If you've outgrown your point-and-shoot camera or are no longer satisfied with the snaps you get from your smartphone, and feel like you're ready to take your photography to the next level, then an entry-level DSLR is the most obvious choice.
Entry-level DSLRs deliver a big step up in image quality from a compact camera or smartphone, offering far more manual control and the ability to change lenses to tackle a huge variety of projects. Don't worry though – there are also a host of auto modes to help you out until you're comfortable with the more creative controls that a DSLR offers.
Obviously, the more features you want, the more you'll pay, but do you actually need them? Our top camera is one of the cheapest on the market, but still offers impressive performance and image quality, plus enough features to handle most assignments, especially if you're still learning.
You may also want to consider a mirrorless camera as an alternative. If you are thinking about a mirrorless camera, then you might want to read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences. Or, if you're not sure what kind of camera you need at all, then read our easy-to-follow guide to camera types: What camera should I buy?
If you're buying your first DSLR, it makes sense to go for a 'kit', which generally includes the camera body along with an 18-55mm lens. This covers a broad zoom range, perfect for everything from landscapes to portraits, but that's just the start.
The key advantage of DSLRs over compact cameras is that you can add to your kit with, for example, and lenses, a flashgun, and other accessories, to make the most of whatever types of photography you're into.
Canon and Nikon offer the largest collections of DSLR lenses, but Pentax and Sony also offer decent ranges. You're not limited to own-brand lenses either, with the likes of Sigma, Tamron and Tokina selling quality lenses at prices that are often lower than the camera manufacturers' equivalent lenses.
Nikon's D3400 builds on the brilliant D3300, which was until recently our top pick. Sharing pretty much the same design and specification as its predecessor, the D3400 adds Nikon's SnapBridge bluetooth connectivity to transfer images directly to your smart device to make it that much easier to share images. The 24.2MP sensor resolves bags of detail, while the D3400 is also a very easy camera to live with. Its clever Guide Mode is a useful learning tool that gives real-time explanations of important features. There's no touchscreen, but otherwise this is our favorite entry-level DSLR right now.
Read our in-depth Nikon D3400 review
The EOS 800D sits at the top of Canon's entry-level EOS DSLR range. Sporting a newly designed 24.2MP sensor that delivers an improved high ISO performance, the EOS 800D's autofocus also gets a boost, now with a 45-point arrangement that's backed up by excellent live view AF system. There's also newly designed graphical interface that will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users, but the absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint. Perhaps the most expensive option out there, but definitely one of the best.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 800D review
The D5600 competes directly with Canon's EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D at the upper end of the entry-level DSLR market. Where Nikon's D3000-series cameras are designed as cost-conscious introductory DSLRs, the D5000-series is preferable if you want to get more creative. The D5600 sports a large 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen, and while the live view focusing speed could be quicker, the 39-point AF system is the best you'll find in a entry-level DSLR. There isn't much wrong with the D5600's 24.2MP sensor either, delivering excellent results, while the logical control layout of the D5600 makes it easy to use.
Read our in-depth Nikon D5600 review
Replaced by the D3400 last year, the D3300 and D3400 share a very similar set of features (and design for that matter). The biggest difference between the two though is the D3300's lack of connectivity - if you want to transfer your images to your smartphone or tablet, you'll need to invest in Nikon's cheap plug-in Wi-Fi adapter that plugs into one of the ports on the D3300. With stocks running down as the D3400 takes hold, the D3300 is becoming less easy to come by, but if you do track one down at a good price, then you'll get yourself a great beginner DSLR.
Read our in-depth Nikon D3300 review
The EOS 750D may have just been superseded by the EOS 800D, but is still a great option if the price of the newer model puts you off. While the sensor isn't quite as good as the one in the 800D, it's still very good, while the vari-angle touchscreen is still one of the best around. AF performance could be better, but overall this is still a very capable entry-level DSLR.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 750D review
The D5300 was around for little more than a year before the D5500 technically replaced it (which has in turn be replaced by the D5600). It shares the same 24.2MP sensor with an identical maximum ISO25,600 sensitivity as the D5500, whilst the D5300's EXPEED 4 image processor and 39-point autofocus system have also been carried over to its replacement. The D5300 doesn't sport fancy touchscreen control, you do get GPS instead, while the D5300's 600-shot battery life will still outlast a Canon T6i / 750D. All in all, it may not be the latest entry-level DSLR, but the D5300 is still a smart buy.
Read our in-depth Nikon D5300 review
Canon introduced the EOS 100D to compete with the influx of compact system cameras and it was the smallest DSLR available when it was introduced in March 2013. Now replaced by the EOS 200D, its slightly bulkier proportions make it feel more like a slightly pared-down 800D than anything unique. It's not a bad option for new users, but there are better-value alternatives available at the moment.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 200D review
Stick the EOS 700D next to the 750D or the 800D and you'll struggle to tell them apart. The EOS Rebel 700D is really intuitive to use, regardless of your ability, but the 700D's sensor can trace its roots back to the 550D that was released in 2010 and it's now outclassed in terms of noise suppression and dynamic range. The 9-point autofocus system is also dated and you don't get Wi-Fi connectivity. The 700D's slashed price does make it a tempting proposition though, but the 750D or 800D is a more future-proof choice.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 700D review
The EOS 1300D is Canon's cheap and cheerful entry-level DSLR. While not featuring quite the same impressive spec as pricier models up the Canon range, you still get a solid set of features for the beginner including Wi-Fi and NFC technology built-in. This means you can transfer images to your smartphone for super-quick sharing. Images from the 18MP sensor are more and adequate, but is starting to show its age against rivals with higher pixel counts.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 1300D review
Pentax is renowned for producing DSLRs with maximum bang per buck, and the K-70 is no exception. Weatherproof DSLRs that are rain and dust resistant usually cost a packet, but the K-70 offers this protection at a reasonable price so you can shoot in all conditions. Just remember that you'll have to partner it with more expensive WR (weather resistant) lenses to get the full benefit. Regardless of the lens you use, the new hybrid live view autofocus system makes live view shooting an enjoyable and practical alternative to using the viewfinder. Pentax's in-camera Shake Reduction system cuts camera shake and can even correct slightly skewed horizons. The only reason the K-70 isn't higher on our list is Pentax's relatively restricted lens range.
Read our in-depth Pentax K-70 review