Anyone can create better images with a DSLR
if you're a novice photographer, experts say you can quickly learn to capture
better photos with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera than with a
point-and-shoot model. Here's why:
- Image quality: DSLRs' big sensors will make your photos look
clearer and less grainy. Often, you can skip the flash. Even if you set a DSLR
in a point-and-shoot automatic mode, you'll wind up with better photos than
with a dedicated point-and-shoot camera.
- Speed: Even the slowest cameras in this report can shoot 5 frames
per second (fps), and some up to 7 fps. They start up almost instantly, too. You
can capture fast-action sports and the perfect blow-out-the-candles moment, and
painlessly achieve that one family photo where everyone's eyes are open.
- You can change the lens: This opens the door to an entirely new
world of photography. Options include super-wide-angle lenses, super-zoom
lenses and more to get the perfect shot for a variety of situations.
- You can get creative: Blur fast-moving subjects, set a shallow depth
of field for a professional-looking portrait, or use multiple exposures to
combine several photos for action sequences or overlapping layers; DSLRs let
you create all kinds of effects.
- Video: Every DSLR in this report can shoot HD video with the same
advantages, including better image quality, a choice of lenses and more.
do have their drawbacks: They're bigger, heavier and usually more expensive
than point-and-shoot cameras. A good beginner DSLR starts at about $400, while
entry-pro DSLRs cost about $2,000 and up. In this report, we focus on models
under $1,500; most non-professional consumers can find a high-quality DSLR for
around $1,100 or less.
Even the most dedicated photographers don't always
carry a bulky DSLR everywhere, so you may still want a smaller digital camera
for backup. For the best picks, see our separate report on digital cameras.
That report also includes coverage of hybrid cameras -- mirrorless cameras that
have interchangeable lenses like a DSLR but are small enough to fit into a
jacket pocket. These cameras are faster than DSLRs and have electronic
The best DSLR cameras for
beginners and advanced users
expensive DSLR cameras can help you learn to use a digital SLR without breaking
your budget. But these aren't stripped-down models. They offer most of the same
features as pricier cameras, and experts say they'll deliver equally
outstanding photos for your albums and frames.
reveal that there are several outstanding options in this category, but the (Est. $550 and up) just edges out the competition. Experts often say to ignore megapixel
ratings when comparing cameras, but be that as it may, the D3300's 24.2
megapixels does beat out its similarly priced, nearly as well-regarded
competitors, which top out around 20 megapixels. While expert reviewers like
higher priced cameras even more, the Nikon D3300 earns favorable ratings for
its class. One consumer testing organization names the Nikon D3300 a top pick,
noting that it's a bit smaller and lighter (17 ounces with lens) than
Nikon D3300 comes with a standard 3x (18-55 mm) zoom lens, and also in kits
that include a fixed-focal length (50 mm) normal lens or a telephoto (55-200
mm) lens. This entry-level DSLR offers image stabilization, a must-have feature
for capturing quality photos, and a 700-shot battery life that rivals many
higher-priced models. Testers say both photo and video quality are good, even
taking sharp photos in low-light conditions without a flash and with very
little visual noise. The Nikon D3300 is one of the top-rated DSLRs on
Amazon.com, earning a rating of 4.7 stars after more than 900 owner-written
say that the D3300 is ideal for entry-level users, offering the right mix of
ease of use and quality performance. However, once you learn the basics of
photography, you might crave a faster, more sophisticated camera. That's where
step-up entry-level DSLRs come in. They're easy enough for a beginner to master,
but advanced enough that you won't outgrow the camera quickly.
The (Est. $750 and up) is a step above the popular
D3300 beginner model, both in terms of price and features. Like the D3300, it
has a resolution of 24.2 megapixels and a 5 fps shooting speed, but the D500
boasts longer battery life (enough capacity for around 820 shots). Its
high-resolution, swiveling LCD viewer offers an intuitive, smartphone-like
touchscreen, and it's capable of recording HD video for capturing action or
creating effects such as slow motion. With built-in Wi-Fi capability, you can
easily share photos or even control your camera remotely from your mobile
device. It can be purchased as a camera body only, or in a kit with either a
standard 3X zoom lens or a choice of two different telephoto lenses.
reviews generally praise the D5500 as a more-advanced model for the budding enthusiast.
The lack of an anti-aliasing filter (optical low-pass) enables the camera's
sensor to decipher greater detail, a plus in experts' eyes, though that also makes
this camera more likely to be affected by patterning – often occurring
when photographing repeated patterns such as pinstripes or checkered clothing
or surfaces. Reviewers also note the D5500's small size compared to most DSLRs
and its ease of use, although some say that the small size means that the
controls may feel a bit cramped, particularly for users with large hands. The
Nikon D5500 does come in a choice of black or red.
the Nikon D5500 is a little too compact for your liking, the (Est. $850 and up) is another DSLR to consider. Like the Nikon
D5500, the T6S offers 24 megapixel resolution and a swiveling, touchscreen LCD
display. It's also Wi-Fi enabled and can shoot at a rate of 5 fps. The main
downside in comparison to the Nikon D5500 is the Canon's shorter battery life, enough
for just 180 shots. It's also slightly slower at capturing an in-focus image
from start to finish, at about 0.7 seconds versus the Nikon D5500's 0.2
seconds. The Canon Rebel T6S is a bit larger physically than the D5500, but professional
reviewers note that its larger size allows for a better control layout, which
may be more comfortable for users with larger hands to operate.
Semi-pro DSLRs for the
up in class once again, you'll find semi-pro DSLRs that experts say will
satisfy most serious photography enthusiasts. In this category, you get faster
frame rates and shutter speeds, a sturdier build, more sophisticated autofocus
and other advanced features.
The (Est. $1,050 and up) is an update to our previous Best Reviewed advanced DSLR
camera, the still available (Est. $1,100).The
D7200 has 24.2 megapixel resolution and can shoot at rates as fast as at 6 fps,
or up to 7 fps in 1.3x crop mode (which uses less of the image sensor, with the
trade-off being somewhat lower resolution). It weighs a bit more than other
models at 26 ounces, but offers a substantial 1,110-shot battery life –
an increase of about 15 percent over its predecessor. A rapid start-up time,
short next-shot delay, and wireless capabilities put the D7200 on par with
other top-quality DSLRs, but with a few extras -- such as two memory card slots
-- that set it a bit apart. On the downside, while the Nikon D7200's LCD
display is ample in size (3.2 inches) and resolution, it's fixed in place
– no swiveling like other Nikon models – and surprisingly, it's not
point out several key improvements that the D7200 enjoys compared to its
predecessor, including a newer processor and a larger image buffer (up to 100
JPEG images) -- an especially welcome improvement for users who photograph
wildlife or sports. Additionally, the camera is NFC (Near Field Communication)
enabled, meaning NFC-enabled smartphones and tablets can be connected with a
tap for easy image sharing.
The (Est. $1,000 and up) is another
alternative. It boasts an outstanding autofocus feature, 20.2 megapixel resolution
and a rated battery life of 210 shots. The Canon EOS 70D also includes an
articulated touch-screen LCD as well as built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. The EOS 70D is
noted for its especially high-quality video, and at 7 fps, its burst rate is
faster than many other DSLR cameras.
reviewers say the Canon EOS 70D is ideal for practically any semi-professional
shooting situation including both video and stills of sporting events,
portraits, outdoor landscapes, and more, both in indoor and outdoor settings. It's
Achilles heel is that in low-light settings, the Canon EOS 70D produced blurry
shots in some professional tests, although the flash illuminates subjects well
at both near and far distances and provides excellent and even coverage.
Editors from one professional testing organization say that the Canon EOS 70D takes
video quality better than most DSLRs (though 4K support is missing) and offers
a faster start-up time and shorter next-shot delay than most models.
EOS 70D has built up a solid track record and remains available for now, but
Canon has released its successor, the (Est. $1,200 and up). Initial expert and user reviews are equally positive. That said,
the improvements are described by experts as more evolutionary than revolutionary.
"While the 70D was a significant technological upgrade over its 60D
predecessor, the new Canon 80D successor builds upon the 70D's foundation with
a host of improvements and updates, though perhaps not groundbreaking ones,"
reports Imaging-Resource.com. Upgrades include a higher-resolution image sensor
(24. 2 megapixels), an upgraded processor, and an improved autofocus system.
Expert & User Review Sources
found hundreds of expert reviews on sites like Amateur Photographer, DPReview.com, Imaging-Resource.com, TechRadar.com, PCMag.com, and
others. Professional reviewers put digital SLRs to the test by snapping
hundreds of shots and evaluating ease of use, features, photo quality in various
lighting conditions, and more. Editors at ConsumerReports.org compare 26
DSLRs in head-to-head testing, rating each for ease of use, video quality, LCD
photos, flash photos, and other performance indicators, also noting key
features such as megapixels, weight, and battery life. We turned to Amazon.com and other user review sites to analyze thousands of owner-written reviews for
insight into durability and real-world performance.