While mirrorless cameras are increasingly popular among consumers, there's still a lot to love about the traditional DSLR, from optical viewfinders that give you an unfiltered, lag-free view of your subjects to unrivaled battery performance to ergonomics that have defined the shooting experience for generations of photographers. You can also generally find DSLRs for cheaper, especially in the used market. While it can be tempting to go right for a high-end model, it's important to get a handle on the basics when you're just starting out, so we've tailored our list around affordability and ease of use.
We've bought and tested over 90 cameras in our lab, and below, you'll find our picks for the best entry-level DSLR cameras. If you're curious about mirrorless options, 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 overall or the best cameras for photography.
The Canon EOS Rebel T8i is one of the best beginner DSLRs we've tested. Canon has included everything you could want in a beginner camera and then some, making this a great option to grow into as a novice photographer. It's compatible with any of Canon's EF and EF-S lenses, so there are many options to choose from, including some of the best bang-for-your-buck lenses. And unlike some of our other picks below, this is one of the few beginner DSLRs that can record 4k video.
The camera has a fair amount of buttons and control dials, giving you more hands-on control once you move away from using the auto-shooting mode. This camera also has the most advanced autofocus system of any camera on this list, though it still falls short of newer mirrorless alternatives. All that, plus a fairly quick burst rate, makes the T8i a very well-rounded choice, allowing you to dip your toe into shooting faster subjects like sports and slower fare like portraits and landscapes.
If you don't need 4k video capability, you'll be all set with a camera like the Nikon D5600. It's the mid-range model in Nikon's entry-level DSLR lineup. Like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, it's a fairly well-built camera with a fully articulated screen. Its intuitive user interface and relatively simple controls are also quite accessible to newcomers. Although it has a slower max burst rate and less advanced autofocus system than the Canon, it'll more than get the job done for most beginners.
Beyond that, its high-resolution APS-C sensor can capture high-quality images, and the camera is compatible with both Nikon DX and FX lenses, making it easy to upgrade your kit as your skills grow. Though it's been discontinued and is increasingly hard to find new, you can find reasonably-priced used models at retailers like Adorama, B&H Photo Video, and KEH Camera. Overall, this camera will be a great fit if you're looking for an intermediate DSLR that won't cost a fortune.
The Canon EOS Rebel SL3 is part of Canon's entry-level SL series, designed to be small and lightweight. It's also one of the best budget DSLRs that we've tested. With 4k video capability, quick burst shooting, and a solid autofocus system, it's a well-rounded camera for the money.
It doesn't feel as well-built as the Nikon D5600 and has fewer physical controls than the Canon EOS Rebel T8i. That's not bad for those getting started, but it may feel slightly limiting if you start shooting in manual mode. Otherwise, it shares much with its Rebel sibling, including a similar sensor, an articulating touchscreen, and an easy-to-use menu system. Ultimately, this is a great little camera that won't break the bank and is lightweight enough that you'll want to bring it with you everywhere.
If you're completely new to photography, we recommend the Nikon D3500. It's affordable, relatively lightweight, and has a simple user interface, making it an easy jump from your smartphone. You won't find too many bells and whistles here, like 4k video capability or a flip-out screen, but this is a good choice for beginners because of its interactive 'Guide' shooting mode. Built right into the mode dial, the Guide Mode walks you through the basics of photography as you shoot. It isn't quite as helpful as having a photography teacher to show you the ropes, but it's the next best thing.
While it's aimed at total beginners, the D3500 has a sensor on par with the Nikon D5600 above, able to capture excellent-quality images. Battery life is also fantastic, so it can last through long days of use without breaking a sweat. Ultimately, if you don't know your aperture from your ISO yet, the D3500 is one of the best beginner DSLR cameras you can get, thanks to its small size, simple design, and unique Guide Mode. However, like the D5600, it's been discontinued, though you can still find used models and previous generations at retailers like B&H Photo Video, KEH Camera, or eBay.
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.