As you progress in your photography journey, there will come a time where you will need to say goodbye to your trusty point and shoot camera. Although point and shoot technology is a great way to learn the basics of photography. The real capabilities and functionality come from the use of a DSLR.
A DSLR also an as a digital, single-lens reflex camera, is the next logical step up for many photographers once they have mastered their introductory camera gear. The common definition of a DSLR camera is a digital camera that combines the optics and mechanisms of a single reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor rather than using photographic film.
The main difference between a standard point and shoot camera and a DSLR, is the concept of interchangeable lenses. With a point and shoot, the lens is already built into the body of your camera and make retract in unison with the power button. While a DSLR refers to a set-up of two individual parts placed together: the camera body and the single lens you choose to accompany it.
DSLR cameras also give you more access to varying aperture ranges as well as manual and autofocus, larger sensor sizes and even capabilities such as vibration, chromatic aberration and distortion reduction. A DSLR is comprised and constructed of a material that is durable, made to last and easily handled in varying professional settings. Additionally, a DSLR uses an optical viewfinder which makes capturing images in low light a more seamless process.
If you’re starting off in the world of DSLR photography – you may be overwhelmed by the amount of options available. For a beginning DSLR, we will want to restrict our searches to cameras that only contain cropped sensors. Although full-frame cameras are the overall better option. You will want to eventually advance into that level of photography once you have mastered the standard capabilities of a beginner DSLR.
Additionally, the best option for a beginning DSLR is to choose a camera that comes with a standard kit lens. Since you can always swap out and select other lenses to purchase, a bundled package of DSLR and lens will allow you to start shooting and testing out the range of options and features available on your new camera.
In this article, we will discuss our top 5 recommendations for beginning, cropped sensor DSLR cameras with an accompanying kit lens. You can find our list, working our way from number 5 to number 1, below:
Pentax K-70 // $794 with the 18-135mm Lens
The Pentax is number 5 on our list for best entry-level DSLR cameras. This model has 24 megapixels with an APS-C crop sensor. The ISO capabilities range from 100 to 102400 and is complete with ang angled LCD monitor.
The camera has built in WIFI allowing you to send images using the sync application on your device. One of the most important and noted aspects of this camera is its weather protection and dustproof guarantee. The Pentax is also complete with in-body shake reduction and can shoot up to six frames per second.
This model is a great option for an introductory DSLR due to its high megapixel quality, weatherproof body, wifi, and fast frame rate. The only downsides to this camera are in relation to the high price. Other similar models from different manufacturers can be found for a smaller sum.
Also, with the camera being a Pentax it limits you to only Pentax lens options if you wanted to upgrade from the traditional kit lens. With this, the camera would be suitable for a photographer with a higher budget and a willingness to use the Pentax lens options. You can purchase it on Amazon here.
Canon EOS Rebel T5i // $559.99 with 18-55 mm Lens
Our fourth camera on the list is the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. This camera is one of Canon’s highly reviewed introductory DSLR cameras. As a cropped sensor, APS-C camera, this model can take five frames per second and has a nine-point autofocus system.
The camera has 18 megapixels with an ISO range of 100 to 12800. This model is complete with a touch panel LCD screen. Users of this camera are happy with the long lasting battery life. They claim that a video recording time of several hours without having to recharge.
The downfalls of this camera are that the auto-focusing has been noted not to be the best and therefore may be difficult to use in various photographic scenarios. The camera has a manual function, but that can become frustrating for users who want to rapid fire off images. Additionally, the camera is still high in price for only 18 megapixels. This model does have 1080p HD video capabilities, so this DSLR would be a solid choice for the beginning photographer or videographer.
You can buy it on Amazon here.
Nikon D5300 // $474 with 18-55mm lens
Our third camera on the list is the Nikon D5300 with 24.2 megapixels. The camera comes with an 18-55mm lens with an aperture range of f/3.5-5.6. This model has autofocus capabilities, a 39 point auto focusing system and 3D tracking with 3D matrix metering.
The Nikon shoots 5 frames per second and has an ISO range of 100-12800. The model can shoot 1080p and 720p HD video and is complete with a LCD screen, built-in Wifi and GPS. The camera is of lightweight at 1.06 pounds and has an optical zoom of 3.
This camera is extremely affordable for the number of features it contains with the makeup of the camera. Also, the technological additives such as the built in Wifi to smartphone sending capabilities. The only downfall of this camera is the low ISO range with the maximum value at 12,800. Considering the kit lens that comes with this model has a maximum aperture of 3.5. This specific body and lens combination may not perform the best in low lighting conditions.
Regardless of ISO, this camera has high-quality features and an attractive price point that makes it a great investment for the beginner DSLR user.
You can buy it on Amazon here.
Canon EOS Rebel T6 // $332 with 18-55 mm lens
The second camera on our list, just short of making it to our top selection, is the Canon EOS Rebel T6. This model has the following specifications of 18 megapixels, 1080p HD video recording at 30 frames per second, 9 point autofocus with cross type point, ISO range from 100-6400 and an LCD monitor.
The optical viewfinder allows for quick focusing capabilities and the camera has a versatile range of capturing photographs in bright light to low light situations. This model comes with built in wifi and NFC connectivity, which is the type of wireless tool that allows for short-range communication between mobile devices.
The camera is a bit heavier than other Canon DSLR models, weighing 2.83 pounds, but it is one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs. The camera is incredibly affordable with a body and lens combination beginning at $330. This camera has a build and qualifications similar to that of our number one choice, but the main downfall of this camera is image resolution at only 18 megapixels.
Yet, with its wireless function, technical components and low price point. This is one of the best entry-level DSLRs you can currently find on the photography market.
You can buy it on Amazon here.
Nikon D3400 // $447 with 18-55 mm lens
Our last camera on the list and choice for BEST entry level DSLR camera is the Nikon D3400. With a 24.2 megapixel clarity, continuous shooting at 5 frames per second and an EXPEED 4 Image Processor – this camera is a quick and high quality machine.
The ISO range is from 100-25600 and contains an LCD screen. It also has the option to shoot full 1080p HD video, creating sharp, bright and beautiful images.
This model is small, light and easy to use. With manual and autofocus, zoom capabilities, an 11 point autofocus system and built-in bluetooth to pair your camera with your phone. This DSLR by Nikon has all the necessities for a growing photographer.
We chose this model as our number one, best DSLR currently available for its high megapixel quality. It has great ISO range that will dominate in low light, a kit lens with a fast aperture of 3.5 and the cheap price point for under $500.
You can buy it on Amazon here.
The Price Scale of DSLR Cameras
As we have chosen our recommendation for best entry level DSLR camera, we want to note that all of the cameras noted in this article have a cropped sensor build. When transitioning out of a point and shoot system, a cropped sensor is the next logical step for capturing high quality images. A cropped sensor has many specifications that are similar to that of its full frame counterparts, minus the size of the sensor in which the image is created.
As you progress in your understanding and capabilities of using a DSLR system, you can eventually make your way up to the full frame devices. We chose to focus on cropped sensors, because as a beginner and entry level photographer – you will want something that works well, but doesn’t break the bank. Full frame cameras can be two to three times more expensive than standard DSLR body. Additionally, kit bundles often do not come with a lens. This means you can expect to pay $1000-$1500 for a full frame DSLR body.
With this in mind, stick to the cropped sensor DSLR cameras when your first start to get a true and practical understanding of the system without surpassing your budget.
The Best DSLR
When choosing which DSLR camera is best for you, it is vital to consider whether what you receive in terms of technical capabilities and specifications is worth the price of the gear. Every entry level DSLR has relatively the same makeup in relation to megapixels, ISO and quality of its kit lenses. Yet, if all of these cameras are very similar – why do some cost far more than others? In certain cases, there may be a camera that has more functions and therefore is more expensive. But in others, you could potentially be buying the same classification and functions but for a steeper price.
This is the exact reason why researching prior to buying gear is vital in your photography career. Whether you reference online forums, technical review guides or even seek the advice of another fellow photographer. Having a comprehensive understanding of what a camera can do for you is recommended before you make the jump into buying.
From our list, we considered the technical qualifications of each camera in relation to its price point and compatibility within its manufacturing. Although every camera on the list would be an acceptable starting point for your segway. In DSLR focused photography, we believe that the Nikon D3400 gives you the best features with a truly affordable price.
To find a DSLR with a kit lens for under $500 is a definite steal and the best way for a growing photographer to enter the field of single-lens imagery without a staggering financial investment.
What To Consider
We also feel that our second choice, the Canon EOS Rebel T6, would be just as suitable of an option for your first DSLR if you tend to prefer Canon over Nikon. We understand that there is a distinct and longtime debate over which manufacturer, Nikon or Canon, is best. So if you prefer the way Canon cameras are set up, you can consider this option as well. Just note, you will be sacrificing those extra 6.2 precious megapixels.
Do you shoot with a DSLR camera? Do you own a cropped or full frame sensor camera? Are you a Nikon, Canon, Sony or Pentax user? Let us know your thoughts on our choice for best entry-level DSLR in our comments below.