A digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) is considered a key part of a professional photographer’s kit.
There is a huge range of cameras on the market today for experienced hobbyists and professionals alike. Mobile cameras are improving year by year, mirrorless products are increasing in popularity, and you can buy everything from entry-level DSLRs to the cameras used in industries including fashion and sports.
DSLRs are a step up from compact and bridge models. These cameras usually come as body-only or with one lens, so when you decide to invest in a DSLR, you need to keep in mind that most of the ongoing costs will be purchasing quality lenses that are compatible with your model.
Below you will find ZDNet’s top picks for DSLR cameras in 2022.
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Best DSLR camera overall
- 30.4-megapixel full-frame sensor
- 4K video capture
- 61-point AF system
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
While there are many exciting developments, new designs, and different form factors for photography, the Canon 5D Mark range remains a heavyweight and well-respected option for professional photographers.
For many years, my old Mark iii was a fantastic workhorse for weddings and other events. I was tempted to try out something else when it came to a replacement, such as a mirrorless camera, but I decided — keeping in mind my L-series lenses — to upgrade to the Mark IV.
While it has been on the market for years, the Mark IV still stands out as a top choice for your next DSLR, considering the superb image capture functionality, its versatility, and its robust design.
- Lens interoperability
- Expensive and body-only
- Some users complain of issues with autofocus
Best DSLR camera for video capture
- 45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS sensor
- 180k-pixel RGB Sensor, Focus Shift mode
- 7fps shooting
- EXPEED 5 image processor
- ISO: 64-25600, extended: 32-102400
A solid choice for photographers who want to focus on extremely detailed shoots and high-quality video capture, the Nikon D850 has been described as a ‘tank’ of a camera able to handle extensive shoots and video.
This option, one that pros should consider, includes a 45.7-megapixel CMOS sensor, EXPEED 5 image processor, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and is capable of 7fps shooting. RAW files can also be downsized if space is an issue.
- Touchscreen display
- 4K UHD video capture at 30fps
- 8K time-lapse functions
- Improved viewfinder on past models
- May be a steep learning curve to use to its full potential
- Expensive body investment
Best DSLR camera for stills
- 20.8MP CMOS sensor
- EXPEED 6 image processor
- ISO up to 102,400, expandable to 3,280,000
- Wi-Fi connectivity
The Nikon D6 is a powerhouse DSLR for professional photographers. Built with high-speed action photography, sports, and wildlife in mind, Nikon’s previous flagship is still an excellent choice, sporting a 20.8MP CMOS sensor, EXPEED 6 image processor, and capable of continuous shooting at 14fps.
This model is also able to capture video in a 16:9 4K Ultra HD format.
- Rapid AF system with 105 all-cross-type focus points
- Built with low light conditions in mind
- 16:9 4K Ultra HD video capture
- Clunky design
Canon EOS 5DS R
Best DSLR camera for entry at the mid-range
- 50.6MP CMOS sensor
- Full HD 1080p video capture
- Dual DIGIC 6 image processors
- ISO 100 – 6400, extendable to 12,800
The Canon EOS 5DS R is a mid-range option for DSLR enthusiasts. This DSLR camera is capable of 5fps continuous shooting and makes use of a 50.6MP CMOS sensor, with Full HD 1080p video capture at 30fps.
Primarily aimed at still photography rather than videography, this camera provides excellent image resolution and has an easy-to-use interface.
- 61-point autofocus
- Large sensor for a mid-tier model
- Low-pass filter cancellation
- Limited frame rate
- Limited ISO range
Canon EOS Rebel T7
Best DSLR camera for beginners
- 24.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor
- DIGIC 4+ image processor
- ISO 100-6400, up to 3fps shooting
- WI-FI and NFC
- Comes with an 18 – 55mm lens
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is an affordable camera suitable for entering the world of DSLRs. This DSLR is a lightweight, compact option complete with a 24.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, DIGIC 4+ image processor, and a nine-point autofocus system. The Rebel T7 is capable of 3fps shooting — while limited, still acceptable for a DSLR and burst shot modes — as well as Full HD video capture.
The Canon EOS Rebel T7 also comes with an 18 – 55mm lens.
- Creative filter modes
- Basic LCD display
- Limited ISO, fps rate
What is the best DSLR?
When you are selecting a DSLR, you need to consider whether it is full frame — and, therefore better in low light or more difficult conditions — and whether you just want a camera for stills or video capture, too. Most DSLRs will have some form of autofocus but they vary in performance.
High quality video capture?
EOS 5D Mark IV
Canon EOS 5DS R
Canon EOS Rebel T7
Which is the right DSLR for you?
When you decide to upgrade to a new DSLR, or take the plunge for the first time, you should consider what your intentions are. While many DSLRs have the same attractive features — such as a large sensor, connectivity, and lens interoperability — some are more suitable for stills, whereas others have advanced video capabilities.
Choose this DSLR camera…
If you need…
EOS 5D Mark IV
A DSLR workhorse for different kinds of photography
A multifunctional DSLR with a focus on videography
A powerhouse for still photography
Canon EOS 5DS R
A mid-range, high-res model
Canon EOS Rebel T7
A beginner to intermediate camera
How did we choose these DSLRs?
Canon and Nikon are the top dogs when it comes to DSLR cameras. Both vendors have enjoyed a long and respected reputation for solid builds, reliability, and good image quality — all of which are crucial if you are going to spend potentially thousands of dollars in upgrading your kit.
We chose the above products based on their versatility for beginners and pros alike, interoperability with different lenses, and both image and video capabilities. We have also selected options to suit a range of budgets.
What does DSLR mean?
A DSLR is also known as a digital single-lens reflex camera. A mirror inside the body of the camera reflects an image into a viewfinder, and if the user is happy, they can take the shot and save the image to a memory card.
What sets DSLRs apart from point-and-shoot and most compact cameras is their image sensors, including full frame sensors, that can capture far more information at a higher quality. Many photographers using DSLRs opt to save their files in a .RAW format for further processing.
Another feature of DSLRs — and the reason you often buy them as “body only” — is that they are interchangeable with different lenses. You can even mix and match lenses & cameras from vendors although in some cases, you might need an adapter.
What should I consider when I buy a new DSLR?
A DSLR can be an expensive investment. I’ve only recently upgraded from a Canon Mark iii to a Mark IV (I still consider it worth it despite Canon’s shift to mirrorless ranges, considering its performance and sensor capabilities, as well as my L-series lens set), and I expect this to last me a while yet — the Mark iii being more than capable to manage wedding shoots for the best part of eight years.
Future-proofing, especially with an expensive build, should be the utmost in your mind when you make a bugger purchase. You should consider its compatibility with lenses on the market, the type of sensor it uses, the speed, internet functions if you require it, and video if you want to try out videography, too.
DSLR or mirrorless — which wins?
The capabilities of mirrorless cameras are incredible. Many mirrorless models can achieve either the same — or close too — the quality of RAW images that DSLRs produce in a smaller form factor, and often at a lower price point.
However, I would consider what you want the camera for. If you’re thinking of professional use, for example, in a setting where using different lenses will boost your photography, you might want to keep in mind that an advantage DSLRs have is the sheer number of lens options already available on the market.
Are there alternative DSLRs worth considering?
DSLRs, in some tiers, do seem to be stepping back in deference to the current popularity of mirrorless designs. However, there is no shortage of vendors refining well-respected, solid DSLR ranges, of which there are too many to mention on one list.
Other DSLRs worth considering are below.