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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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(opens in new tab)
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.