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First Captures: 12 Best Entry-Level DSLRs For Beginners

Posted By

Mar 26, 2019

Category: Tech

In a world that’s become so immersed in the visual medium, it’s insane to believe that the traditional consumer would shy away from a completely viable outlet for self-expression. Whether you spend most of your time looking at photos of influencers, mesmerizing locations, and interesting animals on Instagram, keeping up-to-date with friends and family on Facebook, or perusing your favorite blog on Pinterest, it’s an undeniable fact that the majority of our happiest moments are dictated by imagery — many of which are being recorded and archived by one nifty little device — the DSLR.

It’s a common misconception that the world of photography is relegated to expensive peripherals, high-tier investments, and excessive setups. While there’s a figment of truth in each of those notions, it’s not nearly as bad as most people make it out to be — the truth is, entry-level DSLRs have become so much of a mainstay within the industry that manufacturers around the world have devoted an entire branch of their business to create affordable offerings for the common consumer. Looking to dip your toes into video and photo? There’s more than a few perfect offerings for you. What about sports and action photography? Entry-level cameras have made dramatic leaps in autofocus capabilities over the last few years. Just looking to take a portrait of your friend, or maybe even your cat? The industry’s top manufacturers have you covered there, too.

While we’re not about to tell you that photography is an avenue that everyone should take, we are however going to reinforce the idea that entry-level photographic devices are an essential part of making memories, looking back on the best times, and seeing the world in a different light. Whatever your reasoning behind wanting to pick up a camera in the first place, it’s essential to understand the gargantuan device that is the Digital Single Reflex Camera (DSLR) — an affordable, compact platform that has revolutionized the way we see visual mediums. Below, we’re going to outline the top-rated, highest-performing entry-level cameras that the photographic space has to offer. Whether you’re a fan of Canon’s warm color sciences, Nikon’s genre-defining sensors, or Pentax’s age-old pedigree, we hope that by the end of this guide, you’ll have found the perfect transcendental device to give you years of trusted captures.

The Cameras

Flavor Of The Month

Nikon D3500

Nikon’s D3500 is the most recent entry-level flagship for the famed manufacturer, integrating the brand’s standard 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor from its previous model (the D3400) and adapting them to fit within a lighter, slimmer body. To perform on par with its predecessor, the D3500 opts, once again, to exclude a sharpness-reducing optical low-pass filter but retains the 3400’s native ISO of 100-25,600 and 5 fps shooting speed. Not much has changed with the 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD monitor and Multi-CAM 1000 11-point autofocus system, but a new design/button orientation, enhanced battery life, and 45-gram weight savings might just be worth the strikingly-similar price tag.

Sensor: 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor
Image Processor: EXPEED 4 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-25600
LCD: 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD monitor
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 1000 11-point AF system

Purchase: $400

Nikon D3400

The Nikon D3400 might be the last generation flagship for the classic camera manufacturer, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t pack a punch when compared to similarly priced DSLRs. As the foundation for Nikon’s newest D3500, the D3400 sports much of the same technological attributes as its successor, including a 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor, EXPEED 4 image processor, and a native ISO of 100-25,600. Full HD 1080p video capabilities come standard with the D3400, which utilizes a 60 fps shooting speed, as well as a Multi-CAM 1000 11-point autofocus system. While slightly heavier, more robust, and with less battery longevity than its updated counterpart, the D3400 still performs surprisingly well for an entry-level DSLR camera. Better yet, the body can often be found on sale for an extremely affordable price, due to its age.

Sensor: 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor
Image Processor: EXPEED 4 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-25600
LCD: 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD monitor
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 1000 11-point AF system

Purchase: $420

Canon EOS Rebel T7

Canon’s EOS Rebel T7 is the photographic giant’s latest offering within the entry-level Rebel lineup, sporting an improved 24.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor when compared to its forefather, the Canon T6. The 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor and full HD 1080/30p video recording are very much the same as its predecessor, however, a similar sensor size between the two cameras signifies that the megapixel count is one of the only differences between the generational flagships. The Rebel T7 utilizes a DIGIC 4+ image processor, 9-point autofocus with center cross-type point technology, and a mediocre ISO ranging from 100-6400 (although, expandable to 12,800, should the need arise). While the camera’s 3 fps shooting speed and modest megapixel upgrade place it firmly within the upper echelon of “beginner” DSLRs, a $450 price tag means that you’ll have to make the tough choice between the less expensive Nikon and Canon’s newest Rebel.

Sensor: 24.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: DIGIC 4+ image processor
ISO: ISO 100-6400, 3 fps shooting
LCD: 3.0″ 920k-dot LCD monitor
Video: Full HD 1080/30p video recording
Autofocus System: 9-point AF with center cross-type point

Purchase: $450

Nikon D5300

Nikon’s D5300 might be a spitting image of its D5600 counterpart, but with a few minor differences that affect the cost of the entry-level platform. While the company’s D5600 is the spiritual successor to the D5300, the camera’s 24.2MP DX-Format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 Image Processor remain relatively untouched, along with the 3.2″ 1.037m-dot vari-angle LCD monitor, allowing for accurate image reproduction and articulation. As with most of Nikon’s entry-level offerings, the camera sports a full HD 1080p video capability that tops out at 60 fps, a native ISO of 12800 (that’s expandable to 25,600), but excludes an image-softening low-pass filter. Luckily, the D5300 still retains its Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point autofocus sensor for speedy tracking, analysis, and pinpoint accuracy while trying to keep moving subjects locked on target.

Sensor: 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor
Image Processor: EXPEED 4 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-12800, extended to ISO 25600
LCD: 3.2″ 1,037k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point AF sensor

Purchase: $455

Pentax K-S2

Pentax is a long-winded manufacturer that has been relevant within the world of photography for a surprising amount of time, and while they specialize in mirrorless offerings, their K-S2 entry-level DSLR is aimed at the relatively informed beginner photographer. While a bit more expensive than its Canon and Nikon counterparts, the Pentax sports a 20 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor that forgoes a softening AA filter for sharper photographs. A fully weather-sealed, cold-proof, and dust-proof design gives it a leg up on its less refined competition, while 4K interval movie capture and full HD 1080p video capabilities serve to satiate even the most rigorous creatives. In-body stabilization helps to keep your shot from suffering due to movement, and with an expansive ISO that reaches from 100-51,200, it’s safe to say that low-light performance shouldn’t be that large of an issue. A large-resolution, 921k-dot 3” variable LCD monitor rounds out the delightful DSLR, ensuring a crystal-clear illustration of whatever happens to pass in front of your lens.

Sensor: 20MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: PRIME MII
ISO: ISO 100-51200
LCD: 3″ 921K-dot variable LCD monitor
Video: 4K/1080p HD video
Autofocus System: SAFOX X, 11 point

Purchase: $545

Canon EOS Rebel T6i

Canon’s EOS Rebel T6i is the first of the company’s “enhanced” entry level offerings to make its way onto our list, sporting a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a speedy DIGIC 6 image processor, and a 3.0″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen for crystal-clear color reproduction. To elaborate on the original T6, the T6i adds a much anticipated 19-point cross-type autofocus with a hybrid CMOS AF III system, allowing clean, quick responsiveness when trying to lock on to a subject. An expandable ISO of up to 25,600 pairs with a 7560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, allowing for accurate exposure and luminance readings, while a standard full HD 1080p, 30 fps video capability ensures adequate motion capture. The “i” lineup serves as Canon’s upper-echelon entry-level platform, so for a little extra cash, it might be worth it to get a (small) taste of the mid-range camera world.

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: DIGIC 6 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-25600
LCD: 3.0″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps
Autofocus System: 19-Pt. cross-type AF, hybrid CMOS AF III

Purchase: $550

Nikon D3300

As the reference point for one of Nikon’s most successful lines, the D3300 garners most of its praise due to its detail-oriented 24.2 megapixel CMOS DX-format sensor, 5 fps continuous shooting speed, and 11-point autofocus with 3D tracking. This is especially important for those who are looking to delve into moving subjects, allowing constant tracking as long as your subject is in the frame. A full HD 1080p, 60 fps video capability caters to the video connoisseurs of the world, while a 921k-dot 3” LCD ensures adequate image recreation while in live-view mode. An ISO of 100-12800 allows entry-level photographers to shoot well into the afternoon — and if that’s not enough, it can be expanded up to 25,600, which should be more than enough to illuminate your subject.

Sensor: 24.2MP CMOS DX-format sensor
Image Processor: EXPEED 4
ISO: ISO 100-12800, extended to 25600
LCD: 3.0″ 921k-dot screen
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: 11 AF points with 3D tracking

Purchase: $565

Pentax K-70

Pentax’s mid-range K-70 is the perfect camera for those who think a little bit outside of the box, bringing a 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and an AA filter-free body to the masses. The K-70’s dustproof, weather-resistant body features an in-body shake reduction mechanism, allowing for more stable shots without a tripod, while a robust ISO rating of 100-204800 covers all of your nighttime shooting needs. The vari-angle LCD monitor is equipped with a night vision red-light LCD display, pairing perfectly with the camera’s SAFOX X 11-point autofocus and 9 cross-type sensors for accurate, responsive tracking. An interesting pixel shift resolution technology works alongside the K-70’s motion correction AA filter simulator to reduce moire, allowing photographers to produce impeccable photos without the hindrance of traditional AA and optical low-pass filters.

Sensor: 24MP APS-C CMOS
Image Processor: PRIME MII
ISO: ISO from 100-204800
LCD: Vari-angle LCD monitor w/ night vision red light LCD display
Video: 1080p at 60 fps
Autofocus System: SAFOX X 11-point AF with 9 cross sensors

Purchase: $600

Canon EOS Rebel SL2

Canon’s EOS Rebel SL2 makes a name for itself as one of the most dominant mid-range cameras on the market today, utilizing a sharp 24.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, a blazing fast DIGIC 7 image processor, and a 3″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD to bring users into the new age. To compete with Nikon, the manufacturer packed the SL2 with a number of anticipated updates, including an upgraded 9-point autofocus system with dual-pixel CMOS autofocus capabilities, and a native ISO of 25,600 (which is expandable up to 51,200) — much higher than their low-range, entry-level offerings. A standard full HD 1080p, 60 fps video capture capability and up to 5 fps of continuous shooting take the best attributes of the T6, T7, and T6i, and pack them into one intuitive package.

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: DIGIC 7 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-25600, extended to ISO 51200
LCD: 3″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: 9-Point AF system; Dual Pixel CMOS AF

Purchase: $600

Nikon D5600

Nikon’s D5600 is a superb entry-level camera that plays on the brand’s most successful attributes, integrating a 24.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor, EXPEED 4 image processor, and a 3.2″ 1.037m-dot vari-angle touchscreen into one sleek contraption. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the D5600 is the addition of the Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point autofocus sensor, which elaborates significantly on the brand’s lower-tier lineup. The camera utilizes full HD 1080p video capture at a standard 60 fps, as well as an ISO range of 100-25600, and 5 fps continuous shooting — staying in line with the majority of competitive offerings throughout the industry.

Sensor: 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor
Image Processor: EXPEED 4 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-25600
LCD: 3.2″ 1.037m-dot vari-angle touchscreen; 5 fps shooting
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: Multi-CAM 4800DX 39-point AF sensor

Purchase: $700

Pentax KP

Pentax’s KP DSLR is a step above the rest when it comes to build-quality, utilizing a dust-proof, weather-resistant silhouette and -10-degree resistances that make it perfect for any entry-level explorer who’s looking to get their feet wet. A modest 24.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, the exclusion of an AA filter, and an expandable ISO range that reaches an insanely high 819,200 make this camera one of the leading competitors in the entry-level DSLR industry. An internal five-axis shake reduction system keeps everything in check, even without a tripod, and allows the KP’s pixel shift resolution technology to create high-definition, HDR imagery. To round out the definitive camera, a vertical-tilting LCD monitor is incorporated to keep both high- and low-angle shooting within the realm of possibility.

Sensor: 24.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: PRIME IV
ISO: ISO 100-819200
LCD: Vertical-tilt LCD monitor
Video: Full HD 1080p at 60 fps
Autofocus System: SAFOX 11, 27 point

Purchase: $800

Canon EOS Rebel T7i

Canon’s EOS Rebel T7i rounds out our list as one of the top-performing cameras in the entry-level DSLR world, boasting a 24.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 7 image processor to bring it in-line with the industry’s most audacious imaging devices. A 3.0″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen and a bolstered 45-point all cross-type phase-detect AF system ensures precise locks on almost any moving subject, while a dual pixel CMOS AF serves to further refine the camera’s tracking capabilities. A standard full HD 1080p video capture capability at 60 fps (and continuous shooting speed of up to 6 fps) pair with the T7i’s sublime 51,200 ISO reading, allowing for a diverse range of attributes that place it firmly at the top of the list for contentious DSLRs.

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image Processor: DIGIC 7 image processor
ISO: ISO 100-51200
LCD: 3.0″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen
Video: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps
Autofocus System: 45-point all cross-type phase-detect AF; Dual Pixel CMOS AF

Purchase: $800

How To Buy Your First DSLR Camera

If you want to sound like an expert when you head to the store to pick up your first DSLR, we recommend taking a dive into our detailed guide on how to buy your first DSLR camera.

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