For many years, DSLR cameras were the preferred tool of amateur and professional photographers, with a range of models to accommodate 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 people may also simply prefer the unfiltered view you get with an optical viewfinder, and of course, DSLRs are still largely unbeatable 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 the best mirrorless cameras if you think you'd prefer a mirrorless model.
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, it's weather-sealed and built to last, with an incredibly long battery life that can last through 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.
However, the real standout feature of this camera is its hybrid autofocus system, which borrows an on-sensor phase-detection system from the mirrorless Nikon Z 6, as well as using a more typical contrast-detection system when shooting through the viewfinder, giving this camera serious versatility. While the D780 can pretty much do it all, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV also deserves a shoutout. Though showing its age a bit, this high-end DSLR is still highly 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.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a great full-frame option that's a lot more affordable than the Nikon D780. It isn't as well-built as the Nikon or the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which sits above it in Canon's lineup. However, it's still weather-sealed and has plenty of physical controls that make it easy for more advanced photographers to adjust settings on the fly. 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, along with a solid autofocus system.
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, however, this is still an excellent photography camera for the price.
If the Canon EOS 6D Mark II is out of your price range, stepping down to a crop-sensor option will save you a lot of money and still get you great quality and performance. Unless you need the best image quality and lenses, you likely won't notice a huge difference in quality with an APS-C camera like the Canon EOS 90D, except maybe in low light, where it can struggle a bit with noise compared to full-frame models. Still, it has a high-resolution sensor that can capture stunning images, along with a very good AF system—it's newer than that of the 6D, so you get 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 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. Overall, you'll get high-end features and performance with this camera, but without the same caliber of build quality as pricier models, along with the usual sacrifices that come with an APS-C sensor.
While 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, an entry-level model like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i will be even more affordable with plenty to offer to beginners and intermediate photographers. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles, like a top display or weather-sealing, and it has fewer physical controls. However, you get an APS-C sensor that can capture high-quality images and access to the same lenses, with 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 very good battery life. The Nikon D5600 is also worth considering in this price range, especially if you need something a tad more portable. However, it isn't as well-rounded, with no 4k video capability and less reliable autofocusing. Overall, the T8i is one of the most full-featured beginner DSLRs around, and it's a great option for those looking for something 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. Designed to be small and light relative to other DSLRs, it's super 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 image and video quality is comparable. The biggest trade-off here is a much more rudimentary autofocus system.
If you're completely 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 no articulated 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 even 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 fairly capable in image quality. Since this is an older, cheaper model than the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 or the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, it doesn't perform quite as well in dynamic range and noise handling. However, it's still very good for the price, and you can always upgrade your lens down the line for better results.
Jan 17, 2023: Checked accuracy of picks and updated article for clarity.
Nov 18, 2022: Added the Canon EOS 6D Mark II as 'Best Upper Mid-Range DSLR' and shifted the rest of the picks down, then added the Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D as the 'Best Cheap DSLR'.
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'
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.