For decades, SLR cameras were the only option around, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a pro without a digital camera in their bag these days. Unfortunately, finding the best DSLR camera is easier said than done considering the wealth of options available today.
If you’ve been taking snapshots with high-end digital cameras for years, feel free to skip ahead to our top picks. Otherwise, you’ll want to stick around as our DSLR buying guide will make your decision easier if you’re new to the photography scene.
How to Choose The Best DSLR Camera
When choosing a DSLR camera, there is a laundry list of things you’ll want to keep in mind. Well, we’re going to give you a quick crash course on the features you need to hone in on. There’s more to a quality camera than the size of the sensor although that’s the best place to start…
Sensor size is important as a 42MP camera will obviously take higher quality photos than a DSLR with an 18MP sensor. The format is what you’ll want to focus on, however, so you’ll need to consider full-frame or APS-C. The latter tends to be more popular in modern cameras but has less surface area than a full-frame sensor which mimics a film frame at 36 x 24.
ISO range also comes into play and is a specification you’ll always want to check on. This stat tells you how much light the camera can capture and while every camera has a base number, there is also an “extended” range on all the top cameras.
As the name implies, a camera with this feature focuses on your subject automatically. It can take a lot of guesswork out of things for beginners and is something you’ll find on every DSLR camera on our list. How well it’s handled varies wildly across the board as do the number of AF points you get to play with. In a nutshell, the more points, the better.
Viewfinder and Displays
The viewfinder will come in two forms with optical or electronic. Optical viewfinders are classic and something almost everyone has used if you’ve owned a traditional film camera. An EVF replaces mirrors with a small display that gives you a digital look at your scene. Some cameras also have small digital panels across the top that give you key tech specs.
The other type of display is of the LCD variety and resides on the back of the camera. These panels are usually around 3” and give you a live view of the action. Affordable DSLR cameras may have a fixed display while high-end models generally have panels that tilt or swivel.
As with any tech device, there are always a few extra features that help separate the best from the rest. With DSLR cameras, one of the bigger ones would be Wi-Fi and NFC. Bluetooth is a bit more common but not nearly as useful as the others in most cases. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the type of jacks available, especially if you need an external microphone for video.
4K recording is hit or miss, but certainly, a feature to consider along with modes that kick your snapshots up a few notches. If you’re just starting out, you’ll also want to pay attention to what’s included with the camera. They all come with a battery, and some may even have a bag, but a lens may not be included. Those old lenses in your camera bag may not work with your new DSLR as well, so think about your current lenses if you plan on switching brands.
Best DSLR Cameras
The Best Budget Nikon DSLR Camera
The Nikon D3500 is a budget-friendly DSLR camera that’s ideal for beginners ready to make the jump. That includes students taking their first photography class and folks that are tired of taking family photos with their smartphone.
Ease of use is the big draw of this particular camera as its simple enough to pick up and use regardless of your experience. Beginners can take professional looking photos without having to read tutorials, and there are enough features to please experienced users given the price point. That includes an ISO range of 100 to 25,600 and built-in Bluetooth for social sharing.
Nikon used a 24MP CMOS sensor in the D3500, and it’s capable of shooting at 5 frames per second. The video capabilities are capped at FHD, so you won’t get 4K with this one although the pictures will pop. The AF system features 11 autofocus points with face detection and live view along with contrast and phase detection. As for the LCD, it’s fixed but 3” with 921,000 dots and a 95% coverage range.
The Nikon D3500 is a minor upgrade over the previous version, but a very solid camera nonetheless. The critical tech specs are on par or better than other entry-level DSLR cameras although we wish Wi-Fi was included.
- 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- 11 point autofocus
- Continuous shooting at 5 fps
- Easy to use
- Limited connectivity
- Fixed LCD
Full-frame Nikon DSLR Camera With Good Battery
High speed, full-frame sensor, sharp processing – that’s all about Nikon D850. This DSLR camera has a back-side illuminated (BSI) FX-format full-frame CMOS image sensor. Having such image sensor Nikon D850 produces high-grade photos and has fast data readout. But note that there is no optical low-pass filter.
There is a 45.7-megapixel resolution which is suitable for shooting of fast actions. Besides, Nikon D850 offers autofocus, speedlight control, silent photography in live-view mode, focus shift capability and other useful options. Its ISO is super low and can reach ISO 64 or even ISO 32. Thus, you can count on a top-notch dynamic range.
As to its shooting speed, Nikon D850 has up to 9 fps at full resolution with full AF performance. What is more, this DSLR camera provides full-frame 4K UHD movie recording.
- Sensor: BSI FX-format full-frame CMOS
- Megapixels: 45.7 mp
- Max ISO: 25,600 (expandable to: 102,400)
- Shooting Speed: 9 fps
- BSI FX-format full-frame 45.7 mp image sensor
- improved AF system
- 4K video
- weather-sealed design
- UHS-II memory card support
- long battery life
- articulating touch screen
- remote control
- no built-in flash
- no image stabilization
- heavy body
Canon Rebel SL3
Despite its bold name, the Canon Rebel SL3 aka EOS 250D is actually the company’s smallest SLR with a twist: this is practically the upgraded version of the old SLR2, and speaking of upgrades, the SL3 received a better (as in more modern) processor (Digic 8), as well as hardware support for 4K video. Now, even if the Rebel SL3 is kind of small, measuring 3.7 by 4.8 by 2.8 inches and weighing 15,8 ounces sans a lens attached, this mini-Canon has enough weight to throw around, flaunting a 24MP APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel autofocus, which is both easy to use and accurate.
Another advantage of the Canon Rebel SL3 is that it’s capable of shooting awesome images in basically any type of scenario, while keeping it real simple for the end user, i.e. this baby is incredibly user friendly, being aimed at beginners, which means it’s really fun to use and comfortable to carry around, not to mention it comes with insane battery life. It’s also worth mentioning that the Rebel SL3 is currently Canon’s smallest DSLR model, and shares most of its features, including the sensor, with the EOS M series.
However, what you’ll not find in the EOS M line-up is the optical viewfinder, which compared to the electronic variety, provides a more natural view of the world, at least for some folks.
- 24.1MP APS-C sensor with Dual Pixel CMOS AF
- DIGIC 8 processing engine
- 4K UHD video recording to 24p
- amazing battery life (1,070 shots using the optical viewfinder)
- ergonomic design in a light and small body
- well implemented touch controls
- excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
- well “connected” (WiFi, Bluetooth LE 4.1) and inexpensive
- only a minor upgrade vs the SL2
- 9-point AF system is “last year’s news”
- the kit lens is nothing to write home about
- there are better mirrorless alternatives out there
Canon EOS Rebel T8i
The Best DSLR for Beginners
The Canon EOS Rebel T8i was launched earlier in February 2020 as a replacement for the T7, weighs 515 gr and spans 131 x 103 x 76 mm. Judging from its dimensions, it becomes obvious that the Rebel is the definition of portability, i.e. it’s very light and small, making for a versatile camera for people on the go.
So, what we’re dealing with here is one of the most popular DSLR form-factor cameras on the market today, featuring a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor and some interesting upgrades compared to the older version that hit the markets back in 2017. The updated metering system and the faster image processor will definitely impress you, as well as the faster burst shooting feature, upgraded autofocus and better video formats.
Other cool features include Face Detection technology even in viewfinder shooting, plus Eye Detection in Live View. As you can see from these tech specs, it becomes clear that the Rebel T8i is Canon’s top-tier entry-level DSLR (ok, that sounded weird), packing a lot of heat under its belt, as in advanced features and performance at an affordable price point.
We must also mention that the autofocus is capable of following moving subjects, the touchscreen display is ergonomically designed and basically indispensable, the mic input is great for shooting videos, the uber-fast shutter speed is perfect for action photos, not to mention that you can instantly share pics and videos due to the wireless connection.
- Articulated touchscreen display
- 220K-pixel AE metering sensor
- Updated controls
- Face&Eye Detection AF
- Wi-Fi&Bluetooth built-in
- 4K UHD Video@24p
- 4K UHD Timelapse@30p
- No weatherproofing
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Very Durable DSLR Camera
Unlike the previous Canon models EOS 6D Mark II isn’t a cheap camera. Consequently, it means that this DSLR camera is of a higher quality and has more useful options to make professional photos.
Its optical viewfinder has 45 all cross-type AF point. Thanks to its shooting speed of 6.5 fps you can capture fast-moving objects without losing image sharpness. Add to this a 26.2 Megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 7 Image Processor and you will get smooth and accurate images. By the way, unlike Nikon D850 it isn’t too heavy to tire you out. What it is more, it’s compact.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II is also equipped with built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. This camera is quite durable and it’s dust and water-resistant. There are covers for a battery compartment, card slot and terminal. The body itself is made of high-precision aluminum alloy and polycarbonate resin.
- Sensor: Full-frame CMOS
- Megapixels: 26.2mp
- Max ISO: 40,000 (expandable to: 102,400)
- Shooting Speed: 6.5 fps
- full-frame image sensor
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
- 45-point all cross-type autofocus system
- optical viewfinder
- Vari-angle touchscreen
- built-in GPS
- dust and water resistant
- long battery life
- no 4K
- no built-in flash
- no built-in flash
- no USB 3.0
- Small AF coverage area
- a single card slot
Perfect All-Rounder DSLR
Here’s another sweet choice for you: the Nikon D780 Body, the perfect weapon if you’re a photographer who has an existing lens, and/or you look to hone your skills with optical viewfinders. The D780 is not cheap, we admit it, but it’s arguably one of the best (if not the best) full frame options available.
Its main attributes include weatherproof build, which is important for professionals, great image quality, amazing battery life and state of the art autofocus skills. The only drawback we can think of is the inexplicable lack of in-body image stabilization.
Other than that, the Nikon D780 is an impeccable all-round DSLR, featuring a plethora of direct-access controls, fast live-view focusing, dual card slots, a tilting touch-sensitive screen, everything “hidden” under an old-school skin.
The D780 is the successor of the D750 and proof that Nikon is still capable of reinventing the DSLR for the mirrorless age. Basically, the D780 is something between a DSLR and a mirrorless, a beast of burden, or the best of both worlds: a glorified hybrid, being designed as a classic full-frame camera with an optical viewfinder.
Most importantly, you’ll benefit from advanced features and technologies which are borrowed from the Nikon Z6, a cutting-edge piece of gear, and we must mention the top-notch 24MP full-frame sensor and in-camera charging feature. Bottom line, if you hate electronic viewfinders, the D780 is an excellent choice, that if you swallow the price tag.
- Good burst mode
- Uncropped 4K video
- EXPEED 6 image processor
- 2 UHS II memory card slots
- Excellent build quality
- Kind of heavy
- Lacks in-body image stabilization
The Best DSLR Camera for the Money
If you need something more then Full HD Nikon D7500 is one of the best DSLR cameras you can choose from. It produces both 4K Ultra HD and 1080p Full HD video with stereo sound. It has also got 4K UHD Time-Lapse option and power aperture control.
What is more, its autofocus is more powerful than the pre-cited Canon EOS 6D Mark II and EOS Rebel T7i have. Nikon D7500 is equipped with 51-point AF system with 15 cross-type sensors and group-area AF. Apart from this, it has 8 fps shooting speed, what makes this camera almost ideal for fast-action shooting.
The camera itself is comfortable in use. It has a large tilting 3.2-inch touchscreen and a Monocoque design with advanced weather sealing. Its long battery life with 950 shots on a single charge is another advantage to take into account.
- Sensor: CMOS (APS-C) DX-format
- Megapixels: 20.9 mp
- Max ISO: 51,200 (expandable to: 1,638,400)
- Shooting Speed: 8 fps
- 51-point AF system with 15 cross-type sensors
- group-area AF
- Monocoque design
- weather sealing
- long battery life
- Nikon’s SnapBridge app
- built-in flash
- low rear screen resolution
- 4K video is severely cropped
- a single card slot
- no vertical grip ability
Canon 90D Digital SLR Camera
Nice Upgrade Over 80D
The Canon EOS 90D makes for a mid-range digital SLR with ASP-C and features the company’s brand new 32.5MP CMOS sensor, as well as the blazing fast Digic 8 processor, plus an updated metering sensor. Speaking of the latter, you’ll be able to use face detection if you’re shooting via the viewfinder, which is kind of cool. With their new “full featured” EOS 90D, Canon is basically proving that DSLRs are not dead just yet in the age of mirrorless, especially if you’re looking at the price-tag, which seems to be tailored to make DSLR enthusiasts happy.
The 90D boasts a deeper grip, which is well designed and supremely comfortable for “binge photographers” over extended periods of time, while the battery life is nothing short of impressive (1300 shots). If you’re not ready to say goodbye to old school DSLRs and switch to mirrorless, the Canon EOS 90D will suit you like a glove.
Compared to its popular predecessor, the EOS 80D respectively, the 90D is quicker due to its new imaging engine, and also has more pixels. However, the “user-friendliness” thing is still here, and, fortunately, the same goes for affordability.
- 33MP – APS-C CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100 – 25600220K RGB+IR metering sensor
- EOS iTR AF (face detection)
- 4K UHD 30P/ Full HD 120P video
- Built-in Wireless
- Weather-Sealed Body
- high quality/high res image sensor
- comes with capable autofocus systems and optical viewfinder
- very quick with lots of features
- ergonomic grip, joystick control
- delivers uncropped 4K/30p video
- lacks image stabilization
- kind of heavy at 701 grams sans lens
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
The Best Canon DSLR Camera for Professionals
If you prefer to have only the best stuff in your life and camera is not an exception then don’t miss a chance to make use of this Canon DSLR camera. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is rather expensive as only its body costs approximately $3,500. However, it fully corresponds to the options this DSLR camera offers.
There are several features which make this camera a robust representer of the photography world. First of all, Canon EOS 5D has a great 61-point autofocus. It has got a full-frame APS-C CMOS sensor with 100-32,000 ISO range, which is expandable even up to 50-102,400.
This camera has 30.4 megapixels and shooting speed of 7 fps. It also has DIGIC 6+ image processor which delivers supersonic focusing and great noise reduction at high ISOs. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is an excellent option for any light conditions and is especially good for weddings, landscapes and commercial stuff.
You will be also impressed by its video performance as this Canon DSLR camera captures spectacular movies in 4K 2160p Motion JPEG. Its multiple video options include Full HD up to 60p and HD up to 120p. Thanks to 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor it is possible to get precise exposure metering and detect flickering lights.
There is also an option of Wi-Fi as well as GPS. Still, with such a great number of settings Canon EOS 5D Mark VI is rather simple in use due to the pretty detailed menu and a good arrangement of its buttons.
- Sensor: Full-Frame CMOS
- Megapixels: 30 mp
- Max ISO: 102,400
- Shooting Speed: 7 fps
- fast 61-point autofocus
- full-frame sensor
- 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor
- Wi-Fi and GPS
- weather-sealed body
- HDMI-out limited to 1080p
- no tilting screen
- slow memory card