Since 2013, the niche for DSLR cameras has expanded beyond the professional photographers and more towards the amateur consumers looking to take better quality photos, to learn more about photography and to eventually transition to a pro themselves. If you’re not really a complete beginner anymore, but you would hesitate to call yourself a pro-level knowledgeable photographer just yet, then investing in an entry-level DSLR may be just the thing you need to help you along your journey. We’ll help you choose the best digital SLR camera for your needs and level of expertise, no matter how far along the way you’re currently at. If you’re having trouble deciding for yourself exactly what model of DSLR you should be investing in as a second camera after you initial one (a compact for general purposes, of course), then this is exactly the guide you need. We’ll help you figure out what your photography needs are and what the best choice for you may be.
What to look for in a DSLR
First of all, let’s suppose that you already have a compact camera good for your general point and shoot options, portable and easy to use for most intents and purposes. After all, this is how most beginners in photography transition to becoming pros: by buying a DSLR at some point in addition to their go-to compact camera. What we’re getting at that if you’re generally willing to spend a relatively small amount of money for a good compact camera, somewhere along the lines of $200-$400 or even $500, you should be prepared to spend a bit more when you’re looking to buy a good digital SLR camera, since they’re considered professional equipment. Sure enough, we’re still looking to recommend affordable options in our top picks which we’re about to suggest, but most of them are still situated somewhere in the $600-$1000 price range, just so you know what to expect. (As a note, if you’re looking for a non SLR digital camera that is still advanced enough for an aspiring pro, maybe you should turn your attention to mirrorless compacts or to bridge cameras).
Second of all, the best way to understand what to look for in a DSLR is to understand your photography needs better. Think not only of the price range you’re willing to dive into for your new investment, but also at the type of photos you plan to take with the camera. Do you plan to use it for travel photography? In this case, you should look for high zoom and a good viewfinder feature, as well as good distance lenses. Do you plant to use it for sports photography or taking fast snapshots of moving targets? In this case, you need to pay extra attention to the shutter speed, ISO and aperture of your camera lens. Food and product photography call for better and advanced macro functions, while portrait photography needs lenses which are highly compatible with the light source you plan to use. Give all of these things a careful consideration and you should have a better idea about what your priorities in a DSLR are.
Last, but not least, the beauty of DSLRs resides in how customizable they are, so think about how your new camera may be compatible with older gear you already have (especially lenses, but also memory cards from compact cameras and so on) and think about what new gear you plan to gradually buy for it over time. The more options you have for future investment (to diversify your range of lenses, for example), the better.
The best digital SLR camera options in 2015
Here are our top picks for DSLRs currently on the market, perfectly suited for beginners as well as entry-level pros. All of these options are generally enjoying favorable reviews, with some of them obviously faring better than others as their prices move up. Also, be aware that the main reason you’re looking to buy a DSLR is to be able to enjoy more control and more creative options over your photography, and in order to achieve that you will also need to invest in some good lenses, though that may happen in time. After all, that remains the main difference between a DSLR and a digital compact camera, the fact that a DSLR allows you to swap lenses for a variety of effects and experimentation. Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best digital SLR camera of 2015:
- Canon EOS Rebel T5i – This camera is the basic option if you don’t really know what to choose and you still consider yourself a beginner. It’s not the best option there is, but it’s one of the most common and well-established models on the market, with plenty of documentation and tutorials available for how to use it best. Also, its price is more than affordable for the niche ($429-$699) which makes it a good initial choice.
- Nikon D3300 – Another ideal choice for beginners, this Nikon DSLR camera offers very good photo quality and a general ease of use. The small price ($439-$509) and the wide variety of compatible lenses also make this a good choice for entry-level photographers looking to earn more about how to use a DSLR for better photos. Since Nikon is a brand with a large user community behind it and plenty of aspiring professional photographers among its enthusiasts, you will also have the advantage of rich forums and tutorials which feature your model, as well as a very rich used parts market, perfectly compatible with your camera.
- Pentax K50 – This model is one of the best digital SLR camera options you currently have under $1000, if you’re looking for a weather-sealed design and decent performance. But while it is definitely an upgrade from any compact point and shoot camera, it doesn’t really stand comparison with other more advanced DSLRs on the market, so only consider this if you’re still afraid to use something a bit more pro-level and want to learn first.
- Canon EOS 7D Mark II – With this camera, we are definitely moving further into pro territory. It is versatile enough to allow experimentation with all photo niches, but it also provides a decent enough performance to compete with any other professional DSLR on the market. If you’re an enthusiast looking to really learn to become a pro, then this is the camera for you. It’s priced at around $1699, but it’s worth every penny.
- Canon EOS 70D – A cheaper alternative to the sheer magnificence of the Mark II, this version of a Canon DSLR is priced at only around $999 and comes with the extra advantage of having wifi incorporated in it (which apparently is impossible on the more pro-like model Mark II because of its metal case). It won’t provide you with as many features and picture quality as its more glamorous sibling, but it has a decent performance and it can match the high versatility of more expensive models, so if you’re looking for a compromise option, this is it.
Also, if at first you will only invest in a basic DSLR camera without any fancy accessories just yet, we recommend you to start with a set of 35mm lenses compatible with SLRs. It’s enough to start with and it will provide you with good results for virtually all photography niches you may plan to try out. Happy shopping and good luck with your photography!