If you’ve outgrown your point-and-shoot camera or are no longer satisfied with the snaps you get from your smartphone, and feel like you’re ready to take your photography to the next level, then an entry-level DSLR is the most obvious choice.
Entry-level DSLRs deliver a big step up in image quality from a compact camera or smartphone, offering far more manual control and the ability to change lenses to tackle a huge variety of projects. Don’t worry though – there are also a host of auto modes to help you out until you’re comfortable with the more creative controls that a DSLR offers.
Obviously, the more features you want, the more you’ll pay, but do you actually need them? Our top camera is one of the cheapest on the market, but still offers impressive performance and image quality, plus enough features to handle most assignments, especially if you’re still learning.
You may also want to consider a mirrorless camera as an alternative. If so, you’ll find our video above or Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences guide very useful. Or, if you’re not sure what kind of camera you need at all, then read our easy-to-follow guide to camera types: What camera should I buy?
If you’re buying your first DSLR, it makes sense to buy it as a kit, which generally includes the camera body along with an 18-55mm lens. Often referred to as a ‘kit’ lens, this covers a pretty broad zoom range, perfect for everything from landscapes to portraits, but that’s just the start.
They’re more than adequate to get started, but the key advantage of DSLRs over compact cameras is that you can add to your kit with additional lenses. For example, wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses, a flashgun, and other accessories, to make the most of whatever types of photography you’re into.
Canon and Nikon offer the largest collections of DSLR lenses, but Pentax and Sony also offer decent ranges. You’re not limited to own-brand lenses either, with the likes of Sigma, Tamron and Tokina selling quality lenses at prices that are often lower than the camera manufacturers’ equivalent lenses.
1. Nikon D3400
Not the most expensive entry-level DSLR, but we think it’s the best
Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3-inch, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner
Nikon’s D3400 builds on the brilliant D3300, which was until recently our top pick. Sharing pretty much the same design and specification as its predecessor, the D3400 adds Nikon’s SnapBridge bluetooth connectivity to transfer images directly to your smart device to make it that much easier to share images. The 24.2MP sensor resolves bags of detail, while the D3400 is also a very easy camera to live with. Its clever Guide Mode is a useful learning tool that gives real-time explanations of important features. There’s no touchscreen though, but otherwise this is our favorite entry-level DSLR right now.