10 Best Entry Level DSLR Cameras in 2020

Taking your first step into the world of photography is always a challenge. Complicated technical terms, dozens of brands offering similar products, and rules to remember while shooting can be difficult to navigate when you are starting out. However, once you get a hold of a DSLR camera, you’ll learn that the learning curve is steeper than expected. But what is the best entry-level DSLR camera?

For years Nikon and Canon have been the most widely known brands on the market. Recently the DSLR landscape seems to have become more diverse, with players such as Sony or Pentax offering cameras that are both powerful and affordable. When looking to buy an entry-level DSLR camera you should, of course, consider its price, but also what you plan to do with it and where you plan to take it.

While my journey in photography began a decade ago with tiny 6-megapixel Nikon D40, over the years I’ve tested a variety of DSLR cameras designed for both beginners and professionals. The technology has certainly improved. Even the cheaper cameras today can produce high-resolution images worth framing and that makes deciding which model to buy even more difficult. 

In this article, we will explore the best DSLRs currently available on the market, with models mean to suit every budget and type of photography. Whether you are interested in a lightweight camera to take on your travels or a video-friendly model to step up your vlogging game, there is something for you.

Canon EOS Rebel T100 / 4000D

Best budget entry-level DSLR

What you’ll often find when shopping for cameras on sites like Amazon or eBay, are package offers that add a set of accessories to the camera body. While they may seem attractive at first glance, the additional gear included is usually not worth the extra price.

In many of these package deals, you’ll find SD cards, cleaning kits, and filters that can seem useful if you are starting out, but are usually not quality products. The best idea is to start with a camera body and a multipurpose zoom lens or two, adding additional gear over time.

How much resolution do I need?

When it comes to resolution, it’s hard to go wrong these days. All modern DSLR cameras offer enough resolution for detail-rich pictures to be captured. High resolution obviously provides some advantages, but anything above 10 megapixels will not be essential to a beginner. Considering that most entry-level DSLRs come with a resolution of about 20 megapixels, you shouldn’t overthink this.

If your goal is to share your pictures digitally, you will be fine with pretty much any camera on this list, unless you need to crop big parts of your photos during the editing stage. If you are planning to print your images in a large format, however, those extra megapixels will come in handy.

What about sensor size?

As you’ve probably noticed, all the cameras on this list employ an APS-C sensor. But what does this mean? APS-C sensors have a size of 23.6 x 15.6 millimeters, which is smaller than 36 x 24-millimeter sensors found on professional full-frame cameras. The size of the sensor determines how much light is needed to create an image. Therefore, larger sensors can absorb more light and produce higher quality images. Full-frame sensors offer a much higher resolution, but they obviously come at a price. 

A crop sensor is usually more than enough for beginners and hobbyists. There is only one thing you should keep in mind when using a DSLR with an APS-C sensor, the crop factor. Because of the smaller size, an APS-C sensor crops the image by about 1.5 times compared to a full-frame sensor. In simple terms, this means that mounting a 35mm lens on your crop-sensor camera will actually give you a 50mm view. The crop factor of APS-C is something one gets quickly used to and can come in handy when shooting distant subjects with a telephoto lens, as it increases, even more, their focal length.

Should I get the kit lens?

The kit lens that comes with most entry-level DSLR camera bodies is usually a good starting point to learn how to photograph. Kit lenses are not the best in terms of low light performance or build, but they are versatile enough to allow you to experiment with different subjects.

When possible, opt for a kit lens with an integrated image stabilization (IS) system. This feature helps reduce the risk of blur appearing in your images, compensating for the small vibrations that occur when shooting handheld. Kit lenses with IS are usually not much more expensive than non-stabilized lenses, so it’s definitely worth investing in one if the option is available.

If you choose not to get the kit lens, there are many budget options available depending on what type of photography you want to focus on. Fixed lenses like a 50mm f1.8 produce great images (but lack in versatility). Third-party manufacturers such as Sigma or Tamron offer quality gear for a lower price than the original lenses, covering more or less all focal lengths.

Should I buy a DSLR or a mirrorless?

With the growth in popularity of mirrorless cameras, many experts have declared the “death of DSLRs.” While it is true that mirrorless cameras provide similar image quality in a much smaller package, DSLRs are still going strong and are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

DSLR cameras provide you with a solid and durable piece of equipment. They tend to perform better in low light and have a longer battery life. Brands like Canon and Nikon offer a vast catalog of lenses, in case you decide to upgrade in the future.

Interchangeable lenses

Smartphone and point-and-shoot cameras may have reached impressive results in terms of image quality, but the ability to switch between lenses gives a huge advantage to DSLR cameras. 

When you buy a DSLR you are able to specialize in a certain type of photography by mounting lenses designed for that purpose. Big brands have dozens of lenses you can choose from. Whether your focus is architecture, portraits, wildlife or landscapes, there is something there for you.

Lenses are obviously an investment, with some products costing more than the camera itself. However, shooting with the right glass will make an incredible difference. If you want to make your images stand out, consider what lenses you will need to take your photography to the next level.

In conclusion, what entry-level DSLR camera should I buy?

All modern entry-level DSLR cameras provide you with the essential features to shoot great images. Clearly, some models are better than others, but even if you are tight on budget, you can find a camera that will produce excellent results.

While it’s not easy to navigate through brand names, specifications, and features, with this article we hope to have cleared some confusion. Buying the first DSLR is always a big step. By choosing one of the models reviewed above, we are sure you won’t have any regrets.

Curious about lenses, tripods, or backpacks? Make sure you check out our other gear articles for up-to-date information on the best tools of the craft!