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The best DSLR in 2022: Chunky, classic camera designs still loved today

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)

The best DSLRs still stack up really well against the latest mirrorless cameras, especially if you value old school handling over the latest gadgets. Mirrorless cameras may be all the range now, but DSLR design still offers strong, chunky build, value for money and a range of lenses that mirrorless cameras have yet to match. We've tested every DSLR on the market, and these are our favorites right now.

The best DSLRs are not that far behind their mirrorless counterparts, even today. Many DSLRs include modern mirrorless features such as 4K video, on-sensor phase detect autofocus and effective live view modes. 

We have an article on DSLRs vs mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab) that spells out all the technical and practical differences, and while mirrorless cameras do have very clear advantages in some respects, it's by no means one-sided.

DSLRs are an affordable way of making the jump from a camera phone or a point and shoot compact camera. Another big advantage of investing in a DSLR over a mirrorless camera is that you've got years' worth of lenses to choose from. For more on this, check out our guide to the best camera lenses (opens in new tab) to buy.

So here we've rounded up what we think are the best DSLR cameras right now. We start off with affordable and easy to use beginner cameras and work up to fully fledged professional models that still have what it takes to satisfy many pro photographers.

We do think, though, that there are a handful of DSLR highlights that deserve special attention. The Nikon D3500 is, was, and perhaps always will be the best no-frills beginner DSLR you can get, while the Nikon D850 is a beefy professional camera that's a joy to use and has the resolution, shooting speed and even video capabilities to be relevant today. And for enthusiasts, the powerful Canon EOS 90D does everything the best mirrorless cameras in its class can do, with the handling and optical viewfinder of a DSLR.

The best DSLRs in 2022

(Image credit: Future)
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The Nikon D850 is one of our all-time favorites, with solid build, great controls, resolution and speed

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Lens mount: Nikon FX
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 2,359,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Mighty resolving power
+
Pro-grade build but still compact

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly noisy at very high ISO settings
-
Vertical grip is an optional add-on

APS-C format DSLRs like those earlier in our list offer a decent compromise between features, quality and price, but professionals will demand a step up in image quality, and that means a full frame DSLR. We found the Nikon D850 an expensive camera (though prices are falling), but with capabilities that put it in a class of its own. Its 45.7MP resolution is spectacular, it has a 153-point autofocus system, and can capture images at 7 frames per second – or 9fps with the optional MB-D18 battery grip. Amazing video features also makes it one of the best 4K camera (opens in new tab) choices around – though the newer Nikon D780 (opens in new tab) would be a better and cheaper choice for videographers. We know the Nikon D850 doesn't have the new Nikon D780's hybrid on-sensor autofocus technology, so its live view autofocus speeds are relatively pedestrian, but we don't find that much of a handicap for measured, professional photographic shoots, and it scarcely puts a dent in the D850's all-round appeal as arguably the best DSLR of all time for professional photographers. It looked spectacular when it first came out in 2017, and it looks just as good today... but cheaper!

• Read our full Nikon D850 review

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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We're impressed by the D780, which combines DSLR handling with mirrorless tech

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 24.4MP
Lens mount: Nikon FX
Screen: 3.2in tilting screen, 2,359k dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7/12fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Great handling
+
Fast live view AF
+
Uncropped 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Two AF systems to master
-
Manual live view swapping
-
Still quite expensive

The long-awaited upgrade to the much-loved Nikon D750 certainly didn't disappoint us. The Nikon D780 includes the same on-sensor phase detection autofocus as the Nikon Z6 to give the same mirrorless live view performance – a great advantage for stills photography and especially for video. Admittedly, Nikon was a bit slow off the mark as Canon has used its own Dual Pixel CMOS AF in its DSLRs to do the same thing for years. However, the D780 doesn't just have advanced live view AF – it also comes with a high-resolution tilting touchscreen display, 4K UHD video, dual UHS-II compatible memory card slots and continuous shooting speeds up to 12fps in live view mode. Combine that with its solid design and comfortable grip and you've got a camera that's an instant classic. We found that the D780, like other Nikon DSLRs, combines well thought out design with a solid build and very satisfying handling.

• Read our full Nikon D780 review

(Image credit: Rod Lawton)
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Canon's cheapest DSLRs are not that great, to be honest, and we think the baby SL3/250D is the one to start with

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Max burst speed: 5fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Guided screen options
+
Pivoting touchscreen
+
4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
The body might be too small for some

There are a few Canon cameras that are cheaper than the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 (known as the 250D in Europe) but they lack its features and build quality. You don't have to pay that much extra to have features such as a vari-angle touchscreen, a 24.3-megapixel sensor with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology which makes the autofocus in live mode really fast – just like a mirrorless camera's – and guided screen options to help you learn. It's also capable of 4K video so if you think you might want to have a go at filmmaking, this may be better for you than the Nikon D3500. Having used Canon's cheapest DSLRs (sorry, Canon), we think the EOS Rebel SL3/250D is definitely worth the extra.

• Read our full Canon EOS Rebel SL3/250D review

(Image credit: Pentax)
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The Pentax K-1 Mark II is so good, we think Pentax is wasting its effort on its APS-C cameras

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 36MP
Lens mount: Pentax K
Screen: 3in three-way-tilt, 1,037k dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 4.4/6.4fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
Robust construction
+
5-axis image stabilisation

Reasons to avoid

-
Pedestrian continuous drive speed
-
Relatively low 670-shot battery life

Pentax seems to soldier along in its own little bubble, seemingly unaffected by outside events, so we found the Pentax K-1 Mark II typically solid but unadventurous in is specifications when we reviewed it. It does have a tough, weather-sealed construction, and a highly effective sensor-shift image stabilisation system that works with any attached lens, unlike competing Canon and Nikon DSLRs, which do not have in-body stabilisation. Better still, the 5-axis stabilizer can work in trick modes to deliver anti-aliasing correction, an increase in fine detail and texture based on Pixel Shift through multiple exposures, and even an Astrotracer mode to avoid stars appearing to streak through the sky. With a 36MP full-frame image sensor, the K-1 Mark II certainly gives you a lot of megapixels for the money, though we think the 33-point autofocus system feels dated, and Live View autofocus is definitely pretty poor. For DSLR fans who want a big, solid, premium-quality and traditional camera feel, though, we think this camera still has strong appeal.

• Read our full Pentax K-1 Mark II review

(Image credit: Rod Lawton/Digital Camera World)
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The EOS 90D is a state of the art enthusiast DSLR. It's not cheap, but we think you get what you pay for

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 32.5MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 10fps
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Highest APS-C resolution yet
+
10fps continuous shooting
+
Uncropped 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited buffer capacity
-
18-135mm IS USM lens disappointing
-
Losing detail by ISO 1600

We spent some time testing the Canon EOS 90D and we are convinced this is the best Canon camera (opens in new tab) for enthusiasts. It arrived with groundbreaking specs that no other camera in this category can match, and packs in an amazing 32.5 million pixels – the highest yet for an APS-C camera – though you shouldn't expect to see any obvious and instant benefit in image quality. It all depends on the lenses, and the 18-135mm kit lens supplied for us to use is not one of Canon's best. Instead, revel in this camera's 10fps continuous shooting capability and its uncropped 4K video capture – a consumer level Canon that (finally) doesn't reduce the angle of view for 4K video. The extra megapixels do dent the EOS 90D's high ISO/low light performance, but this camera has so many capabilities and so much potential, we think it's a dazzlingly good all-rounder for enthusiasts who want to try every facet of photography. What's more, with its flip-out screen and Dual Pixel CMOS AF, it's just like using a mirrorless camera in live view mode.

Read more:Canon EOS 90D review (opens in new tab) | Canon EOS 90D vs EOS 80D vs EOS 7D Mark II (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Nikon)
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This enthusiast DSLR from Nikon lacks the EOS 90D's specs, but it's cheaper and handles brilliantly

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Lens mount: Nikon DX
Screen: 3.2in tilting touchscreen, 922,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 8fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Has the best bits from the D500
+
Lightweight build

Reasons to avoid

-
Less robust than the D500
-
Downgraded autofocus system

Despite being released four years ago we still think the Nikon D7500 deserves recognition as one of the best DSLRs for enthusiasts, even now. It's a decent all-rounder and Nikon's equivalent to the Canon EOS 90D. It offers a slightly faster continuous burst shooting speed at 8fps though lacks the resolution of the 90D. The 51-point autofocus system is reliable and it has the ability to record 4K video. It has a tilting rear screen rather than the fully-articulated design on the EOS 90D and relies on slower contrast AF in live view mode, but if you do most of your shooting through the viewfinder these will be small points. Nikon fans who like sports photography might also want to take a look at the Nikon D500 (opens in new tab), but this is a much more expensive camera and it's growing harder to find. DSLR fans should know that there are still great DSLRs around, and our time with the D7500 has convinced us that this is one of them.

• Read our full Nikon D7500 review

(Image credit: Future)
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The Nikon D3500 and its predecessors are the classic 'beginner DSLR', and we think it can't be beaten for this

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Nikon F (DX)
Screen: 3in, 921,000 dots
Max burst speed: 5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Interactive ‘Guide’ shooting mode
+
Solid performance; good handling

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly basic controls
-
LCD has no tilt or touchscreen

The Nikon D3500 was launched in 2018 and even today, it's a popular camera among newbie photographers. We love it so much we rate it as one of the best Nikon cameras (opens in new tab) and one of the best cameras for beginners (opens in new tab). That's because it features a handy 'Guide' shooting mode which acts as a tutorial and teaches the user how to use the camera via the LCD screen. The D3500 has a 24-megapixel sensor that's able to deliver super sharp images even with the 18-55mm kit lens which is also pretty good. Although the rear screen is fixed and it can only shoot up to Full HD and not 4K, the fact its easy to use, cheap, small and light will make it appeal to a beginner. While it may not have all the features of a mirrorless camera, we can't help but think all the thrills and frills are sometimes a bit much if you're just starting out, and at this price, nothing is quite as good. 

• Read our full Nikon D3500 review

(Image credit: James Artaius)
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If you want an affordable, effective and likeable full frame DSLR, stop right here!

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3.2in vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 6.5fps
Max video resolution: 1080p (Full HD)
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Packs a lot of upgrades
+
Lightweight for a full-frame DSLR

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricier than the original EOS 6D
-
AF points clustered in centre of frame

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II has been out for a while now, and while its specifications are hardly cutting edge, this is still a powerful and versatile DSLR for photographers taking their first steps in full frame photography. Most important of all, we think it's versatile, extremely well designed and straightforward to use. The 26-megapixel sensor is good rather than great, but it does have Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, so the live view autofocus is very fast and effective. The 45-point viewfinder AF system is pretty good too, although the focus points are all clustered towards the centre of the screen. The EOS 6D Mark II can capture images at 6.5fps in burst mode, and has extremely useful vari-angle touchscreen display. It has been upstaged somewhat by the newer Canon EOS RP and Canon's other mirrorless models, but it's a solid buy that's cheaper than the Nikon D780 (below).

• Read our full Canon EOS 6D Mark II review

(Image credit: Canon)
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We can't believe the 5D Mark IV is still going, but actually its specs aren't bad even now, and it handles like a dream

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: Full frame
Megapixels: 30.4MP
Lens mount: Canon EF
Screen: 3.2in touchscreen, 1,620,000 dots
Viewfinder: Pentaprism
Max burst speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Enthusiast/professional

Reasons to buy

+
30.4MP is a good compromise
+
Pro performance, manageable size

Reasons to avoid

-
Touchscreen fixed in place
-
Big price jump from EOS 5D Mark III

Released in 2016, the Canon EOS 5D IV is still a popular camera among professional photographers. We like it too, though we have to admit that it's showing its age both for resolution and its cropped 4K video. Compared to the Nikon D850, its resolution might seem pretty average, but for lots of photographers 30 megapixels is more than enough and you can shoot 4K video with this camera too, but the format used means the files it outputs are good, but massive. The EOS 5D Mark IV features Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF which means users benefit from fast autofocus performance in live view and video modes. It's robust, reliable and weather resistant which is a major plus for pro photographers. Sadly, Canon has shifted almost all its attention to its new EOS R range of mirrorless cameras so we don't know when – or even if – we will ever see a successor to the EOS 5D IV.

• Read our full Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review

(Image credit: Ricoh)
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10. Pentax K-70

It's one of Pentax's older APS-C DSLRs, but actually one of the best. In some ways, Pentax has moved backwards

Specifications

Type: DSLR
Sensor: APS-C
Megapixels: 24.2 MP
Screen: 3-inch tilting LCD, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: Optical
Max burst speed: 6fps
Max video resolution: Full HD 1080p
User level: Enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Weather-resistant construction,
+
On-board shake reduction

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy in the palm
-
Poor battery life

The K-70 is ruggedly built to a semi pro standard, and with its smart design features, the K-70 is probably the best all-round Pentax camera enthusiast photographers can buy right now. Yes, we have reviewed the much newer Pentax K-3 Mark III, but for us the K-70 is a high water mark for Pentax D-SLRs and it's the one we would choose today. Unique amongst Pentax DSLRs, the K-70 uses a combination of phase detection AF and contrast detection AF when shooting using live view. The 24MP resolution is still competitive today and the flip-out vari-angle screen actually makes the K-70 feel very modern. The only thing missing is 4K video, and we have to admit the 480 shot battery life a little disappointing for a DSLR and made us shoot more cautiously on a day out in London. On the other hand, there are lots of Pentax lenses to choose from, so although the Pentax brand no longer has quite the same clout as Canon or Nikon, it's still a significant force in the DSLR market.

How we test cameras 

We test DSLR cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and our lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.

Read more:

• The best camera for beginners
Best cameras for enthusiasts
Best professional cameras
• 
The cheapest full-frame cameras
• 
Best mirrorless cameras
• 
DSLR vs mirrorless cameras

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For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specialising in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound and many more for various advertising campaigns, books and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected in to BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa and Sinar and has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI and everything in between. His work covers the genres of Equestrian, Landscape, Abstract or Nature and combines nearly two decades of experience to offer exclusive limited-edition prints to the international stage from his film & digital photography.