Today’s manufacturers have flooded the entry-level segment with appealing options. But, so much so, that’s now potentially difficult for first-time buyers to determine which camera is best for them. There are many factors to consider, such as price, performance, and ease of use.
And if you’re upgrading from a point & shoot or compact, the best options will change based on what features are most important to you. In this list, we’ve compiled a list of the most budget-friendly, feature-rich options DSLR cameras for beginners from various manufacturers in today’s market.
Table of Contents
To give you confidence knowing which, out of the dozens available, are the top contenders now.
Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D
Canon’s Rebel T100 is Canon’s latest stripped back entry-level DSLR that sits below their T7. And the camera Canon aims as the perfect step-up from a smartphone. It features an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 4+ image processor, 1080p full HD video up to 30 fps, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 9-point AF system, where the central-most post is cross-type compatible. Battery life is average for the class at 500 shots per charge. But, at 436 g with the battery and SD card installed, it’s one of Canon’s lightest SLRs around, almost as light as their SL3. And the camera obtains Canon’s Creative Auto Mode, which allows users to achieve the desired look by merely swiping sliders to change background blur. And this mode virtually removes any need to understand the camera settings involved with getting specific aesthetics to images.
Overall, Canon’s Rebel T100 is arguably the cheapest SLR on the market to date. And while simple, it’s hard for budget-conscious users to complain here about the performance it offers for this price.
Nikon’s D3500 marks the latest entry into the D3000 series. And it’s a camera that Nikon aims squarely at beginners looking for an upgrade over a smartphone. Initially released in the fall of 2018, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the EXPEED 4 image processor, 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps, and Bluetooth connectivity.
It uses an 11-point autofocusing system with 3D and Dynamic tracking, a combination Nikon typically reserves for their higher-end professional models. 3D tracking allows the camera’s AF points to work together, dramatically increasing the camera’s precision when tracking subjects. It’s also one of a few entry-level cameras to remove the Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter from the sensor, giving the camera resolving power that closely matches Nikon’s flagship D500. And its battery life is class-leading, easily delivering 1,550 shots per charge.
Overall, while the D3500 is a simple camera, it provides outstanding image quality and remains Nikon’s top entry-level option to date.
The Pentax K-70 is a camera Pentax pitches towards the outdoor photography market. Initially released in the summer of 2016, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor without an Anti-Aliasing filter, 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps, and image stabilization. It also has a 3.0-inch fully articulating screen, time-lapse, HDR, multi-exposure, 6 fps burst shooting, a microphone input, weather sealing, and wireless connectivity.
It uses an 11-point hybrid autofocusing system, where 9 of these points are cross-type compatible. This system melds traditional contrast and phase-detection systems together, improving accuracy. Though, battery life is average at 480 shots per charge. However, Pentax equipped this camera with in-body image stabilization, which compensates for camera shake. Plus, it has their Pixel Shift Resolution Mode, which uses the stabilization to combine four images in-camera for ultra-fine details and better colors, a rare feature in this class.
Overall, the Pentax K-70 is a solid and well-built camera for enthusiasts that’s packed with innovative features. Pentax is known for delivering high-end features typically reserved for premium models into the entry-level segment. And the K-70 is surely no exception. Combined with its Pixel Shift Resolution mode and weather-sealed design, it’s quite an appealing choice for aspiring nature or landscape shooters.
Canon EOS 77D / EOS 9000D
Canon’s 77D is the unofficial successor to the incredibly popular T6S and is a camera Canon offers as an extra option in their lower mid-range lineup. Initially released in the spring of 2017, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 7 image processor, 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps. And it also has a 3.0-inch fully articulating touchscreen, digital stabilization, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 45-point all cross-type autofocusing system with Canon’s renowned Dual Pixel CMOS AF for smooth and confident focusing. And it was officially the first Rebel series camera to obtain this high-end feature. Battery life is okay for the class at 600 shots per charge. However, where this camera shines is its excellent user interface, which is straightforward and easily mastered. And it delivers an autofocusing system that provides excellent subject tracking, which makes cinematic rack focusing as simple as tapping on the screen.
Overall, in many ways, Canon’s 77D is a modern and budget-friendly version of their incredibly popular 80D. It obtains much of the advanced semi-professional features in a lightweight and compact package. Yet, it stays at the affordable Rebel series price-point, which is perfect for beginners. And it remains a step above the more basic Rebel camera, without the back-breaking demands of a pro-level camera.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D
Canon’s Rebel T7i is yet another smashing release in the Rebel lineup of entry-level SLRs that continues the lasting tradition and principles behind the line. Initially released in the spring of 2017, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 7 image processor, and 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps. It also has a 3.0 fully articulating touchscreen, electronic image stabilization, HDR, time-lapse movies, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 45-point all cross-type AF system with Canon’s acclaimed Dual Pixel CMOS AF, a similar setup to the 77D. And it marked the second camera in the Rebel lineup to obtain this high-end autofocusing system. Though, its battery life is average for the class at 600 shots per charge. However, Canon’s equipped this camera with the Feature Assistance interface, which explains both simple and advanced features with easy-to-understand graphics. The camera also offers a full touch user interface that is easy to navigate and simple to master.
Overall, Canon’s Rebel T7i inherits much of the capabilities and functionality as the higher-end 80D. Yet, it’s budget-friendly and affordable, which makes it more attractive for beginners.
Nikon’s D7500 represents the latest addition to the semi-professional D7000 series, serving as an economically attractive alternative to the flagship D500 model. Initially launched in the summer of 2017, it boasts a 20.9-megapixel CMOS sensor devoid of an Anti-Aliasing filter, the powerful EXPEED 5 image processor, 4K UHD video capabilities at up to 30 frames per second, and 1080p full HD video recording at up to 60 frames per second. This camera is also equipped with a versatile 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, digital image stabilization, robust weather sealing, as well as headphone and microphone inputs, while offering seamless wireless connectivity.
The D7500 is equipped with a 51-point phase-detection autofocus (AF) system, featuring 15 advanced cross-type AF points. With the enhanced processor, this camera boasts Face-Detection and 3D-tracking, delivering the most exceptional subject tracking performance in the series to date. Additionally, its battery life is noteworthy, capable of capturing up to 950 shots on a single charge. Nikon has thoughtfully included a tilting touchscreen that facilitates full menu navigation and adjustments, simplifying the user experience. Moreover, with complete weather sealing and a rapid continuous shooting rate of 8 frames per second for up to 100 images, it confidently outperforms its competitors in terms of capability.
In summary, the Nikon D7500 stands as a hidden gem within Nikon’s product lineup, offering the remarkable speed and capabilities of their flagship camera in a considerably more affordable package. This camera provides users with an attractive option to enjoy the benefits of the D500 without the associated high cost.
Canon EOS 90D
Canon’s 90D has been eagerly awaited as the successor to the highly acclaimed EOS 80D, and it delivers a significant upgrade in performance. Introduced in the autumn of 2019, this camera boasts a 32.5-megapixel CMOS sensor, is powered by the DIGIC 8 image processor, and is capable of shooting 4K UHD video at up to 30 frames per second, along with 1080p video at speeds of up to 120 frames per second. Additionally, it features a versatile 3.0-inch fully articulating touchscreen, impressive 10 frames per second burst shooting, robust weather sealing, and provisions for both headphone and microphone inputs.
It obtains the confident 45-point all-cross type autofocusing system for composing through the viewfinder. However, unlike recent release, it receives the best iteration of Canon’s Dual Pixel AF to date, which now offers a total of 5,481 selectable AF points. These two systems combine to create the best focusing camera Canon has outside of their flagship 1DX. It also debuts the world’s first 32.5MP sensor, making it the highest-resolution APS-C camera outside of Canon’s M6 Mark II. Plus, Canon’s even equipped the camera with uncropped 4K video and full HD 120 fps, for super slow-motion. And even with its performance, the battery life is excellent at 1,300 shots per charge.
Overall, Canon’s 90D stands tall as a prime example of a camera that blends the lines between traditional DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It’s a game setting release from Canon and sets a new definition of what’s possible from an SLR camera. It adds notable upgrades over the successor and is easily the best release of the series to date.
Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D
Canon’s SL3 is their latest entry into the Super Lightweight category in the Rebel lineup. And it’s a camera they situate just below the T7i. Initially released in the summer of 2019, it features 24.1-megapixel CMOS, the DIGIC 8 image processor, 4K UHD video up to 24 fps, and 1080p full HD video up to 60 fps. It also has a 3.0-inch fully articulating touchscreen, 4K time-lapse, electronic image stabilization, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 9-point autofocusing system with a central cross-type point. And it obtains Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, now with eye-detection for pleasing portraits. Battery life is also excellent at 1,070 shots per charge. And, this new model also gains Canon’s Creative Assist, Feature Assist, and the Shooting Mode Guide, combining for thorough explanations of virtually every shooting setting. Yet, while fully featured, the SL3 is currently Canon’s smallest and lightest DSLR to date.
Overall, Canon’s SL3 offers substantial improvements over the SL2 with a brand new sensor, 4K video, and superior battery life. And while it’s the smallest EOS camera to date, its performance rivals it’s bigger and bulkier siblings.
Nikon’s D5600 is the advanced entry-level option and the flagship in the D5000 lineup. Compared to the D3000 series, it adds advanced features and functionality that makes it more tailored towards enthusiasts looking to hone their skills. But, not so advanced, it’ll overwhelm beginners. Initially released in the spring of 2017, it features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor without an Anti-Aliasing filter, the EXPEED 4 image processor, and 1080p Full HD video up to 60 fps. It als has a 3.2-inch fully articulating touchscreen, time-lapse, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.
It uses a 39-point autofocusing system, where 9 are the higher-end cross-type compatible points, increasing accuracy. And unlike the more straightforward D3000 series, it features a fully articulating touchscreen. This touchscreen provides superior versatility when shooting, and combined with Nikon’s excellent touch interface; it creates a very intuitive navigating experience. Battery life is also great for the class, and the camera provides 820 shots per charge.
Overall, while the D5600 is simple and straightforward, it’s not basic. It provides significant upgrades over its predecessor, the D5500 with added connectivity, time-lapse recording, and a polished touch interface. Yet, it remains just as easy to operate, with its practical control set that’s comprehensive but easily masted.
Canon EOS Rebel T8i
The Canon Rebel T8i, the most recent addition and current flagship model in the Rebel series, succeeds the T7i. It made its debut in the spring of 2020, showcasing a 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, powered by the DIGIC 8 image processor, and delivers 4K UHD video at up to 24 frames per second, along with 1080p full HD video at speeds of up to 60 frames per second. Notably, it sports a versatile 3.0-inch fully articulating touchscreen, offers 4K time-lapse functionality, enables 7 frames per second burst shooting, features a microphone input, and includes wireless connectivity.
The camera employs a 45-point all cross-type AF system that incorporates face detection and Eye-Detection. An updated metering system also introduces Face Detection tracking to viewfinder shooting, a novel feature that’s relatively uncommon in DSLRs. In addition, Canon has integrated vertical video support, a specialized feature tailored to vloggers for convenient sharing on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok. Furthermore, the camera boasts impressive battery life, offering the capability to capture up to 1,240 shots on a single charge.
Overall, Canon’s T8i is their most advanced EOS Rebel yet. It provides refreshing improvements in the tried and true 24MP package in faster bursts, better video, and upgraded autofocusing. And it packs a healthy amount of advanced features in a budget-friendly price point.
DSLR Camera For Beginners Buyers Guide
What to Consider When Purchasing a Camera?
Before delving into the specifics and individual factors to take into account, it’s essential to recognize that acquiring a camera extends beyond the initial purchase. When you invest in a camera, you also become part of its comprehensive ecosystem of lenses and accessories. This ecosystem can often become a permanent commitment due to the costs involved in switching systems.
Regrettably, not all camera ecosystems offer the same level of versatility. Some lack proper cross-compatibility through adapters or third-party support. Therefore, it is wise to conduct thorough research on your options before settling on a particular brand. This ensures that you select the ecosystem that best aligns with your needs, without incurring long-term expenses.
Several factors influence the quality of images produced by a camera. As your skills evolve, you’ll become less dependent on the camera itself. Nevertheless, there are several key takeaways to keep in mind:
Sensor size is paramount in determining image quality. A larger sensor collects more light, resulting in superior low-light performance. Most entry-level DSLRs have sensors approximately 1.6 times larger than those found in smartphones, making it a compelling reason for new photographers to consider an upgrade.
Manual aperture control allows you to adjust the background blur, creating a pleasing out-of-focus area behind your subject. This feature sets cameras apart from most smartphones.
Image stabilization is crucial in reducing the impact of hand tremors when holding the camera at arm’s length. It is available in optical or electronic forms, with optical stabilization generally delivering superior results.
Ease of Use
Mastering photography takes time, and a complex camera can be intimidating for beginners. A user-friendly interface and straightforward controls are essential for an easy learning curve. Look for cameras with layouts and controls that make sense to you, and consider models that offer on-screen tips or guides to simplify the process.
The size and form of the camera are often overlooked but are critical considerations. Not all DSLRs are compact and portable. It’s important to evaluate the camera’s form factor, weight, and ergonomics to ensure it aligns with your preferences and needs. While most DSLRs weigh around 550g, some compact options, like Canon’s SL3, weigh around 400g, making them more travel-friendly.
As you progress in your photography journey, you’ll desire greater control over exposure and focus settings. Look for cameras that offer manual control options, allowing you to capture images without artificial limitations. However, avoid overly complicated options that could hinder your workflow.
A single lens has its limitations, and as you advance, you’ll want to explore various perspectives and angles. This is where an interchangeable lens system is invaluable. It allows you to adapt to different scenarios by attaching wide-angle or telephoto lenses. An interchangeable lens camera offers endless possibilities and long-term versatility compared to fixed-lens cameras.
Body Only or Kit
Beginner DSLR buyers have two options: “body only” or a kit. Opting for the “body only” choice means purchasing the camera alone, which may save money but is suitable for existing photographers with compatible lenses. For newcomers, a kit bundle, which includes the camera, a variable zoom lens, and often extras like an SD card, card reader, and tripod, is a practical choice. These bundles not only save you money but also simplify the setup process.
Features & Long-term Potential
Cameras differ in features, and while most DSLRs offer fewer features compared to mirrorless cameras, it’s important to consider the long-term potential of your chosen camera. Look for models with advanced features to accommodate your growth as a photographer. Prioritize cameras that offer features like:
- High-quality lenses and accessories
- Advanced shooting modes
- Wireless connectivity options
- Durable build quality
- Compatibility with a range of accessories
- Expandable storage options
- High Dynamic Range (HDR)
- 4K Video
- Slow-motion video
- Live Composite
- High Res Shot
- Focus Stacking
- Focus Bracketing
- Multiple Exposures
- Image Stabilization
- Vertical Video
- Live Streaming
Choosing the right camera involves careful consideration of these factors to ensure your investment meets your current needs and accommodates your future growth as a photographer.
Is Canon or Nikon better for beginners?
An age-old question indeed. But, in today’s market, things have changed. And gone are the days of DSLR ruling the market share. Instead, the DSLR titans of Canon and Nikon carry much smaller percentages of the market.
But to answer the question, neither is best. Both manufacturers have an excellent selection of beginner-friendly DSLRs. And each of their products are intuitive and easy to understand. But they’re not the only players in this arena these days. Both Panasonic and Fujifilm have equally strong options. So the best camera now comes down to personal taste and the form factor you enjoy most.
How Much Should I Spend on my First camera?
Everyone’s budget is different. But, it’s fair to say that most beginners don’t feel comfortable spending thousands on a new camera at first. After all, this is your first time trying photography, and you’ll want to ensure it’s something you enjoy long-term. Plus, you may not initially like the ecosystem you first enter. So maybe you’ll want to try another brand.
And it’s for these reasons why we recommend a starting price between $500-1,000. And even $1,000 in many cases is pushing it, especially for an entry-level DSLR. You can get plenty of power and functionality from DSLRs around the $500 mark, so no worries if you’re on a budget.
Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Photography PX Published June 15, 2020