DSLR cameras have long been the preferred tool of amateur and professional photographers, with a wide variety of choices that cater to almost every skill set and budget. While they've ceded some of their market dominance to mirrorless cameras in recent years, there's still no shortage of traditional DSLRs that deliver a versatile overall performance.
It's worth noting that a camera's overall performance can vary drastically depending on what kind of lens you use. Your lens influences the amount of light entering the camera, an image's depth of field, autofocus behavior, and stabilization performance. That's without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens: a larger lens with a longer zoom length and a wider maximum aperture might make it easier to take the kind of photos you want, but it could make your camera more of a hassle to carry around. For the sake of consistency and user-friendliness, we currently test a camera with its standard kit lens.
We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best DSLR cameras. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. If you'd prefer a mirrorless alternative, you can take a look at our list of recommendations for the best mirrorless cameras, the best cameras for beginners, and the best cameras.
The best DSLR that we've tested with a full-frame sensor is the Nikon D780. This enthusiast-level DSLR feels very well-built, with a large, textured handgrip and well-spaced physical controls. Its screen can tilt upward if you like to shoot from the hip, and there's also a small display on the top of its body that lets you easily check settings and remaining battery life. That, along with its remarkably easy-to-navigate menu system, makes it very comfortable to shoot with. It's also advertised to be weather-sealed against rain and humidity.
The camera delivers amazing overall image quality. It has incredible RAW noise handling capability at higher ISO levels, so you can take photos at high ISOs in low light without introducing too much noise. Its autofocus system is also fantastic, with 51 advertised detection points and a superb success rate when tracking moving objects, so your subject should stay in focus even when moving, whether you're taking photos or shooting video. It also has an exceptional battery life that should last for approximately 2,260 photos, according to Nikon.
That said, it doesn't have in-body image stabilization, meaning you'll have to rely on the optical stabilization of whichever lens you're using. With its Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G ED VR kit lens attached, it does a poor job of reducing camera shake when recording video without a tripod, particularly in 4k. On the upside, it performs a lot better for photography, allowing you to get clear shots even when shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds. Overall, this is one of the best cameras we've tested for photography.
The best DSLR camera that we've tested with a crop sensor is the Canon EOS 90D. This camera's 32.5 MP APS-C sensor helps deliver very good JPEG image quality out-of-the-box, with an expansive dynamic range at low ISO and impressive noise handling capability at higher ISO levels. Its autofocus system is also very effective when tracking moving objects. It doesn't have in-body stabilization, but its digital stabilization function does a great job of helping smooth out camera shake when shooting without a tripod. If you feel like shooting video, it can record uncropped 4k video at up to 30 fps or FHD video at a maximum frame rate of 60 fps.
Like most Canon DLSRs, this camera has a very intuitive menu system and control layout, making it easy to use for experienced and novice users alike. Its top plate display allows you to quickly check your chosen exposure settings and remaining battery life. Its body is advertised as being weather-sealed, enabling you to shoot in fairly tricky weather conditions. The touchscreen interface is also fully articulated, which is helpful when trying to compose shots from unconventional angles.
That said, while its LP-E6N battery pack offers sufficient charge for most of a day's use, you can't charge it through its USB port while the camera is in use, unlike some other mirrorless alternatives. While it's smaller and lighter than most other full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, some users may still find it a little fatiguing to carry around for extended periods, especially when using bulkier or heavier lenses. Still, its comfortable ergonomics and accurate, responsive autofocus system make it a great option if you're looking for a DSLR, and it's also one of the best cameras for wildlife photography that we've tested.
The best DSLR camera that we've tested for beginners is the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. It's one of the most well-rounded entry-level DSLRs we've tested. It has a fully-articulated touchscreen, a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, and 4k video capability, a rarity for many beginner DSLRs. The camera is also very comfortable to shoot with and has a highly intuitive menu system, with explanations of settings for novice users.
Overall, it delivers very good image quality out of the box, and photos look relatively sharp and noise-free as you raise the ISO for more dimly-lit conditions. Its autofocus system is excellent for a beginner DSLR, with quick and reliable tracking performance and a fair amount of cross-type detection points for more accurate focusing. It also has an advertised battery life of over 800 photos when shooting through the viewfinder, which is excellent, although battery life can also vary with usage habits and settings.
Unfortunately, though it supports 4k video, its 4k features are very limited, with a severely cropped image and poor autofocusing in 4k. It does perform significantly better in 1080p for those interested in shooting video. Also, while it lacks in-body image stabilization, its optically stabilized kit lens does a great job of reducing camera shake. Overall, this is a well-rounded beginner camera with plenty of lens options that you can upgrade to as your skills grow.
For those who prefer Nikon's ergonomics and menu system or who already have some Nikon lenses, consider the Nikon D5600. It doesn't support 4k video like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i does. However, if you're mainly interested in photography, this is a great alternative with an even better battery life and a slightly more lightweight construction. It has a fully-articulated touchscreen to help you shoot from different angles, although it's not as bright and may struggle to overcome glare in very sunny conditions. Still, the camera takes impressively sharp and detailed photos with accurate colors. Its optically stabilized kit lens also does a fantastic job of reducing camera shake. That said, its autofocus system is a little bit less effective.
Get the Canon if you want 4k video capability and prefer Canon's ergonomics and control layout. However, if you prefer the ergonomics and controls of Nikon cameras and don't mind losing out on 4k, the Nikon is a solid alternative.
The best DSLR camera that we've tested for those on a budget is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. This entry-level DSLR is smaller and lighter than other crop-sensor DSLRs in Canon's lineup, making it easier to carry around for extended shooting sessions. Despite its relatively compact size, its controls are well-spaced out, and you should find it comfortable to use even if you have large hands. Its fully-articulated touchscreen is also a rarity for a DSLR at this price point, making it a little easier to compose shots taken from unconventional angles.
This camera's 24.1 MP sensor helps it deliver decent JPEG and RAW image quality out-of-the-box, with an impressively broad dynamic range at base ISO. You might notice more noise and a loss in sharpness as you increase ISO in darker environments. Its autofocus system does a good job tracking moving objects in still photography and offers exceptional performance when shooting FHD video. There's also a wide assortment of inputs and outputs for various accessories, including headphone and microphone jacks, a micro-USB port, and an HDMI port, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for pairing the camera with your smartphone.
Unfortunately, while this camera's 4k recording capability is also somewhat unique for a camera of this type, it isn't especially well-suited to recording in this resolution. It can only shoot 4k video at 24 fps with a severe 1.54x crop, and its autofocus system can struggle to track moving subjects. Its slow sensor readout speed also contributes to a significant amount of rolling shutter effect when panning side to side, distorting your subjects. Still, if you're looking for a compact, easy-to-use DSLR that's well-suited for on-the-go photography, it's a good option.
If you're new to photography and on a budget, check out the Nikon D3500. Unlike the Canon EOS Rebel SL3, this camera doesn't record 4k video and lacks a fully-articulated screen, but it has a 'Guide' shooting mode built into its mode dial, and it's even lighter, making it easy to carry around with you. The 'Guide' mode gives novice users an in-depth walkthrough of camera functions and photography basics, making it one of the easiest cameras to get started with DSLR photography. Its APS-C sensor delivers impressive JPEG image quality, with minimal noise at moderate ISO levels. If you get the optically stabilized 'VR' kit lens, it does a great job of reducing camera shake for photos as well. This camera also has a remarkable battery life that's advertised to last for over 1,500 photos on a full charge. Its autofocus system is quite limited and does a poor job tracking faces.
Get the Canon if you want 4k video capability and a fully articulated touchscreen, but if you're new to DSLRs, the Nikon is a great alternative budget option.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is the best, most affordable full-frame DSLR that we've tested. It's a good option for people looking to upgrade to their first full-frame camera or for those who want full-frame image quality at a more affordable price point. Like other Canon cameras, it feels comfortable to shoot with and has an easy-to-use menu system. It's also advertised to be weather-sealed and has a fully articulated screen to help you shoot from different angles.
The camera uses a 26.2-megapixel full-frame sensor that delivers amazing overall image quality. It has excellent noise handling at higher ISO settings when shooting in RAW, meaning it performs well even in low light. While it doesn't feature in-body image stabilization, it has a digital stabilization feature and does an impressive job of reducing handheld camera shake when using its optically stabilized kit lens. Its autofocus system also performs decently well when tracking moving subjects, though it's not as impressive as higher-end models.
Unfortunately, this camera doesn't have 4k video capability. It can still record 1080p video at up to 60 fps, which is great for capturing a range of footage, but its 1080p video quality is mediocre. Its 6 fps burst rate pales in comparison to newer, higher-end models, though it does have a quick buffer empty time. Still, for those interested in a full-frame camera for photography, this camera offers a ton of value for its price.
Feb 18, 2022: Verified that all main picks are still available and represent the best option for user needs and expectations.
Jan 18, 2022: Renamed the Canon EOS 6D Mark II the 'Best Budget Full-Frame DSLR', replaced the Nikon D5600 with the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 as 'Best Budget DSLR', and added the Canon EOS Rebel T8i as the 'Best DSLR for Beginners'
Dec 24, 2021: Moved the Canon Rebel SL3 to Notable Mentions.
Nov 26, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still available and represent the best choice for their given category.
Oct 29, 2021: Verified that picks still represent the best choice for their given categories.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best DSLR cameras for most people to buy, according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the U.S.).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for DSLR cameras. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.