Canon EOS 250D

Canon EOS 250D (Image credit: Canon)

Looking for the best beginner DSLR you can buy? If the time has come for you to upgrade from your smartphone or compact, this buying guide will help you find the perfect first DSLR to suit your skills and needs.


Smartphones and mirrorless cameras might be the most popular photography formats nowadays, but the DSLR is far from dead. DSLR (or digital single-lens reflex) cameras still offer greater shooting power and control than most mobiles, as well as superior physical handling and battery life compared to the majority of mirrorless cameras. And if you want a true viewfinder – one that uses a mirror to reflect light directly to your eye, rather than a small electronic display – you’ll only get that with a DSLR.

With most camera makers focused on developing mirrorless models, there aren’t many new DSLR cameras hitting the shelves in 2020, which is actually beneficial to first-time buyers. Alongside the occasional newer model – such as the feature-packed Canon 90D – there’s a whole range of slightly older but very capable DSLR cameras on the market. And thanks to their age, they’re very competitively priced.

What’s the difference between basic variants and more advanced models, such as the Canon EOS 1DX Mark III? Entry-level DSLR cameras tend to be more limited when it comes to features, custom settings and the degree of control offered – but they still promise more than enough flexibility to keep novice DSLR users occupied.

Keen to jump in? The established giants of the genre – Canon and Nikon – continue to offer the greatest choice, courtesy of their long DSLR lineage and extensive lens collections. That said, the list below also includes a selection of very capable cameras from other brands, as well as certain older models that still offer excellent value for DSLR beginners.

Best beginner DSLRs 2020 at a glance:

  1. Nikon D3500
  2. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D
  3. Nikon D5600
  4. Canon 90D
  5. Canon EOS Rebel T7/ 2000D / EOS 1500D
  6. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D / EOS 200D Mark II
  7. Pentax K-70

The Best DSLRs for beginners in 2020:

Nikon D3500

1. Nikon D3500


Not the flashiest camera here, but we reckon it’s the best right now

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 may not have announced any new entry-level DSLRs for a while, but the D3500 remains an excellent option for those new to photography. It picks up from where the D3400 left off, but with a handful of extra perks. Unlike power-hungry mirrorless models, the major advantage of this camera is battery life. You can keep going for 1,550 images between charges, which is way ahead of most other DSLRs, while the 24MP sensor delivers excellent image quality. Nikon has also revised the body and control layout, not only to make it nicer to handle but easier to use too, while the Guide Mode takes the first-time user’s hand and walks them through all the key features in a way that makes everything easy to understand. We love it – and if you’re just getting started, we reckon you will too.

  • Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 revieu

(Image credit: Canon)

2. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D


Soon to be upgraded, the EOS 800D is still a solid all-round offering

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 6fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Canon’s EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) might be a little dated, but it still sits at the top of Canon’s entry-level EOS DSLR line-up – at least for now. Its successor, the 850D, is on the horizon and due to deliver several key upgrades. As our Canon 850D vs 800D feature shows, the new model is more evolution than revolution, taking the capable core of the 800D – resolution is essentially the same, for example – and adding 4K video, better low-light focusing and Live View focus points. Canon’s latest Digic 8 chip will also add 7fps burst shooting, better noise-handling and improved metering. So should you forget about the 800D and wait for its usurper? Not necessarily: if 4K footage isn’t a deal-breaker, the 800D remains a solid all-round option for those who like the heft and handling of a DSLR. It offers a user-friendly interface, excellent touchscreen control and a 24.2MP sensor that delivers impressive overall image quality. What’s more, with the 850D on the way, prices for the 800D have fallen significantly, making it better value than ever.

  • Read our in-depth Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D review

Nikon D5600

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