Best DSLR camera 2020: take better photos today with DSLRs from beginner to professional

There might not be too many new models, but DSLRs are still fantastic options for every photographer - from beginner to pro

(Image credit: Getty)

It would be easy to assume that manufacturers have all but given up on the DSLR. After all, it’s pretty unusual to see a new model being released - there have been just a handful in recent years. 

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a healthy market there for those who prefer a more traditional way of shooting. There’s still lots of cameras to choose from, whether you’re looking for your first “proper” camera or you’re a seasoned pro looking to upgrade. 

As we often find when recommending cameras, picking out a single “best” DSLR is a tricky task considering that no two photographers are exactly the same, or looking for the same kind of tool for the job. 

If you’re just starting out, it’s unlikely you’ll want (or need) a top-of-the-line DSLR with specs and a price to match. On the same token, somebody who has been around for a while will easily get frustrated with a more basic model. Perhaps you’re somewhere in between the two - you want the next step for you, but don’t want to invest too heavily. 

For those looking for a good all-rounder, there are two obvious choices. The Canon EOS 90D is a solid performer with a good range of features to appeal to those who like to photograph lots of different types of subjects. If you’re more firmly in the Nikon camp, there’s the Nikon D500 to consider instead. 

In recent months, there hasn’t exactly been a slew of new DSLR releases, while mirrorless models seem to come out every other week. That said, there have been some newcomers this year, with manufacturers keen to capitalise on those who prefer using them. The Nikon D780, announced at the start of 2020 is one such an example - an excellent full-frame all-rounder. It uses a lot of the same technologies as the mirrorless Nikon Z6, so it could also be called a good blend of older and newer technologies. 

Similarly, the Canon EOS 90D can be quite easily compared to its mirrorless cousin, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, with which it shares a sensor. 

If you’ve never owned a “real” camera before, it will often be the DSLR you’re drawn towards by default. There’s a lot to be said for sticking with tradition, not least the cost benefits of going with some of these older models in this list. Some well-priced models ideally suited to beginners include the Canon EOS 250D and the Nikon D5600.

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 How to buy the best DSLR

When you first turn your attention towards DSLR shopping, you’ll probably be thinking about what it is you hope to achieve with your photography. If you’re coming from a more basic type of camera - such as a compact camera or smartphone - then it’s probably an entry-level DSLR you’ll be looking for. 

If however, you’ve been using a DSLR for a while and want something a little more advanced, then there’s a host of fantastic mid-range options which will give you the opportunity to learn and grow more about photography. 

Finally, if you’re a very experienced amateur, or a working professional, you’ll be looking for the best of the best. 

If you’re new to DSLRs and want a beginner-friendly option, take a look at the Canon EOS 850D, the newest model in this round-up. There’s also the Canon EOS 250D, which is a satisfyingly neat and compact model compared to most DSLRs. For those who prefer Nikon, there’s the Nikon D5600 to consider. 

For those looking for something a little more complex, take a look at the Nikon D500, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the Canon EOS 90D. These are all great all-rounder type cameras that work well for people who like to shoot lots of different types of subject.

Full-frame DSLRs tend to be reserved for those who have been using a DSLR for a while. In this area, you have the 6D Mark II - a good option for your first full-frame device. For those who really do want the creme de la creme, there’s the Nikon D850 - which might be getting on a bit, but is still one of the best cameras out there. There’s also the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV to consider if you’re in the Canon camp.

 The best DSLRs you can buy today:

Best DSLR: Nikon D850

1. Nikon D850

Still one of the best cameras in the world

Reasons to buy
+Superb AF+Great handling+Fantastic battery life 
Reasons to avoid
-SnapBridge (bluetooth connectivity) doesn’t always work 

The slow march against the DSLR from the mirrorless battalion has been held back by the marvellous D850. The camera which is doing more for DSLR sales than probably any other model at the moment, the D850 is a superb all-rounder for the professional who shoots a little bit of everything. 

Advanced enthusiasts will also get a kick out of how well it handles a variety of different subjects. With a high-resolution 45.4 megapixel sensor, 4K video capture, a 3.2-inch tilting touchscreen, a 153-point / 99 cross-type AF system that pretty much just nails it every time, and a sturdy body, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with what the D850 can deliver.

Best DSLR: Nikon D780

(Image credit: Nikon)

2. Nikon D780

A DSLR still more than fit for purpose in the mirrorless age

Reasons to buy
+Traditional handling +Great battery life +Dual card slots
Reasons to avoid
-Large and heavy -High price compared to Z6

The D780 is, in many ways, a Nikon Z6 (mirrorless) camera inside a traditional DSLR body. It’s clearly been designed for those who crave the traditional handling and feel of a DSLR camera, rather than flipping to mirrorless. If you’ve got a whole cabinet full of DSLR lenses too, you’re also more likely to crave a DSLR for your next model, too. 

Here, we’ve got something very impressive. It uses the same sensor and processor as the Z6, but thanks to the larger body, we’ve got room for dual memory card slots and a lot more direct control dials and buttons. There’s also nifty features like 4K video recording, charging via USB and 12fps shooting. 

Overall this is a fantastic all-rounder for those who want a full-frame model which sticks to the traditional DSLR formula. Right now, you pay a price premium or it over the Z6, but if you’ve got a load of lenses to bring with you, that extra investment will likely be worth it.

Best DSLR: Nikon D500

3. Nikon D500

A super well-rounded DSLR that can help you get the best shots - no matter the subject

Reasons to buy
+Lots of easy access controls+4K video recording
Reasons to avoid
-Not cheap-Fixed screen

Quite probably the best APS-C DSLR currently available to buy on the market, this solidly built camera is the perfect choice for those who like to shoot a little bit of everything. It’s got a fast frame rate, which makes it ideal for sports, action and wildlife, while it can also handle landscapes, portraits and events with aplomb. 

It’s aimed primarily at advanced hobbyists, but it’s easily good enough to be used by professionals - especially as a second camera. 

It’s best if you can buy the camera with the 16-80mm kit lens, which is so much more than just your average kit optic, offering a wide f/2.8-4 maximum aperture range and producing high quality images. 

Best DSLR: Nikon D7500

4. Nikon D7500

A great all-rounder for those who shoot a bit of everything

Reasons to buy
+Great sensor and processor combination+Lots of traditional controls+Tilting touch-sensitive screen
Reasons to avoid
-Single SD card slot-Connectivity can be unreliable at times

If you find yourself lusting after a D500, but don’t quite have the funds available, consider instead the D7500. 

It shares many of the same specifications as its older brother, including the same sensor and processor combination but with a few compromises to help keep the price lower. 

A chunky and nicely textured body makes the D7500 a nice camera to hold and use, with some modern touches like a fully articulating touch-screen to satisfy those used to smartphones and the like. 

The trade off for the lower price includes an autofocusing system that’s not quite on par with the D500, but still very good. You also don’t get the opportunity to shoot quite as fast, with 8fps available, but it’s still very useable for those who don’t shoot action every day.

(Image credit: Canon)

5. Canon EOS 850D

A new DSLR model for lovers of tradition

Reasons to buy
+Decent autofocus +Excellent battery life +Vari-angle touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Small viewfinder -Low-quality feel -Only modest upgrade from 800D

There have been very few DSLRs announced in recent months and years, but the 850D is the answer for photographers who like a traditional way of shooting and are looking for their first “proper” camera. 

Those looking for a strong set of new innovations won’t find that here, but you do get a solid set of specs, now with added 4K to get you started with. 

You also get a strong battery life, an optical viewfinder (albeit on the small side), and a good vary-angle LCD screen. Most importantly, the 850D is capable of producing some lovely images. 

If you’re not tied to a particular system, you might be better off going for one of the many mirrorless options out there, but if you’re convinced a DSLR is for you, the 850D is a solid starter option.

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon EOS 90D

A camera which proves that the DSLR isn’t quite dead yet

Reasons to buy
+Traditional handling +Fantastic battery life +Good workhorse camera
Reasons to avoid
-Single memory card slot-Fairly bulky -Image stabilisation missing

One of the only DSLRs to make its debut in 2019, this mid-range model is an update from the once very-popular 80D. 

If you’re still very much interested in DSLR photography - if for example you already own an entry-level Canon model - this is the obvious step up choice for you. It’s also not a bad option for those looking to move up from some entry-level mirrorless cameras, too. 

DSLRs still have mirrorless rivals beat when it comes to battery life, and the 90D gives you a whopping 1300 shots per charge, making it ideal for situations where you can’t stop to charge. 

There’s also a host of other appealing features here, such as a super high resolution 32.5 megapixel sensor, uncropped 4K video recording and an optical viewfinder which offers a 100% view of the scene.

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 250D

(Image credit: Canon)

7. Canon EOS 250D

The smallest DSLR currently on the market, great for lovers of tradition

Reasons to buy
+Relatively small size +Great screen +Ideal for beginners
Reasons to avoid
-Fairly basic AF system-Cropped video recording -Video only shows 95% of the scene 

While you can probably find better mirrorless cameras than the 250D at its price point, if you’re keen to stick with a traditional DSLR, this is a good one to go for. 

If you’re looking for your first “proper” camera, but don’t want to go too mahoosive, this also has the honour of being the world’s smallest DSLR (to feature an articulating screen). It’s still got a good range of dials and buttons, so it doesn’t feel too cramped though. 

On the downside, the viewfinder - which is optical - only offers a 95% view of the scene, so you could find some subjects just edging a little out, while the 4K video recording is subject to a crop making it less than ideal for vloggers. 

Still, if you’re mainly a photographer, this is a good choice to get you started.

Best DSLR: Nikon D5600

8. Nikon D5600

One step up from Nikon’s most basic offering, the D5600 is a winner for social sharing

Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Snapbridge (Bluetooth) app
Reasons to avoid
-Full HD only-Limited optical viewfinder

The D5600 is an excellent option for your first DSLR, especially if your budget can stretch to investing in some additional lenses to go alongside the kit optic. 

One of the most interesting specifications of this camera is that it’s fitted with Snapbridge - that’s a low-powered always-on Bluetooth connection which automatically transfers your shots to your phone for instant sharing on Instagram etc. What could be better than impressing your friends with DSLR quality shots while on the go? 

Aside from bragging rights, you get a high-resolution 24 megapixel sensor, an articulating touch-sensitive screen and a 39-point AF system. 

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

9. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

A full-frame camera with a strong heritage and innovative technologies, perfect for the working professional

Reasons to buy
+Full-frame sensor+4K video
Reasons to avoid
-Slow for action photography

The 5D line of Canon professional cameras has long been respected and with good reason. The latest iteration of the successful model brings with it all the respected features of its predecessors, but builds on it to result in one seriously impressive model. It has a 30.4 megapixel sensor, and has a new innovation in the form of “Dual Pixel RAW” which allows you to shift the focus ever so slightly after you’ve taken the shot. 

Ideal for weddings, portraits and commercial photography, the only let down of the 5D series is that it’s not particularly geared for action and high speed photography. For those type of photographers, take a look at the 1DX Mark IV - but be prepared to pay an extra premium for it. 

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 6D Mark II

10. Canon EOS 6D Mark II

A modest full-framer useful for those looking to step up

Reasons to buy
+Good price+Articulating, touch-sensitive screen+Weatherproof
Reasons to avoid
-No 4K video-Only one card slot-Viewfinder doesn’t offer 100% coverage

It took Canon five years to bring us an upgrade to its entry-level full-framer, during which time the camera market was almost unrecognisable, with more compact system cameras (including full-frame models) than ever before.

Never-the-less, for those who like to stick to the tried and tested way of doing things, the 6D Mark II is a good option for those looking for their first full-frame DSLR. 

You get a 26.2 megapixel full-frame sensor, a much-improved AF system (when compared to the original 6D) and an articulating touch-sensitive screen. There are some things which seem to be lacking for a modern camera, such as 4K video, but if you’re more into your stills than your movies, you may not be overly bothered by that. 

This is not a particularly exciting model, but it performs well in a good range of situations and being compatible with a huge range of optics makes it a good choice for those firmly fixed on the idea of the DSLR.

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