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

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REASONS TO BUY
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If you’re new to photography, the best beginner DSLR cameras have plenty to offer. From entry-level options to all-rounders that give learners room to grow, we’ve comprehensively tested the top DSLR cameras for novices and ranked our favorites below. 

While Canon and Nikon has effectively called time on the format and therefore left Pentax as the only active brand in the DSLR game, our exhaustive guide proves you can still find great deals on a range of the best beginner DSLR cameras, that are often significantly cheaper than mirrorless cameras, plus it's a thriving second hand market.

We think the top choice for most people is the Nikon D3500. Its feature set is straightforward, but it gets all of the core requirements right: it’s easy to use, captures excellent images and has a large catalog of compatible lenses. While it’s officially been discontinued, you can still find it available from many retailers.

If you’re shopping with a bigger budget, we highly recommend the Canon EOS Rebel T8i – known as the Canon EOS 850D outside the US. It’s a more recent addition to the beginner DSLR market and has the skills to match. That means 4K video, fast phase-detect autofocus and a 3-inch articulating touchscreen – features which put it on a par with some of the best beginner mirrorless cameras.

Whatever your needs and budget, this guide will help you find your ideal beginner DSLR camera. Each entry has been tested by our experts in the real-world, to assess factors such as handling, usability and overall performance. If you’re happy to consider other formats, take a look at our round-up of the best beginner cameras.

Written by
Tim Coleman
Written by
Timothy Coleman

Tim is TechRadar's Cameras editor, with over 15 years in the photo video industry and most of those in the world of tech journalism, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with all things camera related. Tim notes; "The majority of beginner-friendly DSLRs have now been discontinued. For now, it's still possible to find stock of cameras in our list below, like the Nikon D3500. But if you're on a tight budget you should definitely consider delving into the second-hand market."

The quick list

If you’re looking for a shortcut to your ideal camera, the round-up below will give you an instant overview of the best beginner DSLR options. When you find a camera that fits your expectations and budget, you can use the links beneath to jump down to our full summaries.

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

best beginner DSLR Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Future)
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
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. 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

best beginner DSLR Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

(Image credit: Future)
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
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 the 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 slightly more sense than Canon's super-budget DSLRs like the EOS Rebel T100 (also know as the EOS 4000D / EOS 3000D), if you can afford to pay that bit more.

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


The best premium beginner DSLR

best beginner DSLR Canon EOS Rebel T8i / 850D

(Image credit: Future)
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
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. This new model isn't a huge upgrade (well, new is a stretch – it's Canon's latest DSLR): 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

best beginner DSLR Pentax K-70

(Image credit: Pentax)
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 
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

best beginner DSLR Nikon D5600

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
Buy it if:

✅ You want to shoot sharp: The D5600 leverages its high-res 24.2MP sensor to deliver impressively sharp, detailed stills.

✅ You want features to grow with: From the articulating touchscreen to the 39-point AF system, the D5600 is well-equipped for learners.

Don't buy it if:

You need 4K video: Despite its generous feature set, the Nikon D5600 is capped at 1080p video recording.

❌ You want rapid Live View AF: Viewfinder autofocus is reliable but Live View AF can be left hunting for subjects in dim conditions.

Here's another beginner DSLR that is holding its own against the rise of mirrorless cameras. The D5600 is a step up from Nikon's D3000-series models, with set of specs strong enough to rival the likes of the Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D (see above). Key advantages over the D3500 include a large touchscreen that has a vlogging-friendly articulating design to flip round to the front, plus Wi-Fi and a healthy range of additional control on the inside. 

In our tests, its 24.2MP sensor produced detailed images that didn't disappoint. In fact, despite the D5600's age, you'll likely need to upgrade to a full-frame camera to get better results. We also found its 39-point AF system to be decent, if a little dated, while polished handling makes the D5600 a well-rounded entry-level DSLR. You need to pay more for the privilege, but it makes sense to go for the D5600 if you want a beginner camera with growing room: it'll be a reliable companion for years to come.

Read our in-depth Nikon D5600 review


The best bargain beginner DSLR

best beginner DSLR Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

The best no-frills entry-level DSLR

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Logically laid out controls

Reasons to avoid

-
Dated AF system
-
No touchscreen
Buy it if:

✅ You want a bargain DSLR: Cheaper than a lot of high-end compacts, the 2000D is a great place to start on a budget.

✅ You like the benefits of a DSLR: With logical controls, decent battery life and an easy interface, the 2000D nails the basics.

Don't buy it if:

You want modern performance: Dated 9-point autofocus and limited 3fps burst shooting mean the 2000D is outgunned by rivals.

❌ You want to shoot 4K video: 4K wasn’t mainstream on DSLRs at the time of the 2000D’s release, but it’s an unfortunate omission now.

This is one of the cheapest DSLRs in Canon's current line-up, which also makes it a very cost-effective way to get access to an endless assortment of lenses, flashguns and other accessories. Its low price tag means it understandably lacks some of the fancy tricks of its bigger brothers – like a flip-out display and 4K video recording – but there's still a good level of physical control on offer. 

Most importantly, we found the image quality produced by its 24MP sensor to be  sound. The camera is designed very much with its target audience in mind, with a Feature Guide to help you understand basic settings, while its impressive battery life is also better than many mirrorless models at this price point. During our review, we found it a well-rounded first-time option for those on a budget, with features such as Wi-Fi, NFC and Full HD video rounding out the specs.

Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D / EOS 1500D review


The best enthusiast DSLR for beginners

best beginner DSLR Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Future)
The best enthusiast DSLR for beginners

Specifications

Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Megapixels: 32.5MP
Lens mount: EF/EF-S
Screen: 3-inch vars-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Continuous shooting speed: 11fps
Max video resolution: 4K/30p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Reasons to buy

+
High-resolution sensor
+
4K video at 30fps

Reasons to avoid

-
No image stabilization
-
Not the cheapest option for beginners
Buy it if:

✅ You like a lot of pixels: With a 32.5MP APS-C sensor, the Canon EOS 90D produces detailed stills with lots of cropping flexibility.

✅ You want to shoot 4K video: Unlike a lot of beginner DSLRs, the EOS 90D can record 4K footage at 30fps, using the full width of the sensor.

Don't buy it if:

You already have an EOS 80D: Unless you need the option of 4K video, the Canon EOS 80D does a remarkable job of shooting stills.

❌  You shoot a lot after dark: Noise is well controlled at lower ISO values, but it becomes very evident at sensitives above 8000.

The Canon EOS 90D might be the last enthusiast DSLR the company ever makes. If so, it’s going out with a bang: the versatile 90D packs a high-resolution sensor which, paired with Canon’s Digic 8 imaging engine, offers the enticing prospect of uncropped 4K video at 30fps. 

In our tests, color reproduction was superb and there was plenty of detail in both stills and video. A new 216-zone metering system also helped in this department, even if noise did creep into images above ISO 8000. Like the 80D before it, the deep grip meant the 90D felt comfortable to handle, while a joystick made selecting from the Dual Pixel CMOS AF points a cinch. 

Battery life is a boon, too, with at least 1,500 shots possible on a single charge in our experience. It's possibly a bit too much camera for an absolute beginner (both in price and features), but there's no doubt it offers a lot of room to grow into. Either way, the 90D proves that DSLRs still very much have a place in the mirrorless world.

Read our in-depth Canon EOS 90D review


How to choose

How do I choose the best beginner DSLR?

There are four main factors to consider when buying a beginner-friendly DSLR: the camera's size, sensor size, screen and lens options.

If you're trying to learn your way around manual settings like aperture and shutter speed, which is one of the main benefits of a DSLR, then you'll ideally need a model that's small and light. This means you'll be more likely to take it out regularly and master those controls. The most beginner-friendly cameras, like the Nikon D3500 (below) and Canon 250D, tend to be particularly small for DSLRs, so take a close look at those.

Another factor to consider is the camera's sensor size. Most beginner-friendly DSLRs have APS-C sensors, which are much larger than a smartphone's and more than good enough for those starting out on the photography journeys. But if you're buying second-hand, you may find that full-frame options like the Nikon D610 and D750 come into your price range.

Full-frame cameras aren't necessarily better than APS-C ones. The traditional strengths of full-frame are dynamic range, strong low-light performance, and pleasing bokeh, but these all add to the cameras' size and price. Consider the kinds of things you like to photograph – it can sometimes be easier to shoot distant subjects like wildlife and sports with APS-C cameras due to their narrower angle of view (like in the example below).

If you're looking to shoot lots of video along with your stills, DSLRs can be cheap YouTube workhorses too, so make sure you look out for models with a vari-angle screen (like the ones on most Canon models) if you need this. These can help you shoot from different angles and also flip round to the front so you can check your framing while recording to camera.

Lastly, you'll want to consider lenses. As a beginner, you'll most likely be starting from scratch, which means it makes more sense to buy your DSLR with a kit lens. A word of warning here, though – most manufacturers offer two types of kits lens, one with image stabilization and one without. It's best to go with the image-stabilized kit lens, as you'll be able to shoot sharper images at slower shutter speeds.

While an 18-55mm kit lens will be more than enough to get you started, one of the big benefits of DSLRs is being able to add extra lenses for different kinds of photography. For example, wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses, as well as high-quality macro options. You can also add a flashgun and other accessories, which help you to make the most of whatever types of photography you're into.  

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Future)

Is mirrorless or DSLR better for beginners?

Compare mirrorless and DSLR cameras and you’ll find several similarities. Both offer beginners the option to swap lenses, giving you the flexibility to upgrade to different glass as your skills and interests grow. Both are also available with a range of sensor sizes and resolutions, to suit your aspirations and budget constraints.

But there are also key ways in which mirrorless and DSLR cameras differ. Chief among them is the fact that mirrorless cameras don’t use a mirror to reflect light onto their imaging sensor. This means they can generally offer faster frame rates than DSLR models, which is useful if you’d like to try action or wildlife photography.

DSLR cameras are traditionally known for their excellent ergonomics and accessible controls, which make them easy and comfortable for learners to handle. Certain mirrorless cameras imitate this DSLR styling, but many of the best beginner mirrorless cameras offer more compact proportions, made possible by their lack of bulky mirror components. This makes them a good choice for beginners who want a camera that’s easy to carry around, with many featuring among the best travel cameras.

DSLR cameras are also known for their optical viewfinders, which give you a true picture of the scene that you’re shooting. Mirrorless cameras, in contrast, utilise electronic viewfinders and/or touchscreens for framing purposes. The latter can be easier to adjust to if you’re upgrading from a smartphone, but many beginners enjoy the analogue experience of an optical viewfinder.

Whether a mirrorless or DSLR camera is better for you will come down to personal preference. If possible, it’s worth visiting a store to get your hands on both types of camera, to see which one best fits your expectations. It’s also worth noting that entry-level DSLR cameras tend to be more affordable than their mirrorless equivalents.

If you’re not entirely sure whether you need a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, be sure to check out our comprehensive mirrorless vs DSLR cameras guide. Alternatively, if don’t quite know what kind of camera you need at all, then read our easy-to-follow guide to camera types: what camera should I buy?