Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

Choosing the best DSLR

By Ryan Shaw

Whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-range DSLR camera or a more affordable entry-level model, read on for our guide to choosing the best DSLR.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You'll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don't get stuck with a Don't Buy.

DSLR cameras provide the ultimate in control, opening the door to more creative photography. From aperture and shutter speed to ISO, white balance, flash synchronisation and more, you can manually control nearly every function of your DSLR camera. But how do you pick the right DSLR?

Don't settle for anything less when it comes image quality - find a superb DSLR that takes first-class stills and videos from our Best Buy DSLRs.

Canon vs Nikon vs Pentax - best DSLR cameras

There are three main DSLR manufacturers: Canon, Nikon and Pentax. DSLRs are different to similarly high-end compact system cameras (CSCs) as they use a mirror to capture their photos. They also come with a lot more dials and controls for manually tweaking the way you capture an image.

Whereas it’s easy to switch between using a Canon or Nikon-made compact digital camera, the same isn’t the case with DSLRs. In committing to one manufacturer you’ll be buying into their range of lenses, flash kit and batteries. Although there’s no ‘right answer’ as to which is best, it’s worth knowing the key differences between brands.

Find the perfect DSLR for you by checking out our DSLR reviews.

Spot the difference with photos

Ask a professional photographer and they’ll wax lyrical about the different way Canon and Nikon cameras handle colour tints and skin tones. In reality, there’s very little difference between both manufacturer’s photo quality, and indeed Pentax’s - especially when you’re shooting photos in the untouched RAW file format.

In practical terms, several Nikon DSLRs - such as the D7100 and D5300 - have done away with the anti-aliasing filter in front of their sensors for capturing photos. In short, this filter helps to reduce distortion in tight patterns, and this distortion is most noticeable in a tie pattern, or the brickwork of a building. The lines or stripes of the pattern can start to swirl together, resulting in an effect called moire. While an anti-aliasing filter does reduce distortion, it also makes makes images overall less sharp. 

Canon is yet to match this innovation, although its hybrid autofocus technology allows entry level DSLRs to accurately capture images quickly, and produce smooth video. Nikon’s comparable Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology is only available in its more premium cameras.

Canon leads on video

DSLRs aren’t just for photos nowadays, and Canon leads the way when it comes to shooting video with a camera. Its 5D Mark II was the first DSLR to capture Full HD video, and Canon has since improved on this camera by adding useful features such as tilting LCD touchscreens and headphone jacks to more recent models.

That’s not to say Nikon is too far behind the pace when it comes to videography. Its D750 camera has been explicitly designed with video in mind, and the same goes for many of the cameras further down its range. As for 4K video recording? Canon is first out of the gate with their EOS -1D C, but Pentax and Nikon are both yet to introduce this in their DSLRs.

Pentax breaks the DSLR design mould

Canon and Nikon’s control systems differ more or less depending on how much you spend on a camera. Both manufacturers offer a varying number of buttons and dials when transitioning from low-end to premium DSLRs. Perhaps the most significant variation between the brands is that Nikon’s lens mounting, zooming and focusing is done in the opposite direction to Canon’s. In terms of design, both manufacturers stick pretty close to each other, while Pentax strays furthest from the classic black, bulky form with more wacky models, such as the K-S1.


Related products

See all dslr cameras