For years, DSLR cameras were the preferred tool of amateur and professional photographers. While mirrorless cameras have caught up to and, in some ways, surpassed DSLRs in recent years, with more competitive autofocus systems and better video capabilities, there's still no shortage of DSLRs that deliver when it comes to photography. Some people may also prefer the unfiltered view you get with an optical viewfinder, and of course, DSLRs are still largely unbeatable on battery life. A DSLR may also be the most economical choice, with more models available on the used market, along with well-established lens ecosystems.
We've bought and tested over 95 cameras, and below, you'll find our top DSLR camera picks. If you're just starting out, you might want to look at the best DSLRs for beginners instead. You can also check out our picks for the best cameras for photography or the best cameras in general.
Short of looking at professional models like the Nikon D850, you won't find a better full-frame DSLR than the Nikon D780. It has all the features you'd want in a high-end photography camera and then some. For one thing, it's designed to put up with extensive use, with a sturdy, weather-sealed body and an incredibly long battery life to last through long shooting days. Plus, its backside-illuminated sensor is still one of the best we've tested, with remarkable noise handling for cleaner images in low light. The camera's hybrid autofocus system also stands out—it uses the same on-sensor phase-detection AF in Live View as the mirrorless Nikon Z 6, making this one of the best DSLR cameras for video and photo shooters.
While the D780 is the best DSLR camera we've tested, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV deserves a shoutout. Although it's showing its age, lacking the more sophisticated autofocus of the Nikon, this high-end DSLR is still popular among professional photographers and hobbyists. You'll get fantastic image quality out of it, and it's built like a tank to withstand pro-level use. However, the D780's lower price tag and more effective autofocus make it a better all-around pick.
If the Nikon D780 is out of your price range, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a great full-frame option at a lower price point. It isn't quite as tank-like as the Nikon or the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which sits above it in Canon's lineup. However, it's still well-built, weather-sealed, and has plenty of physical controls that make adjusting settings on the fly easy. While the D780's newer, backside illuminated sensor gives it an advantage in areas like noise control and dynamic range, you'll still get amazing photos out of the 6D II, and it has a solid autofocus system to boot.
The biggest trade-off here is that it can't shoot 4k video. You also lose out on a secondary SD card slot and headphone jack. Ultimately, it's primarily a photography camera, whereas a higher-end model like the Nikon offers better video capability for hybrid shooters. If you can live without 4k video, however, this is still an excellent camera for the price.
Stepping down to an enthusiast-level crop sensor model like the Canon EOS 90D is a good way to save even more money without sacrificing high-end features. It has a high-resolution APS-C sensor that can capture stunning images and detail, along with a very good autofocus system—it's newer than that of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II, so it supports both face and eye detection for more precise focusing. It can also record 4k video if that's a must-have for you.
Like most Canon DLSRs, it has a highly intuitive user interface and controls, making it easy for experienced and novice users alike. Plus, it's well-built, with a weather-sealed body and top display to easily keep an eye on your settings, and of course, battery life is excellent. Overall, you'll get plenty of high-end features with this camera, especially if you don't need a full-frame sensor.
While the Canon EOS 90D delivers enthusiast-level features at a more reasonable price than a full-frame camera, an entry-level model like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i will cost you even less while offering plenty for beginners and intermediate photographers. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles, like a top display or weather-sealing, and has fewer physical controls. However, you still get a great APS-C sensor that can capture high-quality images. Plus, the camera uses the same lens mount as the higher-end Canons above, giving you plenty of lens options to choose from.
The Rebel T8i also has 4k video capability, an excellent autofocus system, and a very good battery life. The Nikon D5600 is also worth considering in this price range, especially if you need something more portable. However, it isn't as well-rounded, with no 4k video capability and a less reliable autofocus system. Overall, the T8i is one of the most full-featured beginner DSLRs around, and it's a great option for those who want a camera that falls in the sweet spot between budget and higher-end models.
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is one of the best budget DSLRs you can get and one of the most portable. With a relatively small and lightweight design, it's easy to take on the go. Its simple control layout is accessible to newcomers, and it has a fully articulated touchscreen to help you shoot at different angles. It also uses the same APS-C sensor found in the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, so you'll get comparable image quality. The biggest trade-off here is a much more rudimentary autofocus system. Some people may also find the larger grip on the T8i more comfortable.
If you're new to photography, the Nikon D3500 is another great budget option. Nikon's ultimate beginner camera is even more stripped-down than the SL3, with a fixed screen and no 4k video capability. However, it has a unique 'Guide' shooting mode that teaches you the ropes as you shoot. If you've never used a dedicated camera before, it's an excellent starting point, but if you want a budget model with more features, the SL3 is the way to go.
If you're on an even tighter budget and don't want to risk buying a used model, the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D is one of the best cheap options you can buy new. At this price point, build quality feels cheaper and more plasticky than pricier models, and you don't get anything fancy like weather sealing or even a tilting screen.
However, underneath that modest exterior is a high-resolution APS-C sensor that's still very capable of capturing high-quality images. Since this is an older, cheaper model than the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 or the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, it doesn't perform as well in dynamic range and noise handling. However, it's still very good for the price, and it uses the same lens mount with plenty of lens options to choose from, meaning you can always upgrade to better lenses down the line for better results.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best DSLRs 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.