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Best DSLR Cameras Under $500

Best DSLR Cameras Under $500

If you are looking to break into professional photography or simply want a camera that can take stunning images of your friends or family, inexpensive DSLR cameras are quickly becoming the go to product to use. While they may not offer the same wealth of options as some of the highest end cameras, they are more than capable of producing images that can rival those of all but the most expensive pieces of equipment.
However, figuring out which DSLR camera is right for you can be tricky. That is why we have put together a helpful buyer’s guide so you know what to look for. Then, we provide a list of 5 of the best dslr camera under 500, so you have a solid reference of what is available.

Our Best DSLR Cameras Under $500 For 2017

Buyer’s Guide

Sensor:

The sensor is arguably the most important part of a DSLR camera. The size and quality of the sensor will directly impact the overall image quality of the shot. Granted, understanding other settings can improve image quality as well, but all things equal, larger and better sensors will produce superior shot image quality.

Size

For DSLR cameras, sensors will generally come in one of two sizes: APS-C and Full Frame. As the name suggests, full frame is the largest sensor size for DSLR cameras while APS-C sensors are a little bit more than half the size of full frame sensors. However, this affects more than simply the shot’s cropping size.
The size of the sensor will generally determine how much light the camera can capture which translates to sharper, more detailed images. However, the larger the sensor size, the more expensive the camera, so you will need to balance what you actually need before investing in a camera with the largest sensor.

Type

DSLR cameras come with one of two types of sensors: CMOS or CCD. These two types of sensors function differently in such a way that there is a clearly superior type--the CCD. However, the gap between the types of sensors is quickly narrowing--even if the difference is cost is not.
Ultimately, the CCD makes a direct conversion from analog to digital signals. This allows for a more accurate signal translation and reduces the amount of image noise--especially in low-light settings. Of course, CCD sensors have been around far longer than CMOS sensors, the latter of which will likely soon catch up to the more mature sensor.

Resolution

Despite what manufacturers say, megapixels are not the most relevant factor when choosing a camera--regardless the camera type. While there are some notable exceptions to this premise centered specifically around different niches of photography, the overwhelming majority of photography types do not require the most megapixels.
That being said, if you intend to shoot large frame shots, like landscapes, or extreme close up shots, like with bird or certain floral photography, you will want to make sure your camera offers a large number of megapixels. However, unless you plan to blow your images up for large prints, most other types of photography do not require megapixels beyond the 16 mp range.
It is also important to note that not all megapixels are created equally. Showing once again why the sensor is one of the more important components of a DSLR camera, larger sensors are able to better translate the light of the pixel, producing superior image quality with less grain in lower light conditions.

Exposure

For an amateur photographer, the exposure settings are not necessarily all that relevant. Find a camera with automatic tuning functions and a wide range of exposures, and you should be able to take excellent photographs without too much input or specialized knowledge on your end.
However, professional photographers and dedicated enthusiasts will require a camera with a wealth of exposure settings that each offer a wide range of options and a fully manual control. The three primary exposure settings of a camera are aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity.

Aperture

The aperture of your DSLR camera will ultimately determine how much light is allowed to pass through the lens and onto the sensor. However, unlike the sensor itself, the aperture will shift in size to produce a different image style without inherently affecting the image’s quality.
Aperture is measured in f-stops with the rating displayed in f/”#”, like f/22 or f/3.1. It is important to note that the larger the number after the “f,” the smaller the aperture. In terms of quality, the widest range of apertures is generally considered the best with exceptionally small apertures being necessary for incredibly focused and detailed images.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed, and its importance, will often matter more depending on the type of photography you shoot. The slower the shutter speed, the more light is exposed to the sensor. However, a slower shutter speed will also often result in blurred images if the subject is moving.
If you simply want to take a family photo at a holiday gathering indoors, you can leave the shutter speed on a lower setting to take a better shot in the lower light conditions. However, taking a picture at a child’s sporting event will almost certain require a quick shutter speed to prevent the details of the moving subjects from blurring together.

ISO Sensitivity

ISO will affect how sensitive your camera’s sensor is to light. Keep in mind, this feature provides a range to allow different settings--much like the other qualities of a camera’s exposure. As such, the maximum and minimum ISO sensitivities are key qualities to look for.
Much like aperture and shutter speed, the ISO sensitivity affects how much light your sensor can read. However, unlike the prior two qualities, the ISO sensitivity does not control the light before it hits the sensor and instead alters how the sensor responds to the light.
Ultimately, the ISO sensitivity can help most in the extreme light settings where your subject is either extremely bright or exceptionally dim. Regardless, a good rule is use as low of an ISO sensitivity setting as you can to prevent image noise and produce a sharper shot.


The Best DSLR Cameras Under $500 Reviewed


The Canon T6 is a solid DSLR camera, but it definitely feels like it comes up a bit short when compared to the Nikon models. A large part of this is that the Canon is priced similarly to the Nikons but does not offer quite as good of specs.
For instance, the Canon T6 features the second lowest ISO sensitivity range on our list--second only to the point and shoot Coolpix. With 100 to 6400 ISO sensitivity, you will be far more limited in terms of your low light settings without the use of a flash--something professional photographers avoid in a variety of niches if they can help it.
Still, the Canon is a decent product with a nice autofocus system that uses 9 points--keep in mind, a 7 point system is generally a standard “quality” autofocus system. Moreover, the Canon T6 also uses a high quality pentamirror viewfinder that displays a wealth of information for quick reference.

PROS

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    Provides built-in wifi connectivity for easy sharing
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    Provides a solid 9 point autofocus system
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    Offers a solid pentamirror viewfinder

CONS

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    Dust must be manually cleaned from the sensor
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    Has a subpar ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 6400
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    Has the lowest still resolution of 18 megapixels

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 $500. Though the autofocus isn't that great with this camera, the image quality is comparable to the cost. The K-S2 features a crop sensor with 20 megapixels, and comes with an 18-55mm kit lens, a dedicated "selfie" mode and a Wi-Fi with dedicated Wi-Fi connect button.

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 Nikon D3400 is extremely similar to the D3300 is so many ways that you truly have to dig into the camera’s different features to figure out what sets one apart from the other. Unfortunately, this is not simply a matter of one product simply being better than the other--though, most of the differences do sway in favor of the D3400.
However, one of the more telling features absent from the D3400 that is included in the D3300 is the ultrasonic sensor cleaner. For amateur or even consumer photographers, the ability to clean the sensor without having to open up the camera was a godsend. Instead, the D3400 requires that you clean the sensor manually.
Still, the D3400 is not without improvement over the D3300. First, the native ISO sensitivity range has been increased from a native maximum of 12,800 to 25,600. Keep in mind, even though the D3300 could artificially be boosted, that did not work as well as a native 25,600 ISO sensitivity. Also, the D3400 features a bluetooth connectivity for easier sharing with smart devices.

PROS

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    Native ISO sensitivity of 100 to 25,600
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    Provides the best video capture of 1080p resolution at 60fps
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    Provides the highest still resolution of 24.2 megapixels

CONS

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    Dust must must be manually cleaned from the sensor
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    The most expensive product on our list

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is actually fairly similar to the T6 in numerous ways. Specifically, a number of the objective measurables used to judge the quality of a camera are the same. Both offer a maximum still resolution of 18 megapixels and both have the same native aperture range. However, the SL1 definitely takes a step forward in terms of convenience.
First, the SL1 offers a 4 fps continuous shooting compared to the T6s 3 fps. While this may not seem significant, catching a quality action shot will definitely show its value in terms of the continuous shot speed--though, both of these are less than the Nikon D’s 5fps continuous shot speed.
Still, one of the nicer qualities of the SL1 is the fact that its viewfinder also doubles as a touch screen control. This can make changing the settings and scanning your images much easier. Unfortunately, the SL1 does not offer the same wifi connectivity as the T6, so you will still have to manually upload your images to external hardware to retrieve your photos.

PROS

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    Can record video in 1080p resolution at 30fps
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    Provides a decent ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 12800, expandable to 25,600
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    Has touch screen controls for easy use

CONS

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    Dust must be manually cleaned from the sensor
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    Has a somewhat narrow native aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.6
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    Has the lowest still resolution of 18 megapixels

The Nikon D3300 is a solid starting point for beginning photographers and amateurs alike. Its price point is more in line with the Canon’s on our list, but it offers most of the features that the D3400 does. Moreover, it provides one feature that no other product on our list comes with: automatic sensor cleaning.
Unless you are a professional photographer or have intentions of becoming one, this feature alone might make the Nikon D3300 the best dslr camera under 500 for you. Keep in mind, for all of the other cameras on our list, you must physically open the body to clean the sensor. While opening the body is not exceptionally difficult, the sensor is incredibly delicate and accidental damage is not out of the question.
Beyond the ultrasonic sensor cleaner, the D3300 also features a decent ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 12,800 with an upgradeable digital option of 25,600--however, it should be known that this upgraded option is not as good as a true 25,600 ISO sensitivity. Still, with 24.2 megapixels and and 1080p video recording, the image quality is stellar.

PROS

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    Comes with an ultrasonic sensor cleaner
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    Provides a decent ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 12800, expandable to 25,600
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    Provides the highest still resolution of 24.2 megapixels

CONS

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    Does not offer any native wireless connectivity

Conclusion

When looking for the best dslr camera under 500, your options are somewhat limited. That does not mean that there are no quality products available, but you will definitely need to identify which features are most important--since you are unlikely to get all of them. If ease of use is most important,  the Nikon D3300 may be your best options, it had a  self-cleaning system is incredibly convenient. 

However, both the Canon’s and the Pentax have a feature of convenience that is increasingly important in our interconnected world: wifi connectivity. Keep in mind, the D3400’s connectivity is not nearly as robust and relies on an inferior Bluetooth signal transmission. Regardless, for those Instagram photographers, the Canon may be a better fit.

Best DSLR Camera Under $1000

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.