It’s tough to beat the versatility and power of DSLR cameras. For many applications, they’re the best camera to use. If you’re reading this page, you’ve probably already realized their main drawback. They’re pretty expensive, right? We’ve compiled a list of the best DSLR cameras that sit comfortably under the $1000 mark.
Getting quality images doesn’t have to cost the earth! We’ve tried to find a good range of sub-$1000 cameras to help you figure out which is the best DSLR for you. We also outline the main features to consider when shopping around
Best DSLR Under $1000: Our Top Picks
The following is our top picks to help you find the best DSLR for your budget.
1. Nikon D5600
The 24.2 megapixel sensor on this camera has a decently wide ISO range of 100-25,600. This should give you plenty of flexibility for both low-light and well-lit environments. The D5600 can be connected to a smartphone or tablet for quick and easy file transfers. Each shot is transferred as you take it!
The intelligent, low-energy Bluetooth used for this connection has minimal impact on battery life. The 3.2-inch LCD screen has excellent viewing angles and a solid 95% frame coverage. This is one of the best options out there for affordable, high-quality shots.
- A great camera for buttery-smooth, HD video
- The ISO range is fairly wide
- Deep, ergonomic grip
- The continuous shooting speed (5 frames per second) could be higher
2. Canon EOS 2000D
This is a versatile camera body that can fit a wide range of different lenses. If you’re looking for a camera under 1000 that can grow with you, this is a great buy. It’s easy to take beautiful images with background blur. The Canon EOS 2000d is remarkably comfortable to hold. You shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting your settings on the fly.
We’d describe this as an excellent entry-level camera for beginners. The price is way below $1000 and it’s got plenty of flexibility for new lenses down the road.
- Easy to get that classic “background blur” look
- Super affordable
- Great autofocus system for effortlessly sharp images
- Some lighting accessories may need adapters to fit properly
3. Pentax 12049 K-5 IIs
The weatherproof body of this option from Pentax has 77 independent seals. This DSLR should stand up to the elements fairly well. The ISO range is 80-51,201, meaning shooting should be easy whether in daylight or low light. The continuous shooting speed of 7 frames per second is decent and will capture plenty of images very quickly.
Image blur and noise are helped considerably by the built-in image optimization that comes as standard. The manual focus settings will give you fine control over each and every image. The bright, clear LCD screen gives a virtually full-frame view of your images.
- High-speed burst shots
- Compact body that’s easy to carry with you
- Great weatherproofing
- The contrast settings can be a little fiddly
4. Canon EOS Rebel T7
A budget-friendly alternative to the more premium Canon EOS Rebel T7i.
This is one of the best options on our list if connectivity matters to you. The Rebel T7 comes with built-in Wi-fi and NFC technology that makes it effortless to connect to additional devices like smartphones and tablets. The 21.4 megapixel image sensor on this device is great at capturing beautiful, full HD videos and images.
The autofocus system is ultra-fast and keeps each image crisp. This is another phenomenal entry-level camera.
- Great built-in Wi-fi and NFC connectivity
- Live coverage from the LCD screen
- Stunning full HD shots and videos
- The flash doesn’t play well with non-Canon triggers
5. Nikon D7100
The 51 point autofocus on this Nikon DSLR is a standard that’s suitable for both professionals and hobbyists. Rapid and precise focus like this isn’t available on all budget DSLRs, so it’s worth considering closely. A lot of thought and care have gone into the build and feature set of this device.
This camera comes with dual SD card slots for increased capacity. Photos can be saved in both RAW and JPEG formats simultaneously for more versatility when editing. There are a number of built-in effects that can be applied to your shots. They’re surprisingly effective and can be a great cheat for quick touch-ups on the fly.
This is an exceptionally powerful camera with a surprisingly compact body and equally small price.
- Full HD movies and images
- Powerful image sensor
- Professional level autofocus
- It’s not the cheapest option on our list
6. Olympus Evolt E520
This is an ultra-affordable option for an entry-level camera. Don’t be fooled by the price though; there are a number of handy features that make this worth considering. The included face-detection and shadow-reduction technologies allow for a clean, slick finish for your images. The 10-megapixel CMOS sensor is more than enough for high-quality photo prints.
The LCD screen is designed with convenience in mind. When shooting with the Evolt E520, the live view image of your photo updates in real time. Press down halfway on the shutter button and watch your composition come into focus on the screen.
This is the most affordable camera on our list. You won’t be shooting 4k video on this thing, but it’s perhaps the best option for beginners on a budget.
- Best price on our list
- Lightweight, ergonomic design
- Included shake reduction technology
- Sometimes struggles in low light conditions
7. Canon EOS REBEL SL3
This model sits comfortably between Canon’s T7 option (number 4 on this list) and their more high-end EOS Rebel T7i. If you’re looking for a bump up from the T7 without breaking the bank, this might be for you. The price is still well under $1000 and there’s a slew of premium features on offer.
This is a wonderful starter option for those who need to capture high-quality 4k video. The vari-angle touch screen LCD provides a convenient live view of your subject. The 9 point autofocus system captures razor-sharp, stunning images, and Canon’s “creative assist” feature makes it refreshingly easy to tweak settings on the fly.
The form factor for this model is one of the best we’ve seen considering the price point. It’s the smallest EOS DSLR camera to date!
- Built-in Wi-fi and Bluetooth functionality
- Stunning video and image capacity
- Convenient vari-angle LCD
- Non-Canon flash accessories might not work
8. Nikon D3500
Nikon boasts that this model is as easy to use as a point-and-shoot camera. This will be a relief to users who are brand new to photography. If you can take photos with a smartphone, you can use this Nikon. You only need to look briefly at the features on offer here to realize that this DSLR is far more powerful than your average compact.
Shooting 1080p, high-quality videos or stunning HD images is a breeze with the intelligent auto mode. Nikon is well known for delivering excellent image processing with their cameras. The D3500 is no exception. The colors and details should pop image after image. High-speed burst shots maintain full resolution at five frames per second.
This is probably the best camera on this page when it comes to ease of use.
- Excellent price considering the number of features
- Easy-to-use design for simple shooting
- Great image and video processing
- No built-in Wi-fi
9. Sony A77II
When it comes to speed, this offering from Sony is one of the best. Cameras with a shooting speed of 8fps or more are generally considered to be fast machines. The A77II comes with a whopping 12 frames per second for lightning-fast shots. Definitely consider this one if you regularly capture moving subjects.
Other features include a sensor size of 24.3 megapixels that’s capable of delivering stunning images with crisp details. Sharing images is quick and easy thanks to the built-in connectivity features. The subject tracking and image stabilization features make this a great option for beginners and even more experienced photographers.
- Great sensor size for stunning images
- Excellent phase detection autofocus keeps even moving subjects in focus
- Remarkable video performance
- Getting the right exposure can be tricky when using the included flash
10. Nikon D5200
Last, but certainly not least, is the Nikon D5200. This packs in plenty of power and features for beginners. Video recording is set at 30 frames per second in 1080p. The contrast and colors are worth a mention here; they’re stunning. A live view is provided with the handy vari-angle LCD.
Nikon’s brilliant image processing and quality features are in full force here. Images are sharp, punchy and bold nearly every time. The standard ISO range is 100-6400 but can be boosted to 25,600 for improved light flexibility. This is another camera under 1000 with great connectivity features. Transferring your images from your camera is quick and easy.
- Great compatibility with Nikon lenses
- The dynamic autofocus is pretty speedy
- Convenient connectivity features
- It might be tricky to tweak manual settings if you’re a beginner
What to Look for When Buying a DSLR Camera
There’s plenty to consider when finding a camera that’s right for you. One of the best ways to avoid disappointment is to learn as much as you can about what to look for. The best cameras aren’t necessarily the most expensive ones!
DSLR cameras are known for their lightning-fast shutter speeds. You should be able to take image after image rapidly. This is usually referred to as burst shooting or continuous shooting. A good fps (frames per second) to look for is 8 or above. A lower fps doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, but it’s worth going higher if you can.
If you take photos of moving subjects, a higher fps will help you capture a good image.
The ISO range affects how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. A higher ISO is best suited for low-light shots, while a lower ISO is better for brightly lit environments. You should look for a DSLR camera with a high range for increased flexibility.
It might sound superficial, but it’s actually quite important. A good camera should be quick to shoot and quick to adjust. If your controls are awkwardly placed, you could miss your chance on a time-sensitive image. Look for cameras with ergonomic, convenient designs.
Weather, or water, sealing will protect your camera from moisture and dust. These devices are not cheap, so it’s worth spending a little extra if it means your camera will stay working for longer. The risks of water damage are obvious, but dust can be an even bigger hazard. Dust in the wrong place can cause infuriating spots on your images.
In some cases this dust can be near impossible to remove effectively, so it’s best to choose a camera that comes with some protection.
Cameras with built-in Wi-fi can make sharing your images a whole lot easier. A few years ago, this was a more obscure, premium feature. In 2020, it’s a common DSLR staple that you should look out for. Wi-fi features let you quickly transfer files from your device and can often upload your shots directly to social media.
As a general rule, a DSLR camera has a larger body with more internal space. This makes it possible to house a larger, high-quality sensor. Look for a megapixel rating of around 24 or higher to improve your image quality.
Most of the cameras on this list come with a kit lens. This is a fairly standard lens with a focal length that works for most typical shots. The magic of a DSLR is that you can play around with a huge spectrum of different lenses. Adding extra equipment to your kit isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but it can really elevate your photography. Buying a more versatile DSLR now gives you the flexibility to expand when you can afford to later.
Good Manual Controls
When shooting with a DSLR, you’ll come to realize how powerful manual controls can be. Look for models that make it easy to control your settings for each image. Some more affordable options only offer manual settings, so double check if you’re a beginner.
Mirrorless vs DSLR
When searching for the best camera to buy, many beginners stumble across the mirrorless camera vs DSLR camera debate. Both are great for different contexts and it’s helpful to understand the difference. The lens on a DSLR uses an angled mirror that reflects an image onto the viewfinder.
The user can then look at the viewfinder and see the subject in real time. A mirrorless camera, as you may have guessed, doesn’t use any mirrors at all.
Instead, it uses a digital process to share what the sensor is seeing on the viewfinder. This process requires much less space than a DSLR, so mirrorless options tend to be lighter and more compact.
DSLR is a more mature format than other options. As a result, there are far more lens types and accessories available for most cameras.
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So why lug a DSLR around when there are more compact and affordable options available? Even smartphones have phenomenal compact sensors in 2020. We outline some of the advantages to these cameras below.
One of the most obvious advantages of this kind of camera is the sheer variety of available lenses. Depending on your sensor, a DSLR can be a powerful tool for virtually any photography scenario. There are options for close-up shots, wide angles and many many more.
A compact, point-and-shoot camera has to be a jack of all trades. A DSLR can lean on the power of each individual lens. As DSLR is a mature photography format, there are tonnes of choice from brands like Nikon and Canon.
A good DSLR with a decent sensor usually comes with fantastic autofocus. It’s easier to get sharp, clear images with a good DSLR. Extra features like phase detection, that reduces the noise from moving subjects, further add to the weight behind DSLRs.
The viewfinder on most cameras of this kind is optical. This is a more “natural” live view of your subject and is preferred by most professionals.
The maturity of the format means that brands have had a long time to develop a suite of fantastic extra features. Subject tracking, facial recognition, wireless connectivity, image stabilization the list goes on. These cameras are versatile and the number of lens options and extra features continues to grow.
Finding the “best” DSLR cameras is no simple task. There’s a mountain of different factors to consider. It’s worth remembering that more expensive doesn’t necessarily equate to better. It’s so easy to spend money when buying photography equipment, so it’s a good idea to closely consider what you need out of a new camera.
If you often capture moving subjects, you’ll place a premium on a high shooting speed and features like phase detection. Someone who takes photos for personal prints will need a different lens and sensor than someone who captures shots that will be used for billboards!
If you do a lot of video recording, the cameras you consider will be different from someone who mostly takes macro shots. Consider your requirements when reading through our guide. Make choices that fit your budget and your needs. The great thing about the best DSLR cameras is that they can grow with you!
Make sure the camera and sensor are robust enough to keep up over the next several years. The recommendations on this page should help. Whatever camera you choose, we hope you enjoy each and every photo you take with it!