10 Best Starter DSLR Cameras for Beginners (2018)

best starter dslr cameras

DSLRs were once the gold standard for high-quality digital images. This is no longer the case. That said, there are several unique advantages that DSLRs provide. In this list, for instance, almost all of the cameras have APS-C sized sensors. This means that the sensors are big enough that one can produce striking depth of field effects.

In layman’s terms, this means you can take a picture of say a person, and the background behind them will be blurry. This is an attractive and sought-after look for many photographers. Another great perk of most DSLRs is the ability to show “RAW” images. Raw images can be processed in a computer to adjust the settings. Most cameras output a JPEG, and sure, you can brighten it a bit in post, but with RAW one is given massive flexibility to adjust their images as they see fit leading to eye-popping color and a guarantee that you’ll always get the right shot.

For the most part, however, the advantages of DSLRs stop there. That’s why this list includes several non-DSLR cameras such as Sony’s A6000, for those who are not deadset on achieving shallow depth of field in their pictures.

What follows are the top 10 best starter DSLR cameras for beginners.

What Are the Best DSLR Cameras for Beginners in 2018?

Sony A77II Dslr camera, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Battery life of 480 photos is excellent
  • Incredibly fast auto-focus system
  • Built-in image stabilization
Price: $1,198.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Canon 70D beginner dslr, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Unreal battery life of 920 photos
  • Includes one year warranty
  • Legendary leve vlogging camera
Price: $929.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Sony A6000 DSLR Camera, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Blazing Auto-Focus
  • Great Low Light Quality
  • Battery Life of 420 Photos
Price: $467.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
nikon d5300 dslr beginner, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Shoots 1080P video at 60 FPS
  • Battery life is good (400 photos)
  • Good Low Light Performance
Price: $473.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Rebel T6 beginner dslr, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • 1080P Video
  • Auto-Focus is Good
  • 18MP Stills
Price: $399.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Nikon D3400, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Shoots 24.2 megapixels at 5 FPS
  • Battery life of over 700 photos
  • Excellent image quality
Price: $439.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Canon Rebel SL1, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Lightweight
  • 18MP
  • 1080P Video
Price: $389.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Rebel T5 dslr beginners, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Battery life of over 500 photos
  • Included lens has image stabilization
  • Shoots 18 megapixels at three FPS
Price: $549.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Canon SX530 Powershot Dslr, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Shoots 16 megapixels pictures
  • Built in 50x optical zoom
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
Price: $229.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Nikon Coolpix L340 Camear, best camera beginners, best dslr beginners, best starter dslr Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Built in 28x optical zoom
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Shoots 1080P video
Price: $246.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. Sony A77II

    Pros:
    • Shoots a blazing fast 12 FPS at full resolution
    • Battery life of 480 photos is excellent
    • Incredibly fast auto-focus system
    • Built-in image stabilization
    Cons:
    • Not a “true” DSLR by some standards as the viewfinder is electronic
    • Expensive. High FPS and megapixels won’t affect many users
    • Sometimes the auto-exposure is inconsistent

    The Sony A77II is an interesting DSLR because well, it’s not a DSLR in the purest sense of the term. Most DSLRS have their users looking through a mirror and right out the lens. Yet, the Sony A77II has a digital viewfinder (notable for its crisp, high-resolution). Some people like this feature and some people hate it. For some, manually focusing is very difficult on an optical viewfinder. However, there is something organic and simple about seeing what the lens sees. No matter your choice, this is one of the only real drawbacks to this camera and it will only apply to some.

    Because the A77II works similarly to a mirrorless camera, it can take pictures incredibly fast. It shoots at 12 frames per second. This is blazingly fast, much quicker than even Canon DSLRs that are significantly more expensive. For instance, the 7D Mark II shoots 10 FPS, but it costs $1499 (see more info on Amazon).

    This camera also has super autofocus and solid low light capabilities, only just below Sony cameras that cost over 50% more. This is a superb DSLR to start with if your budget is in the $1,500 range (the cost of this camera and with a good lens) and you want to shoot sports or other fast-moving photographic subjects, and you don’t mind the lack of an optical viewfinder.

    This camera may be overkill for many beginners since it’s wildly capable and complex. Sony’s auto modes are not the best in the business, but for the beginner looking to buckle down and take pictures at a very fast rate, this camera is incomparable for its value.

  2. Canon 70D With 18-55mm Lens

    Pros:
    • Shoots 7.0 FPS at 20.2 megapixels
    • Unreal battery life of 920 photos
    • Legendary vlogging camera with solid auto-focus and fully articulating screen
    • Includes one year warranty
    Cons:
    • Known issue with overheating means short lifetime for some
    • A few users have issues with the focusing system
    • Low light performance is subpar

    The Canon 70D has become famous because of vlogger Casey Neistat. Neistat loves this cam’s fully articulating screen and auto-focus. Take it from the YouTube star (a 70D-related Neistat video here), if one can afford it, this is simply the camera to vlog with.

    But what about pictures?

    Well, the 70D offers several formidable features strictly for photographers. It boasts filters, decent dynamic range (in-camera), and multiple exposure control (allowing one to take a variety of pictures and edit them in-camera). It shoots raw and at a very decent seven frames per second. So what are the drawbacks?

    At this price, the camera might simply be overkill for some users. Sure, you get Canon’s rockstar reliability, but you’re really paying for a lot of fancy features that many photographers simply don’t need. One can definitely get shallow depth-of-field cheaper, and for most people, shooting seven frames per second just isn’t that valuable.

    This camera is ideal for someone who wants to get into vlogging and also wants a formidable stills camera. It’s not great for someone looking to shoot low light. It’s also not a great value for someone looking for something simple and affordable.

  3. Sony Alpha a6000

    Pros:
    • Shoots 11 FPS at 24 megapixels
    • Battery life of 420 photos is decent (some users report lower)
    • Blazing auto-focus
    • Great low light quality
    Cons:
    • Not truly a DSLR; shallow focus can be tough to achieve
    • No built in image stabilization
    • Some users had issues with overheating when shooting video
    • A few users complained of the build quality
    • Sony lenses run expensive and have inferior selection to Nikon or Canon

    The a6000 is not a DSLR. We’ve included it on this list simply because the landscape has changed with mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras. This tiny beast has one drawback to a pure DSLR: you are not looking through the lens, but rather at a digital viewfinder. If that’s a dealbreaker for you, then skip right on to the next item in this list. If not, here’s why this camera is a great deal: beastly autofocus, high image quality, and tiny body size, and decent low-light quality.

    This is not to say the camera is perfect. Two big issues with this camera are that it’s ergonomically only acceptable. Holding this camera just isn’t the same as holding a nice, snug, mid-sized DSLR. Another issue is that the battery life isn’t great. It has interchangeable lenses just like a DLSR. It shoots fast, autofocuses quickly, and takes great pics. We included this camera here not because it’s truly a DSLR, but because for many people this is the camera that leaves them saying, “Wait, why did I think I needed a DSLR?”

  4. Nikon D5300 With 18-55mm Lens

    Pros:
    • Shoots 5 FPS at 24.2 megapixels
    • Shoots 1080P video at 60 FPS
    • Battery life is great allowing for over 400 photos
    • Decent low light performance
    Cons:
    • Live view auto-focus isn’t great
    • Wi-fi features aren’t ideal
    • Not a great camera for sports or fast-moving shots
    • Photo review is slow (for seeing the pictures you just took)

    The Nikon D5300 is a great deal. Boasting awesome megapixel count and decently fast shooting at five frames per second, this is one DSLR powerhouse at a very reasonable price. The image quality is superb. Images are tack sharp, detailed, and with superb color. Its LCD screen is great with lots of pixels for a clear look at what you’re shooting, with an optical viewfinder that will let you see through the lens should you so desire. Battery life is great and the camera also has a GPS feature.

    So what are the drawbacks? The weak points here include poor Wi-Fi and some clunky menu setups. Some users pointed to having to sift through menus, and others were annoyed with the delay in image review times. Otherwise, this camera shoots great pictures and even takes 1080P at 60FPS for great videos. This model is also refurbished which may bother some. This camera with the same lens can be found new for $525 on Amazon, but the refurbished version differs from being “used.” These certified refurbished cameras are examined by the manufacturer and come with a 90-day warranty.

  5. Canon Rebel T6 With 18-55 Lens

    Pros:
    • Shoots 18 megapixel stills at three frames per second
    • Shoots 1080P video
    • Decent ergonomics make it easy to carry and shoot
    • Auto-focus is fine for stills
    Cons:
    • Auto-focus is poor for videos
    • Screen is stuck to the back of the camera, it doesn’t articulate
    • Build quality is decent, but it couldn’t survive a drop
    • If you don’t have a reason to go Canon specifically, Nikon D3300 (below) is a better overall value

    While some may be inclined to spring for the higher priced T6I ($749.99 on Amazon), it’s hard to defend the benefits of spending so close to the price of a 70D for so much less camera. Hence the reason the T6 makes our list. The biggest drawback compared to its successor is that the T6 does not have a fully articulating screen. The screen of this camera does not extend or move from the body, meaning it’s not really cut out for vlogging. It also has fewer megapixels, but for most users, this 30 percent difference or so won’t drastically impact your picture quality, unless you’re blowing images up to enormous sizes.

    Let’s talk perks. The T6 has great buttons and simple beginner modes. It has great ergonomics and acceptable build quality (though it may not survive a drop with its relatively lightweight plastic). It’s small and easy to carry around. The LCD screen is bright enough to work in daylight and offers one a decent view of what the lens sees. Canon’s menu systems are the simplest to use, and the camera also includes Wi-Fi and other features. Auto-focus is great for stills, but it’s lacking for video (bump up to the 70D for high quality auto-focus on videos).

    Now, it may not be the fastest gun in the west at a mere three frames per second, but it gets the job done in a nice form factor, at a great price. This is a great beginner camera with a solid smattering of features at a very reasonable price.

  6. Nikon D3400 With 18-55 Lens (Editor’s Choice)

    Pros:
    • Shoots 24.2 megapixels at 5 FPS
    • Battery life of over 700 photos
    • Excellent image quality
    • Shoots 1080P 60 FPS video
    • Superb dynamic range when using RAW
    Cons:
    • One user had an issue with a button breaking
    • Viewfinder window is small making manual focusing tough
    • Low light quality is poor
    • Some users had issues with the flash
    • Video quality is not comparable to photo quality

    For overall value, the Nikon D3400 is unbeatable for photography. It shoots 24 megapixels at five frames per second. It may not be the fastest gun in the west, but it certainly competes and offers great detail to boot. It’s around the same price as the SL1 (below) with a decent lens, but it has more megapixels and takes stills a little bit faster. If you’re not in the Canon lens system, and you don’t prioritize video, then the D3400 will leave you more than happy and here’s why: the image quality is outstanding. According to DXOMark.com, widely considered to be a top source for objective sensor data, the D3400 has the 33rd best sensor of any camera on the market; no small feat considering every camera above it costs over $1,000.* Check out some image samples (DPreview.com); the quality speaks for itself and at this price point, for photography, this camera is top notch. It punches well above its class.

    *=DXOmark lists the Samsung NX500 as being below $1,000 at $800, but it’s listed on Amazon for almost double this price.

  7. Canon SL1

    Pros:
    • Shoots 4 FPS at 18 megapixels
    • Shoots 1080 video at 30 FPS
    • Camera is very lightweight
    • Movie Servo AF allows continuous focus tracking
    Cons:
    • No stereo mic
    • No built-in WiFi
    • Some users had issues with camera’s durability
    • One user had issue with camera’s light metering
    • No lens included; you’ll have to buy one

    The SL1 is perfect for those looking for a tiny, light DSLR that still boasts a lot of power. It’s the best overall value on the list. It shoots 18 megapixels at four frames per second and a slew of video recording options including 1080P video recording at 30 FPS. This camera is great for someone who needs a camera that can take video, but is a solid performer with photography as well. The movie autofocus is also solid, unique for cameras in this price range.

    The screen does not articulate and the megapixel count is lower than other cameras. It also boasts less overall features than the T6 with a slightly inferior build quality. Still, ultimately for most users it’s tough to see how this camera could be anything but the best value. It shoots enough megapixels at a great quality. The autofocus is great for stills and video, and the video quality is very solid. That’s just not available at this low of a price and is only seen in the 70D above. This camera isn’t the best at anything, but it is the cheapest camera that’s still good at everything. Of course, the caveat here is that for vlogging, one will not be able to watch themselves while they record, since the screen is stuck to the back of the camera. In short, the SL1 is the way to go if you need a great stills camera and a video camera with good auto-focus. Those are rare traits, but admittedly, not everyone needs those features.

  8. Canon Rebel T5 With 18-55mm Lens

    Pros:
    • Shoots 18 megapixels at three FPS
    • Included lens has image stabilization
    • Battery life of over 500 photos
    Cons:
    • Screen does not articulate
    • Autofocus during videos isn’t great
    • Some users had issues with the picture quality
    • No microphone jack for videos

    The Rebel T5 is slightly cheaper than the SL1 and offers one key advantage: it’s a lot cheaper. Sure, you lose the great autofocus in video, but what you get is a full camera that’s $10 cheaper and includes a lens (note that the SL1 above requires a lens). The T5 is a formidable camera for stills and it’s acceptable for video, but fiddling around with the autofocus can be annoying with these cameras. Still if you’re adamant about getting a DSLR that shoots great stills (and don’t care for auto-focus in video), the T5 is the camera to beat. This camera will fulfill your Instagram needs.

  9. Canon SX530 Powershot

    Pros:
    • Shoots 16 megapixels pictures
    • Built in 50x optical zoom
    • Built-in Wi-Fi
    • Shoots 1080P video
    Cons:
    • Not a DSLR, shallow focus will be tough to achieve
    • One user had issues with the light metering
    • Some users found the camera too complicated
    • One user found video and audio quality lacking
    • Low light performance is poor

    This camera and the one below it are absolutely not DSLRs, but we’ve included them here for one simple reason: many people just don’t need a DSLR. Technology on point-and-shoot cameras has progressed immensely. Now, there is one immediate want that this camera and the Nikon do not fulfill: the want for shallow depth of field. If you need blurry backgrounds and sharp foregrounds, these cameras will not work for you.

    Otherwise, the SX530 does something that no DSLR can at an affordable price: zooms VERY far. This tiny beast shoots 50x optical zoom. That’s equivalent to a 1008mm lens on a DSLR, and no one wants to lug that telescope of a telephoto around. It also shoots 1080P video of a decent quality.

    Small point-and-shoots are nice because you can bring them everything, but of course, the optical quality is reduced. Still, for nature shots on a budgets (such as of animals that are far away), the SX530 is tough to beat. For certain users, keep to point and shoots will keep things easy and this camera has made many users happy. Another benefit of this camera is that no one will hassle you if you want to bring it into a concert or sporting event whereas sometimes DSLRs are banned at these events.

    A second major drawback here is low light performance. If you’re looking to shoot at night, a point and shoot just won’t do it. These cameras produce noisy photographs in low light situations or demand flash, which can be obnoxious and is seldom kind to photo quality.

  10. Nikon Coolpix L340

    Pros:
    • Shoots 20 megapixels pictures
    • Built in 28x optical zoom
    • Built-in Wi-Fi
    • Shoots 1080P video
    Cons:
    • Not a DSLR, shallow focus will be tough to achieve
    • One user had issues with the light metering
    • Some users found the camera too complicated
    • One user found video and audio quality lacking

    Similar to the above point and shoot, the Coolpix L340 isn’t a DSLR, but it does shine where the SX530 stumbles: it takes acceptable low-light photos. Boasting 28x optical zoom and using AA batteries, this camera truly sees what many cameras don’t, but it will require constant purchasing of batteries (or the purchase of rechargeable batteries). Still at 20 megapixels, boasting built-in image stabilization and 720P video, this is a great point and shoot for those looking to get a decent camera on the cheap. 20 megapixels is certainly nothing to sneeze at especially with the large zoom range.

Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

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