For decades, the DSLR (digital SLR) has been the top choice for anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, a DSLR offers three tempting ingredients: manual controls, excellent picture quality and interchangeable lenses.
That’s not quite so clearcut now though with the arrival of mirrorless cameras, which are becoming more and more popular and tempting many potential buyers away from DSLRs.
This is because the internal mirror box has been removed (hence the name), which sees mirrorless cameras typically smaller (in most cases at least) and mechanically simpler than a DSLR, while also taking interchangeable lenses.
Best DSLR camera of 2018 are:
The DSLR camera that takes the #1 spot on our list is the Nikon D850 and for a good reason – it is arguably the most refined and technologically advanced DSLR Nikon has made.
Thanks to its 45.7 MP full-frame BSI CMOS sensor capable of capturing extreme detail and superb dynamic range, the Nikon D850 is a dream camera for landscape, architecture and studio photography needs. Coupled with a high-end autofocus system, low light autofocus sensitivity, an advanced 181,000-pixel RGB meter, fast EXPEED 5 processor and impressive 7 frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed that can be extended to 9 fps with the MB-D18 battery grip and an amazing battery life, the D850 is also a formidable tool for photographing action, making it highly desirable for sports and wildlife photography. On the video side, 4K full frame video recording with the ability to output 4:2:2 uncompressed video via HDMI, slow motion video as well as 4K and 8K timelapse shooting capabilities make it a top choice for videography needs. And lastly, all the extra features such as focus stacking, tilting touch-enabled LCD screen, illuminated buttons, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, weather sealed construction and dual card slots show that Nikon used everything in its arsenal to make the Nikon D850 a “do-it-all” versatile camera.
With the Nikon D850 announced in August of 2017, one would think that the camera would by now be in stock everywhere. Well, that’s certainly not the case – as soon as it appears anywhere, the stock is gone in no time. That’s how much demand there is for it and Nikon is having a hard time producing enough D850 DSLRs to be able to provide enough units for the market. While Nikon has had its share of successes with camera releases before, it seems like the D850 has become the most wanted Nikon camera since its announcement.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Category: Full frame
Sensor size: 864 sq. mm
What we like: 4K video and a host of other modern features.
What we don’t: The D850 above is so impressive that it overshadows the 5D Mark IV.
Lenses: 10 Great Canon EF (Full Frame) Lenses
Canon’s 5D Mark IV was at the top of this list for much of last year, until the release of the Nikon D850 that is. When you put the two head to head, it’s flat out hard to argue that the Canon is better. It has lower resolution, inferior autofocus (although it does have dual pixel), and doesn’t offer much in the way of additional features or functionality. Having said that, the 5D Mark IV is a quality camera and all that most Canon professionals and enthusiasts will need. If you already own a bunch of L series glass, sticking with Canon is a fine choice. And as we’ve come to expect, this is an arms race and Canon likely will respond in kind.
Who should buy the 5D Mark IV? It’s Canon’s top full-frame DSLR not built specifically for action (that would be the 1DX Mark II). The 5DS R below is a nice choice for professional landscape and portrait photographers who can afford super expensive lenses, but most people won’t be able to take full advantage of the sensor. And the 6D series Mark II is great from a value perspective but doesn’t offer the resolution or features of the 5D Mark IV. For these reasons, it’s the top overall Canon on this list.
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
Category: Full frame
Sensor size: 861 sq. mm
What we like: One of the best values on this list.
What we don’t: Video shooters may want to spend up for the 5D series.
Lenses: 10 Great Canon EF (Full Frame) Lenses
Here’s a fun one: if Canon’s 5D series above is too rich for your blood, the 6D series offers a reasonable entry point into the full-frame camera market. Released in 2017, the 6D Mark II offers notable improvements over its predecessor while still staying well below the $2,000 price threshold. Compared to the older model, you get a bump in resolution to 26.2 megapixels, a more advanced autofocus system, faster shooting, and touchscreen functionality on the rear LCD. All are solid improvements and the 6D Mark II is a really nice value, particularly for still photography (the 5D series is much better for video).
The Canon 6D Mark II currently is our favorite “budget” full-frame camera, beating out the older Nikon D750 below. Both are viable options with similar resolutions (the 6D Mark II is slightly better with 2 more megapixels) and frame rates (6.5 fps), but the Canon feels more modern with its touchscreen, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and newer processor. And we still have a soft spot for the original Canon 6D below, which is selling for a low $1,000 with the release of the newer model.
Nikon D5600 – Best budget DSLR
Why should you buy this: Performance, features, and ease of use, loaded in an affordable package.
Who’s it for: First-time buyers
How much will it cost: $600 (body only), $700 (with 18-55mm kit lens), $900 (with 18-140mm)
Why we picked the Nikon D5600:
Looking to buy your first DSLR? Nikon’s D5600 is a solid place to start. It isn’t Nikon’s least expensive DSLR (that recognition goes to the D3300 and D3400, which are both also very good), but the D5600 offers quality 24-megapixel photos and more useful features, for only a bit more money.
The D5600 lacks the build quality of the enthusiast-level D7200, but it uses the same 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor that produces great-looking photos. This is due in part to the lack of an optical low-pass filter for increased sharpness, as well as a 39-point autofocus system. It’s not the fastest DSLR you’ll find, but it will handle casual action without a problem.
Despite its entry-level status, the D5600 can shoot Full HD 1080 videos at 60p. There is a microphone input for connecting an external mic to capture higher quality audio – something you won’t find in the D3300/D3400. While you’re guaranteed to get excellent stills, the D5600 isn’t too shabby for amateur videography either. And to help you frame your shots in live view mode, there is a vari-angle 3-inch touchscreen LCD that flips out – also not found in Nikon’s lower-end models. Nikon added its wireless SnapBridge compatibility to the D5600, meaning you can control the camera remotely with a smartphone, or transfer photos to post on the web.
If there were one caveat, it’d be the so-so 18-55 kit lens that comes as an optional kit purchase. We recommend purchasing the D5600 body only, and investing in a quality lens. A stronger lens not only offers better performance and image quality, but it will grow with you when you upgrade to a new Nikon DSLR. If Canon lenses are more to your liking, consider the Rebel T6S as an alternative.
As the name suggests, Professional DSLRs are designed for pros who make a living from their photography. They’re also the pick of those who want the very best that money can buy.