So you’re ready to get going on some high-quality and serious photography or video shooting? How about upgrading from your phone or older digital camera to make your photos really stand out from the rest? The best DSLR camera for beginners will depend on a few factors and before we dive into it, wanted to validate that you’ve made the right choice in grabbing a DSLR — they’re not going away any time soon. Even though we’ve seen the rise of mirrorless cameras, DSLRs are still the norm and best choice out there, especially for those just starting out their photo journey.
What is a DSLR camera?
A DSLR camera is one of the most popular photography solutions in the world today. There were quite a few in our best digital cameras guide due to their amazing quality. Since their rise during the 2000s, they’re continuing to become one of the most common solutions for not only professional photographers, but in our case today, beginners and starters. So why are they so popular? For one, they bring us some near pro-like quality photos. Although the price range is quite broad, even DSLR cameras under $500 and within the lower-end of the price-points of these make images really standout as compared to the older digital solutions (point-and-shoot cameras) — you can definitely tell the difference. Aside from the great quality, they most notably have interchangeable lenses to allow for an even more custom-feel of your art — it makes the possibilities quite endless.
In terms reviewing some of the technical specs and how they work, a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) is a camera that has mirrors which send light from the camera lens to the viewfinder (hole through which you look into the camera to observe a certain object you will take a photo or video of). It has several parts: one lens, shutter, reflexive mirror, sensor of images, focusing screen that is matted, lens for condensing, viewfinder and pentaprism. All of these elements combine to enable you to capture the image as you see it clearly and accurately, and most importantly, have less of a process when it comes to actually capturing the image, which is what helps it become so clear.
Picking the best DSLR camera for you
- Your budget – We didn’t choose any hefty or higher-end models in here for a reason (just take a look at those super-priced full-frame DSLR cameras if you’re curious), so you won’t find too much of a price range in this list. However, there may be a small price difference between a few cameras that catch your eye, so keep in mind that you may want to save up a few more dollars before purchasing your entry-level DSLR. Of course the higher you go, the more advanced features and better quality of photos you’ll be getting.
- Do you want video? Although our best DSLR for video guide highlights this specific quality of the cameras, we want you to keep in mind whether or not you had video in mind when searching for starter model. We’ll let you know which of these has video (and what video resolution — although all DSLR cameras provide up to at least 1080p).
- Think of the future – While we don’t recommend ever grabbing a camera that has so many features it’ll take months or years to learn, we still want to recommend grabbing a camera that will not only help you learn for the time being but also have a learning curve for the future to serve you well as you become more accustomed to DSLR and photography in general. What’s great about DSLR cameras is the lens option — the more advanced you become, the more you can save up for different types of lenses to change the look and feel of your photos as opposed to having to buy an entirely brand new camera once you get better at it.
- Extra gear? Do you have your photo editing software? How about a tripod, carrying case, different lenses, and more? Keep this in mind for not only budget purposes, but how you’re going to be using the camera and in what environments as well.
The best DSLR cameras for beginners and starters
To start off our list, we’re giving you a definite answer here for one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners for a few reasons and if you didn’t want through the rest of this, check this out and don’t look back. This model is actually one of the most popular within many users even aside from beginners due to its mixture of affordability, features included (not many bells and whistles, which a lot of you won’t need anyways), as well as overall quality of photos and video. What makes the Nikon D3300 one of the best DSLR cameras for starters? Let’s just mention at a glance: a powerful 24.2 MP (megapixel) DX CMOS image sensor, excellent already-attached 18-55 mm lens for awesome quality and decent image stabilization when you are taking photos of moving objects (or while you are on the go), as well as solid video 1080p full HD for movie shooting. On top of it all, let’s not forget Wi-Fi connectivity that will enable you to share photos and videos with friends on social media if you don’t want any post-production hassle. You have an array of lenses available to you if you end up wanting to delve more into the technical side of these interchangeable cameras (they’ll start to get costly, keep in mind), and the support for help within the Nikon community is amazing. The Nikon D3300 is very easy to use, which is especially important when you are just discovering DSLR photography.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
Now we have another one of the biggest brands in the DSLR world make their first appearance in here. We know many who would say it’s either Nikon vs. Canon, especially if you’re grabbing a starter model since the support and brand recognition is so huge (we disagree and actually have a few other brands in here). Although a bit more expensive than our previously listed model, this may peak your interest since the quality is a bit higher to justify the price markup. With a 24.2 MP CMOS APS-C sensor you will be able to take some super clear, sharp photos in all the different weather and lighting conditions. An advanced CMOS auto focus with STM lens also makes it a contender since the pesky minor zoom ins and outs can get in the way of capturing that perfect photo. Its large 3″ touch screen is simple and intuitive – with 2 fingers you can quickly go through the menu, zoom in and out, change images, etc. At the same time, a built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connection enables you to instantly send images or high-quality HD videos (1080p) to your friends or family. When you want to get yourself the best DSLR camera for starters, the Canon EOS Rebel T6i is an excellent choice if you have the money.
As stated previously, don’t let the Canon or Nikon dominance fool you when it comes to models worth looking at. At number 3, we have a brand we believe in for a number of reasons, and this particular camera is continuing to build a reputation when it comes to quality-to-price. Firstly, it delivers a sharp 16.3 MP APS-C CMOS sensor with excellent image processing abilities, a large 3 inch touch screen with intuitive controls, as well as HD 1080p video shooting to give us an all-around feature-packed solution. With all these elements, you are getting great image quality as well as swift response – you can count on up to 30 frames per second and HD recording with up to 60 frames per second (H.264 AVC/MPEG-4 codec with a saving option in .mov files). Its built-in Wi-Fi enables instant sharing or uploading on top of it all (like most as we’ve seen). The Pentax K-50 is surely one of the nicest surprises when it comes to the category of best DSLR camera for beginners that doesn’t have the brand-association many typically steer towards. It rivals the price-point of our first pick, so if you were concerned with saving some money, we’d say grab whichever DSLR is cheaper at the moment.
Canon EOS 700D
If the previous three picks weren’t your thing, we’ll list another relatively budget-friendly DSLR for starters with a few different spins to it than the others. It is equipped with a 18.0 MP hybrid CMOS AF sensor (known to help with autofocus during Live View shooting\video filming). There is also the option for video shooting in full 1080p HD and standard 3 inch touchscreen that enables easy access to all camera controls, which comes in very handy when you want to switch between taking photos and shooting videos, when you want to zoom in or out, etc. Another thing that could make the EOS 700D attractive to you is its 5 fps shooting with 9-point AF system if you do plan on using your camera for shooting videos or taking photos of some live action. Aside from all of this, you’re getting the standard necessities of a DSLR without many bells and whistles to jack up the price. You can add the Canon EOS 700D in the group of the best beginners DSLR camera, especially if you want some nice autofocus technology and something that won’t break the bank.
Although just a few models up from our first pick, the Nikon D5500 is worth mentioning half-way through this guide due to it’s ever-growing popularity, especially when it comes to the quality and longevity through time. It is a powerful DSLR camera with a 24.2 mp CMOS image sensor and intuitive, easy to use LCD touch screen. With this camera you can shoot both high-quality photos as well as excellent HD 1080p videos, which makes it stand out in our opinion. Fully expand your creativity with numerous options such as Active D-Lighting for image quality with subjects on the move, ‘retouch menu’ for improvement of use, and ‘scene modes’ for numerous artistic touches to your art. Taking photos and videos on the go is no problem, and you will get a high-quality end-product at a frame rate as high as 60 frames per second. Another element that makes the Nikon D5500 the best entry-level DSLR camera for starters is the fact that it has basically no visual low-pass filter – enabling the user to capture really small details. This D5500 review vouches for its low-light performance.
We take a break from your regularly scheduled Canon or Nikon listing and have a great model here by Sony to check out. With its great all-around Exmor APS CMOS (20.1 MP) sensor that delivers some great image quality, paired together with the unique OLED Tru-Finder gives us a great feel as you can see in the sample photos. It’s known by many for the excellent autofocus system, high-quality full HD video option as well as numerous options for creative improvement of your photos and videos. You can take photos at a speed of up to 8 fps and count on great image sharpness thanks to the 15 points in the autofocus system (with phase detect, multi-area, selecting single-point, tracking, face detection and more). As usual with a lot of Sony product, they pair this up with their ‘Professional Carl Zeiss optics‘ tech to guarantee some amazing visual results. The Sony SLT-A58K is definitely another option to keep in mind.
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
With its 18.0 mp CMOS (APS-C) sensor and very functional and fast proprietary DIGIC 5 image processor, you’ve got yet another solid option as we near the last half of the top 10. This camera delivers a decent ISO range from 100 to 12800 (that can expand up to ISO 25600) that will enable you to capture images and videos of amazing quality no matter what conditions you are shooting in. Keep in mind that understanding ISO is a bit more advanced, shying us away from the beginner realm (at least for most), but we definitely recommend getting to know it as you learn since it’ll only help elevate your photography. On top of this, Canon’s CMOS AF II enables reliable tracking when you are shooting in Live View mode. For taking great videos, there is the EOS Full HD system as well. With an intuitive and easy to use 3 inch touchscreen, many will surely consider this camera as the best DSLR camera for beginners, especially if you want a learning curve for the future. As we’ve seen, they’re known for their DSLR cameras, and the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 will be a great choice if you are looking a beginner DSLR with an affordable price tag and decent features for the cost.
The Pentax K-70 is fresh in the market and on the higher-end of the price-point in here, but if you wanted to spend a few extra bucks for more quality this will be one to grab. With a 24.24 megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor and unique Prime MII image processor, you’ll have some great photos in all conditions, especially low-light if you plan on taking pictures or filming in darker environments, such as concerts or outdoors. You can shoot at 6 frames per second, which will allow you to capture excellent photos of moving objects. It comes with the standard yet large 3 inch LCD monitor that will offer you easy and intuitive usage and like the others, is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi for instant image and video sharing along with a GPS for geo-tagging. Another thing that makes this camera one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners is its selective filter for anti-aliasing that enables you to play with sharpness and more protection of the smoothness of the image. The Pentax K-70 is solidly built but a bit more expensive than others, however.
Yet another Nikon model from their D500 series, and we’ll jump right into the specs — it comes with a 24.2 mp DX CMOS sensor and a 39-point HD AF system that is equipped with nine cross-type sensors for some of the nicest autofocus functions in this guide yet. If you would like to make a movie instead of taking photos, you can also do that, hanks to its full HD 1080p video system. Built-in Wi-Fi will enable you to instantly share videos and photos, while the added GPS function enables GEO-tagging. Its unique 18-140mm f lens will ensure complete image sharpness, which definitely puts the Nikon D5300 among the top 10 entry-level DSLR cameras. It’s pretty lightweight at 16.9 ounces, but also note that it comes as a body only so you’ll have to spend some more money on a lens.
Canon EOS Rebel T5
Up last, we’ll cap off the list with yet another popular Canon DSLR. Although the entire EOS and Rebel line is worth looking at, we pin-pointed this model as one of the best for beginners due to a few reasons. With its 18.0 mp CMOS sensor and intelligent scene auto mode, you’ll have some low-light support. Like the others, there’s full HD 1080p video system for taking videos as well, built-in Wi-Fi connection, and of course the option to choose from among more than 60 lenses by Canon to truly might make this camera giving you plenty of options for creative expression not only now but the future, too. You can count on decent capturing of every scene from the Canon EOS Rebel T5, thanks to as much as 3 frames per second. Since it already comes with a lens and is the cheapest in the bunch, here’s a great solution for those looking for the lowest priced starter camera in the market. Just make sure you have all of the extra gear as well.