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 30 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 as well as the best mirrorless cameras under $1,000.
The best DSLR camera for travel photography that we've tested is the Nikon D5600. This APS-C camera is a good choice for travel photography thanks to its impressive image quality and long battery life, which helps you take lots of pictures during long days on-the-go. Its menu system is easy to use, and its fully articulated screen is handy for users who want to take selfies.
With great image quality, this camera can take sharp, detailed images, even at higher ISO levels. It has a wide shutter speed range, too, so you have the flexibility to take clear images of fast-moving subjects as well as long-exposure shots of a starry night sky. Also, its photo autofocus system does a decent job of tracking moving subjects and keeping them in focus, which is handy.
Unfortunately, like many DSLR cameras that we've tested, this camera has a slightly bulky build that isn't the most convenient to bring with you on-the-go. Its maximum continuous shooting speed of five fps is quite slow, too, which can be inconvenient if you want to take distinct images of fast-moving subjects. That said, it's still a good choice for travel photography.
The best DSLR camera for landscape photography that we've tested is the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. This full-frame DSLR camera is well-built and comfortable to use, and its fully articulated screen is bright enough to read in direct sunlight. It's even rated as being weather-sealed, though we don't currently test for that.
Image quality is excellent, so your photos are sharp, color-accurate, and mostly free of visual noise even at high ISO levels, so it's suitable for taking pictures at night. Its menu system is also very easy to use, and you can navigate through the settings using either the physical controls or its touchscreen. Also, its advertised battery life in photos is decent, though this can vary depending on usage.
Unfortunately, this camera has a somewhat bulky design, especially with its kit lens attached, so it may not be very easy to bring with you on-the-go. Also, its photo autofocus system has a mediocre performance, and it can struggle a bit to track the faces of moving subjects. That said, the autofocus performs a bit better when tracking moving objects, which is nice.
The best DSLR camera for sports and wildlife photography that we've tested is the Nikon D780. This premium full-frame DSLR camera features a remarkably effective photo autofocus system, a very fast maximum shutter speed, and a relatively quick continuous shooting speed of 8 fps, all of which help you capture clear images of fast-moving subjects. Image quality is also amazing, with a high dynamic range and good noise-handling capability, so images shouldn't look overly grainy even at high ISO settings.
Its EN-EL15b battery also supplies more than enough power for several long shooting sessions. Its menu system is intuitive to navigate via physical inputs or with its tilting touchscreen interface, which is sharp and bright enough to see under direct sunlight. Build quality is also excellent, with a magnesium alloy and carbon fiber construction and precise, tight-feeling controls. It's also quite comfortable to hold thanks to its large backrest and well-textured handgrip.
Unfortunately, some users with small hands may find it a bit too large to operate comfortably, and the camera itself is very heavy even without its kit lens fitted. If that isn't a concern, its selection of features, reliable autofocus system, and excellent image quality make it very well-suited for sports and wildlife photography.
The best DSLR camera for vlogging that we've tested is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. This crop-sensor DSLR camera is notably smaller and lighter than most of the other cameras on this list, which makes it easier to carry around on a handheld gimbal for long periods. Since its touchscreen is fully-articulated, you can see what's being displayed even when the camera is pointed at you.
Its menu system is also very easy to navigate and is intuitively laid out. This camera delivers decent recording quality in FHD, with sharply-rendered object textures and surfaces, though some graininess may be visible if you're recording in a poorly-lit environment. Its autofocus system does a remarkable job of maintaining focus on moving subjects in this resolution.
Unfortunately, its 4k recording capabilities are rather limited, as it's only capable of shooting at 24 fps with a severe 1.54x crop, leading to a severe reduction in field of view. Its autofocus performance, video stabilization capability, and video quality, particularly in poorly-lit environments, are noticeably inferior when shooting in 4k. That said, it's a decent choice for vlogging if you refrain from shooting in 4k.
The best DSLR camera for studio video that we've tested is the Canon EOS 90D. This crop-sensor camera is capable of shooting in FHD and 4k without a crop and delivers satisfactory video quality overall, with sharply rendered object textures and contours as well as decently low levels of visual noise in dark environments. It also has a wide complement of inputs and outputs, with headphone and microphone jacks and a clean HDMI output if you're planning on using an external recorder without any overlays.
Its autofocus does a fantastic job of acquiring and maintaining focus on moving subjects whether you're shooting in 4k or FHD. Its touchscreen is relatively large, sharp, and bright enough to be read under direct sunlight, and you can use it to record video, change focus points, or navigate its highly intuitive menu system. Its LP-E6N battery should also supply enough power for long shooting sessions, though be aware that battery life can vary drastically depending on camera settings.
Unfortunately, it's a little on the heavy side, though that shouldn't be too pressing an issue if you use a tripod to record video. Also, some of its controls feel a little slow to respond to inputs. Otherwise, its good video quality, remarkably effective autofocus system, and intuitive menu system make it a very solid option for studio video.
If you prefer the superior noise-handling capability of a full-frame camera, consider the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Unlike the Canon EOS 90D, it isn't capable of shooting 4k video without a severe 1.64x crop, but video recorded in 4k in poorly-lit environments is slightly less grainy. It also has a much higher maximum bitrate, which should result in better overall video quality, and a sturdier-feeling construction. At an additional cost, you can also purchase it with the C Log gamma setting pre-installed, which allows for in-depth color grading when editing video. Its autofocus system does a great job of tracking moving subjects, though it doesn't perform quite as well as the 90D in this respect. Also, it's much bulkier than the 90D, and its fixed screen makes it a challenge to see what's being displayed if you're looking at it from an offset angle.
Get the 90D if you want to record 4k video without a crop and want a lighter, more portable camera, but consider the 5D Mark IV if you prioritize noise-handling capability and want a more solid-feeling construction.
Apr 06, 2021: No changes in product picks after verifying their accuracy and availability.
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 US).
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.