The 8 Best Entry Level DSLR Cameras for Beginners to Buy in 2017

Choosing the best starter DSLR is easier than ever

When your love for photography turns from casual to serious, you’re likely going to make the move from point-and-shoot to a DSLR camera. While a point-and-shoot offers photography good enough for everyday images, a DSLR offers far more manual control, interchangeable lenses and bigger sensors along with better image quality. Buying a DSLR is no easy task, with cameras aimed at different levels of experience, budgets and use cases. These are the best entry-level DSLR cameras available on the market today.

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.

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.

Canon’s EOS Rebel T6 feels like just another entry level at first glance, but there’s so much more to this DSLR than meets the eye. Beyond its exceptional price to performance ratio, it offers a great entry-level feature set that is ideal for anyone cautiously looking to taking the leap into the DSLR world. The T6 scores in the connectivity department, with built-in WiFi and NFC technology for easy photo transferring to a smartphone. But before you can transfer a picture, you must capture it, and the impressive 18-megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor captures excellent images with Canon’s Digic 4 image processing technology for outstanding results.

The T6 offers a nine-point autofocus system that provides impressive results and fast focus that won't let you miss a beat or a fast-moving subject. Absent from the T6 are features such as a touchscreen LCD or touch-to-focus option that mirrorless cameras offer. Additionally, you won’t find features like panorama modes or slow-motion video capture, but all that is a worthwhile tradeoff to own a camera that offers fantastic results and easy-to-use menus perfect for the DLSR beginner. Rated for 500 shots, the T6 battery life offers more than enough juice for a full day’s worth of shooting.

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.

While on the pricer side, Canon’s T6i offers the very same 24.2 APS-C sensor as its competition alongside the Digic 6 processor, which provides five frames-per-second continuous shooting. The included 18-135mm lens offers outstanding photography along with a little extra focal length above the 18-55mm lens included with most entry-level DSLRs.The ISO sensitivity range is 100-12,800, with online reviews offering up to ISO 6,400 before noticing noisy picture results.

The full HD 1080p video at 30 frames per second is great, and Canon added WiFi with NFC technology to the T6i release, which is welcomed and paired with a three-inch 270-dgree articulating touchscreen. The Canon’s strengths are somewhat offset with a below average 440 shots per charge, so factoring an additional battery into your overall cost might be worth considering.

First released in 2015, Canon’s EOS Rebel T5 still offers an outstanding value that more than competes with today’s entry-level DSLR releases. The T5 is especially perfect if you’re on the fence about making the jump from a point-and-shoot to the DSLR world. Featuring an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor with Digic 4 image processor, it offers the excellent clarity and sharpness that Canon buyers have come to expect for years. Alongside pictures, the T5 offers 1080p full HD (30 frames per second) video capture and continuous shooting mode up to three frames per second.

The three-inch LCD display is one area where the T5 differentiates from the competition, with half the pixel count as most DSLR models (just 460,000 pixels). Additionally, ISO sensitivity ranges from 100-6,400 against some of today's models that can expand to ISO 25,600. However, the lower settings aside, this is where the no-frills aspect of the T5 helps it shine and offer a price that that’s very appealing to DSLR shoppers on the fence. With a 500-shot battery life, there’s plenty of juice to get through a day’s worth of shooting while traveling or capturing the kids running around the house. Unfortunately, WiFi is missing and you need a connection to a computer to transfer photos or video but, for the price, the Canon T5 has stood the test of the last 24 months and holds its own against newer competition. 

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.

Ideally, a “best design” DSLR is known for its comfort and grip in the hand that offers the photographer total focus on capturing images. First released in 2014, Canon’s entry-level DSLR, the Nikon D3300 is still the comfort champion. The reduced size against today's models with a deep grip and textured surface make it feel very secure in the hand. There’s no shortage of competition in this category, but age hasn’t slowed down the D3300 whatsoever.

Featuring a 24.2 APS-C CMOS sensor found in most of today’s models, Canon’s three-year age offers many of the same features in cameras released today. Offering an easy-to-follow guide mode, the D3300 offers a real-time explanation of important features that help both beginners and non-beginners alike. Unfortunately, it does show age in one area and that’s the lack of built-in WiFi, forcing users to transfer photos the “old fashioned way,” or connecting to a computer via USB cable. It’s hardly a dealbreaker and considering the 1080p full HD video doesn’t transfer to a smartphone via WiFi anyway, it’s easily forgotten.


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