For quite some time now, if you’ve wanted to get serious about your photography your best option is to have invested in a DSLR (digital SLR). These cameras are designed for users at all technical levels, and they have traditionally offered three main advantages over smartphones and compacts: a large sensor, plenty of manual control, and the option too change lenses to suit the scene and subject.
Today, mirrorless cameras are incredibly popular as they manage to offer the benefits described above but, usually, in an even more compact and lighter package. The reason for this is that they lack the mirror common to DSLRs (hence the name), and most replace the optical viewfinder with high-resolution, electronic alternatives too. They may use smaller and lighter lenses too, which further helps to reduce size and weight.
If you want to know more about how they compare, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR: 10 key differences. Or, if you want to know more about different camera types in general, check out our step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
While mirrorless cameras are grabbing all the headlines at the moment, don’t think DSLRs are dead and buried.
A DSLR is still the cheapest way to get a camera with interchangeable lenses and a viewfinder (you’ll find most entry-level mirrorless cameras don’t have viewfinders) and, at the other end of the scale, almost all professional sports, press and wildlife photographers choose full-frame DSLRs over every other camera type.
That said, there are some cracking mirrorless cameras out there at the moment that are taking the place of DSLRs in pro photographers’ kit bags, including the Nikon Z7, Fujifilm X-T3, Panasonic Lumix G9 and Sony Alpha A7R III.
In between entry-level and full-frame DSLRs are a whole range of models aimed at different users, different levels of experience and different budgets. Here’s our pick of the best DSLR cameras you can buy right now.
Great value option: Nikon D7200
It’s getting on a bit, but still a great DSLR
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 51-point AF, 15 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch screen, 1,299K dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Intermediate
Great image quality
Before we get onto our top 10 picks of the best DSLRs you can buy right now, let’s take a look at this great value option. Nikon’s D7200 might have been replaced by the D7500, but it’s an DSLR that’s packed with features, a decent performance and a excellent AF system. This is topped off with a cracking sensor to make it an ideal camera for enthusiasts – especially if you already own some Nikon lenses. It might be getting on a bit, but this makes it an ever better buy.
Best DSLR cameras in 2019
1. Nikon D850
High resolution meets high speed
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 45.4MP | Autofocus: 153-point AF, 99 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Stunning image quality
Slow Live View AF speed
If you’re looking for the ultimate DSLR right now (or any camera for that matter), then the Nikon D850 is it. This full-frame monster of a camera might be on the pricey side, but for the cash you get a stunning camera that won’t disappoint. The huge 45.4MP sensor delivers images with stunning detail and noise performance even at high ISOs, while the highly sophisticated 153-point AF system is borrowed from Nikon’s flagship D5. Add in 7fps burst shooting and a host of advanced features, wrap it in a durable magnesium alloy body and you’ve got a camera that’s pretty much at the top of its game for any subject you want to shoot. A brilliant piece of kit.
Like the sound of the D850, but want to go mirrorless? Well, while not strictly a mirrorless version of the D850, Nikon’s new Z7 mirrorless camera shares the same 45MP resolution as the D850, but features some clever tech of its own, including an all-new lens mount.
Watch our hands-on video below (Nikon D850 review):
2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
One of the most complete DSLRs we’ve seen
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 30.4MP | Autofocus: 61-point AF, 41 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Advanced AF system
Expensive compared to rivals
4K video options limited
Canon’s EOS 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it, with a new 30.4MP sensor and advanced 61-point AF system. A brilliant DSLR that was until recently our top pick, but the arrival of the D850 means it slips a place down to number two.
3. Nikon D500
Nikon’s baby D5 is perfect for the action photographer
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Autofocus: 153-point AF, 99 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Expert
Stunning 153-point AF system
Rugged, metal body
Relatively low pixel count
Video still limited
Nikon has taken its flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip that allows the D500 to shoot at a rapid 10fps and deliver a great high ISO performance. A brilliant all-rounder with a brilliant 153-point AF system means it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography, but still has the chops to shoot landscapes and portraits. If the cost is a bit steep, then take a look at the D7500 below.
4. Nikon D7500
Nikon’s enthusiast DSLR is a brilliant all-rounder
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.9MP | Autofocus: 51-point AF, 15 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 922,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 8fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate
Excellent 20.9MP sensor
Powerful 51-point AF system
Only one SD card slot
Live View focusing slow
Cheaper than the D500 and while it doesn’t offer quite the same pro-spec performance and build quality, the Nikon D7500 packs in the same excellent 20.9MP sensor, but in an even more compact and affordable body. The new camera may not get the 153-point AF system from the D500, but the enhanced 51-point system in the D7500 still puts a lot of rival systems in the shade, while the 4K video capture, tilt-angle touchscreen display and 8fps burst shooting are some of the highlights. If you’re on a bit of a tighter budget, take a look at the 24.2MP D7200 – it may have been surpassed by the D7500, but it’s still one of the best enthusiast DSLRs out there.
Watch our video review of the Nikon D7500 below
5. Canon EOS 80D
A great step up for EOS photographers
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 45-point AF, 45 cross-type | Screen type: 3.0-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Intermediate
No 4K video
One of the older DSLRs available
The EOS 80D is Canon’s high-end enthusiast DSLR and while it might be getting on a bit (it’s one of the oldest DSLRs in the Canon line-up), is still a great buy. It features a fast and effective 45-point autofocusing system, while the clever Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for Live View shooting delivers snappy focusing speeds. The camera’s handling is excellent, promoting creative shooting as well as making setting adjustments quick and easy. It also has a high quality 24.2MP sensor that is able to capture a good level of detail while keeping noise under control. A great enthusiast DSLR that packs a decent performance.
6. Nikon D3500
The D3500 is basic but brilliant
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 11-point AF, 1 cross-type | Screen type: 3.0-inch, 921,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Terrific 24MP sensor
Excellent value for money
Basic external controls
Only 1080p Full HD video
At the opposite end of the spectrum to some of the full-frame DSLRs here, the D3500 is cheap as chips, has one of the sharpest APS-C sensors there is and a neat retracting kit lens (there are two versions, spend the extra $20/£20 and get it with VR, Nikon’s image stabilization system). It’s proof that you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a great camera, and we say its sheer value for money makes it just as impressive as much more advanced (and much more expensive) alternatives. It has a great 24MP sensor and although the controls are designed to be simple for novices, in the right hands the little D3500 is a match for cameras costing far more. If you’re looking to get more creative with your photography, and looking for your first DSLR, the Nikon D3500 is hard to beat.
7. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D
A compelling combination of top-notch ergonomics and a superb sensor
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 45-point AF, 45 cross-type | Screen type: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Easy to use
No 4K video
Costing a bit more than the Nikon D3400, but offering quite a bit more in the way of features, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) is a great entry-level DSLR. The new sensor impresses, as does the 45-point autofocus system backed up by excellent live view AF, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users. The absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint, but this aside, if you’re looking for a well-rounded and easy to use camera for your first DSLR the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D is certainly a very good bet.
8. Nikon D750
A full-frame DSLR with performance, versatility and value
Sensor: Full-frame CMOS | Megapixels: 24.3MP | Autofocus: 51-point AF, 15 cross-type | Screen type: 3.2-inch tilting, 1,229,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Intermediate
Good 24MP full frame sensor
Tilting screen, handy for video
Nikon D610 is cheaper still
One of the older Nikon DSLRs
Like the look of Nikon’s D850 further up the top, but don’t want to shell out quite that much, then look no further than the 24MP full-frame D750. It doesn’t have that magnificent 45.4-megapixel sensor that the D850 does, but its 24-megapixel alternative still delivers top quality results, especially at high ISO settings. The D750 also features a decent 6.5fps continuous shooting speed, a handy tilting screen and a pretty attractive asking price.
9. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
As fast as pro DSLRs but priced for amateurs, the 7D Mark II ticks all the boxes
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.2MP | Autofocus: 65-point AF, 65 cross-type | Screen type: 3.0-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Expert
Hybrid AF and 10fps shooting
Expensive for an APS-C camera
Cheaper EOS 760D has more pixels
Just like D500, the EOS 7D Mark II borrows many of its features from its big brother, the EOS-1D X (that’s now been replaced by the EOS-1D X Mark II), bringing 10fps shooting and a professional autofocus system to the amateur market. Now you can shoot action and sports like the pros, but at a price within the reach of enthusiasts. The EOS 7D Mark II isn’t just a high-speed specialists, it’s a terrific all-round camera. It’s tough, with an alloy body and weather-sealed controls, it has a great sensor with an advanced dual-pixel hybrid autofocus system, and it’s a powerful video camera too.
10. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D
This upper-entry-level smasher is still hard to beat
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
No 4K video
Larger than similar mirrorless models
It may not be the smallest or most affordable way into Canon’s vast EOS DSLR ecosystem, but we’d sooner choose the Rebel SL2 – also known as the EOS 200D – over the company’s more junior EOS Rebel T7 / 2000D and EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D offerings. Its stringer feature set includes Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which delivers swift autofocus during videos and in live view, while the LCD screen flips out and responds to touch – and it’s 2019, after all, so why settle for anything less? Despite its small size, handling is great too, making it a solid choice for those with small or larger hands alike. What’s not to love Other than the understandably plasticky body, not much at all.