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 mirrorless cameras have caught up to DSLRs in recent years, with more competitive autofocus systems and better video capability, there's still no shortage of traditional DSLRs that deliver when it comes to photography. Some may also simply prefer the unfiltered view you get with an optical viewfinder, and of course, DSLRs still can't be beaten on battery life.
We've bought and tested over 75 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best DSLR cameras. 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 in general, or if you think you'd prefer a mirrorless alternative, you can check out our list of the best mirrorless cameras.
Short of looking at true pro cameras 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. For one, it's weather-sealed and built to last, with an exceptionally long-lasting battery, so it can last for days of extensive use if needed. A tilting screen makes it easy to shoot from waist level, and the camera has a small top display so you can quickly check settings, battery life, and storage at a glance.
The real standout feature of this camera is its hybrid autofocus system. Unlike most DSLRs, it features an on-sensor phase-detection autofocus system, borrowed from the mirrorless Nikon Z 6, in addition to a more typical contrast-detection system when shooting through the viewfinder. What that means is you get the best of DSLR tech and the best of mirrorless tech (but only when using Live View) in one camera, giving it serious versatility.
While the D780 can pretty much do it all, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV deserves a shoutout. It's showing its age now and lacks the fancy new tech that Nikon put into the D780, but it's still hugely popular among professional photographers and hobbyists alike. You'll get fantastic image quality out of it, and it's built like a tank to withstand pro-level use, but overall, the innovations and lower price tag of the D780 make it a better all-around pick.
If the Nikon D780 is out of your price range, stepping down to crop-sensor options will save you a lot of money and still get you great quality and performance. Unless you need the best of the best image quality and lenses, you likely won't notice a difference in quality with an APS-C camera like the Canon EOS 90D, except maybe in low light, where it struggles a bit with noise. It's got a high-resolution sensor that can capture stunning images, along with a very good AF system. Not quite as impressive as the D780's hybrid AF, but it gets the job done.
Like most Canon DLSRs, it has a super intuitive menu system and control layout, making it easy to use for experienced and novice users alike. It's also 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. All in all, you'll get high-end features and performance with this camera, but without the same level of build quality as a pro-grade model, and of course, the usual sacrifices that come with an APS-C sensor.
Whereas the Canon EOS 90D delivers enthusiast-level features—like weather-sealing and more buttons and dials—at a more reasonable price than a full-frame camera, a high-end entry-level camera like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i will be even more suitable for beginners but doesn't have as many bells and whistles. You don't get a top display or weather-sealing, and fewer buttons and dials. What you do still get is an APS-C sensor that can capture high-quality images and access to the exact same lenses.
Canon has plenty of affordable EF and EF-S lenses that you can upgrade to as your skills grow. The camera can also record 4k video, has an excellent autofocus system, and has very good battery life. Everything you need, and then some. The Nikon D5600 is also worth considering in this price range, and it's a tad more portable, but it's not as well-rounded, with no 4k and a less reliable AF system.
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is one of the best budget DSLRs you can get and one of the most portable. Designed to be small and light, relative to other DSLRs, of course, it's super easy to take on the go. Its simple control layout is accessible to newcomers, and it even 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 image and video quality is comparable. You just get a much more rudimentary autofocus system.
If you're completely new to photography, you should consider the Nikon D3500. Nikon's entry-level budget option is even more stripped down than the SL3, with no articulated screen and no 4k video capability, but 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 starter, but if you want a budget model with even more features, the SL3 is the way to go.
Sep 20, 2022: Restructured article to better reflect market conditions and user needs.
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.
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.