What is the Best DSLR Camera of 2017? Last Modified

Smartphone camera not packing enough punch? Apple and Samsung can say what they will, but a smartphone is not replacing a DSLR camera. Ever. We do have a mirrorless camera guide for those Sony fans among us.

To help navigate the page, use the jump links to the section you want:
Best DSLR / DSLR FAQ / Nikon DSLRs / Canon DSLRs / Lens Guide

Best DSLR

You’ll hate me for saying this, but it’s the one you can afford. It’s not necessarily the gear you have, but the person taking the time to storyboard the composition, framing the shot, lighting and your post-processing skills in Lightroom. You’ll be surprised the amount of fixes Lightroom can achieve. Over exposed? Fixed. Need better lighting? Fixed. It goes on and on.

For those wanting the best bang for your budget, I did come up with a completely subjective list of the best DSLR cameras on the market.

Budget

Budding photogs on a budget can’t go wrong with the Nikon D3400. Features to price ratio, it stomps over Canon’s offering. It is an APS-C (crop sensor) camera, but you can achieve great shots. Better to find out if you like the hobby at less than $500 versus a full-frame that hits well above $1000.

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
  • SnapBridge Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor

Another budget suggestion for the aspiring vloggers out there is a Canon 80D or Nikon D5600. Both have the articulating screen, but cap resolution at 1080p. Come on camera companies. Give us 4K.

Sale
D5600 DX-format Digital SLR Body
  • 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor. Approx. 0.82x (50 mm f/1.4 lens at infinity, -1.0 m(*1))
  • 3.2" 1.037m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
Sale
Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Camera Body (Black)
  • 45-point all cross-type AF system* allows for superb autofocus when shooting with the optical viewfinder and focusing area selection modes.
  • Intelligent Viewfinder with approximately 100% viewfinder coverage.Approx. 730g / 25.75oz. (Based on CIPA Guidelines),Approx. 650g / 22.93oz. (Body only)
  • 24.2 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS sensor helps provide impressive, high-resolution results.Shooting speed of up to 7.0fps makes it an excellent choice for capturing...

You’ll get faster speeds, better frames per second and overall a better camera than the D3400. It becomes about your goals with the camera. Entering video? Both are your entry-level packages that shoot above their cost.

Mid-range

Mid-range for me is still in crop sensor territory. The best in this category is the Nikon D500. It’s a professional camera at an enthusiast cost. Dual card slot. Ten frames per second. 4K video (serious crop here) and every feature you’d expect to see in a pro-level full-frame in a smaller package. Honestly, there’s no point to a D5 when the D500 does essentially the same thing for a fraction of the cost.

Sale
Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only)
  • 20.9MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor.Viewfinder:Eye-level pentaprism single-lens reflex viewfinder
  • EXPEED 5 Image Processor
  • 3.2" 2,539k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD

Pro Without the Cost

When the Nikon D850 was in the rumor stages, not one thought the feature set would come at such a discount. You are getting the speed of a Nikon D5 along with a 45.7MP BSI sensor. All for $3300. Not sure if Nikon had a stroke at the keyboard when entering the price, but damn. Why spend $6000 for a D5 when this is simply better.

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Nikon-designed back-side illuminated (BSI) full-frame image sensor with no optical low-pass filter
  • 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré
  • Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance

Canon fans will want to jump to the 1DX Mark II, but hang on. It’s the same deal as Nikon. You’re overspending when the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. Same price as the D850, but lacks the megapixel count. Where it lacks that, it more than makes up for it with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system. And 30.4MP is nothing to scoff at.

Sale
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
  • 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting
  • Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
  • 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage

I’m all for the best camera, but both the Nikon and Canon full-frame flagships are outdone by cheaper full-frame offerings. Especially in Nikon’s case.

DSLR FAQ

Curious about what the letters stand for? DSLR in long form is a digital single-lens reflex camera. It combines the mechanism of the old school single-lens reflex camera with a digital imaging sensor over traditional film. While mirrorless is creeping up, the DSLR remains the most popular interchangeable lens camera system.
Cameras are termed by their sensor size. An APS-C or crop sensor uses (approx) a 28.2mm X 23.6mm size while full-frame uses 43.2mm X 36mm. The difference is what is known as the crop factor. Take a Nikon D500 for example. Slap a 35mm on the body, and it’s not really a 35mm. The crop factor for Nikon is around 1.5, turning that 35mm into 52.5mm lens.
Yes. Yes. And a triple side of yes. So much is made of this on the internet. In fact, I’d recommend you starting to incorporate full-frame lenses into your crop sensor bag. That way when you upgrade, you’re good to go. The amount YouTube minutes and words on blogs debating this is staggering.
The battle of the titans. Nikon has had a few financial woes, but the past two years have been dominated by their launches. First the D500 and now the D850. Canon has this weird refusal to put 4K into their mid-range cameras which is just off considering they pioneered video in DSLRs and their dual pixel AF would be perfect for 4K.

You’ll have hardened supporters on both sides claiming this or that is the best. It comes down to what you’re comfortable with.

A couple of years ago, the answer would be DSLR. Today? There are arguments to be made for both. Sony and Fujifilm have really stepped up to the plate in getting mirrorless to the forefront. Sony innovates and releases new bodies with reckless abandon. The a9 is a legitimate contender as a pro-level body. Ready to see a Sony a9r so we can really kick off the pixel wars between the major players. And don’t sleep on Fujifilm and the X-T2. People love this camera. The question between DSLR and Mirrorless will become even more heated as 2018 approaches

Nikon DSLR Cameras

One of the titans of the industry alongside Canon, Nikon has a variety of cameras to fit any budget. Getting your feet wet in photography? The Nikon D3400 is your cheapest route. All in? The Nikon D850. There’s a more expensive D5, but it’s hard to recommend it based on the cheaper, more feature rich D850.

We will kick it off with an overview of the full-frame DSLRs and wind it up with the APS-C lineup.

Full-Frame

Nikon D850

While Nikon categorizes the D850 as its mid-range full-frame, its features scream top-of-the-line professional camera. Recently announced, it is a powerhouse in every sense of the word. It steps up the megapixel count from the D810 to a 45.7MP BSI CMOS sensor. It has the lowest base ISO of any camera on the market at 64, and can handle nine frames per second with the battery grip. It hits seven without.

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Nikon-designed back-side illuminated (BSI) full-frame image sensor with no optical low-pass filter
  • 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré
  • Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance

In a way, you are getting the D850 and a D500 in one package. It’s crop mode samples down to the resolution of the D500. At full resolution, the buffer handles 51 images in 14-bit lossless RAW or 170 frames in 12-bit lossless RAW. Those who love to hold the shutter release button can take comfort in that.

Autofocus is the same system from the D5 shoved into the D850. It allows you to autofocus in -4 EV giving it exceptional low light performance. Video capabilities hit 4K uncropped and 120fps at 1080p. Was hoping to see 60fps at 4K, but not happening with this camera. All for $3299. Why pay $6500 for a D5? And that’s why the D5 is being left off the list.

Nikon D750

The Nikon D750 is labeled as an advanced entry into full-frame DSLR cameras. At the price, you may start to wonder if you stick with the crop sensor D500 (same price) and enjoy more features. If full-frame is your goal, it’s a solid body (Nikon has had recall issues with the camera, so make sure you’re getting a newly manufactured one).

Sale
Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Full frame 24.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor
  • Full HD 60/50/30/25/24p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and compatibility with the WT-5a + UT-1 Communication Unit

On the feature side, it has a 24.3MP CMOS sensor capable of 6.5 frames per second and shoots video at 1080p, Zero 4K here because the rumor is the D750 is getting replaced in 2018. That doesn’t mean sleep on the camera. It won numerous awards such as the best DSLR system on the market in 2015. The lower price allows you stock up on quality lenses.

APS-C (Crop Sensor)

Nikon D500

2016 was the year of the Nikon D500. And go ahead and tack on 2017. It took everything in the D5 and pushed it into a smaller package. Everything you need in an action/wildlife camera is right here. The autofocus is the same Multi-CAM 20K autofocus system found in the D5 and D850.

Sale
Nikon D500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only)
  • 20.9MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor.Viewfinder:Eye-level pentaprism single-lens reflex viewfinder
  • EXPEED 5 Image Processor
  • 3.2" 2,539k-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD

Resolution is at 20.9MP CMOS sensor without an optical low pass filter all powered by the EXPEED 5 image processor. The same dual card slot (XQD and SD) system found in the flagships is inside the crop flagship of Nikon. It allows for ten frames per second for those shutter animals who love the clacking noise of a DSLR.

Low light is no issue with the cameras absurd ISO range. Granted, no one is shooting at ISO 1,00,000, but it’s there if you want to give it a shot. At a price of $1899, I’d say it’s the second best camera Nikon is offering right now. If you’re not snapping up the D850, the D500 is one hell of a camera.

Nikon D7500

Imagine a baby D500. Lose a few features, drop the price and that’s the Nikon D7500. It haves the price down to $1250, but you do lose a few features. It keeps the same sensor, but you are down to 8 frames per second versus 10. It does keep the 4K video capability, but like the D500, the crop factor comes into play in a hurry.

Nikon D7500 DX-format Digital SLR Body
  • Class leading image quality, ISO range, image processing and metering equivalent to the award-winning D500
  • Large 3.2" 922K dot, tilting LCD screen with touch functionality
  • 51-point AF system with 15 cross-type sensors and group-area AF paired with up to 8 fps continuous shooting capability

One spot where it was a bit of a shock was the lack of a dual slot memory card setup. The previous generation of the 7000-series had this, but you’re down to one SD slot. Still, if you want D500 capabilities with money left over for lenses, the D7500 is a solid choice.

Nikon D5600

Aspiring Youtube vlogger? The D5600 is for Nikon what the 80D is for Canon. What makes the camera great is the articulating touchscreen flips out and allows you to see yourself while recording. One issue is that it’s capped at 1080p. For the price of $699, it’s expected. You do see a bump in megapixels to 24.2.

Sale
D5600 DX-format Digital SLR Body
  • 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor. Approx. 0.82x (50 mm f/1.4 lens at infinity, -1.0 m(*1))
  • 3.2" 1.037m-Dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen

The D5600 is a great step in the beginner crop sensor format. It offers tons of features for a great price. It’s the same fps the true entry-level at five frames per second. It’s a fun camera to shoot with. Not crazy expensive to the point you want to baby it.

Nikon D3400

Nikon’s sub $500 entry-level DSLR. It won’t get the stunning specs of the D500, but if you’re introducing a friend or family member to photography, the D3400 is the kit you want. It doesn’t break the bank and more than holds it own with a 24.2MP sensor shooting at five frames per second. It’s a bit slower with the EXPEED 4 image processor, and the ISO numbers aren’t the best.

Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
  • SnapBridge Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor

It can handle family video work at 1080p. Anything professional and you’ll want to expand your horizons towards the D500 or the D850. The camera is meant for beginners and doesn’t overload you with giant menu systems or dials and knobs on the body. You’ll see constant sales on the two-lens kit with the camera body. Take advantage when you see the deals pop around the holidays.

Canon DSLR Cameras

The other titan of the camera industry. Canon has its diehard fans much the same way Nikon does. Which is better? That will always come down the person behind the lens.

Full-Frame

Canon EOS 1D X Mark II

The flagship of Canon with the specs to back it up. And a price to hammer home its position in the world of full-frame DSLR cameras. $5999 is the cost, but damn does it back it up with 14 frames per second and 170 image buffer using the CFast card.

Sale
Canon EOS-1DX Mark II DSLR Camera (Body Only)
  • Fastest shooting EOS-1D, capable of up to 14 fps full-resolution RAW or JPEG, and up to 16 fps in Live View mode with new Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors
  • Achieves a maximum burst rate of up to 170 RAWs in continuous shooting at up to 16 fps, and 4K movies using CFast cards in the new CFast 2.0 slot
  • Improved AF performance through 61-point, wide area AF system with 41 cross-type points, improved center point focusing sensitivity to -3 EV and compatibility...

Video fans can rejoice with the 4K at 60fps. It’s backed by a 20.2MP sensor with plenty of ISO range. It doesn’t have the crazy numbers of Nikon, but ISO one million is for marketing a big ass number, not usable in the real world.

Autofocus is a 61-point AF II system allowing -3 EV and f/8 compatibility. It does have the dual pixel AF which is in nearly every Canon camera. It’s why you see fans beg them to toss 4K into less expensive cameras, but Canon is Canon. They pioneered video in DSLRs and then let everyone else surpass them.

Canon EOS 5D Series

This is where I’ll side with the cheaper camera. The 5DS and 5DR both sport 50MP sensors, whereas the 5D Mark IV is in the range of 30MP. Why the 5D Mark IV? It’s more well rounded and does what the other bodies do at a cheaper price. 4K at 30fps. The Dual Pixel AF and seven frames per second of continuous shooting.

The AF system features 61 points with up to 41 cross-type sensors. Its low light performance allows it to be stopped down to -3 EV. I’ll list all of the 5D cameras below, but bang for the buck award goes to the Mark IV

Sale
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
  • 30.4 MP full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting
  • Up to 7.0 frames per second continuous shooting speed
  • 61-point AF system with 41 cross-points for expanded vertical coverage
Sale
Canon EOS 5DS Digital SLR (Body Only)
  • Newly designed 50.6 Megapixel full-frame CMOS helps deliver ultra-high resolution images
  • EOS Scene Detection System features a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
  • 61-Point High Density Reticular AF including up to 41 cross-type AF points and EOS iTR
Sale
Canon EOS 5DS R Digital SLR with Low-Pass Filter Effect Cancellation (Body Only)
  • LPF (Low-pass filter) effect cancellation takes full advantage of the original resolving power of the 50.6 effective megapixels CMOS sensor, delivering even...
  • Newly designed 50.6 Megapixel full-frame CMOS helps deliver ultra-high resolution images
  • EOS Scene Detection System features a 150,000-pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor

Crop-Sensor

Canon EOS 80D

The vlogger’s dream camera. Nearly everyone on YouTube has used it at some point in their career. The missing piece is 4K, but Canon withholds the 4K spec for its flagship cameras. No one knows why, but that’s the Canon way. What makes it great for video is the flip out touch screen, the 45-point all cross type AF (Dual Pixel AF) and the 24.2MP CMOS sensor.

Sale
Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR Camera Body (Black)
  • 45-point all cross-type AF system* allows for superb autofocus when shooting with the optical viewfinder and focusing area selection modes.
  • Intelligent Viewfinder with approximately 100% viewfinder coverage.Approx. 730g / 25.75oz. (Based on CIPA Guidelines),Approx. 650g / 22.93oz. (Body only)
  • 24.2 Megapixel (APS-C) CMOS sensor helps provide impressive, high-resolution results.Shooting speed of up to 7.0fps makes it an excellent choice for capturing...

Powering the camera is the DIGIC 6 image processor. At $1000+, it’s more expensive than the Nikon D5600, but don’t discount the capability of the Dual Pixel AF. It’s top notch, and maybe one day Canon will see fit to introduce a 4K variant of the 80D.

Canon EOS 70D

Think the 80D with a $300 price cut. That opens the door to the endless list of Canon lenses. The screen flips out and continuous shooting hits seven frames per second. If you want to stick with a camera body under a grand to leave room for lenses, it’s a winner.

Sale
Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm STM Lens
  • 20.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5+
  • 19 point cross-type AF System
  • Up to 7 fps shooting

The 80D does everything a notch or two better. But if you can live with the drop in resolution to just over 20 megapixels and some speed loss, it’s still a solid purchase for those in the APS-C category.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Think entry-level DSLR on steroids. It comes complete with the DIGIC 7 Image processor. It borrows the same AF system from the 80D, and the processor gives it virtually no lag if you are shooting in Live View and touch to focus.

Sale
Canon EOS REBEL T7i EF-S 18-55 IS STM Kit
  • 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi*, NFC** and Bluetooth***.
  • High-Speed continuous shooting at up to 6.0 fps. Weight Approx. 18.77 oz. / 532g (including battery pack and SD memory card) Approx. 17.11 oz. / 485g (body...

Its connectivity is through both WiFi, NFC and Bluetooth. No need to rush home with your Instagram ready photos. Sync it to the Canon app and get your filters on standby. While priced a few hundred over the Nikon D3400, it is impossible to understate the value of the Dual Pixel AF.

DSLR Camera Lens Guide

Now that you have your DSLR, it’s time for the glass. Can’t be a photographer without solid lenses and there deals to be had. Just because there’s a massive price tag on a branded lens, doesn’t mean you can’t get the same results from a third party manufacturer at a price that’s wallet friendly.

Let’s break it down by figuring out the type of photographer you want to be and then go from there.

What type of shooter you are?

This matters. If you want to shoot street and architecture, a massive telephoto lens is a dead weight in your bag. You want extremely sharp lenses and wide angles. You’ll hear the crop factor in APS-C camera negates its ability to shoot street.

That’s completely bogus. Personally, I love the small form factor of a D500 with a wide-angle lens for street. It’s all about the footprint.

On the flip side, wildlife photographers want speed and the telephoto lenses. A 24mm is not a birding lens. Unless you have extremely cooperative birds. You can get away with 105mm primes but stick towards the 70-200mm.

It’s about what you want to shoot. Don’t just buy a ton of lenses to realize the same three remain in your bag and the others are expensive paperweights.

Don’t discount kit lenses

The kit lens. A photographer’s favorite foil. Personally, I consider a kit lens one of the greatest tools to teach and find your passion. It’s easy to get a 70-300mm lens to see if you prefer shooting on the 70mm side or more wildlife at 300mm. Toss in an inexpensive prime – 35 or 50mm, and it’ll open your eyes just how creative you can be.

Most crop sensor cameras come with a kit lens, and it’s not unusual to find a full-frame offering something similar. Use that to build your collection of lenses.

Lens Collection for Each Shooter

Street
First up is a solid prime lens in the realm of 35-50mm. It’s a must have in any bag. If you want to use branded lenses for your camera, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 or Canon 50mm f/1.8. Both range in price from $125 on the Canon to $200 for the Nikon. Both have sales nearly year around so pay attention.

Now another option. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Art lens. It’s a bit more expensive, but the lens produces gorgeous quality. The entire Sigma Art Collection does in my book. Tapping down to 30mm means the crop multiplier on APS-C cameras means it holds at 40.5mm.

You have your prime on lock. Now it’s time to step into the world of wide angles. What’s great about wide angle lenses is it forces you to think versus just snapping pictures. You need to know the composition of what you want ahead of time. Once you’re used to the focal length, expect amazing results.

For wide angle, I’d recommend sticking to 24mm. Nikon and Canon both have f/2.8 variants, while the Sigma offering is a f/1.4 Art lens. Yeah, I love the collection. I really love the feel of the lens. You’ll pay a slight premium over the cheaper Nikkor and Canon lenses, but that’s only because we are in the cheaper tier of lenses. The Art collection directly competes with high-end Nikon and Canon glass.

Rounding out the collection is a solid semi telephoto prime. You’re thinking, wait, I thought no telephoto lenses. True, but that’s in regards to 300mm monsters. These will stay in the 85mm range. It’s the same as before, Nikon and Canon offer an 85mm f/1.8 while the Sigma Art offers an 85mm f/1.4. The lens offers the ability to take street portrait shots, and you can start to edge towards portrait and landscape photography.

Landscape

The great thing about street and landscape is there is some overlap. The same wide angle lenses can be used here. Nikon and Canon both have f.2.8 variants, while the Sigma offering is a f/1.8 Art lens. You’re set with any of the three depending on what you want.

For a prime lense, you may already have one, but there’s another possibility to have both in one. The Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. And of course, my favorite lens manufacturer, Sigma, with its 24-70mm f/2.8. The variable zoom touches the wide angle standard of 24mm and gives you range to 70mm.

Portrait

It’s all about the 85mm or the 135mm. It enables you to direct your model without violating their personal space. And they deliver excellent bokeh. Nikon has a great 85mm f/1.8 and does Canon’s 85mm f/1.8. Yep, Sigma is right there with the 85mm f/1.4.

For the 135mm, all three offer prime lenses in the focal length. The Canon 135mm f/2. Nikkor 135 f/2 and Sigma’s 135mm f/1.4 Art.

Your primes and mid telephotos will come into play here too, so you can see the overlap between the styles of shooting.

Wildlife Photography

Welcome to the land of telephoto lenses. Not sure I’d go on a safari with a 24mm wide angle lens to chase lions. One thing to note is these lenses get heavy in a hurry.

The top telephoto lens is either the Nikon 600mm f/4 or Canon 600mm f/4. And it comes with a steep price tag of either over $12000 or $11500. You better know you’re a wildlife photographer or paparazzi before purchasing this lens.

Calming down the price is the Canon 200-400mm or Nikon 200-400mm. Not quite the focal length of the 600mm but damn, what are you shooting at that range anyways?

A happy compromise on the 600mm lens is either the Nikon 300mm f/2.8 prime or the Canon 300mm f/2.8. The price is cut in half, and you have one hell of a robust lens in your bag or backpack at this point.

Wrapping the Best DSLR Cameras of 2017

I can’t stress enough you don’t have to buy the most expensive camera body or lens to get amazing shots. Photography can be an expensive hobby, but if you’re willing to trade a few features you can work around, it becomes no different than any other hobby in terms of cost.

Sound off below on your favorite cameras and lenses for 2017.

Last update on 2017-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API