Updated: Our list of best DSLRs has been revised to include new cameras and to show the latest prices, in British pounds, US and Australian dollars.
Choosing the best DSLR for your needs can be a decision fraught with difficulties, not least because there are so many capable models on the market that it's hard to know which camera is the top digital camera for your needs.
At one end of the scale manufacturers compete fiercely to provide the easiest entry point into DSLR photography, with intelligent exposure modes and in-camera guides to make the journey as painless as possible, while at the other they battle to deliver the most environmentally-sealed, fastest-shooting models complete with high-resolution sensors, detailed LCD screens and, of course, video recording.
Such variety means that you as the consumer are more likely to end up with a camera tailored to your requirements, but finding the best camera for your needs is a question of weighing the many pros and cons attached to each.
Best full-frame DSLR
The following guide has been designed to make your decision easier.
We've broken down the specs of all the manufacturers' top DSLRs that are current or still available to purchase in order to help you choose the best Canon DSLR, best Nikon DSLR or digital SLR camera from any of the other manufacturers, to suit your needs as a photographer.
Within each section you will find, for instance, the Canon DSLRs' or Nikon DSLRs' key functionality broken out so that you can compare which camera offers the best specs at a glance.
We've also picked out our best digital camera buys for a range of budgets, starting from the novice with some savings to blow through up to the professional who may require a more solid workhorse.
Best Canon DSLRs
What's the best Canon DSLR? In this section we'll take a look at the best Canon DSLRs that are either current models or still available for purchase.
We've included the price, key specs and a short synopsis of each Canon DSLR to give you a better idea of which camera is best for your needs.
Canon EOS 1100D/Rebel T3
Price: £300/US$400/AU$400 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
Specs: 12.2MP, HD video: 720p
Launched in early 2011 as a successor to the 1000D, the 1100D raised the game for entry-level Canon DSLRs, ushering in video shooting, a higher resolution image sensor, a later generation Digic 4 image processor capable of producing 14-bit colour depth raw files, and a larger LCD. The 1100D even boasts iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) metering, first introduced on the 7D.
However, the camera has been on sale for a long time, and the features and specifications that made the 1100D look so impressive for a beginner's DSLR back then now seem rather pedestrian. Sure, you get video shooting, but it's only 720p, whereas all other current Canon DSLRs deliver Full HD 1080p video. Similarly, with all the other EOS DSLRs offering at least 18MP image sensors, its 12.2MP sensor is lacking in resolution. And while the LCD is bigger than that on the 1000D, it's only a 2.7-inch screen with a low resolution.
Another improvement over the 1000D is that, as on the 100D and 600D, there's a nine-point autofocus system, with one cross-type point at the centre - this resolves detail in both the horizontal and vertical planes, enabling greater accuracy, especially with targets that are tricky to lock on to. However, the centre AF points on the 100D and 600D enable greater sensitivity when used with lenses that have an aperture of f/2.8 or wider, whereas the 1100D is limited to f/5.6; in practical terms, it struggles to autofocus in very dull lighting, even at wide-aperture lens.
One of the 1100D's big plus points is that it's simple to use, even for complete beginners. However, it looks a bit of a poor relation in comparison to Canon's newer models.
Canon EOS 600D/Rebel T3i
Price: £430/US$530/AU$500 (body only)
Specs: 18MP, HD video: 1080p
Canon says that the 600D sits between the 100D and 700D in its current DSLR lineup. However, the 600D is currently much cheaper to buy than the entry-level 100D and, in some respects, has less impressive specifications. Both are 18MP APS-C cameras, but the 600D's image sensor and processor are of an older generation. This is reflected in the 600D's lower maximum sensitivity ratings and slower burst rate of 3.7fps. The 600D also lacks a touchscreen, but does have a fully pivoting, vari-angle LCD, which is great for Live View and video shooting from tricky angles.
The 100D also runs the 600D close when it comes to custom functions, with advanced settings such as Mirror Lockup - useful for avoiding blurred images caused by mirror bounce - available on both cameras. Mirror Lockup is now available on all current Canon DSLRs apart from the 1100D.
One smart feature that's available on the 600D but not the 100D is built-in wireless control for external flashguns that can operate as a Canon- dedicated wireless slave. This enables you to trigger the unit when using it off-camera, without needing a remote cable, by using the pop-up flash as a wireless master.
Getting back to the 600D's image sensor, there's no hybrid contrast/phase detection autofocus, as in the 100D and 700D. This means that when the usual contrast-detection system used in Live View shooting mode is too slow, or fails to lock on to tricky targets, you need to switch to Quick mode. In this case, the mirror flips back down so that the camera's regular phase-detection AF sensor can be used for autofocusing, which momentarily interrupts the Live View image on the camera's LCD screen.
Canon EOS 100D/Rebel SL1
Specs: 18MP, HD video: 1080p
Amazingly compact and lightweight, the new 100D still packs plenty of punch, with a raft of major improvements over the 1100D. Inside the world's smallest DSLR is a new, higher-res 18MP APS-C image sensor, a larger high-res 3-inch touchscreen LCD and a Digic 5 image processor.
The hybrid CMOS sensor enables both contrast-detection and phase-detection autofocus, delivering better performance in Live View mode and when shooting video. The latter also benefits from a new STM (Stepping Motor) 18-55mm kit lens option, which sacrifices a little in autofocus speed but gives quieter, smoother transitions in video shooting. Video capture itself is Full HD 1080p.
In stills shooting modes there's a real step up in terms of speed compared with the 1100D. For starters, the 100D has a much greater sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800, and up to ISO 25600 in expanded mode. Continuous drive mode shooting is also faster, at up to 4fps (frames per second) in both raw and JPEG quality modes. That's slightly faster than the 600D, whereas the 1100D only manages 3fps at best, slowing right down to 2fps in raw quality mode.
The beginner-friendly 100D has the same Scene Intelligent Auto system as the 600D and 700D, which analyses the type of scene you're shooting in real time. It also features a wealth of scene modes. These range from the typical Sports, Landscape, Portrait and so on to more unusual options such as Kids, Candlelight and an HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode. There's an SCN setting on the main mode dial that provides quick access to more advanced scene modes, which works particularly well in conjunction with the intuitive touchscreen LCD.
Canon EOS 700D/Rebel T5i
Specs: 18MP, HD video: 1080p
It may seem surprising that, at the time of their recent launch, the 700D was only marginally more expensive to buy than the entry-level 100D. However, a quick look through the specifications lists reveals that the two cameras are almost identical in many ways. Both have the same sensitivity ranges, image resolution, Digic 5 processors and iFCL metering systems. However, there are a couple of important differences.
The 700D uses cross-type sensors for all of its nine AF points (similar to the 60D), whereas the 100D only has a single cross-type point at the centre of the frame. The maximum burst rate is also a little higher, at 5fps instead of 4fps. The 700D boasts an LCD that's not only a touchscreen but is also articulated. In this respect, the 700D is the same as the 650D that it replaces.
One surprise, given that the launch of the 700D and 100D were almost simultaneous, is that the 100D boasts a newer 'Version 2' hybrid image sensor. Even so, the contrast/ phase detection AF system seems to work equally well in the 700D, being a good match for the new 18-55mm and other STM lenses.
The 700D is currently top of the range for Canon's beginners' DSLRs that feature pentamirror viewfinders, instead of the more up-market pentaprism viewfinders found on enthusiast and professional cameras. Overall build quality is good, and the camera is a smart compromise between being a lightweight and compact design, while still offering direct access to a good range of shooting settings. As with the 100D, the 700D's touchscreen system also works well with the Quick menu for easily accessing and adjusting key shooting parameters.
Canon EOS 60D
Price: £630/US$900/AU$840 (body only)
Specs: 18MP, HD video: 1080p
It seems to be the way of the DSLR market that higher-end enthusiast and professional cameras are updated rather less frequently than entry-level and mid-range models. The 60D is a good case in point, dating back to 2010. As such, it has an older generation Digic 4 image processor and a maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400 (ISO 12800 in expanded mode), which lags behind the 100D and 700D. Even so, performance is good at high sensitivity settings, and the maximum burst rate is a respectable 5.3fps.
The 60D boasts plenty of advanced shooting features. Unlike all of the 1100D, 100D, 600D and 700D bodies, the 60D has an additional info LCD on its top plate. This is ideal for checking important shooting parameters, while additional buttons enable faster direct access to a wide range of settings. The viewfinder is an up-market pentaprism unit, which is clear and bright, and, as on the 600D and 700D, there's a vari-angle LCD.
Despite a slightly dated design, most of what makes even the latest upmarket Canon DSLRs great is present and correct on the 60D. The ALO (Auto Lighting Optimizer) works brilliantly to tame harsh lighting, and the iFCL metering and nine-point autofocus systems are accurate. It also features built-in wireless control for remote use of compatible flashguns.
As with the 7D, which was launched slightly ahead of the 60D, there's a bit more image noise at very high ISO settings compared with the 100D, 600D and 700D. Even so, noise is well restrained up to around ISO 3200, with plenty of retention of fine detail and texture within images. The 60D is still an excellent camera for advanced photographers, and is great value at the price.
Canon EOS 70D
Price: £1079/US$1199/AU$1,790 (body only)
Specs: 20.2MP, HD video: 1080p
Canon's 70D replaces the Canon EOS 60D, which first appeared in the manufacturer's DSLR lineup way back in August 2010 and it brings with it a new 20.2 million effective pixel CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel technology to allow phase detection focusing in live view and video mode.
In addition, the Digic 5+ processor enables a maximum continuous shooting rate of 7fps for 16 raw files or 65 JPEGs, and a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-12,800 with an expansion setting of ISO 25,600.
There's also a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot vari-angle touch-sensitive screen and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity.
The Canon 70D is set to go on sale at the end of August and will be priced at £1,079.99 (around US$1,645 / AU$1,790) body only. Or you'll be able to buy it for £1,199.99 (around US$1,830 / AU$1,990) with the 18-55mm STM lens or £1,399.99 (around US$2,135 / AU$2,315) with the 18-135mm STM lens.
Read our hands on Canon 70D review
Canon EOS 7D
Price: £1,070/US$1,440/AU$1,250 (body only)
Specs: 18MP, HD video: 1080p
A real speed machine of a camera, the 7D has a blistering 8fps maximum burst rate, due in no small part to the inclusion of not one, but dual Digic 4 processors. Originally announced back in September 2009, it's the oldest DSLR in Canon's current lineup, but it launched with a host of standout features, some of which have since filtered down to later models. These include iFCL metering and the ability to use the pop-up flash as a wireless flashgun transmitter. In other respects, though, the 7D still rules the roost.
Along with a 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed, matched only by the 60D and 5D Mk III here, the 7D has an oversized memory buffer with enough space for 25 raw files. As you'd expect from Canon's top APS-C camera, the 7D also boasts a pentaprism viewfinder which, unlike that of the 60D, delivers 100 per cent frame coverage and full 1.0x magnification.
The autofocus system is another leader in Canon's APS-C range, with 19 points instead of the usual nine, all of which are cross-type. Other refinements include autofocus fine-tuning for individual lenses - which is curiously lacking on the 60D, even though the feature was included in the older 50D - while the new Version 2 of the 7D's firmware brings a raft of updates, from in-camera raw image processing, JPEG resizing and image ratings, to auto ISO customisation and GPS compatibility.
The 7D's handling is tailored to experienced photographers, and it's a tough camera too, with a rugged magnesium alloy body. There are no scene modes, but you can set three custom shooting modes. The 7D really has stood the test of time, and is still our favourite APS-C body... but we still can't wait for the new 7D Mk II.
Canon EOS 6D
Price: £1,600/US$1,900/AU$2,300 (body only)
Specs: 20.2MP, HD video: 1080p
Pretty much the same size, and exactly the same weight, as the APS-C-format 60D, the 6D is compact for a full-frame camera: it's noticeably smaller and almost 200g lighter than the 5D Mk III. Handling and build quality are similar to the 60D in many respects, with a few key differences. The 6D lacks a vari-angle LCD and, unlike the 700D, it's not a touchscreen either. The 6D also lacks a pop-up flash; this isn't an issue for most 'serious' photographers, who often wouldn't think of using anything other than a flashgun, but a pop-up flash can be useful for wirelessly triggering off-camera units.
The sensor resolution of 20.2MP almost equals that of the 5D Mk III, and both cameras feature the same Digic 5+ processor. Being a more modestly priced full-frame body, however, the 6D has a less impressive autofocus system, with just 11 AF points, of which only the centre point is cross-type.
The 6D features built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS. However, when enabled, the GPS system drains the battery rapidly. By default the GPS remains active even when the camera is switched off; you can set it to power off when the camera is switched off, but you then have to wait for it to work out where it is when you switch the camera on again.
Build quality is a cut above the 60D. The top of the body shell is still polycarbonate, but the front and back sections are sturdier magnesium alloy. The 6D is beginner-friendly for a full-frame camera, featuring Scene Intelligent Auto and Creative Auto shooting modes, plus a variety of scene modes. For advanced users there are plenty of direct shooting control buttons, and low-noise image quality is very good at high sensitivity settings.
Canon EOS 5D Mk III
Price: £2,340/US$3,150/AU$3,600 (body only)
Specs: 22.3MP, HD video: 1080p
This full-frame body is as good as it gets without splashing out over twice the money on a mighty 1DX. Even so, the 5D Mk III is still classed as a professional camera, yet it's much easier to carry around than the 1DX. The 5D Mk III is nearly 400g lighter, which when you're out and about makes a real difference.
In terms of resolution, the 5D Mk III wins out over the 1DX, with a 22.3MP image sensor against the more expensive camera's 18.1MP. The maximum drive rate is only about half that of the bigger camera but, even so, 6fps is very respectable for a full-framer. Compared with the 5D Mk II, which only had a nine-point autofocus system, the Mk III gets a massive 61 AF points, of which 41 are cross-type sensors and five are dual cross-type. This ensures supreme accuracy, even with really tricky targets. The 5D Mk III level-pegs the 1DX in its autofocus system, and a new firmware version enables autofocus at f/8, which is handy for using 2x Extenders (teleconverters) with f/4 telephoto lenses.
As on the 6D, little luxuries like a touchscreen or vari-angle LCD are absent; there's no pop-up flash, although this is typical of a 'pro' camera. One nice touch is dual card slots, which can accommodate both CompactFlash and SD/HC/XC cards. These are useful when shooting in raw+JPEG quality mode, since the different files can be written to separate cards.
The layout of the buttons and overall handling is very similar to the 7D, although the full auto shooting mode of the 5D Mk III includes intelligent scene analysis. Overall image quality is truly brilliant and a very close match for the 1DX, making the 5D Mk III a bit of a bargain, despite its relatively high price compared with other bodies in this group.
Canon 1D X
Price: £4,850/US$6,730/AU$7,300 (body only)
Specs: 18.1MP, HD video: 1080p
Canon's amalgamation of its 1D and 1Ds models, the 1D X aims to cater for a variety of professional users. Although its resolution is a step down from the 21.1MP of the previous 1Ds Mark III, its 12fps burst mode – expandable to 14fps in the Super High Speed Shooting mode – as well as a 61-point AF system and maximum extended ISO setting of ISO 204,800 set a new standard for the pro market.
Read our Canon EOS-1D X review