Best DSLR for beginners 2018: 10 cheap DSLRs perfect for new users

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If you're ready to make the step-up from your smartphone or point-and-shot, then these are the best beginner DSLRs you can buy right now.

An entry-level, beginner DSLR is the natural progression when you feel like you've outgrown your point-and-shoot compact camera or are no longer satisfied with the snaps you get from your smartphone. If that's that case, you've come to the right place to find out what the the best entry-level DSLR is to help you take your photography to the next level.

Top 5 beginner DSLRs

Here's our pick of the 5 best beginner DSLRs - click on the links below to go through to the full review for each 

1. Nikon D3500
2. Nikon D3400
3. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D
4. Nikon D5600
5. Canon EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D

DSLRs for beginners deliver a big step up in image quality over a compact camera or smartphone. They may share the same amount of megapixels, but the size of an entry-level DSLR's sensor is physically much larger in most cases, allowing for superior results with more detail and better low-light performance. That's not forgetting that entry-level DSLRs offer far more manual control and the ability to change lenses to tackle a huge variety of projects. Don't worry though – there are also a host of auto modes to help you out until you're comfortable with the more creative controls that a DSLR offers.

Obviously, the more features you want on your entry-level DSLR, the more you'll pay, but do you actually need them? Our top camera is one of the cheapest on the market, but still offers impressive performance and image quality, plus enough features to handle most photographic assignments, especially if you're still learning.

You may also want to consider a mirrorless camera as an alternative. If so, you'll find our video above or Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences guide very useful. Or, if you're not sure what kind of camera you need at all, then read our easy-to-follow guide to camera types: What camera should I buy?

Should you buy a mirrorless camera over a DSLR? Watch our guide video below to learn more: 

Entry-level DSLR bundles

If you're buying your first DSLR, it makes sense to buy it as a kit, which generally includes the camera body along with an 18-55mm lens. Often referred to as a 'kit' lens, this covers a pretty broad zoom range, perfect for everything from landscapes to portraits, but that's just the start. 

Look closely though and manufacturers will often offer two type of kit lens - one with image stabilization and one without. There's not much difference in price normally, so go for the kit with the image stabilised lens as it'll make it easier to sharper shoot images at slower shutter speeds.

They're more than adequate to get started, but the key advantage of DSLRs over compact cameras is that you can add to your kit with additional lenses. For example, wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses, a flashgun, and other accessories, to make the most of whatever types of photography you're into.

Mirrorless option: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

One of our favorite mirrorless cameras just got even better

Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Premium finish
Great in-body stabilization
Only 16MP
Pricey compared to DSLRs

Before we take a look at the best DSLRs for beginners, we wanted to highlight a great mirrorless alternative. The Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is styled like a DSLR, with a viewfinder mounted on the top, but this camera is so small it scarcely takes up more space than mirrorless cameras with no viewfinder at all. It has a Micro Four Thirds sensor a little smaller than the APS-C sensors used by DSLRs, and 16 megapixels rather than the usual 24, but the smaller sensor means smaller lenses, and you’re not likely to notice the difference in megapixels in real-world shooting, provided you're not expecting to print too large. What you will notice is this camera’s great build quality and finish, its responsiveness, its excellent built in Art Filters and the rather clever shooting options in its Advanced Photo mode. Olympus offers a good range of lenses, too. 

Best DSLRs for beginners in 2018

1. Nikon D3500

Not the most expensive entry-level DSLR, but we think it's the best

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Excellent image quality
Easy to use
No touchscreen control
Bluetooth, but no Wi-Fi

Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR replaces the D3400 below, and while its shares a very similar specification on the inside, it benefits from a comfier handgrip and revised control layout at the rear. The new 24.2MP sensor delivers excellent levels of detail, while the D3500 is easy to get to grips with. This is helped by Nikon's clever Guide mode, that gives real-time explanations of key shooting features. If you're looking to get more creative with your photography, and looking for your first DSLR, the Nikon D3500 is hard to beat. 

Nikon D3400

2. Nikon D3400

Knocked off the top spot, but still a great buy

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Superb battery life
Good single-shot AF
No microphone port
No touchscreen

It's just been replaced by the D3500, but don't discount the D3400. Sporting a range of features perfect for the novice user, this is still a great camera to get started on the road to more creative photography. Sharing many of the same internal specs as the D3500, the battery life is brilliant, while the images won't disappoint. If you don't mind having the latest model and you can pick the D3400 for less than the D3500, then this is still a great buy. 

3. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D

One of the best options out there, but a bit pricey

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Great touchscreen
Excellent sensor
Plastic finish
Expensive

The EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside) sits at the top of Canon's entry-level EOS DSLR range. Sporting a newly designed 24.2MP sensor that delivers an improved high ISO performance over older models, the Rebel T7i's autofocus also gets a boost, now with a 45-point arrangement that's backed up by excellent live view AF system. There's also newly designed graphical interface that will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users, but the absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint. Perhaps the most expensive option out there, but definitely one of the best.

Nikon D5600

4. Nikon D5600

Choosing between Canon and Nikon is tougher than ever

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Excellent image quality
Articulating touchscreen
Slow Live View focusing
SnapBridge needs work

The D5600 competes directly with Canon's EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D at the upper end of the entry-level DSLR market. Where Nikon's D3000-series cameras are designed as cost-conscious introductory DSLRs, the D5000-series is preferable if you want to get more creative. The D5600 sports a large 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, and while the live view focusing speed could be quicker, the 39-point AF system is the best you'll find in a entry-level DSLR. There isn't much wrong with the D5600's 24.2MP sensor either, delivering excellent results, while the logical control layout of the D5600 makes it easy to use. 

5. Canon EOS Rebel T6i / Canon EOS 750D

A compelling combination of top-notch ergonomics and a superb sensor

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Great touchscreen
Wi-Fi with NFC
Average battery life
AF could be better

The EOS Rebel T6i (Called the EOS 750D outside the US) may have just been by the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D last year, but is still a great option if the price of the newer model puts you off. While the sensor isn't quite as good as the one in the newer T7i despite sharing the same resolution, it's still very good, while the vari-angle touchscreen is still one of the best around. AF performance could be better though, but overall this is still a very capable entry-level DSLR. 

6. Nikon D5300

No longer Nikon's latest and greatest entry-level DSLR, but almost

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch articulating, 1,037,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

High-res, non-anti-aliased sensor
GPS built in
Slow live-view focussing
No touchscreen

The D5300 was around for little more than a year before the D5500 technically replaced it (which has in turn be replaced by the D5600). It shares the same 24.2MP sensor with an identical maximum ISO25,600 sensitivity as the D5500, whilst the D5300's EXPEED 4 image processor and 39-point autofocus system have also been carried over to its replacement. The D5300 doesn't sporta fancy touchscreen control, you do get GPS instead, while the D5300's 600-shot battery life will still outlast a Canon EOS Rebel T6i / EOS 750D. All in all, it may not be the latest entry-level DSLR, but the D5300 is still a smart buy.

7. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / Canon EOS 200D

A cheap and very cheerful entry level camera

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Small size
Easy to use
Battery life rated at 380 shots
Fixed rather than vari-angle screen

Canon introduced the EOS Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D outside the US) to compete with the influx of mirrorless cameras and it was the smallest DSLR available when it was introduced in March 2013. Now replaced by the EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D), its slightly bulkier proportions make it feel more like a slightly pared-down Rebel T7i / 800D than anything unique. It's not a bad option for new users, but there are better-value alternatives available at the moment.

8. Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

Canon's no-frills entry-level DSLR gets a very minor update

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 920,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Easy to use
Logically laid out controls
Dated AF system
No touchscreen

The EOS Rebel T7 (known as the EOS 2000D outside the US) is Canon's cheap and cheerful entry-level DSLR. While not featuring quite the same impressive spec as pricier models up the Canon range, you still get a pretty solid set of features for the beginner including Wi-Fi and NFC technology built-in. This means you can transfer images to your smartphone for super-quick sharing. Images from the 24.1MP sensor are more and adequate, but not quite a match for those from the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D. The 9-point autofocus system, as well as the Live View AF system is disappointing, while there's no touchscreen either. 

9. Nikon D3300

Still one of the best beginner DSLRs around

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Great image quality
Guide mode
Fixed LCD
Limited connectivity

Replaced by the D3400 last year, the D3300 and D3400 share a very similar set of features (and design for that matter). The biggest difference between the two though is the D3300's lack of connectivity - if you want to transfer your images to your smartphone or tablet, you'll need to invest in Nikon's cheap plug-in Wi-Fi adapter that plugs into one of the ports on the D3300. With stocks running down as the D3400 takes hold, the D3300 is becoming less easy to come by, but if you do track one down at a good price, then you'll get yourself a great beginner DSLR. 

10. Canon EOS Rebel T6 / Canon EOS 1300D

Canon's ageing budget DSLR is starting to show its age

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 18MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 920,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Low price
Good image quality
No touchscreen
Slow live view focusing

It's just been replaced by the EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D (above), but that does mean that the EOS Rebel T6 (known as the EOS 1300D outside the US) should now be even cheaper. In many ways the specification is very similar to the newer camera, with the key difference being the Rebel T6 features a 18MP sensor, which compared to rivals, is starting to show its age against rivals with higher pixel counts. Canon's just announced its replacement, the EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D, so you might be able to track this down at an even more tempting price before it disappears for good.