With outstanding image quality squeezed into a compact body, the best DSLR for under $500 is the Nikon D3500. Alternatively, those with a little more money and a need for speed will love the Nikon D7500 and D500 though videophiles are better off with Canon’s 90D.
If you are looking for a full-frame DSLR, none deliver more bang-for-buck than Nikon’s D750 whilst the premium Nikon D850 might be the best DSLR ever made.
Table of Contents
- Best DSLR under $500
- Best DSLR for under $1000
- Best DSLR for Sports and Wildlife Photography
- Best affordable Full Frame DSLR
- The best Digital SLR you can buy in 2020
- Related Reading
Best DSLR under $500
The best DSLR under $500 is the Nikon D3500. Despite being a much cheaper camera, the compact D3500 features the same excellent 24-megapixel sensor found in more expensive cameras such as the Nikon D7200.
As a result, the D3500 delivers outstanding image quality, excellent high ISO performance, and solid Dynamic Range, especially if you put the D3500 behind a good lens. See best lenses for Nikon D3500 and Nikon DX.
Despite its modest price, the Nikon D3500 comes with modern-day luxuries such as Snapbridge for wireless transfer of photos to your smartphone. And if you are new to photography, you will love the D3500’s graphics-rich beginner guides and assists.
However, the Nikon D3500 is not a high-performance camera. While its auto-focus is excellent for slower subjects, it may struggle to chase down faster subjects.
Furthermore, video is a problem for the Nikon D3500. Although the Nikon produces nice-looking 1080p video, its in-video contrast-detect autofocus is much too slow to keep up with moving subjects.
Therefore, the Nikon D3500 is an ideal camera if you a primarily a stills photographer. If video is a priority for you, a mirrorless camera such as Canon’s M200 delivers the superior video for similar money. Read about the M200 and the best Cameras for Beginners
Best DSLR for under $1000
Best Digital SLR for stills
The Nikon D7500 is the best ‘stills’ digital DSLR at this price point. The D7500 features a 20.9-megapixel sensor housed in a well-designed weatherproof body featuring solid ergonomics and control points.
Helping your sensor get sharp photos is the Nikon D7500’s fast and reliable 51 point autofocus system. Combined with 8 frames per second shooting and a solid buffer (100 JPEG and 50 Raw), the Nikon is a great choice for sports and wildlife photography.
When it comes to video – the D7500 comes undone for the same reason as the cheaper D3500, its slow contrast-detect autofocus system. If you do want video, Canon’s 90D has you covered (scroll down). See best lenses for the Nikon D7500.
Best Digital SLR for video and stills: Canon 90D
For stills photography, the Canon 90D is a good match for the Nikon D7500. But when it comes to video, the 90D’s Dual Pixel auto-focus system runs rings around the Nikon. Furthermore, the 90D’s fold-out touch screen is ideal for vlogging and composing photos at awkward angles.
If you’re not sure the Nikon’s 20 megapixels is enough, the Canon 90D leads the APS-C market with a 32.5-megapixel sensor providing the potential for more detailed photos. Comparer APS-C with different sensor sizes.
Overall, the 90D is a better all-around camera than the D7500. However, it’s also more expensive. Therefore, if you are primarily a stills photographer, the Nikon is cheaper and at least as capable. But if you are looking for a bit of everything, the Canon 90D is the best DSLR for you at this price point.
Best DSLR for Sports and Wildlife Photography
With its 10 frames per second continuous drive, bottomless buffer, and a pro-grade autofocus system, the Nikon D500 is one of the best sports cameras at any price.
Although it shares many of the pro-grade D5’s features, the D500 is cheaper, smaller, and lighter.
Furthermore, whilst the D5’s AF points are the center frame, the Nikon D500’s autofocus points are spread across most of the frame. As a result, the D500 can continually auto-focus on off-center subjects providing greater flexibility during composition. View the best lenses for the Nikon D500
As a crop-sensor APS-C camera, the D500 gets 50% more range out of your lens. For example, bolt your D500 onto Nikon’s AF-S 200-500mm F5.6 and get an equivalent focal length of 300-750mm. It’s no wonder why the D500 has become so popular with wildlife and bird photographers.
If you are concerned about spending full-frame money on a camera with an APS-C sensor – find out if full-frame cameras are really better.
If you are a huge Canon fan, the 7D Mk2 is Canon’s D500 equivalent. As an older camera, the Canon is outgunned by the Nikon. Yet, the 7Dmk2 remains a sensible option for those with existing Canon EF lenses.
Best affordable Full Frame DSLR
The fact the Nikon D750 remains competitive today indicates just how good it was when it was released back in 2014.
Inside the D750’s robust weather-sealed body is a glorious full-frame 24-megapixel sensor capable of nearly 14 stops of dynamic range.
Its 51 auto-focus points are fast and reliable, as is Nikon’s 3D tracking making the D750 a good option for fast action. As with most Nikon DSLRs, the D750’s video autofocus is terrible.
Yet, combined with Nikon’s affordable F1.8 lenses such as the Nikon AF-S 50mm F1.8, the D750 is capable of taking truly amazing photographs. See best lenses for Nikon D750
The Nikon D750 is a wonderful camera to use and so many of its qualities transcend the spec sheet. Visit my owner’s Nikon D750 review for extended coverage.
The best Digital SLR you can buy in 2020
The best DSLR on the market today is the Nikon D850. In 2012, Nikon’s D800 shocked the world with its 36-megapixel sensor, but with so much resolution, the D800 was a rather slow camera.
Thus, a convention was established. You could either buy a slow, high-resolution camera for landscapes or a fast, low-resolution camera for action.
Then came the Nikon D850, a camera that captures massive 45.7-megapixel photos at up 9 frames per second (9 fps with grip, 7 without) using a 153 point autofocus system similar to the sports-orientated Nikon D5.
Unfortunately, the D850’s video is saddled by Nikon’s terrible contrast-detect autofocus system. If video is important to you, outstanding video is available for far less money.
You should also note that the D850 is a professional-grade camera designed to take the demands and abuse of commercial work. As such, its ergonomics are near perfect. Yet, its size and weight are a liability for casual shooters with deep pockets.
Thanks to the R5 and A7R mk3 & mk4, well-healed ladies and gentlemen can get D850 performance and better video in a smaller package. See best lenses for the Nikon D850.
Which camera will you be buying next?
- Nikon D750 DSLR Review for 2020
- Nikon Z5 vs Nikon DSLR – 5 reasons to sell your DSLR
- Are full-frame camera’s better?
- Nikon D780