Buying guide for
If you are serious about your content creator career, at some point, you will want to move away from your phone and graduate to a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera.
These are the best cameras are those that can grow with you. This means having features and settings to accommodate your level of experience, not only in photography but also as an amateur or professional wanting high-quality pictures from their device!
Although most DSLR cameras share similar looks, there are quite a few differentiating features that separate them:
Depending upon the model and price point, you'll experience an array of image quality in the DSLR community.
We have laid them all out for you to decide which features matter the most to you and your content needs.
We've included DSLRs options for consumers of all skill level. Pretty much any one can now grab a DSLR and take a high-quality photo with just one click.
Depending on the features included in the camera, DSLR prices vary. The cameras in our product list range in cost, but we believe that each is worth its asking price.
The first thing you need to know when shopping for a new DSLR camera is that every model won’t fit the needs of every content creator.
For example, some cameras carry too many features — and can be quite expensive. And experienced photographers probably wouldn’t want a simple DSLR that fails to offer advanced manual control options!
Entry-level DSLR cameras
These are entry-level DSLR cameras aimed at those new to DSLR photography. They have low price points and are relatively easy to use.
Consumer/hobbyist DSLR cameras
These are mid-range DSLR cameras that appeal to both inexperienced and intermediate-level photographers. They have plenty of features for manual control. They’re nice “bridge” cameras for those looking to move up from an entry-level DSLR.
Prosumer DSLR cameras
High-level photographers will be looking for DSLRs in this category. These cameras have the largest image sensors and the fastest image processors. They also tend to carry the highest price tags.
Expensive semi-pro/pro DSLR cameras typically have more advanced features than most beginners can handle. Therefore, it’s tough for a beginner to justify paying a high price for one of these models.
Investing in an expensive camera — and then never using it because it’s too complicated, too heavy, or not right for what you want to use it for — happens too often. Don't get one that's too impractical or complicated for what you will use it for. You can always grow into an advanced model in the future.
Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Minolta, Fujifilm, and Sony all made DSLRs in the early days. But as of today, Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, Fujifilm, and Sony have stopped making DSLRs. They now focus on mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Minolta no longer makes cameras at all.
Nowadays, Nikon, Canon, and Pentax still offer DSLRs. Nikon and Canon are the two largest makers. Some photographers prefer one brand of DSLR over another, but this is a personal preference. It has little to do with features and performance.
Image Sensor Explained
When it comes to understanding DSLR cameras, you must first start with the image sensor.
The image sensor is a computer chip that measures the light from the scene. It then turns that measurement into the digital bits used to create the photograph.
Image sensor size
As a general rule, the larger the image sensor, the better the photograph quality. Not surprisingly, DSLRs with larger image sensors also tend to cost more.
Full-frame image sensors
Measuring 24x36 mm in size, full-frame image sensors are the largest available in cameras produced for everyday use.
Nikon uses the term “FX” to identify cameras with full-frame sensors, while Canon just calls them “full-frame.”
Crop-frame image sensors
Crop-frame image sensors are smaller than full-frame image sensors. Nikon uses the term “DX” to identify cameras with crop-frame sensors.
The size of a crop frame sensor is listed as a “multiple factor.” Nikon DX sensors have a 1.5x factor, while Canon crop-frame sensors are available in both 1.3x and 1.6x factors. The 1.3x factor is the largest sensor, while 1.6x is the smallest sensor.
DX cameras are generally considered more consumer/hobbyist and FX cameras more semi-pro and prosumer. These markets are starting to get some crossover though, with entry-level full-frame cameras and advanced crop-frame cameras becoming more prevalent.
Other DSLR Terms to Know
Beyond the image sensor, it’s important to understand certain terms related to DSLRs. Knowing the jargon associated with DSLRs will help you successfully choose a model that will meet your needs.
The burst rate of a DSLR camera refers to how many photos it can record in a short time. This measurement is often provided in frames per second, or FPS.
Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to travel through it and strike the image sensor.
Lenses with wider apertures are considered to be of higher quality.
The aperture of the lens is designated by an f-stop number. A lower f-stop number equals a larger or wider aperture, which can be a little confusing.
Some DSLR cameras are made primarily of plastic, while others have a magnesium aluminum alloy body. The latter type of camera body is sturdier and better protected against falls. Such DSLRs will cost more, though.
Weather-sealing is another important aspect of build quality. Having a camera body sealed from light rain or dust can be beneficial for those who shoot photos in harsh conditions. These weather-sealed DSLR bodies are not waterproof, but they are better off than models with no weather seal.
All DSLR cameras share a similar look, but different models have different ergonomics. How does it feel in your hand? Is it comfortable to use and carry matters just as much.
The image processor is the computer chip inside the DSLR that moves data and controls the camera’s speed.
The ISO setting of the digital camera determines the image sensor’s sensitivity to light. A higher ISO number makes the sensor more sensitive to light, allowing for better success with low-light photography. But using extremely high ISO also leads to loss of image quality the higher you go.
With a DSLR camera, you can change the lens you’re using to change the capabilities of the camera. (Fixed-lens cameras cannot change lenses.) Some DSLR camera bodies are sold with one or two lenses included; these are called kit lenses. You also can purchase extra lenses for your DSLR camera. Typically, kit lenses are fairly basic and cover a standard focal range. Many users will go on to purchase additional lenses of a higher caliber or for a more specific use after a while.
The lens mount is the part of the DSLR camera body to which you’ll connect a lens. It’s the large circle on the front of the DSLR body.
Lens manufacturers create lenses that fit a particular mount. So even though one type of lens mount will work with multiple lenses, each lens will fit only one type of lens mount.
Resolution refers to the number of pixels a camera can record. Pixels are tiny squares of color. When you look at a digital photograph with strong magnification, you can see the individual dots. But when looking at the photograph at a standard magnification, your eye naturally blends the pixels.
Resolution for DSLRs is measured in megapixels, or MP. This number refers to the millions of pixels in the photo. Don’t just pick a DSLR based on the largest number of megapixels, though.