best dslr camera for hobbyist

In a world where the ‘perfect’ shot is increasingly important, even if it’s just to document your life on social media, nothing beats a great DSLR. While smartphones certainly have the ability to churn out professional-looking snaps in seconds, nothing compares to the moments captured using a professional digital camera. Of which DSLR cameras (or digital single-lens reflex cameras) are the most popular and powerful.  With interchangeable lenses, even entry-level DSLR cameras can provide a serious step up from your old point-and-shoot, but distinguishing between the different models can be tricky. Thankfully, we’ve done the hard work for you. We have hunted high and low to find the best dslr camera for hobbyist and the best camera for photography.

best dslr camera for hobbyist


Canon is one of the most versatile and expansive systems to begin with and, as such, offers a variety of gateway DSLRs to choose from. The current entry-level model is the EOS Rebel T6, which has a modest feature-set, but a wealth of imaging capabilities. It revolves around an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4+ image processor, which afford Full HD 1080p/30 fps video recording, a 3 fps still shooting rate, and expanded sensitivity to ISO 12800. A 3.0” 920k-dot LCD monitor lets you review imagery and shoot in live view while built-in Wi-Fi with NFC is available for wirelessly sharing photos and movies and remotely controlling the camera from a mobile device.

Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens

Next in line, the EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR is distinct from the first Rebel due to the fact it is one of the smallest DSLRs available, from any manufacturer. Weighing slightly more than 14 oz and measuring just 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7″, this camera is an ideal option for photographers looking to have a camera with them at all times. Beyond its small size, it also features improved imaging specs, such as a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 7 image processor, which together combine to avail a top native sensitivity of ISO 51200, 5 fps continuous shooting rate, and Full HD 1080p/60 fps movie recording. A 9-point phase detection system incorporates a central cross point for added precision and, when working in live view or recording movies, the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system takes control and pairs both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods for accuracy, speed, and focusing smoothness. Despite its small stature, the SL2 still features a large 3.0″ touchscreen LCD with 1.04m-dot resolution, and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC and Bluetooth is also available.

Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera

At the peak of Canon’s EOS Rebel lineup is the Rebel T7i, which shares many imaging features with the SL2 but has an expanded feature-set and robust focusing system for a bit more control and customization when shooting. The same 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 7 image processor are featured, along with a top ISO 51200, Full HD 1080p/60fps recording, and a slightly better 6 fps shooting rate compared to the SL2. The most notable difference in the T7i is the much expanded 45-point all cross-type phase-detection autofocus system, which is notably faster and more adept at tracking subjects due to its wider frame coverage. For video and live view shooting, Dual Pixel CMOS AF is featured again and offers especially smooth, quick, and accurate focus performance. Additionally, the T7i also has built-in Wi-Fi with NFC, Bluetooth, and a 3.0” 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD.

Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR Camera


Regarding Nikon, there are two featured DSLR models that are ideally suited for those just learning, as well as those already well versed in the basics of photography. The entry-level option is the D3500, which is paired with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. A 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor form the central imaging components, which enable shooting up to 5 fps, native sensitivity to ISO 25600, and Full HD 1080p/60 video recording. A unique feature among entry-level DSLRs is the D3500’s omission of an optical low-pass filter, which helps to garner increased image sharpness and resolution compared to models featuring an OLPF to counteract the effects of moiré. Even with this filter removed, however, the processing capabilities of the EXPEED 4 serve to negate the false colors and artifacting to maximize the benefits of removing this commonly used filter. This stout set of features is backed by an 11-point autofocus system, a 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD monitor, and SnapBridge Bluetooth connectivity for wirelessly transferring imagery from the camera to a linked smartphone or tablet. Also serving newcomers to photography, this model incorporates a dedicated Guide Mode that helps familiarize one with the variety of features throughout the entire camera system.

Nikon D3500 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens

For photographers looking for a richer feature set and more versatile control, Nikon’s D5600 is the next model in line, and offers a number of distinct advantages over the D3400. The sensor and image processor remain the same—24.2MP DX-format CMOS and EXPEED 4—as well as the 5 fps continuous shooting rate and 1080p/60 fps video recording. From here, though, the D5600 adds a larger, higher-resolution 3.2″ 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD screen, more expansive 39-point AF system with nine cross-type sensors, and built-in SnapBridge connectivity that uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with NFC. The basic image quality specifications are quite similar between the two models, but the added functionality of the D5600 allows users greater control when working with a variety of subject types, as well as more efficiency for sharing imagery.

Nikon D5600 DSLR Camera


While recently Sony has clearly been focusing much of its attention on the mirrorless market, the company is still committed to developing its branch of unique DSLRs—or to be more correct, DSLTs. Right from the beginning, Sony differentiates itself in that its A-mount cameras feature a Translucent Mirror and electronic viewfinder, as opposed to the traditional swinging reflex mirror and optical viewfinder. The benefits of this technology include previewing any exposure effects or creative settings prior to exposure, the ability to utilize full-time phase-detection AF during shooting, and being able to work with the viewfinder during movie recording.

Sony’s entry-level A-mount option is the Alpha a68, which features a rich set of forward-thinking technologies to benefit multimedia image-makers. Pairing a 24.2MP APS-C-sized Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, this camera has a top sensitivity of ISO 25600, continuous shooting up to 8 fps, and 1080p/30 video recording at 50 Mbps in the XAVC S format. Beyond these specifications, a 79-point phase-detection AF system, with 15 cross-type points, covers a broad area of the image frame to suit working with moving subjects and in mixed lighting conditions, and SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization minimizes the appearance of camera shake with any mounted lens. As previously mentioned, the a68 incorporates a 1.44m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder in addition to a 2.7″ 460.8-dot LCD screen, which features a tilting design to ease the ergonomic strain of photographing from high and low angles.

Sony Alpha a68 DSLR Camera


A manufacturer known for thinking outside of the box, Pentax’s entry-level option features a number of distinctions that separates it from the pack. The K-70 features a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and PRIME MII image processor, which afford an impressive top sensitivity of ISO 204800, 6 fps continuous shooting, and Full HD 1080p/30 fps movie recording. The K-70 also features the SAFOX X 11-point AF system with 9 cross-type points, a 3.0″ 921k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor, and in-camera Shake Reduction image stabilization, which further contributes to the anti-aliasing filter simulator and Pixel Shift Resolution functions. This model is also characterized by its weather-resistant construction, to permit working in trying environments, along with built-in Wi-Fi for wirelessly sharing imagery and remotely controlling the camera from a linked smartphone or tablet.

Pentax K-70 DSLR Camera

How to Buy a Digital Camera

1. Determine what you need

A mistake I see some digital camera buyers making is that they get sucked into buying cameras that are beyond what they really need. Some questions to ask yourself before you go shopping:

  • What do you need the camera for?
  • What type of photography will you be doing? (portraits, landscapes, macro, sports)
  • What conditions will you be largely photographing in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light)
  • Will you largely stay in auto mode or do you want to learn the art of photography?
  • What experience level do you have with cameras?
  • What type of features are you looking for? (long zoom, image stabilization, large LCD display etc)
  • How important is size and portability to you?
  • What is your budget?

Ask yourself these questions before you go to buy a camera and you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision when you see what’s on offer. You’ll probably find the sales person asks you this question anyway – so to have thought about it before hand will help them help you get the right digital camera.

2. Megapixels are NOT everything

One of the features that you’ll see used to sell digital cameras is how many megapixels a digital camera has.

When I first got into digital photography, a few years back, the megapixel rating of cameras was actually quite important as most cameras were at the lower end of today’s modern day range and even a 1 megapixel increase was significant.

These days, with most new cameras coming out with at least 5 megapixels, it isn’t so crucial. In fact at the upper end of the range it can actually be a disadvantage to have images that are so large that they take up enormous amounts of space on memory cards and computers.

One of the main questions to ask when it comes to megapixels is ‘Will you be printing shots’? If so – how large will you be going with them? If you’re only printing images at a normal size then anything over 4 or so megapixels will be fine. If you’re going to start blowing your images up you might want to pay the extra money for something at the upper end of what’s on offer today.

3. Keep in mind the ‘extras’


Keep in mind as you look at cameras that the price quoted may not be the final outlay that you need to make as there are a variety of other extras that you might want (or need) to fork out for including:

  • Camera Case
  • Memory Cards
  • Spare Batteries/Recharger
  • Lenses (if you are getting a DSLR)
  • Filters (and other lens attachments)
  • Tripods/Monopods
  • External Flashes
  • Reflectors

Some retailers will bundle such extras with cameras or will at least give a discount when buying more than one item at once. Keep in mind though that what they offer in bundles might not meet you needs. For example it’s common to get a 16 or 32 megabyte memory card with cameras – however these days you’ll probably want something at least of 500 megabytes (if not a gigabyte or two).

4. Do you already own any potentially compatible gear?

Talking of extra gear – one way to save yourself some cash is if you have accessories from previous digital cameras that are compatible with your new one.

For example memory cards, batteries, lenses (remember that many film camera lenses are actually compatible with digital SLRs from the same manufacturers), flashes, filters etc.

5. DSLR or Point and Shoot?

Dslr-Point-And-ShootWhile digital SLRs are getting more affordable they are not for everyone. Keep in mind that they are usually bigger, heavier, harder to keep clean (if you’re changing lenses) and can be more complicated to operate than point and shoot. Of course there are some upsides also.

If you’re trying to make a decision between a point and shoot and DSLR you might want to read my previous posts titled Should you buy a DSLR or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera? and it’s companion piece How to Choose a DSLR.

6. Optical Zooms are King

Not all ‘zooms’ are created equal.

When you’re looking at different models of digital cameras you’ll often hear their zooms talked about in two ways. Firstly there’s the ‘optical zoom’ and then there’s the ‘digital zoom’.

I would highly recommend that you only take into consideration the ‘optical zoom’ when making a decision about which camera to buy. Digital zooms simply enlarge the pixels in your shot which does make your subject look bigger, but it also makes it look more pixelated and your picture ‘noisier’ (like when you go up close to your TV).

If you’re looking for a zoom lens make sure it’s an optical zoom (most modern cameras have them of at least 3x in length – ie they’ll make your subject three times as big – with an increasing array of ‘super zooms’ coming onto the market at up to 12x Optical Zoom).

7. Read reviews

Before buying a digital camera take the time to do a little research. Don’t JUST rely upon the advice of the helpful sales person (who may or may not know anything about cameras and who may or may not have sales incentives for the camera they are recommending).

Read some reviews in digital camera magazines or online to help you narrow down the field. There are some great websites around that give expert and user reviews on virtually every camera on the market – use this wonderful and free resource.

A little self promotion here – one such site is my Digital Photography Blog which is a site that collates the reviews of many sites from around the web. To use it best enter the camera’s model name that you’re looking for a review on in the search feature in the top right side bar. It’ll give you a link to a central page that has information on the camera as well as links to any reviews published online on that camera from around the web.

8. Hands On Experience

Photo by erinmariepage

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of cameras head into your local digital camera shop and ask to see and play with them. There’s nothing like having the camera in your hands to work out whether it suits your needs.

When I shop for a camera I generally use the web to find reviews, then I head into a street in my city with 4 camera shops side by side and I go from shop to shop asking for recommendations and seeing the cameras live in the flash. In doing this I generally find the same camera or two are recommended in most shops and I get to see them demonstrated by different people (this gives a more well rounded demo). I also get to play with it and get a feel for which one I could see myself using.

9. Negotiate

After you’ve selected the right digital camera for you it’s time to find the best price.

Once again, I generally start online (on a site like our store) and do some searches to find the most competitive prices on the models I’m interested in. With these in hand I’m in a good position to be able to negotiate in person with local stores and/or with online stores. I generally find that retail stores will negotiate on price and will often throw in freebies. Online stores are more difficult – most bigger ones don’t give you the ability to negotiate but smaller ones often will if you email them.

Don’t forget to ask for free or discounted bonuses including camera cases, memory cards, extra batteries, filters, free prints, cases etc. I even know of a couple of stores that offer camera lessons that you can ask to be included. Some stores will also consider giving you a trade in on older gear.

I generally do negotiating from home on the phone and only go into a store to pick up the camera after a price is agreed upon.

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