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 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 and autofocus and stabilization performance, and that's without mentioning the physical aspects of your lens. As a general rule, it's better to invest in a less expensive camera body and higher-quality lenses than to invest in an expensive camera body and cheap lenses. That said, we currently test cameras with their standard kit lenses for consistency and user-friendliness, so this article will focus on cameras that retail for under $1,000 with their kit lens included.
We've tested over 70 cameras, and below, you'll find our recommendations for the best DSLRs for beginners. Also, see our picks for the best DSLR cameras, the best digital cameras, and the best mirrorless cameras for beginners.
The best beginner DSLR that we've tested is the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. This entry-level DSLR uses an APS-C sensor and feels very comfortable to shoot with. It's a good option for beginners, thanks to its intuitive menu system, which includes a guide mode to explain certain settings and features to new users. It's compatible with any of Canon's EF and EF-S lenses, so you can easily upgrade lenses as your skill grows.
The camera has a fully articulated touchscreen that makes it easier to compose shots from different angles or take selfies and vlogs. It also has a fairly large optical viewfinder. It delivers very good image quality overall, with decent noise handling capability at higher ISO levels, meaning it's fairly well-suited to shooting in more dimly-lit conditions. It also has a superb autofocus system with 45 advertised detection points, and it does an excellent job of tracking moving subjects.
That said, its battery performance is a bit underwhelming since it doesn't support USB charging, though it should last for approximately 360 photos depending on your shooting habits. While its 4k video features are somewhat limited, it offers several frame rate options in 1080p and fantastic autofocus tracking performance. If you're looking for a feature-dense DSLR that's comfortable to shoot with, this is one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners.
The Nikon D5600 is the best beginner DSLR camera for travel photography that we've tested. It's one of the more portable DSLRs we've tested, with a relatively small and lightweight body. Though it doesn't support USB charging, it also has an exceptional battery life that's advertised to last for approximately 970 photos depending on your shooting habits, so it's a great choice for traveling or long days on the go.
This camera uses a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, yielding great overall image quality. Photos have excellent dynamic range to bring out more details in highlights and shadows, great for landscape shots and high-contrast scenes. It also feels comfortable to shoot with, and its simple control scheme and easy-to-use menu system are great for beginner photographers. On top of that, it has a fully articulated screen that makes it easier to shoot from unconventional angles, take selfies, or film travel vlogs.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have 4k video capability for those interested in taking high-resolution travel videos. That said, it can still record high-quality 1080p video. Overall, if you want a capable DSLR that's fairly portable, takes great images, and has a ton of lens options, this is a solid choice.
If you want to record videos, the best DSLR camera for beginners is the Canon EOS Rebel SL3. This crop-sensor DSLR delivers decent FHD video quality out-of-the-box, particularly in well-lit environments. Its autofocus system does an exceptionally good job of tracking moving subjects in FHD, even as they move in and out of frame.
This camera has an exceptionally intuitive menu system that you can easily navigate with either its physical controls or by tapping on its sharp, bright, fully-articulated touchscreen. There's even a guide mode to explain some core features. The camera itself is comfortable to use for extended periods thanks to its large handgrip and relatively lightweight, compact construction. It also has a wide variety of ports and inputs, with a dedicated microphone and headphone jacks and a clean HDMI feature for using an external recorder without any overlays getting in the way.
Unfortunately, this camera's video recording capabilities are notably inferior when shooting in 4k. It can only record this resolution at 24 fps with a severe 1.54x reduction in the field of view. Autofocus and video stabilization performance are poor compared to when the camera is recording in FHD. Still, the camera's relatively compact size, fully articulated touchscreen, and decent video quality in FHD help make it one of the best DSLR cameras that we've tested.
If you're completely new to photography, we recommend the Nikon D3500. This entry-level DSLR has a unique 'Guide' shooting mode built into its mode dial. This mode is perfect for beginners as it gives you a thorough walkthrough of the camera's features and the basics of photography. It's also one of the lightest DSLRs we've tested, so it's easy to take on the go and carry around for longer periods.
Inside is a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor, and the camera is compatible with both Nikon DX and FX lenses, giving you a wide variety to choose from as your skills grow. It delivers impressive image quality out of the box, with a wide dynamic range at its base ISO and accurate colors. It also has good noise handling when shooting in JPEG, so photos look okay at moderate ISO levels in low light. The camera also has an exceptional battery life that can last for days, depending on your usage habits.
Unfortunately, the camera's autofocus system is fairly limited and does a poor job tracking moving subjects and keeping them in focus. On top of that, it's limited to a 5 fps burst rate, so this isn't the best camera to use for sports or fast-moving subjects. Still, if you're looking for a simple DSLR with a highly intuitive menu and control scheme that can guide you through the basics, this is one of the best DSLRs you can get as a beginner.
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'.
Jun 09, 2021: Confirmed 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.