Back in 1900, our world was introduced to the snapshot courtesy of the “brownie” camera. This was the first instance of personal cameras making their way mainstream, allowing individuals to capture major moments on their own.
In the 120 years since the Brownie was introduced, cameras have evolved, evolved again, and continue to evolve today. With the ability to capture moments that lasted even just a fraction of a second, or were so miniscule that they would normally only be picked up by a microscope, personal cameras have transformed the way we document everything.
Nikon, the brand that has grown synonymous with high quality cameras, got its start in Tokyo during 1917. Beginning by producing things like rangefinders and microscopes, Nikon’s focus has always been on providing top-notch optical tools.
By 1946, the Nikon name was being marketed for small-sized cameras and bringing the art of photography to everyday people.
Since the turn of the century, Nikon has continually pushed the development of cameras, improving the quality and ease of use with each model they introduce.
Gone are the days of having to bring your entire family to Sears just to get a decent quality portrait taken. Instead, Nikon’s high-quality cameras allow even the most amateur of photographers to take professional grade photos.
If you ever want to shock yourself with how far optic technology has come, take a look at something taken by a paid photographer from years ago and compare it to the images that you regularly take today. Shocked, amazed, flabbergasted—no matter your exact reaction, it all boils down to being impressed by the noticeable differences in quality.
Nikon DSLR vs. Cell Phone Camera
There are obvious benefits to using your iPhone camera instead of a professional grade camera. Cell phones are small, lightweight and you always have yours with you. Additionally, phone cameras have improved so dramatically that they produce higher quality images than most digital cameras did just a short time ago. A camera from Nikon gives you all this and more.
Gone are the days where you needed to be intimidated by cameras with large lenses protruding from the base. Rather than keeping their products exclusive to professionals, Nikon has made it so even those new to photography have no problem getting acquainted with what seems like a complicated camera. Today, consumers are graced with user-friendly cameras.
Nikon Camera Reviews
Aside from the D3500, the Nikon DSLR cameras we have profiled and reviewed all come as a base unit (body only). Interchangeable lenses that help you get the perfect shot, no matter the scenario, can be purchased separately. By carefully examining the features and specific applications each option is best for, we are confident that you will find the camera tools that will take your photography to the next level.
Related: Mirrorless Camera Deals
Here are the best Nikon DSLR cameras:
1. Best Overall: Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Nikon D850 Review
There’s no other way to say this—the Nikon D850 is not a cheap camera. It’s not for everyone, but for those willing to part with roughly 3 Grand, there is not a higher quality Nikon camera on the market.
Many photographers have multiple cameras that serve different styles of photography. For those looking to consolidate bases and get themselves a camera that does a little bit of everything, consolidating your funds and trading up to the D850 is an avenue worth exploring.
One top feature that is not found on less expensive cameras, and if it is, is lower quality, is the ability to focus in near darkness. Autofocus will bring you down to -4 exposure value. For the most experienced of photographers, the cameras ability is the benefit. For less experienced photographers, autofocus in the dark takes guesswork out of the equation so you can get high quality photos regardless of light exposure.
Speaking of autofocus, this base model has a system that includes 153 focus points and 99 cross-type sensors. With such an advanced system on the D850, capturing fast moving action is hardly a challenge.
For immediate feedback (and gratification), the D850 has a back-side illuminated full-frame sensor. Coupled with a 45.7-megapixel image sensor, your images will be clearer than with any camera you’ve had before.
To make it easier to hit shots from different angles, the D850 has a tilting touchscreen that comes with a touch autofocus system which will help you take high quality photos even when you don’t have the luxury of being directly behind the camera.
The top-rated feature, Image Stabilization owns a 5/5-star rating further cementing this camera as a photographer favorite. Additionally, it has a 4.6-star rating for both versatility, picture quality and auto focus.
Original Retail $2,996.95
2. Best Mid-Range DX: Nikon D7500 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only)
Nikon D7500 Review
An option between the mid and high-priced Nikon cameras, the list price on the D7500 is nearly $1,250 but this model can often be found for under $900. Coming with, and mastering all benefits of mid-price range cameras, this model is a great first step into the world of top of the line Nikon cameras.
Picture this, you have your child’s soccer game Saturday morning and you let your camera charge overnight to prep for the big day. You take a few pictures before leaving your house and as they warm up, and then boom—camera goes dead. You ultimately miss the winning goal and ensuing celebration, and if there aren’t pictures to document it, did it really happen? With the D7500, you’ll get pictures from the first and final minute.
Thanks to the high-quality battery it uses, you’ll be able to capture 950 shots on a single battery life, so long as you aren’t also utilizing the built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities.
For picking up faces and other key elements in your photography, the D7500 uses a 180,000-pixel RGB sense, which also improves autofocus. To see what you’re shooting, this camera has a 3.2-inch touchscreen that also tilts out for when you need to take pictures from odd angles.
The most useful feature for your outdoor photographers is the external coating of the camera which is designed to seal all vulnerable components from outside elements including moisture and dust, which to the wrong camera could lead to devastating damage.
While picture quality is definitely close to the top of your list for camera characteristics, the best picture taking ability does not matter if the camera breaks down after bumping it against something or putting it down a hair too hard. Thankfully, this model gets a perfect 5-star rating for durability. When you throw in the 4.8-star rating for autofocus and picture quality, it proves beyond brand reputation that the D7500 is a Nikon DSLR to love.Original Retail $1,246.95
3. Best Mid-Range FX: Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Nikon D750 Review
As you start to creep up the price scale, Nikon camera features become more advanced and efficient. For the D750, with a list price nearly $2000, there is an abundance of exciting qualities that will have you breaking your camera out every chance you can get.
After a long day of snapping pictures, you’re going to want to review your work. Rather than lug your camera back out and connect to the computer or look at a small camera screen, you can use built in Wi-Fi sharing to send your pictures directly to your cell phone or tablet.
Since you will be sending the images to your other devices as you work, when the time comes to send some of your finer pictures out to others, you’ll have them right at your fingertips. To make things easier, when you have an established connection between camera and cell phone, you’ll be able to go as far as accessing the cameras memory card.
Besides taking pictures, the D750 is capable of recording HD video content. As even the most amateur of photographers know, filming video brings with it an entirely different set of challenges compared to still images. To prepare for this, Nikon has included different variations of shutter speed and exposure to help you get the right color levels on your shots. For even more support there is additional highlight display for when you are recording at off angles.
Earning a 4.5-star overall rating, this camera is among the most popular and appreciated on the market. The top feature is its application as a landscape photography camera, which earns a 4.9-star rating. To add to its already impressive resume, the D750 comes in at 4.8 stars for auto focus and 4.7 stars for image stabilization.Original Retail $1,999.95
4. Best Beginner: Nikon D3500 W/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR
Nikon D3500 Review
For when you want to start taking your photography a little bit more seriously, the Nikon D3500 provides the opportunity to graduate from cell phone pictures to a professional style camera. A perfect starter option for amateur photographers, the D3500 will run you about has a list price of just under $400, a significantly lower price tag than most other options.
Compared to typical cell phones, the D3500 has an image sensor that is 15 times larger. With a more advanced system than your phone, the fact is that your pictures will be significantly clearer and of higher quality. With an advanced imagery system, you will be able to get more out of your picture taking with reduced lighting and others things that would normally prevent you from taking your best pictures.
For photography newbies, taking a picture with the D3500 is as simple as pointing and shooting. Auto Mode, which is what the camera is set up for, combines auto focus and lighting orientation so that amateurs do not need to fret over settings they don’t yet understand. As you get more familiar with the settings, you can move beyond this default and try some other options out.
When you start travelling with cameras, it can be a bit of a nuisance. Fortunately, the D3500 is small enough to fit in most bags, which adds a welcome aspect of convenience to the entire unit. Additionally, it is built tough and will not break as long as you aren’t beating it up too much.
Given its affordable price, it is no surprise that the D3500 has the is the most popular Nikon DSLR camera our list. The D3500 earns an overall score of 4 stars though individual features & price point make it deserving of at least a 4.5. Among the features profiled, picture quality has earned a 4.8-star rating and battery life comes in at 4.7 stars.
The added bonus is the base option already includes the 18-55mm lens.Original Retail $399.99
5. Best Budget Mid-Range: Nikon D5600 DX-Format Digital SLR (Body Only)
Nikon D5600 Review
Another affordable mid-range option, the Nikon D5600 has a list price of under $600. Despite not being the least expensive on our list, the value at this price level is what sets it apart from other cameras.
Most Nikon cameras come with a screen that tilts out. The D5600 goes a step further with a screen that flips out completely, as well as swivels around allowing you to take pictures from otherwise unattainable angles.
We talk a lot about technology interacting in a positive way with other technology, but this is a little different. When you pair your smart phone with the D5600, photos will be instantly transferred from camera to phone.
One of the more unique aspects of the smart phone connection is that you can set your camera up at a designated location and use your phone to take the actual picture. With the remote-control option, you can take photos from a safe distance, or if you have little ones who don’t want to smile when you’re behind the camera, you can “trick” them into getting the perfect shot.
When you think of Nikon cameras, you think of great pictures, superior quality and great reviews. Nikon holds up their end of the bargain with the D5600. We’ve rated it a solid 4 stars overall but the individual features deserve a higher rating. Picture quality earns the top spot with a rating of 4.7 stars, followed closely by both touch screen and auto focus at 4.6 stars.Original Retail $596.95
Nikon Camera Guide
With a million things to consider, picking the right camera could be a bit overwhelming. To help you along, we’ve put together a few more things to keep in mind before swiping your card.
Among all considerations, price always reigns supreme. If you are just getting into photography, you don’t need to get the top model with multiple attachments. Instead, start with a base model with one lens. As you gain experience and technical know-how, you’ll be able to better assess your additional lens needs.
Just like with our price disclaimer, attachments are not necessarily a requirement, but a luxury of sorts. Most photographers are able to shoot plenty of different types of shots with just a single lens. As you start to take specific types of photographs (action, live, etc.), there will be a clear indication of what direction you need to go in with both base and lens.
Know your camera
Cameras do not just take pictures, in fact, their capabilities stretch far from it. Most cameras on the market today come with loads of features such as Bluetooth and the option to add on different attachments. Do yourself a favor and read the manual, talk to others who have the same model and educate yourself so that you can get the most out of your pressure.
Protect your investment
Cameras are not cheap. Unlike when your iPhone cracks, you can’t just cheaply have the screen replaced at the mall. When a camera breaks, it will take considerable time and cost if you want it restored, if repair is even possible. Given that most people have to save up to buy this type of camera, losing one due to lack of care or not keeping it protected is devastating.
Besides always paying attention to where you hold the camera and avoiding things such as spills, damage can occur when the camera is not in use. To combat this type of damage, we recommend using the neck strap so that even if the camera slips out of your hands, the strap will serve as a failsafe. Instead of hitting the ground, it will catch around your neck and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Secondly, purchasing a carrying case that will keep your camera snug goes a long way in keeping it safe, just as a high-quality phone case does. If your carrying case is not designed for your camera and lens, it could rattle around and take on some damage, despite being in what seems like a protective environment.
Most camera brands will publish videos and guides on how to use their products, and Nikon is no different. Find and take in this information, it will go a long way. One of the most underappreciated aspects of high-quality photography is that others with the same interests tend to be very open with their experiences and will help you perfect your art with open and honest discussion.