Editor’s note: Updated December 2018
Looking for the best DSLR camera? We’ve combed through and compared the best DSLR cameras available from all of the top manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and more to come up with this just updated list of Cyber Monday 2018 Camera Deals
Having used, bought and sold DSLR cameras for many years, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what the best DSLR camera picks are based upon your needs and budget. There are hundreds of models to choose from, and our list below will make it easy for you to decide. Whether you’re looking for the best features no matter the cost, or if you’ve got a budget to stick to and want the best performance for the price, rest assured that there is a DSLR camera for you.
The Nikon D3500 is an incredibly solid camera for the price. Sporting a 24.2 MP Sensor and excellent 5 frame per second fast action capability, this DSLR is versatile and easy on the pocketbook. Also shoots high quality 1080P HD Video. Our pick includes the standard 18-55MM AF-P next generation lens that’s a great all around lens. Rounded out with excellent battery life (up to 700 shots per charge), the D3500 is a clear winner.
Wow. It’s hard to put into words how phenomenal this camera is. If you’re looking to buy a DSLR camera that offers excellent picture AND video quality, the Canon EOS 80D with 18-135MM lens is an excellent option. Recently released, this camera’s feature set is vast, including: 45 Point Auto Focus, built in Wifi, 7 frame per second stills, and expanded HDR modes. The 18-135mm stock lens is incredibly versatile for both close up and mid range distances.
If you’re a traveler, we really like the Rebel Sl2 for it’s small form factor. It’s one of the smallest DSLR’s on the market, but retains the picture quality and video quality of larger cameras. The SL2 is an updated version of the hugely popular SL1, and adds a better image sensor, 77% better battery life, and a more flexible LCD screen. Since it’s release, it’s earned it’s place as our favorite travel cam.
The Rebel T6 offers an easy to use menu, and excellent “auto” settings to enable even the newest DSLR camera owners to produce excellent pictures. At currently under $400, it’s one of the most budget friendly DSLR cameras on the market. Just because we labeled it best DSLR for begineers, doesn’t mean you can’t grow with this camera. It’s got manual settings to explore once you’re comfortable that will expand your profficiency to create better and better images.
Thousands of high quality short movies have been filmed with the T6i. Just search Youtube, and you’ll see why we really like the T6i for video. The T6i is the big brother to the Rebel T6 and offers substantial upgrades including a larger image sensor, an audio mic jack, tilting touchscreen, and vastly enhanced video capability. Excellent pick for the Vlogger or YouTuber.
The Nikon D750 is widely regarding by professional photographers as one of the best DSLR’s on the market. Sure it’s not the most expensive, but in terms of best value it’s tough to beat. The D750 is rated for up to 200,000 shots, has a great tilting LCD, and offers excellent performace at high ISO’s. The D750 also offers some of the best quality burst shot capability that we’ve seen.
Here’s the key qualifying factors we looked at to crown our Best DSLR camera champions:
Adaptability is a critical component of any DSLR camera. How many branded lenses are available for it? How many third party lenses are available? The best of below will offer a variety depending upon your shooting needs. You’re looking for a camera that you can use for years, and an adaptable camera is important.
Image quality is of course incredibly important. Most major camera manufacturers in 2018 offer at least adequate image quality. But if you’re looking for a new camera and shelling out money, you have a right to get the best image quality for your budget. Don’t just look at how many megapixels a DSLR has. That only tells part of the story. It’s even more critical for a DSLR to have a large and quality image sensor, an excellent image processor, and high quality optics (the lens). We’ve factored all of these into our best DSLR camera picks.
Ease of use is an often overlooked factor. Some DSLR camera menu’s are so advanced it would seem you’d need to take college classes to be able to use it. We don’t feel that’s best for the average DSLR user. So, our list of the best DSLR camera options are going to include brands with simple to use menu’s and easy auto functionality- so if you want to “set it and forget it”, then you can.
Value is a fundamental attribute of a DSLR camera. If you can get the same feature set and quality for $500, instead of $800- what would you choose? It’s kind of a no-brainer, and our picks have factored this in. And- keep in mind, value is not the same as being “cheap”. A $2000 DSLR can offer great value for what it provides, and likewise a budget $399 DSLR can offer great value. It’s about the features and output you get from the camera at it’s specific price.
Pretty soon you’ll be taking expert pictures with your DSLR Camera. Out of the box, with any of the best DSLR camera of 2018 pick, you are ready to shoot. However, there are some recommended accessories to maximize your new camera. Here are our top accessories for the best DSLR camera of 2018 winners:
Best DSLR Camera Tripods:
This Rangers Aluminum Carbon Fiber Tripod is a great all around choice for photography with a DSLR camera. It’s light so you can pack it where you need to without discomfort, and it breaks down quite small for easy portability. It’s also most importantly very sturdy, so it will remain solid wherever you set it up. With an MSRP of under $70, you can’t go wrong.
Flexible tripods are really handy. Suited for outdoor settings like trees, walkway metal bars, or any other situation that demands it, our recommended pick is the Joby Gorillapod pictured above. It can hold a camera setup of up to 6.5 pounds, so any of the recommended best DSLR camera picks of 2018 will work with the Gorillapod.
Best DSLR Camera Memory Card:
Retailing at under $40, this SanDisk Extreme Pro 64GB SD card is our top pick. SanDisk has long been a leader within the memory and storage space. It’s a reliable and fast (95MB/S) SD card that’s perfect for current DSLR cameras. It does equally well for large picture formats like RAW, and also handles HD and 4K video. This card is available in a variety of sizes, so if you need a bigger or smaller version, Amazon has those available too.
Best DSLR Camera Bag:
This is our favorite camera bag available right now. Retailing under $70, the Altura Great Explorer Camera Bag is a fantastic option that you can grow with. It’s capable of holding up to:
- 1-2 DSLR Camera bodies
- 4-6 lenses
- Camera Flash
- Laptop computer/tablet
- Myriad of other accessories
Best DSLR Camera Straps
The OP/TECH Super Classic Strap is our choice for the best camera strap. It retails at $22.75, so won’t break the bank. OP/TECH is an indusry leader in camera accessories and what we love about them is that a large amount of their products are produced in the USA! This strap is really comfortable and easily adjustable. This strap was built specifically for heavier cameras like DSLR’s even with larger lenses.
Best DSLR Camera Photo Printers
Canon’s Photo Printer PRO 100 wireless photo printer is our #1 pick. MSRP is $499, but street price is generally lower. It’s been an annual best seller for Canon and both hobby and pro photographers rave about it. One thing to note, this is a big printer. Because it handles larger print sizes, it has to be. It’s solidly built and weighs around 40 pounds.
Here are some great features the Pixma Pro 100 offers:
- Wifi Printing
- Capable of printing up to 13″X19″ prints
- Utilizes 8 separate dye inks to create incredibly colorful and accurate pictures
If you are looking for a more economical option that still offers good print quality, our #2 choice is the HP Envy 4250. With an MSRP of under $100, this all in one photo printer is a good budget pick. It can’t handle quite the size prints that the Canon Pro 100 above can, but it is able to produce up to 8″X10″ prints. A nice added benefit is that the Envy 4250 also has copy and scanning ability. The colors aren’t quite as vivid as the Canon Pro 100, but the HP Envy 4250 does put out pretty nice looking photos. It also offers wireless capability, which is handy and cord-free.
The Complete Guide To DSLR Cameras
If you’ve always wondered what a DSLR camera is, then you’ve finally come to the right place. We’ll elaborate on why the best DSLR camera picks as seen above really are the best. In the quest to make sure you truly understand what a DSLR camera is, we’ll breakdown all there is to know about it such as; how it works, what makes it different from other regular point and shoot or mirrorless cameras out there and how to pick the best DSLR camera for your specific needs.
WHAT IS A DSLR CAMERA?
In simple terms, a DSLR camera is a digital single-lens reflex camera. This implies that there is a mirror on the inside of the camera’s body, capable of reflecting the light coming from the lens which it then sends through a series of mirrors or prism to the optical viewfinder. This makes it possible for you to see what you are aiming at or what you intend to shoot through the lens.
DSLR cameras are usually confused for mirrorless cameras because they both use interchangeable lenses but DSLRs reflect light from the lens to the optical view finder (OVF) with the aid of mirrors; the light is allowed to hit the sensor when the mirror flips and this occurs when the shutter button is pressed. The mirror system isn’t applicable to mirrorless cameras.
The mirrors on the inside tend to make it bulkier than its mirrorless counterpart however; more accurate images are gotten from the OVF and thy work perfectly in low light. DSLRs also have larger lenses even though majority of the recently produced mirrorless cameras have caught up in performance.
One of the reasons why DSLRs are still preferred to mirrorless cameras is because it lets you see what you are going to capture in real time. There is no lag as is often the case in the mirrorless cameras where the sensor has to transfer the scene images to a different digital display somewhere else on the camera.
A DSLR’S amazing battery life is another feature that isn’t talked about often enough. This long battery life is only possible because very little power is drawn by the optical viewfinder. You can get about 600 shots from models like the Canon EOS Rebel T7i. The best DSLR cameras for professional or serious amateur use on the other hand, like the Nikon D850, are capable of handling well over a thousand shots on a single charge.
Many photographers, from beginners to professionals make use of the best DSLR camera options because of their capacity to shoot amazing images when paired with the right lens. There are some advanced models of the best DSLR cameras that are quite expensive however; they offer more features, better construction and killer performance.
Some of the best DSLR camera producers are Nikon and Canon. Sony and Pentax also make good DSLRs, but Nikon and Canon DSLRs are preferred by most professionals because of their ease of use and excellent lens options available. Your lens option determines your camera options and that is why most photographers have several lenses – to give them the options they need for any shooting situation.
Crop Vs. Full-Frame in a DSLR Camera
The camera sensor remains a part of the DSLR that keeps people confused. Like all digital cameras, sensors are measured in megapixels however; there are differences in their physical dimension. The sensors come in 2 major forms: the full frame and the APS – C popularly known as crop frame.
In the simplest form, a sensor inside a full frame camera is usually 35mm film negative hence the name full frame. On the other hand, the APS-C sensors are approximately half of the 35mm size and as a result, create a crop factor.
To further simplify, if you have a camera that has a 1.5x crop factor, a 50mm lens will have approximately the same field of view as a 75mm lens would have when on a full-frame camera even though there’s an exceptional zoom feature for when you need an extra reach with your telephoto lens. That said, the full-frame cameras offer you a wider shot than you would get from crop frame wide-angle lens, however full frame DSLR cameras are generally more expensive than smaller sensors.
Many producers make lenses that can work with both APS-C and full-frame models. While there may be no significant disadvantage of using the full frame lenses on a crop frame body, doing things the other way round is not recommended. Some brands such as Canon do not even permit it but others like Nikon allow you make use of crop lens on a full body, but it limits the shooting capability.
The Advantages of DSLR Cameras
Built For Speed
Speed and responsiveness are the 2 major advantages of the best DSLR camera options available. No such thing as missing great shots because your camera is slow.
If you use a compact point and shoot camera, you might have been in situations where you’d like to take fast pictures so as to capture a moment but your compact digital camera refuses to focus. Finally, you get it to focus and you click the “take picture” button but there’s a delay for a couple of seconds and by the time it actually takes the shot, the moment you wanted to catch is gone. This can obviously be very frustrating. The DSLRs rapid response comes in handy in these situations as it makes it possible for you to take multiple shots right after each other then you can go back and select the right one for you.
What makes the DSLR so fast as compared to other compact cameras? The answer is simple – it is basically electronics vs. mechanics. A device known as shutter sits right in front of the DSLR and it blocks it from the light. This shutter opens and closes when you take a picture. This is different from the compact camera where the shutter isn’t present. The sensors are electronically activated whenever you take a photo in compact cameras.
The major advantage of the mechanical option is that it is instantaneous. The shutter opens up and snaps when you press the shutter button. This means that when the mood is right or the image to be captured is chosen, you will not lose the moment because of camera delay. Speed is enough reason to upgrade from sluggish compact cameras to one of the best DSLR camera models. If you’re not yet convinced, there are many more advantages discussed below.
Lots of Accessories
Another advantage of DSLRs is their compatibility with many attachments and accessories. Most DSLRs come with a hotshoe that trigger wireless flashes when used with transmitters like pocket wizards and even serves as the mounting point for external flashes.
DSLRs come with various adapter ports, trigger system ports and ports for microphones, external monitors, wired flashes and even GPS modules. These ports offer a lot of versatility, thus making them adaptable to your needs – whatever they may be. The best part is that new accessories are popping up every day and the best DSLR camera options available today come with accessories that make them adaptable to lots of new technologies.
Ability to change lenses to the one most appropriate for your shoot is a major advantage that DSLRs have over the point and shoot cameras.
If you’ve been shooting with your phone or any point & shoot camera, you’ll observe that their lens sometimes isn’t wide enough or doesn’t zoom quite right. Perhaps you might need a little more reach for far areas or you might need the images to fit the frame better – all you have to do is swap lenses if you are using a DSLR camera. There are quite a large number of lens types available; ranging from wide – angle lenses and super telephotos for wildlife and sports to landscapes or large aperture lenses that give that smooth background blur.
Every camera brand has their own accompanying lens and mounting system. There are also a number of third party lens manufacturers like Tamron, Sigma etc. and they offer multiple mount types for all photographers.
If you can find old lenses from old film cameras lying around the house, chances are you can mount them with the aid of adapters on a new DSLR. Therefore, do not for a moment think you have to give up a lot of money for lenses to be able to make the most of your DSLR camera. Another great things is that most third party adapters are under $50.
A Lens for Every Occasion
Now that you know that lenses can be interchanged, DSLRs have different types of lenses for almost any kind of shot you can think of. There are wide – angle lenses perfect for landscape photos, macro lens for flowers and bugs, and telephoto lens to take pictures at sporting events. Simply put, one camera can be used with a lot of different lenses. Top of the line bridge point & shoot cameras now have mega zooms but it takes a while for their lenses to zoom because the zoom is driven by a motor. You can zoom quicker in a DSLR because you can manually control the zoom.
Mirrorless cameras are usually more compact than DSLRs and also generally have the capacity to change lenses too. However, DSLR cameras have been around for a longer period. As a result, there are more lens options available than mirrorless cameras- especially from third party manufacturers.
Bigger is better
Even the smallest DSLR cameras are larger than point and shoot cameras. Though its large size makes it a little less compact for carrying around but this is easily offset by its better image quality and speed.
The images from DSLR cameras tend to be better because they use larger sensors. The pixel on the sensor of the DSLR is usually a lot bigger than the images from a point and shoot camera of the same megapixel. More light is captured by a bigger pixel as well as less digital noise.
Autofocus is another major advantage of the best DSLR camera. The best point and shoot cameras cannot compete with the worst DSLR camera in terms of autofocus. The autofocus technology inside the DSLR is a lot faster, offers a much better performance and also subtracts tracking, which is crucial for shooting moving objects. The lens quality is also an influencing factor but overall, there isn’t much to use to compare a point and shoot camera with a DSLR.
Control Over Settings
This is one of the best advantages of DSLRs over the compact cameras.
Machines making decisions on your behalf can be rewarding in that it limits the manual “touches”. They may make the right decision most of the time, but they can also be wrong. DSLRs give you complete control over every photo so you do not have to hope that the camera makes the right decision on your behalf. You don’t have to be frightened if you aren’t ready to make the switch to a completely manual camera. Yes, DSLRs can be set to automatic too but they also offer increasing levels of control over images (automatic, intermediate & pro).
High Quality pictures in Low Light
Another major advantage of DSLRs is that it can capture amazing photos even in places with poor lighting. I know you’re thinking almost every camera can do this as long as the flash is turned on. Well, you have to understand that the best DSLR cameras do it without the flash. Amazing, right? The ISO in DSLRs allow it take photos even when there is very little light available. It is true that you can change the ISO of the cameras in compact cameras; however, you must understand that you add a grain of noise as you increase the ISO in the compact cameras.
DSLRs produce very little noise even when the ISO is set very high. The same cannot be said about compact cameras. DSLRs are your best bet if you like to take pictures in places where there isn’t proper lighting. An optional advanced shoe mount flash can help too.
Some potential disadvantages:
- Difficulty in achieving simple tasks: at first, it could be very difficult to master some settings like the ISO and flash settings. You have to be willing to read and re-read the manual before really getting into DSLRs.
- Size: a DSLR isn’t the easiest gadget to carry around and you have to be very careful with the lens so it doesn’t hit any surface and get damaged especially if you are carrying the very fragile telephoto lens.
- Weight: DSLR cameras are about 200 – 300 percent heavier than the regular cameras and carrying them around for long periods can put pressure on the shoulder and neck muscles. Having the right neck straps (check out Opturo!) can be a lifesaver.
Choosing the best DSLR Camera
Beginners, professionals and enthusiasts use DSLRs however, if you’ve never bought one, you may not know what to look out for. Up next, we’ll explain the things to keep in mind when trying to choose the best DSLR camera.
Nikon or Canon Or Pentax? Or some other brand? (Or do brands even matter?)
Most people start by focusing on brands – e.g. Nikon or Canon – but it might interest you to know that the brand is not as important as you might think. Because if only one brand was good enough, every other brand would have been phased out of the market. It is therefore better to focus on the models that are available within your budget and compare them based on specifications.
That said, the brand is also important in buying cameras because there are different lens ranges offered by different manufacturers. If you think you’ll need a lens or two in the future, you might want to factor that in when making a decision. Whatever you decide, there are third part lens producers that also offer alternative options.
The sensor plays a very important role in the image quality of a camera and how it operates – this is why it is the most expensive part of a camera. Most people usually consider the pixel count of the sensor as the indicator of the quality of the images however; new DSLRs all come with more than enough pixel count to satisfy this need so it is no longer as important as it used to be. Pixels can be the indicator of wider scope and greater detail for enlargement and cropping however, with it comes digital noise or grainy images, slower burst speeds and memory getting full fast. High mega pixel cameras aren’t best suited for everyone’s needs.
What you should consider instead is the sensor size and there are 2 very popular one used by most brands: full frame and APS – C. As a rule, APS – C sensors are usually cheaper while the full-frame models are generally found in pro models. Yes, budget is the determining factor for most of us but your photography style should be more important. Full frame sensors are larger than the APS-C sensors and they only make use of the central portion of the lens. This then appears as though you are making use of a longer lens thus making it more suitable for distant subjects like the ones found in nature or during sporting activities.
Also the fact that it has a smaller area than the full frame sensor implies that a full frame camera’s AF system will likely cover a wider proportion than an APS – C sensor thus making it possible for the camera to focus on other objects not in the center of the lens.
The focal lens is kept the same in a full frame camera, similar to that of a 35mm film camera lens so they are perfect for wide angles – such as street photography, architecture, landscapes or any other similar shot, more so the pixels on an APS – C sensors can be smaller than that of full – frame sensors. This helps reduce the image noise while keeping lots of details in the shadow in highlights at the same time. Full frame cameras also make it easier to achieve a shallow depth-of- field thus making it possible to blur out backgrounds – this is great for portraits. When using a fixed macro lens like a 50MM lens this effect is known as “bokeh”. Visually this is one of the best dslr camera effects.
Fast moving scenes
You’ll have to read up on each DSLR’s burst rate and focusing system to get the best DSLR camera for sports or for any fast moving subject. Quick burst rates represented as FPS (frames per second) can ensure you capture several images in quick succession. AF systems that have a lot of cross – type points are worth taking a look at because they lean towards a more sensitive system than the usual.
If you are the type that takes pictures from unconventional positions like above crowds, on the ground, etc. you may have to look for a DSLR with displays that can be adjusted to give the proper angle (i.e. that can be pulled away from their bodies & rotated). Or you could just check the display resolution and see how clearly the camera will display the scene, captured images and menus. Displays of about 460k dots will be offered by the cheaper cameras while it could get up to a million dots on the more expensive cameras. There are several factors to consider but it is almost certain that the more expensive the technology, the better it is.
The viewfinder is another factor to consider – pentaprism viewfinders are usually brighter and bigger than the pentamirror types but coverage is also crucial. They are noted in percentages and they are the amount of scene you can see through the viewfinder – they are usually 100% on pro models and about 95 – 98% on the cheaper ones.
It is not surprising that new DSLRs can do more than just take amazing pictures, they can also make top quality videos too. If you think you’ll be shooting videos with your DSLR, then you might want to consider the frame rates offered by the model as well as the type of control you can have over the audio. Can you attach an external mic to it? Does it come with an in-built mic? These are some of the questions you have to find answers to when going for a DSLR for videos. All current model (2017 and later) models from Canon and Nikon include video capability.
You may also want to check if the camera has Wi-Fi. This feature is offered on only a hand full of the expensive models but is common in the beginner models along with a GPS system, which are usually useful mainly when traveling. Cameras with weather sealing could be the ideal choice for you if you intend to shoot outdoors so your camera will be protected from harsh weather conditions. This is a major benefit of Pentax as they do a great job with weather sealing on most of their DSLR cameras. Do not forget that you also have to seal the lens for complete protection if you intend to get one that can withstand harsh weather conditions.
Important Parts of a DSLR Camera
Several important parts make up a DSLR camera and we have to understand these components if we want to use our cameras properly. We’ll be discussing them below:
A DSLR cameras’ lens can be considered to be just as important as the camera body. The light enters through the lens and the photo process begins when this happens. Lenses come in different forms. Some are fixed permanently to the body of the camera but DSLRs have interchangeable lenses. They also vary in aperture and have different focal points. Zoom lenses are also a very important part of a camera. As opposed to the fixed focal length, it is a mechanical assembly of lens elements for which the focal length can be varied.
The diameter of the lens opening is controlled by the aperture and this in turn controls the amount of light that reaches the image sensor. Majority of today’s compact cameras have a small aperture range even though some digital compacts have a fixed aperture lens. The brand and quality of a camera determines its performance and to get a camera with superior performance, buy a good quality camera.
Camera bodies come in different sizes and shapes. On the average, DSLR bodies are heavier and larger than other camera types like Mirrorless cameras. In general, the more expensive the DSLR camera, the heavier the body is, as they’re packed full of additional capability.
The memory card performs only one function and that is to store information – images and videos – and it comes with different size and speed capacities. SD and CF cards are the most common types of memory cards used with DSLRs. There is no substantive benefit to either one, and in fact some mid tier and higher DSLR cameras include both a CF card and SD card slot. We do recommend going with a class 10 card with higher MBPS rating, especially if you are doing any HD or 4k shooting in video.
All cameras except the professional grade DSLRs have the on-board flash feature. It provides extra light in situations where the lighting is poor. All new DSLR’s offer an onboard hotshoe which enables you to add an external flash to provide excellent lighting for certain situations (especially indoors).
Viewfinders are present in some digital compacts and nearly every DSLR camera. It is the major source of image taking in DSLR however; many digital compacts have replaced their viewfinders with LCD screens. Using a viewfinder can be handy when there is lots of glare or using the LCD screen is challenging. All of the best DSLR camera options on the market today have auto-sensing capability that allows the camera to “know” when you are looking through the optical viewfinder and not using the LCD screen.
As the name implies, the function of the shutter release is to release the shutter, and make it possible to take pictures. The shutter speed is determined by the length of time for which the shutter is left open or exposed.
The job of the image sensor is to convert the optical image into electronic signal after which it sends it to the memory card to be stored. Many of the cameras available today make use of 2 types of image sensors – the CMOS and CCD. Both do the same thing but take different approaches to doing them.
The LCD screen:
This screen comes in different sizes and is found at the back of the camera body. The LCD in digital compact cameras have replaced the viewfinder totally while in DSLRs, the LCD is meant for viewing already taken images. Many models offer variable or tilting LCD screens making shooting at odd angles much easier than a fixed LCD.
Yes, DSLRs have a couple of potential drawbacks – they are heavier, more expensive and take more time to learn to use properly, but in spite of this, DSLRs are still the best camera on the market. They are more versatile than mirrorless or regular point and shoot camera, their picture quality is generally incredible, and they are perfect for both professional photographers and amateurs just looking to create Instagram perfect pictures. If you want to get back to the top to check out the 2018 best DSLR camera winners, just click here.