Camera phones may be better than ever, but let’s be honest, sometimes they just don’t do the trick. If you’re photographing your favorite athlete or musician from the nosebleed section, trying to catch your dog as he leaps for that tennis ball, or just want to take really high-quality shots for your Instagram profile, you’ll need a DSLR.
But with so many buttons and lenses, aren’t DSLRs complicated? They don’t have to be! People of all ages want to increase their photography skills with fancier cameras, which is why we put together a list of the 15 best DSLR cameras for beginning photographers. There are a ton of cameras on the market, so we based our list on the following:
Price: The beginning photographer isn’t likely to spend $5,000 on a camera body, so we stuck to those cameras that can be purchased for less than $1,300. Most of the cameras on our list sell for less than $1,000.
Though the price listed is for the camera body only (without the lens), most of these cameras are available to buy in a kit, which usually includes the camera, an 18-55mm lens, and perhaps a few other accessories such as a camera bag and lens cloth.
Megapixels and Resolution: Megapixels refers to the resolution of images captured by a camera. The higher the resolution, the better the image quality. We searched for cameras that produce high-quality images with little manipulation.
User Friendliness: Some professional cameras have so many buttons, gadgets, and hidden capabilities that they’d be a waste to most beginning photographers. The DSLR cameras that made our list are the perfect cameras for a photographer to grow into; they have the most important professional capabilities, but aren’t overwhelming.
Comfort: Whether you’re a beginning photographer or a pro, the overall comfort of a camera is always important. We chose DSLRs that are comfortable to hold and transport as you go about your daily life.
Priced under $500, the Nikon D3400 is an excellent camera choice for the beginning photographer. The layout of buttons is user friendly so photographers aren’t likely to spend much time searching for the setting they want. Speaking of settings, the D3400 has everything a beginning photographer would need or want: a quick capture rate; a reliable autofocus; a 24.2 MP APS-C image sensor, and various auto-shooting modes. Those looking for a camera to enhance their social media accounts will especially love that the D3400 works with the Nikon SnapBridge technology, allowing users to sync their photos and video to their smart phones within seconds.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i
One of Canon’s best entry-level DSLRs is the EOS Rebel T7i. Beginning photographers will find the T7i a breeze to use, thanks to features like the top-of-the-line image sensor, quick burst technology (for action shots), and an autofocus that’s quick and easy to achieve. Though we like the Rebel T7i much more for photography than we do for capturing video, this is a great camera that’s loaded with features and would make a good teacher for someone wanting to build up their skillset.
The Pentax K-S2 is an excellent and affordable choice of camera for any beginning photographer. The camera boasts a quick and easy autofocus and shoots with the same level of image and video quality as its competitors. Pentax sets itself apart with features that might be especially attractive to beginning photographers. Most notably, this is one of the few entry-level cameras on the market that is totally weatherproof so there’s no need to worry about shooting nature images in the rain or fog. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the Pentax K-S2 can be purchased in a variety of colors other than the traditional black.
It’s hard to find a reason not to recommend the Nikon D5500 as a DSLR for a beginning photographer. This camera boasts many of the same features as the aforementioned Nikon D3400, though we’d say this camera has a much more advanced autofocus — ideal for the photographer interested in shooting wildlife or other action scenes. Its image quality is on par with more expensive Nikons, while the swiveling LCD touch screen makes this one of the most user-friendly cameras on the market. Though the Nikon D5500 is no longer available new from Nikon, we found that it’s still available in many other marketplaces.
Beginning photographers determined to purchase a brand-new DSLR camera might consider the Nikon D5600, the next version up of the aforementioned D5500. The D5600’s image resolution is exactly the same as the D5500 (24.2 megapixels), while the same EXPEED 4 photo processing system ensures the two cameras produce the same quality images in the same wide range of lighting scenarios. What sets the D5600 apart from the D5500, however, is the camera’s SnapBridge compatibility. While the D5500 can be purchased for less than the newer D5600, those who spend more will be able to sync their camera with their smart devices almost instantly.
Canon EOS 77D
Also known as the Canon EOS 900D, the EOS 77D is another great DSLR camera for the beginning photographer. Like its relative, the T7i, this camera offers the same high-quality image resolution and the same easy autofocus. Its better offerings include an updated image processor and a size that’s generally considered to be more user friendly. The 77D is actually lighter than the T7i, with a better grip and a general layout that is better thought out.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
The Canon EOS Rebel T6i has already topped a number of lists as the best camera for the beginning photographer. The reasons for this are many and include 24.2 megapixels of resolution for high-quality photos, photo burst capabilities, a quick autofocus, and a big menu of auto settings. We also like the fact that the T6i includes a 3-inch touchscreen for easier viewing and framing. This is a great camera that can be purchased for under $600.
Though it’s one of Nikon’s older models, purchasing a Nikon D3300 is an excellent option for beginning photographers new to DSLRs. The D3300 boasts the same top-notch image quality Nikon is known for, while also providing a user-friendly menu display, a respectable ISO range, and quick autofocus. Unlike some of the other Nikons on our list of the best DSLR cameras for beginning photographers, the Nikon D3300 does not come outfitted with a built-in Wi-Fi connection, though anyone set on having that feature can purchase a separate adaptor to use.
The Nikon D5300 is another DSLR that has been discontinued by Nikon. Still, the camera’s overall quality, combined with the fact it is still available in several markets for a very reasonable price, made it an easy addition to our list of the best DSLR cameras for beginning photographers. Those who purchase the Nikon D5300 get a majority of the same modern features available on the newer and more expensive Nikons: 24.2 megapixels with some of the best image quality in this price point; an EXPEED 4 picture processor; a fast 39-point autofocus, and a longer battery life. The Nikon D5300 doesn’t include a touchscreen display and GPS, both of which seem to now be standard in the new Nikons, but those features won’t (and shouldn’t) matter to most beginning photographers.
Canon EOS Rebel SL2
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 may just be the perfect DSLR for the beginning photographer intent on taking better photos of everyday life. As one of the smallest DSLR cameras available, the Rebel SL2 is lightweight and easy to carry around. But it’s small size certainly doesn’t mean fewer features. The autofocus system isn’t quite as fast as the similar T7i, but the SL2 includes comparable image quality, a tiltable viewfinder, and even a selfie mode.
The second Pentax to make our list of the best DSLR cameras for beginning photographers is the K-70. Like the aforementioned K-S2, the K-70 is a workhorse of a camera. Its weatherproof body is sealed at more than 100 points to keep dust and moisture out — an important feature that is practically unheard of in cameras sold for less than $1,000. The K-70 boasts the same 24.2 megapixels responsible for Nikon’s high image quality, along with an internal stabilization system, continuous shooting mode, and user-friendly menu.
As the most expensive camera on our list, the Nikon D7500 is a great choice for the ambitious beginning photographer. The photos and video produced by the D7500 are professional quality, thanks in part to the camera’s EXPEED 5 image processor. It’s a smaller camera than even some of the top-of-the-line Nikons, but boasts comparable features such as 8 frames per second continuous shooting speed, SnapBridge technology, and a rotating display for better viewing.
Sony Alpha 77 II
The Sony Alpha 77 II has a number of features that make it worthy of a place on our list of the best DSLR cameras for the beginning photographer. Like the more expensive Canon EOS 80D (perhaps its biggest competitor), the Alpha 77 II can shoot up to 12 frames per second with a fast and reliable autofocus — features that are especially important for the photographer interested in shooting wildlife, sporting events, or other moving subjects. The Alpha 77 II also has a large ISO range, so that users can take better photographs in a wider variety of lighting types.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i
The Canon EOS Rebel T5i has tons to offer a beginning photographer: top-notch image quality; touch focus; and a quick and reliable autofocus — not to mention an awesome price! But the Rebel T5i is perhaps most appropriate for those beginning photographers who also see themselves as budding filmmakers. That’s because this Canon’s video capabilities are perhaps some of the best on this list. A rotating touchscreen allows the user to capture shots from just about any angle, while the smooth autofocus makes creating stylish shots a breeze. We also love the fact that the Rebel T5i is compatible with various third-party firmwares for easy video transfer and editing.
Canon EOS 1300D
The final camera on our list of the best DSLRs for beginning photographers is the Canon EOS 1300D. As one of the least expensive cameras on our list, this is a fantastic option for the very young photographer, or the photographer intent on learning on a budget. There are a ton of features to recommend, including a variety of automatic settings and exposure modes, including Canon’s unique Creative Auto mode which allows the user to stylize their photos directly from the camera. Even with its budget price, the 1300D includes Wi-Fi capabilities and an LCD screen, features usually reserved for those more expensive products.