Searching for the best digital single-lens reflex camera is an intimidating task. A smart shopper should take into account not only image quality but also usability—are the controls and features a good fit for your needs and skill level? Depending on the brand, camera bodies have different interfaces, sensor performances, and ergonomics, which is why choosing your next camera can be a highly subjective decision. To help ease your search, we’ve found five of the best DSLRs—all of which offer color accuracy, clarity, and excellent manual controls—that each excel in their own way.
1. Canon EOS Rebel T7i
Looking for an all-around excellent digital camera that more than meets the needs of a hobbyist photographer? Consider the Canon EOS Rebel T7i, which is user-friendly but packed with advanced features. With a large, 24.2-megapixel sensor, it offers the best performance and image quality for cameras under $1,000. Enjoy the flexibility of its fully articulated and touchscreen LCD, high ISO range up to 256000, and high-speed continuous shooting—up to six frames per second. The T7i also excels in its autofocus capabilities: It features a dual-pixel focusing system with 45 autofocus points, which captures subjects with speed and precision, even when they are in motion.
2. Nikon D3500
Leaving your point-and-shoot behind for the first time? The Nikon D3500 is one of the best entry-level cameras for DSLR newbies, providing great performance in various lighting situations as well as built-in guidance to help you get familiar with all it has to offer. This special instruction mode helps you determine the best camera settings for the shot at hand, outlining controls like ISO, aperture, and exposure. The D3500 also has the same-sized sensor as our top pick (24.2 megapixels) to help achieve high-quality detail, a lightweight body, and reliable battery life. You won’t get the touchscreen LCD or fast autofocus of the T7i, but this is an excellent pick that gives you room to grow.
3. Sony a55
An older model than our other picks, the A55 is still available used at a heavily discounted price; it remains one of the best-performing cameras. In terms of DSLRs, it’s a hybrid of sorts, featuring a semitransparent reflex mirror as well as an electronic viewfinder. This mirror enables you to shoot a much higher speed—up to an impressive 10 frames per second—while maintaining accurate focus, making it an excellent pick for capturing action shots. Its 16.2-megapixel sensor is smaller than the competition but is still good enough to capture frame-worthy stills.
4. Pentax K-1 Mark II
If you’re primarily an outdoor shooter, choose the Pentax K-1 Mark 11. Designed with a stainless steel and magnesium alloy body, this robust model is built to overcome challenging weather conditions, from freezing temperatures to pouring rain. It is quite large, so we wouldn’t recommend it as an everyday choice, but its 36.4-megapixel resolution, built-in shake reduction, and ISO sensitivity for impressive low-light performance makes this a smart pick if you need a camera that will perform swimmingly in extreme settings.
5. Canon EOS Rebel SL3
If you need a super-portable DSLR with premium video capabilities, look no further than Canon’s Rebel SL3, which can capture stunning 4K video at a price tag below $700. Capture your footage with ease—thanks to its swivel touch-screen LCD, which extends sideways for comfortable angling—and connect a mic to the 3.5mm jack for better-quality audio. Slightly heavier than the Nikon D3500, this 24.1-megapixel camera is still lightweight enough to tote around for hours. Where it comes up short is in autofocusing, as it offers just nine focus points and therefore is slower to register fast-moving subjects.