The best DSLR in 2024: Chunky, classic camera designs still loved today

The best DSLRs still stack up really well against the latest mirrorless cameras, especially if you value old-school handling over the latest gadgets. Mirrorless cameras may be all the rage now, but DSLR design still offers a strong, chunky build, value for money, and a range of lenses that mirrorless cameras have yet to match. We've tested every DSLR on the market, and these are our favorites right now.

The best DSLRs are not that far behind their mirrorless counterparts, even today. Many DSLRs include modern mirrorless features such as 4K video, on-sensor phase detect autofocus, and effective live view modes.

We have an article on DSLRs vs mirrorless cameras that spells out all the technical and practical differences, and while mirrorless cameras do have very clear advantages in some respects, it's by no means one-sided.

DSLRs are an affordable way of making the jump from a camera phone or a point-and-shoot compact camera. Another big advantage of investing in a DSLR over a mirrorless camera is that you've got years' worth of lenses to choose from. For more on this, check out our guide to the best camera lenses to buy.

So here we've rounded up what we think are the best DSLR cameras right now. We start off with affordable and easy-to-use beginner cameras and work up to fully-fledged professional models that still have what it takes to satisfy many pro photographers.

We do think, though, that there are a handful of DSLR highlights that deserve special attention. The Nikon D850 is a beefy professional camera that's a joy to use and has the resolution, shooting speed, and even video capabilities to be relevant today. For enthusiasts, the powerful Canon EOS 90D does everything the best mirrorless cameras in its class can do, with the handling and optical viewfinder of a DSLR.

Sebastian Oakley
Sebastian Oakley

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.

He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. He has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between.

Best DSLRs: our top picks

The best DSLRs in 2024

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Best for megapixels

(Image credit: Future)
Best for megapixels

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Lens mount: Nikon FX
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Mighty resolving power
+
Pro-grade build but still compact

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly noisy at very high ISO settings
-
Vertical grip is an optional add-on

We found the Nikon D850 an expensive camera when it was first launched, but now prices have fallen and its 45.7MP resolution is spectacular.

The Nikon D850 is amazing for video features too and makes it one of the best DSLRs for video around – though the newer Nikon D780 would be a better and cheaper choice for videographers. 

We know the Nikon D850 doesn't have the new Nikon D780's hybrid on-sensor autofocus technology, so its live view autofocus speeds are relatively pedestrian, but we don't find that much of a handicap for measured professional photographic shoots, and it scarcely puts a dent in the D850's all-round appeal as arguably the best DSLR of all time for professional photographers. It looked spectacular when it first came out in 2017, and it looks just as good today... but cheaper!

Read our full Nikon D850 review for more details

Best for beginners

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)
Best for beginners

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Max burst speed: 5fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Guided screen options
+
Pivoting touchscreen
+
4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
The body might be too small for some

There are a few Canon cameras that are cheaper than the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the 250D in Europe) but they lack its features and build quality. 

You don't have to pay that much extra to have features such as a vari-angle touchscreen, a 24.3-megapixel sensor with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology which makes the autofocus in live mode really fast – just like a mirrorless camera's – and guided screen options to help you learn. It's also capable of 4K video so if you think you might want to have a go at filmmaking, this may be better for you than the Nikon D3500. 

Having used Canon's cheapest DSLRs (sorry, Canon), we think the EOS Rebel SL3/250D is definitely worth the extra.

Read our full Canon EOS Rebel SL3/250D review for more details

Best for professionals

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
Best for professionals

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 20.1MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-mount
Screen: 3.2-inch fixed touchscreen, 2.1million dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: Optical viewfinder 16fps mechanical shutter / Live View 20fps mechanical or electronic shutter
Max video resolution: 4K RAW, 4K DCI, 4K UHD
User level: Professional

Reasons to buy

+
Smart Controller is a revelation
+
Deep Learning AF genuinely impresses
+
HDR stills and video standards
+
Uncropped 4K!

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower resolution than Sony A9 II
-
No animal AF (yet)
-
No image stabilization
-
No tilting LCD screen

With the Canon EOS1-D X Mark III, the typically cautious company released a camera packed with bleeding-edge tech, including deep learning AF, an optical Smart Controller, HEIF and HDR PQ support, CFexpress, 12-bit internal 4K RAW, head tracking and so much more. Canon combined the advantages of DSLR and mirrorless to produce a hybrid body that can shoot according to what the situation demands, making it the best solution for professionals.

Offering the best of both worlds, with the sheer speed of an optical DSLR with the advanced accuracy of mirrorless, it’s a true hybrid system that molds to the needs of individual professionals and individual shooting scenarios. 

Moreover, it marked a genuine turning point for Canon in terms of video, at long last delivering the uncropped 4K video that has for so long eluded the manufacturer. 

Read our full Canon EOS-1D X Mark III review for more details

Best for affordability

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)
Best for affordability

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2 MP
Screen: 3-inch tilting LCD, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Max burst speed: 6fps
Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Hybrid autofocus
+
Weather-resistant
+
In-camera shake reduction

Reasons to avoid

-
Max 1080p video

For anyone who is not quite ready to make the switch to mirrorless but wants the latest release with modern features, the Pentax KF is most likely your only option, with no other brand actively developing new DSLRs.

Pentax aficionados will notice a lot of similarities between the Pentax K-70 and Pentax KF with only a couple of minor changes such as a higher-res LCD screen and a marginally lower weight. As a mid-range model aimed at enthusiast photographers, the Pentax KF is not the most exciting camera release ever but what it does, it does really well. 

Combining a Hybrid AF, with 4.5 stops of image stabilization, a built-in flash, bulb mode, and an articulating screen, this is a very versatile camera. The camera is unfortunately let down by its lack of 4K video recording, although still manages respectable 1080p footage that is good enough for online viewing.

Built with classic Pentax dependability, the Pentax KF is rugged weather sealed with water and dust-proofing and provides dependable cold-proof performance down to as low as 14°F (-10°C).

Read our full Pentax KF review for more details

Best for students

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
Best for students

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.4MP
Lens mount: Nikon FX
Screen: 3.2in tilting screen, 2,359k dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7/12fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Great handling
+
Fast live view AF
+
Uncropped 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Two AF systems to master
-
Manual live view swapping
-
Still quite expensive

The long-awaited upgrade to the much-loved Nikon D750 certainly didn't disappoint us. The Nikon D780 includes the same on-sensor phase detection autofocus as the Nikon Z6 to give the same mirrorless live view performance – a great advantage for stills photography and especially for video. 

Admittedly, Nikon was a bit slow off the mark as Canon has used its own Dual Pixel CMOS AF in its DSLRs to do the same thing for years. However, the D780 doesn't just have advanced live view AF – it also comes with a high-resolution tilting touchscreen display, 4K UHD video, dual UHS-II compatible memory card slots, and continuous shooting speeds up to 12fps in live view mode.

Combine that with its solid design and comfortable grip and you've got a camera that's an instant classic. We found that the D780, like other Nikon DSLRs, combines a well-thought-out design with a solid build and very satisfying handling.

Read our full Nikon D780 review for more details 

Best for astrophotography

(Image credit: James Artaius)
Best for astrophotography

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 36MP
Lens mount: Pentax K
Screen: 3in three-way-tilt, 1,037k dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 4.4/6.4fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Robust construction
+
5-axis image stabilisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Pedestrian continuous drive speed
-
Relatively low 670-shot battery life

Pentax seems to soldier along in its own little bubble, seemingly unaffected by outside events, so we found the Pentax K-1 Mark II typically solid but unadventurous. It has a tough, weather-sealed construction, and a highly effective sensor-shift image stabilization system that works with any attached lens, unlike competing Canon and Nikon DSLRs, which do not have in-body stabilization. 

Better still, the 5-axis stabilizer can work in trick modes to deliver anti-aliasing correction, an increase in fine detail and texture based on Pixel Shift through multiple exposures, and even an Astrotracer mode to avoid stars appearing to streak through the sky, making this the perfect choice for astrophotography.

With a 36MP full-frame image sensor, the K-1 Mark II certainly gives you a lot of megapixels for the money, though we think the 33-point autofocus system feels dated, and Live View autofocus is definitely pretty poor. 

Pentax is one of the few brands still pushing DSLRs, it recently announced the Pentax KF - an APS-C 24.2MP camera available in three different colors. Who knows, could the Kf be the last DSLR ever made?

Read our full Pentax K-1 Mark II review for more details 

Best all-rounder

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
Best all-rounder

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 32.5MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Highest APS-C resolution yet
+
10fps continuous shooting
+
Uncropped 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited buffer capacity
-
18-135mm IS USM lens disappointing
-
Losing detail by ISO 1600

We spent some time testing the Canon EOS 90D and we are convinced this is the best Canon camera for those wanting a great all-rounder. It arrived with groundbreaking specs that no other camera in this category can match, and packs in an amazing 32.5 million pixels – the highest yet for an APS-C camera – though you shouldn't expect to see any obvious and instant benefit in image quality. 

It all depends on the lenses, and the 18-135mm kit lens supplied for us to use is not one of Canon's best. Instead, revel in this camera's 10fps continuous shooting capability and its uncropped 4K video capture – a consumer-level Canon that (finally) doesn't reduce the angle of view for 4K video. 

The extra megapixels do dent the EOS 90D's high ISO/low light performance, but this camera has so many capabilities and so much potential, we think it's a dazzlingly good all-rounder for those that want to try every facet of photography. What's more, with its flip-out screen and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it's just like using a mirrorless camera in live view mode.

Read our full Canon EOS 90D review for more details, or read our  Canon EOS 90D vs EOS 80D vs EOS 7D Mark II

Best for enthusiasts

(Image credit: Future)
Best for enthusiasts

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Has the best bits from the D500
+
Lightweight build

Reasons to avoid

-
Less robust than the D500
-
Downgraded autofocus system

Despite being released four years ago we still think the Nikon D7500 deserves recognition as one of the best DSLRs for enthusiasts, even now. It's a decent all-rounder and Nikon's equivalent to the Canon EOS 90D. It offers a slightly faster continuous burst shooting speed at 8fps though lacks the resolution of the 90D.

The 51-point autofocus system is reliable and it has the ability to record 4K video. It has a tilting rear screen rather than the fully-articulated design on the EOS 90D and relies on slower contrast AF in live view mode, but if you do most of your shooting through the viewfinder these will be small points.

Nikon fans who like sports photography might also want to take a look at the Nikon D500, but this is a much more expensive camera and it's growing harder to find. DSLR fans should know that there are still great DSLRs around, and our time with the D7500 has convinced us that this is one of them.

Read our full Nikon D7500 review for more details

Best option for just stills

(Image credit: James Artaius)
Best option for just stills

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3.2in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 6.5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Packs a lot of upgrades
+
Lightweight for a full-frame DSLR

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than the original EOS 6D
-
AF points clustered in centre of frame

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has been out for a while now, and while its specifications are hardly cutting edge, this is still a powerful and versatile DSLR for photographers taking their first steps in full-frame photography. Most important of all, we think it's versatile, extremely well-designed, and straightforward to use. 

The 26-megapixel sensor is good rather than great, but it does have Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, so the live view autofocus is very fast and effective. The 45-point viewfinder AF system is pretty good too, although the focus points are all clustered toward the center of the screen. 

The EOS 6D Mark II can capture images at 6.5fps in burst mode and has an extremely useful vari-angle touchscreen display. It has been upstaged somewhat by the newer Canon EOS RP and Canon's other mirrorless models, but it's a solid buy that's cheaper than the Nikon D780.

Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review for more details

Best for stills and video

(Image credit: Canon)
Best for stills and video

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 30.4MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3.2in touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
30.4MP is a good compromise
+
Pro performance, manageable size

Reasons to avoid

-
Touchscreen fixed in place
-
Big price jump from EOS 5D Mark III

Released in 2016, the Canon EOS 5D IV is still a popular camera among professional photographers. We like it too, though we have to admit that it's showing its age both for resolution and its cropped 4K video. 

Compared to the Nikon D850, its resolution might seem pretty average, but for lots of photographers 30 megapixels is more than enough and you can shoot 4K video with this camera too, but the format used means the files it outputs are good but massive. 

The EOS 5D Mark IV features Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF which means users benefit from fast autofocus performance in live view and video modes. It's robust, reliable, and weather-resistant which is a major plus for pro photographers. 

Sadly, Canon has shifted almost all its attention to its new EOS R range of mirrorless cameras so we don't know when – or even if – we will ever see a successor to the EOS 5D IV.

Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review for more details

How we test DSLRR cameras

We test DSLR cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Find out how we test and review on Digital Camera World.

Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and our lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.

Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specializing in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound, and many more for various advertising campaigns, books, and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science, and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is a member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected into BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in street, medium, and large format photography with products by Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa, and Sinar. Sebastian has also used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI, and everything in between. He now spends his spare time using his trusted Leica M-E or Leica M2 shooting Street photography or general life as he sees it, usually in Black and White.