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Best beginner DSLR cameras 2019: 10 cheap DSLRs perfect for new users

Canon EOS 250D
Canon EOS 250D
(Image credit: Canon)

Ready to make the step up from your smartphone or point-and-shoot camera to something a bit more powerful? You've landed in the right place: these are the best beginner DSLRs you can buy right now in 2019.

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. 

With so much competition between Canon and Nikon at this end of the market, and a raft of older models and new arrivals fighting against each other, it's entirely possible that this will be the opportunity for one or both manufacturers to drop their asking prices to a new low.

Best beginner DSLR camera

Nikon D3500

Nikon's very latest D3500 is a cracker. With a great sensor, a light and easy-to-use body and access to a huge range of lenses, it's a perfect camera to get you started on your photographic journey.

Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review

DSLRs for beginners deliver a big step up in image quality over a compact camera or smartphone. They may share the same number of megapixels, but the size of an entry-level DSLR's sensor is physically much larger, which allows for superior results with more detail and better low-light performance. 

On top of that, you get plenty of manual control over things like shutter speed and aperture, together with the option to change lenses to suit whatever it is you're shooting. Don't worry if you're still finding your feet here, as you can let the camera do all the hard work at first and slowly take more control as and when you feel more comfortable, all the while benefitting from that better standard of image quality. 

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?

Still set on a DSLR? We think the best DSLR for beginners is the Nikon D3500. It's small, light and cheap, but manages to provide a much better user experience than we normally get at this level, with a helpful Guide mode on board to show how to get the most out of the camera in an easy-to-understand way. Handling is great and the sensor produces very nice images, while features like 5fps burst shooting and full manual control give you some growing space too. 

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. 

A word of warning, though. Look closely and manufacturers will often offer two types of kit lens, one with image stabilization and one without. Normally there's not much difference in price, so make sure to go for the kit with the image-stabilized lens as it'll make it easier to sharper images at slower shutter speeds.

These kinds of lenses are more than adequate to get you 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, 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. 

Best mirrorless camera: Canon EOS M50

(Image credit: Future)

Mirrorless option: Canon EOS M50

Baby DSLR styling with 4K video and a lovely EVF

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-M | Screen: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Great handling for a mirrorless camera
Cheap considering the built-in EVF
4K video has a 1.6x crop factor
Lack of native lens options

We'll get onto the best DSLRs for beginners in a second, but before we do, we just wanted to highlight a mirrorless option that has a handful of advantages. The EOS M50 is styled very much like a DSLR, but it's far smaller and has a lovely electronic viewfinder that makes it particularly good for use in low light. It shoots 4K video and images at up to 10fps, which is speedier than what we get in DSLRs of a similar level, while the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system means it can focus smoothly and promptly across all manner of situations. There aren't too many lens options around right now, but you can use EF lenses though an adapter. If you want something a little smaller than the average DSLR, it's well worth a look.

Best DSLRs for beginners in 2019

You don't need to spend huge sums on a DSLR to get something that handles well, takes great images and works with a huge variety of lenses. In fact, you can often save yourself a fair chunk of cash if you're happy to go for a slightly older model. Manufacturers often keep these available as newer DSLRs arrive to give users a choice between the very latest tech and a better-value option. Here, we've listed the best cheap DSLRs, from recent arrivals to older favourites. 

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Future)

1. Nikon D3500

Not the flashiest camera here, but we reckon it's the best right now

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

The D3500 picks up from where the D3400 (below) left off, and it arrives with a handful of extra perks. The battery now lasts for 1,550 images between charges, which is way ahead of most other DSLRs, while the 24MP sensor delivers excellent image quality. Nikon has also revised the body and control layout, not only to make it nicer to handle but easier to use too, while the 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 love it – and if you're just getting started, we reckon you will too. 

Nikon D3400

(Image credit: Future)

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
LCD not responsive to touch

It may have 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 you 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 from the 24MP sensor won't disappoint. You also benefit from Full HD video to 60p and 5fps burst shooting, together with wireless connectivity (via Bluetooth) to get your shots out into the wider world without the hassle of cables. Don't let the fact that it's not the newest model of its sort put you off – there's still lots to love here.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D

(Image credit: Canon)

3. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D

This older model packs a good boost in features over cheaper DSLRs

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
No 4K video

The EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) sits at the top of Canon's entry-level EOS DSLR range. Sporting a 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, although if you need 4K video then you're better off looking at the EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D (position 10) or a mirrorless model.

Nikon D5600

4. Nikon D5600

Need a little more power? The D5600 could be what you're after

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 is a step up from the D3000-series models, with a stronger set of specs to rival the likes of the Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D (position 3). Key advantages over the D3400 and D3500 include a larger LCD screen, which not only flips out and swivels all the way around to face the front, but also responds to touch, together with a more advanced autofocus system, Wi-Fi and a healthy range of additional control on the inside. Sure, you pay a little extra for the privilege, but if you need a little more growing space it makes sense to go for the D5600 so that it stays with you for years to come.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i / Canon EOS 750D

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 on board 
Average battery life
Autofocus could be better

The EOS Rebel T6i (called the EOS 750D outside the US) may have been replaced by the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D (position 3), but it's 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 a sound performer, while the vari-angle touchscreen is still one of the best around. Autofocus performance could be better though, and the camera isn't quite new enough to benefit from the more up-to-date Dual Pixel CMOS AF system that makes focusing swift in live view and during videos. On that subject, there's also no 4K shooting option, but overall this is still a very capable entry-level DSLR. 

Nikon D5300

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 - rare at this level
Slow live-view focussing
Lacks touchscreen

The D5300 is a good example of a camera that might look a little old when you consider when it was released, but whose spec sheet makes you realise why you can still buy it brand new after all this time. The 24.2MP APS-C sensor lacks an anti-aliasing filter for better detail in images, while the LCD screen is a little bigger than the norm for such a camera, measuring 3.2 inches in size. You also get a GPS system – quite rare on any DSLR – together a comprehensive 39-point AF system and built-in Wi-Fi. If you feel the more junior D3400 or D3500 might not give you quite enough camera for your cash, this would be a good step up at a reasonable price.

Canon EOS 200D

(Image credit: Future)

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

Very compact size
Easy to use – great for first timers
Battery life rated at 380 shots
No 4K video

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. The camera has recently been updated by the EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D, which has the added bonus of 4K video recording and better battery life, but the EOS Rebel SL2 is a better option if you're looking to save money and you're happy with Full HD video quality.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

8. Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

Canon's no-frills entry-level DSLR arrives at a bargain price

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

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 that it understandably lacks some of the fancy tricks of its bigger brothers – flip-out LCD, 4K video and so on – but there's still a very good level of physical control on offer. And, most importantly, image quality from the 24MP sensor is sound. It's designed very much with its target audience in mind, with a Feature Guide to help you understand everything, and battery life is also better than many mirrorless models at this price point – still a key advantage of DSLRs. Wi-Fi, NFC and Full HD video recording round off the specs, making it a well-rounded first-time option.

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 works well
Fixed LCD
Limited connectivity options

Not everyone needs the very latest tech, and the D3300 is a perfect example of an older model that still delivers everything the novice user needs to take excellent images. The 24.2MP APS-C sensor has no optical low-pass filter over it, which helps it to capture more detail than would otherwise be the case, while Full HD video recording works to 50/60p. You can also shoot at a very respectable 5 frames per second, while the kit lens has a collapsible construction to keep it nice and compact when you're carrying it around. Having been replaced by both the D3400 and D3500, it's also dropped to a lower price point, making it one of those rare models that manages to be capable and super cheap at the same time.

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

10. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

The world's smallest and lightest DSLR with a movable LCD

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

Nice JPEGs straight from the camera
Cheapest DSLR with 4K video
9-point AF system is dated
Heavy rolling shutter in 4K

The EOS Rebel SL3, also known as the Canon EOS 250D, is the latest entry-level arrival to this list. Like its name suggests, it picks up from where the Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D) left off, adding a fresh processing engine and 4K video recording on top of a collection of smaller extras. Truth be told, there isn't a huge difference between the two models, particularly if stills are your thing over videos, but as the EOS Rebel SL2 slowly leaves the market and prices for the EOS Rebel SL3 start to descend, it may be that the EOS Rebel SL3 ends up being even better value for money than it is right now. 

Also consider...

None of the above take your fancy? Here's another option to consider.

(Image credit: Future)

Canon EOS 77D

A little more control and mid-range features on board

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Autofocus: 45-point AF, (all cross-type) | Screen type: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Dual Pixel CMOS AF is great
Huge lens range
Body a bit plasticky
No 4K video

The EOS 77D is a slightly more advanced beginner DSLR, and it provides a few extra treats for those who feel they may outgrow moe basic models before long. While we weren't too excited about it at the time of its release, the fact that it's spent some time on the market now means it can be bought for a much more agreeable price tag. On top of the bones of the EOS 800D, there's a top-plate LCD screen that gives you shooting options at a glance, as well as two control dials to make adjusting options faster. You also get some extras on the inside such as bulb and interval timers. If you can stretch to the EOS 80D that sits just about it, even better – otherwise, this would be a slightly more capable option than its more basic siblings.