The Best DSLR Camera for Beginners in 2021: the best cameras for learning photography

Disclaimer: AOLArtists may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article at no extra cost to you.

Last Updated on October 14, 2021

Top Pick: Canon EOS Rebel T8i

It’s an excellent option if you do not have time to carry out lengthy research. It’s the best DSLR camera for beginners. For a beginner, it offers excellent camera quality and performance.

The entry-level segment is currently flooded with attractive options from manufacturers. As a result, it is now potentially more challenging for first-time buyers to decide which camera will be right for them. You need to consider numerous factors such as performance, price, and ease of use.

You should also consider what features you prioritize when upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera. The following list aims to present you with the most feature-rich and budget-friendly options available in the market today.

What Do You Consider an Entry-Level DSLR?

The Nikon D5100 is almost the definition of a cheap, entry-level DSLR. However, it is surprising to hear it actually referred to as an entry-level position. It is a really good camera! Despite saving money and doing extensive research before purchasing the D5100, pros dismiss it as “amateur” or “consumer.” 

Even though the title of the article calls them “entry-level” cameras, I believe the cameras are still pretty good, regardless of the title. No one should fall into a category based on the type of camera they own. 

Further, I stretched the definition a bit just to create a top list that matches their definitions and to reach my quota. With the exception of a few older or obsolete DSLRs that are still being sold new today for some reason, the guide covers the full range of current entry-level DSLRs; it is the most comprehensive list in existence today.

The rankings totaled seven Canon DSLRs, three Nikon DSLRs, and two Pentax DSLRs. Canon has more entry-level DSLR cameras in its lineup at the moment, which results in more Canon cameras overall. 

You won’t find it on the Canon side (and it probably shouldn’t surprise you that Canon takes the second bottom spot). One camera from each manufacturer finishes among the top three. While we did not plan for this, it’s a sure sign that both companies are competitive in this field.

Out of dozens of choices, here are the best candidates to give you confidence:

Top 12 DSLR Cameras for Beginners

1: Canon EOS Rebel T8i

The Canon Rebel T8i is the latest offering in the Rebel lineup and is the successor to the Rebel T7i. In the spring of 2020, the sensor was replaced with a 24.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, under which were included the DIGIC 8 image processing processor, as well as 4K UHD and 1080p full HD filming. It also features a fully articulated 3.0-inch touchscreen, time-lapse recording, bursts of 7 frames per second, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.

It uses a 45-point AF system that includes both eye detection and face detection. This camera is also one of the very few DSLRs to include Face Detection tracking in the viewfinder, something DSLRs rarely have. As well as vertical video support, Canon added Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Live to ensure video content can be shared easily with vloggers. It is also capable of 1,240 shots per charge, which is excellent for this kind of camera. 

In conclusion, the T8i is Canon’s most technologically advanced EOS Rebel to date. Improved autofocusing, faster bursts, faster video quality, and a better video mode experience all come with this upgrade to the tried and true 24MP package. The device also offers a good number of advanced features at an affordable price.

2: Nikon D5600

In Nikon’s D5000 lineup, the D5600 is the entry-level camera that provides advanced features. Its features and functionality are advanced in comparison to the D3000 series, making it ideally suited for enthusiasts searching for a way to improve their skills. However, not so advanced that beginners would be overwhelmed. 

It was initially released in spring 2017, featuring a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor without an Anti-Aliasing filter, the Exclaimer 4 image processor, and 1080p Full HD up to 60 frames a second. As well as a 3.2-inch fully articulating touchscreen, it features time-lapse, microphone input, as well as wireless connectivity.

It uses a 39-point autofocusing system, nine of which are cross-type compatible, which improves accuracy. This camera also features a fully articulating touchscreen, unlike the straightforward D3000 series. 

Together with Nikon’s excellent touch interface, this touchscreen offers superior versatility when shooting, and navigating through the menus is extremely easy. The battery life of the camera is also excellent for the class, and it provides 820 shots per charge.

Despite its simplicity and straightforwardness, the D5600 is more than just basic. Compared to its predecessor, the D5500, this model offers significant improvements, including connectivity, time-lapse recording, and a smooth user interface. With its convenient control set that’s comprehensive yet simple to use, it remains incredibly easy to operate.

3: Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

This is Canon’s SL3 – the latest entry in their Rebel lineup of super lightweight cameras. Located just below the T7i, it’s a camera they’ve developed recently. 

The camera is equipped with a 24.1.5 megapixel CMOS sensor, DIGIC 8 image processor, 4K UHD video recording at 24 frames per second, and Full HD 1080p recording up to 60 frames per second. 

In addition, it has a 3.0-inch touchscreen with full articulation, 4K time-lapse, wireless connectivity, an electronic image stabilization system, and a microphone input.

Featuring a 9-point autofocusing system with a cross point in the middle, the camera uses a simple switching system. Additionally, it gains Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which is now eye-detection capable for pleasing portraits. It also has an excellent battery life of 1,070 shots per charge. 

Additionally, this camera gains Canon’s Creative Assist, Feature Assist, as well as Canon’s Shooting Mode Guide, an integrated resource that provides detailed explanations of virtually every setting on the camera. The SL3 is not only Canon’s smallest and lightest DSLR, it’s also one of the most feature-rich DSLR cameras on the market today.

With improved battery life, a brand new sensor, and 4K video capabilities, Canon’s SL3 offers many improvements over its predecessor. Even though it is one of the smallest EOS cameras to date, it still pulls the same performance as its bigger and bulkier siblings.

4: Canon EOS 90D

This new camera from Canon replaces the incredibly popular EOS 80D, and it boasts a number of completely new features and improvements. It was released in the fall of 2019 and has a 32.5-megapixel CMOS sensor, an image processor with DIGIC 8, 4K UHD up to 30 frames per second, and 1080p up to 120 frames per second. 

The device also boasts a fully articulated 3-inch touchscreen, ten frames per second bursts, a weather-proof body, and headphones and microphones inputs.

The viewfinder is controlled by an autofocusing system with a confident 45-point cross-type. Although it is more advanced than its recent competitors, this AF system offers a total of 5,481 selectable AF points, unlike Canon’s recent Dual Pixel version. As a result of combining these two systems, the Canon 1DX can focus more precisely than any other camera aside from its flagship.  

Additionally, the camera boasts the world’s first 32.5MP sensor, making it Canon’s most advanced APS-C camera outside of its M6 Mark II. It’s even equipped with uncropped 4K video features and 120 frames per second full HD, for super slow motion. The battery life is also excellent at 1,300 shots per charge despite all the performance it offers.

It makes up for the fact that Canon’s 90D serves as the best example of a camera that combines traditional DSLRs with mirrorless models. Canon has released a camera that sets the bar high for what an SLR camera can accomplish. The project adds many improvements over the predecessor and is by far the best release of the series so far.

5: Nikon D7500

In addition to Nikon’s flagship D500, the D7500 is the company’s newest semi-professional model in the D7000 series. This camera has a 20.9-megapixel CMOS sensor, EXPEED 5 image processor, and is capable of recording 4K UHD video playback at 30 frames per second, and 1080p full HD playback at 60 frames per second. 

Besides its tilting touchscreen and wireless connectivity, it also has a 3.2-inch touchscreen, digital stabilization, weatherproofing, and headphone and microphone inputs.

This system uses a 51-point phase-detection AF system, where 15 of the points are higher-end cross-types. The camera has a new processor that allows for Face-Detection and 3D tracking, providing the best performance in terms of subject tracking in the series. 

950 shots can be captured on a single charge of the battery, which is another positive feature of the camera. In addition, Nikon added a tilting touchscreen for menu navigation and customization, which makes navigating through menus a breeze. With its full weather-sealed body and high continuous shooting speed of 8 frames per second for 100 photos, it quickly outperforms rivals.

Overall, the Nikon D7500 is one of Nikon’s most underrated models. This device offers the same performance and power as their flagship, but at a much more affordable price range. It offers users an attractive way to take advantage of the best features of the D500 without paying its high price.

6: Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D

The Canon Rebel T7i continues the tradition and principles of Canon’s Rebel line of entry-level SLR cameras with another outstanding release. 

A 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 7 processor, and a 1080p full HD video recording up to 60 fps make it ideal for landscape and wildlife photography. In addition to a fully articulating touchscreen 3.0, this camera also features electronic image stabilization, HDR, time-lapse images, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity.

Using Canon’s acclaimed Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the camera has 45 cross-type AF points similar to the setup found on the 77D. Thus, it became the second DSLR camera in the Rebel lineup to have this high-end focusing system. 

Although it has a battery life of 600 shots per charge, its battery life is less than average for the class. However, with this camera, Canon has implemented the Feature Assistance interface, which breaks down both simple as well as advanced features in easy-to-understand graphics. Additionally, the camera comes with a touch interface that is simple to operate and navigate.

With regard to functionality and features, the Rebel T7i shares many features with Canon’s higher-end 80D. This makes it more appealing to beginners because it’s affordable and budget-friendly.

7: Canon EOS 77D / EOS 9000D

Canon’s 77D is a camera offered as an alternative to the incredibly popular T6S in the company’s mid-prose lineup, as well as an unofficial successor to that camera. 

The camera was originally released in spring 2017 with a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 7 image processor, and Full HD video recording up to 60 frames per second. A 3.0-inch touchscreen with full articulation, digital stabilization, a microphone input, and wireless connectivity complete this package.

It utilizes Canon’s highly regarded Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which provides smooth, confident focusing with 45 cross-type focusing points. The new Rebel series camera was officially the first in the series to obtain this high-performance feature. 

It has a battery life of 600 shots per charge, which is good for the class. But the camera’s real strength lies in how straightforward and easy to use its user interface is. Additionally, it is equipped with an autofocusing system with excellent tracking of subjects, so cinematic rack focusing is as easy as tapping on the screen.

The Canon 77D is in many ways an updated version of Canon’s incredibly popular 80D, but it is also a lot more budget-friendly. Despite its compact size and lightweight design, it offers advanced semi-professional functions. 

Yet, it stays within the Rebel series’ affordable price range, making it the perfect choice for beginners. Nevertheless, it remains up a notch above the more basic Rebel camera and lacks the demanding specifications of a pro-level camera.

8: Pentax K-70

As a camera designed specifically for outdoor photography skills, the Pentax K-70 is pitched by Pentax. Released in the summer of 2016, it has a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that does not have an anti-aliasing filter, 1080p full HD video recording up to 60 frames-per-second, and image stabilization. 

As well as being waterproof and a wireless camera with weather sealing, the camera also has a 3.0-inch fully articulating screen, time-lapse, HDR, multiple exposures, plus a microphone input and weather sealing.

A hybrid autofocusing system of 11 points is found on the device, of which 9 are cross-type compatibles. In addition to combining contrast and phase-detection techniques, the system improves accuracy. A charge of 480 shots will last for average battery life. 

Nevertheless, Pentax fitted the camera with in-body image stabilization to reduce camera shake. It’s also got a Pixel Shift Resolve Program that combines four images to add fine details and improve colors via stabilization, a feature rare in this class.

Pentax’s K-70 is an outstanding enthusiast camera that’s packed with innovative features that are built to last. Pentax is known for integrating high-end features into beginner models that are normally reserved for premium models. This is certainly the case with the K-70 as well.

A weather-sealed design and Pixel Shift Resolution mode make it quite appealing to nature and landscape photographers.

9: Nikon D3500

Nikon’s D3500 represents the newest installment of its D3000 series. With this camera, Nikon is aimed squarely at beginners looking to upgrade from smartphones. 

This camera was released in the fall of 2018. It features a 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and the EXPEED 4 image processor. It can also record 1080p Full HD video shooting at up to 60 frames per second.

This camera offers a one-of-a-kind 11-point autofocus system with 3D and Dynamic tracking, a feature that Nikon usually reserves for their top-of-the-line models. As a result of 3D tracking, the camera’s AF points are able to work together, resulting in significantly improved precision when tracking subjects. 

Additionally, it is one of the few cameras with an entry-level sensor that doesn’t have an Anti-Aliasing (AA) filter, which gives it the same resolving power as Nikon’s flagship D500 camera. The 1,550 shots you can shoot on a single charge make it the longest-lasting in its class.

Nikon’s D3500 sets the bar for entry-level cameras with excellent photo quality, a straightforward design, and simple controls.

10: Canon EOS Rebel T100 / EOS 4000D

Canon’s Rebel T100 DSLR sits below their T7 entry-level model, which is stripped down considerably from its previous T100 counterpart.  Canon aims to make the camera the perfect step-up from a smartphone device. 

Wireless connectivity, an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, and the DIGIC 4+ image processor make this a compelling offering.

There are nine points in its AF system, and one of them has cross-type compatibility. Approximately 500 shots can be obtained from each battery charge, which is an average for the class. The body weighs 436 g with a battery and memory card, making it the lightest Canon SLR in its class, as light as the SL3. 

In addition to Canon’s Creative Auto Mode, this camera offers sweeping sliders to change background blur, which enables users to achieve any desired effect. Thus, this mode virtually removes the need to understand what settings your camera is using in order to achieve specific aesthetic qualities.

In general, Canon’s Rebel T100 is one of the best bargains on the market today. With the performance it offers for this price, even though it’s simple, budget-conscious users can’t complain here.

11: Canon Rebel T6 / EOS 1300D

Canon Rebel T6 (also known as Canon EOS 1300D) is one of the few DSLR cameras on this list that we would not recommend. It may be less expensive, but it’s still equal to the T7 – $400 with the kit lens! 

Although these cameras are virtually identical, the T7 has a 24-megapixel sensor, whereas this T6 has 18 megapixels. In our opinion, the T6 kit at its current price is such a waste of money that we can’t see anyone buying it, except for those who are confused by Canon’s wide range of DSLR cameras.

It is possible to get the T6 camera at a good price if it contains a 70-300mm zoom lens in addition to the regular kit. For $280, Canon’s own website offered the T6 with two lenses last year – a kit lens of 18-55mm and a telephoto of 75-300mm – refurbished for the holidays. If the T6 were offered at this price, it might jump up beyond #10 and become one of the best options on our list. Therefore, it all comes down to price.

12: Pentax KP

The Pentax KP 24-megapixel DSLR camera is positioned just at the entry-level end of this list. As well as being the most advanced camera here, it has the most sophisticated control layout. With the Pentax KP, you have three separate dials for changing camera settings, which is more than you’ll find in most professional cameras costing more than $3000.

What is causing the camera to only be in the last position? Ultimately, it’s about value. With its 18-55mm kit lens, the Pentax KP is $950, which makes it twice as expensive as some of its rivals. It’s also worth noting that the Canon 77D, despite its lower price, has better core specifications, without sacrificing much in terms of advanced controls. 

Although they don’t share the same high-end layout, the $700 Canon T7i and Nikon D5600 both outperform principle specs. Although it costs just $700 instead of $1,000, Pentax’s own K-70 is remarkably comparable to the KP.

When it comes to building quality and control layout, the Pentax KP deserves a second look if you have a larger budget. In spite of the price, it is still a very capable camera – perhaps the best on this list. However, if you consider value, other models below offer good value for the price.

In conclusion, here are a few tips on buying the best DSLR cameras for beginner

The best DSLR camera for beginners in 2021

Make sure you read reviews of as many DSLR models as you can before you spend your hard-earned money. Specifications can provide a lot of insight, but nothing compares with the first-hand experience when it comes to comparing cameras.

Additionally, with the reviews, you’ll be able to see how good the quality and performance are, which can also help you make a decision.

Olivia Bouler

From a young age, camera's fascinated me. My dad gave me my first Canon when I was seven, and since then I've tried to improve my craft. As a young Ornithologist and photographer, I travel a lot and love to bring a camera with me. I love the feeling of capturing a moment that can never be repeated and providing someone with a memento of a time or place.