When it comes to the best DSLR cameras, you have a lot of options from which to choose. That's because Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have been around the longest, so there's a lot of variety for both new photographers and pros.
A DSLR is basically a digital version of the venerable single-lens reflex camera, which has been around for decades. Light passes through the lens, and reflects off a mirror into the viewfinder. When you press the shutter, the mirror flips up, exposing the image sensor to the light. Because of these mechanics, DSLRs are also the largest consumer cameras, which is something to consider if you're planning on carrying it around.
- Best mirrorless cameras
- What kind of camera should you get? Our guide to DSLR vs. mirrorless cameras.
- Print out your pictures: Best photo books
Traditionally, DSLRs have offered the best in terms of image quality, because they have had the largest image sensors. And, DSLRs have the widest range of lenses available — from macro to telephoto — making them the most flexible platform for photographers. Another advantage of DSLRs is that they can also accommodate older lenses, many of which are still some of the best you can find.
What are the best DSLR cameras?
After testing dozens of models, we feel that the best DSLR camera for most people is the Nikon D5600. This mid-range camera, which is available for around $600 — lens included — has a 24-megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 100-25,600. We also liked its three-inch articulating touchscreen, which allows you to hold the camera above or below eye level, frame your shot, focus on the action, and take a photo.
The D5600 is very comfortable to hold, with a deep handgrip, and the camera is studded with buttons and dials, all of which are within easy reach.
Our tests revealed that the D5600 takes sharp, detailed images. However, while the camera can record video and has a microphone jack, its max resolution is 1080p/60 frames per second, which is a bit dated.
We also liked Nikon's SnapBridge technology, which lets you connect the D5600 to your smartphone via Bluetooth, so that you can transfer photos and even control the camera wirelessly.
Canon has a new midrange DSLR that could be a strong competitor to the D5600: The EOS Rebel T8i has the same 24-megapixel sensor as the current EOS Rebel T7i, but thanks to a new Digic 8 processor, has face-detect autofocus, a 45-point phase-detection AF system. Also, the camera can shoot 4K video at up to 24 fps, and has a microphone jack. The EOS Rebel T8i costs $750 (body only) and $900 with an EF-S 18-55mm lens, so it's a bit more expensive than the D5600, but could be worth it for those who shoot video.
The best DSLR cameras you can buy today
1. Nikon D5600
The best DSLR camera for most people
Megapixels/sensor: 24.2 APS-C | ISO Range: 100-25,600 | Max Video Resolution: 1080p/60 fps | Shooting Speed: 5 fps | Autofocus: 39-point phase/contrast | Display: 3.2-inch articulating touch screen | Battery Life: 970 shots | Ports: UUSB, mini HDMI, microphone | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | LCD Slides: 4.9 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 14.7 ounces
We think the Nikon D5600 is the best DSLR for most people, as it packs a good deal of quality into a camera that's not too expensive. The D5600 sports a 24-megapixel sensor and an articulating touch screen, which makes tapping to focus and snapping a photo with a single touch a cinch. The D5600 delivers very sharp and detailed images, and sharing them is now easier with the inclusion of SnapBridge, which lets you transfer photos to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
One of the limitations of the D5600—as with many DSLRs in the price range—is that it can't shoot 4K video. This camera is limited to 1080p/60 fps, and while the quality is good, if your primary reason for buying a camera is videography, this probably isn't the camera for you.
Read our full Nikon D5600 review.
2. Nikon D3500
Best DSLR camera for beginners
Megapixels/sensor: 24.3/APS-C | ISO Range: 100-25,600 | Max Video Resolution: 1080p/60 fps | Shooting Speed: 5 fps | Autofocus: 11-point phase/contrast | Display: 3-inch fixed LCD | Battery Life: 1,550 shots | Ports: USB, mini HDMI | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | LCD Slides: 4.9 x 3.9 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 12.9 ounces
A camera that lets you grow, the D3500 is the best DSLR camera for beginners, as it has guides to explain its more advanced features, but it will shoot great photos in almost any situation. While it has many of the same features as its predecessor (the D3400), including a 24.3-MP APS-C image sensor, the Nikon D3500 has a faster processor and a refreshed design that makes it easier to use.
We also appreciate the longer battery life and the ability to control the camera (somewhat) from your smartphone via Bluetooth. However, this camera isn't the best when shooting video, as it maxes out at 1080p and lacks a microphone jack. And, its rear LCD is fixed, and lacks touch capabilities. But for those who are looking for a DSLR to learn the basics, you can't go wrong with the Nikon D3500.
Read the full Nikon D3500 review.
3. Nikon D7500
The best DSLR camera for enthusiasts
Megapixels/sensor: 20.9 APS-C | ISO Range: 100-51,200 | Max Video Resolution: 4k/30 fps | Shooting Speed: 8 fps | Autofocus: 51 points | Display: 3.2-inch tilting touch screen | Battery Life: 950 shots | Ports: USB, mini HDMI, 3.5mm audio, stereo mic | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | Size: 5.4 x 4.1 x 2.9 inches | Weight: 22.6 ounces
By combining the innards of its pro-grade D500 with the more compact body from its midrange DX-level cameras, Nikon's 20.9-megapixel D7500 is the best DSLR camera for enthusiasts. In addition to the Expeed 5 image processor it shares with the D500, the D7500 sports continuous shooting at up to 8 fps, 4K video recording up to 30 fps and a handy 3.2-inch tilting LCD touchscreen display.
As with Nikon's other DSLRs, image quality was excellent, though we did find the autofocus to be a bit erratic when shooting video. And, like all of Nikon's recent cameras, the D7500 sports the company's SnapBridge technology, so you can use Bluetooth, NFC and built-in Wi-Fi to connect the camera to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to transfer photos and videos, and even control the camera remotely.
Read our full Nikon D7500 review.
4. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The best full-frame DSLR
Megapixels/sensor: 26.2 full-frame | ISO Range: 100-40,000 | Max Video Resolution: 1080p/60 fps | Shooting Speed: 6.6 fps | Autofocus: 45-point phase detection | Display: 3-inch articulating touch screen | Battery Life: 1,200 shots | Ports: USB, mini HDMI, microphone | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | Size: 2.9 x 5.7 x 4.4 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds
Now that it's a few years old, this full-frame camera has come down in price to where it’s affordable for those whom photography is not a full-time profession. The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is the best DSLR camera with a full-frame sensor in this price range.
The EOS 6D Mark II takes excellent photos in a variety of conditions, and we also like that it can shoot at 6.6 frames per second and has a fully articulated touch screen. Its dual-pixel CMOS autofocus has a good 45 points, but doesn't cover the entire sensor.
We also wish that this camera had more than one memory card slot, but it has a healthy rated battery life of up to 1,200 shots, so you'll be set for a day's worth of shooting, easy. For those who want a full-frame DSLR without spending a truckload of cash, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a good option.
Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review.
5. Canon EOS 90D
The best DSLR camera for video
Megapixels/sensor: 32.5 APS-C | ISO Range: 100-25600 | Max Video Resolution: 4K/30 fps | Shooting Speed: 10 fps | Autofocus: 45-point phase detection | Display: 3-inch articulating touch screen | Battery Life: 960 shots | Ports: USB, Mini HDMI, headphone, mic | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | Size: 5.5 x 4.1 x 3 inches | Weight: 24.7 ounces
While many mirrorless cameras can shoot 4K video, this feature is relatively rare in DSLR cameras below $2,000. The Canon EOS 90D is one of the few exceptions, which is why it's the best DSLR camera for those who want to also do a fair amount of filming, but don't want to spend a lot of money.
When shooting video, the dual-pixel sensors of the Canon EOS 90D lock focus on the subject you designate, keeping it sharp regardless of where it moves. Plus 45 autofocus points ensure that it can accurately track subjects moving in front of the lens. And, it shoots 4K video, albeit at a max of 30 fps. A flip-out, tilting 3-inch touch screen lets you compose stills and video at a variety of odd angles, and a headphone and a mic jack will ensure you get the best audio.
Read our full Canon EOS 90D review.
6. Canon EOS Rebel T7i
Strong mid-level DSLR camera
Megapixels/sensor: 24.2 APS-C | ISO Range: 100-25,600 | Max Video Resolution: 1080p/60 fps | Shooting Speed: 6 fps | Autofocus: 51-point phase detection | Display: 3.2-inch LCD | Battery Life: 1,100 shots | Ports: USB, Mini HDMI, headphone, mic | Card Slots: two SD/SDHC/SDXC | Size: 5.3 x 4.2 x 3.0 inches | Weight: 1.4 pounds
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i is another one of the best DSLR cameras for those who want something more advanced than a starter model, but don't yet have a pro's chops. The Rebel T7i has a lot of features and on-screen tips friendly to amateur photographers who are looking to grow in experience. It's a comparatively fast shooter, and its articulating touch screen means that it's easier to capture videos from above or below. There are also a number of creative filters built in, letting you achieve a more artistic effect with your photos. Canon's Dual Pixel Autofocus helps keep subjects in focus when using the camera to shoot video.
The T7i's low-pass filter helps eliminate moire patterns, but those who prefer a slightly sharper image might prefer Nikon's offerings. We also wish it had a longer battery life. But overall, this is another great camera under $1,000.
Canon just introduced the EOS Rebel T8i, which can shoot 4K video and has a better autofocus system and battery life, so if you're considering the T7i, you may want to hold off until the T8i becomes available.
Read our full Canon EOS T7i review.
7. Canon EOS Rebel SL3
4K Video on a Budget
Megapixels/sensor: 24.1 APS-C | ISO Range: 100-25,600 | Max Video Resolution: 4K/24 fps | Shooting Speed: 5 fps | Autofocus: 9-point phase detection | Display: 3-inch LCD | Battery Life: 1,000 shots | Ports: USB, Mini HDMI, mic | Card Slots: one SD/SDHC/SDXC | Size: 4.8 x 3.7 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 15.8 pounds
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is the best DSLR camera for those who want to shoot 4K video on a budget. This camera, which is aimed at beginners, is also very small and light — in fact, it's one of the smallest DSLRs around — and has a bevy of in-camera guides to help novice shooters. We also like the EOS Rebel SL3's 3-inch articulating touch screen, which makes it easier to take photos from odd angles.
In general, we were pleased with the quality of the photos and videos we took with the SL3. There are a few compromises to be made at this price, though: its internal image stabilization is only moderately effective, and its hot shoe doesn't work with third-party flash units. But with a price under $500, the EOS Rebel SL3 is a good value.
Read our full Canon EOS Rebel SL3 review.
How to choose the best DSLR camera for you
When shopping for a DSLR camera, you need to consider three things:
What is your experience level?
If you're just starting out, you don't want to spend thousands of dollars on a camera and lenses you might never use. If you're a beginner to DSLR cameras, we recommend one of the entry-level models, which have a number of built-in guides to help you learn the basics of how a DSLR camera works.
What are you going to use it for?
It's easy to go nuts on a camera and lenses; we know, we're tempted ourselves to get the coolest new gear and a lens that lets you see a tick on the top of a deer half a mile away. But be realistic: if all you're using the camera for is to take holiday photos and pictures of your cat, you probably don't need something as robust.
How much do you want to spend?
Before starting your search, set a price limit of how much you're willing to spend, and then look for the camera whose features best fit within that figure.
Lastly, before making a purchase, you should try out the camera in person to see if you're comfortable holding it. See if you can reach all the buttons and dials with your fingers, and not lose your grip.
How we test DSLR cameras
To evaluate DSLR cameras, we use them in a variety of settings, including low light, outdoors, indoors and more. We also photograph a number of subjects, such as people and pets, to see how well the camera captures skin tones. We generally use the kit lens that comes with the camera, to more closely emulate the same experience as consumers purchasing the camera.
In addition to still and video quality, we also rate the camera based on its ease of use: Are the physical controls easy to access, and are the menus logically laid out? Finally, we evaluate the camera's battery life and other features, such as wireless control.