What's the best Nikon DSLR? In this section we'll take a look at the best Nikon DSLRs that are either current models or still available for purchase.
We've included the price, key specs and a short synopsis of each Nikon DSLR to give you a better idea of which camera is best for your needs.
Price: £330/US$450/AU$490 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
Specs: 14.2MP, HD video: 1080p
The D3100 replaces the D3000 as Nikon's most basic DSLR, adding 4.2MP to the sensor and (finally) the ability to shoot raw and high-quality JPEGs at the same time, as well as the now-standard Live View and HD movie recording options.
Price: £440/US$600/AU$820 (with 18-55mm kit lens)
Specs: 24.2MP, HD video:1080p
Nikon introduced the D3200 as a better specified companion to the D3100 in its entry-level range of DSLRs. It features a 24.2 million pixel CMOS sensor and the same EXPEED 3 processing engine as the top-end D4. The novice-friendly Guide Mode found on the D3100 is present, but has been enhanced with guides including Reds In Sunsets. Noise is well controlled through the native sensitivity range (ISO 100-6400) and images have plenty of detail, but the screen doesn't always display image colour accurately.
The Nikon D3200 wins our Best entry-level DSLR award.
Price: £440/US$780/AU$750 (body only)
Specs: 12.3MP, HD video: 720p
The first DSLR to have been equipped with HD video recording, Nikon's mid-range D90 proves itself to be an all-round capable performer with its high-resolution 3-inch LCD, 11-point AF system and 4.5fps burst rate. It's not the newest Nikon DSLR, but being bundled with an 18-105mm kit lens does give it a slight edge over the more typical 18-55mm kit packages.
Read our Nikon D90 review
Specs: APS-C, 24.2MP, ISO 100-6400 (expandable to ISO 100-25,600), vari-angle LCD, HD video: 1080p
The Nikon D5200 is a blend of the Nikon D5100 and Nikon D7000 with a new 24.2 million-effective pixel sensor. Apart from the addition of a drive mode button on its top-plate and very minor changes to the size, the Nikon D5200 looks very similar to the Nikon D5100. Inside, however, it has the same metering and AF systems as the Nikon D7000 above it in the Nikon DSLR lineup.
Like the Nikon D5100, the Nikon D5200 has a 3-inch 921,000-dot articulating LCD screen that enables you to compose images from a range of angles. Disappointingly this screen is not touch-sensitive.
While the Nikon D5200 has a simple control layout and a clear user interface that gives relatively quick access to the most important features, enthusiast photographers may wish for a few extra direct controls.
Our tests reveal that the Nikon D5200 generally produces high quality images, but the shadow areas of some images taken at ISO 3200 and above may suffer from slight banding, which limits the size at which they can be used.
Price: £844/US$1,197/AU$1549 (body only)
Specs: 24.1MP, HD video: 1080p
Its relatively low burst depth may not make the D7100 the best camera for shooting sport and action (although it is still capable of doing so), but it is a great option for landscape, still life, macro and portrait photography.
As there's no anti-aliasing filter over its 24.1MP sensor, the D7100 is capable of resolving an impressive amount of detail. However, high sensitivity images have more noticeable noise than comparable shots from some of Nikon's other SLRs, That said, the noise is fine grained and evenly distributed with no banding or clumping.
The Nikon D7100 is aimed at enthusiast photographers and they will find it a great choice provided that they understand how metering systems work and are prepared to keep an eye on the camera's histogram view.
Read our Nikon D7100 review
Price: £1,120/US$1,700/AU$1,850 (body only)
Specs: 12.3MP, HD video: 720p
The winning formula of the D300 with the added extra of video functionality, the D300s is a solidly crafted mid-range DSLR. While its focusing system and higher frame rate place it above the cheaper D7000, its resolution and video quality both fall a little short by comparison - for these reasons, an upgrade is believed to be just around the corner.
Best full-frame Nikon DSLR
Price: £930/US$1,300/AU$950 (used, body only)
Specs: 12.1MP, 51-point AF
Announced back in July 2008, almost a year after the Nikon D3, the Nikon D700 is the second-oldest Nikon full-frame DSLR. It was a radical departure from the D3's chunky build, lacking a built-in vertical grip. Instead, it looks and feels almost identical to the Nikon D300 APS-C camera, albeit with a larger viewfinder. Indeed, the control dials and buttons are all pretty much identical to the D300's, apart from an upgraded multi-selector around the back, inherited from the D3 and later featured on the D300s.
It's a good compromise between lightweight compactness and sturdy build quality, thanks to a tough magnesium alloy body shell. Like all Nikon's full-frame bodies apart from the D600, the D700 is classed as a 'professional' body.
Despite the 'professional' classification, the shutter life is only rated at 150,000 cycles, compared with 300,000 on the older D3. This shorter shutter life is something to bear in mind if you're buying a second-hand camera. The D700 is also the only Nikon full-frame DSLR in which the viewfinder doesn't give full coverage of the frame, delivering a slightly cropped 95 per cent.
Despite its age, performance is good in many areas. The 51-point autofocus system and 3D Colour Matrix II metering systems are highly accurate. In other respects, the D700 falls behind newer models. Image resolution is only 12.1MP, just like in the D3 and D3s. The Live View system is quite rudimentary, and there's no video shooting facility. Actual image quality is very good, apart from being noisier than most at very high ISO settings.
If you don't mind the relatively low image resolution and don't need video capture, the D700 is a good second-hand buy at the price.
Price: £1,370/US$2,000/AU$2,120 (body only)
Specs: 24.3MP, HD video: 720p
Whereas the older Nikon D700 was like a full-frame version of the Nikon D300, the Nikon D600 takes its design cues from the Nikon D7000 APS-C body. As such, the D600 is particularly compact and light in weight for a full-frame camera and, again, the similarities vastly outweigh the differences between the two.
There are a few position changes in the control buttons, and the D7000's Live View latch has been ditched in the D600, while a lock/release button, which guards against accidental switching between shooting modes, has been added to the mode dial.
Also like the D7000, the D600 features a 39-point autofocus system with nine cross-type points. It's called an FX rather than DX autofocus module but, even so, the AF points are all fairly close to the centre of the frame. One nice touch is that, like the D800, D800E and D4, the AF system works with f/8 lens apertures, enabling autofocus with a greater range of telephoto lenses when used with teleconverters. Although this is the only FX Nikon body classed as 'consumer', build quality is good, based on a polycarbonate body shell with magnesium alloy top and rear sections.
The 5.5fps maximum drive rate is faster than the D800's and marginally quicker than the D700 and D3x's. Metering is excellent, based on a 3D Colour Matrix II module that has twice the resolution of the D700, while the reduction in autofocus points shouldn't be a major issue for most photographers. The relatively high resolution of the 24.3MP sensor doesn't impact on high-ISO image quality, the Expeed 3 processor helping to keep noise down to very acceptable levels.
The Nikon D600 is worth the extra outlay compared with a used D700, and is a better bet than the D800 if you need a fairly fast continuous drive rate.
Price: £1,930/US$2,800/AU$3,200 (body only)
Specs: 36.3MP, HD video: 1080p
Tipping the resolution scales at 36.3MP, the Nikon D800 has the highest pixel count of any Nikon DSLR made to date. This makes it possible to take enormously detailed photographs, but also puts lenses to the ultimate test in terms of sharpness. The D800 munches memory cards, too, especially if you're shooting in top quality raw mode, but you can double up on cards as it has dual slots (unlike the D700) to take both CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards.
When it comes to size and weight, the D800 is a more modest proposition than some of Nikon's other offerings. It doesn't have a built-in vertical grip, and so weighs a very manageable 1kg (2.2lbs) exactly, which is only about two-thirds the weight of the D3, and it's not much bigger than the D600.
It feels consummately professional, however, with a magnesium alloy body and a top plate akin to those on larger professional-level cameras. Even so, it still retains the pop-up flash that's been discarded from big-bodied cameras like all variants of the D3 and the D4.
The image sensor and Expeed 3 processor team up to deliver spectacular levels of detail. Even more impressively, given the ultra-high pixel count, image noise is very restrained even at extremely high ISO settings. The 51-point autofocus system works a treat, as does the super-high resolution 3D Colour Matrix III 91k resolution metering module. Both the autofocus and metering systems are identical to those featured in the mighty D4. The only real drawback is that the D800's very high image resolution comes at the price of a very pedestrian maximum continuous drive rate, which limps along at a mere 4fps.
The Nikon D800 shares a lot of the D4's key features, but costs less than half the price. It's a stunning camera that's worth every penny.
Price: £2,000/US$4,000/AU$3,500 (used, body-only)
Specs: 12.1MP, HD video: 720p
First announced in October 2009, the Nikon D3s is a revamp of the Nikon D3, which was launched just over two years earlier. Despite the two cameras looking almost identical, quite a lot was changed inside, and at its heart the D3s has a redesigned image sensor.
It has the same 12.1MP resolution as the D3, which caused some consternation when it was released, but higher maximum sensitivity settings of ISO 12800 and ISO 102400 in standard and expanded modes respectively. Another advantage of the fairly modest resolution is that the D3s has the same brisk continuous drive rate as the D3, at up to 9fps. This is boosted to 11fps in DX crop mode.
The D3s is also capable of shooting video, a function unavailable in the D3. Even so, maximum video resolution is 720p rather than the Full HD 1080p delivered by most recent Nikon DSLRs.
Other worthwhile improvements include a quiet shooting mode, in which shutter release noise is suppressed, and an automatic sensor cleaning system. There are no upgrades to the image processor, metering or autofocus systems.
The most noticeable improvement in performance over the original D3 is that image noise is less noticeable at very high sensitivity settings of ISO 6400 and above. Live View focusing is also faster in contrast-detection Live View mode. The D3s is a more expensive camera to buy secondhand than the D3, but you'll be getting a newer camera with extra features, making it well worth the extra outlay. If you're shopping around for a top-spec professional DSLR, we think it's the best used buy.
A secondhand Nikon D3s is a very sensible option if you want a fully professional body but can't stretch to a new Nikon D4.
Read our full Nikon D3s review
Price: £2,350/US$3,300/AU$3,500 (body only)
Specs: 36.3MP, HD video: 1080p
Take away the need for a fast continuous drive rate for action sports and wildlife photography, and we'd have to say that the Nikon D800 is one of our favourite cameras of all time. So what's the deal with the Nikon D800E? In a bid to produce even greater retention of fine detail in images, the D800E has a specially-modified low-pass filter.
The low-pass filters in most cameras cause a slight softening effect, helping to avoid moiré patterning when shooting objects that have fine grids or regularly repeating textures (such as somebody on TV who's wearing a tightly striped shirt),
The result is that the D800E delivers detail and texture that rivals medium-format cameras, which will be enough to sell it to many a professional photographer. The downside is that there's an increased risk of moiré patterning but, even then, Nikon Capture NX2 and the Adobe Camera Raw plug-in for the latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom have tools for removing this.
Interestingly, the Nikon D7100, a 24.1MP APS-C camera, has no low-pass filter at all. The bonus of retaining a 'modified' low-pass filter in the D800E is that it still blocks infrared light and has anti-reflective abilities which help to combat ghosting and flare.
As you'd expect, the D800E delivers even greater sharpness than the D800, making the very most of its 36.3MP image sensor. In all other respects, performance is practically identical. If you can afford the extra outlay, and that last bit of sharpness is high on your agenda, the D800E is well worth the additional cost.
Read our Nikon D800 vs D800E feature
Price: £2,400/US$2,200/AU$2,500 (used, body only)
Specs: 12.1MP, 51-point AF
The Nikon D3 set the professional arena alight when it was announced back in August 2007, but since then the march of progress has been relentless. It's all the more remarkable, then, that many of its features and specifications still compete so well with some of the very latest cameras.
You get a 51-point autofocus system with 15 cross-type points, a sensitivity range of ISO 200-6400 (ISO 100-25600 in expanded mode), a fast 9fps maximum drive rate, dual CompactFlash memory card slots and a whopping battery life of 4,300 shots.
In other ways, the D3 does show its age. Just like the D700, which launched soon afterwards, the D3 has no video shooting facility and image resolution is only 12.1MP. At least the Kevlar/carbon fibre shutter unit has a life expectancy of 300,000 cycles, in keeping with the later D3s and D3x variants, and this figure is only beaten by the D4, which is rated at 400,000 cycles. Like all of these cameras, the D3 is big and chunky, constructed with a built-in vertical grip and an extra info LCD at the bottom of the back plate.
Handling is everything you'd expect from a top-flight pro body. The image quality is very impressive for a camera of its age, although the D3 has been largely overtaken when it comes to low image noise at very high ISO settings. The autofocus and metering work flawlessly.
The Nikon D3 is still a great camera but became obsolete over three years ago, so you'll have to buy one secondhand. Most D3 bodies have been owned by hard-working professionals so you'll need to check carefully, since you might struggle to find one that hasn't been really hammered over the years.
Read our full Nikon D3 review
Price: £4,250/US$6,000/AU$6,800 (body only)
Specs: 16.2MP, HD video: 1080p
The Nikon D4's image resolution represents a modest increase on the D3 and D3s, up from 12.1MP to 16.2MP, rather than a radical ramping up. This is combined with a new Expeed 3 image processor, also featured in the D600 and D800. The net result is a blisteringly fast continuous shooting rate of up to 11fps.
The camera also has an oversized memory buffer, with capacity for between 69 and 98 raw files, depending on quality and compression settings. Suffice to say that you can take long sequences of shots in quick succession. A class-leading shutter unit takes the strain, with a life expectancy of 400,000 cycles.
As Nikon's current flagship camera, the D4 boasts all the advanced features and top-notch build quality you'd expect, yet is only marginally more expensive than the ageing D3x. Then again, many of its features aren't unique. The D4 has the same autofocus system and newly designed metering module as the much less expensive D800, which offers more than twice the image resolution. It's only natural to hope that a D4s and a D4x might be coming soon.
Image quality is immaculate and the D4 really delivers throughout its enormous sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 (ISO 50-204800 expanded). Images are remarkably noise-free with plenty of fine detail, even at high sensitivity settings. Our only complaint is that the battery life is a 'mere' 2600 shots, compared with around 4300 shots from the older D3, D3s and D3x, with their higher-capacity battery. Ultimately, the D4 makes up for its modest image resolution with sublime high-ISO image quality and sheer shooting speed.
You can't have everything but, if you don't need ultra-high-resolution images, then the Nikon D4 is unbeatable.
Price: £5,250/US$7,000/AU$7,250 (body only)
Specs: 24.5MP, 51-point AF
Launched about a year after the D3, and a year before the D3s, Nikon's D3x is radically different from its siblings. Whereas the other two cameras have 12.1MP image sensors, the D3x boasts just over double the resolution at 24.5MP. Back in 2008, when the camera was announced, that was really quite something. The high-res attraction has been enough to keep the D3x in production, and it's still available to buy new today, although it looks like its days are numbered. The much cheaper D600 delivers practically the same resolution, and it's been overtaken by the D800 and D800e.
In other respects, the D3x is closer to the D3 than it is to the newer D3s. There's no video shooting facility, Live View mode is similarly rudimentary, and the layout of control buttons and dials is identical. One drawback of the D3x is that the maximum drive rate drops from the 9fps of the D3 and D3s to 5fps. It's really a camera that's designed for high-end landscape, portraiture and studio-based fashion photography, types of photography where high resolution is critical but drive speed is less important.
A price you often pay for very high image resolution is an increase in noise at high sensitivity settings. As such, the standard ISO range is reduced to ISO 100-1600, with a maximum of just ISO 6400 in expanded mode. Image quality holds up well throughout the standard range, but at ISO 3200-6400, there's significantly more noise than you'd get with the D600 or D800 cameras. Stick to low sensitivity settings, however, and the camera delivers excellent results.
The Nikon D3x is a great camera for studio work but now looks rather overpriced compared with the newer D600 and D800.