While mirrorless cameras have all but won out the battle for the hearts of consumers, there's still a lot to love about DSLRs, from optical viewfinders that give you an unfiltered view of your subjects to unrivaled battery performance to generous handgrips and ergonomics that have defined the shooting experience for generations of photographers. You can also find DSLRs for cheaper, especially if you look at the used market, which is great for beginners. While it can be tempting to jump right into the most expensive model, it's important to get a handle on the basics when you're just starting out, which is why we've tailored our list around affordability and ease of use.
Below you'll find our recommendations for the best DSLR cameras for beginners, narrowed down from over 75 cameras that we've bought and tested. If you think you'd prefer a mirrorless camera, you can also take a look at our picks for the best mirrorless cameras for beginners. Or, if you're looking for something more advanced, check out our recommendations for the best DSLR cameras or the best cameras for photography.
If you're completely new to photography, we recommend the Nikon D3500. It's affordable, relatively small, and lightweight, and its dead-simple control scheme and intuitive menu make it a very easy jump from your smartphone. But the main reason it's our top pick for beginners is its interactive 'Guide' shooting mode, which guides you through the basics of photography, allowing you to actually learn about different camera settings and their effects as you shoot.
Beyond that, it also has an excellent high-resolution APS-C sensor, so image quality is top-notch. The camera's also compatible with both Nikon DX and FX lenses, giving you a wide variety to choose from as your skills grow. It has a fantastic battery life, so it can easily last across multiple days of shooting. If you want more bells and whistles, like an articulated screen or 4k video capability, read on below to learn about our other picks. But if you're just starting out and don't know your aperture from your ISO, the D3500 remains one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners.
Moving up the entry-level ladder brings you to the Nikon D5600, which uses the same excellent sensor as the Nikon D3500 and adds some quality-of-life features like a fully articulated screen and a more advanced autofocus system. That said, it doesn't have the 'Guide' mode of the D3500, so you're on your own to figure out all the different camera settings and features.
It still has a simple control scheme and the same easy-to-use menu system, so it's still accessible to newcomers and uses the same lenses as the D3500. It still doesn't shoot 4k video, if you're at all interested in video, but it's a great option for photography. Bottom line: if you don't mind losing out on the guide mode—maybe you already know a thing or two about cameras—and you're willing to stretch your budget a little bit, you should get the D5600.
At the higher end of entry-level cameras, there's the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. Canon has included just about everything you could want in a beginner camera, but when you're just starting, less tends to be more. A total beginner likely won't get the most out of this camera when they're just starting, but it's a great camera to grow into as a newbie photographer. It's also compatible with any of Canon's EF and EF-S lenses, so you can easily upgrade lenses as your skill grows.
Unlike the Nikons above, the T8i can record 4k video. It has a fully articulated touchscreen like the Nikon D5600, but you also get more buttons and control dials. However, there's no 'Guide' shooting mode like the Nikon D3500, so the controls might be more intimidating to navigate if you're just starting. Still, this camera has the most advanced autofocus system of any camera on this list (although it still pales compared to mirrorless alternatives) and a solid burst rate, making it a competitive choice for sports or faster subjects.
While DSLRs aren't exactly known for their portability, especially with mirrorless cameras on the block, you can still get some pretty portable DSLRs with plenty of features. The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is part of Canon's entry-level SL series, which is designed to be as compact as possible. While it's about the same size as the Nikon D3500 mentioned above, the Rebel SL3 gives you more features but doesn't have a dedicated 'Guide' mode.
It does have a fully articulated screen, a fairly intuitive control scheme and menu, and can even record 4k video. And while its AF system isn't the most advanced, it still does an okay job tracking moving subjects. It also uses the same sensor as the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, so you'll get great image quality. Ultimately, it's a great choice if you want something portable with a little more oomph than the Nikon. However, the Nikon is still the beginner king for those who want a camera that's also a hands-on learning tool.
Sep 16, 2022: Overhauled article to better reflect user needs and market conditions.
Jan 31, 2022: Changed the Nikon D3500 from an 'Easier-To-Use Alternative' to the 'Easiest-To-Use DSLR For Beginners'.
Dec 02, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate and available; no change to recommendations.
Oct 05, 2021: Renamed 'Cheaper Alternative' category pick to 'Easier-To-Use Alternative' category pick to maintain consistency with other recommendation articles.
Aug 06, 2021: Moved the Nikon D3500 from 'Cheaper Alternative' to the 'Best Beginner DSLR for Travel Photography' to 'Cheaper Alternative' to the 'Best DSLR Camera for Beginners'.
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, arranged in order of ascending price. 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.