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Best DSLR camera: Great value cameras whatever your skill level

Looking for the best DSLR? You’re in the right place. Here, we round up the best DSLRs whatever your skill level or budget.

DSLRs may have lost some of their shine to the newer mirrorless format, but professionals, enthusiasts and novice users worldwide still rely on them for an endless assortment of applications. The best cameras offer comfortable handling and many physical controls, and they typically accept a wide range of lenses to make them supremely versatile. 

Canon and Nikon have almost the entire market to themselves, and both companies craft everything from lightweight, cheap and simple models through to solid, high-performance options that can withstand all kinds of weather and abuse.

Our best tip? Look out for previous-generation models that have crashed in price as retailers make space for newer models. Many of these, such as the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (position 3) and Nikon D5300 (position 8), still hold up well today, and you could save yourself a nice chunk of cash. 

1. Nikon D750: Best overall

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Nikon D750

Full-frame fun in a compact and affordable body

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch, 1.23 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 100% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Superb image quality
Light, ergonomically designed body
No 4K video
LCD doesn’t respond to touch

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 (position 4) would give you a handful of extra features and a more robust body – for a premium, of course.

2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV: Best runner-up DSLR

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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

This full-framer offers plenty to keep the pro happy

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1.62 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Great build quality
Excellent stills and video
4K video has some limitations
Screen fixed in place

Canon’s EOS 5D line has been the darling of many wedding, portrait, and event photographers, not to mention videographers and countless others, and the EOS 5D Mark IV is the series’ best-specced model yet. While it’s not quite as strong on the spec sheet as Nikon's D850 (position 4), it’s a little cheaper and still a strong choice for that same demographic, with masses of features packed into a weather-sealed shell. The 30.4MP sensor and 7fps burst mode strike a good balance between speed and resolution, while 4K video recording is also on hand – albeit with some limitations. If you’re an existing Canon user and the cheaper EOS 6D Mark II doesn’t quite cut it for you, this more powerful alternative would be a great choice.

3. Canon EOS Rebel SL2: Best DSLR for beginners

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Canon EOS Rebel SL2

The Rebel SL2 blends ease of use with plenty of growing space

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner

Very lightweight
As many lens options as you could want
No 4K video recording
AF system a little basic

Canon may now have the newer EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the EOS 250D outside the US) vying for the novice user’s attention, but we reckon the older EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) is still worth a look if you’re just getting started. It has a sound 24MP sensor, a flip-out LCD screen that responds to touch and Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system to keep focus swift and fluid when you’re shooting videos and using live view. The newer EOS Rebel SL3 adds 4K video, faster burst shooting and a handful of smaller updates, but none of these are really critical if you’re just looking to find your feet in DSLR shooting. That said, it’s not significantly more expensive, so it may be one to consider if you think you might benefit from those features.

4. Nikon D850: Best DSLR for professionals

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Nikon D850

Still very much a pro favourite, marrying speed and resolution

Type: DSLR | Sensor: Full frame | Megapixels: 45.4MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 2.36 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast/professional

Rock-solid build
Superb image quality
AF in live view could be better
Still a little pricey

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 (position 1) might not be as well specced, but it’s an easier way into full-frame shooting if you want something a little cheaper.

5. Canon EOS 80D: Best DSLR for enthusiasts

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Canon EOS 80D

A nice step up from entry-level models at a tidy price

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,04million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Enthusiast

Nice viewfinder
Top-plate LCD makes adjusting settings convenient
No 4K video recording
There years old and starting to show it

The EOS 80D is a perfect step up on more junior Canon EOS DSLRs once you want a little more to play with. Key reasons for this are faster burst shooting, a nicer viewfinder, and a menu pad dial that lets you speed through the menus and captured images. You also get better battery life, weather sealing and a headphone port for when you want to record some video, together with a large top-plate LCD that’s missing from the likes of the EOS Rebel T7i (position 10). This would be a fine camera to partner up with high-performing glass, like the Canon EF-S 60mm f2.8 USM Macro if you like close-up shooting or the EF 70-200mm f4 L USM Lens if sports is your thing.

6. Nikon D500: Best DSLR for sport

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Nikon D500

Superb specs, a tough build and cracking video = lots to love

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.7MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2.36-million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

Tough, weather-sealed body
Superb AF system
Quite pricey
AF not quite fluid in video recording

The D500 is currently the most senior APS-C model in Nikon’s DSLR lineup, which makes it as much a great upgrade model for users of older cameras as a backup to a more senior full-frame option like the D850. With 10fps burst shooting for up to 200 raw frames and a wonderful 153-point AF system that’s inherited from the most senior D5 model, the camera has no issue keeping up with the speedy athletes. With its rugged, weather-resistant body, it also has no issue when shooting in inclement weather. If you like what you see but you’re cash strapped, the D7500 would be a fine alternative with a similar idea in mind.

7. Nikon D3500: Best budget DSLR

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Nikon D3500

Nikon’s newest DSLR ticks many boxes for the first-time users

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner

Great price
Access to a massive lens range
LCD fixed in place 
No touchscreen  

The D3500 is currently the newest arrival in Nikon’s DSLR family, and the most affordable way to access Nikon’s sprawling range of lenses and accessories. It’s key strengths over its budget rivals include a huge 1,550-shot battery life, while the 24.2MP sensor and 11-point AF system are both tried-and-tested features inherited from previous models. The body is also far more like Nikon’s upper-entry-level DSLRs, which makes it super nice to hold and operate. If you need a flip-out LCD the D5300 (below) would be a fine alternative, and if you’re particularly cash-strapped, you might want to look instead to the previous D3400. Partnering it with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR would be a sensible choice.

8. Nikon D5300: Best DSLR for travel

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Nikon D5300

Almost six years on, the D5300 is still going strong

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch vari-angle screen, 1,037k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner

GPS not normally found on such cameras
Great sensor with no low-pass filter
Video limited to Full HD
Screen not touch sensitive

With its on-board GPS system and a kit option that includes the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, this slightly older option from Nikon is an obvious candidate for the travelling photographer. The fact that the sensor lacks a low-pass filter means that you should see a little more detail in those landscapes and cityscapes, while the 39-point AF system is a little more generous than the norm for this level, helping you to get focus more precise without any hassle. 5fps burst shooting shows its no slough for action too, and the 3.2-inch LCD can be flipped out and adjusted to a range of positions – great when shooting in harsh sun, or when you’re looking to get more creative by shooting from a more unorthodox position.

9. Nikon D7500: Best DSLR for nature and wildlife

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Nikon D7500

This mid-range marvel continues to be an object of desire

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Lens mount: Nikon F | Screen: 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, 922k dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx. 100% coverage | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Enthusiast

High-performance AF system
Great burst shooting and generous buffer
Single card slot 
AF during video could be better

The fact that the D7500 has been around for some time now means that it offers brilliant value for money, having fallen some way from its original RRP. With the benefit of its crop factor, and both a superb AF system and 8fps burst shooting for up to 50 raw frames or 100 JPEGs, it’s totally at home when faced with wildlife or other more distant subjects in motion. 4K videos are also very nice and detailed, and the fact that they’re subject to a slight crop factor arguably only makes it more suitable when your subject is further away. Partner it with something like the NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR or 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR and you’ve got yourself a cracking setup for nature and wildlife, or indeed sports and other action.

10. Canon EOS Rebel T7i : Best value Canon DSLR

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Canon EOS Rebel T7i

This entry-level model conceals a handful of neat features

Type: DSLR | Sensor: APS-C | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04 million dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Viewfinder: Optical, approx 95% coverage | Max video resolution: Full HD | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Great handling and many direct controls
All-cross-type AF system
Body isn’t weather sealed
No 4K video recording

The EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) is an ideal option if you’re looking to get plenty of camera for your money, with much of its functionality clearly positioning it above the more basic EOS Rebel T7 and EOS Rebel SL2. This includes an excellent 45-point AF system, with every point being cross type for enhanced sensitivity, together with speedy 6fps burst shooting. That makes it a fine choice for action, but otherwise, what you get is similar to the EOS Rebel SL2, such as the flip-out touchscreen, Dual Pixel CMOS AF system and Wi-Fi. The fact that it’s a slightly older model now means it’s subject to the odd discount and cash back promotion too. The default kit lens is the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM, which is fine, but a camera like this really shines with superior lenses.