Product Reviews

The Best Entry-Level DSLRs For New Photographers

Joel Lee 07-12-2014

Point-and-shoot cameras 6 Best Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Style, Features or Optics Some people may want the most stylish camera, others may want superior zoom, and some may be on a strict budget. Don't worry, we have you covered. Read More have their place, but they’re extremely limited and don’t always snap the best photographs. If you want to take your photography skills to the next level, or you know someone else who does, then there’s no better way than to enter the world of DSLR cameras.


You can always learn the basics of photography by using a virtual DSLR 3 Steps To Learning The Basics Of Photography With A Virtual DSLR Rather than learning your photography from books and tutorials, this web application from Canon Canada is the most fun yet. Outside of Auto from Canon is a gentle introduction to the basics of photography. Read More , but it’s no match for having an actual camera in your hands. Also, while the best value would be had by buying a used DSLR Buying A Used Digital SLR? Wait! 3 Things To Look Out For Buying a used digital SLR is a great way to save some money, but you should be aware of the risks involved in doing so. Read More , there are reasons why you may not want to go that route (e.g. buying the camera as a gift).

The hardest choice is deciding which DSLR to buy. It’s tricky: you don’t want to invest too much up front but you also don’t want to skimp on important features. Here are some recommendations that fit the bill.

Canon Rebel T5i ($700)

The Rebel series of cameras by Canon has been one of the most popular selections of the past several years. They’ve been used for all sorts of projects ranging from food photography Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing Do you know what’s better than sitting down to an amazing meal? Taking pictures of it, of course. With that said, some food photos… Well, they just plain suck. Read More to home movies 10 Simple Tips to Make Home Videos Look Professional Whether you're recording something to publish online or to capture memories to keep, these tips will help you make better videos. Read More to viral YouTube videos Want More YouTube Views? 5 Key Tips To Follow Here’s the situation: you've been putting out YouTube videos for a while now and you aren't sure why your viewership hasn't skyrocketed. It’s not uncommon, and people ask how to increase video views all the... Read More .

The Rebel T5i, also known as the 700D, is almost indistinguishable from the T4i but since the latter was discontinued, the T5i has taken over as one of the best Canon DSLRs for new photographers. Here are the important specs:

  • 18 Megapixel resolution
  • ISO 12,800
  • 1/4000 to 30 second shutter speed
  • 1080p @ 30fps video resolution
  • Canon EOS lens mount

The lack of improvement between the T4i and T5i means that Canon has fallen behind a bit, but that doesn’t mean this is a bad camera. The image quality is crisp, the interface is simple enough for a newbie, and the body sits comfortably in the hands. The autofocus is both fast and quiet, which is a big plus.


It comes with an EF-S 18-55mm IS STM which has above average image quality and image stabilization for a kit lens.

Canon EOS Rebel T5i EF-S 18-55 IS STM Kit Canon EOS Rebel T5i EF-S 18-55 IS STM Kit Buy Now On Amazon $435.00

Nikon D3300 ($500)

Though Nikon has lost some market share to Canon over the last few years, they’re still a solid contender with solid offerings. Canon is arguably more newbie-friendly but it isn’t uncommon to hear about ex-Canon users who have converted to Nikon due to build superiority.

The Nikon D3300 shoots with impressive quality, improving on the D3200 which was already producing great shots. Here are the important specs:

  • 24.2 Megapixel resolution
  • ISO 25,600
  • 1/4000 to 30 second shutter speed
  • 1080p @ 60fps video resolution
  • Nikon F lens mount

On paper, it beats the Rebel T5i in almost every category by an inch. However, it’s a bit slow at focusing and shooting under good lighting and performs even slower in low-light conditions. Don’t be surprised if consecutive shots sometimes take upwards of several seconds to snap.

The bundled AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm VR II performs above average for a kit lens but otherwise isn’t deserving of special praise.

Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black) Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Zoom Lens (Black) Buy Now On Amazon $283.99

Pentax K-50 ($430)

Pentax isn’t as well-known as Canon or Nikon and they don’t control as much market share. This has no bearing on their quality — in fact, most of their cameras are pretty darn good — but it does mean that Pentax has far less availability than Canon and Nikon in terms of lenses and peripherals.


That being said, the Pentax K-50 is a fantastic option with good performance, though slightly worse than the Rebel T5i and D3300 mentioned above. Here are the important specs:

  • 16.3 Megapixel resolution
  • ISO 51,200
  • 1/6000 to 30 second shutter speed
  • 1080p @ 30fps video resolution
  • Pentax K lens mount

One benefit of the Pentax K-50 over its Canon and Nikon contenders is its weather-sealed body. This could be a deal-maker for photographers who intend to be out in the rain, out by the ocean, or under any other inclement condition on a regular basis. If you like the K-50 but don’t need the weather-sealing, consider getting the K-500 which is cheaper while being the same in all other respects.

It comes with a DA L 18-55mm WR lens, which is also sealed against weather.

Pentax K-50 16MP Digital SLR Camera Kit with DA L 18-55mm WR f3.5-5.6 Lens (Black) Pentax K-50 16MP Digital SLR Camera Kit with DA L 18-55mm WR f3.5-5.6 Lens (Black) Buy Now On Amazon $329.99


Sony SLT-A58 ($400)

Like Pentax, Sony is dwarfed by Canon and Nikon in the DSLR department. That’s probably because Sony doesn’t actually make too many of them, though the ones they do make are somewhat good. As good as Canon and Nikon? Not quite, but still worth checking out.

The Sony SLT-A58 is what remained after Sony discontinued the rest of their entry-level DSLRs. It’s not the greatest — in fact, it’s a little worse than some of the ones that were discontinued — but it’s very affordable. Here are the important specs:

  • 20.1 Megapixel resolution
  • ISO 16,000
  • 1/4000 to 30 second shutter speed
  • 1080p @ 60fps video resolution
  • Sony A lens mount

Overall, it’s about par for the course. There’s nothing hideously bad about it but none of its features stand out either. Image quality, build quality, and controls are all average. The price is its biggest benefit, so it could be good for those who aren’t going to dive too deeply into photography but are interested enough to play around with interchangeable lenses.

Sony SLT-A58K Digital SLR Kit with 18-55mm Zoom Lens, 20.1MP SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen (Black) Sony SLT-A58K Digital SLR Kit with 18-55mm Zoom Lens, 20.1MP SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen (Black) Buy Now On Amazon $429.95

Final Thoughts

A crucial note before you dive in: when buying a DSLR, you’re buying an entire system. The rule of thumb is that Nikon lenses only work with Nikon cameras, Canon lenses only work with Canon cameras, etc. Investing in a specific brand often means being locked into that brand and the only way out is to start over.

This is just one of many important considerations when buying a camera 8 Tips You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Digital Camera There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all camera. Buying a digital camera is a big deal, so we've made it much easier to understand the kinds of cameras out there. Read More .

Which entry-level DSLR looks best to you? For photography veterans, which DSLR would you recommend to a newbie? Share your thoughts and advice with us in the comments below!

Related topics: Digital Camera, DSLR, Photography.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Butch
    October 3, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Owned a Nikon D3300 and had wonderful fun with it - including lovely contradancing shots in low light indoors at ISO 12,800 and high shutter speeds. Sold it for a "more advanced" new D7000 which I greatly regretted, due to constant need to fine-tune focus for each lens with the D7000, with uncertain results. Moral of the story: a fun camera that does the job and just disappears in your hand is a wonderful tool.

  2. Piyush
    February 3, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Currently the best entry level dslr is the nikon D5100. And plzz canon is not so good camera as you are describing... It has earned his name bt it gets defeated from nikon in its every new camera. I found that nikon is much better than canon. Not only me bt many other youtube vedios does says that.

  3. Paul- Kristjan
    December 9, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    A camera being popular is not what makes it great, I see already from the stats that your provided, that this is leaning towards the cameras with great names, what you need to do is to TEST them for a longer period (like the Samsung GalaxyS5) and then tell us what you really think

  4. Kuba
    December 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I am just starting my photography adventure and it was easy choice to go with micro 4/3 system. I have many lenses to choose from, similar features and photo quality to entry level dslr and all of this in a very compact package, which means I will have my camera with me much more often than I would dslr. Got lumix gx7 with black Friday deal. I'm surprised micro 4/3 isn't even mentioned.

  5. kammak743
    December 8, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Very nice article as you chose to show cameras from all the major brands so you are sure not to offend any fanboys. Even cheaper than the 700d is the 1200/1100D and it still produces decent pictures with just a little less features for a much better price.

    • Joel Lee
      December 11, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks. Yeah, good that you mention that. Canon has other DSLRs that are even cheaper than the T5i, which can be useful for people who don't intend to pursue photography as a serious hobby.

  6. Alek Davis
    December 8, 2014 at 12:01 am

    How come is did not include Canon EOS Rebel SL1? Excellent camera that goes neck and neck with Nikon D3300.

    • Joel Lee
      December 11, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      I tried to keep the list focused on one major selection per brand. That being said, the Rebel SL1 is a good alternative to the T5i. Are there any specific features that make you prefer the Rebel SL1?

  7. Hildy J
    December 7, 2014 at 11:33 pm

    Question on lenses - I have an old Pentax SLR with a number of manual K-Mount lenses. Is there a way they can be used with a DSLR (especially the telephoto ones) or are they useless?

    • Aaron
      December 8, 2014 at 6:37 pm

      Any K-mount lens can work on the new pentax DSLRs. I have a collection of old lenses, and they all work great!

  8. pipe
    December 7, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Well, thats kind of biased rewiew. The sony a58 "not as good as the canon or nikon", based on what?? Please, elaborate. The sony has EVF, what you see is what you get, good for video too. No moving mirror, much better continuous focus in video than canon or nikon, focus peaking, in-body stabilizer...
    Unless nikon and specially canon wake up in innovation, they will struggle.
    Botton line, they're all great cameras. Canon and Nikon aren't probably the best, but the most popular

  9. jamieg
    December 7, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Still rockin a D40 and couldn't be happier. Besides improved low light capabilities, any dslr body from canon and nikon in the past 8 or so years is perfectly fine. Lenses and experience make more difference than the latest and greatest body.