Best Compact DSLR Cameras For Beginners, Vloggers, And Travelers

If you have ever shot with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, you probably know understand how bulky and oversized they can be. Even though we love our DSLRs, we occasionally get tired of having to use both hands to hold our camera and having to rest our arms after shooting during long sessions.

That’s why compact DSLRs are perfect for those who need the high-performance benefits of a DSLR, with the lightweight portability of a mirror camera. Compact DSLRs have the best of both worlds: premium technical performance and a thin, streamlined appearance.

Are you looking for the best compact DSLR camera on the market? There are many key considerations you need to take into account before you decide on a model to buy. For this guide, our expert reviewers go through all the best compact DSLR cameras available, so you can find out which is best for you.

How We Choose Our Ratings

We value your trust. That is why we work hard to ensure that every camera we review undergoes the utmost scrutiny. To arrive at a fair and balanced review of each product, we make sure that we consider several key factors before we issue our final rating. For example, every camera is rated for affordability, ease of use, performance, durability, and other key factors.

We also understand that integrity is critical when it comes to earning your trust. That is why we disclose any partnerships we have with vendors, and we never review cameras that we have a financial stake in. We believe that this is the right thing to do, and that it is a positive step toward building your faith as a long-term reader.

Last, we make sure that we source our opinions from a diversity of perspectives. When we test out a camera, we acknowledge that our opinion alone does not capture the true value of the device. To get a more balanced view, we seek out the opinions of others, both professional critics and regular hobbyists, to get a fuller understanding of the camera.

The Best Compact DSLR Cameras

a woman holding one compact dslr camera on each hand

Now, let us move on to the meat and potatoes of today’s article. In this guide, we list our favorite compact DSLR cameras, and provide a succinct rating to help you find the best model for your needs. Ultimately, we believe that any of the following cameras would make excellent additions to your photography repertoire.

NIKON D3400

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera with AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and...
  • SnapBridge Bluetooth Connectivity
  • 24.2MP DX Format CMOS Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Image Processor.Magnification Approx; 0.85 x (50 millimeter f/1.4 lens at infinity, 1.0 m(*1))

The Nikon D3400 is one of the best all-around DSLR cameras available on the market today. And best of all, it comes at a lightweight and low-profile size that makes it comfortable for use during long days of shooting. With this camera, you will not have to worry about excess arm strain or any other common annoyances that come with prolonged usage.

This compact DSLR features the signature Nikon interface, known for its ease of use and customizable settings. In our experience, navigating the Nikon menus and adjusting the camera to our personal preferences was a breeze. Even though we are seasoned camera connoisseurs, we believe that even novice or beginner photographers could use this camera with ease.

With a 24.2-megapixel sensor, the Nikon D3400 ranks among the very best compact DSLRs in terms of overall performance. The picture quality is excellent, and the ability to tailor each shot to the environment using ISO and shutter speed settings makes this camera a no-brainer for veteran and beginner photographers alike.

PANASONIC LUMIX FZ1000

PANASONIC LUMIX FZ1000 4K Point and Shoot Camera, 16X LEICA DC...
  • Big sensor quality: Large 1 inch 20.1MP MOS sensor for improved low light capture and large sensor background defocus...
  • 4K video & Photo: 4K 30P video with hybrid photography 8MP video frame grabs as photos
  • Leica DC lens: A bright and ultra sharp Leica DC lens 25 400 millimeter (16x) F2.8 4.0 and macro photography down to 3cm

The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 ranks among the world’s finest compact DSLRs. As part of the Lumix line of semi-pro commercial cameras, you know that this camera will deliver in terms of premium performance quality. Not only that, but the Lumix is also known for its compact size. Unlike most other DSLRs, this camera can fit easily on the palm of your hand!

The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is a fantastic option if you are looking to get into videography and film editing. The video quality of the Lumix FZ1000 far exceeds most Canon or Nikon cameras in its price range. Plus, when you consider its compact size it becomes the perfect budget-minded option for travel videography or travel vlogging.

Although this camera does not match some of its competitors when it comes to megapixel count, this fact did not bother us at all. When using the camera, we found that the picture quality was identical to that of even more expensive DSLRs made by other brands. Overall, we highly recommend this camera for aspiring travel vloggers or amateur movie makers.

NIKON D3300

Nikon D3300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR with Auto Focus-S DX Nikkor...
  • 24.2 MP CMOS DX format sensor
  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 11 AF points with 3d tracking

Although the Nikon D3300 is closely resembles its sister camera, the D3400, which we reviewed above, it stands out on its own as one of the best compact DSLRs. From the moment we first held it in our hands, we knew that this camera was something special. Not only does it feel less bulky than the D3400, but it also has a sleek and modern appearance that most other DSLRs are sorely lacking.

The Nikon D3300 is technically superb. This camera features a 24.2-megapixel sensor in DX-format that can shoot at 5 frames per second in continuous mode. At such a low price point, you would be hard pressed to find another compact DSLR that can offer elite performance like that.

Our overall impression was that the D3300 is a great transition camera if you are looking to get into travel photography. However, after you advance in skills you may want to look into other cameras that offer more in terms of personalization and technical customizability. Nonetheless, at its price point the Nikon D3300 is one of our favorite compact DSLRs on the market.

CANON REBEL T7I

Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body
  • 242 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor Multimedia cards (MMC) cannot be used
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth
  • High-Speed continuous shooting at up to 60 fps

Since it is part of the classic Canon Rebel series, we knew that the Canon Rebel T7i would offer loads of premium value at a low price. And we were not wrong! Like the Rebel series cameras that came before it, the Canon Rebel T7i offers some of the best photo and video performance out of the entire DSLR class.

Canon cameras are known for their unique, high-density saturation. When shooting flames, you notice that the colors in the fire are lifelike and tend to almost pop out of the picture. Compared to its Nikon and Sony competitors, the saturation capabilities of the Rebel T7i is far and away the best.

The Rebel T7i is a fantastic camera for both beginners and veteran photographers. Unfortunately, some of its compactness is mitigated by the fact that the Canon charger is very bulky and requires the battery to be removed and placed in a dock. Once the Rebel line upgrades to a micro-USB charging port, these cameras will be impeccable in terms of portability.

CANON 6D MARK II

Canon EOS 6D Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body – Wi-Fi Enabled
  • 26.2 Megapixel Full frame CMOS Sensor
  • Optical Viewfinder with a 45 point All Cross type AF System. Compatible Lenses: Canon EF lenses (excluding EF S and EF M...
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Phase detection & Full HD 60p

The Canon 6D Mark II is one of the best semi-professional compact DSLRs on the market. With a whopping 26.2-megapixel sensor, you know that the Canon 6D Mark II offers loads of performance value unavailable to those who purchase more budget-friendly cameras. Plus, the custom battery grip that attaches to this camera makes it super comfortable to hold.

Overall, we found that the Canon 6D Mark II was about as good as it gets if you want a high-end consumer camera for both videography and photography. The Canon 6D provides crystal clear video footage at the push of a button, with one of the fastest autofocus mechanisms available at any price range. And, like all Canons, the photo quality is superb as well.

We have virtually nothing negative to say about the 6D Mark II, aside from the price range. Although this camera is in a separate class from most of its competitors and brand lines (like the Rebel line), it may not entirely justify its massive cost hike. At nearly three times the cost of the Rebel series, you can expect to pay more for this camera but receive a major performance upgrade in return.

NIKON D850

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
  • Nikon designed back side illuminated (BSI) full frame image sensor with no optical low pass filter
  • 45.7 megapixels of extraordinary resolution, outstanding dynamic range and virtually no risk of moiré
  • Up to 9 fps1 continuous shooting at full resolution with full AF performance

The Nikon D850 is one of Nikon’s latest high-res full-frame DSLR cameras. With a ridiculously high 46MP CMOS sensor, the Nikon N850 is one of the best cameras available today in terms of photo quality and zoom performance.

The specs on the Nikon D850 shoots at 7 frames per second in continuous mode and features a comfortable battery grip on the body. It is surprisingly lightweight, because one must wonder how they manage to fit so much heavy-duty equipment inside such a small and compact frame. It is rare for a camera of this stature to feel so light and airy in your hands.

Ultimately, our impression of the Nikon D850 was highly positive. Although, we found that this camera tends to be susceptible to scuffs and scratches that cannot be easily removed. Plus, with no anti-aliasing filter, there is a slight lack of detail in some of the high-res photos that the Nikon D850 takes. However, the Nikon D850 is a formidable camera appropriate for users of all ages.

PENTAX K-70

Pentax K-70 24MP Full HD Digital SLR Camera, Body Only, Silver -...
  • Pentax K-70 24MP Full HD Digital SLR Camera - Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery D-Li109 - D-BC109 Battery Charger - AC Cord -...
  • 24.24 effective megapixel, APS-C AA filter-less CMOS sensor: The PENTAX K-70 features a state-of-the-art CMOS image...
  • In-body "SR" shake reduction mechanism: The PENTAX K-70 features a state-of-the-art CMOS image sensor with approximately...

Seemingly overnight, the Pentax K-70 shook up the world of compact DSLRs. Since it cannot sell itself on its name alone, the Pentax K-70 had to go the extra mile to stand out in the crowd. And, boy, did Pentax rise to the challenge!

When we first removed the Pentax K-70 from its box, we were shocked at how lightweight and compact this DSLR is. In fact, we were nearly certain that the camera was mirrorless and not a DSLR at all. However, after toying around with it and shooting around our office we knew that it was the real deal.

In the future, you can expect to see Pentax make more of mark on the consumer camera industry. At a low price, the K-70 offers value untouched by the Canons and Nikons of the world. For example, a 24MP CMOS sensor and a PRIME image processor, plus anti-aliasing capability, is offered at a cost of less than $600. This is unheard of among other brands.

CANON REBEL T6I

Canon EOS Rebel T6i Digital SLR with EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens - Wi-Fi...
  • 24.2 Megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, ISO 100–12800 (expandable to H: 25600)
  • EOS Full HD Movie mode helps capture brilliant results in MP4 format
  • High-speed continuous shooting up to 5.0 fps allows you to capture fast action.

The Canon Rebel T6i deserves an honorable mention from us. Although it falls short of its successor, the Rebel T7i, it still offers loads of value at a competitive price. This is even more true if you happen to find a T6i on the secondary market as more and more Canon owners are looking to upgrade.

The Canon Rebel T6i comes with Canon’s signature saturation features, incredible sensor, and all-around ease of use. However, many novice photographers find there is a steep learning curve when using this camera for video and vlogging, as there are many settings to choose from. We recommend this camera for plain photography for those who want a serviceable compact DSLR camera to carry with them on day trips and vacations.

Comparison Table

Buyer’s Guide

a photo of a compact dslr camera

If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of compact DSLRs on the market, know that you are not alone. These days, there are countless lightweight DSLR cameras that offer high performance within a compact form factor. To help you make the best purchasing decision possible, follow these key takeaway points when browsing for your next DSLR:

  • The best compact DSLRs typically weigh no more than 5 or 6 pounds
  • For top performance, look for a megapixel count of 21 or above
  • Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Panasonic are the most trusted DSLR brands
  • Make sure that your camera can shoot 1080p video if you are interested in filmmaking
  • Avoid buying cameras with LCD screens that cannot articulate
  • Invest in a high-quality carrying case for travel and commutes

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