If you are planning on venturing into the world of professional photography then having a DSLR is a must, these cameras are applauded for their ability to capture stunning pictures and high-quality videos. When it comes to the best DSLR camera for beginners, the number of options one has are countless. Going for an expensive, high-end DSLR at the very start of your photography career might not be a sensible thing to do, instead one should start off with a beginner level camera, a lot of big camera companies have a variety of entry-level cameras to offer, each of which offer great value, features and functionality at a modest price.
Most entry-level DSLRs come with an 18-55mm lens kit that can be more than enough for beginners, but one can simply upgrade their camera’s capabilities by buying more powerful lenses in the future. We are going to take a look at the number of options that beginner photographers have and discuss what each camera has to offer, it should be noted that the cameras being mentioned here are not exclusively for aspiring photographers, they can also provide satisfaction to anyone looking for a better image capturing device than their smartphone’s camera.
Nikon’s upgraded version of the D3300, the D3400 is their latest flagship in their entry-level lineup, the camera costs around $500 and provides one with superb features including a 24.2 MP APS-C image sensor, a decent autofocus system and the ability to capture 1080p footage at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second. A plethora of auto shooting modes and a well-thought-out button layout makes this camera incredibly easy to get the hang of once you start using it.
In many ways, the D3400 takes whatever the D3300 was not capable of providing and smooths out the small yet notable kinks left in the DSLR, Nikon has introduced a much more reliable autofocus, better battery life and Bluetooth LE connectivity which has made image transferring a breeze. This camera is also compatible with Nikon’s SnapBridge technology which lets you sync videos and pictures onto your phone in real time. The D3400 is definitely worth considering if you plan on getting a well-rounded entry-level DSLR with a friendly learning curve.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i
Canon has a pretty superb entry-level lineup as well, and at the very top of it, sits the EOS Rebel T7i, the latest DSLR in Canon’s Rebel series, this camera is loaded with the latest features, comes equipped with superior sensors and a processor that is bound to make this camera a joy to use. It sports a 24.2 MP image sensor, the same kind that can be found in Canon’s enthusiast grade 80D, a far more superior image processor than what the Rebel T6i has to offer and an autofocus that feels great to use. Along with better image capturing capabilities, the T7i also comes with more battery life, a much faster burst rate and a bunch of other features that make this camera an excellent option as an all-in-one beginner camera that can help one learn the basics and get a firm grasp on photography.
The only problem with this otherwise excellent DSLR camera is its price, considering that it is an entry-level camera, the T7i’s $849 price tag is a bit too much, and especially for people who plan on upgrading to a more powerful camera in the future. However, if you intend on sticking to one camera for a while, then the Rebel T7i is a choice that will definitely keep you happy and help you build your photography skills.
If the D3000 series does not cut it for you, then you might want to take a look at Nikon’s D5000 series which is a step above and offers more functionality for a slightly higher price. The Nikon D5300 is not exactly a new camera, it is two generations old already, but that is not a big deal since Nikon has not really added much to the more recent entries in their D5000 lineup. The D5300 shares a lot with its successors; 24.2 MP image sensor, decent autofocus and satisfactory image processing, apart from not having touch screen functionality and leaving a bit to be desired when it comes to low light performance and battery, it is a great camera to buy.
The biggest problem that you might have to deal with when purchasing the D5300 is finding it since the camera is old, it can be a bit harder to find in certain regions, so you might have to dig around if you want one.
Canon EOS Rebel T6
Canon’s T7i and T6i are great DSLR cameras, but both of them are a bit costly, luckily Canon has been kind enough to provide us with a more affordable option in their Rebel Lineup; the EOS Rebel T6. Along with taking the ‘i’ out of the camera’s name, Canon has also carried out a lot of stripping with this camera, resulting in a camera that does not really look that good on paper but is still a viable option for capturing great stills.
One of the primary reasons why the Rebel ‘i’s have a higher price is that they come with features that make the cameras good video capturing devices, by taking out tilting screens, lowering ISO sensitivity, simplifying the autofocus, adding a lower level lens-kit and reducing the number of megapixels, Canon has made the Rebel T6 much more affordable at around $448. The Rebel T6 is an excellent option to have on the table if you are more into stills, but a major downside to this DSLR is the fact that it has the same price as the Nikon D3400, which offers more at the same price level.
Nikon and Canon are not the only DSLR manufacturers on our list, Pentax’s K-S2 is a pretty nice looking entry-level camera that provides one with similar if not the same degree of image and video quality, and a reliable autofocus. This camera also offers something that you will not be able to find in other entry-level cameras, this camera is designed to be weatherproof, making it an excellent option for people who are into nature photography. Weather resistance is a feature that is commonly reserved for high-end cameras, which makes the K-S2 unique amongst its competition, but the weather resistance comes at a price; this camera is pretty heavy, weighing 21.8 ounces, which could make it uncomfortable in long shooting sessions.
Another downside to the K-S2 is that its manufacturer does not have a lens collection as vast and diverse as what Canon or Nikon has to offer, which can limit your camera’s upgradability factor.
The Nikon D3300 and the D3400 are described by many as the exact same camera with a handful of differences, both share the same 24.2MP image sensor and the same image processor, which you can get for a slightly lower price if you opt for the D3300. However, there are certain changes that Nikon made in an attempt to improve some of the mistakes they made with the D3300; the most notable being the D3300’s noisy lens-kit motor, unreliable autofocus and its lack of Bluetooth LE.
When it comes to choosing between the D3400 and the D3300, the bottom line is decided by what kind of photography do you plan on doing, the D3400 is ideal for using in well-lit to averagely lit areas, but its weaker flash puts it at a disadvantage in low-lit areas. Overall, they are both great cameras, the D3300 being a slightly cheaper and slightly outdated option between the two.
A cut above the D3000 and the second latest in the D5000 series, the Nikon D5500 offers features and functionality that make it comparable to the Rebel T7i, its price also falls in the upper tier which makes this camera an entry level plus choice. It uses the same image sensor and image processor as the D3400 but has a much more reliable and advanced autofocus, something that cannot be said for the D3400. The D5500 also has a swivel LCD, touch screen functionality and even comes with Wi-Fi and NFC for easy transfer, its superior autofocus and swiveling LCD makes the D5500 a good video shooting choice as well.
Nikon’s D5300, 5500 and the 5600 are remarkably similar to each other, so much that one can say that that the 5600 is the same camera as the 5500 but at a higher price, in fact, the D5500 weighs less than its successor, making it a better choice.
Canon EOS Rebel SL2
If compact and lightweight are important factors for you then the EOS Rebel SL2 might catch your attention, this camera weighs a mere 14.3 ounces and yet packs enough features to be called a trimmed down version of the Rebel T7i. Compared to the older SL1, Canon has made a number of improvements to this DSLR, adding more megapixels (24.2), improved battery life and more reliable low-light performance, the camera’s burst rate has been upped as well.
However, the SL2 has a pretty wonky autofocus, and because of this it faces competition from some mirrorless cameras out in the market that can provide more at the same price, but that does not mean that the SL2 should not be bought, the camera offers lens interchangeability and is great at capturing stills.
The K-70 comes loaded with features that allow it to stand right next to options like the D5500 or the Rebel T7i, it offers superior lowlight image capturing, a kit lens with a reach of 18-135mm (most kit-lenses stop at 50mm) and built-in image stabilization, all of which comes packed in a weather sealed body weighing a mere 14.3 ounces. The camera’s 24.2MP allow it to capture superb quality images. However, it still suffers from the problem of limiting the number of lenses you can choose from, putting it at a disadvantage in terms of upgradability.
The camera also costs around the same as the Rebel T7i, making it a bit ‘high-end’ choice for entry level, but just like the T7i, the Pentax K-70 delivers features and functionality that justify the price, with the added plus of weather sealing that one cannot expect to find at this price range normally.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i
The recently outshined Rebel T6i is an entry-level DSLR that exudes quality, the camera’s features make it ideal for video capturing as well as for still capturing and it comes with an STM kit-lens that is known for silent and smooth focusing. The reason why this great DSLR is so far down on the list is the fact that even though it has been replaced by the newer T7i, it still costs a lot, in fact, the price gap between the two cameras is only a mere $100. When you compare the two cameras’ you will notice that just for an additional $100, you get a far more superior autofocus and a number of other significant improvements as well.
If you can afford the T6i than you should consider saving up a bit more and simply going for the T7i instead, but going for the T6i is fine too, the camera offers a lot and is bound to be a joy to use.
The currently latest DSLR in Nikon’s much-loved D5000 series, the D5600 does offer a lot, including SnapBridge connectivity, a more user-friendly Auto ISO, and a time-lapse feature as well. However, these seem to be the only changes that Nikon decided to make in the D5600, other than this, the D5600 is exactly the same as the D5500, with the same processor and sensor, the same autofocus system and the same battery life. Nikon’s consistency at providing marginal upgrades can be a bit frustrating, but it also reduces the prices of older models, one can simply go for the D5500, get the same primary features and save plenty of money as well.
4K functionality is something that many people are waiting for in the entry-level lineup, something that Nikon should definitely consider when releasing the successor of the D5600 until unless the company decides on making any significant changes to their D5000 series, one should simply go for a D5500.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i
Canon is well-known for producing user-friendly cameras that perform great in capturing images and making videos, which is why most of their cameras are a viable option for beginner level DSLRs. The EOS Rebel T5i provides a wholesome, yet slightly old, package that stays true to what Canon DSLRs offer and is significantly cheaper than the Rebel T6i, the T5i shares the same kit-lens as the T6i, an important factor to note. However, the T5i is two generations old, it packs a lower resolution of 18MP, and its autofocus system is significantly less advanced, the T5i also lacks Wi-Fi.
What makes it a decent option for an entry-level camera is its ease of use, great lens-kit, and its decent capture quality, all of which one can get at a much more affordable price.
Canon EOS 70D
The Canon EOS 70D came out about 4 years ago and is by default, more of a mid-range camera that provides features one would not usually find in an entry level DSLR, some of these features being a wider variety of manual controls, faster shutter speeds, and a beefier battery. Since this model is quite old, its price has fallen low enough to make it an acceptable choice as an entry-level camera, the EOS 70D comes with a price tag of $899, which might be eye-popping for some, but you have to keep in mind the fact that this DSLR offers much more functionality as well.
That said, its price comes really close to the Rebel T7i, a DSLR that comes loaded with much more advanced technology, the 70D’s autofocus is inferior when compared to the T7i’s 45 cross type focus, and it also has lesser megapixels to offer(20.2). At this price point, when deciding between the 70D and the T7i, the factors that will determine which camera to go for would be; whether you want the 70D’s better manual controls or do you want the T7i’s better technology, the fact that the 70D is weather sealed will also matter a lot to people who plan on taking their cameras outdoors a lot.
Sony Alpha a68
Sony is not known for its DSLRs, the company does far better with mirrorless cameras. However, the Sony Alpha a68 is a great beginner level DSLR that packs enough power to be able to compete with models such as the T7i or the D5500. This camera comes with a 24.2MP image APS-C sensor, built-in image stabilization and incredibly advanced autofocus system which makes it an excellent choice for action photography, but this camera also comes with a couple of problems. The first one being that it weighs a lot, the Alpha a68 is the heaviest camera on this list, weighing 24.6 ounces, which is especially heavy when you consider the fact that its body is entirely made of plastic.
Another problem that the Alpha a68 faces is the fact that, just like with Pentax, the number of lens one has the option to upgrade to is pretty low, this can be a problem for people who plan on investing in lenses, however, if you intend on keeping your photography casual then this will not be that big of a problem.
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
The EOS Rebel SL1 was considered to be a superb camera when it first came out, but now it has been replaced by options that offer more features at better prices, it is a pretty lightweight camera, and for a slightly lower price, one can get a significantly more feature rich D5300. The SL1 offers a modest 18MP sensor and has a pretty outdated autofocus system, but it also has a few plus points; you get touchscreen functionality, a high-resolution LCD, excellent performance in low light areas and an STM kit-lens.
The SL1 is a decent choice to go for, but one has a number of better options that are available for the same price.
Canon EOS Rebel T5
The EOS Rebel T5 is currently the cheapest entry level DSLR that Canon has to offer, its barebones body does not have any fancy features to offer, and it has a pretty slow burst rate and autofocus, but what makes it a good option is its price. The T5 costs a mere $400 and can act as a decent point and shoot camera.
Things To Consider Before Buying an Entry Level DSLR in 2017-2018
The term ‘entry level’ means that these cameras should not have a high learning ceiling, they should be easy to get the hang of and primarily act as gateways that allow one to delve into photography without feeling overwhelmed. Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that determine whether a DSLR is a good entry level choice or not.
Photography can get confusing really quickly, there are a lot of settings that one must tweak and fine tune to get the desired results, entry-level cameras should have a UI that enables one to start using a camera without having to spend time figuring out what goes where. Nikon and Canon are popular amongst beginner photographers because both of these manufacturers pay attention to their camera’s button layout and UI, their cameras come with easy to view LCDs, and the menus are all quite easy to navigate through. The addition of touchscreen controls makes interacting with the camera simpler and faster as well.
Automatic Shooting Modes
One of the hardest parts of photography can be to get all the settings just right, this is where automatic shooting modes come in, these modes are basically fixed pre-sets of commands that one can choose simply through the flick of a dial, essentially turning a DSLR into a point and shoot camera. Nikon and Canon both provide a number of modes to choose from, all of which shield the user from more technical handling of the device until they are ready enough, most entry-level DSLRs come with auto modes as well as with a manual mode which provides one with greater control over how their camera works.
Price is a major factor in deciding whether you want to buy a certain camera or not, there are two major things to consider when it comes to price; whether you plan on upgrading to a better camera in the near future and what your budget is. Entry level DSLRs usually cost from $400 to as much as $850, since all of them come with kit-lenses you do not have to worry about investing in lenses unless you specifically want to purchase extra lenses. If you plan on moving onto a better camera in the future then buying an expensive entry level DSLR such as the Rebel T7i or the D5600 might not be a good idea, instead, go for a cheaper option and buy an extra lens with the money you saved.
One of the biggest reasons why DSLRs are so good at outperforming other kinds of cameras is the fact that they have larger sensors, image sensors collect light for digital photos, the more surface area they have, the better they perform. Thanks to advancements in technology, almost every modern entry-level DSLR comes with a decent sensor that enables it to beat any mirrorless camera by a large margin.
The Number of Mega Pixels
More megapixels equal to images with more details, Nikon is slightly ahead of Canon when it comes to their image sensors, their cameras started offering 24.2MP image sensors first, and then Canon caught up with them. Currently, both manufacturers offer entry-level cameras that provide a decent amount of megapixels, allowing users to take an image with intricate details with more clarity. Since pixels play a significant role in deciding overall image quality, one should definitely focus on this factor.
A good DSLR can shoot stunning videos, there are a number of factors that go into determining a camera’s video quality, autofocus, the type of lens and resolution play a fundamental role in affecting a camera’s overall video shooting capabilities. If you plan on using a DSLR for videography then Canon cameras are going to be a lot more appealing than Nikon cameras, Canon is known for its superb video capturing and beats Nikon by a margin. Their trump card being their STM lenses, which have a much smoother and much more silent focus, contributing to better video capturing.
While 4K recording still has not been introduced on the entry-level DSLRs, most of them are capable of capturing 1080p footage at 24-60 frames per second.
LCD Screen And Autofocus
Screen resolution and brightness matter a lot, they help you interact with your camera more easily and preview your shots as well, and touchscreen LCDs provide the added bonus of making interacting with your camera easier. Otherwise one has to rely on button controls which can feel awkward at times. Swivel touchscreens are usually included with more expensive cameras such as the D5500 or the Rebel T6i, they are primarily helpful in videography, but more control over your screen’s angle can also help you capture images from awkward positions.
Almost every entry level DSLR comes with a mediocre to just acceptable autofocus, but there are exceptions such as Canon’s Rebel T7i that boasts a staggering 45 cross-type focus system. Learning how to make the most out a DSLR’s focus system can take a while, but once you get the hang of it, you can significantly improve the quality of your images and your videos.
While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are not must have for an entry-level camera, they do make the user’s life a whole lot easier since image transfer becomes simplified, Nikon’s SnapBridge is an excellent example of the image transferring and viewing system becoming more simplified thanks to wireless connectivity. However, one should still always keep a cord close by since Wi-Fi transfers can be intensive for a camera’s processor and can reduce your camera’s lifespan.
Weather sealing is considered to be a premium feature that mostly comes with pro-level gear, but there were a couple of entries on this article that provide one with DSLRs that are more durable. Weather sealing should only be considered if you plan on taking your cameras outdoors a lot. Otherwise, it is a feature that you can live without.
Getting Acquainted With Your DSLR
Entry level DSLRs do not require any setting up, all you need to do is take them out of the box, charge the battery and start using them, going through the manual is a great way of understanding all the basics about your camera, but if you do not like to read then you can simply get online and watch videos that can tell you more about your camera. Most beginners spend their first few weeks of shooting on auto mode, but one should not forget to experiment with manual mode now and then, remember, manually operated DSLR is capable of a lot more than one set to an automatic mode.
What Comes After Entry Level DSLRs?
Entry level DSLRs are pretty limited in features and functionality when compared to full frame and enthusiast level options, while even the most high-end cameras make use of the same sensors and processors, the difference comes in the quality of features provided. Professional level equipment almost always has vastly superior autofocus, much larger sensors and have much more intricate manual controls. Another thing that they have in common with entry-level DSLRs is that they come with auto modes as well meaning that if someone is really set on becoming a photographer, then they can simply invest in a high-end DSLR and start their journey from there.
Why Not Go For Mirrorless Cameras?
Mirrorless cameras are a lot more compact than DSLRs since they do not make use of the internal mirror system found in DSLRs, a lot of people say that mirrorless cameras offer the same amount of image capturing quality as entry-level DSLRs. However, the truth is that DSLRs have significantly larger image sensors, allowing them to capture more detail, more colors and more light, resulting in more realistic pictures of better quality. There are mirrorless cameras out there that are capable of capturing good images, but at an entry-level price range, one cannot expect to buy them.