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

Despite fewer recent releases, DSLRs still make a lot of sense for photographers from beginners all the way up to professionals

(Image credit: Getty)

Although it’s fair to say that mirrorless cameras are getting all of the attention of late, it remains true that there’s still a pretty large market for those who prefer working with a traditional DSLR. 

Happily for those people, there’s still a good amount of choice on the market, depending on what you’re looking for.

Whether you’re a beginner, at the very start of your photography career, or a working professional, you can find something to suit your needs. In fact, if your budget is tight, you’ll arguably find much better choice in the DSLR market where the technology is older and more established.

When it comes to picking a “best” single DSLR, it’s no easy feat. No two consumers have exactly the same needs, and a professional level DSLR will be complete overkill for the novice. If however you sit somewhere between the two and are looking for a good all-purpose all-rounder, our favourite remains the Nikon D500

There have not been too many new DSLRs of late, but one which made its debut and also fits the category of great “all-rounder” is the Canon EOS 90D. For those just starting out, the Canon EOS 250D is worth checking out, too, while the older Nikon D5600 is a bit of a bargain right now.

 How to buy the best DSLR

When you’re first thinking of a DSLR, you might want to consider what it is you want to achieve with your photography. Maybe you’re thinking about trading up from a compact camera or a smartphone because you want to get a bit more serious about your photography. In which case, an entry-level DSLR can really help boost your skills. 

Maybe you’ve already been using a DSLR for some time and feel ready to make the next step. In which case, take a look at mid-range options which give you more space to grow and will elevate your photography even further. 

If you’re a working professional, or just a high-level enthusiast, you’ll want the ultimate camera which offers both fantastic high image quality as well as great usability. 

If you’re a beginner, take a look at cameras like the Canon EOS 800D, and the Nikon D5600. There’s also the newer Canon EOS 250D. All of these models give you a good balance of giving you much better image quality than your phone can muster, while hopefully not being too overwhelming when you’re just at the beginning of your photography journey. 

Perhaps you want something a bit more complicated. Have a look at the Nikon D500, Canon EOS 7D Mark II and the Canon EOS 90D. These are superb all-rounders which can handle different kinds of subject - perfect for the hobbyist. If you want to consider diverting from the two big hitters, take a look at the Pentax KP - particularly if you have a loft full of old glass available to use.

Full-frame DSLRs are generally found in the professional category, but for the enthusiast you have the option of the Canon EOS 6D Mark II. If you want the best of the best, look towards the Nikon D850, which after several years on the market is still the one to beat. There’s also the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, or possibly the Sony A99 II, too.

 The 10 best DSLRs 

Best DSLR: Nikon D850

1. Nikon D850

Quite possibly the best camera 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: Canon EOS 7D Mark II

2. Canon EOS 7D Mark II

Lots of appealing features makes the 7D Mark II an obvious choice for enthusiasts who shoot a bit of everything

Reasons to buy
+Fast frame rate+Great body quality
Reasons to avoid
-Fixed screen-No wi-fi

If you’re looking to trade up from an entry-level Canon model, the 7D Mark II could be the camera of your dreams. It’s a superb all-rounder which features a 20.2 megapixel sensor and a host of excellent features to suit a variety of needs. 

It’s great for wildlife, sports and action photography with its fast 10fps shooting speed, while other subjects such as portraits and landscapes are also ideally suited for it. The 65-point AF system does an excellent job too, while the body is sturdy, well-built and is great to use. 

On the downside, the screen is fixed and there’s no wi-fi built in. The latter is disappointing for both quick sharing of shots and for remotely controlling the camera. 

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.

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 800D

5. Canon EOS 800D

This versatile beginner friendly DSLR is a great way to get into the Canon ecosystem

Reasons to buy
+Easy to get started with+Great touchscreen
Reasons to avoid
-Full HD video only-Cheaper build quality

Canon updates its line of entry-level DSLRs fairly regularly, so you can almost always guarantee that the latest tech is available even for beginner models. The 800D (known as the T7i in the States) inherits some great specifications from those higher up in Canon’s line, including a snappy 45-point AF system. There’s also an excellent touch-sensitive articulating screen, a decent Live View performance, and, most importantly, high image quality. 

If you’re looking for a solidly built and well-rounded entry-level camera, the 800D is the ideal choice - if you’re looking to tighten the purse strings a little more, the 1300D is also a great beginner friendly option. 

(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.

(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: Pentax K1 Mark II

9. Pentax K1 Mark II

An interesting alternative to the two dominant forces

Reasons to buy
+Great build quality+High-resolution sensor+Great shake-reduction system
Reasons to avoid
-Full HD video only-Slow continuous burst rate

It can be easy to forget about Pentax, despite it being one of the oldest camera names in the business. So while Nikon and Canon definitely dominate in this area, the K1 Mark II is a good, affordable alternative. For less than £2,000 you get something which offers great build quality, a high-resolution 36 megapixel sensor, and a high-performing shake-reduction system which helps to keep your shots crisp and clear. 

On the downside, this is really not a camera best suited to sports and action photography, offering a rather measly 4.4fps shooting, but for landscapes, portraits, macro, and anything else that keeps generally still, it comes recommended.

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

10. 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: Sony A99 II

11. Sony A99 II

A host of exciting features and specifications make this an appealing alternative for professionals

Reasons to buy
+Fast frame rate+High resolution sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Limited battery life-Electronic viewfinder not favoured by everybody

The majority of professional photographers use either Canon or Nikon models, but if you’re prepared to look outside traditional manufacturers you can actually find some extremely appealing alternatives. 

One such option is the Sony A99 II which boasts a 42.4 megapixel full-frame sensor and is ideal for a huge range of different subjects. Not only does the high resolution make it ideal for commercial and advertising work, but it’s also got a fast frame rate which means you can use it for sports and action photography. There’s also 4K video recording and an adjustable LCD screen. While some people don’t like electronic viewfinders, it’s necessary here as the A99 II uses a translucent mirror design that can’t facilitate an optical viewfinder - but don’t worry too much, it’s really a very good one. 

The biggest downside to this camera is a limited battery life - so make sure you stock up on spares. 

Best DSLR: Canon EOS 6D Mark II

12. 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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