If you're a novice photographer looking to upgrade to a DSLR camera, the number of options on the market may feel a bit intimidating. It can be tempting to look at cameras that are packed with lots of premium features off-the-bat, but it may be more helpful to start with a more affordable model. That way, you can familiarize yourself with the manufacturer's unique build, menu system, and selection of lenses before investing a lot of money.
It's worth mentioning that a camera's overall performance can vary depending on the lens you use. The lens affects how much light enters the camera, so it helps determine an image's depth of field as well as autofocus and stabilization performance. Also, lenses add some weight to your camera, which can make them more difficult to bring with you on-the-go. We currently test our cameras with their standard kit lens, so this article will focus on cameras that retail for under $1,000 with their kit lens included.
We've tested over 30 cameras, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best DSLRs for beginners. You can also take a look at our recommendations for the best DSLR cameras and the best mirrorless cameras for beginners.
The Canon EOS Rebel T8i is the best DSLR camera for beginners that we've tested. This APS-C model is very versatile, and its simple-to-navigate menu system makes it easy for novice users to find the most commonly used features. There's even a handy guide mode that can walk you through the settings.
Image quality is very good overall, so your photos are low in noise and graininess, even at high ISO levels. Its fantastic photo autofocus system can quickly and accurately track moving subjects. Overall, it's comfortable to operate, and its fully articulated screen makes it easy to take photos or shoot video at a variety of angles.
Unfortunately, while it can shoot video in 4k and FHD, its video quality is sub-par, resulting in grainy and noisy footage. Its video autofocus performance in 4k is poor, so it struggles to track moving subjects in this resolution. That said, its video autofocus performs much better when recording in FHD, which is nice.
If you're an aspiring travel photographer, the best DSLR camera for beginners that we've tested is the Nikon D5600. This APS-C model has a fairly simple-to-navigate menu system with a built-in guide mode to help explain some core features. It's comfortable to hold, and its primarily plastic construction feels decently well-made. Its fully articulated screen is also large and relatively sharp, though it could be brighter.
Out-of-the-box, it delivers impressive image quality, with a relatively broad dynamic range and little in the way of blurriness or softness as you increase ISO, which is great for nighttime shooting sessions. It also does a good job of smoothing out camera shake with its Nikkor AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens, so you can shoot images handheld at fairly slow shutter speeds. Its autofocus system also does a decent job of tracking moving objects and faces.
Unfortunately, while it's lighter and smaller than many other DSLRs, it's still noticeably bulkier than some interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras or point-and-shoots that can be stored in a coat pocket or a small bag. Otherwise, its great image quality, easy-to-use menu system, and ergonomic design make it a great choice for travel photography.
If you're a novice shooter looking to spend less on a DSLR camera for travel photography, consider the Nikon D3500. It has a lower-resolution fixed screen as opposed to Nikon D5600's fully-articulated unit and isn't as comfortable to use, but it is cheaper and offers similarly impressive image quality as well as an easy-to-use menu system. Depending on the settings you use and your own usage patterns, it should also supply enough power to last you for a whole day of shooting. Unfortunately, its menu system can have a hard time maintaining focus on the faces of moving subjects as well as objects. It's a little lighter than the D5600, but it still isn't as easy to carry around for extended periods of time compared to some point-and-shoots.
Get the D5600 if you want a better-built camera that offers superior autofocus performance, but consider the D3500 if you want to spend less but don't want to sacrifice image quality.
If you want to record videos, the best DSLR camera for beginners is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. This APS-C model is comfortable to use and offers an intuitive menu system with a guide mode for novice users. Its fully-articulated screen makes it easy to see yourself while you record, which is great for vloggers, and it's also bright enough to read in bright sunlight.
It offers decent video quality while recording in FHD, and it records without a crop in this resolution. Its incredible video autofocus system in FHD can help track and maintain focus on moving subjects. It also offers lots of inputs for videography accessories like headphones, a stereo microphone, and a clean HDMI output so you can monitor video externally without any overlays.
Unfortunately, while it can record in 4k, it offers limited frame rate options and can only record at 24 fps with a 1.54x crop, resulting in a notable decrease in field of view. Video quality in 4k is mediocre, and it also struggles to track moving subjects with its autofocus system in this resolution. That said, if you want to record in FHD, it's still a solid choice.
Apr 07, 2021: Verified that all main picks are still in stock and represent the best choice for their given category.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best DSLR cameras for beginners 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'd like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for interchangeable-lens DSLR cameras under $1,000. 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.