The 9 Best Entry Level DSLR Cameras for Beginners to Buy in 2018

Choosing the best starter DSLR is easier than ever

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If you’ve decided that your smartphone camera simply isn’t up to the task, an entry-level DSLR camera is a great way to step up your photography game. Today’s modern DSLRs can capture excellent-quality images, no matter if you’re taking photos of your pets or capturing fast-action sports. With a seemingly endless array of models to choose from, our research team narrowed it down to the best options on the market for beginners. We even sent one of our favorites home with our testers so they could try it out in the wild and give their most honest feedback.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Nikon D3400

4.6

The follow-up to the beloved Nikon 3300, the Nikon D3400 improves on the original in every way, including a boost in battery life and a slightly lighter camera body. While the D3400 offers the same APS-C sensor and 24.2-megapixel count as its predecessor, it does so with nearly double the battery life. Along with battery life improvements, it also adds SnapBridge, Nikon’s Bluetooth-ready photo transfer system to move images from your camera to your smartphone. Nikon also upgraded the D3400 to 1080p video at 60 frames per second, which is a speed that has become increasingly standard on DSLR cameras in the entry level space.

The addition of Nikon’s “Guide Mode” is an excellent on-screen guide to help beginners understand the process of composing a photo. Last but certainly not least, is the inclusion of ISO100-25,600 on the 18-55mm VR kit lens for capturing greater picture detail. The stand-out price to performance ratio, comfortable frame and fast performance make the D3400 the best choice for jumping into the DSLR world.

Runner Up, Best Overall: Nikon D5600

The D5600 is a modern, feature-rich DSLR that takes great 24.2-megapixel photos with its DX-format CMOS sensor and takes full HD 1080p video at 60 frames per second. If you’re with a challenging photo subject, this model also has 3x optical zoom and the ability to shoot at 5 frames per second. For connectivity, the D5600 lets you share photos directly to your phone or tablet using the Snapbridge app.

What sets the D5600 apart from many other DSLR cameras is its 3.2-inch multi-angle touch LCD screen that acts like a smartphone screen with the ability to pinch, zoom and even set focus with your fingers. It’s also great for selfies because you can point the screen in the same direction as the lens.

Check out our other reviews of the best Nikon cameras on the market today.

Best Splurge: Canon Rebel SL2

Those looking to spend a bit more on their starter DSLR camera should look into the Canon Rebel SL2. It sheds some of the clunkiness that has haunted DSLR cameras since their inception, opting for a one-pound compact build with a distinctive white casing. The camera includes lots of attractive features that also separate it from other entry-level cameras. One of the most useful to beginners is a fully articulating touchscreen that can be flipped up and down to allow you to get shots from different angles and to easily access and jump through different features. You can even flip the screen frontward to make it easy to record yourself. Inside is a powerful 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor with fast and accurate auto-focus and phase-detection. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make it easy to connect and upload your photos, while a Full HD 60P with external microphone input lets you take videos.

Best Value: Canon EOS Rebel T6

Canon’s EOS line of cameras is widely considered some of the best around and the Rebel T6 is no exception. Featuring an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4+ image processor and ISO up to 6400, the Rebel T6 is a terrific value for beginners looking to dip their toes into the DSLR world. The nine-point autofocus system on the T6 is both fast and accurate, allowing pictures to be captured as they happen especially when you have a fast-moving subject. The optical viewfinder pairs with the three-inch LCD display for lining up and steadying the camera for capturing the perfect image of your subject. The 170-degree view with the display combines with adjustable settings such as AF, ISO, AF, point selection and flash options.

 The inclusion of various scene modes helps beginners properly determine the right type of aperture, white balance and focus before hitting the shutter button. The T6 even goes beyond intelligent scene mode by adding a feature guide that explains each function of the camera during shooting, including mode dial operations for a quick and dirty tutorial on what the camera can do. It allows beginning photographers to focus less on a dizzying array of settings and instead allows operators to focus on the joy of photography and capturing subjects. Beyond image capture, with both Wi-Fi and NFC built-in, it’s easy to transfer images from the camera to a computer or smartphone.

Check out our guide to the best DSLR and mirrorless cameras under $1,000 you can buy today. 

Best Video: Pentax K-S2

Pentax K-S2
Courtesy of Amazon.com

While most entry-level DSLRs on the market today offer an already impressive 1080p full HD video at 60 frames per second, Pentax’s K-S2 takes it up another notch. With 4K interval movie capture and 1080p h.264 HD video, Pentax sets itself apart from the pack with outstanding video capture. On top of video quality, Pentax adds a weather resistant body and lens with over 100 weather seals throughout the entire camera frame offering an experience that allows you to shoot in rain, snow or sand. The addition of the vari-angle three-inch “selfie” LCD offers great visibility in the outdoors for ensuring you can capture the perfect video in 4K quality without missing a beat.

Offering a 20-megapixel filter-less APS-C CMOS sensor, the Pentax doesn’t have the same 24-megapixel sensor as most defacto entry-level DSLR cameras in today’s market, but that’s OK. Like most cameras in this category, there’s a tradeoff somewhere. If you’re looking for a camera that can handle the toughest outdoor and landscape photography conditions, the images here won’t disappoint, sensor size notwithstanding. The inclusion of WiFi adds another layer of functionality to the K-S2 with easy image transferring of images from the camera to a smartphone. Unfortunately, due to file size, 4K video transfer only works once the Pentax is connected to a computer via USB cable.

Best Design: Canon EOS Rebel T6i

When we think of design, we generally think of style or color. But in the case of the Canon EOS Rebel T6i, it’s ergonomics that stand out. This entry-level DSLR bests the competition with top-notch comfort to ensure a steady grip – and steady shots. Since the way a camera fits in the hand is crucial, the T6i’s large grip makes it especially comfortable for every hand size. Fortunately, the camera’s performance is also on par with its design, with a 24.2-megapixel DIGIC 6 CMOS sensor to capture sharp and vibrantly-colored photos and 1080p Full HD video.

Take photographs using either a manual viewfinder or the three-inch LCD articulating touchscreen. The LCD display also doubles as a quick menu system for easily adjusting control settings like autofocus, exposure, and aperture, as well as reviewing images and video. Once you’ve filled up the memory card, the T6i’s built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology make it quick and easy to offload material to any compatible device via Canon’s downloadable Camera Connect app. 

Best for Action Photography: Sony Alpha A68

Sony Alpha A68
Courtesy of Walmart.com

The Alpha A68 is a hybrid between Sony’s popular mirrorless cameras and its traditional DSLR line, opting for a mirror that is translucent instead of being omitted altogether. This allows for a lighter camera and faster pictures than a traditional DSLR, great for quick snapshots at sporting events or in nature. The quick camera speed time is complemented by an impressive 79-point autofocus that optimizes the shot right away, a nice feature that will help amateur photographers capture amazing photographs as they work on their technical skills.

The camera has an impressive 24.2 APS-C sensor, features HD recording and has an OLED display. Sony also distinguishes this from other cameras with a solid, textured build that makes the camera look and feel durable. This a great camera for entry-level action photography.

Best All-Weather: Pentax K-70h

Nikon is offering the D3300 HD-SLR camera in black, red, or gray, depending on your location in the world. Nikon

Right off the bat, the Pentax K-70 doesn’t feel too radical, offering the industry standard 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that captures stunning low-light and everyday photography. The K-70 also adds the now standard video capture at 60 frames per second with full HD capture quality. However, it’s the weather-sealed body that helps the K-70 stand out from the rest of the entry-level DSLR pack. The camera is sealed against both dust and moisture, making it ideal for use in conditions that might often be out of the question for other entry-level DSLR shooters. Additionally, Pentax includes a weather-sealed 18-135mm lens that rounds out the durability of the K-70 as a camera that’s good for all conditions.

However, the Pentax falls a little on the heavier side, which is likely a result of the all-weather sealing. At two pounds, it’s one of the heaviest entry-level DSLR cameras on the market, but it offers in-body shake reduction, as well as an improved grip and thumb rest to help your hands stabilize during shooting. Weight aside, the K-70 manages a below average 410 photos, so an extra battery might be worth considering for lengthy trips. An 11-point standard autofocus system and three-inch articulating LCD round out the rest of the top-line features.

Take a peek at some of the other best Pentax cameras you can buy.

Best for Blogs: Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Canon - EOS Rebel T7i
Courtesy of BestBuy.com

Launch your first Vlog with the EOS Rebel T7i DSLR Camera, a device that is capable of working in all kinds of lighting environments, perfect for recording your adventures anytime, anywhere. The heart of the t7i is a 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor that can capture full action shots up to six frames per second. If you want to capture video, you’re in good hands to capture captivating DHR movies with a Full HD video camera that plays at 1920 x 1080 pixels with framerate of 60fps. A three-inch vari-angle touchscreen monitor allows you to quickly navigate the menus and settings, while Wi-Fi lets you upload your footage to the web. A high ISO range of 100 to 25,600 is expandable to 51,200 provides a broad range of filming conditions, from dawn to dusk, in beautiful color.

Want to take a look at some other options? Read our guide to the best Canon cameras.

Best Starter: Nikon 3300

Canon

Nikon’s lowest level camera is lacking a few aspects like WiFi that its sister camera, the 3400, possesses, but it does not lack in photo quality. It punches way above its class for the price, rocking a 24.2MP CMOS DX-format sensor that captures gorgeous high color photos and vibrant 1080p Full HD videos. The camera is also easy to use with an intuitive ergonomic build and a handy 3 inch screen that allows you to preview your images.

The camera includes a a zoom lens and an ultra-compact 11 point autofocus DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II that is easy to use. Expect 5 FPS of continuous shooting and an ISO 100-12800 light range. The camera also helps starters with 6 common Scene Modes or the option to switch to Full Green Auto Mode. Flex your artistic creativity with Black & White mode, optimized color tones for portrait, or edit photos in the Retouch Menu. Whether you are using Panorama Mode for spellbinding landscapes or closeup shots, this is a great starter DSLR camera.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 11 hours testing one of the most popular DSLR cameras available. To really get the full experience, we asked them to consider the most important features when using this DSLR camera — from shooting speed to durability — and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in an Entry-Level DSLR Camera

Ruggedness - While some DSLRs need to be treated as delicately as a porcelain doll, other cameras are able to take quite a beating. If you think you might find yourself shooting outdoors in inclement weather or hiking through forests and desert terrain, get a camera with weatherproofing.

Shooting speed - Are you photographing flowers or high-speed sports? If you’re grabbing a camera for Junior’s soccer game, you’ll want to consider one that can take photos as fast as possible. Be sure to check the camera’s frames-per-second rate when taking photos.

Included lenses - While additional lenses can be added to a DSLR at any point, consider what’s included in the box when you purchase your first camera. If you’re shooting sports or nature photography, you’ll want to buy something that includes a telephoto lens for taking photos at a distance.

Test Results: Nikon D3400 (Best Overall)

4.6

What We Like

  • Great image quality

  • Lightweight

  • SnapBridge Bluetooth app

What We Don't Like

  • Learning curve

  • Spotty Bluetooth connection in some instances

Our testers were very satisfied with the quality of the photos this camera produces, though the learning curve — especially when it came to manual modes — was a bit steeper than they would have liked. One reviewer, for example, had a tougher time capturing quality photos in low light: “I think photo quality will go up as I improve my skills on the manual modes — adjusting shutter speed and F-stop — but in good light and just using the Auto mode, the pictures looked great.” Our testers also found that the camera does “reasonably well” with action shots and that its video functionality was a “nice value-add and should be sufficient for most users.”