Let’s check out the best entry-level DSLR cameras of 2018.
We’ve spent a lot of time researching what Canon, Nikon and Pentax DSLRs give you the best value for the money, and below you will find our top 5 picks.
All cameras below are excellent for both complete beginners and more advanced photographers. What’s even better is that even the cheapest DSLRs have image quality identical to more expensive cameras and allow you to change the same settings.
1. Nikon D3400
The Nikon D3400 easily wins this year. Why?
First, it’s got better features than even some more expensive DSLR cameras.
It’s got a 24.2 megapixel sensor with great image quality, colors and sharpness. With 24MP you can crop your images or print really big without losing quality, so the amount is great for both online and printed images.
Second, the ISO range goes from 100 all the way to 25,600. While cheaper cameras tend to perform bad when using high ISO speeds in low light, the Nikon D3400 positively surprised us as the files look pretty usable even at 6,400. You can always turn on the camera noise reduction or remove some in post process, but the high ISO images straight out of camera look really good.
It can shoot 5 frames per second which is really fast for such an affordable DSLR. This makes it great for sports and wildlife where having more frames is never a bad thing.
Then there’s Full HD video recording at 60fps if you want to do some slow motion shots. Alternatively, you can select between 30/25/24 for that film look. Unfortunately the D3400 doesn’t have a microphone port so you’ll either have to rely on the built-in microphone, or buy an external recorder. This is assuming you want to record professional movies where the audio quality has to be top notch.
For sharing your shots online, it features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC and the battery lasts up to whopping 1200 shots.
2. Canon Rebel T6i
The second on our list is the Canon Rebel T6i.
It also uses a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor and the ISO can go up to 25,600. Both cameras are good for low light, but the Canon T6i has 19 auto focus points and they’re all cross-type. This results in better, faster auto focusing when shooting in low light or photographing subjects with low contrast. It picks the AF system from its more expensive brother.
A really cool feature is the 3.0″ articulating touch-screen LCD. It makes recording yourself so much easier because you can see exactly how everything looks without going back and forth. It’s also quite useful when trying to photograph something way higher/lower than you, but we don’t recommend it for sports as auto focus in Live View will not be that fast.
Like the D3400 above it shoots 5 frames per second. Video wise, it’s got Full HD at 30fps so if you’re really into slow motion, you might want a DSLR with 60fps. However, it does feature a built-in microphone port and the articulating LCD screen. Both features are very welcome for video recording.
3. Nikon D5500
The Nikon D5500 shares a lot of features with already mentioned D3400 above.
Same 24.2MP sensor, Full HD at 60fps, similar weight and size and they both shoot at 5fps.
Here’s why the D5500 costs more:
Instead of 11 AF points, you get 39 of them! That’s over 3 times more, and 9 of them are also cross-type (only 1 on the D3400). As we said previously, cross-type points are more accurate than regular ones and you’ll appreciate this when shooting in difficult conditions (for example, subjects that appear similar to their surroundings). Both DSLRs will focus fast and accurately, but the D5500 just does it better and allows you to have more control over where you want the focus to be.
Video is also much easier thanks to the 3.2″ articulating touch-screen LCD. It’s sharper too, with 1,037,000 dots so you can see easier what’s in focus and what’s not.
Everything else is more or less the same. It goes up to ISO 25,600 and delivers same excellent images, has 1 x SD memory card slot and has built-in Wi-Fi.
4. Canon Rebel T6
The Canon Rebel T6 is the cheapest entry-level DSLR.
If you’re looking for something light and affordable, and are willing to miss some more exciting features, you’ll love it. It costs $50 less than the D3400 so you’ll need to ask yourself if it’s worth the extra money.
It has an 18 megapixel sensor, the same one used in its predecessor, the T5. No change in ISO sensitivity either, as it maxes out at 12,800 and is acceptable up to 1,600.
Video is available in Full HD at 30fps, but the LCD screen is 3.0″ big with 920,000 dots. It’s easy to look at the LCD in bright daylight so that’s good.
The Canon T6 also lacks behind other DSLRs with 9 auto focus points and 3 frames per second. It gets the job done, but it’s a little bit disappointing Canon didn’t update these features compared to the Rebel T5. Images look sharp and good so it’s not like the sensor of the T6 is bad or anything, it was actually used in more advanced Canon DSLRs at some point. That was a few years ago, but perhaps this is the reason why it’s so cheap.
The biggest addition is the built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to quickly send the shots to your phone or any other device.
5. Pentax K-S2
The Pentax K-S2 is our last recommended entry-level DSLR. It’s really cheap and offers quite a few interesting features. The reason for that is Pentax is nowhere near as known as the other two brands, so they need to stay really competitive. Their cameras and lenses are good, but marketing wise they’re not on their level.
The K-S2 uses a 20.2MP sensor and has ISO that goes up to 51,200. Talk about low light performance! Noise levels are on par with the D3400 and T6i, and while you should rarely even go above 12,800, it helps knowing that you can if needed.
For wildlife and sports you’ll really love the fact that the K-S2 is weather-sealed and will work perfectly in all sorts of different weathers (rain, snow, dust, cold, anything). It also features built-in Shake Reduction so you can get less blurry shots even if the lens you’re using doesn’t have Shake Reduction built in.
Then there’s a 3.0″ articulating LCD screen, 5.4 frames per second and Full HD video recording. If there’s one bad thing we have to point out, it’s that video is not Pentax’s strong suit.
What to look for in a DSLR Camera?
Today all entry-level DSLRs have between 18 and 24 megapixels. That is a ton of detail, more than you’ll probably ever need!
While you will hardly notice the difference on your monitor, having more pixels helps if you print your images or crop a lot. For example, you took a picture of a bird far away and you want to get closer, simply crop the image and you’re instantly closer. The more megapixels you have, the better the image quality will be after cropping, and 18MP+ is plenty to work with.
We’ll be straight forward here and won’t babble about some weird reasons why one brand is better than the other. That’s stupid.
All brands today are good. Canon, Nikon, Pentax, they’ve all been making cameras and lenses for a really long time. You don’t have to worry about ridiculous things such as “Canon is sharper” or “Nikon is better for sports” that you might often hear people say. It might be true when you compare specific cameras, but that’s like saying a certain car brand is better for sports just because 1 out of their 15 models is suited for that.
Millions of photographers use all sorts of systems, and the technology we have today is absolutely amazing.
Why does the brand matter then? Because you’re buying into the system. Pick a Canon DSLR and you’ll need Canon lenses and all other accessories designed to work with that brand. That’s what matters the most.
Which brand to go with? Doesn’t matter. That’s not the most helpful answer, but if you like any DSLR from the mentioned brands you’ve got so many lenses, flashes etc. to choose from.
3. ISO Sensitivity
If you shoot in low light and want bright shots, you need to raise the ISO sensitivity of your camera. Most entry-level DSLRs stop at 25,600, and the higher you can go the better it is.
However, as you increase the ISO, you also introduce more noise to your images. How much noise appears depends on the size of the sensor and technology behind it. Usually, the more you pay, the better it looks.
If you open the aperture or select a slower shutter speed it also makes the images look brighter, and you can change all settings when shooting in the manual mode with your DSLR.
Often times more important than your camera are the lenses you use.
The fantastic thing about DSLRs is the ability to use different lenses. Canon and Nikon have over 60+ each, and that’s without mentioning third-party brands like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina. We have wideangle, telephoto, fisheye lenses, you name it. Prices also range from $100 to $3,000, with a few costing even more than that.
5. Image Quality
Fortutately, all DSLRs in 2018 have great image quality, sharpness and colors.
The overall look also depends on your skills, settings and lens you use. The only situation you’ll notice the difference is when using high ISO levels with different cameras.