Canon vs Nikon: which DSLR or mirrorless camera should you buy?

Canon vs Nikon: Mid-range DSLRs

If you’ve got a bit more wiggle-room in your budget, the next step up is the 'mid-range' camera. In recent years, these models have thinned out a bit – so you might want to jump to the next section (enthusiast), if you’re looking for something to cater for a wide variety of shooting needs.

Still, in Canon’s current-line up in the 'mid-range' level is the newer-of-the-two Canon EOS 850D, while Nikon has the Nikon D5600 in its arsenal.

Announced at the start of 2020, but marred by delays thanks to Covid, the Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D is essentially a modest refresh of the 800D, bringing it more in line with up-to-date expectations, such as 4K video. 

Cameras like this do little to outdo beginner-friendly mirrorless models, but if you prefer the handling of a DSLR, the 850D is a decent mid-range choice. Perhaps you’ve already got some EF-mount lenses kicking about and want a new body to go with them.

Handling is good, albeit with a slightly plasticky body. It’s got a nicely chunky grip and a decent array of control dials and wheels. Image quality is very good, while perhaps one of the big plus points for cameras like this is its extensive battery life – exceeding most mirrorless options by quite some way.

If you already own the 800D – or perhaps you can find it cheaply somewhere – there isn’t a huge amount to tempt you to upgrade, unless you’re particularly keen on 4K video (but bear in mind it has a significant crop factor which limits its appeal somewhat). 

Meanwhile, the Nikon D5600, despite being quite some way older than the EOS Rebel T8i / 850D, offers a similar shooting experience. It also has a 95% viewfinder and a plasticky finish, but it's also missing 4K video – if you're mainly concerned with stills, though, then that shouldn't bother you too much. More positive aspects are its good image quality, a well-performing 39-point AF system, plus a comfortable design.

The Canon just about edges it, mainly due to those limited video specs on the D5600, but it is a very close call. It’s hard to pick between these two cameras – with them both sharing similar specifications, it might come down to your budget – in which case, the D5600 is the better value of the two. Both are good 'step-up' cameras, and they’d also make ideal choices for first-time buyers. Head to the 'enthusiast' section if you’re looking for something with a little more power, though. 

Winner: Canon EOS Rebel T8i / EOS 850D

Canon EOS Rebel T8i / 850D

(Image credit: Future)
Amy Davies

Amy has been writing about cameras, photography and associated tech since 2009. Amy was once part of the photography testing team for Future Publishing working across TechRadar, Digital Camera, PhotoPlus, N Photo and Photography Week. For her photography, she has won awards and has been exhibited. She often partakes in unusual projects - including one intense year where she used a different camera every single day. Amy is currently the Features Editor at Amateur Photographer magazine, and in her increasingly little spare time works across a number of high-profile publications including Wired, Stuff, Digital Camera World, Expert Reviews, and just a little off-tangent, PetsRadar.