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The best Nikon DSLRs in 2018

Looking to buy a new Nikon DSLR? These are the best Nikon cameras you can get right now

Image: Jacoblund, Getty Images

Need some helping deciding which is the best Nikon camera to buy? We’ve got you covered. Whether you’re new to Nikon or already own a number of Nikon lenses and want to stick with the brand, this guide will help you choose the best Nikon camera for you – no matter your skill level or budget. 

Nikon’s DSLRs are marketed in three categories: entry-level, enthusiast and professional. The company’s range-topping enthusiast DSLRs are all sufficiently simple for complete beginners. They have fully automatic ‘intelligent’ shooting modes that can analyse scenes in real-time, and – most of the time – serve up an ideal selection of camera settings. All you need to do is point and shoot

Read more: The best camera for beginners in 2018

These Nikon cameras also have plenty of scene modes, which enables you to adapt to tricky shooting scenarios without needing to understand the science behind the camera settings. 

However, enthusiast cameras are also likely to have the availability of many exotic shooting functions and custom settings. This enables your camera to grow with you as you learn new skills and techniques, but bear in mind that it’s pointless spending more on a highly sophisticated DSLR if you don’t think you’ll ever need its more complex features.

Read more: The 10 Best Cameras Under £500/$600

When it comes to choosing the best Nikon camera for you, the genres of photography that you’re interested in should be a big consideration. Practically all Nikon cameras are good all-rounders, to greater or lesser extents, but some are better suited to specific types of photography. 

For example, Nikon DSLRs with high maximum shutter speeds and superfast continuous drive modes are well suited to action, sports and wildlife photography. Cameras that are particularly small and lightweight are ideal for travel photography and casual shooting. A higher megapixel count is better for retaining fine detail and texture in landscape and architectural shooting, whereas a lower megapixel count typically lets you capture relatively noise-free images at high ISO (sensitivity) settings, which is better for shooting indoors or at twilight, without resorting to flash.

There’s a lot to think about, but it pays to weigh up all the pros and cons. Read on for our pick of the best Nikon cameras out there right now.

The best Nikon cameras right now

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1. Nikon D750

This high-spec full-frame Nikon DSLR is remarkably great value

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon FX | Screen: 3.2in, tilt 1,229,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 6.5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional

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Full-frame image sensor
Tilting LCD for awkward angles
Pricey compared with a similar DX body
No touchscreen

Like most full-frame cameras, the Nikon D750 is fabulous for portraiture, and thanks mostly to a modest megapixel count, it delivers amazingly noise-free images at high-ISO settings. It is, therefore, also great for shooting indoors or at twilight, when you might need to bump up the sensitivity to avoid slow shutter speeds. The Nikon D750 performs well for action, sports and wildlife photography as well, with a reasonably rapid 6.5fps maximum drive rate. All in all, it’s the consummate all-rounder, making it our pick of the best Nikon camera you can buy right now. Nikon classifies the D750 as a professional rather than enthusiast camera, but the control layout, build quality and overall design are very similar to enthusiast-grade cameras like the D7200 and D7500. The pro-oriented interface of bodies like the D850 are rejected, while beginner-friendly scene modes and shooting effects settings are added. It’s pricier than DX-format DSLRs with similar specs and features, but the D750 is great value for a full-frame camera.

Read more: The 8 best portrait lenses for Nikon DSLR users

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2. Nikon D500

With a blazing performance, this is one of the best Nikon cameras for action, sports and wildlife photography

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

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Great build quality and handling
Go-faster performance
Pro interface can confuse beginners
No scene modes

As an APS-C-format (DX) camera, the Nikon D500 boosts the effective reach of telephoto lenses by a factor of 1.5x. Couple that with a super-fast 10fps drive rate and a capacious memory buffer, and you have a spectacular camera for action, sports and wildlife photography. It’s really solidly built as well, with pro-grade robustness and handling. The downsides are that, as a professional body, the control system is likely to be unintuitive for beginners, and it can take a bit of getting used to even for experienced photographers. For example, there’s no conventional shooting mode dial, and beginner-friendly scene modes are lacking. It’s also very expensive for a DX-format body, costing around 50 per cent more than the D7500. Even so, if you want a really tough, action-packed DSLR, the Nikon D500 is the real deal.

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3. Nikon D610

Nikon’s most affordable full-frame DSLR

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon FX | Screen: 3.2in fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/professional

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Full-frame at a budget price
Good build quality and handling
Not much cheaper than newer D750
Relatively old image processor

The least expensive of Nikon’s current full-frame DSLRs, the Nikon D610 looks very similar to the newer D750 and has the same 24.3MP image sensor. As such, handling is very good, the control system is intuitive, and the construction has a high-quality feel. As you might expect, the lower price point means that certain features are missing: at the back, the LCD lacks a tilt facility and has a lower pixel count than the D750’s screen. The image processor is also a generation older and high-ISO images are noticeably noisier as a result. Indeed, the standard sensitivity range tops out at ISO 6400 compared with the D750’s ISO 12,800. There’s a lower-spec autofocus system as well, with 39 rather than 51 AF points, and the maximum drive rate is a little more pedestrian at 6fps. All in all, the D610 is a good full-frame Nikon DSLR – but the D750 is superior in most respects, copes better with action photography and low-light conditions, and doesn’t cost much more to buy.

4. Nikon D850

Not the most senior option but still top dog for many, with its superb well-rounded feature set

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.7MP | Lens Mount: Nikon F | Screen type: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,360,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 4K UHD | User level: Professional

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High MP and fast burst shooting
Solid, weather-sealed body
Sensor places greater demands on glass
Expensive

It may be almost a year old, and potentially about to be upstaged by a new full-frame mirrorless cousin, but the D850 is still a camera that attracts a great deal of praise and admiration. Its ace card is that it fails to compromise in any one area simply to benefit another. So, you get a high-resolution 45.7MP sensor and 7fps burst shooting (which can be boosted to 9fps with the optional MB-D18 Multi Battery Power Pack), rather than just one of these, as we'd normally expect. Similarly, the robust, weather-sealed body breaks from its peers by offering a tilting LCD screen, and with 4K video supported by a whole suite of recording options on board too, wedding, sports, landscape or action photographers can alternate between the two and know the camera will still deliver precisely what they or their clients expect, whatever and however they're shooting. As with any camera with such a sensor, you not only need to use exquisite glass but also make sure your technique is spot on, otherwise issues such as softness may be apparent.

Read more: Nikon D850 review

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5. Nikon D7500

Great performance and handling at a sensible price

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 922,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 8fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

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Same sensor and processor as the D500
Novice-friendly scene modes and Effects
Relatively modest megapixel count
50 per cent pricier than the D7200

The Nikon D7500 packs most of the best specifications and features from the pro-grade D500 into a smaller and lighter enthusiast-class body. As such, it has a more beginner-friendly control system, complete with a conventional shooting mode dial that sports scene modes and Effects, such as Miniature and Selective color. In terms of performance, you get the same 20.9MP image sensor and EXPEED 5 processor, together with a 1/8000sec maximum shutter speed and 4K video capture capability as in the D500. There’s virtually nothing to choose between the two Nikon cameras in terms of image quality, but the D500 has a downgraded 51-point rather than 153-point autofocus system, and autofocus at f/8 is limited to a single AF point rather than 15 points (which can be an issue if you shoot with tele-converters). The maximum drive rate is also slower, but still pretty rapid at 8fps. Ultimately, the D7500 is the more sensible choice for enthusiast rather than professional photographers, who want a high-spec DX format DSLR that’s ideal for action photography and a whole lot more.

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6. Nikon D7200

The forerunner to the D7500 is one of the best Nikon cameras for enthusiasts out there

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in, touch, tilt 1,229,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Max burst speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast

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More MP than the D500 and D7500
1.3x crop mode allows 7fps drive rate
Fixed LCD with no touch-sensitivity
No 4K video

For an all-purpose Nikon DSLR that you can use for everything from landscape and architectural photography to sports and wildlife, the Nikon D7200 has an advantage over the more expensive, newer D7500 above. It boasts more megapixels with a 24.2MP rather than 20.9MP image sensor, with the potential of capturing greater levels of fine detail and texture. Both cameras have the same 51-point autofocus system and, although the D7200 has a lower-resolution metering sensor, it’s still highly accurate and consistent. Build quality and handling are of a similarly high standard in both cameras, although the D7200 lacks a tilt mechanism and touch-sensitivity in its rear screen. On the plus side, the screen is the same size and slightly more detailed than that of the D7500. The D7200 is still pretty fast, with 6fps continuous shooting rising to 7fps in 1.3x crop mode, which further extends your telephoto reach, although video capture is limited to 1080p instead of 4K. All in all, the D7200 is one of the best Nikon cameras for enthusiasts out there, and terrific value at the price.

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7. Nikon D5600

Small, stylish and highly versatile, the D5600 is a great travel camera

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in pivoting touchscreen, 1.037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

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Fully articulated touchscreen
39-point AF system
Poor Live View and movie autofocus
Lacks the D3400’s Guide mode

Sitting at the top end of Nikon’s range of entry-level DSLRs, the Nikon D5600 is less basic than the D3400, and lacks an interactive Guide shooting mode. Even so, it’s certainly beginner-friendly and serves up a host of scene and Effects modes for easily tailoring capture settings to pretty much any shooting scenario. Going further than the D3400, there’s also a good range of custom settings, making the D5600 equally well suited to enthusiast photographers. Everything’s packed into a particularly small and lightweight build, too, so it’s a great travel camera. Around the back, there’s a fully articulated touchscreen that’s brilliant for shooting from tricky angles, and menu navigation is quick and simple. However, unlike Nikon’s enthusiast and pro-grade DSLRs, there’s no additional LCD on the top late. If you want a beginner's camera that can grow with you as you learn new skills and techniques, or if you just like to travel light, the D5600 is the perfect choice.

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8. Nikon D5300

Older than the D5600 but still widely available and great value

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2in pivoting touchscreen, 1.037,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/intermediate

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Small, lightweight build
Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS
No Bluetooth or NFC
No touchscreen

The Nikon D5300 is nearly three years older than the D5600, above, but the differences between the two cameras are fairly subtle. Both are based on 24.2MP image sensors coupled with the same generation of EXPEED 4 image processor. Both have the same 39-point autofocus system and a very similar compact, lightweight build. However, while both cameras sport a fully articulated rear screen, the D5300’s isn’t a touchscreen. The D5300 also lacks Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, although it still has built-in Wi-Fi and boasts a GPS system, which is lacking on the newer D5600. Image quality is very similar in both cases, but the D5600 produces cleaner images with less visible noise at high ISO settings. Given that there’s relatively little difference in price, the D5600 is the better option, although GPS adds to the D5300’s credentials as a travel camera.

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9. Nikon D3400

Simple but effective, this is the best Nikon camera for absolute beginners

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3in fixed, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Pentamirror | Max burst speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

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Helpful Guide shooting mode
Plenty of scene modes and Effects
Pretty basic with no custom settings
LCD doesn't tilt nor offer touch control

Nikon’s most entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3400 keeps things simple for complete beginners. The ‘intelligent’ fully automatic shooting mode gets everything right most of the time, and there are plenty of scene modes and effects options, catering to trickier shooting scenarios. Better still, there’s a Guide shooting mode that’s split into Easy and Advanced sections. It serves as a built-in photography course, dishing out interactive tutorials on how to use camera settings to get your desired results. It’s a genuinely useful tool that helps beginners bridge the gap from fully automatic and scene mode shooting to the more advanced Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual shooting options. The D3400 is undeniably great as a beginner's camera, but it lacks a Custom Settings menu, which is featured in all of Nikon’s more advanced DSLRs. Ultimately, you might find that you outgrow it relatively quickly and start hankering for something further up Nikon’s product line – but if it’s a beginner camera you want, this is a cracking option.

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