While beginners in digital photography may find themselves looking at point and shoot cameras for a first camera, there’s another option: the best DSLR camera for beginners. With a DSLR, a newbie to digital photography can not only capture images with exceptional quality, but it can meet their needs as their knowledge of photography expands, offering both automatic and manual control options.
For a long time in digital photography, a DSLR camera would have been too difficult for a beginner to use, leading to constant frustration for the first-time photographer. However, when seeking a best entry-level DSLR camera in today’s market, you’ll find camera makers have done a nice job of making DSLRs that are easy to use.
The best DSLR camera for beginners from Nikon, Canon, and other manufacturers will cost a bit more than what you might find with a basic, point and shoot camera. But your investment will pay off in great image quality and a camera that can keep up with your growing photography skills.
- 1 Best DSLR Camera For Beginners
- 2 #1 Pick Canon EOS Rebel T6i DSLR
- 3 #2 Pick Nikon D3300 DSLR
- 4 #3 Pick Pentax K-S2 DSLR
- 5 #4 Pick Nikon D5200 DSLR
- 6 #5 Pick Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR
- 7 What to Look for in the Best Entry-Level DSLR
- 8 Mistakes to Avoid
- 9 Most Important Entry-Level DSLR Camera Features
- 10 Which Best DSLR Camera for Beginners is Right For You?
Best DSLR Camera For Beginners
|Canon EOS |
|Nikon D3300 |
|Pentax K-S2||Nikon D5200 |
|Canon EOS |
|Resolution||24.2 MP||24.2 MP||20.1 MP||24.1 MP||18.0 MP|
|5 fps||5 fps||5.4 fps||5 fps||4 fps|
|19-point AF||11-point AF||11-point AF||39-point AF||9-point AF|
|100 to |
|100 to |
|100 to |
|100 to |
|100 to |
|Display Screen |
|Wi-Fi optional |
|Canon EF |
|Nikon F |
|Pentax K |
|Nikon F |
|Canon EF |
|View on |
|View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon|
#1 Pick Canon EOS Rebel T6i DSLR
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Inexpensive DSLR camera provides excellent image quality
The Canon EOS Rebel T6i easily ranks as one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners, offering great image quality with its APS-C sized image sensor with 24.2 megapixels of resolution. It has a good burst mode of 5 frames per second, and its 19-point autofocus system is very accurate and works fast.
If you use the optical viewfinder with the T6i, you’ll receive extremely fast performance in all shooting situations, even when you aren’t working in burst mode. The viewfinder on this camera allows you to easily frame the scene, even if you’re working in bright sunlight where glare on the display screen can make it difficult to see clearly.
This camera has plenty of nice features aimed at inexperienced photographers too, including fully automatic shooting modes. The 3-inch display screen offers both the ability to swivel and twist away from the camera, as well as touch capabilities. Having a touchscreen on an entry-level DSLR is a great feature to make it easy to use.
#2 Pick Nikon D3300 DSLR
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Very versatile entry level DSLR with great price point too.
One of Nikon’s best starter DSLR cameras is the Nikon D3300. It provides strong image quality, even in low light shooting conditions, and, like most DSLR cameras, it works very fast when you’re using the viewfinder to frame the scene. It offers 24.2 megapixels of resolution with a APS-C sized image sensor. However, if you want wireless connectivity, you’ll have to purchase an adapter separately.
#3 Pick Pentax K-S2 DSLR
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Weather proofed coating makes this DSLR a rugged performer.
The Pentax K-S2 doesn’t offer quite as much resolution as some other beginner-level DSLR cameras at 20.1 megapixels, but its image quality remains strong. The camera’s 5.4 frames per second burst mode is one of the best performances you’ll find in a starter DSLR. The K-S2 doesn’t have a touchscreen capability, but it is an articulated display screen, making this model easy to use with a tripod. The K-S2 is also a rugged camera, offering weather-proofing coating.
#4 Pick Nikon D5200 DSLR
Retail Price: $475 | Image Sensor Size: APS-C | Resolution: 24.1 MP
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Accurate autofocus system great for capturing fast action
Nikon’s D5200 DSLR camera is a little older than some of the models on this list, so its price has dropped to the point where it’s a good candidate for an inexperienced photographer looking for a solid starter camera. One of the biggest advantages of the Nikon D5200 is its 39-point autofocus system, which is very impressive for a camera in its price range. However, there’s no touchscreen LCD or Wi-Fi connectivity with the D5200.
#5 Pick Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Small DSLR body size doesn’t mean sacrificing top-notch image quality.
If you hesitate purchasing a DSLR as a starter camera because of its large size, you may want to consider the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, which is the smallest and lightest DSLR on the market. Despite its small size, it maintains good image quality at 18.0 megapixels of resolution. It’d be nice if the SL1 was a little bit of a faster performer, but it’s a good camera with strong features for beginners, including a touchscreen display and built in Wi-Fi connectivity.
What to Look for in the Best Entry-Level DSLR
Ease of Use: Because an entry-level DSLR camera is aimed at those new to digital photography, it needs to have plenty of easy to use features. Make sure that the camera has a fully automatic setting, which will allow even inexperienced photographers to begin using the camera immediately. A touchscreen display can simplify the camera’s operation as well.
Kit Lenses: A DSLR camera makes use of interchangeable lenses, meaning you can remove the lens from the camera and replace it with another lens with different capabilities, whereas a fixed lens camera has the lens built into the camera body. The best beginner DSLR camera will include one or two kit lenses, which are inexpensive starter lenses that allow you to begin using the DSLR camera immediately upon taking it out of the box. Some DSLR cameras will ship as the body only with no kit lenses, so if you don’t already own compatible lenses, make sure you pick a unit with a kit lens.
Size: DSLR cameras are large because of their internal components, certainly larger than most compact fixed lens cameras. But even within the DSLR category you’ll find cameras of varying sizes and weights. An entry-level DSLR will be smaller and lighter than more advanced DSLR cameras, which those migrating from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR may find appealing. Just make sure the DSLR camera you pick fits your hand well.
Mistakes to Avoid
Not Understanding the Lenses: If you’re migrating from a point and shoot camera to a starter DSLR camera, you may be used to thinking about lenses in terms of their optical zoom measurement. However, DSLR lenses are measured using different numbers. The focal length, which is measured in mm, is the key measurement in a DSLR lens. A focal length measurement of approximately 35 mm to 50 mm is considered standard. Measurements below 35 mm are considered wide angle, while above 50 mm are considered telephoto. A DSLR lens can be a zoom lens, where it has a range of focal length measurements, or a prime lens, meaning it has only one focal length measurement. Be sure you understand these measurements before purchasing a DSLR lens.
Under Budgeting: Keep in mind that purchasing a DSLR camera involves more than just the camera body. You’ll need to purchase lenses, external flash units, a tripod, a camera bag, and other components involved with owning an advanced camera that you probably won’t need with a point and shoot camera. So don’t forget to expand your budget to accommodate the extra items you’ll need.
Becoming Frustrated: If you’ve never used an advanced camera, it can be intimidating to try to memorize the functions of all the buttons and dials at one time. It may even frustrate you to the point where you put the DSLR camera away and dig out the old point and shoot camera. Just take your time to learn each function of the DSLR camera at your own speed. Make use of the automatic controls while you’re learning, and you can keep the frustration at bay.
Most Important Entry-Level DSLR Camera Features
- The large image sensors included with DSLR cameras explain their strong image quality. Such image sensors also give the DSLR the ability to perform well in low light conditions.
- Even an entry-level DSLR will have a large image sensor, usually an APS-C sized image sensor.
- While a beginner-level DSLR camera might not be able to match the resolution number found in an advanced DSLR, any modern beginner DSLR camera is going to have more than enough resolution to meet the needs of beginning photographers.
- Any good entry-level DSLR camera should be able to record in the RAW image format, which saves images without applying compression, or in the JPEG format, which uses image compression to save storage space. Beginner-level fixed lens cameras usually only record in JPEG.
Maximum Burst Mode
- Great DSLR cameras for beginners should be able to record at least five frames per second in burst mode at full resolution when shooting in JPEG.
- The DSLR will slow down considerably if you’re using burst mode in the RAW format though.
- A beginner-level DSLR will include an autofocus system as well as the option of using manual focus, but autofocus is easier to use. A higher number of autofocus points used in the system typically will correlate with a more accurate system.
- A higher number for the ISO setting means the image sensor becomes more sensitive to light, allowing for greater success in low light photos.
Display Screen Options
- For an entry-level DSLR, having an articulated LCD (one that twists and swivels away from the camera) and a touch screen display will make the camera easier to use.
Type of Viewfinder
- A DSLR aimed at beginners might make use of an optical viewfinder, where the image shown in the viewfinder matches the view through the lens (TTL), or a digital viewfinder, where the viewfinder is a small display screen, and the image shown matches the large display screen.
- Beginners will appreciate having built-in Wi-Fi or NFC capabilities in the starter DSLR camera, because it’s easier to share the photos with social networks.
- Any DSLR camera can only make use of interchangeable lenses that match the type of lens mount on the camera body. You’ll have to purchase these lenses separately or as part of a kit with the original camera purchase.
Which Best DSLR Camera for Beginners is Right For You?
If you’re relatively new to digital photography, you have quite a few different options for purchasing a first digital camera. And while you might be leery of considering an entry-level DSLR as a first camera because of its price point and its complexity, camera makers have done a nice job in recent years of creating DSLR models that are great for inexperienced photographers. The best DSLR cameras for beginners listed here all offer plenty of easy-to-use features and great image quality at a reasonable price, which make them very strong candidates as a starter camera.
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