Last updated on May 24th, 2021
With a budget stretching to $1500, things start to get really interesting in the camera world.
You can now move away from cheap plastic cameras with small sensors to the big leagues. Full-frame sensors, weather-sealed bodies, 4K video, and speedy autofocus — there are lots of features to choose from.
If you have decided to go for a DSLR over a mirrorless camera, and have $1500 ready, you have come to the right place. This list will help you figure out which camera might suit you. These mid-range cameras will help your photos look more aesthetic.
Let’s dive in!
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Best DSLR Cameras Under $1500
1. Canon EOS 6D Mark II
The original Canon 6D was released almost eight years ago and showed that even full-frame DSLRs could be made affordable.
The 6D Mark II takes that aim forward, giving you a big sensor in a big body with modern features like WiFi and GPS, while keeping the price tag reasonable.
Editor’s Choice – Best DSLR Under $1500
The main improvement is the new 26 MP full-frame sensor, the DIGIC 7 processor, and Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel autofocus. This allows the 6D II to have near-perfect skin tones and low-light capabilities, even up to ISO 6400.
The new sensor provides a wide dynamic range, which will be sufficient for everyone except the pixel-peeping crowd. Shooting in RAW will give you additional room for editing. However, it falls a bit short compared to the dynamic range of other full-frame cameras from Nikon and Sony.
The viewfinder autofocus of the 6D Mark II is a respectable 45-point system, with all cross-type points. This is certainly good enough for landscape photography. Still, action photographers might demand more, especially given its slow shooting speed of 6.5 fps and sometimes slow subject-tracking.
On the video side, the camera delivers but fails to live up to the higher expectations. It tops out at 1080p and does not provide the sharpest footage. The camera also does not have a headphone jack for monitoring the audio. However, with Dual Pixel AF allowing smooth continuous focusing, the overall experience is excellent and perfect for general vlogging and home videos.
In a nutshell, the Canon EOS 6D Mark II will not beat the best-in-class DSLRs from other companies, but it will compete with them easily. If you already have Canon lenses or want a semi-professional camera that can also be used for casual photography and family videos, the 6D Mark II is an affordable choice. It will also be an excellent choice for landscape photographers who want a portable full-frame body that is very rugged. The weather-sealed body makes it the best travel camera on this list.
2. Canon EOS Rebel T8i
The Rebel series is designed for the enthusiast photographer, looking to get away from auto mode and into manual settings. And released in early 2020, the Canon EOS Rebel T8i — also known as the Canon 850D — is the latest in that lineup.
With a price tag that is almost half of the 6D Mark II, the Rebel T8i provides only a 24.1 MP APS-C sensor. However, some notable features of the T8i are its rotating touchscreen LCD, Dual Pixel AF, and the latest DIGIC 8 image processor with 4K video.
One of the best things about the T8i is that it uses the same 45-point AF system that can be found on more expensive cameras like the 6D and 80D. Combined with Dual Pixel in live view and Face Detection, the whole system becomes a portable, all-purpose family and travel camera. The shooting speed of 7 fps through the viewfinder is also decent for an advanced-beginner camera, and it will be sufficient for capturing your kids’ sports and pets.
The body of the T8i is nothing exceptional, mostly built from hard plastic without any weather-sealing.
At this price point, you will also lose out on many customizable controls and a viewfinder with 100% coverage.
Where the Rebel T8i compensates is the image and video quality. With the same 24 MP sensor found in the 80D, the camera’s dynamic range is excellent. Even low-light photos do not show much noise, as long as you don’t make a direct comparison with a full-frame sensor. For videos, the T8i offers 4K with Dual Pixel AF and an articulating touchscreen — an excellent package for vloggers — with the only downside being the cropped footage and a slight lack of sharpness.
The Rebel T8i is not designed to be outstanding, but simply as a high-end beginner’s camera. And it succeeds in both the stills and video department. Apart from the cheaper-feeling body, there are no significant downsides, and even those downsides are to be expected at this price.
3. Canon EOS 90D
Sitting between the 6D Mark II’s features and the T8i’s ease of use, the Canon EOS 90D is the latest offering in Canon’s semi-pro APS-C cameras.
The 90D is almost as expensive as the 6D Mark II, but that is with the often stabilized 18-55mm kit lens included. Where it beats the 6D Mark II is the resolution — a whopping 32.5 MP — and the 4K video capabilities, making it perfect for enthusiasts who want full-frame image quality in a more straightforward camera.
The EOS 90D utilizes the same 45-point all-cross type autofocus system, which changes to a 5481-point Dual Pixel AF in live view and video. It has a new metering sensor, though, which allows for face detection when shooting through the optical viewfinder. The 90D also receives a boost in shooting speed, now capable of 10 fps through the viewfinder and 7 fps in live view.
All these features make it well worth its price, especially when you add the fact that it comes in a weather-sealed body with 100% viewfinder coverage and an AF joystick for full control.
There is more good news for videographers. The Canon 90D provides 4K video at 30p, along with Dual Pixel AF and no crop. You also get headphone and mic jacks, along with the excellent articulating touchscreen and reliable eye detection. However, one disappointment is that there is no 24p at all — even in 1080p video — and the 4K video quality is below average at best.
Overall, the Canon EOS 90D has fantastic image quality, a decent video package, and a rugged body. If you are a travel photographer, vlogger, or simply want a sturdy camera for hikes, the 90D makes a lot of sense, especially if you are concerned about video.
4. Nikon D7500
Released in 2017, the D7500 borrows a lot from the D500, which is the leader of Nikon APS-C cameras and puts it in a body costing less than $1000.
The heart of the D7500 is a 20.9 MP APS-C sensor and a 180K pixel metering sensor — the same as in D500 — which makes it a high-speed camera with great subject-tracking. Do not be disappointed by the slightly lower resolution, because it actually has a better dynamic range than the Canon 90D and even does better in low light.
Because Nikon had to keep a certain degree of differentiation between the D7500 and the professional D500, this camera loses out on a few things. There is only one SD card slot, and although the back LCD is an articulating touchscreen, it doesn’t work as an AF-point selector when shooting through the viewfinder, something found on the much cheaper D5600.
Another drawback of the D7500 is the autofocus in live view and video, which is far behind Canon’s Dual Pixel technology.
In terms of stills only, the D7500 is certainly one of the best mid-range APS-Cs currently. The RAW files have exceptional dynamic range, and the 51-point autofocus and newer metering sensor ensure quick focus and reliable tracking. The shooting speed is an average 8 fps, but the buffer is deep enough to get you 50 RAW files easily while also tracking quick-moving subjects.
For videos, the D7500 is a bit lackluster. You get 4K video with a crop and full HD 1080p with manual control. However, Nikon’s video autofocus is not particularly useful. Unless you plan on always focusing manually, there are much better options out there for video.
With a highly rugged weather-sealed body and the power of new sensors, the D7500 is a perfect choice for both action and landscape photographers. If you are not into videography and don’t mind a heavier DSLR, the Nikon D7500 will give you the best AF and image quality at this price.
5. Nikon D750
The second full-frame camera in this list, the Nikon D750, is also the oldest one. Don’t let the launch date of 2014 fool you though; the Nikon D750 still is one of the best-looking all-purpose DSLRs on the market.
On the inside, the D750 gives you a 24.3 MP full-frame CMOS sensor and an EXPEED 4 image processor, though there is no Bluetooth or GPS — just a cumbersome WiFi. The processor has started showing its age and brings the camera’s speed down to 6.5 fps. But the performance of the camera is not affected in any other way. The dynamic range and low-light quality still beats many other flagship APS-C cameras and matches the best full-frame DSLRs from Sony and Canon.
The highlight of the D750 is its autofocus system — the 51-point Multi-CAM 3500FX II AF — whose previous version is still used in professional bodies like D810 and D4, and works well even in extremely dim light. The camera also utilizes a 91K pixel-metering sensor, which allows the D750 to track subjects and detect faces quickly and reliably through the viewfinder.
One major downside of the D750 is its video mode. Being an older camera, you don’t have 4K or a touchscreen LCD for quick focus, although the 1080p quality is excellent. The autofocus is also nothing to boast about, and you will often see it hunting when trying to change focus.
However, there are a few notable features like the flat picture profile — useful for video editing — and zebra warnings for overexposure. The D750 also has powered aperture controls, which means you can change the aperture smoothly during video.
The Nikon D750 is a perfect package for still photography, especially if you are a landscape photographer who works in low light. Although it misses out on a few modern features like 4K and touchscreen, the fantastic image quality and customizable controls in a rugged body make up for it.
6. Pentax KP
Pentax DSLRs do not lead the camera market or come with modern features like 4K or eye detection, but they do offer useful features that will fundamentally change your photography at affordable prices. The Pentax KP carries on that tradition. A 24.3 MP APS-C sensor, a PRIME IV image processor, a 27-point all-cross type autofocus system, and in-body image stabilization; you get all this with a 16-85 mm kit lens, at a price similar to many mid-level DSLR bodies of other brands.
And before we forget, with a Pentax body, you get a virtually waterproof and indestructible camera, with almost every single button customizable. This is why Pentax is known for its loyal customer base. However, one small oversight here is the uncomfortable grip, which will take some getting used to.
What is most impressive about the KP is its image quality, which can even rival full-frame bodies like the D750. Its low-light capabilities are probably the best you can get from a crop sensor, and shooting in RAW will give you even more flexibility.
But this quality comes at the cost of autofocus, which is where Pentax cannot match other brands. Subject tracking is average, and even the viewfinder AF works best when you use only the central AF points. Live view AF is a bit slow and becomes almost unusable in video mode, but no one in their right mind buys a Pentax for video anyway.
Pentax KP is not a perfect camera, but it is undoubtedly an ideal tool if you know what you’re getting into. For someone looking for a handsome and rugged DSLR with a robust set of customizable controls, the KP is second only to professional full-frame cameras that cost more than double.
7. Nikon D500
Launched in 2016, the Nikon D500 revived the slowing interest in affordable yet professional DSLRs. And it still holds its ground compared to the newer generation of compact mirrorless cameras and full-frame models.
The D500 comes with the then-newly developed 20.9 MP sensor, the new 180K metering sensor, the EXPEED 5 image processor, and a class-leading 153-point AF system. All this made the D500 Nikon’s flagship APS-C camera and a favorite amongst enthusiast photographers.
Some other notable traits of the D500 are the 4K video, an easy-to-use AF joystick, shooting speed of 10 fps, built-in WiFi, and mic and headphone sockets. One thing missing on the D500 is an in-built flash, which many photographers use for fill flash lighting.
Given the specifications, it is no surprise that the D500 was designed for fast low-light work. Whether you are in a studio or shooting a wedding, the blazing fast AF with Nikon’s 3D subject tracking has you covered, and even images up to ISO 6400 are free of noticeable noise.
Although the resolution is a couple of megapixels lower, it does not mean the D500 is not a landscape camera. In fact, the sharpness and dynamic range makes it an excellent travel camera too. And the bright and sharp rotating touchscreen display will allow you to use the camera as a casual point-and-shoot on lazy days.
For video, the D500 offers 4K at 30 fps, although there is a 1.5x crop, along with the usual 1080p options, the power aperture control, and a flat profile for grading the footage later. You also have mic and headphone jacks for audio control, although no zebra warnings or focus peaking. While the overall feature set is decent, the unreliable live view AF means you will have to use manual focus if you want professional-looking footage.
In a nutshell, the Nikon D500 is a dream camera for wildlife and landscape photographers, packed into a weather-sealed and comfortable body. Unless you want a camera that can give you amazing videos on auto mode, there is really not much that this one cannot do.
8. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Canon 7D Mark II began the decade’s trend of advanced and affordable APS-C cameras, which later inspired cameras like the D500, Canon 90D, etc. If you want Canon’s rich skin tones and Dual Pixel AF, but cannot spring for the expensive full-frame models, the 7D Mark II is the DSLR to consider.
At the heart of the 7D Mark II is a 20 MP sensor, working alongside a 150K pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, borrowed from the legendary EOS 1D X. When combined with the 65-point AF system, the camera becomes an action and wedding photographer’s perfect tool.
The iTR — intelligent tracking and recognition focus system — works beautifully and can almost match the hit rates of newer cameras like the D500.
The dynamic range is something that hasn’t been drastically improved from the original 7D. While the 7D Mark II does not meet the range of newer DSLRs like the D7500 and Canon’s 90D, it can closely compete with them. Canon claims to have fixed banding issues when raising shadows, but the noise levels are still noticeable.
Where Nikon cameras fail, the Dual Pixel of Canon picks up. The live view autofocus is quick and makes shooting videos relatively easy. The lack of 4K is a bit disappointing, but you can still shoot 1080p up to 60 fps in either MP4 or MOV format. You also get mic and headphone jacks for controlling audio, although there is no tilting touchscreen like in the D500.
The Canon 7D Mark II is a good camera, which could have been made great if Canon would have added the then-rare features like 4K and a tilting touchscreen LCD. But for photographers who want a professional DSLR that can handle both stills and videos, the 7D Mark II is a decent choice.
9. Nikon D610
The Nikon D610 was launched in 2013 as a rival to the Canon 6D, just a year before the advanced D750. While you will obviously miss out on a few significant features, the D610 will still give you full-frame image quality and decent autofocus.
The sensor inside the D610 is actually the same as the D750; 24.3 MP full-frame CMOS, although the image processor is the lower EXPEED 3, and the metering sensor is an older 2016 pixel sensor too. This means you will not get subject-tracking competing with modern mirrorless cameras or bodies like D750. However, the RAW image quality is still great.
The AF system inside this camera is a 39-point, 9 cross-type module. While it works well for casual shooting and landscape images, you will have to use a single point and keep it on the subject for the best results in sports and wildlife shooting. The shooting speed is also just 6 fps, making this camera less than ideal for action photography.
Where the D610 suffers more is on the video side. You can shoot 1080p up to 30 fps, and even record uncompressed video through HDMI, but the slow live view focusing makes the video mode spotty. A possible workaround is to use manual focus for video.
The Nikon D610 is a no-frills camera, which means you can get great images from the camera if you work for it. You do not get WiFi, GPS, 4K, or a rotating touchscreen, but you get everything necessary to create the right image. Go for a refurbished body and save some money, unless you want the best-possible AF in live view and video features.
10. Sony a77 II SLT
The SLT stands for single-lens translucent. While traditional DSLRs have a mirror that moves up and down, the Sony a77 II SLT has a translucent mirror, which allows the light to reach the AF sensor and the imaging sensor simultaneously. While Canon’s Dual Pixel does not need to split the light because the sensor itself has AF points, the a77 II comes close to achieving the same AF accuracy in this manner, making the a77 II an affordable action camera.
The 2014-released a77 II has the Bionz X processor and a 24.3 MP image sensor, which Sony claims to have a higher resolving power than the original a77, due to a unique gapless design. This means that the a77 II gains context-sensitive noise reduction and better in-camera sharpening. In terms of dynamic range, the camera holds up quite well, but only at lower ISOs.
Shunning the optical viewfinder — a true feature of every DSLR – the hybrid a77 II uses an OLED electronic viewfinder. If you don’t already have a preference, the bright 100% coverage and 1.09x magnification of this viewfinder will match the feel of full-frame cameras. The fully rotating back LCD and the fast live view AF allow the a77 II to be used as a point-and-shoot camera.
The strength of the a77 II lies in its 79-point AF and 12 fps shooting speed, which is found only on more expensive full-frame cameras. Continuous AF works really well, especially when using a single AF point kept on the subject. While this camera cannot reliably track subjects when left on its own to decide which AF point to use, it still works as well as other DSLRs of similar price. This is also a great advantage when recording videos — the highest quality being 1080p at 60 — although using continuous AF will mean you cannot control aperture or shutter speed. The lack of a headphone socket is also a let-down.
The Sony a77 II works well as an inexpensive action camera, and its weather-sealed body is a bonus. Because of the fast AF and accurate face detection, it also works well as a casual travel camera. If you don’t have the budget for Canon’s 7D or 90D — which offer similar AF and shooting speeds — the a77 II is the next best combo for stills and videos.
We hope this long list gave you a sense of what to expect for DSLR cameras under $1500. You can either go for a full-frame body and then save up extra for a lens, or choose a crop sensor camera which will get you a kit lens and some leftover money for a nice camera bag or tripod. The trade-off is yours to make.
One thing to consider is not worrying too much about video recording if your main objective is photography. Your smartphone can record video.
And remember to make the right choice. You’ll first need to be sure of your style of photography. While a camera with fast AF might entice an action photographer, a landscape photographer should lean towards a camera with a better dynamic range and a weather-sealed body. So, choose accordingly.