Best DSLR camera 2021: 12 great cameras to suit all budgets

The best DSLRs can go head to head with mirrorless cameras for features, and add chunky handling and optical viewfinders!

Searching for the best DSLR you can buy? You’ve landed in the right place. We’ve rigorously tested all of the biggest DSLR releases over the last decade, and ranked them in this regularly updated guide. So whether you’re looking for your first DSLR or a new professional workhorse, you’ll find your ideal match below.

There’s no doubt that the focus of the big camera manufacturers is now on mirrorless cameras, rather than DSLRs. The two traditional DSLR giants – Nikon and Canon – are now funneling all their resources into full-frame mirrorless models, which means their best DSLRs are now unlikely to be succeeded.

But on the plus side, this means that DSLRs now offer even better value than before, particularly if you don’t mind buying lenses second-hand. DSLRs remain the cheapest way to get a camera with a viewfinder, and they still have a couple of big advantages over their mirrorless counterparts: namely, their handling and battery lives.

Whether you want a brilliant beginner option or a top-end professional powerhouse, there’s a DSLR for you. Choosing which one is best for you, though, will depend largely on what kind of photographer you are, where you are on your creative journey, and how far your budget goes.

The very best DSLR cameras in 2021 offer features that are right up there with the top mirrorless models – from class-leading 4K video to image stabilization to cutting-edge connectivity. At the other end of the spectrum, beginners may find the handling and button layout of a DSLR more accessible, while the right DSLR will give hobbyists the performance and versatility they need to grow as photographers – plus the lens options to match.

If you want to learn more about the key differences between DSLR and mirrorless cameras, be sure to read our Mirrorless vs DSLR feature. Already sure that a DSLR is for you? We’ve picked out our favorite DSLR cameras for every type of photographer, at every price level, and listed them below.

Our top pick for the title of best DSLR right now is the Nikon D3500. A perfect choice for beginners, it offers an excellent range of features, unlocks Nikon’s healthy catalog of lenses, and it’s affordable, too. On the other hand, experienced enthusiasts with deeper pockets will likely favor the Canon EOS 90D – our favorite of the mid-range models, with a high pixel count, top-class image quality, and uncropped 4K video to match.

But that doesn’t mean either model is the ideal DSLR for you. Whether you want a world-beating all-rounder, something more basic on a budget, or a camera that’s somewhere between the two, the list below is where to look. Read to the end and you’re sure to find a DSLR that ticks all of your boxes.

The best DSLR cameras in 2022:

1. Nikon D3500

Basic but brilliant for brand-new DSLR users


  • Sensor: APS-C CMOS
  • Megapixels: 24.2MP
  • Autofocus: 11-point AF, 1 cross-type
  • Screen type: 3.0-inch, 921,000 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps
  • Movies: 1080p
  • User level: Beginner


Reasons to avoid
-Basic external controls
-Only 1080p Full HD video

Reasons to buy
+Terrific 24MP sensor
+Excellent value for money

At the opposite end of the spectrum to some of the full-frame DSLRs on this list, the Nikon D3500 is super affordable, has one of the sharpest APS-C sensors out there, and a neat retracting kit lens. A word of warning: there are two versions of this lens, and it’s worth spending the extra $20/£20 and getting 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 value for money makes it just as impressive as much more advanced (and much more expensive) alternatives. Advertisement

The controls are designed to be simple for novices, and in the right hands, it’s 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 certainly hard to beat.

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