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It may seem difficult to narrow down the list of the best Canon DSLR cameras to just three; after all, Canon Rebel cameras have been around since the good old days of film. But we’ve been able to put those years of technology advancements to good use in narrowing our list, seeking digital cameras with the best image quality, fastest performance levels, easiest features to use, and best price points. Your photos will be so high quality, you’ll want to be sure to take image credit. If you’re just looking to start your Canon collection, the EOS Rebel T7 camera bundle will get you a high-quality camera with an optical viewfinder at a reasonable price point. Or, take a look at the EOS 6D
To start, the best models in the Canon DSLR lineup need to offer at least an APS-C-sized image sensor. After all, a larger physical image sensor will yield better image quality for the camera as a whole. And although the number of recordable megapixels is often overblown in marketing materials, we still required a minimum of 24 megapixels of resolution to make our list. Lastly, we looked for models with a least an ISO setting of 25,600, as this figure (or higher) yields better image quality in low light. As a result, our #1 pick, the Canon EOS Rebel T6i ($699), fits all of these criteria, while remaining well below the desirable $1,000 price point. If you’re not convinced by a DSLR, you may want to take a look at one of the finest mirrorless cameras instead.
Image quality is the most important consideration in selecting which Canon DSLR to buy. Two primary factors contribute to the image quality you can achieve with these advanced cameras: the physical size of the image sensor, and the resolution count. A strong DSLR camera needs to have an image sensor of at least an APS-C size, but the biggest image sensor you’ll find in a camera aimed at consumers/professionals is a full-frame image sensor (which matches the size of a frame of 35mm film from the old days of photography).
Larger image sensors perform better in low-light situations, which many consumer photographers find themselves in, whether shooting photos at your child’s musical production or of your children putting out cookies for Santa in a candlelit room at night. Or, to have a picture for your nicest photo box. The best cameras have both, so when your pictures come out perfect, you’ll want to give image credit to Canon. If you want a DSLR with continuous shooting, take a look at the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
Related: See our best canon lens video.
For most photographers, the 24 megapixels of resolution with the Rebel T6i are plenty. For example, if you’re shooting photos of the kids at a football game or photos on a trip to the mountains, 24 or more megapixels of resolution are more than enough to make large prints for a scrapbook or even for framing. But if you want to make poster-sized prints, the 50-plus megapixels available in the 5Ds, a full-frame Sony digital camera, might be more helpful for you. Take a look at the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV if a 5DS camera is important to you. Shooting with a higher megapixel count also allows you to crop the photo in post-processing without losing too much image quality.
A Canon digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera that can work fast needs to be able to shoot at a frame rate of four frames per second or faster. Such frame rates allow for shooting photos of fast-moving subjects, such as when you’re photographing at a sporting event. Hand in hand with a fast frame rate is the need for plenty of autofocus points, which allow the camera to dial in the focus faster, resulting in better performance. Entry-level DSLRs will often have 15 or 20 autofocus points, while more advanced cameras will offer 40 or more autofocus points to achieve fast focus speeds.
Related: Check out our best DSLR camera for beginners to intermediates article.
Then there’s the price point for the camera body only. For an entry-level Canon DSLR, you can expect to spend $750 or less for the camera body alone. Mid-level DSLRs often cost about $1,500, while a professional-level Canon camera can run you almost $5,000. The cameras on our list fit well within these guideline price points. If you’re interested in a starter camera that shoots 4k video, you might want to take a look at the Canon EOS 90D.
Finally, you can seek some extra features that will make the latest Canon DSLR work easier. The articulated LCD on the Rebel T6i is one aspect that makes it the best Canon DSLR for beginners, as you can twist the LCD to the point where you can shoot selfies.
If you’re a Canon loyalist who has owned a model for a while, purchasing a new camera will give you plenty of great features that the manufacturer has improved upon and added in the last few years. One of the best features is the addition of more and more megapixels that the image sensor can record. A Canon DSLR from a few years ago may have offered 12 or 16 megapixels, so you’re going to receive a 100% improvement in resolution or more with our best DSLR camera options. If the price is stopping you, make sure to watch the prices for the best deals.
One key component that doesn’t receive enough attention in a Canon DSLR comparison is the image processor chip contained inside the camera. Newer models contain the latest processors, which speed up the overall ability of the camera to move data and respond to commands. You’re going to want to seek a Canon DSLR that has at least the DIGIC 6 image processor, which all three of the models on our list offer. Or, take a look at the Nikon D780 body for a camera with enhanced AF systems and max video resolution. Most DSLR cameras also have dual pixel sensors.
You’ll be amazed at the level of image quality you can achieve when shooting different types of photos at home and on vacation simply by upgrading your current camera to one of these Canon DSLRs. You’ve heard the expression a worker is only as good as the quality of his tools? Photography can be a lot like that. With the right hardware, you’ll be amazed at the increase in the quality of your images.
Finally, if you’re migrating from an older Canon camera to a newer one, you’re going to save yourself some money versus the initial camera purchase you made. That’s because the interchangeable lenses you used with your older Canon DSLR camera should remain usable on your new Canon DSLR too, as the manufacturer uses the same lens mount on all of its DSLRs. So it pays to stick with the Canon brand if you’ve already amassed a nice collection of Canon DSLR lenses in the past. If you’re just starting your Canon lens collection, take a look at the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens. Another good reason to choose a Canon camera is that the battery life on a Canon camera is usually around five years. If you really want to branch out, the Nikon D3500 is a full HD camera with a continuous shooting speed.
Award: Editor’s Choice/Best Canon DSLR For Beginners
Price: $749 | Read Full Review: Canon Rebel T6i Review | Image Sensor Size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.2 MP
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Budget-priced DSLR camera provides above-average image quality.
The primary reason I have made the Canon Rebel T6i the top pick among Canon DSLR cameras is that it offers the best mix of good image quality for the money. It’s definitely the best DSLR camera for beginners, offering image quality that will meet the needs of beginner- and intermediate-level photographers at a very reasonable price, thanks to its APS-C-sized image sensor with 24.2 megapixels of resolution.
The T6i’s performance speeds aren’t quite as good as the other two DSLRs on our list, as it offers 19 autofocus points, meaning it can’t quite find the focal point as quickly as some others, but it’s fast enough for most shooting situations. And it can record at 5 frames per second in burst mode, which is a great performance level for a camera in its price range. It contains the DIGIC 6 image processor, which yields good levels of speed for this camera.
One area in which the Canon T6i will appeal to beginning and intermediate photographers is with its touch screen capabilities. From my experience, a touch screen on a camera just makes it easier to use out of the box, especially for people who have grown accustomed to the operation of smartphones over the past several years. The screen twists and swivels away from the camera too, allowing for photos where you have to hold the camera at an odd angle.
Beyond the display screen, it’s easy to use the T6i’s viewfinder to frame photos too. And the camera will work noticeably faster in viewfinder mode than if you’re using the display screen to frame photos (called Live View mode), so photographers will want to take advantage of this model’s impressive viewfinder. A viewfinder is a key component of any DSLR camera.
Looking at the Rebel T6i, you might expect it to have some significant weight to it, but this model is surprisingly lightweight. It doesn’t feel cheaply made though, and I also liked the placement of the buttons on the T6i, which are easy to reach and use.
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Award: Best Professional Canon Camera
Retail Price: $3,499.00 (body only)| Read Full Review: Canon 5Ds Review | Image Sensor Size: Full Frame | Resolution: 50.6 MP
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Full frame image sensor yields the sharpest, pro-level image quality.
If you’re seeking the best Canon DSLR camera for photography, it’s tough to beat the Canon EOS 5Ds. This model does a tremendous job of creating images that even professionals will love, thanks to its full-frame image sensor that offers more than 50 megapixels of resolution. Few cameras in the market can match or surpass the 5Ds in these two areas.
You’ll pay for that level of power, though, as the 5Ds have a price tag of more than $3,000 for the camera body only. And it’s a bit of a disappointment that this isn’t a Canon 4K DSLR for video recording, as you’ll be limited to just 1080p full-HD video recording. Still, the 5Ds have plenty of other high-end features, including dual memory card slots, a 61-point autofocus system, and outstanding low-light image quality results.
Award: Best Canon DSLR for the Money
Retail Price: $1,199.00 | Image Sensor Size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.2 MP
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Excellent price point makes this DSLR a great value.
At a little more than $1,000, I love the price point of the Canon EOS 80D DSLR camera. This model hits the intermediate level of the market in terms of features, but its price is closer to the entry-level portion of the DSLR market, making this camera a great value.
The 80D has an APS-C-sized image sensor with 24.2 megapixels of resolution, and its image quality is similar to what you’ll find with the Rebel T6i. But it does offer a faster burst mode speed of up to 7 frames per second than its less expensive counterpart, and it offers a 45-point autofocus system, giving it better performance levels than the Rebel.
For a rundown of quality cameras, check out our comparison articles including the Sony DSCW830 20.1MP digital camera with a 2.7″ LCD vs Canon 190 and the Olympus TG 870 16.0MP waterproof digital camera vs Fuji Waterproof.
Assuming Resolution Equals Image Sensor Quality: With the emphasis all camera manufacturers, including Canon, place on megapixel count, it’s easy to understand why photographers might be confused about how megapixels affect image quality. The physical size of the image sensor plays a much larger role in image quality than the number of megapixels the sensor can record. Megapixel counts are important – just not as important as image sensor size.
Overspending: It’s easy to spend a lot of money when purchasing a DSLR camera kit. Beyond the camera body, you’ll need lenses, flash units, and memory cards. Set a budget for your DSLR camera equipment and stick to it. If you don’t have enough money for all the lenses you want initially, purchase a good all-around zoom lens and save up for other lenses later. Keep in mind that an inexpensive Canon DSLR can produce really solid image quality, even if it can’t match the performance levels of a Canon DSLR aimed at professionals. Speaking of spending, consider an open box camera vs a digital camera that’s refurbished, as you’ll save money and have a fairly new device to use.
If you want some options beyond the best Canon DSLR cameras, the most logical next consideration is a great Nikon advanced camera. While we’ll probably never settle the hotly debated Canon vs. Nikon DSLR discussion, you can find some great Nikon DSLR cameras in our best DSLR camera list.
Keeping in mind that DSLR cameras are bulky, especially with the lens attached, you may want to think about a smaller camera, which is why you’ll need to know how to choose the finest digital camera for your needs. Great best point-and-shoot cameras from Canon, such as the PowerShot G7 X and the Canon Powershot G9 X Mark II, will yield pretty good image quality while being easier to carry than a DSLR.
And if you need a camera under $200, the PowerShot ELPH 360 is a nice basic option from Canon. It certainly can’t match the performance of a Canon DSLR, but it will be adequate for simple photographic needs. You can learn more about all of the features to know with our digital camera guide. We also have an extensive set of digital camera reviews that can help you find the perfect model that’ll fit in your budget.
Still, if you’re seeking the best image quality and performance you can afford in a Canon DSLR camera, our top pick, the Canon EOS Rebel T6i, will provide what you need. It shoots high-quality images and does so at a speed and performance level that will meet the needs of entry-level and intermediate photographers everywhere.