The best DSLR cameras you can buy
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Photography enthusiasts still love their trusty DSLR cameras. During our testing and research, the Nikon D850 stood out with its impressive image quality. The best part? This powerful camera is relatively easy to use.
The digital camera market is in the midst of a significant change. Smartphone cameras are taking control of the low end of the market, which is fueling development of the best DSLR cameras.
Digital camera makers are searching for ways to differentiate their cameras from smartphone cameras, and the best way to do it is by providing high-end image quality and performance features that a smartphone camera cannot match. Buying a DSLR camera (short for digital single lens reflex) is a great way to achieve this separation.
We at Business Insider showed the performance difference in a hands-on test between the iPhone 6, a DSLR, and a point-and-shoot camera a couple of years ago. Certainly, things have changed since then, and the iPhone 7 Plus and other phones with bokeh effects have really upped the smartphone photography game. However, DSLRs are still king in several categories based on a test by Ars Technica, and serious photographers can't imagine life without them.
Below, we'll get into why you should consider a DSLR camera and how to choose the best one for you. After we go over the basics, we'll move on to our top picks.
DSLR cameras vs. simple cameras
DSLR cameras base their primary design features on 35mm SLR cameras from the days of film. It is a tried and true design for a camera, but it does end up being a bit bulkier than simple cameras. However, the performance benefits of the DSLR are easy to see once you've tested both types of cameras, even for a short period of time.
As discussed in Photography Life, a DSLR camera separates itself from a simple camera through three primary features:
- Interchangeable lenses: DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses, meaning you can give them different capabilities just by swapping out the lens. A simple fixed-lens camera has the lens embedded in the camera body.
- Big image sensors: The image sensor on a DSLR camera is going to be larger in physical size than that of a simple point-and-shoot camera. Larger sensors pick up more details in a scene and work better in low light than smaller sensors. Adorama has a nice table comparing image sensor sizes. The physical size of an image sensor is different than the number of megapixels it can record.
- Fast image processors: DSLRs have fast image processors, which allow them to offer minimal shutter lag and delays between shots. A simple camera often will have a sluggish performance, which could cause you to miss a photo.
Buying a DSLR camera
Most DSLR cameras will range in price from around $500 to $5,000. Cameras aimed at professional shooters will carry an even higher price point. Older and used DSLRs will be available below the $500 threshold.
When looking for a DSLR camera, you'll find that they're sold in three different configurations.
- Body only: If the DSLR is listed as a body-only camera, that means it ships with no lenses. Obviously, the camera will not work without lenses, so this seems like an odd way to sell the DSLR. But for those who already own some compatible lenses, this is a cheaper way to buy a DSLR camera body. Individual interchangeable lenses can fit on several different camera bodies, as long as there's compatibility both ways.
- With lens kits: DSLRs that come with a lens are sold with one or two compatible lenses that offer basic features - they're called kit lenses. It's the most cost-effective way to purchase a camera and lens, but these lenses won't yield extensive zoom or wide angle capabilities.
- With component kits: If you select a DSLR lens and component kit, you'll receive a basic lens, a tripod, a memory card, and some other components needed to get started with photography. For those who are just starting with DSLRs, this can be an inexpensive way to go, but you also run the risk of spending money on components that you don't really need.
Here are our picks for the best DSLR cameras you can buy:
- Best DSLR camera overall: Nikon D850
- Best mid-range DSLR camera: Nikon D7500
- Best beginner DSLR camera: Nikon D3500
- Best high-resolution DSLT camera: Sony A99 II
- Best sports DSLR camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Updated by Owen Burke on 12/18/2018: Updated our best overall pick from the Nikon D810 to the D850, our best mid-range from the D7200 to the D7500, and replaced our beginner pick with the Nikon D3500. Added links to our mirrorless camera guide. Also updated prices and formatting.
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
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