Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are still the pick for serious photographers, both professional and amateur enthusiast. That’s because they have interchangeable lenses, high build quality and strong manual controls, so you can get your picture just right. They have optical viewfinders (the “single lens reflex” bit refers to the mirror and prism that reflect light coming through the lens up to the viewfinder) that see exactly what the lens does so you know what the picture will look like. Some lower priced DSLRs only show 95 per cent of the image on the viewfinder, but this is close enough for many.
DSLRs usually have bigger sensors than other cameras. The exception to this is the mirrorless or Compact System camera, which uses a digital viewfinder instead of an optical one. This means there’s no need for the mirror system, saving space and weight. Many mirrorless cameras deliver as good an image as a DSLR, and are lighter and smaller. But an electronic viewfinder rarely matches an optical viewfinder. For more information on the different types of camera available, check out our buying guide.
The main brands for DSLRs are Canon and Nikon, though Pentax and Sony make decent models, too. Brands for mirrorless cameras are more varied: Panasonic, Sony and Fujifilm all excel.
Most DSLR cameras are sold without a lens, so you can pick which one to buy separately to suit you, or use compatible lenses you already have. Note that Canon lenses only fit Canon cameras, Nikon lenses only go with Nikon cameras, and so on.
1. Canon EOS 5D Mk IV: £3,499, John Lewis
Fast, responsive, powerful and versatile, the 5D has always been a real jewel and the latest edition is the most capable yet. It’s a 30.4-megapixel camera that performs amazingly in every way, such as with the autofocus, which is super precise whether you’re using the viewfinder or framing your shot on the 3.2in LCD rear screen. It has a full-frame sensor, which means the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film. Like most DSLRs, it shoots video as well, here at the highest 4K resolution. GPS means you can tag your photos easily. Price is for camera body only.