For decades, the DSLR (digital SLR) has been the top choice for anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, a DSLR offers three tempting ingredients: manual controls, excellent picture quality and interchangeable lenses.
That's not quite so clearcut now though with the arrival of mirrorless cameras, which are becoming more and more popular and tempting many potential buyers away from DSLRs.
This is because the internal mirror box has been removed (hence the name), which sees mirrorless cameras typically smaller (in most cases at least) and mechanically simpler than a DSLR, while also taking interchangeable lenses.
If you want to know more about how they compare, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR: 10 key differences. Or, if you want to know more about different camera types in general, check out our step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
While mirrorless cameras are grabbing all the headlines at the moment, don't think DSLRs are dead and buried.
A DSLR is still the cheapest way to get a camera with interchangeable lenses and a viewfinder (you'll find most entry-level mirrorless cameras don't have viewfinders) and, at the other end of the scale, almost all professional sports, press and wildlife photographers choose full-frame DSLRs over every other camera type.
That said, there are some cracking mirrorless cameras out there at the moment that are taking the place of DSLRs in pro photographer's kit bags, including the Nikon Z7, Fujifilm X-T3, Panasonic Lumix G9 and Sony Alpha A7R III.
In between entry-level and full-frame DSLRs are a whole range of models aimed at different users, different levels of experience and different budgets. Here's our pick of the best DSLR cameras you can buy right now.
Best DSLR cameras 2018
If you're looking for the ultimate DSLR right now (or any camera for that matter), then the Nikon D850 is it. This full-frame monster of a camera might be on the pricey side, but for the cash you get a stunning camera that won't disappoint. The huge 45.4MP sensor delivers images with stunning detail and noise performance even at high ISOs, while the highly sophisticated 153-point AF system is borrowed from Nikon's flagship D5. Add in 7fps burst shooting and a host of advanced features, wrap it in a durable magnesium alloy body and you've got a camera that's pretty much at the top of its game for any subject you want to shoot. A brilliant piece of kit.
Like the sound of the D850, but want to go mirrorless? Well, while not strictly a mirrorless version of the D850, Nikon's new Z7 mirrorless camera shares the same 45MP resolution as the D850, but features some clever tech of its own, including an all-new lens mount.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D850 review
Watch our hands-on video below (Nikon D850 review):
Canon's EOS 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it, with a new 30.4MP sensor and advanced 61-point AF system. A brilliant DSLR that was until recently our top pick, but the arrival of the D850 means it slips a place down to number two.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review
Nikon has taken its flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip that allows the D500 to shoot at a rapid 10fps and deliver a great high ISO performance. A brilliant all-rounder with a brilliant 153-point AF system means it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography, but still has the chops to shoot landscapes and portraits. If the cost is a bit steep, then take a look at the D7500 below.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D500 review
Cheaper than the D500 and while it doesn't offer quite the same pro-spec performance and build quality, the Nikon D7500 packs in the same excellent 20.9MP sensor, but in an even more compact and affordable body. The new camera may not get the 153-point AF system from the D500, but the enhanced 51-point system in the D7500 still puts a lot of rival systems in the shade, while the 4K video capture, tilt-angle touchscreen display and 8fps burst shooting are some of the highlights. If you're on a bit of a tighter budget, take a look at the 24.2MP D7200 – it may have been surpassed by the D7500, but it's still one of the best enthusiast DSLRs out there.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D7500 review
Watch our video review of the Nikon D7500 below
The EOS 80D is Canon's high-end enthusiast DSLR and while it might be getting on a bit (it's one of the oldest DSLRs in the Canon line-up), is still a great buy. It features a fast and effective 45-point autofocusing system, while the clever Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for Live View shooting delivers snappy focusing speeds. The camera's handling is excellent, promoting creative shooting as well as making setting adjustments quick and easy. It also has a high quality 24.2MP sensor that is able to capture a good level of detail while keeping noise under control. A great enthusiast DSLR that packs a decent performance.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 80D review
At the opposite end of the spectrum to some of the full-frame DSLRs here, the D3500 is cheap as chips, has one of the sharpest APS-C sensors there is and a neat retracting kit lens (there are two versions, spend the extra $20/£20 and get it with VR, Nikon's image stabilization system). It's proof that you don't have to pay a fortune to get a great camera, and we say its sheer value for money makes it just as impressive as much more advanced (and much more expensive) alternatives. It has a great 24MP sensor and although the controls are designed to be simple for novices, in the right hands the little D3500 is a match for cameras costing far more. If you're looking to get more creative with your photography, and looking for your first DSLR, the Nikon D3500 is hard to beat.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review
Costing a bit more than the Nikon D3400, but offering quite a bit more in the way of features, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) is a great entry-level DSLR. The new sensor impresses, as does the 45-point autofocus system backed up by excellent live view AF, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users. The absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint, but this aside, if you're looking for a well-rounded and easy to use camera for your first DSLR the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D is certainly a very good bet.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D review
Like the look of Nikon's D850 further up the top, but don't want to shell out quite that much, then look no further than the 24MP full-frame D750. It doesn't have that magnificent 45.4-megapixel sensor that the D850 does, but its 24-megapixel alternative still delivers top quality results, especially at high ISO settings. The D750 also features a decent 6.5fps continuous shooting speed, a handy tilting screen and a pretty attractive asking price.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D750 review
Just like D500, the EOS 7D Mark II borrows many of its features from its big brother, the EOS-1D X (that's now been replaced by the EOS-1D X Mark II), bringing 10fps shooting and a professional autofocus system to the amateur market. Now you can shoot action and sports like the pros, but at a price within the reach of enthusiasts. The EOS 7D Mark II isn't just a high-speed specialists, it's a terrific all-round camera. It's tough, with an alloy body and weather-sealed controls, it has a great sensor with an advanced dual-pixel hybrid autofocus system, and it's a powerful video camera too.
- Read our in-depth Canon EOS 7D Mark II review
Now overshadowed by the D850, the D810 is still a great buy. It's built like a tank, it handles beautifully and it doesn't cost the earth – well, when compared to competition that is. While the 36.3MP resolution has been eclipsed by the Canon EOS 5DS and Sony Alpha A7R II, it still delivers stunning results with huge amounts of detail. If you're into sports, action and wildlife photography, the modest 5fps burst shooting might be a bit restrictive, but otherwise, the D810 is still a great DSLR that's now better value than ever.
- Read our in-depth Nikon D810 review
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- What camera should I buy?
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