Did your smartphone spark an interest in photography? The fake bokeh on the iPhone X(s) and others only takes you so far. Now you’re in the market for a DSLR. Do you jump into the deep end or dip your feet into the world of DSLRs? Easy mirrorless fans, there’s a guide for you too. With every manufacturer on the mirrorless train, there’s plenty for everyone.
Our guide on the best entry-level DSLRs is about easing you into the hobby. It’s not about tossing you a professional level full-frame and saying good luck. Besides, who actually reads the manual? We were all beginners at one point, and on this list, you’ll find a variety of cameras that are both budget and user-friendly.
Start out with the kit lens and graduate to a solid prime lens. 35mm. 50mm. Whatever you feel the most comfortable with. Don’t break the bank until you’re ready to really dive into the hobby or decide to make yourself the next YouTube vlogging sensation.
It’s the latest in Nikon’s D3000 series and represents a great value for those looking for their first DSLR. My first was a D3300. Nikon is quick to distinguish the D3500 from your smartphone by marketing the APS-C sensor as 15x the size used in an average smartphone.
The D3500 features a 24.2-megapixel DX-Format CMOS sensor with Nikon’s EXPEED image processor. It won’t blow the doors off in speed, but for a beginner DSLR, it’s more than enough. Other features include 5fps and an ISO range of 100-25600.
One of the chief benefits of the D3500 over older D3000-series cameras is the integrated WiFi. I can’t tell you how many WiFi adapters I lost with the older generation. Snapbridge is also a great app for those who insist on spamming everyone’s Instagram feed. Pictures are automatically synced to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
What You’ll Love: The connectivity and extreme value of the package.
What You Might Not: For a beginner, it’s a solid camera. Yes, it lacks the flashy features of the more expensive cameras. It can’t shoot in 4K. You’re locked in at 5fps and there are only eleven AF points. Having said that, the Nikon D3500 is $500 with a damn good kit lens.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i
The equivalent to Nikon’s D3500, it is slightly more expensive but is closer in approximation to the D3500 in terms of features. For the extra cash, you get Canon’s celebrated Dual Pixel AF system complete with 45 cross-type points. Canon’s Dual AF is the best in the business. Built-in WiFi and NFC allows you to sync your smartphone.
Past that, it shares a similar MP count though it ticks up a frame to 6fps continuous shooting and video is capped at 1080p.
What You’ll Love: Video quality. If you’re looking for a budget entry into vlogging, it’s your best bet.
What You Might Not: Pricey considering the Nikon D3500. Similar priced cameras can get you towards 4K video and a rich featureset.
This is stepping into the midrange of consumers who want a little more out of their DSLR. The Nikon D5600 is the successor to the D5500 and adds Snapbridge connectivity. It adds three times the focus points over the D3500 with 39 autofocus points. For a budding photographer, you’ll love the versatility.
On the back is a vari-tilt touchscreen LCD. Swing it out to the side for those entering the world of vlogging. It’s capped at 1080p but offers a new timelapse mode for the creatives among us. Continuous shooting is at 5fps and makes excellent use of Nikon’s EXPEED 4 image processor. It actually comes in cheaper than the Canon T6i when adding a dual lens kit.
What You’ll Love: It’s feature rich and adds Snapbridge connectivity for the budding social media stars among us.
What You Might Not: Unless you need Snapbridge, there’s not a lot of difference between it and the D5500.
Known more for its mirrorless cameras, Sony does offer a DSLR range. The a68 is tops for beginners looking to get their feet wet in photography. It’s a mixed bag over Nikon and Canon. For the price, the autofocus and 8fps can’t be beaten. But, the kit lens leaves a lot to be desired, and Sony’s lens lineup pales in comparison to Nikon and Canon.
Still, for the price, it offers serious action photography on a budget. It’s tradeoffs in the world of beginner DSLRs.
What You’ll Love: Image quality and a nice step up in frames per second for those wanting to try action or wildlife photography.
What You Might Not: Lack of lenses. You can get adapters, but it’s not the same. Also, low light capability is not on par with Nikon.
Here’s where you look at the lens tradeoff and features and edge towards features. The Pentax K-S2 offers weather resistance at an entry-level price. This is normally reserved for more expensive or even professional, full-frame cameras. Toss in 4K video, and it’s easy to see why it’s making the list. What it lacks is the lens collection Nikon and Canon has, but don’t sleep on Pentax.
What You’ll Love: Solid value considering it’s weather resistant.
What You Might Not: Lens selection is limited without adapters.
Entry-Level DSLR Camera Advice
Get the most bang for your dollar. If it’s a hobby you think you’ll enjoy, stick with Nikon or Canon. Nikon is offering the best entry-level value now with the D3500 and D5600, but expect that to change with time as Canon introduces more models.
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What we are waiting on is a manufacturer to dive into 4K in the $500 price range. Nikon and Canon aren’t showing a willingness to do so as of yet, and Sony is focused on their mirrorless division. The best advice is to grab a package with a kit lens, learn the system and start shooting. We only get better with practice.
Wrapping the Best Entry-Level DSLRs of 2018
It’s Nikon world at this level with Canon in second. Entry-level DSLRs are sure to get you into the world of photography and looking for your next camera body and lenses. It may be best to stick within the Nikon or Canon ecosystem for lenses, but don’t be afraid to stray outside to cameras such as the Pentax or Sony. Once you have a prime lens, the whole world opens up to you.