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best beginner DSLR camera

Best Beginner DSLR Camera – Canon T6i Or Nikon D5500

So you want to make the step up from a compact camera or your smart phone and you are wondering ​about the best beginner DSL​R camera for your needs and budget.

What is a DSLR camera? It stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera, and in a nutshell it is an interchangeable lens camera that lets you buy different interchangeable lenses that you can put on and take off depending on the situation you're shooting in. ​

In this article I will review the Canon T6​i and the ​Nikon D5500​, 2 of the best beginner DSLR cameras on the market. 

best beginner DSLR camera

​Now I'm not going into the debate of whether ​Canon or Nikon is better because I have never used Ni​kon full-time. But some of my best friends and some wonderful photographers use Nikons​, so I think it really comes down to whatever feels best in your hand.

Both could easily lay claim to being the best ​entry-level DSLR camera, so that's what I want to examine today and put them side by side. ​

You can see prices for different camera body and lens combination set ups for the Canon T6i here, and the Nikon D5500 here on Amazon. ​

Best Beginner DSLR Camera - Specs Review

So let's get to the nitty gritty review of the best beginner DSLR camera for you. In terms of specs, the picture below pretty much says it all. But I will pick out a couple of points to explain them.

best beginner DSLR camera

You can see that they were released ​around the same date and they have the same size image sensor at 24 megapixels. When you're looking for the best beginner DSLR camera, sensor size is important, coz it relates to how much information the camera can hold and ​retain.

24MP is more than enough for someone's first DSL​R and will produce fantastic quality pictures in almost any situation.

The ​Nikon does have an ISO range that is almost double that of the ​Canon so that is definitely something to consider if you plan on taking pictures in low light.

best beginner DSLR camera

The N​ikon's articulat​ing screen (seen above) is slightly bigger but not much ​more. ​Articulat​ing screens just means ​they fold​ out and ​are able to be manipulated up or down or round into different angles from the back LCD.

Many other higher level cameras do not have this feature, including my Canon 7d mkii​, and I know I missed it when I took a step up from ​my first Canon. You can compare the Canon 7d mkii on Amazon here and see it doesn't have the articulating screen.

You can see in the specs above that the N​ikon is quite a bit lighter than the Canon so if you want something that is more portable then that is also something to think about. However, it won't make that much of a difference when you are adding different lenses to your camera.

Best Beginner DSLR Camera - Canon T6i Over Nikon D5500

​The Canon T6i info is on the left in the table below.

best beginner DSLR camera

Here is a picture of some advantages, or reasons to choose the Canon T6​i over the N​ikon the best beginner DSLR camera.

One ​factor is the number of cross type focus points for automatic focus (autofocus). The Canon ​has 19 crosspoint ​focus points compared with the ​Nikon's ​9.

A cross​point sensor is a horizontal line sensor combined with ​a vertical line sensor on the same automatic focus point, meaning that the ​autofocus point can locate lines in both directions. ​This makes it more likely that the auto​focus will find the area you want to focus on more quickly and accurately.​

The Canon also has smart phone remote control but I can't actually think of when or why you would really use this. Perhaps because my own camera doesn't have it I've never even thought about it but I'm not really sure why you would want to use smart phone remote control but that is a feature that the Canon T6i does have over the ​Nikon D5500.

Best Beginner DSLR Camera - Nikon D5500 Over Canon T6i

​The Nikon D5500 is on the left of the table below.

best beginner DSLR camera

On the other hand, there are a number of reasons to think about the ​Nikon D5500 over the Canon T6i as the best beginner DSLR camera. One is the max ISO. ISO is one of the key features of getting good light in your photos​, along with aperture and shutter speed.

A high ISO range is very good for lowlight photography and helps reduce digital noise. However, this is not such a great issue to worry about because there is plenty of software out there that deals much better with noise th​an either camera can ever do.

Quite incredibly, the battery life of the Ni​kon is almost double that of the Canon. I don't know how they do it but getting almost twice as many shots in one battery charge is something very convenient.

Even with my current camera, the Canon 7d mkii​, I am forever into changing batteries and I always have two or three spares in my pocket at any time. So for convenience sake having a camera that takes double the shots of its main rival is a very big plus point.

The N​ikon also has ​more than double the number of focus points than the Canon has (39-19). But interestingly, all of ​Canon's focus points are cross type focus points, which are far more accurate in getting good focus and metering for more ​correct exposure. Nikon's cross point focus points are highlighted in red above.

So whilst the Ni​kon has more total AF points it might be argued that the Canon has more accurate points. This is something to weigh up. Personally, I often use manual focus anyway as I am a landscape photographer and fast focus is not that important to me.

Best Beginner DSLR Camera - Your Takeaways

In closing, these two cameras are very similarly priced and the features are also very similar. The debate about ​Canon or Ni​kon w​ill rage forever but these two cameras pretty much cancel each other out in terms of advantages and disadvantages.

I started out with a ​Canon when I got into serious DSLR photography but not because I didn't like ​Nikon. It happened to be at that time that ​Canon had a deal with 2 kit lenses, whereas the Nikon did not. So look out for extras thrown in as incentives​

Best Beginner DSLR Camera - ​Different Lens Choices

best beginner DSLR camera

Alternatively, you might use lenses from companies like Tamron, or Sigma, which make lenses with mounts for both Canon and Nikon. I have a number of Tamrons, like my all time favourite travel lens the 16-300mm (for Canon here, for Nikon here)  and the awesome telephoto 150-600mm pictured above (for Canon here, and for Nikon here)

Plus some Sigmas, such as the really affordable 10-20mm wide angle (for Canon here, for Nikon here). So thinking only about Canon or Nikon lenses is not the be all end all when you're searching for the best beginner DSLR for your circumstances or tastes. You'll just need to make sure the lens mounts are for APS-C cameras, which your beginner DSLR will most likely be.

Whichever camera you choose, these are two of the best beginner DSLR cameras out there and I don't think you can go wrong with either. I have put Amazon links to both of them throughout this article and you will see that the price point is similar and the reviews on the pages of people who are using both are very positive.

P.S If you've already decided the best beginner DSLR camera for you, and you want to get out there and take great photos, you'll love this article on 5 rules of​ composition​ in photography

P.P.S And if you're trying to build your social ​media profile on places like Instagram so you can advertise your shots to more people,​ you can learn how to ​build Instagram followers​ here

About the Author Iain Stanley

Hi there Iain here. I made this site simply because I want to find ways of adding multiple income streams to my life so I can retire early and live the good life. Why rely on one income when there are so many ways out there you can earn, especially online? So as I learn about them all, I want to pass my knowledge on to you so you can do the same. Here's hoping we can all retire early and go travel the world or sit by the ocean sipping cocktails!

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  • AlexRockin says:


    This is a great article and I am a beginner in the photography world. I do have a Canon DSL and love it but have always wondered what the difference was between Nikon.

    My Canon was a gift and I feel it fits what I am using it for beautifully. Maybe someday I will purchase a Nikon just to see if it feels different for me.

    Thanks for the awesome information.

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Hi Ann, If you have a Canon and it does exactly what you need it to do, then there’s absolutely no need to go out and buy a Nikon next time round. And vice versa too. They both make awesome cameras at every level and if you started with a Canon, stick with Canon if you’re happy. Perhaps you might go to a different brand if you wanted a mirrorless camera, but that’s for another time.

  • Brendon says:

    Based on your recommendations here I went ahead and got the Canon T6i. I love the auto focus, it helps me get some incredible shots!
    I do wish the battery life was a bit longer, however I fixed that by simply ordering another battery and keep it in my camera bag.
    Great recommendation, Thanks for helping me choose the right camera for me!


    • Iain Stanley says:

      That’s fantastic to hear Brendon. Glad I could help. When you’re starting out with DSLRs I think the T6i is a great choice. And right on about the batteries. I carry 3 with me everywhere, at all times. I just charge them up overnight and make sure they’re ready to go when I head out.

  • Kevin says:

    Hello, Lain,
    I found your post informative and inclusive. I haven’t made up my mind about the camera I want. Your hands-on insights are refreshing. There is a lot of things to consider when trying to decide which camera would work best for me. And what I understand from reading your review it comes down to personal preferences. Such as, what feels good in my hand. And the ease of using the camera.
    I am new to photography. You have given me a benchmark to start my quest. I saw in your post the links to acquire the cameras, but I need to find a photography shop. So I can physically hold the cameras in my hands to see for myself.
    Thanks again,

    • Iain Stanley says:

      Glad I could help Kevin. Choosing the right beginner DSLR camera for you does come down to personal preference and what feels good in your hands. Both Nikons and Canons are great, as are some entry level Sonys and Pentax cameras. Go with what feels good to you. I like Canon because of the lens range you get with them, so that is definitely something to consider. But 3rd party lenses are often just as good 🙂

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