If you’re in the market for the best digital SLR camera, then you want excellent image quality and a good selection of advanced features, such as continuous shooting mode, video capture, excellent autofocus, and built-in image stabilization. While DSLRs can represent a serious investment just for the camera body alone, they tend to be incredibly durable. You’ll also find cameras suitable for professional photographers and entry-level models for beginners.
Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens…
Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera…
Pentax K10D 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with…
One of the most important things to consider is which accessories — if any — you want to use. If you’re new to photography, you might consider a camera that comes with an accessory bundle. Otherwise, you’ll have to confirm that any accessory you want is compatible with the specific brand and model of DSLR that you’re planning to buy. This is especially true of lenses as most DSLRs are now designed to support interchangeable lenses but with a caveat.
Additionally, consider the type of DSLR you want and the image sensor size, which will impact the kind of photos you can take. Keep reading our best DSLR camera guide to learn more. And if you’re still not sure if a DSLR is right for you, check out our best digital camera guide.
Top Digital SLR Cameras
#1 Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Digital Camera
Our #1 Pick is the Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Digital Camera
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is a Full HD camera that is very easy to use and allows users to share their pictures through WiFi and NFC technology. It also has a decent battery life. This may make it a great Canon DSLR camera.
- Excellent options for media sharing
- Easy to use
- Decent picture quality in low light
- No support for 4K video
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 camera has a 24.1 Megapixel sensor that delivers crystal clear image quality. Since it comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, sharing media files is also very easy. The camera’s optical viewfinder allows for up to 95% viewing coverage, and with support for remote shooting, owners will also be able to take pictures through the Camera Connect app on their smartphones. The camera is also pretty easy to use and can capture Full HD video at 30 frames per second. However, some might not be satisfied with its lack of support for 4K video.
The camera also takes pretty good pictures even in low light and comes with image stabilization to reduce blurriness when taking photos on the move. It has a nine-point autofocus system that works great in high-contrast scenes and a battery life long enough to sustain 600 shots per charge when using the viewfinder. Those who opt to use its Live View might have to be content with only 260 shots before the battery runs out.
#2 Nikon D5300 24.2MP CMOS Digital Camera
Our #2 Pick is the Nikon D5300 24.2MP CMOS Digital Camera
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: It takes a very short period to get ready for a shot and has a decent 500-shot battery life. It also comes with an onboard mic for stereo sound.
- Impressive autofocus system
- Features a built-in mic for stereo sound
- Decent battery life
- Live View autofocus is pretty slow
The Nikon D5300 is a 24.2 Megapixel Full HD camera whose stand-out feature is the 3.2-inch swiveling display that makes it perfect for self-shots. It has WiFi connectivity for easy file sharing and features a built-in GPS for automatic geotagging. Its focus is also pretty impressive since it comes with a 39-point high-density autofocus system that quickly locks into the subject. Touted as a fine Nikon digital camera and a favorite for the advanced beginner, the D5300 also comes with a built-in stereo microphone for decent audio and a battery that’ll have it going for up to 500 shots. Still, some have complained that its Live View autofocus feature is very slow to use. With that said, you might want to compare cameras including the Leica Q (TYP-116) digital camera vs FujiFilm X100F, and see if these might be better for you.
As you’ll find on most top-rated 3D cameras, the image quality on the D5300 is noticeably better than that of its predecessor, and with a start-up to shooting time of only 0.3 seconds, the camera is perfect for capturing spontaneous moments. Handling it is also quite comfortable thanks to the amount of room around the grip, and with a continuous shooting speed of 5 frames per second, its speed is pretty decent for both personal and professional use.
#3 Pentax K10D 10.2MP Digital Camera
Our #3 Pick is the Pentax K10D 10.2MP Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR OUTDOOR PHOTOGRAPHY
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is dust, scratch, and splash resistant, making it ideal for outdoor photography. It also has a solid construction and is also easy to handle.
- Very sturdy construction
- Dust, scratch and splash resistant
- Has a dedicated RAW button for reduced image processing
- Difficulty when autofocusing in dim light conditions
The Pentax K10D is a 10.2 MP digital SLR camera with a 2.5-inch LCD display for Live View and features such as shake and dust reduction for taking good shots while on the move. The camera’s continuous mode is capable of up to three frames per second, and since it is both scratch-resistant and splash-resistant, it’ll be an excellent alternative for owners who want to take pictures and videos of their adventures outdoors without having to worry about whether or not the camera will remain in good condition. Unfortunately, previous users have reported difficulty when autofocusing in dim lighting conditions.
Although it was released in 2006, the K10D still has what it takes to deliver excellent image quality while also being pretty easy to handle. It also comes with a moving-sensor image stabilization system for shots in motion and a dedicated RAW button for users who would want to capture more detail in their photography.
#4 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital Camera
Our #4 Pick is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR PROFESSIONAL USE
WHY WE LIKE IT: It is excellent for professionals thanks to its high Megapixel count and advanced Autofocus features. It supports 4K video and supports both WiFi and NFC connectivity for easy file sharing.
- Very high image quality
- Has a touchscreen rear LCD
- Supports 4K video capture
- No built in flash
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a premium DSLR that boats a 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for vivid picture quality and comes with support for 4K Motion video at 30 frames per second. The camera’s seven frames per second continuous shooting speed are nothing but superb, and its Auto Focus system does not struggle even in low light. Its got a large 3.2-inch display on its back for Live View, and since this is a touchscreen, using it feels a lot more intuitive. However, it does not have a built-in flash.
The 5D also comes with microphone and headphone ports and support for both WiFi and NFC connectivity for convenient file sharing. Its got a built-in GPS for geotagging and a customizable button that can be configured according to user preference for added convenience. Its viewfinder is also large and bright, and since its rear LCD screen has a very high resolution, images are sharp and concise.
#5 Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital Camera
Our #5 Pick is the Nikon D3200 24.2 MP CMOS Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR BEGINNERS
WHY WE LIKE IT: Aimed at beginners, it is pretty easy to use and features a pop-up flash for low-light photography. It is also very light and has a decent battery life.
- Very easy to use
- Decent continuous shooting speed of four frames per second
- Has a pop-up flash
- Build quality is not ideal for harsh weather conditions
Released in 2012, the Nikon D3200 is a capable DSLR camera aimed at beginners that features a 24.2 Megapixel sensor for high-resolution pictures and Full HD video. The camera has a decent continuous shooting speed of four frames per second, and since it has a pretty small size, handling it shouldn’t be difficult. The D3200 is also ultralightweight compared to other models in its line and comes with a 3-inch monitor on its rear for Live View and movie capture. Still, its build quality does not allow it to withstand harsh weather conditions.
The D3200 features a built-in pop flash for improved lighting in low light conditions and allows for in-camera image editing. It has a built-in mono mic for sound capture and a 3.5mm stereo mic jack for private listening. Files can be transferred or shared through a USB or HDMI connection, and its battery will last about 540 shots or 270 shots with flash.
#6 Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 Long Zoom Digital Camera
Our #6 Pick is the Panasonic LUMIX FZ300 Long Zoom Digital Camera
Award: BEST FOR LONG DISTANCE PHOTOGRAPHY
WHY WE LIKE IT: It has a very impressive zoom capability, as well as a 3-inch touchscreen that is very easy to navigate. Image quality is also pretty good, and its array of settings allows for very intricate adjustments.
- Very quick autofocus system
- Supports 4K video capture
- Varied settings for deep level of adjustments
- No headphone jack
The Lumix FZ300 from Panasonic features a decent 12.1 Megapixel sensor for good image quality and support for 4K video. Its highlight feature is its 24x superzoom lens, which is designed in such a way that owners won’t even have to shoot in full sun or with high ISO settings for good pictures. Also, thanks to Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology, it can accurately lock into a subject in motion at a very high speed. However, it does not have a headphone jack.
The FZ300 also boasts an impressive continuous shooting speed of up to 12 pictures per second, and since it also comes with a special 4K photo mode, owners will be able to enjoy the clarity that is brought about by added extras such as HDR for good color balancing. Its handheld night option is also great for minimizing both noise and blur, and on its rear, the camera has a 3-inch touchscreen that is also very user-friendly.
Beginner’s Guide to Digital SLR Cameras
What is a DSLR Camera?
DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera, and it’s the modern iteration of the classic SLR film-based camera. These cameras originally came with an optical viewfinder, a reflexive mirror, and one lens that supported taking pictures and viewing images. The most significant difference between a DSLR and an SLR is that the film has now been replaced with an image sensor in DSLRs, such as the APS-C sensors commonly found in these devices.
Since they’re great instant film cameras, the digital component allows you to store images or video footage on the camera’s built-in storage or a removable drive such as SD or micro SD memory cards. So, in theory, you can take far more pictures without the added weight of rolls of film. And, you’ll find a specific kind of file that the digital camera creates. Another major feature of a DSLR camera is that they typically support interchangeable lenses. This can come in handy when you’re trying to capture specific shots or create different effects.
But as with other camera categories, there are a wide variety of DSLR cameras on the market that can fit your needs. Some are designed specifically for fast photography shots such as wildlife in sports or action photography. Similarly, you can also find lightweight DSLRs or models with a weather-sealed body. Alternatively, if you think DSLRs are more tech than you can handle, consider checking out some of the best Kodak digital cameras.
Digital SLR Cameras vs Other Cameras
Once upon a time, DSLR cameras were the gold standard and the only recommended option for serious photography. However, more recently, the great mirrorless camera has become a head-to-head competitor thanks to its ability to offer nearly identical functionality with a few structural differences.
While they also have a mechanical shutter like the DSLR, mirrorless cameras also have an electronic shutter. This means that a mirrorless model can technically offer a longer lifespan since a shutter actuation or shutter count doesn’t matter as much. More importantly, this type of camera dropped the internal mirror component common to DSLRs, allowing light to pass directly through the lens and onto the image sensor.
For this reason, even though DSLR cameras are still a fan favorite, they’re considered the heavier option compared to most mirrorless cameras. Of course, a few mirrorless models are just as heavy as a DSLR.
These days, DSLR and mirrorless cameras are comparable, especially in autofocus and image sensors. The DSLR often edges out mirrorless models for previewing images as the optical through-the-lens viewfinder gives you an exact view of the image you’ll capture, including light balance, color contrast, and more. In contrast, mirrorless cameras provide a preview image, but the final result might not be a carbon copy.
For this reason, DSLRs are often preferable for working in low light. Similarly, DSLR cameras tend to offer better battery life and have more accessory compatibility, including a wider range of lenses.
How Digital SLR Cameras Work
DSLRs still work off of the basic principles of camera functionality. Light enters through the lens, hitting a mirror that reflects it onto a prism or extra mirrors. That light is then transferred to the viewfinder, where you can preview the image before taking the shot. You press the shutter, causing the mirror to flip up. The shutter opens, allowing light to hit the image sensor, thus capturing the image.
Where DSLRs shine is in the functionality they offer. As we mentioned earlier, there are a wide array of DSLR cameras on the market. In most cases, you’ll find that you’re shopping for a camera from one of the top three brands — Canon, Sony, and Nikon. You can find DSLRs from other companies, but these three firms have the market cornered on innovation, functionality, and durability for DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
We mentioned earlier that DSLR cameras provide excellent low-light performance, and this is because of their autofocus mechanism. These cameras rely on phase detection, which measures how two beams of light come together.
The biggest draw for DSLR cameras is the wide range of compatible accessories. In particular, since DSLRs have been around for a long time, it’s easy to find lenses compatible with them. However, there is a caveat.
If you have a DSLR camera, you can swap lenses to fine-tune your photography and hone your skills. But in most cases, those lenses aren’t always interoperable across camera brands. This means that if you have a Canon 7D Mark II DSLR, for example, you might not be able to use a Nikon lens. For this reason, you’ll find many photographers unwilling to jump between brands when they’re ready to upgrade to a new camera.
Why You Should Buy a Digital SLR Camera
Whether you’re starting out or are ready to upgrade from your current camera, there are plenty of reasons why DSLR cameras should be on your shortlist, including the fact that you can grow into it as your skills improve.
Are Digital SLR Cameras Worth Buying?
- You Want to Use More Lenses: Technically, you can also do this with a mirrorless camera. But DSLR cameras typically have more lens options available both from your camera brand and third-party sellers.
- You Care About Image Quality: There’s a reason the DSLR has endured for almost 40 years at this point — because it offers high-quality images. If you’re trying to improve your image output, this camera can help you do that.
- You Shoot Specific Types of Images: Casual photo takers might not be as concerned, but if you shoot action photography such as sports or wildlife, you can’t go wrong with a DSLR model that’s designed to support that photography environment.
Why a Digital SLR Camera May Not Be for You
- You’re Fine with Your Current Camera: If you feel like your smartphone or compact camera is more than sufficient, you might not see a DSLR as a necessary purchase.
- DSLRs Can Be Expensive: It’s possible to find cheaper DSLR cameras that are either older models or preowned. But in general, this camera category can represent a serious investment — and that’s before you start buying lenses and other accessories.
- You Don’t Want the Extra Weight: DSLRs contain additional components not found in a mirrorless or lesser camera models, which can add up to extra weight. While it’s possible to find a lighter DSLR that’s more travel-friendly, it’s still going to be heavier than your smartphone or a compact point-and-shoot camera.
How Long Will a Digital SLR Camera Last?
The actual DSLR camera body is built to be durable. This means that the body should last for quite a while unless you’re unnecessarily rough with it or leave it exposed to adverse weather or in direct sunlight for extended periods. The real question is, how long will the mechanical shutter on your DSLR camera last?
DSLR cameras have a lifespan measured by the shutter actuation or the shutter count. This refers to the total number of images or pictures your camera can capture before the mechanical shutter malfunctions. Shutter counts can vary widely across brands and even within the different models offered in a brand’s portfolio.
In most cases, you should be able to find the shutter count for a DSLR camera either on the brand’s website or product page, as well as through a simple internet search. But know that the count can range from 50,000 on the low end to over 500,000 on high-end models. Typically, the top brands offer higher shutter counts than entry-level DSLR cameras.
Most people that are casual photographers or hobbyists are unlikely to reach their camera’s shutter count. Instead, this type of consumer is more likely to upgrade to a new model before their camera’s shutter fails. However, professional photographers, especially those who take large quantities of pictures in a single setting, should pay attention to the shutter count.
In most cases, this will only be a priority if you’re buying a DSLR camera second-hand. Knowing the shutter count can protect you from overpaying for a camera that might physically look amazing but is nearing the end of its guaranteed lifespan. Note that you can’t determine shutter count directly through the camera. In most cases, you’ll need to use a website like www.camerashuttercount.com to take a picture, upload it, and have the shutter count determined.
How to Choose the Best Digital SLR Camera
DSLRs are impressive cameras that can improve your photography skills, allowing you to be more creative with your image composition. But with so many different options on the market, it may be difficult to choose the best digital camera for your needs. So, there are a few things you need to consider first.
DSLR Camera Key Factors to Consider
1. What lenses are compatible with the camera?
Interoperable or interchangeable lenses are one of the biggest selling points with DSLR cameras. But if this is your first time upgrading to this type of camera, you’ll want to be sure that there are plenty of lens options for your chosen brand that suits your photography needs.
Similarly, if you’re transitioning from one DSLR to another, you’ll most likely find that you want to stay with your original DSLR brand or risk the possibility that none of your previous lenses will work with the new camera.
2. Do you want a kit or just a camera body?
For beginning photographers, opting for a DSLR kit is the way to go. This usually means that along with the camera body, you’ll get at least one general-purpose lens. Sometimes you can get more than one lens if the camera comes with an accessory kit, which can be a great way to expand your photography knowledge base.
In contrast, someone who’s well versed with DSLRs and is ready to upgrade may find that they just need the camera body as they already have lenses that the new model would support.
3. What kind of photography are you interested in?
Pretty much each of the three major camera brands (Canon, Nikon, and Sony) have categorized their DSLR offerings based on your photography goals. You’ll find that this is often parsed into sports/wildlife photography, low-light photography, and video.
Sports or wildlife photography is best paired with cameras that feature an APS-C sensor (also known as a cropped sensor) because it offers a narrower field of view which provides enhanced reach. In contrast, low-light photography benefits from full-frame sensors, which can capture better color accuracy. But, compare a full-frame DSLR to a medium-format digital camera to see which works best.
4. What size camera do you prefer?
Yes, DSLR cameras are heavier than most cameras, but whether it’s too heavy can depend on your photography goals. If you’re planning on mobile shoots where you’re spending extended periods on the go, looking for a lighter APS-C camera might make more sense as these will also be smaller and take up less space.
But you can’t think only of the camera body. Keep in mind that DSLRs are designed to work with a wide array of camera accessories. So, other add-ons such as lenses, battery grips, and even mounts can impact the overall weight of your camera.
5. Do you need a more durable camera?
If you plan on shooting images in rugged conditions where the threat of dropping and breaking your camera is real, you need to prioritize durability. This may mean that you upgrade to an all-metal camera body. While this will make the camera heavier, you’ll have peace of mind for durability and weather resistance.
6. How easily can you navigate the interface?
Every DSLR camera has an interface that allows you to change modes, review previously shot images, or even manage wireless connections, making them some of the best digital cameras with WiFi. Likewise, every brand has a unique interface which may require a slight learning curve, especially if you’re transitioning between brands.
But usually, every camera brand adjusts its DSLR interface depending on which type you purchase — entry-level, intermediate, and professional. Unsurprisingly, entry-level cameras are going to have fewer features, making it easier for you to learn.
Typically this means that you can rely more on presets than manual controls, although you can still shift to manual settings. And intermediate and professional-grade cameras offer more precision controls since the manufacturer assumes that you’re approaching the device with more experience.
7. Do you want video support?
Most DSLRs support video recording. However, think about the types of videos you’re planning to shoot and if you’ll need accessories, such as an attachable microphone or headphones, to ensure that you get the best audio quality. At a minimum, you want a camera that can shoot in 1080p, which is HD. But these days, you can find DSLR cameras that support 4K and 8K. Just be sure that your camera has an HDMI port for connecting to other devices.