accomplishments in their own right but otherwise unheard of when combined together. The sensor also employs backside illumination to further enhance its performance in dimly lit environments.
The D850 doesn't neglect videographers with its specs either. The ability to shoot 4K footage in full frame mode is nothing to sneeze at, and that's doubly true when you can manage it at a bitrate of 144 Mbps. If you're willing to degrade your footage, you can even capture footage at a butter smooth rate of 60 fps.
3. Canon EOS Rebel T7 EF-S 18-55mm IS II Kit
If you're looking for a DSLR camera under 500 dollars, look no further than the EOS Rebel T7. This affordable DSLR camera can't compare with something like the aforementioned D850, but it should be more than enough horsepower for aspiring photographers looking to make the upgrade from shooting footage on their smartphones. And the fact that it's such a small DSLR camera (weighing in at less than two pounds and barely more than five inches at its widest point) means that it can double admirably as a travel camera for professionals.
Despite being a cheap DSLR camera, it comes richly packed with features. All of the important shooting functions are easily accessible, and the flash works at a distance of up to 30 feet. From image quality to low light performance to video, everything is modestly good, but all those components add up to create a solid all-around model.
4. Sony a68 Translucent Mirror DSLR Camera
The Sony Alpha a68 comes with a modestly higher price tag than the Rebel T7, but it constitutes a decent jump in terms of quality. While it's similarly lightweight, it's significantly more durable, and the combination of a great grip and well positioned buttons makes it a joy to simply manipulate. It particularly excels when shooting photos and video in close-up, and while it shoots video at a max of 1080p, its sound quality is better than you'd expect. The OLED viewfinder offers better performance in bright lighting than LED alternatives.
Usability is really the name of the game with the Alpha a68. Everything is right where you need it, and the top LCD display is especially well positioned to provide you with all the critical information you need at a glance. The mode dial includes a ton of features for new photographers to play around with.
5. Pentax KP Weatherproof DSLR
Shooting nature photography requires some specific features, and the Pentax KP sticks the landing on all the important notes, but this DSLR can serve you well regardless of your preferred style of photography. This is a camera that's dust proof, cold-proof, and water resistant, so it should suit you outdoors regardless of how harsh the environment is. And its relatively slim design means you won't have to worry about carrying too much weight on your shoulders. Assisting with that is the inclusion of a sensor based image stabilization system that can reduce the need to carry bulky gear like a tripod.
That's just the surface as far as great features are concerned here. Horizon correction and composition adjustment reduce the need for manual adjustment while out in the wild. And Astrotracer can be used in conjunction with the built-in GPS system when you're trying to shoot the night sky.
6. Canon Rebel SL3 with 18-55mm Lens
The ability to shoot in Ultra HD resolution is still largely seen as a premium feature, which is why it's a surprise to see a quality 4K DSLR camera for under $700. If you're an aspiring director or a vlogger looking to upgrade from basic video, the SL3 could be the best Canon camera for you. It's also the tiniest EOS on the market, so it's great for taking with you on whatever adventures you want to record. A decent amount of customization options are available through the buttons, but they're generally well designed to make shooting video or stills feel natural. And the presence of a manual flash gives you more control over how you shoot. A majority of the functions are handled through the menu system, allowing the small frame to not become overly crowded with dials and buttons.
7. Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR Body
The Nikon D500 is a great camera, but pound for pound, the more affordable D7500 offers a lot more value and thus earns a spot on our best DSLR camera reviews. Built off of the same basic design, it includes a great 8 fps burst and a solidly hefty autofocus system. The 3D tracking is also above average, and all that adds up to a camera that excels at action photography. Strong weather sealing on the frame further bulk up its value as a camera that can capture life in motion regardless of the circumstances. CIPA ratings indicate that it can capture 950 shots on a single charge, but most photographers should be able to get close to double that in practice. Eight different physical control points can be customized through the touch screen interface which can also be used to control the shutter with a single tap.
8. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera
The EOS Rebel SL2 is clearly built with budding photographers in mind, but the diverse array of professional features means that it will continue to hold value even as they hone their craft. And considering it bears a sensible price tag in the range of $600, that makes it one of the best Canon DSLRs on the market today. A solid autofocus mode really shows its value when you use it in live view and movie modes, and the Feature Assistant guides new users through all the core functions, essentially serving as a beginners class in the complex functionalities of a DSLR camera. The image quality performs well above what could be expected for something in this price range, but it suffers a little when shooting in low light situations. And while video offers a max FHD resolution, a convenient auto mode takes the wheel for the major complexities.
9. Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm
With a price of under $500, the D3500 by Nikon is one of the best DSLR camera deals you'll find anywhere. This may be an entry level camera at heart, but it's an exceptional one. The image quality is strong, and you don't have to have a masters degree in photography to figure out how it works. The simplified buttons are paired with a Guide Mode that patiently walks you through the basics, but the quality specs mean that it's worth consideration even for semi-pros and enthusiasts.
The density of megapixels to the sensor are actually pushing the limits of what you could comfortably expect from a DSLR, and the bundled lens comes equipped with Nikon's vibration reduction technology. Bluetooth functionality lets you share footage to your phone and even remotely manage the shutter. An EXPEED image processing unit and improved battery life on older models round out the features.
10. Canon EOS 80D DSLR Camera
Enthusiasts ready to move past entry level cameras but not yet ready to bite the bullet on a high-end camera in the range of over a thousand dollars should look to the EOS 80D. The phase detection and hybrid autofocus systems are both impressively strong pieces of work, and most of the controls can be accessed directly through the touchscreen controls. It's a smart and streamlined system that trusts the user to understand what to do rather than rely on an entry level guidance system.
And while the video can't achieve 4K resolution, it's still nothing to be scoffed at. The 1080p resolution achieves a smooth 60 fps rate, while the continuous autofocus lets you zero in on the subjects that matter to you without losing direction. Ports for both a headphone and a microphone make this a suitable choice for professional videographers and vloggers.
11. Pentax K-1 Mark II Weather Resistant Camera
The second full frame camera on our list comes at a price significantly lower than the top notch EOS 6D Mark II, but it's definitely worth your time. It's a DSLR seemingly made with the needs of war journalists and serious nature photographers in mind. The frame is impressively sturdy and resistant to dust, water, and damage. And like the Pentax KP, its Astrotracer technology allows you to accurately take night sky pictures with higher precision and reduced star trails.
This is clearly built for use in the wild outdoors, indicated by the fact that its LCD screen looks so good even in unideal conditions. The image processor deserves special mention as well. With a maximum ISO of 819,200, it can perform admirably in exceedingly low light conditions. It's equipped with an engine accelerometer to focus quickly while reducing image noise and maintaining respectable picture sharpness.
12. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame
Another full framed entry in the DSLR market, the 5D Mark IV is a premium camera that will probably only appeal to the serious professionals, but for those with the money to spare and the talent to make the most of its high-end features, it's the best Canon DSLR hands down. It's a full frame model packed with a new sensor to produce some of the most crystal clear images you're likely to find anywhere.
And while Canon has had some trouble integrating quality touch screen features into their cameras in the past, they really hit the mark here. The screen is tight and responsive, and it offers a ton of functions. Combined with the staggering number of buttons built into the frame, an accomplished photographer can really get a lot of work out of it. A rating function makes it easy to sort through your image gallery.
Best Dslr Cameras Buyer’s Guide
DSLR vs. Mirrorless Cameras
DSLR cameras were the king of the hill for a long time, but mirrorless models are gaining traction. The latter have made great strides in the past few years, and there are people out there who will tell you that DSLR models are acquainted. The truth is significantly more complicated. There are a lot of advantages that come with a DSLR camera, but they aren’t a definitively better choice. Read on to learn more, and check out our buying guide for mirrorless cameras if you want to scope out the competition.
If you’re just getting started in photography, you probably haven’t realized how addictive buying lenses can be. Professional photographers rapidly build up a collection of lenses over the course of their career, and the lens you shoot with can be just as important as the body you’re using. Compatibility with DSLRs is exceptional, with many supporting dozens of models released over the course of decades.
The main advantage touted for mirrorless cameras is that the lack of a mirror allows them to be smaller and more cost-effective, but that comes at a price. Electronic viewfinders can only simulate the composition, whereas traditional viewfinders show you the world precisely as it is. Skilled photographers praise the integrity of the perspective they get through an optical viewfinder, and you can more accurately appraise the depth of view when staring through a traditional VF.
The simple fact of the matter is that mirrorless cameras are cheaper on average than DSLRs, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a great bargain on a DSLR. Many of the models on our list weigh in at under $500. While you could drop three grand to get something like the EOS 6D Mark II, the rise of mirrorless options has actually spurred a price drop as DSLRs strive to remain competitive, and our list covers an expansive range of different price points sure to accommodate anyone.
Autofocus isn’t just an assistance device for novice photographers. It’s a quality of life feature that professionals know can improve their performance. It’s also still substantively better on DSLR models than it is on their mirrorless alternatives. Mirrorless models use something called contrast detect AF, the same type you’d see in traditional compact cameras. DSLRs rely instead on phase detection AF. This essentially compares your subject from two separate angles and uses that to calibrate the ideal focus. It’s a more effective system and one that makes DSLRs particularly prized by sports and other action photographers.
Significant aspects of a DSLRs functionality are analog in nature, and that means that they tend to eat up far less power than mirrorless cameras. The difference in terms of battery life are substantive. Most mirrorless cameras will give you a few hundred shots on a single charge, but a top shelf DSLR can easily get you a few thousand. It’s another reason why many serious photographers opt for DSLR over their newer sibling.
How to Pick the Right DSLR Camera
Even if you’ve bought a DSLR camera before, all of the various specs and features can be a lot to unpack, but it’s worth it to ensure you’re getting the best DSLR camera for your needs. We’re ready to help you find the factors to focus on as you shop for your next camera.
Expect a Learning Curve
If you have experience working with mirrorless or point and shoot cameras, you may be confident that you have what it takes to jump into the deep end of the pool with a DSLR camera. But the old adage that you don’t know what you don’t know applies here. DSLRs are revered by professionals for their high level of versatility, but that means there can be a pretty stiff learning curve for new users. Buying an entry level model isn’t just about saving money. It can be about saving your sanity as well.
Many of these entry level models come with dedicated modes that help new users get eased in. The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 is an exceptional place to start because its Feature Assistant serves as essentially a 101 class in photography. It slowly teases out the features in a way that lets you grow into them. The Nikon D3500 similarly offers an Auto mode that does some of the heavy lifting for you and a Guide mode that teaches you the basics, but it offers plenty of features that you can grow into. Purchasing a high end DSLR model means you’ll probably be buying a bunch of features you’ll never use. Opting for something a little more friendly will increase the odds of you making the most of your purchase.
Don’t Get To Worked Up About Megapixels
There’s a trend in the consumer electronics industry to offer highly quantifiable metrics that can convince unknowing shoppers that their product is the best. For the camera business, that spec is megapixels. Manufacturers are in a cold war to produce cameras with the highest number of pixels possible. The simple fact is, 99% of users won’t find much difference between a 20mp camera and a 35mp one. While they do make a difference in the overall quality of images, any of the cameras on our list are past the megapixel threshold for traditional photos. If you plan on blowing your pictures up to poster size, you may notice a difference. Otherwise, it’s not worth stressing over.
Far more important is finding a camera that feels comfortable in your hand and offers the autofocus functions and ISO levels that can produce quality results. We mentioned earlier that new camera owners should invest in entry level cameras, and that applies here as well. Megapixel quality scales roughly to pricing, and pricing scales smartly to the experience level and demands of the photographer in question. When you’re at a level of skill where the megapixels will have a significant impact on your life, you’ll also have the experience to know what exactly you need.
Consider the Brand
Our DSLR camera reviews feature four of the biggest manufacturers, but they’re just a drop in the well of a market filled with great camera companies. You may be tempted to simply pick the camera with the best specs or the coolest features, and while that’s definitely a great place to start, you also need to take the brand into consideration. There are a couple of reasons for that.
The first is that while all of these listed cameras are great, each brand has a reputation for what they do well. Due to their sturdy design, their great low light shooting, and their range of functions focused on outdoor use, Pentak cameras make exceptional choice for action photographers. Canon and Nikon have the most expansive number of lenses available on the market due to their prevalence, but the former tends to offer better autofocus speeds while the latter provides great color contrast. Nikon’s focusing systems in general tend to be better. Sony’s a bit newer to the DSLR space, but they’ve taken superb innovations from their mirrorless lines and applied them to the DSLR market.
The other issue is what a proprietary market cameras are. These companies don’t just want you to drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on their cameras. They want you to invest in lenses, mounts, and a range of other accessories. And they make sure things aren’t easy by creating products that are only compatible with their own peripherals. When you buy a DSLR camera, you’re buying into an ecosystem, so you might want to take a quick look at the lenses and accessories the brands offer before biting the bullet. Because if you decide to trade your camera out for another brand, you’ll essentially have to trade in all your old gear and rebuild your collection from scratch.
Accessories to Consider
Finding the right brand is important so that you can get compatible accessories, but you may be asking yourself exactly what gear is necessary as you get started. There’s no need to sweat it too much. Photography can be an expensive hobby, but it’s one where you can acquire the right equipment over a long period of time. There are a few essentials you’ll want to prioritize at which point you can start looking at more extravagant purchases.
The absolute essentials, meaning things you should buy right away, are the core products you need to keep your camera safe, clean, and well maintained. Cameras are long term investments, but they do require upkeep. Start by investing in a bag to carry your camera. Think towards the future in this respect. You’ll want to have enough space to hold as many lenses as you’ll need to carry out in the field as well as accessories like extra batteries and memory cards. If you plan on taking your camera with you on vacation or into the wild, you’ll want to prepare for the essentials as well. Bags that can hold a spare change of clothes and store your tablet or laptop comfortably are a sensible choice. Be sure to check out our guide to the best camera bags.
Other important day one purchases include a clear filter to keep your lens protected. After all, they’re the second most expensive component apart from your camera body. You should always have a quality lens cleaning kit on hand as well. Fingerprints can affect the quality of your photos in a seismic way. A decent lens cleaning kit includes a soft microfiber cloth and a gentle cleaning fluid. Once you have these items in place, you should look at investing in a spare battery and an extra memory card. These will allow you to shoot more photos or video for longer, and while wireless capabilities decrease the need for memory cards to some degree, you won’t always be within reach of a WiFi network.
With those items out of the way, we start getting into the non-essentials. Lens collecting is one of the most prominent hobbies for photographers, but it can quickly become expensive, and it’s easy to purchase a cool looking lens only to have it end up collecting dust on your shelf. Fisheye, telephoto, and micro lenses are all very cool options, but you should wait to pull the trigger until you’ve spent some time out in the field and understand what you’ll be using on at least a semi-regular basis. But it can’t hurt to start researching now so you understand the type of options available to you.
A more immediately useful purchase, and one that can enhance any existing lens in your collection, is a polarizing lens. These can reduce the impact of reflections and generally improve the contrast on your photos. If you plan on taking landscape photos, you’ll want to start looking into tripods. The internal stabilization is great on a lot of our listed models, but a sturdy tripod can make a world of difference. Finally, consider an external flash unit. They can provide a quick and easy workaround for entry and mid-level cameras that don’t always offer the best functionality in low light situations, and they offer professionals more control over the lighting in their compositions.
There’s a lot to consider when buying your first (or even your second or third) DSLR, but that doesn’t mean it has to be intimidating. Check out our list of the twelve best models, make a budget, and list out the features and functions that matter to you. Then take advantage of our guide to evaluate the considerations you may have overlooked. A DSLR is an exciting way to get involved in the world of photography, and it’s a worthy investment for anyone will to do their due diligence.