The best DSLRs can still compete head on with mirrorless cameras, and their design and operation still have lots of appeal for many photographers. DSLRs offer plenty of megapixels, ergonomic handling and features like Wi-Fi connectivity and often 4K video, they are also beginning to incorporate popular mirrorless camera technologies. While many manufacturers have put most of their energy into developing mirrorless technologies, the classic DSLR design is still here, still going and still popular!
It's easy to see why, too. DSLRs are renowned for their excellent battery life, high-quality optical viewfinders and comfortable, ergonomic grips. The best DSLRs even include some modern mirrorless features such as 4K video, on-sensor phase detect autofocus and effect live view modes.
For years, if you wanted the best camera, you needed to invest in a DSLR. Now camera manufacturers are releasing some of the best mirrorless cameras, that is no longer the case. That doesn't mean though that DSLRs are obsolete. Take the Nikon D850 or the Canon EOS 5D IV for example – both are still popular cameras among professional photographers and people are still buying them new. Early in 2020, Nikon released the Nikon D780 which is capable of 4K 30p video recording and Canon released the Canon EOS 90D in 2019 which incorporates the vari-angle screen and Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus technology also used in Canon's mirrorless cameras.
As DSLRs have been on the market for a while, it's an affordable way of making the jump from one of the best camera phones or best compact cameras. The Nikon D3500 or the Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D are great beginner cameras and even though they don't have all the features of more advanced models, they'll get you started doing 'proper' photography without breaking the bank.
Another big advantage of investing in a DSLR over a mirrorless camera is that you've got years' worth of lenses to choose from. Not only are your options better but you can also pick them up cheaper either second-hand or brand new. It's wise to think about what type of photography you want to do and decide which are the best camera lenses to buy.
No matter what reason you prefer DSLRs vs mirrorless cameras, we've rounded up the best DSLR camera for you to peruse below. We start off with affordable and easy to use beginner cameras and work up to fully fledged professional models.
The best DSLR in 2022
The Nikon D3500 was launched in 2018 and even today, it's a popular camera among budding photographers. We love it so much we rate it as one of the best Nikon cameras and one of the best cameras for beginners. That's because it features a handy 'Guide' shooting mode which acts as a tutorial and teaches the user how to use the camera via the LCD screen. The D3500 has a 24-megapixel sensor that's able to deliver super sharp images even with the 18-55mm kit lens which is also pretty good. Although the rear screen is fixed and it can only shoot up to Full HD and not 4K, the fact its easy to use, cheap, small and light will make it appeal to a beginner. While it may not have all the features of a mirrorless camera, we can't help but think all the thrills and frills are sometimes a bit much if you're just starting and at this price, nothing is quite as good.
Read more: Nikon D3500 review
There are a few Canon cameras that are cheaper than the EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the 250D in Europe) but they lack on 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 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. It's also a little cheaper than the Nikon D3500 and it works very well is live view mode, just like a mirrorless camera.
Read more: Canon Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D review
Rugged of build to a semi pro standard plus smart of design, the K-70 is probably the best all-round Pentax cameras enthusiast photographers can buy, by virtue of its weather resistant exterior being a rarity at its price. Also handy is an in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system with an equivalent performance of 4.5EV stops, and, for traditionalists, the fact that its optical viewfinder features a near 100% field of view. With an 11 point AF system offered, the Pentax uses a hybrid combination of phase detection AF and contrast detection AF when shooting using live view.
The 24MP resolution is still competitive today and the flip-out vari-angle screen actually makes the K-70 feel very modern. The only thing missing is 4K video.
The 480 shot battery life is fair, though a little disappointing for a DSLR. On the other hand, there are lots of Pentax lenses to choose from, so although the Pentax brand no longer has the same clout as Canon or Nikon, it's still a significant force in the DSLR market.
This is the best Canon camera for enthusiasts, and it arrived with groundbreaking specs that no other camera in this category can match and could leave a few professional photographers and videographers taking a look too. The EOS 90D packs in an amazing 32.5 million pixels – the highest yet for an APS-C camera – though don't expect to see any obvious and instant benefit in image quality. 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 enthusiasts who want to try every facet of photography.
Despite being released four years ago we still think the Nikon D7500 deserves to take the second spot in our list of best DSLR's for enthusiasts. 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 but 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. The D7500 also has a lower resolution (20MP vs 32.5MP) but in real-world shooting its high-performance sensor delivers images that are not far behind the definition offered by the Canon, despite the difference in megapixels. 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.
The long-awaited upgrade to the much-loved Nikon D750 certainly didn't disappoint. The Nikon D780 includes the same on-sensor phase detection autofocus as the Nikon Z6 plus and incorporates mirrorless live view performance. Admittedly, Canon was a bit slow off the mark as Canon has used Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF to do the same thing for years. 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. The D780, like other Nikon DSLRs, combines well thought out design with a solid build and very satisfying handling.
Read more: Nikon D780 review
We like the Nikon D780, but the EOS 6D Mark II has been around longer and has impressive features of its own. 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 towards the centre of the screen. The EOS 6D Mark II can capture images at 6.5fps in burst mode, and 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 (above) and it has a fully articulating screen.
APS-C format DSLRs offer the best compromise between features, quality and price, but professionals will demand a step up in image quality, and that means a full frame DSLR. The Nikon D850 is an expensive camera (though prices are falling), but its capabilities put it in a class of its own. Its 45.7MP resolution is spectacular, it has a 153-point autofocus system, and can capture images at 7 frames per second – or 9fps with the optional MB-D18 battery grip. Amazing video features also makes it one of the best 4K camera choices around – though the newer Nikon D780 would be a better and cheaper choice for DSLR videographers. 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 that scarcely puts a dent in the D850's all-round appeal as arguably the best DSLR of all for professional photographers. It looked spectacular when it first came out in 2017, and it looks just as good today... but cheaper!
Released in 2016, the Canon EOS 5D IV is still a popular camera among professional photographers. It's one of Canon's all-time, best DSLRs if you want a reasonably high megapixel count without sacrificing too much in the way of continuous burst speed and high-quality images. Even at very high ISO settings, you can achieve clean, noise-free images. Compared to the Nikon D850 it might seem pretty average but for lots of photographers 30-megapixels is more than enough resolution and you can shoot 4K video (although the file sizes it outputs are massive). It 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.
Pentax seems to soldier along in its own little bubble, seemingly unaffected by outside events, so the Pentax K-1 Mark II is typically solid but unadventurous in is specifications. It does have a tough, weather-sealed construction, and a highly effective sensor-shift image stabilisation system that works with any attached lens, unlike competing Canon and Nikon DSLRs, which do not have in-body stabilisation. 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. With a 36MP full-frame image sensor, the K-1 Mark II certainly gives you a lot of megapixels for the money, though the 33-point autofocus system does feel dated, and Live View autofocus is poor. For DSLR fans who want a big, solid, premium-quality and traditional camera, though, it still has strong appeal.
Read more: Pentax K-1 Mark II review