The best DSLR cameras for beginners
So you're in the market for a new camera and have decided you want to opt for a DSLR. Well you're in luck, not only because there are some great cameras out there, but also because we are here to help you pick the right one. New Atlas looks at some of the best DSLR cameras available for beginner photographers.
When choosing what camera you want, the first step is deciding what type of camera is going to best suit you. As you are reading this, we'll assume you are leaning towards a DSLR because of the image quality and versatility they offer at a reasonable price point. It is, however, worth remembering that mirrorless cameras can be just as good in this regard, and might also be worth your consideration if you are not wedded to the idea of an optical viewfinder.
Because we are looking at entry- to mid-level DSLRs here, it's important to recognize what features you can expect, and what features you'd only get if jumping up to significantly more expensive models. For example, beginner DSLRs can offer great image quality, wireless connectivity and a wide selection of compatible lenses. However, at this level you're not going to get full frame sensors, or the super speedy and comprehensive autofocus systems found on pro DSLRs.
Nikon released this entry-level DSLR earlier this year, adding its Bluetooth-enabled SnapBridge sharing system to an already capable DSLR. This makes the D3400 one of the best budget DSLRs for keen Instagram and social sharers. A dedicated guide mode, will help beginners learn about various camera settings, and there's automatic and scene modes while you are still learning.
On the specification front, the camera rocks a large 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor which is capable of delivering detailed high-quality images in a variety of lighting conditions. It also shoots good quality Full HD video. On the back there's an optical viewfinder, and a fixed 3-inch LCD monitor.
The Nikon D3400 is a very good DSLR for beginners who don't want to break the bank, but do want a fully-featured camera capable of delivering great quality images. The use of Nikon's F-mount lenses means there's loads of glass which is compatible with the camera. The Nikon D3400 costs US$500 with a 18-55-mm VR kit lens and comes in a number of color options.
Product page: Nikon D3400
Where to buy:
Canon 1300D (EOS Rebel T6)
Just like Nikon, Canon used 2016 to unveil an entry-level DSLR designed to encourage smartphone photographers to upgrade to a "proper" camera by focusing on sharing capabilities. The 1300D (called the EOS Rebel T6 in the US) features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to make it easy to connect to a smartphone where images can be edited or shared.
The 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor in the Canon 1300D is capable of producing images up there with higher-end models, but the camera is easy to control. In addition to automatic and manual modes there are a number of scene modes which can be selected from a top dial. A Feature Guide mode also helps users learn how to take control of the camera themselves.
Photographers more used to shooting on a smartphone are likely to enjoy the selection of in-camera creative filters which can be applied to images on the 1300D. The camera shoots Full HD video at up to 30 fps (frames per second), and there's the added benefit of that Canon EF/EF-S mount, meaning there are loads of lenses available, allowing you to shoot in different ways. The Canon 1300D/T6 costs US$500 with an 18-55-mm IS kit lens.
Product page: Canon EOS Rebel T6
Where to buy:
The Pentax K-70 is a significant step up from the previous DSLRs we've looked at, both in terms of the features it offers, and its cost. It boasts a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, an ISO range of 100 to 102,400, and can shoot stills at 6 fps. Video recording is also possible at Full HD 1080p 30 fps.
Features which make the K-70 stand out from the crowd include a ruggedness normally reserved for higher-end cameras. Shooting in the rain won't be a problem thanks to 100 sealing parts which make it dust-proof and weather-resistant It's cold-proof down to temperatures as low as -10° C (14° F) too. Another headline feature is built-in sensor-shift shake-reduction, which moves the sensor to reduce the number of blurry images you are going to get.
There is, again, built-in Wi-Fi allowing smartphones and tablet users access and share images or shoot remotely, and the rear LCD monitor on the Pentax K-70 can be moved around to make the camera easier to use at otherwise awkward angles. This camera is a good option for users who want to take their DSLR into harsher environments or weather conditions, and costs US$650 body-only, or $900 with a 18-135-mm lens.
Product page: Pentax K-70
Where to buy:
The Sony A68 is something of an anomaly in this day and age in that it lacks the built-in Wi-Fi sharing skills which many users now take for granted. However, if you are willing to go old-school and take out the memory card whenever you want to get your images onto another device, the camera still has a lot to offer.
With a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the Sony A68 is more than capable of shooting high quality images and has an ISO range of 100 to 25,600. It can rattle off images at a speedy 8 fps, and shoot Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps. Built-in sensor shift image stabilization is also on hand to help cut the wobbles and the resulting blurry images. An impressive autofocus system with 79 phase-detection points will make the A68 better than some rivals at nailing focus and tracking subjects.
Around back you've got a tilting LCD monitor and an electronic OLED electronic viewfinder. This is because the A68 is technically not a DSLR as it uses Sony's Translucent Mirror Technology rather than a traditional flapping mirror. The Sony A68 costs $600 body-only, or $700 with a 18-55-mm kit lens.
Product page: Sony A68
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A newly-announced bigger brother to the D3400, the D5600 brings Nikon's SnapBridge technology to its mid-range shooter. However, while the D3400 relies on Bluetooth, the D5600 features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. The two cameras share a lot of specs, both use 24-megapixel APS-C sensors, ISO ranges of 100 to 25,600 and burst shooting at up to 5 fps.
However, there are number of key differences which could make the D5600 worth the upgrade. These include a better autofocus system which uses 39 rather than 11 points, and the addition of a vari-angle touchscreen which can be used to set the focus point or adjust settings. The D5600 also has a microphone input, which will be of interest to those with video ambitions. It can shoot Full HD 1080p footage at 60 fps.
The extra capabilities of the D5600 make it a better option than the D3400 for users who want to grow into the camera a bit more, especially video shooters. The Nikon D5600 costs £800 ($990) with a 18-55-mm kit lens. It's worth noting that the camera, while available in a number of territories this month, has not yet been given a US release date, there the D5500 is the most recent mid-range DSLR from Nikon.
Product page: Nikon D5600
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Canon 760D (Rebel EOS T6s)
Finally, we've got the EOS 760D (or Rebel T6s if you live in the US), which Canon offers for those who want a step up from the 1300D. It has a 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, an ISO range of 100 to 12,800, and burst shooting at 5 fps. There's also Wi-Fi with NFC on hand for quick and easy sharing via a smart device.
Where the 760D really shows its caliber however, is in the increase from the nine AF points of the 1300D to 19. This is combined with use of Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF III autofocus technology which gives smoother focusing and better subject tracking when shooting video. The 760D can shoot Full HD 1080p 30 fps.
Around back there's another significant upgrade in the form of a 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen. All of this goes to show that Canon isn't just targeting the 760D at beginners, like it is with the 1300D. The 760D would be a good option for photographers who plan to continue developing their photo and video skills. The Canon 760D (T6s) is available for $850 body-only.
Product page: Canon EOS Rebel T6s
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If you're a smartphone or compact camera shooter who is looking to improve your photography, any of these cameras will offer a significant step up in terms of the quality and creative freedom they can offer. One thing we would say is that if you are looking at a beginner DSLR, you should probably also be considering a interchangeable lens mirrorless camera, and we just so happen to have taken a look at the best mirrorless cameras for beginners recently, too.
Finally, there's no point investing in an interchangeable lens camera, whether mirrorless or DSLR, if you are only going to have one lens. While many beginner cameras can be purchased bundled with a kit lens, we would normally also suggest investing in a fast prime like a 50-mm F1.8 as they can offer a better learning experience. For a bit more info on what lenses you should consider, check out our guide to buying your next lens.