Best DSLR Camera Under $1000

If you intend to take your photography seriously, either as a professional or just as a hobby, at some point you will have to spring for a DSLR. Short for Digital Single Lens Reflex, DSLR refers to cameras that offer the photographer a greater degree of control and flexibility over the images they take compared to standard digital cameras. Though DSLR’s can be quite expensive, luckily there are plenty of affordable options on the market to choose from, and we’re here to help you narrow down the best DSLR camera under 1000.

Our Best DSLR Cameras Under $1000 For 2018

Buyer’s Guide

Lenses

One of the advantages of shooting with a DSLR is the ability to use different lenses. Different photo shoots will call for different lenses, which vary in terms of focal length. For instance, if you are trying to take very close up images of flowers or insects, you will most likely want to use a macro lens. In the opposite situation, you would most likely spring for a telephoto lens if your subject is very far away from your camera.

To get the most out of your camera, it’s a good idea to have a variety of different lenses you can use in different shooting situations; the downside to this is that lenses can often cost as much if not more than the DSLR itself. However, many DSLR “kits” can be found for under $1,000 these days that come with a few different focal lenses. 

Sensor

The image sensor is the part of a DSLR that processes light and is responsible for capturing the image once the shutter is pushed down. When it comes to DSLRs, you really only have two options in this department: full frame or APS-C, commonly referred to as a crop sensor. Cameras that use a crop sensor will generally be less expensive, while full frame sensors are considered to be of higher quality as they allow more light in and will provide clearer image quality, especially in low light situations.

Shutter Speed

The power of a DSLR lies in what is known as the photography triad, which refers to the ability to manually control shutter speed, ISO and aperture. We’ll get into the second two elements next, but let’s start with shutter speed. Shutter speed refers to how quickly the camera’s shutter opens and closes when you take a picture. The length of time that it remains open controls how much light enters and how long it takes the camera to capture an image.

In most situations, you will be using a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second or faster, as to not let in too much light or cause the image to blur from small movements in your hand. However, in low light situations or for the special effect we often will need a much slower shutter speed. The range of shutter speeds each camera is capable of will vary. Some cameras will allow you to have very long shutter speeds, up to 30 seconds or a minute, while others may top out at a lower value.

ISO Sensitivity

ISO, which stands for International Standards Organization, is a measurement system that pertains to a camera’s sensitivity to light. The lowest number, generally 50 or 100, indicates the smallest amount of light the camera can sense, with the highest number representing the highest sensitivity to light. The upper limit of a camera’s ISO can fall within a wide range, with some models capping out around 800 while others go all the way up to 10,000 or even much higher. For everyday purposes, we won’t generally go over a thousand or two, but for nighttime photography or it can be necessary to have a much higher value.

Aperture

Aperture is another important element of the photography triad and is used to control how much light enters the camera’s lens. When you adjust the aperture, the camera’s iris will either open larger or get smaller. The size of the aperture is measured in f-stops, with larger f-stops representing a smaller aperture and vice versa. The number of f-stops available on each DSLR will vary some but most will feature a range from 1 up to 32, though most of the cameras in our price range won’t go that high. Different lenses can be used to supplement the f-stop range as well. To have the most control over your image, you will want as wide a range of f-stops as possible.

Video Mode

Another common feature that you’ll find on many modern DSLR’s is the capability to record video footage. While this won’t be an important feature to everyone, it can definitely add a lot of value to a camera and make it a more versatile creative tool. In fact, DSLR’s have become a standard in contemporary film production in recent years and many customers who are looking to buy one will be intending to use it primarily for videography. All the photographic advantages of a DSLR like the depth of field and manual control will apply to video work, and most of what you’ll find will be capable of shooting HD footage.

Advanced Features

The features discussed above are fairly standard and should be present on basically all DSLRs to some degree, but there are a number of advanced features that may or may not be important to you. These include extra bells and whistles like Wifi connectivity so you can post your pictures to the internet from your camera, HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Panoramic modes, scene recognition modes, burst mode and automatic exposure and focus adjustments. You may also want to consider the accessories that come included with your cameras, such as camera bags, memory cards, lens filters, extra batteries and external flashes.


The Best DSLR Cameras Under $1000 Reviewed


The Rebel T6 delivers in the area what is most important for a camera, and that is in capturing good quality images. Considering the low price, photographers will be able to get a lot of value out of this camera, which produces high quality JPEGs with good color content and sharp clarity. The T6 has a live optical viewfinder that can be used for shooting, but it should be noted that it isn’t 100% accurate and your photos may not look quite the way you framed them up, as there are small blind spots.

The ISO range for the T6 is from 100-6400, which gives you a lot of room to play around with. The higher range of the ISO is enough for low light situations, though you can expect a fair bit of noise to be introduced into the image.

In terms of extra features, the T6 includes video capabilities and wi-fi connectivity. The video mode includes HD shooting mode, although the focus is constructed to single point auto focus. The wi-fi connectivity is a fairly standard add-on these days, but the interface is straightforward and makes photo sharing simple. Android users will be able to use their phone for near field communication (NFC), but iPhone users won’t be able to take advantage of this feature.

PROS

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    Great value for price
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    Image quality is good
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    Lightweight

CONS

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    Plastic construction makes it less durable
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    Live optical viewfinder isn’t completely accurate
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    Doesn’t support multiple focus points in video mode

Alongside from Canon, Nikon has a reputation as one of the top DSLR manufacturer’s on the market and for good reason. The D5600 is another great camera that can be found for less than $1,000, offering a great value to photographers with a myriad of top notch features.

The ISO range extends from 100 all the way to 25,600, offering plenty of flexibility for low light situations. This camera also features a versatile 39 point focus system, as well as a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 sec.

The video mode for the D5600 is capable of shooting at 1080p and 60fps, and the LCD display screen is touch enabled making it simple to navigate the shortcut menu. To help save on battery life, the D5500 includes an ‘eye sensor’ that will turn off power to the LCD display when you look through the viewfinder.

PROS

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    Wide range ISO sensitivity
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    24.2 megapixel sensor
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    Great image quality

CONS

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    Lacks a secondary control dial which has become standard
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    Smartphone app is basic and sometimes unreliable
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    High ISO values can ‘smudge’ details in JPEG

Pentax K-S2 digital camera

Though Pentax doesn’t quite have the brand recognition that Nikon and Canon boast, they produce good quality cameras that affordable and their K-S2 model is another good DSLR that can be found for under $1000. Though the autofocus with this camera doesn’t quite stack up to similarly priced products, the image quality is comparable to the cost. The K-S2 features a crop sensor with 20.1 megapixels, and comes with an 18-55mm kit lens.

One of the great features present on the K-S2 is the fact that it is weather sealed. In this price range, you will be hard pressed to find other cameras that offer that degree of durability. This will especially appeal to outdoor photographers who often have to deal with having their equipment exposed to the elements. Other features include wifi connectivity and a video mode that shoots at 1080p/30fps.

PROS

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    Weather sealed
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    Takes good quality images
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    Comes with an 18-55mm lens

CONS

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    Crop sensor
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    Autofocus isn’t great
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    Control layout isn’t always intuitive

The Canon EOS 70D is a mid-range Digital SLR for enthusiast photographers. It has a lot of Canon's best tech in existing SLRs, including the autofocus sensor from the EOS 7D, the fully articulated touchscreen like in the Rebel T5i, and built-in Wi-Fi as the EOS 6D.

It offers a 20.2MP resolution and uses a 'Dual Pixel CMOS AF', which hugely improved autofocus in both live view and movie recording, but it does not allow tracking autofocus while shooting continuously.

The ISO rang is from 100-12800 standard and can go up to 25600 expanded, the video mode can shot at 1080p and 30fps video recording, stereo sound via external mic.

The EOS 70D has all what the enthusiast photographer wants and needs,  live view and movie mode autofocus. Good continuous shooting performance.

PROS

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    Dual Pixel CMOS AF makes movie and live view modes more usable
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    Great LCD and responsive touchscreen
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    7 fps shooting speed

CONS

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    Dual Pixel CMOS AF does not allow tracking autofocus while shooting continuously
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    Complicated Wi-Fi setup
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    Disappointing battery life in live view mode

On the high end for our range, up to $1000 we can find the Nikon D7200 DX-format DSLR Body only. But if you can stretch your budget a little bit then we think this camera can be a great fit for you.

The D7200's image quality is excellent, it offers 24.2MP CMOS sensor, the ISO rang is from 100-25600, 1/8000 sec maximum shutter speed, the autofocus is very impressive and is only matched by mirrorless cameras that have the advantage of continuous scene data from the image sensor. Video quality is a little less impressive than the competitors.

If you mainly want to shoot stills, then the D7200 is your obvious choice.

PROS

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    Very good battery life
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    simple Wi-Fi implementation
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    Small and light body for a DSLR at this level

CONS

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    No control of aperture in movie or live view modes
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    Video quality is a little less impressive
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    Wi-Fi app is limited

Conclusion

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages of each of the cameras on this guide, we’ve determined that the Nikon D5600 is the best DSLR Camera under 1000. Unless you can stretch your budget a little bit then we think Nikon D7200 DX-format DSLR Body only can be a more advanced choice (but it's a more expensive one). There is a lot of competition in the mid-range DSLR market, but the D5600 manages to blow it out of the water with a ton of great features like excellent image quality, wide range ISO sensitivity, high quality video mode, and a touchscreen LCD display. All in all, Nikon’s D5600 offers a ton of value for the money and you would be hard pressed to find a better DSLR in its price range.