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Best DSLR Cameras

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 78 Models Considered
  • 42 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 188 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best DSLR cameras

    Last Updated November 2018

    Digital single-lens reflex cameras, or DSLRs, represent the cream of the crop in the digital camera market. As smartphone cameras take control of the entry-level portion of the market, DSLRs grow in appeal at the upper end. Anyone who wants a camera that can create high-quality photos would be wise to consider a DSLR camera.

    DSLR cameras aren’t just for professionals; they’re for inexperienced photographers as well. At BestReviews, we wanted to find the best selection of DSLRs for both professionals and hobbyists. We sifted through hundreds of DSLR camera models to find the top five available on today's market.

    Our goal is to give readers the most accurate information available about the products they’re considering. To avoid the chance of a skewed review, we never accept free samples from manufacturers. Instead, we conduct independent research and purchase our test products with our own funds.

    There is something for almost everyone on our shortlist, which incorporates a range of prices and skill levels. Please feel free to click on any of the products above for more information. And if you’d like to learn more about the world of DSLR cameras and photography, please continue reading this shopping guide.

    Most DSLR cameras offer both automatic and manual control shooting modes. Beginners generally like to stick with auto mode. Experienced photographers tend to use manual control modes more often.

    DSLR considerations

    Although most DSLR cameras share similar looks, there are quite a few differentiating features that separate them. In evaluating each of the cameras in our product list, we took many factors into consideration, including the following.

    Image quality

    A simple approach to analyzing any camera is the evaluation of its photographic quality. To find the best of the best, we did just that.

    Features

    To deal with different photographic situations, you must be able to make adjustments on the fly. In reviewing various DSLR cameras, we examined each product’s feature set and the degree to which it would (or would not) maximize versatility.

    Skill level

    People of all ability levels can now pick up a camera and capture high-quality images. Some DSLRs even provide a bit of “hand holding” to aid users. As mentioned above, our research included the evaluation of entry level, hobbyist, and professional-grade DSLRs.

    Price

    Depending on the features included in the camera, DSLR prices vary. The cameras in our product list range in cost, but we believe that each is worth its asking price.

    Matt
    EXPERT CONSULTANT

    Matt graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, then went on to become the founder and CEO of Computer Repair Doctor, a phone repair, computer repair, and laptop repair company with locations throughout the United States. Matt and his team of tech doctors are experts in consumer electronics of all types – there is no device they can’t fix!


    Matt  |  Consumer Electronics Expert

    DSLR categories

    The first thing you need to know when shopping for a new DSLR camera is that every model won’t fit the needs of every photographer.

    For example, some cameras carry too many features — and too high of a price tag — for some photographers. And experienced photographers probably wouldn’t want a simple DSLR that fails to offer advanced manual control features.

    Entry level DSLR cameras

    These are entry-level DSLR cameras aimed at those new to DSLR photography. They have low price points and are relatively easy to use.

    Consumer/hobbyist DSLR cameras

    These are mid-range DSLR cameras that appeal to both inexperienced and intermediate-level photographers. They have plenty of features for manual control. They’re nice “bridge” cameras for those looking to move up from an entry-level DSLR.

    Prosumer DSLR cameras

    High-level photographers will be looking for DSLRs in this category. These cameras have the largest image sensors and the fastest image processors. They also tend to carry the highest price tags.

    Expensive semi-pro/pro DSLR cameras typically have more advanced features than most beginners can handle. Therefore, it’s tough for a beginner to justify paying a high price for one of these models.

    Investing in an expensive camera — and then never using it because it’s too complicated, too heavy, or not right for what you want to use it for — is an unfortunate problem experts like Matt often see. Don't get one that's too impractical or complicated for what you will use it for.

    EXPERT TIP

    Camera lenses will usually fit several different camera bodies. Determining whether a lens fits a particular body depends on the lens mount of the DSLR camera. The lens mount and lens must be compatible.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    DSLR cameras can record video as well as still images. Some DSLRs have a maximum video recording resolution of Ultra HD (or 4K). Others are limited to HD resolution video.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Traits

    The Canon 5D Mark IV is for expert photographers and intermediate camera artists who are looking to improve their craft. When you consider the sheer power and versatility it affords, the Canon 5D's price really is an incredible value.

    DSLR models

    Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Minolta, Fujifilm, and Sony all made DSLRs in the early days. But as of today, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Fujifilm, and Sony have stopped making DSLRs. They now focus on mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Minolta no longer makes cameras at all.

    Nowadays, Nikon, Canon, and Pentax still offer DSLRs. Nikon and Canon are the two largest makers. Some photographers prefer one brand of DSLR over another, but this is a personal preference. It has little to do with features and performance. “Nikon is not better than Canon; Canon is not better than Nikon," says Matt. "They are all just tools. A better camera will not make a better photographer. It’s the driver, not the car.”

    DID YOU KNOW?

    DSLR cameras use interchangeable lenses. This means you can change the performance of the camera by using a different lens.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    A zoom lens on a DSLR camera is one that can record images at different focal lengths. A prime lens can only record at one focal length.

    Characteristics

    We love the Canon Rebel T5; talk about an affordable camera! DSLRs are the future of digital photography, and there aren’t many cheaper options on the entry-level market. Image quality is excellent, which derives from the T5's 18MP image sensor. Photographers enjoy the freedom to use different lenses and a variety of focal lengths. With a burst speed of just three frames per second, we can’t recommend this camera for freelance sports photographers. But for the T5's target demographic – the beginner – it’s more than enough.

    Image sensor explained

    When it comes to understanding DSLR cameras, you must first start with the image sensor.

    The image sensor is a computer chip that measures the light from the scene. It then turns that measurement into the digital bits used to create the photograph.

    Image sensor size

    As a general rule, the larger the image sensor, the better the photograph quality. Not surprisingly, DSLRs with larger image sensors also tend to cost more.

    Full-frame image sensors

    Measuring 24x36 mm in size, full-frame image sensors are the largest available in cameras produced for everyday use.

    Nikon uses the term “FX” to identify cameras with full-frame sensors, while Canon just calls them “full-frame.”

    Crop-frame image sensors

    Crop-frame image sensors are smaller than full-frame image sensors. Nikon uses the term “DX” to identify cameras with crop-frame sensors.

    The size of a crop frame sensor is listed as a “multiple factor.” Nikon DX sensors have a 1.5x factor, while Canon crop-frame sensors are available in both 1.3x and 1.6x factors. The 1.3x factor is the largest sensor, while 1.6x is the smallest sensor.

    DX cameras are generally considered more consumer/hobbyist and FX cameras more semi-pro and prosumer. These markets are starting to get some crossover though, with entry-level full-frame cameras and advanced crop-frame cameras becoming more prevalent.

    EXPERT TIP

    Many DSLR cameras offer flash units that are built into the camera body. You also can attach a larger flash to the camera via the hot shoe.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    DSLR cameras tend to excel at low-light photography. This occurs because the DSLRs contain image sensors of a larger physical size than simple cameras.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Attributes

    Nikon D750 owners are enthusiastic about the beautiful stills and videos they're able to produce with this camera. Some mention a lens flare problem, which is actually caused by an issue related to the shutter  However, the manufacturer is aware of this concern and offers free corrective maintenance. Considering its price, the D750’s tech specs are nothing short of robust. It features a 24.3 MP, full-frame sensor that we absolutely love. Customers swear by its ability to shoot in low light.

    Other DSLR terms to know

    Beyond the image sensor, it’s important to understand certain terms related to DSLRs. Knowing the jargon associated with DSLRs will help you successfully choose a model that will meet your needs.

    Burst rate

    The burst rate of a DSLR camera refers to how many photos it can record in a short time. This measurement is often provided in frames per second, or FPS.

    Aperture

    Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to travel through it and strike the image sensor.

    Lenses with wider apertures are considered to be of higher quality.

    The aperture of the lens is designated by an f-stop number. A lower f-stop number equals a larger or wider aperture, which can be a little confusing.

    Build quality

    Some DSLR cameras are made primarily of plastic, while others have a magnesium aluminum alloy body. The latter type of camera body is sturdier and better protected against falls. Such DSLRs will cost more, though.

    “I had a camera with a plastic body fall from waist height onto a carpeted floor,” Matt says. “The outer shell and mirror housing cracked, rendering it inoperable. I’ve had a camera with a magnesium alloy body roll off a moving car onto cement with no issues besides some scratches on the surface.”

    Weather-sealing is another important aspect of build quality. Having a camera body sealed from light rain or dust can be beneficial for those who shoot photos in harsh conditions. These weather-sealed DSLR bodies are not waterproof, but they are better off than models with no weather seal.

    “I’ve had damaged gear from weather as simple as heavy fog,” Matt says. “Weather-sealing is a good thing.”

    Ergonomics

    All DSLR cameras share a similar look, but different models have different ergonomics. The body design differences are subtle, but they affect how you use the DSLR. “How does it feel in your hand?” Matt asks. “You’ll never use it if it’s uncomfortable to hold or carry.”

    Image processor

    The image processor is the computer chip inside the DSLR that moves data and controls the camera’s speed.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    You’ll sometimes see DSLR cameras sold as the “body only.” This means no lenses are included with the purchase. You’ll have to purchase lenses separately.

    Ease of Use

    Possibly our favorite Canon Rebel T5 feature is its on-board user guide. This handy feature instructs owners how and when to use the camera's various customizable settings. The guide makes this camera the best DSLR for beginners.

    ISO

    The ISO setting of the digital camera determines the image sensor’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO number makes the sensor more sensitive to light, allowing for better success with low-light photography. But using extremely high ISO also leads to loss of image quality the higher you go.

    Lens

    With a DSLR camera, you can change the lens you’re using to change the capabilities of the camera. (Fixed-lens cameras cannot change lenses.) Some DSLR camera bodies are sold with one or two lenses included; these are called kit lenses. You also can purchase extra lenses for your DSLR camera. Typically, kit lenses are fairly basic and cover a standard focal range. Many users will go on to purchase additional lenses of a higher caliber or for a more specific use after a while.

    Lens mount

    The lens mount is the part of the DSLR camera body to which you’ll connect a lens. It’s the large circle on the front of the DSLR body.

    Lens manufacturers create lenses that fit a particular mount. So even though one type of lens mount will work with multiple lenses, each lens will fit only one type of lens mount.

    Resolution

    Resolution refers to the number of pixels a camera can record. Pixels are tiny squares of color. When you look at a digital photograph with strong magnification, you can see the individual dots. But when looking at the photograph at a standard magnification, your eye naturally blends the pixels.

    Resolution for DSLRs is measured in megapixels, or MP. This number refers to the millions of pixels in the photo. Don’t just pick a DSLR based on the largest number of megapixels, though.

    “Megapixels aren’t everything,” Matt says. “Physical sensor size is also important. This is why the pictures from your 12MP DSLR look far better than the pictures from your 12MP phone camera.” The phone camera has an image sensor that’s physically much smaller than the DSLR.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
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      Amos
      Director of Photography
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      Bob
      Writer
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      Videographer
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      Production Assistant
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      Web Producer
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      Kyle
      Writer
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      Melissa
      Senior Editor
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      Vukan
      Post Production Editor

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