Which is the best SLR camera? I’ll show you what to look for and give you three specific recommendations for the best full-frame DSLR.
If you don’t want to read it all, I’ve provided a quick reference below that you can use as a guide.
- What does the best SLR camera have to be able to do?
- Why the best SLR camera is also the best full-frame camera
- Tip: Is the number of megapixels a decision criterion?
- The best SLR / full frame camera / DSLR – My top 3 recommendations – SLR camera comparison
- Which is the best DSLR camera?
Of course, this article reflects purely my personal opinion and is based on my experience of more than 15 years of photography.
What does the best SLR camera have to be able to do?
Very good image quality
SLR cameras are known for their great image quality. This has improved even more in recent years. Especially the first-ranked camera can almost compete with medium format cameras in terms of resolution. All of the SLR cameras I recommend have more than 30 megapixels. This number is also sufficient for very large prints.
If you are considering a high-end SLR camera with many megapixels, then you should also be aware that you will need good lenses for it. Even if there is the possibility to buy a kit lens with every camera, you can only achieve resolutions like 50 megapixels with a good fixed focal length.
Newsletter Lead 1 – E-BookBuilding a good camera also means knowing how the user can operate the camera quickly and intuitively. Here, how the controls are arranged on the camera plays a major role. The menu structure is just as important. The more you use the camera, the faster you become with it. You basically get used to every camera. Still, there are camera manufacturers that do a noticeably better job here than others. For me personally, Canon and Nikon are ahead.
Good autofocus system
The best sensor is of little value if the images are blurred because the autofocus is not accurate. Especially portrait and wedding photographers can sing a song about this. Of course, autofocus is of primary importance when you take a lot of pictures and your subjects are moving. For landscape photos from a tripod, the autofocus system is of secondary importance.
For sports, wildlife and wedding photographers, the speed of the camera plays a big role. But it also matters for amateur photographers. Many moments that want to be photographed exist only for a brief moment. A good SLR camera should have a suitable continuous shooting speed (frames per second) and be able to quickly store the pictures taken on the memory card. So you can continue shooting even while the camera is still saving.
Good battery life
Actually a trivial point, but the power consumption of some system cameras is already immense. The battery should last long enough. On a day trip for my landscape photography, I always have a battery in the camera and a spare battery with me. For my Canon camera this works, but for my Fuji camera I would rather need three batteries.
Even entry-level DSLRs today almost universally provide the ability to record FullHD video with them. Professional SLRs, on the other hand, can almost all deliver 4K videos, and certain models even higher resolutions. For this, a large and fast memory card then also plays a role.
If you want to do more in the area of videos, you should also pay attention to codecs, bit rates and connection options such as an external microphone.
Why the best SLR camera is also the best full-frame camera
All of the cameras I recommend here have a full-frame sensor. A full-frame camera has a sensor measuring 36 x 24 mm, which corresponds to an image on 35 mm film. Such a large full-frame sensor provides high image quality with good noise performance. The best SLR cameras are therefore also the best full-frame cameras.
Tip: Is the number of megapixels a decision criterion?
The following cameras all have between 30 and 45 megapixels. The difference here is absolutely minimal. Many megapixels are only better if you often print your pictures large. For example for exhibitions in 150 x 100 cm. Even with the 18 MP of my Canon EOS 700D, I can easily make 90 x 60 cm prints that are sharp. So when I’m looking for a new DSLR camera, the number of megapixels practically doesn’t interest me anymore.
The best SLR / full frame camera / DSLR – My top 3 recommendations – SLR camera comparison
The following cameras are the best in the field of SLR cameras that are currently available for purchase. I update this list regularly as changes occur. It is an SLR camera comparison where I go into detail about the individual features of each camera.
3rd place: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
With the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon has a camera in its range that replaces the already very good 5D III. The image quality of the 30 megapixel full-frame camera is very good up to ISO 3200. The dynamic range has improved and especially the video functions have been improved. There is 4K resolution and HDR here. It also comes with Wi-Fi, a touchscreen and GPS. The handling is generally on Canon EOS level, which is a big plus for me.
What can the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV not do so well? When the ISO goes higher than 3200, the image quality drops. However, in my opinion, that is also the only minus point.
- 30 megapixels
- Very good handling
- 4K videos
- 3.2 inch display
- Very good image quality up to ISO 3200
Plus points: Very good image quality, large viewfinder, 4K videos
2nd place: Pentax K-1 II
The Pentax K-1 II is the second version of Pentax’s full-frame SLR camera. It has 36.4 megapixels and is equipped with many great features. Highlights are the LEDs for operating the camera in the dark, the image stabilizer directly in the housing and the robust construction. In addition, Pentax scores with the lowest price within the top 3 of the best SLR cameras.
- 36 megapixels
- Versatile configurability
- Great features with LED for card slot remote shutter release and bayonet
- 3.2 inch display
- Image stabilizer in housing
- Robust housing
- Good dynamic range
- Sensor shift against blur and for more detailed photos
- Speed of autofocus and image saving mediocre
Plus points: High image quality, super features, good price/performance ratio
1st place: Nikon D850
Nikon has actually managed to make the already great D810 just that little bit better. The Nikon D850 is so good that it tops my list of the best SLR cameras.
The sensor is now 45.7 megapixels and detail reproduction is superb. The D850 also places high demands on the lenses used. To take advantage of the 46 megapixels, good fixed focal lengths should be used. The use of a tripod is also advisable.
As with the predecessor, the dynamic range is on a high level. According to DxOMark, 14.8 f-stops are achieved at the lowest ISO.
- 45.7 megapixels
- Very large viewfinder
- Very good noise behavior
- Good handling
- Large touchscreen flip display
- Excellent workmanship
- Good autofocus
- Fixed focal length and tripod recommended
Plus points: Outstanding image quality, great handling, splash-proof.
Which is the best DSLR camera?
The best SLR camera is currently the Nikon D850. It has all the features that make a good DSLR: very good image quality, intuitive handling, a good autofocus system, high speed and a good battery life. Nikon has built a great camera here that nothing is likely to top in a hurry. That’s why the Nikon D850 is currently the best SLR camera for me.
If you’re not sure whether you want a system camera or an SLR, you can find my article on the best system cameras here. You can also find an overview of all my camera tests and guides here.