Mid-range DSLRs offer more power, robustness and control than typical entry-level models. They're great for shooting tricky subjects like sports or wildlife, thanks to having faster continuous shooting rates and superior autofocus systems. Many also add weatherproofing for extra robustness and peace of mind.
Although mid-range DSLRs don't tend to offer more megapixels, you'll often get an increased ISO sensitivity range to help with low light shooting. But just because these cameras are intended for enthusiasts that doesn't make them intimidating.
Additional controls can actually improve their ease of use as you learn more about photography, yet they still include an automatic mode that'll take care of everything for you.
1. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Canon's top APS-C-format DSLR may be pricey, but it doesn't disappoint
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.2 | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
Canon fans had to wait a long time for the 7D Mark II, and though the original 7D was ahead of its time, its replacement is a big step forward in every way. Its 65-point autofocus system (all cross type) is state-of-the-art and copes well with moving subjects, plus you get quality weatherproofing that's almost a match for the pro-level EOS-1DX. A new 150,000-pixel RGB and infrared exposure metering sensor helps produce accurately-exposed images with well-controlled noise levels, attractive colours and impressive detail. Unfortunately, all this tech doesn't come cheap, but the 7D Mark II is well worth the money.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
2. Nikon D7200
More of an upgrade than a new camera, but a very good one
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2 | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch, 1,229,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
For every Canon DSLR, Nikon usually has a rival camera, and the D7200 is its response to the EOS 7D Mark II. It may not be a complete overhaul of the D7100 it replaces, but there are enough tweaks to give it a distinct edge. Images from the 24.2-megapixel AA-filterless sensor are detailed and vibrant, and though the pixel count remains almost identical, you can now shoot more images continuously thanks to Nikon's more powerful Expeed 4 processor. Unlike the 7D Mark II, the D7200 also boasts Wi-Fi with NFC pairing, and its superb 1100-shot battery life thrashes the Canon's 670-shot rating.
Read the full review: Nikon D7200
3. Pentax K-S2
Powerful features and intuitive controls give the compact K-S2 plenty of appeal
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.1 | Lens mount: Pentax K | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5.4fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast
Can't stretch to our first two options? The K-S2 still sports excellent ergonomics and enough controls to satisfy enthusiasts, but at a price that'll worry many entry-level DLSRs. You even get Pentax's in-body image stabilisation system, an articulating screen and Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC pairing. There's weather sealing, too, and this is the smallest and lightest DSLR to feature it. You'll need to use WR (weather resistant) lenses to get the full benefit, but the 18-50mm WR kit lens is a good start, although occasionally prone to some purple fringing. Otherwise, the K-S2 is hard to fault and offers great value.
Read the full review: Pentax K-S2
4. Canon EOS 760D (Rebel T6s)
Impressive image quality and features make this a bargain for enthusiasts
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2 | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating touch-screen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast
The EOS 760D isn't as robust and it won't fire off shots as fast as our winning 7D Mark II, but you'll pay a lot less. It's actually just a tweaked 750D, which is really an entry-level DSLR, but the 760D scrapes into the mid-range by adding a handy top plate display and an additional command wheel for more control. Like the 750D, you get Canon's brand new and high-performing 24.2-megapixel sensor, improved autofocus and exposure metering systems, plus Wi-Fi with NFC pairing. Its physical controls are already fairly comprehensive, but the 760D also features an articulating screen with touch sensitivity.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 760D
5. Canon EOS 70D
Although it's now over two years old, the 70D is still going strong
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 20.2 | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
Unlike the 760D, there's no doubt about the EOS 70D being a mid-range DSLR. Canon's do-it-all enthusiast's camera may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it's still a well-rounded option for keen photographers. It uses Canon's highly-sophisticated Dual-pixel CMOS AF autofocus system for faster live view and movie focusing, plus there's an articulated touch-screen display and a rapid 7 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed. Built-in Wi-Fi is also present, which you don't get on the mighty EOS 7D Mark II (because of its metal body, apparently). This isn't the highest-specced camera here, but you get plenty of bang for your buck.
Read the full review: Canon EOS 70D
6. Nikon D7100
Want bags of detail without breaking the bank? Bag one of these
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.1 | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch, 1,229,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
The D7100 is even older than Canon's 70D, but it was a substantial improvement over the preceding D7000 and became a class-leader for APS-C image sharpness. It uses a non-anti-aliased 24.1-megapixel sensor to deliver detail levels that'll rival some full-frame cameras, whilst also managing to effectively control noise up to ISO 6400. On the downside, the buffer capacity is much more restricted than in the D7200, meaning you can only shoot six raw files in a burst. There's no wireless or touchscreen tech here either, but weather sealing is present and you can always buy a plug-in Wi-Fi adaptor.
Read the full review: Nikon D7100
7. Sony Alpha a77 Mark II
A speed demon, yet also capable of great image quality
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.3 | Lens mount: Sony A | Screen: 3-inch tilting, 1,229,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 12fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
By using 'SLT' (single lens translucent) technology, the a77 II's fast and highly-sophisticated phase-detection autofocus system can stay fully operational in the camera's live view and movie modes. It also helps enable a blistering 12fps continuous shooting speed. There are a few usability niggles with some controls and, though the screen articulates, it's difficult to move and isn't touch-sensitive. However, the a77 II does deliver high-quality 24.3-megapixel images with near-professional autofocus performance. The a77 Mark II really deserves to be higher on our list, but with Sony now concentrating on compact system cameras, there's a question mark over its commitment to A-mount lenses.
Read the full review: Sony A77 II
8. Pentax K-3 II
Pentax updates its top APS-C DSLR with a new 'Pixel Shift Resolution' mode
Sensor: APS-C, 24.4Mp | Lens: Pentax X mount | Monitor: 3.2-inch 1,037K dots | Viewfinder: Optical | Continuous shooting: 8.3fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast/expert
The K-3 II has all the qualities of the original K-3, but comes at a higher price, and while the innovative Pixel Shift Mode is an innovative solution to a long-standing technical limitation with regular image sensors, the improvement in image quality is subtle at best. But the K-3 II has many other qualities, notably its rugged, weatherproof build, impressive 8.3fps continuous shooting speed and a sharp 24-megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter – though it can 'simulate' an anti-aliasing filter using its sensor shift system. If prices come down, the K-3 II could well start climbing up our list.
Read the full review: Pentax K-3 II