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Top five best cheap DSLRs for 2017

By Ryan Shaw

We round up our pick of the first-class DSLR cameras costing less than £500, to help you find the best bargain model for your needs.

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If you’re looking to take top-notch pictures and record high-definition video, you need to get your hands on a DSLR camera. However, you’re not just buying a camera, but investing in a system of lenses and accessories you may be using for many years to come. That's why it's important to pick the right model at the right price.

Whether you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR camera or one with more advanced features, there are plenty of options to choose from. We've handpicked our top-five bargain DSLR cameras available for less than £500 in 2017 in the table below, from models with a large optical zoom to blistering shutter speed and Full-HD video recording.

You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great-quality photos and video, either – decent models start from around £300, as you can see from our rundown of interchangeable-lens cameras. While the best models have simple controls, are easy to use and produce the pictures of your dreams, the worst are poorly designed, cheaply built or have poor battery life. That's why we've also revealed some models to avoid.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you're not yet a member, you can get instant access by taking a £1 Which? trial.

Best cheap DSLRs

Canon EOS 700D
Today's best price £429.00
Which? score 73%
Reviewed Aug 2013
Best Buy
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
4 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
4 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

Priced as a budget DSLR, this camera is a great choice for beginners. Its shutter delay is minimal, and it offers the flexibility of interchangeable lenses. But does it take great pictures, or will it leave you disappointed? We put it through the rigorous Which? test programme to find out.

Canon EOS 100D
Today's best price £444.00
Which? score 71%
Reviewed Aug 2013
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
4 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
4 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

This camera is one of the smallest and lightest DSLR models available. It's quick to start up and has a fast shutter speed, and in burst mode it can shoot around four frames per second, maximising the chance of you capturing the photo you want. But does it take great pictures? We sent it to our test lab to find out.

Nikon D3400
Today's best price £389.00
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Oct 2016
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
4 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
4 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

This is a new entry-level camera with a 24Mp sensor, in a compact DSLR body. It's a refresh of the previous model, with built-in Bluetooth and improved battery life. The manufacturer claims you’ll get outstanding low-light photos with this camera, but does it deliver or will you be let down by the results?

Canon EOS 1300D
Today's best price £325.99
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Jul 2016
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
4 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
4 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

Marketed squarely at first-time buyers or students, this DSLR is an affordable option with very good picture quality and image stabilisation. But does its budget price mean the manufacturer has cut corners on build quality? We tested it in the lab to find out.

Nikon D3300
Typical price £329.00
Which? score 70%
Reviewed Mar 2014
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
4 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
4 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

We've been impressed by previous versions of this camera - it's easy to use, has a great viewfinder and monitor, plus it excels at taking photos both inside and outdoors. Despite missing some of the advanced features seen in rival cameras, could this latest incarnation make it as a Which? Best Buy? Our rigorous testing reveals all.

Pricing, recommendations and test scores correct at June 2017. 

Not found the right product for you? Browse all our DSLR camera reviews. 

And here are two cheap DSLR cameras to avoid 

The worst DSLRs from our testing not only take poor-quality photos and video, but they're difficult to use and have limited features. We've seen DSLR models with flimsy plastic camera bodies that can easily break, low-resolution and fuzzy LCD screens that make it hard to review your shots, and snail-like shutter speed. Make sure you don't waste your money on an inferior DSLR camera.

Worst cheap DSLRs

Pentax K-3 II
Today's best price £899.00
Which? score 63%
Reviewed Jul 2015
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
3 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
3 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

A semi-professional DSLR camera, this model has a 24Mp APS-C sensor, a weather-sealed body and improved image stabiliser. But what is the video recording quality like, and how easy it is to use? Read on for our expert test lab verdict.

Pentax K-50
Today's best price £418.99
Which? score 61%
Reviewed Nov 2013
Picture quality:
4 out of 5
Video image quality:
3 out of 5
In use:
4 out of 5
Operating Speed:
3 out of 5
Resolution:
Member exclusive
Sensor size:
Member exclusive
Tested Lens:
Member exclusive
Movie mode:
Member exclusive

This camera is a dead ringer for its entry-level sibling, but is water-resistant, dustproof and cold-resistant, with no fewer than 81 weatherproof seals. This makes it slightly heavier, but could be a camera-saver if you like to shoot outdoors in all kinds of conditions. Does it have the picture quality to make the extra weight worthwhile? Read on for more information.

How to choose the best DSLR camera

  • Sensor size - The larger camera body of a DSLR means it can house a bigger image sensor than both compact and bridge cameras. A camera’s sensor is designed to capture as much light as possible: the bigger the sensor, the more light it can capture. See our camera sensor sizes explained guide for more information.
  • ISO range - The ISO value of a DSLR determines how sensitive the sensor is to light. A higher ISO range of 1,600 and upwards is particularly useful for night photography or shooting in low light , as it will allow you to capture more light.
  • Interchangeable lenses - Most budget-level DSLR and CSC cameras come with a starter 'kit lens'. Frequently, this will be an 18-55mm lens, as this is the normal focal length for DSLR cameras. By buying different camera lenses, such as a wide-angle or fisheye lens, you'll achieve different effects in your shots.
  • Image stabilisation - If you’ve got a shaky grip on your camera, image stabilisation in a DSLR will counteract photo blur. Because image stabilisation is often built into the lens, it’s a lot more effective when compared with compact digital cameras.
  • Weatherproofing - The best DSLRs are weatherproofed, making them resistant to conditions such as rain and snow, as well as protecting the internal parts from dust and moisture. This means you can keep on shooting, no matter the conditions.
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