Best beginner DSLR cameras for 2024: top entry-level choices for new photographers

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

If you’re new to photography, you have a lot of reasons to look at the best beginner DSLR cameras. That’s still true in 2024, even as many manufacturers are winding down DSLR production. For one thing, entry-level DSLR cameras are often more affordable than mirrorless alternatives. From our experience, their physical controls also make them great cameras to learn with.

We’ve tested a lot of DSLR cameras over the years. In that time, we’ve learnt that the best beginner models share a few key characteristics: they’re easy to use, shoot excellent stills and have reliable battery life. Most also work with a wide range of lenses. In a sign of the industry’s shift from DSLR to mirrorless, the camera that we think best ticks those boxes has actually been discontinued: the Nikon D3500. Luckily, you can still find it for sale online. 

The idea behind this guide is to give you a clear picture of what entry-level DSLRs are available right now. To do that, we’ve compiled the results of our in-depth reviews and summarized our personal favorites. We’ve explained the positives and drawbacks of each camera, as well as deciphering some photography jargon. And if you want to know more about how we review entry-level DSLR cameras, you can scroll to the bottom for an insight into our testing process.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar’s Cameras Editor. He has more than 15 years’ experience in the photo industry, as both a journalist and photographer. Though Tim now shoots mainly with mirrorless, he’s spent plenty of time with DSLRs. That’s given him an intimate practical knowledge of what makes a good DSLR for beginners. Tim notes, “many entry-level DSLR cameras are no longer in production. For now, it's still possible to find most of the models listed below, including the Nikon D3500. If you're struggling to track down new stock, it's also worth looking at used models on the second-hand market."

The quick list

The round-up below will give you an instant overview of the best beginner DSLR cameras available in 2024, including what each option is best for. When you find one that ticks your boxes, use the links beneath each entry to jump down to our full summary reviews.

The best beginner DSLRs for 2024

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Below you'll find full write-ups for each of the best beginner DSLR cameras in our list. We've tested each one extensively, so you can be sure that our recommendations can be trusted.

The best beginner DSLR overall

The best overall DSLR for beginners

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image quality
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
No touchscreen control
-
Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi

Nikon D3500 sample images

Buy it if:

✅ You have a sharp eye: The D3500’s 24.2MP sensor produces impressive stills, especially when paired with decent DX mount lenses.

✅ You value longevity: With a huge 1,550-shot battery life, the Nikon D3500 is a camera that can keep going and going on a single charge.

Don't buy it if:

You want to shoot 4K video: Unlike most smartphones, the Nikon D3500 is limited to Full HD recording, rather than 4K footage.

❌  You like to use a touchscreen: With the same fixed 921,000-dot display as the D3400, the D3500 doesn’t benefit from a touch interface.

Nikon has officially ceased production of the D3500, but it remains an excellent option for those who are new to photography. Building on the foundation laid by the D3400, it adds a handful of extra perks. Battery life is one of them: unlike power-hungry mirrorless models, we found in testing that the D3500 could capture more than 1,500 images between charges – way ahead of most other DSLRs. We found that the 24MP sensor was capable of delivering excellent image quality, too.

Nikon also revised the body and control layout of the D3500 compared to previous generations, which we think makes it nicer to handle and easier to use. The useful Guide Mode takes the first-time user’s hand and walks them through all the key features in a way that makes everything easy to understand. We still think the Nikon D3500 is the best DSLR option for new photographers, and one of the best cameras for beginners overall. If you’re just getting started and can find one in stock, we reckon you will as well.

Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review

The best budget DSLR for beginners

The best budget DSLR for beginners

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 24.1MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed: 5fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Nice JPEGs straight from the camera
+
Cheapest DSLR with 4K video

Reasons to avoid

-
9-point AF system is dated
-
Heavy rolling shutter in 4K

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D / 200D Mark II sample images

Buy it if:

✅ You want traditional DSLR handling: The EOS 250D balances a well-built portable body with the handling for which DSLRs are known.

✅ You like a lot of lens choice: Canon’s EF mount is long-established, meaning the EOS 250D is compatible with a large pool of lenses.

Don't buy it if:

You want top-spec autofocus: The Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is excellent, but 9-point autofocus looks dated next to rivals.

❌  You shoot a lot of video: The EOS 250D can record 4K footage, but it’s subject to a crop and can suffer from rolling shutter.

The EOS Rebel SL3 (also known as the 250D and 200D Mark II outside the US) isn't Canon's cheapest DSLR, but we think it offers a great blend of features, performance and value. For a start, it's the smallest and lightest DSLR with an articulating screen, which means it isn't an intimidatingly large as some of its rivals. It also adds a fresh processing engine and 4K video recording to its Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) predecessor.

We were impressed with its responsive touchscreen, speedy start-up time and excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which also works when you're shooting 1080p video (though not sadly in 4K). Its 5fps burst shooting can't compete with the latest mirrorless cameras, so those who like to shoot sports or action should look elsewhere. But for our money, the EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D makes more sense than Canon's super-budget DSLRs, such as the EOS Rebel T100 (also know as the EOS 4000D / EOS 3000D).

Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D review

The best premium beginner DSLR

The best premium DSLR for beginners

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 24.1MP
Lens mount: Canon EF-S
Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed: 7fps
Max video resolution: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
Good image quality
+
Speedy, reliable autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
Plasticky build
-
4K video limitations

Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D sample images

Buy it if:

✅ You need good autofocus: The Dual Pixel phase detection AF system is rapid, reliable and works very well for both photography and video.

✅ You have EF lenses already: The EOS 850D makes the most sense if you’re already invested in Canon’s EF lens system.

Don't buy it if:

You shoot lots of 4K video: You’re limited to contrast detection AF for 4K recording, and a big crop if you enable stabilization.

❌  You want a DSLR bargain: The 850D is pricier than its predecessor, and mirrorless competitors offer more for a similar price.

The Canon EOS Rebel T8i (know as the EOS 850D outside the US) picks up the baton from the popular Rebel T7i / EOS 800D, which is now tricky to find. It isn't a huge upgrade: the most notable addition is a 4K video mode, which we found to be hampered by frame-rate restrictions. Still, the Rebel T8i / EOS 850D remains one of our favorite all-round DSLRs for beginners. 

You get a Dual Pixel phase-detection AF system, which in our tests was fast, reliable and great for video. Its button layout is also very considered, while the vari-angle LCD screen handles really well. As long you ignore that headline of 4K video, which involves a crop and the loss of phase-detection autofocus, it remains a great option for anyone who's starting a photography hobby and prizes DSLR advantages like battery life and handling over the latest mirrorless tech. 

Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D review

The best rugged beginner DSLR

The best rugged, great value DSLR for beginners

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: Pentax K
Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed: 6fps
Max video resolution: Full HD
User level: Beginner

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and rugged
+
Anti-shake tech 
+
Great value

Reasons to avoid

-
Few autofocus points
-
Slightly soft kit lens 

Pentax K-70 sample images

Buy it if:

✅ You want a rugged DSLR: Dust-proof, weather-resistant and good down to -10 degrees Celsius, the Pentax K-70 is a dependable DSLR for all conditions.

✅ You want image stabilization: The K-70 benefits from Pentax’s 5-axis Sensor Shift system, which helps when shooting at lower shutter speeds.

Don't buy it if:

You want a recent camera: It still offers good value for beginners, but the Pentax K-70 is inescapably long in the tooth.

❌  You’re looking at the kit lens: With softness as you zoom in, you’re better off making your own bundle than buying the K-70 kit lens.

It's several years old, but the Pentax K-70 – or the Pentax KF, which is essentially the same camera with a slightly sharper display – remains a good-value option for beginners who want something different from the 'big two' DSLR manufacturers. It's a particularly good choice if you have a stash of old Pentax lenses gathering dust. The K-70 benefits from a useful articulating screen, while the hybrid live view autofocus system proved to be a practical alternative to the viewfinder during our review.

Our favorite thing about the K-70 is its tough build quality, which is typically lacking in entry-level models. If you're keen to take lots of pictures outdoors – for example, you might want to try landscape photography – then being able to rely on the K-70 in inclement weather is a big bonus. One slight disappointment is the kit lens which is often bundled with the camera: while it offers a longer focal length than most, we found it could be a little soft in places. Still, with solid specs and rugged credentials, the Pentax K-70 is a capable all-rounder that's worth considering.

Read our in-depth Pentax K-70 review

The best beginner DSLR to grow with

The best beginner DSLR to grow and improve with

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image quality
+
Articulating touchscreen

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow Live View focusing
-
SnapBridge needs work

Nikon D5600 sample images