The commonplace DSLR camera is the backbone of professional photography. Sure, the point-and-shoot cameras of yesterday may have given way to the convenience of smartphones, but the latter doesn’t provide the kind of resourcefulness afforded by a solid DSLR. The large-sensor bearing, big-bodied cameras are capable instruments that yield the highest quality, professional level photos. Features like interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, hot shoe ports, and battery packs also mean you can arm your device to the hilt, though, the body alone will likely set you back well before accessories do. Nonetheless, if you can afford it and are willing to master the art of manual, below is a host of our favorite DSLRs on the market.
Nikon D750 ($2,300+)
There’s no perfect digicam, but rest assured the Nikon D750 comes close. Although the shutter speed tops out at 1/4,000, the camera still manages to capture gorgeous 24.3-megapixel stills and superb 1080/60p video, allowing for the utmost color accuracy and some of the best video available with any DSLR. It’s also the first full-frame DSLR with built-in Wi-Fi, and moreover, showcases quick response time thanks to the 51-point focusing system. It has a tendency to underexpose scenes at times, too, but its well-rounded set of features and ability to shoot 6.5 frames per second make its few flaws easy to overlook. Don’t let the manual dissuade you. (Editors’ note: Users are reporting flare issues. Nikon is working with retailers to restock shelves with newer cameras. Inquire about this if you decide to buy one.)
Nikon D810 ($3,000)
The D810 is not made for the casual shutterbug. The big brother to the D750, the standalone body is the most expensive on our list, yet thankfully, its rock-solid construction and wealth of capabilities also render it a standout in the field. It captures 36.3-megapixel, full-frame images at 5 fps that are as rich as 35mm film, while delivering beautiful 1080/60p video that shines in terms of tone and feel. The top shutter speed and ISO range is 1/8,000th of second and 32 to 51,200, respectively, rendering it just as capable as it is bulky. Too bad it lacks Wi-Fi, though.
Canon 7D Mark II ($1,800)
Like its successor, the stupendous EOS 7D, the EOS 7D Mark II excels when it comes to sports and wildlife photography. It flaunts excellent 20.2-megapixel stills and a 10-fps burst mode for capturing a slew of images in quick succession, along with the ability to capture 1080/60p video with its innovative Dual Pixel autofocusing technology. The camera also comes with built-in GPS and a viewfinder with 100-percent field of view, adding more to a distinct Canon “feel” that basks in a max shutter speed of 1/8,000 and native ISO of 100-16,000. The ability to unload 1,000-shot bursts is only the beginning.
Canon 70D ($1,200)
The Canon 70D is just as apt for the professional photographer as it is the budding filmmaker. Its hallmarks lies with its breakneck response times, whether capturing 20.2-megapixel stills at 7 fps or filming at 1080/30p, as well as its Dual Pixel AF for quicker focusing during Live View. The resulting video is almost as close to a dedicated camcorder as you can get, while the streamlined design is adorned with an EF-mount that accepts 103 different lenses. Plus, it’s loaded with everything else an advanced photographer could want.
Pentax K-3 ($800)
Pentax isn’t a household name, but it has a loyal following that swears by DSLRs like the flagship K-3. The 24-megapixel APS-C enthusiast DSLR delivers fine images that showcase an accurate palette of colors and revel in the camera’s swift, 27-point autofocus system, and has an attractive sub-$1,000 price – the most affordable of the bunch. The robust device is additionally weather-sealed – meaning it can handle the occasional bout of rain or snow – and boasts an adjustable anti-aliasing filter simulator, a feature rarely offered elsewhere. A burst speed of 8.3 frames per second and the ability to shoot 1080p/60i only add to the fanfare. The K-3 now has a new sibling, the K-3 II, which builds on the K-3 with improved shake reduction – the most advanced of any K-series camera; GPS, which allows for the Astrotracer mode for shooting long exposure of the night sky; Pixel Shift Resolution that, when placed on a tripod, and can shoot a higher-megapixel image by shifting the sensor. The sequel sells for $1,000.