Update, 8/19/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and are confident that these are still the best DSLRs you can buy.
What to look for in a DSLR camera in 2022
With mirrorless cameras now taking over the market, you may be wondering if a DSLR camera is worth it. They absolutely are! Whether you don’t have the budget for a mirrorless camera, prefer an optical viewfinder to an electronic one, or just don’t want to trade in your lens collection for a DSLR, it’s still worth getting a DSLR.
DSLRs still have the advantage of longer battery life than their mirrorless counterparts, and later models can shoot impressive video almost on par with mirrorless cameras. With a DSLR, you also get the benefit of a larger used market and a wider selection of branded or other options.
So what should you look for in a DSLR? This can be a challenging question for beginners who want to take up photography. Statistical tables may sound impressive, but they may not tell you much about how the camera will actually perform in your hands.
There are several things you should consider when making a purchase. What is your skill level? What do you want to do with this camera – photos, videos or both? What is your budget? Is ergonomics and the way the camera sits in your hand important to you? Already experienced with a particular camera system and willing to switch if you find a great option?
All the DSLRs selected here are good value for money for each specific category. There are entry-level options for less than $1,000 and professional cameras for nearly $3,000. What you end up getting depends on personal preference, what you can afford, and what is the best tool for the job you will be doing.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, you’ll find something on this list to interest you. Let’s get started.
Best overall DSLR camera: Nikon D850
- ✓ Amazing resolution
- ✓ Rapid fire
- ✓ Solid body with weather seal
- ✓ Wide range of compatible lenses
- ✗ Price tag for the camera
- ✗ Good but not the best for video shooting
If you’re looking for a monster DSLR that can handle almost any situation you can think of, the Nikon D850 is the one for you. The successor to Nikon’s popular D810 camera has 45 megapixels, a robust magnesium body with weather sealing and compatibility with a range of excellent lenses.
Launched in 2018, the D850 is a few years old at this point, but it still produces excellent images. Its ISO range goes up to 64 for an impressive dynamic range, allowing for clean images with plenty of room for editing when shooting RAW. It’s also Nikon’s fastest shooting DSLR, so sports and wildlife photographers will find a lot to like here.
Thanks to its high resolution, the D850 is great for portrait work, but also in the studio and on location. It has the same large, bright optical viewfinder as the D810, which is a plus for any photography.
If you’re just starting out or only plan to take your camera on the occasional vacation, you should probably go with something else. The body alone will run you about $3,000 brand new and still over $2,000 used.
Other DSLRs like the D750 and Canon 6D would be cheaper, better for casual use, and would make great full-frame student cameras. The D850 also isn’t the most advanced video option Nikon has, though it still shoots fantastic-looking 4K footage.
Overall the best DSLR camera
The Nikon D850 is a powerful pro-level camera that can handle almost any shooting scenario.
- ✓ Good price for an entry-level full frame with relatively modern technologies
- ✓ Improved processing from 6D
- ✓ Tiltable LCD screen
- ✓ Good enough image quality for professional work
- ✗ Can’t shoot fast enough for sports, wildlife or fast action
- ✗ Slow autofocus
The Canon 6D Mk II is the successor to the popular entry-level full-frame digital SLR camera, the 6D. It includes almost all the features that made the original 6D great with slightly updated technology, and it’s a great deal for the money.
Priced at $1,400 per body, the 6DII delivers the image quality of a full-frame sensor without breaking the bank. If you want to learn how to shoot in manual mode but don’t want or can’t spend the money on a 5D camera, this is for you.
The 26.2 megapixel sensor paired with Canon lenses will easily give you professional looking images suitable for delivering to clients, social media or even making decent sized prints. If you’re a vlogger or self-portrait enthusiast, the 6Dii also has a flip-up touchscreen LCD to help you frame your shots.
This camera can shoot at six frames per second, which is fast enough for travel photography and portraiture. However, if you want to shoot sports or wildlife, the EOS 6DII is not an ideal investment.
For video, this camera shoots 1080p HD with Canon’s fixed video codec, which is good enough for something like YouTube or if you’re learning how to shoot video. If you’re looking for something more advanced, you’ll want to get a DSLR that’s made for shooting video.
The cheapest DSLR camera
Canon 6D MKII
A good entry-level full-frame camera that’s compact enough to take with you and powerful enough for many professional photography scenarios.
Best DSLR camera for beginners: Nikon D3500
- ✓ A cheap price for a quality entry-level DSLR
- ✓ Simple controls and easy start-up make the camera easy to learn
- ✓ Great image quality for the price
- ✓ No frizz means longer battery life
- ✗ It won’t give you the dynamic range of a full-frame sensor
- ✗ It’s not as feature-rich as its full-frame counterparts
While many people would recommend starting with a full-frame camera if you can swing one, there are also some great options on the crop-sensor (APS-C) market. An example is the Nikon D3000 series.
The D3500 is Nikon’s latest iteration of its entry-level APS-C offering. Since this is an entry-level camera with a smaller sensor than a full-frame DSLR, you won’t get as much image resolution or dynamic range, but it’s still an excellent tool for learning the basics of DSLR photography and video. Smaller and lighter than a full-frame, Nikon has a lot of excellent lenses in its DX line that you can put on this camera and get quality pictures.
This camera comes with a respectable 24.4 megapixel resolution, which is about the same as a full-frame camera like the D750. It records HD video, has Bluetooth connectivity and works with the Nikon Snapbridge app.
You can get the body and kit lens for less than $900. If you go for renovation, it is even cheaper. The D750 is a camera that you can pick up and start taking decent pictures in a relatively short time, making it ideal for beginners.
The best DSLR for beginners
This APS-C DSLR is perfect for beginners who want to learn the basics without breaking the bank.
Best DSLR camera for video: Nikon D780
- ✓ Standard image resolution sufficient for professional work
- ✓ Same autofocus system as the Z6
- ✓ 4K video without cropping
- ✓ Great value for its feature set
- ✗ It’s not as powerful as higher-end offerings like the D5
The Nikon D780 is the long-awaited update to their much-loved D750 camera, which is considered an all-rounder by many professional photographers. It’s the newest camera on this list to be released in 2020, and it also has the latest technology inside.
The D780 offers everything people loved about the D750 with a few noticeable improvements. On the video front, it has the same autofocus system as the Nikon Z6 mirrorless in Live View mode. That means eye and face tracking and some of the best live-view autofocus you’ll find in a DSLR – it’s basically a Z6 with an optical viewfinder.
This camera can switch between stills and video with almost zero buffering, making it great for hybrid shooters who need to switch between modes on the fly. It also shoots 4K video without the need for cropping.
Add to that a durable weatherproof body and this camera could easily become your new all-rounder for more than just video.
- ✓ Compact and easy to carry for a DSLR
- ✓ Good photos, decent video
- ✓ Easy to use
- ✗ Slow autofocus, especially for full-frame
- ✗ It’s not the best video codec
The 6D MkII’s balance of price, compact design and features make it not only a great budget camera, but also a good travel shooter. Easy to pack with enough power to create data-rich RAW files, the 6DII would make sense to take on your next trip.
This is a camera that you can put a 35mm lens on, set it to auto and shoot your heart out, even if you don’t know anything about the finer points of DSLR photography. The video codec isn’t as good as other Canon DSLRs like the 5D series, but it’s an attainable full-frame for those who might otherwise be out of the price range.
One caveat though is that the autofocus on this camera is quite slow and all the autofocus points are in the center of the frame. If you’re trying to capture something in focus at the edges of the frame, it can be cumbersome.
If you can afford it, you could go with something like the Canon 5D MKIV instead. It’s bigger than the 6DII, but more feature-rich. It also has better autofocus and takes better HD video. You can get a used body for between $1700 and $1900.
The best DSLR camera for travel
Canon 6D MKII
Light, compact and easy to use, the EOS 6D MKII is a camera you can easily pick up and shoot with on the go.