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Which DSLR camera brand?

Most reliable DSLR camera brands

By Ryan Shaw

Article 1 of 2

Don't waste your hard earned cash on a DSLR that breaks within six months. Our survey allows us to rank the best and worst brands for reliability.

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.

Every year, we survey thousands of people to find out which DSLR camera brands cause you the most problems and which build their cameras to last, so we can highlight the best and worst DSLR brands. The brands with the fewest faults get the best reliability scores.

A DSLR camera is a fantastic piece of kit, made up of electronics and optics. But it has lots of moving parts, which can increase the risk of something going wrong with your camera. Our reliability survey ensures that you can choose a DSLR camera that won't leave you wanting.

We report on five DSLR camera brands, including big brands such as Canon, Nikon, and Sony, so you can identify how they compare brand-to-brand. Below, we've also collated data for reliability ratings over a five year life span. DSLR cameras are very reliable, with a higher average reliability rating over five years than compared to either compact or bridge cameras.

If you're looking for DSLR camera around a specific price point, please see our extensive DSLR camera reviews.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, sign up for a £1 trial to get instant access.

Brand name Reliability star rating Percentage reliability score
99%
98%
97%
96%
94%

Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 834 DSLR camera owners. Data correct at August 2017.
 

Key

Member Content

Which DSLR camera brand stays fault free for longest?

The graphic below shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the worst brand, plus the average. Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table underneath.

Brand name % faults after one year % faults after five years
100% 98%
98% 98%
98% 95%
98% 95%
97% 92%

Table notes
Results based on June/July 2017 reliability survey of 834 DSLR camera owners. Data correct at August 2017.

Key

Member Content

How DSLR camera brands compare

From all the DSLR camera owners we surveyed, all brands rated very well for reliability, with very few issues or major faults. For example, even the bottom-ranked brand scored 94% for reliability over five years - no mean feat.

Our survey collects data on products Which? members have owned over the past five years, recording what faults occur and when. We also take the severity of faults into account. Faults on older products are judged less harshly, as they are likely to have been used more.

We ask our respondents to describe their faults as minor, major or catastrophic based on the following guidelines: 

  • Minor - a fault that doesn’t affect the product’s performance significantly or a fault that only occurs occasionally with minimal impact. This issue may be irritating or annoying but it isn’t frequently problematic and you can easily work around it. For example, not being able to record audio with video.
  • Major - a fault that has a noticeable effect on the product’s performance. This fault affects how you use the product and can be problematic. For example, a fault with the lens. 
  • Catastrophic - a fault that renders the product unusable, with the fault needing to be repaired or parts replaced before it can be used again. For example, problems with the shutter or failing to capture photos/video.

We think it’s vital to consider reliability alongside our product testing, and asking owners to tell us about their experiences is the best way of judging a product’s real-world performance. Because of this, we’ll strip products of Best Buy awards if they get less than three stars for reliability. The most reliable brand is often not the best overall but buying a product from a good brand increases your chances of getting one that will serve you well for many years.

Common DSLR camera problems

As part of our survey, we ask Which? members to share any DSLR issues they've had over the past five years. And for most owners we spoke to, what was the most common problem? In our survey, around one fifth of DSLR owners had problems with the focus.

Of those that reported a fault, the issues that topped the list were:

  • 19% - problems with the focus
  • 12% - supplied lens developed a fault
  • 10% - developed problems with LCD screen
  • 7% - control buttons stopped working

A camera isn't much use when the buttons you use to control it stop working or only work intermittently. Similarly, a camera that tends to focus before or after the intended point of focus is less than ideal, and will result in blurry photos.

Issues with the supplied lens can make shooting difficult, especially if you don't other lenses to switch to. Lenses can stick, jam or malfunctioning quite easily, and typically it's sand or grit interfering with the lens extension mechanism. Or the camera's been dropped with the lens extended.

With a non-functioning LCD screen, you can still compose your shots by using the viewfinder; however, you may not be able to review the results before moving onto the next subject. 

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