How we pick our products
Buying a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera can be a daunting task for any potential buyer. With so many brands and models out there, you’re bound to face some difficulty researching and ultimately making the right choice. Luckily, we’ve made this complete shopping guide to help you pick the perfect camera.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about DSLRs—from what distinguishes a DSLR camera to the pros and cons of using one, the best features to watch out for, and a series of purchase criteria that will help you assess each option with confidence.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our Selection of the Best DSLR Cameras on the U.S. Market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About DSLR Cameras
- 3.1 What exactly are DSLR cameras?
- 3.2 How does a reflex camera work?
- 3.3 What are the advantages of using a DSLR camera?
- 3.4 What are the disadvantages of reflex cameras?
- 3.5 Is it worth buying a reflex camera?
- 3.6 Who should buy a DSLR camera?
- 3.7 What is the significance of a DSLR lens?
- 3.8 Which modes does a DSLR have available?
- 3.9 What types of stabilizers are used in DSLRs?
- 3.10 Which accessories are needed for a DSLR?
- 3.11 What care does a DSLR camera require?
- 4 Buyer’s Guide
- 5 Summary
- DSLR cameras, or digital single-lens ‘reflex’ cameras, have the ability to produce higher-quality images than digital point-and-shoot or compact cameras, in part because they offer the photographer more control over the settings involved in capturing a picture. Nonetheless, better control and quality often comes with a higher price tag.
- Because of their specialized capabilities, DSLRs are a great choice both for photography enthusiasts and professionals as well as amateurs looking to take the next step in photography.
- The camera body you select is only half of the equation. Equally or even more important is the lens you use with your DSLR. It’s often the case that a DSLR will come with an entry-level lens, so you may want to look into buying a better one separately.
Our Selection of the Best DSLR Cameras on the U.S. Market
In the following section, we provide you with a ranking of five superb DSLRs that are currently available on the US market. We’ve picked a range of cameras that offer both a good value for your money and the quality you seek.
- Best Entry-Level DSLR Camera
- Best Value DSLR Camera
- Best DSLR Camera for Travelers
- Best DSLR Camera With Ultra-Accurate Autofocus
- Best High-Range DSLR Camera
Best Entry-Level DSLR Camera
This Nikon D3500 is easy to use, compact, and fast—a popular option for those who want to take a step up from their smartphones or point-and-shoots. With an image sensor that’s 15 times larger than a typical phone, the difference will be clear in beautiful, 24-megapixel images that have rich detail and color.
The D3500 is light enough to take with you on any adventure or to your favorite event, where all you need to do is switch it on automatic mode and shoot away. Then, Nikon’s free SnapBridge app makes it easy to share your best pictures or 1080p Full HD videos in an instant.
Best Value DSLR Camera
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is another solid entry-level DSLR that offers all the essential features at an affordable price. A bright optical viewfinder, large LCD-screen and on-board feature guide make shooting with this camera a breeze, and the 24 megapixel images it produces will impress all.
The Rebel T7’s super-fast autofocus system and wide ISO range mean you’ll never miss that perfect shot, and sharing it with your friends and family is just as easy with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology. You won’t want to leave the house without this camera by your side.
Best DSLR Camera for Travelers
The Nikon D7500 won’t disappoint with its top-quality images, 4K Ultra HD video, and powerful 51-point auto focus system. A 180,000-pixel RGB sensor can detect human faces, and the built-in flash uses in-camera scene analysis to provide to the perfect lighting for your subject.
Meanwhile, the rugged design and long-lasting battery mean this camera is a great travel companion that can put up with whatever conditions you might face along the way. Furthermore, the tilting 3.2 inch touchscreen makes it easy to shoot at high or low angles and quickly browse images on the go.
Best DSLR Camera With Ultra-Accurate Autofocus
With a whopping 45.7 megapixels and Nikon’s first back-side illuminated (BSI) FX-format full-frame image sensor, the Nikon D850 is a professional’s dream, offering superior resolution and unparalleled dynamic range. The photographs you produce with this high-end camera will burst with color and detail.
The D850 focuses in an instant—and in any lighting situation—with an ultra-accurate autofocus system that keeps up with fast moving subjects even in the darkest settings. Confirm your focus with Focus Peaking on the D850’s tilting, touchscreen LCD and transfer beautiful shots straight to a smartphone or tablet using the SnapBridge app.
Best High-Range DSLR Camera
The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a top-of-the-line option with phenomenal performance and a wide range of the most-desired DSLR features. With this camera, you’ll be shooting high-resolution photographs or 4K videos with the camera’s 30.4 megapixel, full frame sensor and an unbeatable 61-point autofocus system.
No matter the task at hand, the 5D Mark IV will handle it with reliable ease. The ISO ranges from 100 to 32000, allowing for smooth low light shooting, and Dual Pixel Raw files offer ample room for adjustments in post-production. A 3.2-inch, 1.6 million dot Clear View LCD screen also provides a bright, sharp display that facilitates speedy operation in any setting.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Need to Know About DSLR Cameras
What exactly are DSLR cameras?
In reflex cameras, a mirror reflects the light coming through the lens and sends it to the viewfinder through a prism. This allows for the photographer to see exactly what the lens is seeing, and in turn allows for a more accurate or precise photograph. At the same time, DSLR cameras often have more advanced technology that contributes to the production of an image that is much higher quality than that of a basic point-and-shoot or smartphone camera.
How does a reflex camera work?
When the camera’s shutter release is pressed, the mirror is quickly moved into a horizontal position and a shutter covering the sensor (or previously, film) opens, exposing the sensor and allowing light to strike it. The shutter then closes, covering the sensor, and the mirror goes back to its original position. In a DSLR camera, the just-captured image will then appear on the screen for you to see.
What are the advantages of using a DSLR camera?
DSLRs also allow you to change the camera settings manually, giving you more control over things like shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. Having such control is essential when photographers shoot in different lighting conditions or want a certain look or feel in their photos. A final advantage is that they are usually ergonomically designed to meet the needs of photographers in a range of environments.
What are the disadvantages of reflex cameras?
Is it worth buying a reflex camera?
Who should buy a DSLR camera?
What is the significance of a DSLR lens?
Keeping this in mind, you can see why the lens is so critical to taking photographs and why you should choose a quality lens. Be aware that many DSLRs come with a lens included, but that lens is often relatively basic and entry-level.
Which modes does a DSLR have available?
For those looking to have full control of the camera—and to produce the highest quality images—manual mode is key. Manual mode is, however, also the most complicated one to use and will require knowledge of some basic photography concepts and experience to master.
What types of stabilizers are used in DSLRs?
In such situations, the image may turn out blurry or distorted if the camera doesn’t have the proper image stabilization. DSLRs use one of two stabilization systems to prevent those issues: the optical stabilizer or the mechanical stabilizer. The table below elaborates on each system:
|Optical stabilizer||Mechanical stabilizer|
|Uses||This is commonly used by manufacturers such as Nikon, Canon, Leica and Panasonic.||It has been utilized by camera brands including Sony and Olympus, as well as others.|
|Description||Made up of a displacement system found inside the lens. Such lenses detect and adjust for camera movements automatically.||Image stabilization is attained via adjustment of the image sensor.|
|Advantage||Provides the benefit of being specifically tailored to each lens, though you will therefore require a separate stabilizer for each lens you use.||Because stabilization takes place within the camera’s body, the camera stays stable regardless of the lens in use.|
|Performance||Usually provides higher performance.||Often, the performance is relatively lower.|
Which accessories are needed for a DSLR?
One of the most critical accessories is the memory card, which is necessary to store your images, and, of course, a good lens. Beyond those two items, some additional accessories you may want to purchase are external flashes, tripods, extra batteries, lens filters and remote shutter releases.
What care does a DSLR camera require?
While owning a DSLR, it will likely be necessary for you to clean the sensor at some point. This can be done by a professional technician or at home, but special care will be needed to avoid damage. One final care requirement is to remove the battery if you’re not going to be using the camera for an extended period.
When you’re ready to purchase your new DSLR, there are some important criteria you should consider. These criteria will help you to confidently make the right choice, at the right price.
The way you intend to use a camera is probably the most important criterion you should consider—and it will help you to decide if a DSLR is right for you in the first place. If you plan to exclusively shoot in automatic mode and are merely looking to collect some shots while on vacation, you might prefer a simple digital camera or polaroid camera instead of an expensive DSLR.
If you’re looking to buy a DSLR in order to get more involved in photography or to further pursue a strong interest in the art form, the best option may be an entry-level DSLR specially designed for beginners. On the other hand, experienced photographers will look for DSLRs with the best features, performance and ample opportunities to control the image produced.
The sensor is the heart and soul of any digital camera, since it’s the part that is responsible for capturing the light that ultimately makes a photograph. Size is a fundamental aspect of a camera sensor. Larger sensors will be able to process more information and produce a higher quality image. Keep that in mind as an important feature to consider when looking at DSLR cameras.
Most DSLR cameras currently feature an APS-C sensor—which is usually found in Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras—or the 4/3 sensor common in Panasonic, Olympus, Kodak and Leica brands. Nonetheless, some cameras will have a larger, full-frame (35mm) sensor. This is usually found in the most professional camera bodies.
When it comes to image resolution, people usually think of megapixels. The general rule is that more megapixels means a higher resolution and greater detail in the final image. However, the quality of a photograph is not only a reflection of the number of megapixels. It’s also determined by the size of the sensor, which can be even more important to image quality.
Cameras with larger sensors will usually provide a larger area per pixel, and this means higher quality as well as greater sensitivity to light. Still, you should be aware that pictures with more megapixels also take up more space on your memory card and computer, so you might need to invest in additional equipment in order to store all your images.
A camera’s ISO value indicates how sensitive a sensor is to the light that enters through the lens. Higher values will allow you to shoot in lower light. For example, an ISO of 3200 would be appropriate for night-time shooting, while a low value of 100 might be best for shooting in sunlight.
One negative aspect of high ISO values is that they will result in more ‘noise’ in your image. So you’ll want to be careful about selecting the best ISO value for both your lighting conditions and the amount of noise you feel is appropriate. Generally speaking, with a wider range of ISO values available on your camera, you’ll be able to shoot in a wider range of lighting conditions.
Viewfinder and Screen
Because the viewfinder allows you to see an image before pressing the shutter button, it is an essential feature to any camera. Optical viewfinders allow you to see exactly what you are going to capture through a system of mirrors that reflect the scene in front of you through the viewfinder. Electronic viewfinders will show you the image on an LCD or OLED screen.
There is a wide range of viewfinders available, and not all are created equal. The clarity and size of an image will vary depending on the specific model, so it’s best if you can test a few different options before you pick a camera to buy.
These days, most DSLRs have the ability to capture video in addition to still images. If you’re looking at a camera with video recording capabilities, you should be sure to check what resolution it uses: HD, Full HD or 4K. We would recommend that you select a camera with at least Full HD video.
Nikon and Canon are the leading brands as far as DSLR cameras go. You may also find some good options from manufacturers Sony and Kodak. The brand you choose will likely be the one you stick with for many years, so choose carefully!
This is the case because any accessories you buy, such as lenses, may be linked to one specific brand. There are exceptions, as some lenses will work with multiple brands or with an adaptor, but these may not be the best lenses on the market.
DSLR cameras allow for the highest image quality, even if a photographer doesn’t have a ton of experience. They give plenty of room for control over specific settings and have features that compact or point-and-shoot cameras often lack.
Nonetheless, selecting the perfect DSLR for you can be particularly challenging. You should consider factors like intended use, sensor size, image resolution and ISO range before purchasing any DSLR. To help you in that process, this guide has detailed each factor and why it matters. Now, you can make a confident, informed decision when you go to buy your new camera.
Finally, if this article has been useful for you in your camera selection process, leave us a comment with your thoughts and share the article with your friends via social media.
(Featured Image Source: Bartolomiej Pietrzyk: 102106313/ 123rf.com)