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The best DSLR

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are a very popular choice for amateur and professional photographers alike. These cameras feature an optical viewfinder that presents a direct optical view through the lens. In contrast, mirrorless cameras capture the image with their sensor and project it on a screen.

DSLR
Schematic diagram of a DSLR[ephotozine.com]

There is a wide and growing choice of DSLRs on the market. It is not easy to decide which one is best. Indeed, what does it really mean to look for the best DSLR? The camera that offers the best imaging experience? The one with the highest sensor resolution? The one that is most portable? The DSLR that does not break the bank? The answers to these questions come down to personal preference, but hopefully the listings below will prove to be useful for your camera decision process.

The highest rated DSLR

Top Elo
Camera with highest Elo: Canon 1D X Mark III

The Camera Elo represents a comprehensive rating that takes the body, sensor and feature characteristics of digital cameras into account. It is based on the outcomes of thousands of pair-wise comparisons undertaken via the CAM-parator app.

The Canon 1D X Mark III is currently the top-ranked DSLR with a Camera Elo of 2999, followed in second place by the Nikon D780 with a rating of 2970. The table below lists the 20 highest ranked DSLR in descending order of their Elo. It also reports the cameras' DXO Mark sensor quality score (as far as these are available), which can be taken as indicators of pure image quality. For both the Camera Elo and the DXO score, higher values represent better performance.

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The Cameras with the Highest Elo
    Camera
Model
Lens
Mount
Camera
Elo
DXO
Score
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Video
Format
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon 1D X Mark IIICanon EF 299991 Full Frame 20.04K/60p Jan 2020 6,499 i
2.
 
Nikon D780Nikon FX 2970- Full Frame 24.34K/30p Jan 2020 2,299 i
3.
 
Pentax K-3 IIIPentax K 2928- APS-C 25.64K/30p Mar 2021 1,999 i
4.
 
Nikon D6Nikon FX 2927- Full Frame 20.74K/30p Feb 2020 6,499 i
5.
 
Nikon D850Nikon FX 2857100 Full Frame 45.44K/30p Jul 2017 3,299 i
6.
 
Canon 90DCanon EF-S 2852- APS-C 32.34K/30p Aug 2019 1,199 i
7.
 
Pentax K-1 IIPentax K 2774- Full Frame 36.21080/60i Feb 2018 1,999 i
8.
 
Sony A99 IISony A 275292 Full Frame 42.24K/30p Sep 2016 3,199 i
9.
 
Canon 5D Mark IVCanon EF 267891 Full Frame 30.14K/30p Aug 2016 3,499 i
10.
 
Leica S3Leica S 2642- Medium Format 64.04K/24p Sep 2018 18,995 i
11.
 
Nikon D500Nikon DX 262083 APS-C 20.74K/30p Jan 2016 1,999 i
12.
 
Canon 250DCanon EF-S 2616- APS-C 24.04K/25p Apr 2019 599 i
13.
 
Canon 1D X Mark IICanon EF 261688 Full Frame 20.04K/60p Feb 2016 5,999i
14.
 
Canon 6D Mark IICanon EF 259485 Full Frame 26.01080/60p Jun 2017 1,999 i
15.
 
Pentax K-1Pentax K 259496 Full Frame 36.21080/60i Feb 2016 1,799i
16.
 
Canon 850DCanon EF-S 2573- APS-C 24.04K/24p Feb 2020 749 i
17.
 
Nikon D7500Nikon DX 255086 APS-C 20.74K/30p Apr 2017 1,299 i
18.
 
Nikon D5Nikon FX 253488 Full Frame 20.74K/30p Jan 2016 6,499i
19.
 
Canon 200DCanon EF-S 250179 APS-C 24.01080/60p Jun 2017 549i
20.
 
Nikon D5600Nikon DX 249384 APS-C 24.01080/60p Nov 2016 699 i

You can access more detail on the listed cameras by clicking on the camera's name. Alternatively, you can compare two DSLR using the search boxes below. Just enter two model names into the input fields and you will promptly be taken to a respective comparison.

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    The highest resolution DSLR

    Perhaps your primary aim is to capture images with great detail, for example in landscape photography, or to have the ability to crop images heavily in post processing while still maintaining good image quality. In this case, the best DSLR might be the one with the highest sensor resolution. The following table lists the 20 DSLRs with the highest megapixel count. Again, clicking on the camera's name will reveal further detail.

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    The Cameras with the Highest Resolution
        Camera
    Model
    Lens
    Mount
    Resolution
    (MP)
    Camera
    Elo
    DXO
    Score
    Sensor
    Class
    Video
    Format
    Camera
    Launch
    Launch
    Price (USD)
    Street
    Price
    1.
     
    Leica S3Leica S 64.0 2642- Medium Format4K/24p Sep 2018 18,995 i
    2.
     
    Pentax 645ZPentax 645 51.1 2128101 Medium Format1080/60i Apr 2014 8,499 i
    3.
     
    Canon 5DSCanon EF 50.3 220287 Full Frame1080/30p Feb 2015 3,699 i
    4.
     
    Canon 5DS RCanon EF 50.3 220286 Full Frame1080/30p Feb 2015 3,699 i
    5.
     
    Nikon D850Nikon FX 45.4 2857100 Full Frame4K/30p Jul 2017 3,299 i
    6.
     
    Sony A99 IISony A 42.2 275292 Full Frame4K/30p Sep 2016 3,199 i
    7.
     
    Pentax 645DPentax 645 39.5 163682 Medium Format- Mar 2010 9,995i
    8.
     
    Leica S Typ 007Leica S 37.5 2273- Medium Format4K/24p Sep 2014 24,490i
    9.
     
    Leica S-E Typ 006Leica S 37.5 1991- Medium Format- Sep 2014 16,900i
    10.
     
    Leica S Typ 006Leica S 37.5 173076 Medium Format- Sep 2012 21,950i
    11.
     
    Leica S2Leica S 37.5 1566- Medium Format- Sep 2008 22,995i
    12.
     
    Pentax K-1 IIPentax K 36.2 2774- Full Frame1080/60i Feb 2018 1,999 i
    13.
     
    Pentax K-1Pentax K 36.2 259496 Full Frame1080/60i Feb 2016 1,799i
    14.
     
    Nikon D810Nikon FX 36.2 236197 Full Frame1080/60p Jun 2014 3,299i
    15.
     
    Nikon D800ENikon FX 36.2 209496 Full Frame1080/30p Feb 2012 3,299i
    16.
     
    Nikon D800Nikon FX 36.2 209095 Full Frame1080/30p Feb 2012 2,999i
    17.
     
    Canon 90DCanon EF-S 32.3 2852- APS-C4K/30p Aug 2019 1,199 i
    18.
     
    Canon 5D Mark IVCanon EF 30.1 267891 Full Frame4K/30p Aug 2016 3,499 i
    19.
     
    Canon 6D Mark IICanon EF 26.0 259485 Full Frame1080/60p Jun 2017 1,999 i
    20.
     
    Pentax K-3 IIIPentax K 25.6 2928- APS-C4K/30p Mar 2021 1,999 i

    The most portable DSLR

    A well-known proverb states that the best camera is the one that you have with you. As such, a smaller and lighter camera will likely get more use than a bulkier and heavier model. The table below lists the 20 lightest DSLR that have been released since 2015 in ascending order of their weight.

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    The Lightest Models
        Camera
    Model
    Lens
    Mount
    Camera
    Weight
    Camera
    Size
    Camera
    Elo
    Sensor
    Class
    Resolution
    (MP)
    Camera
    Launch
    Launch
    Price (USD)
    Street
    Price
    1.
     
    Nikon D3500Nikon DX 365 g 124 x 97 x 70 g 2080 APS-C 24.0 Aug 2018 429 i
    2.
     
    Nikon D5500Nikon DX 420 g 124 x 97 x 70 g 2171 APS-C 24.0 Jan 2015 899i
    3.
     
    Canon 4000DCanon EF-S 436 g 129 x 102 x 77 g 1845 APS-C 17.9 Feb 2018 399 i
    4.
     
    Nikon D3400Nikon DX 445 g 124 x 98 x 76 g 2058 APS-C 24.0 Aug 2016 499i
    5.
     
    Canon 250DCanon EF-S 449 g 122 x 93 x 70 g 2616 APS-C 24.0 Apr 2019 599 i
    6.
     
    Canon 200DCanon EF-S 453 g 122 x 93 x 70 g 2501 APS-C 24.0 Jun 2017 549i
    7.
     
    Nikon D5600Nikon DX 465 g 124 x 97 x 70 g 2493 APS-C 24.0 Nov 2016 699 i
    8.
     
    Canon 2000DCanon EF-S 475 g 129 x 101 x 78 g 1975 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2018 449 i
    9.
     
    Canon 1300DCanon EF-S 485 g 129 x 101 x 78 g 1909 APS-C 17.9 Mar 2016 449i
    10.
     
    Canon 850DCanon EF-S 515 g 131 x 103 x 76 g 2573 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2020 749 i
    11.
     
    Canon 800DCanon EF-S 532 g 131 x 100 x 76 g 2442 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2017 749i
    12.
     
    Canon 77DCanon EF-S 540 g 131 x 100 x 76 g 2486 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2017 899 i
    13.
     
    Canon 750DCanon EF-S 555 g 132 x 101 x 78 g 2123 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2015 749i
    14.
     
    Canon 760DCanon EF-S 565 g 132 x 101 x 78 g 2139 APS-C 24.0 Feb 2015 649i
    15.
     
    Sony A68Sony A 610 g 143 x 104 x 81 g 2072 APS-C 24.0 Nov 2015 699i
    16.
     
    Pentax K-S2Pentax K 678 g 123 x 91 x 73 g 2198 APS-C 20.0 Feb 2015 749 i
    17.
     
    Pentax K-70Pentax K 688 g 126 x 93 x 74 g 2409 APS-C 24.0 Jun 2016 649 i
    18.
     
    Canon 90DCanon EF-S 701 g 141 x 105 x 77 g 2852 APS-C 32.3 Aug 2019 1,199 i
    19.
     
    Pentax KPPentax K 703 g 132 x 101 x 76 g 2444 APS-C 24.1 Jan 2017 1,099 i
    20.
     
    Nikon D7500Nikon DX 720 g 136 x 104 x 73 g 2550 APS-C 20.7 Apr 2017 1,299 i

    The most affordable DSLR

    A DSLR is only as good as the lens that is placed in front of its sensor. Thus, the best DSLR is one that leaves room enough in the budget to purchase a high quality lens to go with it. More generally, budgetary considerations are almost always important when deciding on a camera purchase, so that the following listing should be of interest. It displays the 20 least expensive DSLRs that have been released since 2015 in ascending order of their launch prices (camera only). The latter provide a good idea on the market position of the cameras, but it is often worthwhile to check the current pricing, as all except the most recent models might be available at discounts or as great deals on the pre-owned market.

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    The Least Expensive Models
        Camera
    Model
    Lens
    Mount
    Launch
    Price (USD)
    Camera
    Elo
    DXO
    Score
    Sensor
    Class
    Resolution
    (MP)
    Video
    Format
    Camera
    Launch
    Street
    Price
    1.
     
    Canon 4000DCanon EF-S 399 184563 APS-C 17.91080/30p Feb 2018 i
    2.
     
    Nikon D3500Nikon DX 429 2080- APS-C 24.01080/60p Aug 2018 i
    3.
     
    Canon 2000DCanon EF-S 449 197571 APS-C 24.01080/30p Feb 2018 i
    4.
     
    Canon 1300DCanon EF-S 449 1909- APS-C 17.91080/30p Mar 2016i
    5.
     
    Nikon D3400Nikon DX 499 205886 APS-C 24.01080/60p Aug 2016i
    6.
     
    Canon 200DCanon EF-S 549 250179 APS-C 24.01080/60p Jun 2017i
    7.
     
    Canon 250DCanon EF-S 599 2616- APS-C 24.04K/25p Apr 2019 i
    8.
     
    Pentax K-70Pentax K 649 2409- APS-C 24.01080/60i Jun 2016 i
    9.
     
    Canon 760DCanon EF-S 649 213970 APS-C 24.01080/30p Feb 2015i
    10.
     
    Nikon D5600Nikon DX 699 249384 APS-C 24.01080/60p Nov 2016 i
    11.
     
    Sony A68Sony A 699 207279 APS-C 24.01080/60i Nov 2015i
    12.
     
    Canon 850DCanon EF-S 749 2573- APS-C 24.04K/24p Feb 2020 i
    13.
     
    Canon 800DCanon EF-S 749 2442- APS-C 24.01080/60p Feb 2017i
    14.
     
    Pentax K-S2Pentax K 749 2198- APS-C 20.01080/30p Feb 2015 i
    15.
     
    Canon 750DCanon EF-S 749 212371 APS-C 24.01080/30p Feb 2015i
    16.
     
    Canon 77DCanon EF-S 899 248678 APS-C 24.01080/60p Feb 2017 i
    17.
     
    Nikon D5500Nikon DX 899 217184 APS-C 24.01080/60p Jan 2015i
    18.
     
    Pentax KPPentax K 1,099 2444- APS-C 24.11080/60i Jan 2017 i
    19.
     
    Pentax K-3 IIPentax K 1,099 237880 APS-C 24.11080/60i Apr 2015i
    20.
     
    Canon 90DCanon EF-S 1,199 2852- APS-C 32.34K/30p Aug 2019 i

    Further Reading

    Additional information on the calculation of the Camera Elo can be found on a respective Elo methodology page. Moreover, there are other rankings of cameras by category that might be of interest:

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