What are the best DSLRs you can buy?

September 2, 2021

If you’re looking for the best DSLRs, then you’ve come to the right place. Whilst mirrorless cameras are getting a lot of headlines at the moment, there is still plenty of life left in the DSLR system, and although a lot of camera and lens makers are increasingly diverting R and D budgets towards expanding their mirrorless range, DSLR models still play an important role in manufacturer’s line ups, targeting a wide range of consumers from beginners to pros. Pentax, for example, is resolutely sticking with DSLR technology.

DSLRs remain a cost-effective solution for many photographers, and of course, the technology is tried and tested. There is a huge choice of reasonably priced lenses and although the Electronic Viewfinders (EVFs) on mirrorless cameras have got a lot better, some photographers still prefer the optical viewfinders of DSLRs. Battery life is often better too, and of course, not everyone wants to shoulder the cost of changing over to an entirely new type of camera system – particularly in these economically uncertain times. So, if you are still in the market for a DSLR, here are some of our best buys.

There are two main sensor sizes to be aware of when choosing a Digital SLR: APS-C and Full-Frame. APS-C sensors are smaller, sometimes referred to as “Crop sensor”, and give a 1.5x (Nikon), or 1.6x (Canon) view compared to full-frame. Full-frame sensors give a similar sensor size to 35mm film, hence being called full-frame, as the sensor is roughly the same size as the frame of a 35mm film.

Best value DSLR Nikon D3500

Nikon D3500: best value DSLR
Around £415 with 18-55mm VR lens
Nikon’s entry-level DSLR hits a sweet spot of capability versus affordability. It sports a 24MP APS-C sensor with a sensitivity range up to ISO 25,600, and can shoot at 5 frames per second. Its Guide Mode makes the camera easy to use for beginners, while full manual control is also available – so this is a camera that you won’t outgrow as your photography skills develop. You’ll also find a range of Nikon lenses available, with Nikon “DX” lenses being specifically designed for the APS-C sensor.

Best compact DSLR

Canon EOS 250D: best compact DSLR
Around £600 with 18-55mm IS lens
One of the smallest DSLRs around, the EOS 250D strikes a great balance between portability and usability. It’s equipped with a novice-friendly Guided Mode, while Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS sensor provides excellent autofocus in live view. Image quality is very good, delivering vibrant colours and plenty of fine detail. The camera features a 24mp APS-C CMOS sensor, and offers 4K video recording. Canon’s range of EF-S lenses are designed specifically for APS-C cameras, but you can also use Canon’s range of EF lenses, with the 50mm f/1.8 STM lens being great value for money.

Best DSLR for enthusiasts

Canon EOS 90D: best DSLR for enthusiasts
Around £1250 body only
The EOS 90D has been designed to excel at all genres of photography and video, but is particularly handy for sports and wildlife photographers who demand a camera that can rattle out a continuous burst and resolve excellent detail from a high resolution 32.5Mp APS-C CMOS sensor. This well-made camera can shoot at 10fps with autofocus tracking when using the viewfinder and 11fps when using Live View with fixed AF, and there is Canon’s Eye Detection AF with tracking for stills and movies. You can also record 4K video. There are a range of Canon lenses available that offer great value for money.

Best DSLR for sports Nikon D500

Nikon D500: best DSLR for sports and action
Around £1450 body only
While this pro quality APS-C camera, which came out in 2016, is no longer cutting edge, it still has many attractive features. These include a 20.9Mp CMOS sensor, which affords a very solid standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200, and an impressive extended range of ISO 50-1,640,000, with great noise performance. It can shoot at 10fps, and keep going for at least 30 frames in raw format and 90 or more in JPEG mode. Autofocus uses a 153-point system covering almost the full width of the frame and around half its height, while metering employs a 180,000 pixel RGB sensor that also feeds subject-recognition data to the AF system. There’s also a great range of Nikon F lenses available.

Best value full-frame DSLR

Pentax K1 II: best value full-frame DSLR
Around £1800 body only
Pentax is resolutely sticking with DSLRs, and this attractive camera includes a 36Mp full-frame sensor, a flexible tilt-type LCD monitor, a SAFOX 12 autofocusing system with 33 sensor points (including 25 cross-type), an optical viewfinder offering 100% field of view, a weatherproof and dustproof body, dual SD card slots, Full HD video recording and a built-in GPS module. It also comes with the 5-axis, Pixel Shift Resolution System II to help keep shots sharp handheld, while ISO sensitivity has also been increased to ISO 819,200. There are a wide range of Pentax K-mount lenses available, with over 150 lenses made for the system.

Best full-frame DSLR Nikon D780

Nikon D780 – best full-frame DSLR for enthusiasts
Around £2,000 body only
The long-awaited successor to the D750 shows that there’s life in the DSLR yet. It’s superbly built with extensive weather sealing, handles brilliantly, and gives excellent results in any conditions. It’ll provide top-level service to photographers who want to keep using their F-mount lenses and still prefer an optical viewfinder.

The Nikon D780 offers a 24mp full-frame CMOS sensor that gives excellent noise performance, as well as offering uncropped 4K UHD video recording, and an ISO from from ISO50 to ISO204,800 (extended). On the back you’ll find a 3.2inch 2360K dot tilting touchscreen, and there is also in-camera USB charging.

Best high-resolution DSLR

Nikon D850 – best high-resolution DSLR
Around £2,500 body only
This brilliant professional all-rounder provides a winning combination of high resolution and speed. Its 45.7MP full-frame sensor produces fine results at high ISOs, and the autofocus is incredibly responsive and accurate. Build quality and handling should satisfy the most demanding of users. It’s an absolutely sensational camera capable of tackling any type of subject.

You’ll find that the camera offers excellent battery life, and has an impressively low ISO speed of ISO32 available (extended), that goes up to ISO102,400 (extended). You can record 4K UHD video at 30fps, and this uses the full width of the sensor.

Best FF Canon DSLR

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – best professional DSLR
Around £2,900 body only
Canon’s workhorse DSLR ticks the right boxes for both enthusiast and professional photographers. It handles well, is built to a robust standard, and adds long overdue features such as Wi-Fi and touchscreen control. The 30.4MP full-frame CMOS sensor gives excellent results, and autofocus is impressive for both live view and normal shooting, thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system.

The camera has an ISO range of ISO100-32,000, and this can be extended to ISO50-102,400. The camera has built-in GPS, as well as 4K 30,25,24fps video recording. Up to 7fps continuous shooting is available.

Further reading
Best-buy cameras for beginners

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