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 capabilities, there's still no shortage of traditional 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 extensive lens ecosystems.
We've bought and tested over 80 cameras in our lab, 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. It's weather-sealed and well-built, with an incredibly long battery life to last through long shooting days. 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. Plus, it has fantastic ergonomics, complete with plenty of customizable buttons, dials, and shooting modes.
However, the standout feature of this camera is its hybrid autofocus system, which uses an on-sensor phase-detection system borrowed from the mirrorless Nikon Z 6 when shooting in Live View, making it much more versatile for video shooters. While the D780 can do it all, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV also deserves a shoutout. Although it shows its age, this high-end DSLR is 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 innovative autofocus make it a better all-around pick.
The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a great full-frame option that's much more affordable than the Nikon D780. 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, 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, 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 like the Canon EOS 90D will save you a lot of money without sacrificing too many features. Unless you need the best image quality and lenses for professional use, you likely won't notice a huge difference in image quality with an APS-C camera, except maybe in low-light situations, where full-frame models have a slight advantage. Still, this camera has a high-resolution sensor that can capture stunning images, along with a very good autofocus system—it's newer than that of the 6D, meaning 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 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 and with the usual trade-off in low light performance that you get with a crop sensor camera.
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 get an APS-C sensor that can capture high-quality images and uses the same lens mount, giving you plenty of EF and EF-S lens options.
The camera can also record 4k video, has an excellent autofocus system, and has 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 less reliable autofocusing. 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. 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 are comparable. The biggest trade-off here is a much more rudimentary autofocus system.
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 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 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 regarding 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 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 your lens down the line for better results.
May 18, 2023: Minor touch-ups for readability; no change to recommendations.
Mar 22, 2023: Reviewed article picks for relevance and accuracy.
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.
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.