Like its D3400 predecessor, the new Nikon D3500 is a modestly priced but well-equipped camera that takes really good pictures and is an excellent learning tool for those new to DSLRs.
While only a modest update from its predecessor, the Nikon D5600 is an excellent choice for a midlevel DSLR.
The Nikon D7500 is an advanced-enthusiast DX-format camera that impresses with its top-notch image quality and blazingly fast performance.
Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have traditionally offered the best-quality images, mainly because these cameras have the largest type of image sensors. This lets you capture sharp, detailed photos, especially in low light. In addition, you can change the lens on a DSLR, from fisheye and wide angle to telephoto, which expands your creative potential. Also, because there is tremendous competition in the interchangeable-lens camera market, it's common to find great DSLR deals.
After testing dozens of DSLRs under $1,500, we found that the best DSLR for beginners is the Nikon D3500, as it offers great image quality and approachability for under $500. For photographers who want to step up, we recommend the Nikon D5600, which has a better sensor and autofocus capabilities for under $700.
You may also want to check out our best mirrorless cameras page, as they offer many of the same benefits as DSLRs, but in a smaller package. And if you're trying to figure out what will work best for you, be sure to read our DSLR vs. Mirrorless camera comparison guide.
Make sure you check out all of our top picks for DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and more on our best cameras page. And, once you've taken your photos, you'll want to make a photo book or show off your best images in a photo frame.
Latest News and Updates (September 2019)
- Canon's successor to the EOS 80D is now available: The Canon EOS 90D ($1,199, body only; $1,599 with 18-135mm IS USM lens) will feature a 32.5 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, 45-point autofocus system that covers 100 percent of the frame, an optical viewfinder, and the ability to record video at 4K/30 fps.
Best DSLR for most people
A camera that lets you grow, the beginner-focused D3500 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, including a 24.3-MP 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.
Read the full Nikon D3500 review
Best DSLR under $1,000
The D5600 sports a 24-megapixel camera and an articulating touch screen, which makes tapping to focus (stills and video) 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.
Read our full Nikon D5600 review.
Great DSLR for enthusiasts
By combining the innards of its pro-grade D500 with the more compact body from its midrange DX-level cameras, Nikon's new 20.9-megapixel D7500 is an enthusiast's ideal DSLR. 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 display. And like all of Nikon's recent cameras, the D7500 sports the company's Snapbridge tech, so you can use Bluetooth, NFC and built-in Wi-Fi to for super-simple photo sharing.
Read our full Nikon D7500 review.
The best full-frame DSLR
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. Thanks to its larger image sensor, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II takes excellent photos in a variety of conditions. We also like that it can shoot at 6.6 frames per second and has a fully articulated touch screen. Its 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 for those who want a full-frame DSLR without spending a truckload of cash, this is a good option.
Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review.
Top DSLR for video
When shooting video, the dual-pixel sensors of the EOS 80D 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. It's just too bad it doesn't shoot 4K video. 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 80D review.
Excellent midrange DSLR
Those who want to step up from their starter DSLR will find a lot to like in the Nikon D7200. Though it's been replaced by the D7500, the D7200 is still very capable, and costs less than $1,000 with a lens. It has two SD card slots, a bevy of ports (microphone jack, headphone, micro USB, HDMI and accessory), and is weather-resistant. The D7200 also lacks a low-pass filter, which makes images sharper, but more prone to moire effects.
The D7200 shows its age in a few places: The 3.2-inch LCD is not touch-enabled, and doesn't tilt or flip out, and the max video resolution is 1080p. But you can't ask for much more in a camera at this price.
Read our full Nikon D7200 review.
Strong mid-level shooter
The Canon EOS 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.
Read our full Canon EOS T7i review.
4K Video on a Budget
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is the least expensive DSLR that can shoot 4K video; this camera, which is aimed at beginners, is also very small and light, and has a bevy of in-camera guides to help novice shooters. We also like its articulating touch screen, which makes it easier to take photos from odd angles. In general, this camera takes good photos and video, but its internal image stabilization is only moderately effective, and its hot shoe doesn't work with third-party flash units.
Read our full Canon EOS Rebel SL3 review.
How we test DSLRs
To evaluate DSLRs, 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.
Credit: Tom's Guide