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 40 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 we've tested for travel photography is the Nikon D5600. It feels comfortable to use and has a large, fully articulated touchscreen, so you can easily compose shots from almost any angle. It's well-suited to any hand grip and size, and while DSLRs aren't the most convenient to take on the go due to their size, this one is relatively lightweight. It also has good battery life that should last through long days of shooting, depending on your choice of settings and usage habits.
It delivers great image quality, with photos that stay sharp and detailed even at higher ISO levels, making it well-suited to shooting in dimmer lighting conditions. It also has a decent overall autofocus system that does an excellent job of tracking moving objects and faces. The camera's wide shutter speed range should also give you the flexibility to capture fast-moving action or take more complex long-exposure shots.
Unfortunately, its continuous shooting speed is disappointing, as it can only take photos at a speed of 5 fps in its high-speed continuous shooting mode. Those who like to shoot video and still photos might also be disappointed by its lack of 4k video support and its underwhelming FHD video quality. That said, this is still among the best DSLR cameras we've tested for travel photography.
The best DSLR camera we've tested for landscape photography is the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. It's a full-frame camera that feels well-built and comfortable to use. It has dedicated controls to easily adjust exposure parameters and a fully articulated screen that gets bright enough to overcome glare in sunny conditions. It's also weather-sealed, although we don't currently test this.
It delivers excellent image quality, with very little visual noise even at higher ISO levels, meaning it's well-suited to shooting in low light or even at night with a tripod. It also has a great dynamic range, bringing out all the details in a landscape with highlights and shadows. It also has a fantastic menu system that's easy to navigate, and its battery life is decent, although this will depend on your usage and choice of settings.
Unfortunately, its autofocus system is mediocre, so depending on shooting conditions, it may have trouble keeping your subject in focus. It also isn't the most portable camera, and its bulky size and weight may be inconvenient to take on long, remote shooting sessions. Despite these quibbles, this is still among the best DSLR cameras we've tested for landscape photography.
The best DSLR camera we've tested for shooting sports and wildlife is the Nikon D780. This versatile camera has an excellent build quality, with a premium, sturdy construction and buttons that provide good tactile feedback. It's suitable for all kinds of hand sizes and grips, and it feels comfortable to use. The menu system is also fantastic, with a shortcut menu to quickly access frequently used settings.
Its full-frame sensor delivers amazing image quality. It has a good dynamic range, and images look incredibly sharp and relatively noise-free even at higher ISO levels. Its maximum shutter speed is fast and should be well-suited to capturing fast action during a sports match. It also has exceptional autofocus, with an impressive face tracking success rate, so it can quickly and reliably ensure that moving subjects stay sharp.
Unfortunately, its continuous shooting speed is only okay, as it can only capture a max of 8 frames per second in its high-speed continuous shooting mode. On the upside, it has a large buffer size and a virtually instantaneous buffer empty time, so that shouldn't slow you down if you prefer to shoot in burst mode. Overall, this a great option for sports and wildlife photography.
The best DSLR camera we've tested for vlogging is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. It's one of the smallest DSLRs we've tested, with a relatively small and lightweight design that makes it easier to carry around or mount on a gimbal for vlogging on the go. It also has a fully articulated screen, so you can easily monitor yourself as you record.
Its APS-C sensor delivers decent image quality with great dynamic range, and it has excellent overall video quality in more controlled lighting conditions. Unfortunately, it doesn't perform as well in low light, as both FHD and 4k video looks noticeably grainy in darker environments. That said, it has an exceptional FHD autofocus system, with both face and eye detection and great success at tracking moving subjects. However, it performs much worse in 4k.
Unfortunately, it also lacks in-body image stabilization, and its digital stabilization feature incurs a severe crop on your video. It performs decently well in FHD but does a poor job of reducing camera shake in 4k. On the upside, it comes equipped with a wide array of inputs and outputs, including a headphone jack, microphone jack, and an HDMI port, which supports clean HDMI output. Despite its limitations in 4k, this is still among the best DSLR cameras we've tested for vlogging.
The best DSLR camera for studio video that we've tested is the Canon EOS 90D. This crop-sensor camera delivers good video quality in 4k and can record at up to 30 fps in this resolution without a crop, so you don't need to worry about a reduction in the field of view. Video quality in FHD is okay overall, with sharply rendered surfaces and object contours, but the rolling shutter effect is somewhat noticeable when panning quickly, and some noise may be present in darker environments.
The camera's autofocus system delivers exceptional performance in either resolution, as it's capable of tracking moving subjects quickly, smoothly, and consistently. You can use its fully articulated touchscreen to navigate its superbly intuitive menu system. It has a wide assortment of inputs and outputs, with dedicated headphone and microphone jacks and a clean HDMI output that enables you to use an external recorder without any overlays. Depending on your settings and usage patterns, battery life is also good, though you can't charge the camera while in use.
Unfortunately, the camera is quite heavy and bulky, making it a hassle to carry to different shooting locations or recording without using a tripod for extended periods. Otherwise, if you're looking for a versatile DSLR camera that can easily handle studio video work, this is a good option.
If having a full-frame camera is important, consider the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. While it can't shoot footage in 4k without a crop like the Canon EOS 90D, it's better built and is slightly better at capturing clear footage free of visual noise in 4k in darker environments. Also, while its autofocus isn't as good at tracking moving objects as that of the 90D, it still delivers great performance in this regard. Its bitrate maximum in 4k should also provide exceptionally high-quality video files, which is great for in-depth editing in post-production. You can also purchase it with the C Log gamma setting pre-installed for an additional fee, which should allow you to capture images with a wider dynamic range and allows for comprehensive color grading, though we don't test this. That said, its screen doesn't articulate, so you can't see it when the camera's pointed at you.
If you're looking for a lighter camera that can capture footage in 4k without a crop, check out the 90D. However, if having a better-built camera with a full-frame sensor is important to you, consider the 5D Mark IV.
Jul 08, 2021: Reviewed accuracy and availability of picks; no change to recommendations.
Jun 08, 2021: Verified availability and accuracy of picks; no change to recommendations.
May 18, 2021: Ensured that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Apr 27, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still in stock and are still the best choice for their category. Minor changes to the text were made for consistency.
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.