The 8 Best DSLR Cameras of 2022

Substantial cameras for professional photography

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

For professional photographers, from those at the Olympic Games to those camped out in distant jungles snapping pics of tigers, the DSLR camera has long been their weapon of choice. With rugged, durable build quality, lightning fast autofocus, and a long pedigree of reliable service in every conceivable genre of photography, DSLRs remain deservedly popular. 

With mirrorless cameras gradually chipping away at the prevalence of DSLRs, there is still good reason to invest in a camera with a mirror, beyond the obvious advantage of a clear, optical viewfinder. Thanks to their decades of service, there is a plethora of affordable, high quality accessories made specifically for DSLRs, and whether you’re just beginning your journey as a photographer, or even if you’re a long time professional, the potential cost savings and creative flexibility this wide range of available equipment affords is not to be ignored. DSLRs are true workhorse cameras.

The Rundown
Best Overall:
Nikon D850 at Amazon
Best for video:
Nikon D780 at Amazon
Best Budget:
Nikon D3500 at Amazon
Best Crop Sensor DSLR:
Canon EOS 90D at Amazon
Best Medium Format:
Pentax 645Z at Amazon

Best Overall: Nikon D850

Nikon D850

Amazon

What we like:
  • High resolution sensor

  • Extremely low base ISO

  • 8K timelapse mode

  • Excellent Autofocus in viewfinder mode

What we don't like
  • Live view autofocus is a little slow

There’s no getting around the fact that despite its age the D850 is still the camera to beat. With a crazy 45.7 Megapixel Full Frame  sensor, it’s the DSLR by which all others are measured. It also offers a continuous shooting speed of up to 9 fps, and excels at reducing noise at high ISOs while offering a useful base ISO of just 64. Its 153 point autofocus system is blazing fast, and is capable of focusing even in extremely dim lighting situations. 


Timelapse video shooters will appreciate its 8k timelapse mode, and videographers will love the quality of its 4k video capability. It will also appeal to film photographers with its negative digitizer mode that works in concert with the optional ES-2 Film Digitizer Adapter. The Nikon D850 comes startlingly close to being the perfect all around DSLR for almost every kind of photographer.

Resolution: 45.7MP | Sensor Type: Full-frame | Max ISO: 102,400 | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth

Best for video: Nikon D780

The Nikon F78 is our pick for best overall camera

Amazon

What We Like
  • Excellent video shooting capability

  • Quick autofocus

  • Dual card slots

What We Don't Like
  • A little expensive

Nikon’s latest DSLR has clearly taken more than a few notes from mirrorless cameras, and that’s a great thing, particularly for video shooters. It might very well be said that the Nikon D780 is a DSLR version of Nikon’s excellent Z6 mirrorless camera, which has quickly become renowned for its video capabilities. 


In the D780 you will find a 26.3 Megapixel sensor and Expeed 6 processor that combine to produce high quality 4k footage at up to 30fps, and 1080p footage at up to 120fps for spectacular slow motion shots. Additionally, the camera excels at shooting in low light with an ISO range of 100 to 51,200. Lightning quick autofocus with eye tracking aids immensely whether you’re shooting stills or video. Pro photographers will appreciate the D780’s dual card slots for in-camera image backup.

Resolution: 24.5MP | Sensor Type: Full-frame | Max ISO: 51200 | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth

Best Budget: Nikon D3500

The Nikon D3500 is our pick for Best Budget Camera

Amazon

What We Like
  • Bargain price point

  • Great battery life

  • Great image quality

  • Easy to use and great for beginners

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks 4k video

  • No Wi-Fi connectivity

For beginners looking to upgrade to a camera capable of capturing professional quality images, but without the pro price tag, the Nikon D3500 is an eminently affordable choice. Its 24 megapixel DX size sensor provides high end DSLR quality images for less money than many point and shoots. It lacks some of the bells and whistles of more expensive cameras, but it’s competent where it counts. You get 5fps continuous shooting, a 100-25,600 ISO range, and full HD video recording at up to 60fps (though unfortunately it cannot shoot in 4k). Whether you’re just getting started with photography, or you need a decent camera cheap and in a hurry, the Nikon D3500 will get the job done.

Resolution: 24.7MP | Sensor Type: APS-C | Max ISO: 25600 | Connectivity: Bluetooth

I’ve shot with this camera and enjoy it for its lightweight size and its controls, which are easy and intuitive to navigate.” — Katie Dundas, Tech Writer

Best Crop Sensor DSLR: Canon EOS 90D

The Canon EOS 90D is our pick for best crop sensor camera.

Amazon

What We Like
  • Features the very latest tech

  • High resolution sensor

  • Great for video

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks professional level durability

  • Smaller APS-C size sensor

If you want an upgrade to your entry level Canon DSLR, but still want to be able to use your APS-C size lenses, the Canon 90D brings high end features to a crop sensor body. This camera packs in a lot of value between it’s 32.5 Megapixel sensor and Digic 8 Image Processor, remarkably recent tech for a Canon camera in this price range. It can shoot at up to 10 fps and record 4k video, with advanced face and eye detection and superior autofocus capability. The Canon 90D bats well outside its relatively modest price range. The only caveat is that it lacks a full frame sensor and professional level durability.

Resolution: 32.5MP | Sensor Type: APS-C | Max ISO: 25600 | Connectivity: Bluetooth, WiFi

Best Rugged: Pentax K-1 Mark II

Pentax K-1
Courtesy of Amazon.com
What We Like
  • Durable and weather resistant

  • Built-in stabilization

  • High resolution full frame sensor

  • Clever extra features

What We Don't Like
  • Lackluster video features

  • Limited lens selection

  • Slow autofocus and burst rate

For adventure seekers, durability and weather sealing are paramount in the gear they use. The Pentax K1 Mark II is designed to stand up to whatever elements you throw at it. Be it sand, snow, or pouring rain, this DSLR is built to take a beating.


In addition to its robust build quality, the K1 Mark II features a high resolution 36.5 Megapixel sensor, and can achieve even greater resolution using its pixel shift mode. Furthermore, this DSLR is one of the few to feature 5 axis image stabilization, which means that it can offer stabilization for any lens and shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds. 


In-body image stabilization means that the camera actually moves the sensor itself to correct for camera shake. Pentax has made clever use of this moveable sensor to implement both its high resolution pixel shift technology, as well as a few other modes. One of these modes is Composition Assist, where you can actually move the sensor around to make micro adjustments to your composition without needing to move the camera itself. 


For people looking to photograph the stars, its AstroTracer mode could be an indispensable feature. This mode uses the built in GPS to automatically track the movement and position of the stars, while also utilizing a digital compass. This works in conjunction with the moveable sensor to sync the camera to the movement of the stars and minimize star trails while capturing long exposures.

Resolution: 36.4MP | Sensor Type: Full-frame | Max ISO: 819200 | Connectivity: WiFi

Best Mid-Range: Canon EOS 6D Mark II

The Canon EOS 6D MArk II is our pick for Best Mid-Range camera.

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable price

  • Full frame sensor

  • Fully articulating screen

What We Don't Like
  • No 4K video

  • Outdated tech

The Canon 6D Mark II is Canon’s most affordable DSLR with a full frame sensor. It may lack some of the bells and whistles of more expensive full frame cameras, but it does provide an attractive entry level option into the world of full frame.


The 6D Mark II achieves its attractive price point largely by implementing slightly dated technology, primarily in its 26.2 Megapixel sensor and last gen Digic 7 processor. However, given the cost of this camera, such aging hardware should be considered to be more like aged cheese than spoiled milk, and the camera is capable of producing fantastic full frame photos and video, so long as you can deal with being limited to 1080p at 60fps and 6.5fps still frame shooting.


It’s worth considering that if you don’t mind the smaller sensor, the cheaper Canon 90D offers more modern components and better specs. Despite this, the 6D Mark II offers a more enthusiast grade experience and the improved image quality that a full frame sensor provides.

Resolution: 26.2MP | Sensor Type: Full-frame | Max ISO: 40000 | Connectivity: Built-in WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth

Best High-End: Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Amazon

What We Like
  • 20fps continuous shooting

  • Excellent video features

  • Tank-like durability

What We Don't Like
  • Very Pricey

  • Big and heavy

The Canon 1D X Mark III is the new and undisputed king of DSLRs. It is possibly the most powerful and versatile camera ever made, though it also has the weight, bulk, and eye watering price tag to match. 


You might expect the 1D X Mark III to feature a sensor with ludicrous resolution, but in fact its 20.1 megapixels fall well below the count found in most modern DSLRs. The 1D X Mark III is proof that megapixel count isn’t everything. It’s capable of continuously shooting full resolution still images at up to 20 fps, aided by a state of the art autofocus system, built in image stabilization, and Canon’s cutting edge Digic X image processor. It is also capable of shooting 4k video at up to 60fps, or even 5.5k RAW video. With other amazing specs such as an ISO range of 100 to 102,400, and tank-like rugged build quality, the 1D X Mark III is a cutting-edge do-it-all beast that will deliver fantastic results for many years to come.

Resolution: 20.1MP | Sensor Type: Full-frame | Max ISO: 102400 | Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth

The Canon 1D X Mark III is a favorite with professionals, for good reason: this full-frame beauty can capture just about any shot with ease, once you master the controls.” — Katie Dundas, Tech Writer

Best Medium Format: Pentax 645Z

Pentax 645Z
Courtesy of Amazon.com
What We Like
  • Spectacular image quality

  • Good value

  • Excellent build quality

What We Don't Like
  • Limited video features

  • Large and heavy

If a Full Frame sensor doesn’t quite cut it for you, the Pentax 645Z can provide the awesome photo quality of a medium format sensor at a relatively affordable price. Though growing old in the tooth, the 645Z is no slouch when it comes to image quality; with 51.4 megapixels it offers higher resolution than most cameras with smaller sensors. More importantly, those pixels are far larger, which is even more vital for achieving the ultimate in image quality. It’s typically available for around $5000, which is a bargain when it comes to the world of medium format. 


This is a very specialized camera. It is big, heavy, slow, and not a good pick for video. It’s designed for those photographers who need to capture the highest quality images, with speed and weight being but minor, secondary features.

Resolution: 51.4MP | Sensor Type: Medium Format (>35mm) | Max ISO: 204800 | Connectivity: None

Final Verdict

Our overall top choice for DSLR cameras is the Nikon D780 (view at Amazon) for its wide range of useful features, ease of use, and versatility—you can take gorgeous images and video with this camera, no matter what type of photography you enjoy. There's also the Nikon D3500 (view at Amazon). It is a budget-friendly camera with easy-to-use controls and long battery life, It's a great choice for beginning photographers, or as a reliable backup for seasoned pros.

About Our Trusted Experts

Andy Zahn is a freelance writer, photographer, and videographer who's covered many of the latest and greatest cameras for Lifewire since 2019. Andy owns a wide variety of cameras, from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras and drones, and much of his best work may be viewed on his Youtube channel.

Katie Dundas is a freelance journalist and tech writer. She’s also an experienced photographer who frequently covers cameras, photography, and drones. 

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's playing with the latest phones, tablets, and laptops. When not working, he's a cyclist, geocacher, and spends as much time outside as he can.

What to Look For in a DSLR Camera

Sensor Size

The sensor is what captures the image and transforms light into digital information, and in DSLRs it comes in one of three sizes. APS-C (also known as DX) measures 23.5mm x 15.6mm, Full Frame sensors are 36mm x 24mm, while Medium Format sensors are 44mm x 33mm. Typically, the bigger the sensor, the better the image quality, but also greater weight and expense. The same goes for the lenses each sensor size requires.

Lens Compatibility

If you already have other cameras and lenses, it makes sense to purchase a camera that’s compatible with your other lens mounts. Lenses are a big investment, so many photographers tend to be loyal to one camera brand so that they can use their lenses interchangeably.

Weight and Size

If you’re going to be shooting all day or carrying around your camera as you travel, it helps to think about weight and size. Some DSLRs tend to be large and bulky, especially after adding on a large lens. Sometimes, a more compact camera can be more comfortable when traveling.

FAQ
  • What does DSLR mean?

    DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex. This type of camera works when light hits a mirror inside the camera that’s angled at 45 degrees. The light goes into an optical viewfinder, showing you exactly what’s being seen. This differs from a mirrorless camera, which doesn’t use mirrors—instead, light passes directly to the camera lens. 

  • Why should you choose a DSLR over a mirrorless camera?

    Mirrorless cameras are known for being lightweight and of high quality, so why purchase a DSLR? While both are great options, DLSRs tend to offer a longer battery life, a wider selection of lenses, and they have optical viewfinders, which are preferable to many photographers over digital. 

  • How can you learn how to use your new camera to its full potential?

    If you’re new to shooting in manual mode, have patience! It can take some time to fully master all of the controls of your new camera. Most cameras don’t come with much in terms of instructions, but you’ll find that most brands have tutorials on their websites or via YouTube. There are also plenty of online and in-person photography courses that focus on shooting in manual mode.

Was this page helpful?