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October 21, 2021
DSLR Lineup

Best DLSR Cameras in 2021 for Beginners

Photography

The photography world may be moving towards mirrorless tech, but DSLRs remain good options for beginners. There are a few reasons for this – firstly, DSLRs are still the cheapest way to get a camera with a built-in viewfinder, which is an essential tool for framing and composition. Thanks to their heritage, DSLRs also continue to offer a wider and more affordable range of lenses than mirrorless cameras.

DSLRs also continue to offer some advantages over their mirrorless counterparts, particularly when it comes to handling and battery life. Plus, they remain the only cameras to feature true optical viewfinders (one that displays the actual scene as viewed through a lens and not what it would look like with specific shooting parameters applied). If those features are more important to you than the latest autofocus or compact form factors, then an entry-level DSLR is likely the way to go.

It’s worth noting that manufacturers have practically stopped making new DSLRs now – Sony has pretty much phased out its A-mount DSLRs, while Canon has discontinued its 7D line – but that doesn’t mean the DSLR format is dead. Both Canon and Nikon continue to offer a wide range of entry-level DSLR models, with extensive lens catalogues to match.

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 from various manufacturers in today’s market.

 

1. Nikon D3500

The best all-round option for aspiring photographers

Nikon

SPECIFICATIONS

 

Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.2MP
Lens mountNikon DX
Screen3-inch, 921,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed5fps
Max video resolution1080p
User levelBeginner

 

Nikon may not have announced any new entry-level DSLRs for a while, but the D3500 remains an excellent option for those new to photography. It picks up from where the D3400 left off, but with a handful of extra perks. Unlike power-hungry mirrorless models, the major advantage of this camera is battery life. You can keep going for 1,550 images between charges, which is way ahead of most other DSLRs, while the 24MP sensor delivers excellent image quality. Nikon has also revised the body and control layout, not only to make it nicer to handle but easier to use too, while the Guide Mode takes the first-time user’s hand and walks them through all the key features in a way that makes everything easy to understand. We love it – and if you’re just getting started, we reckon you will too.

 

REASONS TO BUY
+Excellent image quality
+Easy to use
REASONS TO AVOID
No touchscreen control
Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi

 

2. Canon EOS Rebel T8i / Canon EOS 850D

A fine but modest upgrade from its predecessor

Canon DSLR

SPECIFICATIONS

 

SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.1MP
Lens mountCanon EF-S
Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed7fps
Max video resolution4K
User levelBeginner/enthusiast

 

The Canon EOS Rebel T8i (know as the EOS 850D outside the US) has now officially taken the baton from its Rebel T7i / EOS 800D predecessor, with stock of the latter tricky to find. This new model isn’t a huge upgrade, with the most notable addition being a 4K video mode that’s somewhat hampered by frame-rate restrictions. Still, the Rebel T8i / EOS 850D remains one of our favourite all-round DSLRs for beginners. You get a Dual Pixel phase-detection AF system, which is fast, reliable and works just as well for video as it does stills. Its button layout is also very considered, while the vari-angle LCD screen handles really well. As long you ignore that headline of 4K video, which involves a crop and the loss of phase-detection autofocus, it remains a fantastic option for anyone who is starting a photography hobby and prizes DSLR advantages like battery life and handling.

REASONS TO BUY
+Good image quality
+Speedy, reliable autofocus
REASONS TO AVOID
Plasticky build
4K video limitations

 

3. Nikon D5600

Need a bit more power? The D5600 could be what you’re after

Nikon DSLR

SPECIFICATIONS

 

SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.2MP
Lens mountNikon DX
Screen3.2-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed5fps
Max video resolution1080p
User levelBeginner/enthusiast

 

Here’s another beginner DSLR that is holding its own against the rise of mirrorless cameras. The D5600 is a step up from the D3000-series models, with a stronger set of specs to rival the likes of the Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D (see above). Key advantages over the D3500 include a larger LCD screen, which not only flips out and swivels all the way around to face the front for vlogging, but also responds to touch, together with a more advanced autofocus system, Wi-Fi and a healthy range of additional control on the inside. Sure, you pay a little bit more for the privilege, but if you need a little more growing space, it makes sense to go for the D5600 – it’ll be a reliable companion for years to come.

 

REASONS TO BUY
+Excellent image quality
+Articulating touchscreen
REASONS TO AVOID
Slow Live View focusing
SnapBridge needs work

 

4. Canon EOS 90D

A feature-packed all-rounder that gives you lots of room to grow

Canon EOS DSLR

SPECIFICATIONS

 

SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels32.5MP
Lens mountEF/EF-S
Screen3-inch vars-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed11fps
Max video resolution4K/30p
User levelBeginner/enthusiast

 

The Canon 90D might be the last enthusiast-level DSLR the company ever makes – and if so, it’s going out with a bang. The versatile 90D packs a high-resolution sensor which, paired with Canon’s Digic 8 imaging engine, offers the enticing prospect of un-cropped 4K video at 30fps. Colour reproduction is superb and there’s plenty of detail in both stills and video, aided by a new 216-zone metering system (even if noise can be an issue above ISO 8000). A deeper grip means the 90D is also really comfortable in the hand, while a joystick makes selecting from the Dual Pixel CMOS AF points a cinch. Battery life is a boon, too, with 1,500 shots possible on a single charge. It’s possibly a bit too much camera for an absolute beginner (both in price and features), but there’s no doubt it offers a lot of room to grow into. Either way, the 90D proves that DSLRs still very much have a place in the mirrorless world.

 

REASONS TO BUY
+High-resolution sensor
+4K video at 30fps
REASONS TO AVOID
No image stabilisation
Not the cheapest option for beginners

 

5. Pentax K-70

Rugged and great value – an impressive alternative to the big two

Pentax DSLR

SPECIFICATIONS

 

SensorAPS-C CMOS
Megapixels24.2MP
Lens mountPentax K
Screen3-inch, 921,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed6fps
Max video resolutionFull HD
User levelBeginner

 

Although it’s a few years old now, the Pentax K-70 remains a good value option for those who want something different from the ‘big two’ DSLR manufacturers. It’s a particularly good choice if you have a stash of old Pentax lenses gathering dust in a basement. The K-70 has a very useful articulating screen, while the hybrid live view autofocus system makes it an actual practical alternative to using the viewfinder. Possibly our favorite thing about the K-70 is its tough credentials, which is typically lacking from entry-level models. If you’re keen to take lots of pictures outdoors – such as landscape shooting – being able to rely on it not being destroyed by inclement weather is a big bonus. One slight disappointment is the kit lens which is often bundled with the camera – while it offers a much longer focal length than most others here, it can be a little soft in places.

 

REASONS TO BUY
+Compact and rugged
+Anti-shake tech 
+Great value
REASONS TO AVOID
Few autofocus points
Slightly soft kit lens 

 

What should you look for when buying a beginner DSLR?

There are three main factors to consider when buying a beginner-friendly DSLR: the camera’s size, screen and kit lens options.

1.If you’re trying to learn your way around manual settings like aperture and shutter speed, which is one of the main benefits of a DSLR, then you’ll ideally need a model that’s small and light. This means you’ll be more likely to take it out regularly and master those controls. The most beginner-friendly cameras, like the Nikon D3500 and Canon 250D, tend to be particularly small for DSLRs, so take a close look at those.

2. Looking to shoot lots of video along with your stills? DSLRs can be a cheap way to get into vlogging too, so make sure you look out for models with a vari-angle screen (like the ones on most Canon models) if you need this. These can help you shoot from different angles and also flip round to the front so you can check your framing while recording to camera.

3. Lastly, you’ll want to consider lenses. As a beginner, you’ll most likely be starting from scratch, which means it makes more sense to buy your DSLR with a kit lens. A word of warning here, though – most manufacturers offer two types of kits lens, one with image stabilisation and one without. It’s best to go with the image-stabilised kit lens, as you’ll be able to shoot sharper images at slower shutter speeds.

While an 18-55mm kit lens will be more than enough to get you started, one of the big benefits of DSLRs is being able to add extra lenses for different kinds of photography.

 

Like this post?… Check out comparison DSLR’s vs mirrorless cameras

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