Most photographers use one of the best DSLR cameras. While some choose mirrorless cameras instead, and a handful even stick to the snapper on their phone, the vast majority still prefer a DSLR camera. DSLR stands for 'digital single-lens reflex', and it's essentially digital version of the classic camera design. Most DLSRs have a viewscreen to show you pictures in real time, most feature interchangeable lenses, and most require an SD card or similar to store your pictures.
The debate around the best DSLR is actually quite a lively one, and different photographers swear by different camera brands. There are strengths to cameras from all the big four makers - Sony, Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm - and, quite honestly, you'll struggle to buy a bad camera from any of these makers.
If you own a beginner camera, and you're looking to step up to an enthusiast model, we'd advise you to think about whether or not you are prepared to walk away from the lenses you already own. If you've invested heavily in lenses, it's best to stick within the same brand as you were before. Not got a lot to lose, you may want to move to a more advanced DSLR from a brand that features different, or cheaper, lenses.
Our picks of the best DSLR cameras for 2021 feature camera bodies from all the main manufacturers, along with advice on which are the best lenses to buy, and how other accessories stack up against the competition. We also have a guide to the best photo editing software, for post-shoot edits.
1. Canon EOS 6D Mk II: Best overall DSLR
The Canon EOS 6D Mk II is a fantastic DLSR camera that suits those new to this type of camera as well as those with more experience. It offers easy to use controls and superb weather-sealed ergonomics combined with a lot of power thanks to a newly redesigned 26.2MP full frame CMOS sensor. This is backed by a dual pixel autofocus that works really well right there in live view mode. That optical viewfinder and 3-inch vari-angle touch screen combo help on the shot-aligning front too.
The AF is limited to 45 points and the burst shots tops out at 6.5fps, so we're not a full professional levels here. Indeed video is also limited with a Full HD 1080p top end but with an impressive 60fps. The dynamic range could also be better, struggling at the low end of ISO. All that said, it still punches above its price point.
We particularly liked the onboard WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth to make sure you're always fully connected and with maximum data to back your shots. The 1,090 shot battery life is also a draw which helps make this enthusiast DSLR a real all-round winner for that entry level price.
2. Nikon D850: Best DSLR for professionals
Most high-end DSLRs prioritize fast burst shooting or a high megapixel count, but the D850 proves you can have the best of both in a single camera. The 45.4MP sensor provides stacks of detail while burst shooting for up to 7fps – or 9fps with the optional battery pack – is perfect for action shooters needing, or just wanting, that high-resolution output.
Add to that a superb focusing system, 4K video recording, a tough, weather-resistant construction, and you can see just why the D850 is so highly regarded by professionals working across many disciplines. The fact that it works with so many exquisite lenses only makes it that much better.
The D750 might not be as well specced, but it’s an easier way into full-frame shooting if you want something a little cheaper.
3. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D: Best 4K DSLR for beginners
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D is a superb beginner DLSR camera which is easy to use but offers a wealth of options for anyone looking to improve their camera skills. This is a lightweight camera that's easy to handle and offers simple controls.
Shooting is also made easier with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. Yes it could use more AF points, ideally, but it does a very good job of getting the most from that 24.1MP sensor. The 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen is easy to use and makes for a great way to shoot video. This is in 4K but that will be cropped a little in the final result.
Thanks to the EF-S lens mounting system you'll have access to lots and lots of lens options, making it ideal as a system that can grow as your skills develop.
4. Nikon D750: Best budget full-frame DSLR
Not the newest or shiniest model here, but the D750 is a DSLR that offers bags of features and an excellent full-frame sensor for a sensible price. Key highlights include 6.5fps burst shooting, a tilting LCD screen sized to a generous 3.2 inches, and a 51-point AF system that does brilliantly when faced with either static for moving subjects.
Image quality is excellent, with low noise levels at higher sensitivities and a broad dynamic range. Unless you need 4K video, this would be a sterling choice for those looking to move into full-frame shooting without blowing a fortune.
And if you like what you see but you want a little extra to play with, the D850 would give you a handful of extra features and a more robust body – for a premium, of course.
5. Canon EOS 90D: Best DSLR for 4K video
The Canon EOS 90D is a superb option for anyone that could use the powerful 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor that this ergonomically well-designed camera offers. That means uncropped 4K video as well as a capable 45-point autofocus system with 45 cross-types. All that makes for a DSLR that's excellent both for video and still shots.
There's a new processing engine in this generation which is capable of capturing an impressive 10fps of burst shots. And with a 1,300-shot battery this is able to keep going a lot longer than much of the competition. The joystick control is another useful feature that helps this cater to the enthusiast as well as the improving beginner.
6. Nikon D3500: Best budget DSLR
The Nikon D3500 is a superb option for anyone that wants a DSLR with lots of features but without the steep price tag, making this perfect for beginners that want to join team Nikon. The 24.2MP sensor is a very capable APS-S CMOS setup with one of the most sharp image results you can get at this price. This is backed by a decent kit lens which, again, helps make this affordably appealing to a newb.
It covers an 18-55mm range, which is perfect for general photography, and gives you a bit of zoom to play with. Nikon’s DX-lens system, which the camera uses, has a wide range of options for when you want to get more specialized too, and they don’t cost the earth.
Get over 1,500 shot on the battery and use the Snapbridge app to send shots automatically to your phone, of course costing you a little of that battery life.
While the D3500 is ideal for beginners it will help you graduate quickly and start using Manual and Aperture / Shutter priority with ease to get some spectacular shots.