Best beginner DSLR cameras 2019: 10 cheap DSLRs perfect for new users

Ready to make the step up from your smartphone or point-and-shoot camera to something a bit more powerful? You’ve landed in the right place: these are the best beginner DSLRs you can buy right now in 2019.

An entry-level, beginner DSLR is the natural progression when you feel like you’ve outgrown your point-and-shoot compact camera or are no longer satisfied with the snaps you get from your smartphone. 

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With so much competition between Canon and Nikon at this end of the market, and a raft of older models and new arrivals fighting against each other, it’s entirely possible that this will be the opportunity for one or both manufacturers to drop their asking prices to a new low.

Best beginner DSLR camera

Nikon D3500

Nikon’s very latest D3500 is a cracker. With a great sensor, a light and easy-to-use body and access to a huge range of lenses, it’s a perfect camera to get you started on your photographic journey.

Read our in-depth Nikon D3500 review

DSLRs for beginners deliver a big step up in image quality over a compact camera or smartphone. They may share the same number of megapixels, but the size of an entry-level DSLR’s sensor is physically much larger, which allows for superior results with more detail and better low-light performance. 

On top of that, you get plenty of manual control over things like shutter speed and aperture, together with the option to change lenses to suit whatever it is you’re shooting. Don’t worry if you’re still finding your feet here, as you can let the camera do all the hard work at first and slowly take more control as and when you feel more comfortable, all the while benefitting from that better standard of image quality. 

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?

Still set on a DSLR? We think the best DSLR for beginners is the Nikon D3500. It’s small, light and cheap, but manages to provide a much better user experience than we normally get at this level, with a helpful Guide mode on board to show how to get the most out of the camera in an easy-to-understand way. Handling is great and the sensor produces very nice images, while features like 5fps burst shooting and full manual control give you some growing space too. 

Should you buy a mirrorless camera over a DSLR? Watch our guide video below to learn more: 

Entry-level DSLR bundles

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. 

A word of warning, though. Look closely and manufacturers will often offer two types of kit lens, one with image stabilization and one without. Normally there’s not much difference in price, so make sure to go for the kit with the image-stabilized lens as it’ll make it easier to sharper images at slower shutter speeds.

These kinds of lenses are more than adequate to get you 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, as well as high-quality macro options. You can also add a flashgun and other accessories, which help you to make the most of whatever types of photography you’re into. 

Olympus OM-D E-M10 III

(Image credit: Future)

Mirrorless option: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III

One of our favorite mirrorless cameras just got even better

Sensor: Micro Four Thirds | Megapixels: 16.1MP | Lens mount: Micro Four Thirds | Screen: 3-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040K dots | Continuous shooting speed: 8.6fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Premium finish

Great in-body stabilization

“Only” 16MP

Focus tracking could be better

Before we take a look at the best DSLRs for those new to photography, we wanted to highlight a great mirrorless alternative. The OM-D E-M10 Mark III packs some impressive tech inside a body that’s more handsome than the average DSLR, such as 4K video, 8.6fps burst shooting and a sensor-based image stabilisation system that works with all mounted lenses. As a mirrorless model, you also get a high-resolution electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one, which shows you exactly how your image will turn out as you compose it. Being picky, the 16MP sensor resolution isn’t quite the flashiest, but if you want to keep things compact this would be a fine way to do just that.

Best DSLRs for beginners in 2019

You don’t need to spend huge sums on a DSLR to get something that handles well, takes great images and works with a huge variety of lenses. In fact, you can often save yourself a fair chunk of cash if you’re happy to go for a slightly older model. Manufacturers often keep these available as newer DSLRs arrive to give users a choice between the very latest tech and a better-value option. Here, we’ve listed the best cheap DSLRs, from recent arrivals to older favourites. 

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Future)

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

Excellent image quality

Easy to use

No touchscreen control

Bluetooth but no Wi-Fi

The D3500 picks up from where the D3400 (below) left off, and it arrives with a handful of extra perks. The battery now lasts 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. 

Nikon D3400

(Image credit: Future)

2. Nikon D3400

Knocked off the top spot but still a great buy

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

Superb battery life

Good single-shot AF

No microphone port

LCD not responsive to touch

It may have been replaced by the D3500, but don’t discount the D3400. Sporting a range of features perfect for the novice user, this is still a great camera to get you started on the road to more creative photography. Sharing many of the same internal specs as the D3500, the battery life is brilliant, while the images from the 24MP sensor won’t disappoint. You also benefit from Full HD video to 60p and 5fps burst shooting, together with wireless connectivity (via Bluetooth) to get your shots out into the wider world without the hassle of cables. Don’t let the fact that it’s not the newest model of its sort put you off – there’s still lots to love here.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D

(Image credit: Canon)

3. Canon EOS Rebel T7i / Canon EOS 800D

This older model packs a good boost in features over cheaper DSLRs

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

Great touchscreen

Excellent sensor

Plastic finish

No 4K video

The EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) sits at the top of Canon’s entry-level EOS DSLR range. Sporting a 24.2MP sensor that delivers an improved high-ISO performance over older models, the Rebel T7i’s autofocus also gets a boost, now with a 45-point arrangement that’s backed up by excellent live view AF system. There’s also newly designed graphical interface that will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users, although if you need 4K video then you’re better off looking at the EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D (position 10) or a mirrorless model.

Nikon D5600

4. Nikon D5600

Need a little more power? The D5600 could be what you’re after

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Excellent image quality

Articulating touchscreen

Slow Live View focusing

SnapBridge needs work

The D5600 is a step up from the D3000-series models, with a stronger set of specs to rival the likes of the Canon EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D (position 3). Key advantages over the D3400 and D3500 include a larger LCD screen, which not only flips out and swivels all the way around to face the front, but also responds to touch, together with a more advanced autofocus system, Wi-Fi and a healthy range of additional control on the inside. Sure, you pay a little extra for the privilege, but if you need a little more growing space it makes sense to go for the D5600 so that it stays with you for years to come.

Canon EOS Rebel T6i / Canon EOS 750D

5. Canon EOS Rebel T6i / Canon EOS 750D

A compelling combination of top-notch ergonomics and a superb sensor

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Great touchscreen

Wi-Fi with NFC on board 

Average battery life

Autofocus could be better

The EOS Rebel T6i (called the EOS 750D outside the US) may have been replaced by the EOS Rebel T7i / 800D (position 3), but it’s still a great option if the price of the newer model puts you off. While the sensor isn’t quite as good as the one in the newer T7i – despite sharing the same resolution – it’s still a sound performer, while the vari-angle touchscreen is still one of the best around. Autofocus performance could be better though, and the camera isn’t quite new enough to benefit from the more up-to-date Dual Pixel CMOS AF system that makes focusing swift in live view and during videos. On that subject, there’s also no 4K shooting option, but overall this is still a very capable entry-level DSLR. 

Nikon D5300

6. Nikon D5300

No longer Nikon’s latest and greatest entry-level DSLR – but almost

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Nikon DX | Screen: 3.2-inch articulating, 1,037,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

High-res, non-anti-aliased sensor

GPS built in – rare at this level

Slow live-view focussing

Lacks touchscreen

The D5300 was around for little more than a year before the D5500 technically replaced it (which has, in turn, been replaced by the D5600). It shares the same 24.2MP sensor with an identical maximum ISO 25,600 sensitivity as the D5500, whilst the D5300’s EXPEED 4 image processor and 39-point autofocus system have also been carried over to its replacement. The D5300 doesn’t sport fancy touchscreen control, but you do get a GPS system instead, which is pretty rare on DSLRs. The D5300’s 600-shot battery life also isn’t quite class leading, but it’s still far better than on many mirrorless cameras. So, not the newest or shiniest DSLR here, but still plenty of reason to go for it.

Canon EOS 200D

(Image credit: Future)

7. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / Canon EOS 200D

A cheap and very cheerful entry level camera

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Very compact size

Easy to use – great for first timers

Battery life rated at 380 shots

No 4K video

Canon introduced the EOS Rebel SL1 (EOS 100D outside the US) to compete with the influx of mirrorless cameras, and it was the smallest DSLR available when it was introduced in March 2013. Now replaced by the EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D), its slightly bulkier proportions make it feel more like a slightly pared-down Rebel T7i / 800D than anything unique. It’s not a bad option for new users, but there are better-value alternatives available at the moment. The camera has recently been updated by the EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D, which has the added bonus of 4K video recording and better battery life, but the EOS Rebel SL2 is a better option if you’re looking to save money and you’re happy with Full HD video quality.

Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

8. Canon EOS Rebel T7 / Canon EOS 2000D

Canon’s no-frills entry-level DSLR arrives at a bargain price

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 920,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Easy to use

Logically laid out controls

Dated AF system

No touchscreen

This is one of the cheapest DSLRs in Canon’s current line-up, which also makes it a very cost-effective way to get access to an endless assortment of lenses, flashguns and other accessories. Its low price tag means that it understandably lacks some of the fancy tricks of its bigger brothers – flip-out LCD, 4K video and so on – but there’s still a very good level of physical control on offer. And, most importantly, image quality from the 24MP sensor is sound. It’s designed very much with its target audience in mind, with a Feature Guide to help you understand everything, and battery life is also better than many mirrorless models at this price point – still a key advantage of DSLRs. Wi-Fi, NFC and Full HD video recording round off the specs, making it a well-rounded first-time option.

9. Nikon D3300

Still one of the best beginner DSLRs around

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

Great image quality

Guide mode works well

Fixed LCD

Limited connectivity options

Not everyone needs the very latest tech, and the D3300 is a perfect example of an older model that still delivers everything the novice user needs to take excellent images. The 24.2MP APS-C sensor has no optical low-pass filter over it, which helps it to capture more detail than would otherwise be the case, while Full HD video recording works to 50/60p. You can also shoot at a very respectable 5 frames per second, while the kit lens has a collapsible construction to keep it nice and compact when you’re carrying it around. Having been replaced by both the D3400 and D3500, it’s also dropped to a lower price point, making it one of those rare models that manages to be capable and super cheap at the same time.

Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

10. Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / EOS 250D

The world’s smallest and lightest DSLR with a movable LCD

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.1MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 1,040,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 4K | User level: Beginner

Nice JPEGs straight from the camera

Cheapest DSLR with 4K video

9-point AF system is dated

Heavy rolling shutter in 4K

The latest camera to make our list, the EOS Rebel SL3, also known as the EOS 250D, is described by its manufacturer as being the smallest and cheapest DSLR with a movable LCD screen. It also happens to be the cheapest DSLR to pack 4K video, which is boosted by the inclusion of a port for external mics, although video quality itself isn’t great. Thankfully, Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF system is on board, while a responsive touchscreen lets you focus on what you need quickly and swipe through your images without any hassle. It’s a shame Canon has maintained the same 9-point AF system from the previous EOS Rebel SL2 as it’s looking rather dated now, but as an all-rounder for a sensible price the Rebel SL3 scores many points.

Also consider…

None of the above take your fancy? Here’s another option to consider.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 / EOS 1300D

This outgoing DSLR is a steal

Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 18MP | Lens mount: Canon EF-S | Screen: 3-inch, 920,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 3fps | Max video resolution: 1080p | User level: Beginner

Very small, very light

Bargain price tag

No 4K video

LCD can’t be controlled by touch 

It may have been replaced by the EOS Rebel T7 / EOS 2000D (above), but that does mean that the EOS Rebel T6 (known as the EOS 1300D outside the US) is now even cheaper. In many ways the specification is very similar to the newer camera, with the key difference being the Rebel T6 features a 18MP sensor, which compared to rivals, is starting to show its age against rivals with higher pixel counts. Now that it’s been replaced, you might be able to track this down at an even more tempting price before it disappears for good. 

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