Several years ago, we stopped reporting on DSLRs. We know that a few really cool ones have come out, like the Pentax K1 II Monochome for example. But we also know that mirrorless cameras are so much more capable and have been for a while now. There are lots of photographers that still want a dedicated DSLR though. With over 14 years of reviewing cameras under our belts, we’re rounding up the very best and telling you which one was the last great DSLR camera. Dive in with us as we explore recent history.
Table of Contents
How We Test and Choose the Products for the Last Great DSLR Camera List
- The Phoblographer’s various product round-up features are done in-house. Our philosophy is simple: you wouldn’t get a Wagyu beef steak review from a lifelong vegetarian. And you wouldn’t get photography advice from someone who doesn’t touch the product. We only recommend gear we’ve fully reviewed in these roundups.
- If you’re wondering why your favorite product didn’t make the cut, there’s a chance it’s on another list. If we haven’t reviewed it, we won’t recommend it. This method keeps our lists packed with industry-leading knowledge. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. You can read more about our ethics on this on our Disclaimer page.
- When we test products we’ve got various things in mind. First off, we consider who might want to buy the product and what they might do with it. With that in mind, we try to tackle at least three genres of photography with that product in a variety of situations. For example, if a lens has weather resistance, then we’ll test it accordingly with a weather-resistant camera. We also test the autofocus of the lens in continuous mode, single mode, with exposure preview effects, without those effects, and then with all the major image quality parameters. These days, no one really makes a bad lens — but some are far better than others. And that’s what we’re trying to find in our reviews.
- In all of our roundups, we’re basing our findings on the reviews that we’ve done. We’re choosing a favorite, but we’re also giving photographers a bunch of others that they might like, depending on how they shoot.
The Last Great DSLR Camera: Nikon D850
It’s considered pretty universally that the best and last great DSLR was the Nikon D850. Nikon released higher end cameras than this, but they perplexed everyone who then never took them seriously. By then, the world had almost fully moved onto the mirrorless cameras. But what made the Nikon D850 so great is that it basically was the Sony a7r III in DSLR format. Of course, the AI scene detection that was later given to the Sony wasn’t in the Nikon camera. However, it was incredibly capable of shooting very fast, had good autofocus even in low light, and gave beautiful images with a lot of color depth. As of November 2023, it’s still in the top 5 cameras on DXOMark’s list of the best sensors. That’s truly saying something even when it was launched in 2017.
These specs are taken from the Lensrentals listing
|1:1, 3:2, 4:5
|EN-EL15a Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
|1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI C (Mini), Micro-USB, NIkon 10-Pin, USB 3.0, X-Sync Socket
|Up to 7 fps at 45.7 MP for up to 51 Frames in RAW Format
|Dedicated Flash System
|5.7″ × 4.9″ × 3.1″
|3.2″ Rear Touchscreen Tilting LCD (2,359,000)
|Dust Reduction System
|Manual: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
|Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority; Metering Range: EV -3.0 – EV 20.0; Compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV Steps)
|External Flash Connection
|Hot Shoe, PC Terminal
|Still Images: JPEG, RAW, TIFF; Movies: MOV, MP4, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264; Audio:AAC, Linear PCM (Stereo)
|-3 EV to +1 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
|First-Curtain Sync, Rear Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync/Red-Eye Reduction
|Auto and manual
|ModesAutomatic (A)Continuous-Servo AF ©Manual Focus (M)Single-servo AF (S)
|Auto, 64-25600 (Extended Mode: Auto, 32-102400)
|45.4 MP: 8256 × 5504
|Maximum Sync Speed
|Maximum Video Clip Length
|3840 × 2160 at 30 fps: 29 minutes, 59 seconds
|Memory Card Slot
|Slot 1: SD/SDHC/SDXC(UHS-II)
Slot 2: CFexpress Type B / XQD
|3D Color Matrix Metering, Center-Weighted Average Metering, Spot Metering, Highlight Weighted
|Actual: 46.89 Megapixel; Effective: 45.7 Megapixel
|20 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 seconds, 2 seconds
|CMOS, 35.9 × 23.9mm
|30 – 1/8000 second, Bulb Mode
|3840 × 2160p at 23.98, 25, 29.97 fps (H.264); 1920 × 1080p at 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94, 120 fps (H.264); 1280 × 720p at 50, 59.94 fps
|TypePentaprism 100% Approx. 0.75x 17.00mm CoverageMagnificationEye Point
What We Think
In our review, we state:
With all that said, the Nikon z8 is a very good jack of all trades, but a master of none. Portrait photographers might very well wish for either more megapixels, the look of Fujifilm’s film simulations, or native lenses with character. Sports photographers and event photographers have access to more lenses and better autofocus with Sony. They’ve got access to better lenses via Canon. Anyone that needs better durability might be better served with Leica. And if you want great video, it’s hard to beat Canon, Sony, or Panasonic.
For Some Photographers, these Might be the Last Great DSLR Camera
Before you go on, we’re purposely omitting the Nikon D500 from this list because it’s an APS-C camera. Read this carefully though, we don’t hate APS-C cameras. However, no one does them like Fujifilm. The X Trans sensor is simply superior in a way that chocolate milk is clearly better than regular milk. The D500 was a great camera, but it pales in comparison to the full-frame options out there. But if you want to read our review of the Nikon D500, then please find it here. For the rest of us, here are others on this list that you might consider to be the last great DSLR camera.
Canon 6D Mk II
In our review, we state:
What’s pretty excellent about the Canon 6D Mk II is the fact that it’s incredibly simple to use. Everything from the touch screen interface, navigating the menus, using the exposure settings, etc. My only wish is that it had a direct button for white balance selection. Instead, you’re going to need to navigate via the menu system. Additionally, I really wish the Canon 6D Mk II incorporated the joystick on the back of the camera for more direct focus point selection. Moving your thumb all the way down the back isn’t that comfortable but that’s what you have to do to choose the focus point. The pad in the middle of the back wheel is how you do it, and if the wheel were bigger overall then the process would be a lot more comfortable.
Pentax K1 II
In our review we state:
Let’s talk about the obvious thing here. The Pentax K1 Mk II is huge. My daily shooter is a Fujifilm X-T3, so to say it was a shock to go back to a camera like the Pentax K1 Mk II is an understatement.
Using This Guide to the Last Great DSLR Camera
If you’re considering purchasing anything from this list of the last great DSLR camera, consider the following:
- All the product images and sample photos in these roundups are shot by our staff. In fact, we don’t talk about products at length in roundups like this unless we’ve done full reviews of them. But you can surely know that we’ve done all the research ourselves.
- Yes, Sony made cameras in this segment. Technically, the Sony a99 II is a DSLT because of the translucent mirror. But they gave up on DSLRs far earlier than the other brands did.
- We’re not including the medium format cameras in here because they’re huge, often unaffordable, and don’t have the lens selection as full-frame 35mm cameras.
- When it comes to autofocus in low light, Nikon is starting to beat out the other two.
- Personally speaking, we liked some of Canon’s older cameras more. This site’s founder built it using a Canon 5D Mk II.
- All of the contenders for the last great DSLR camera have weather resistance. We wouldn’t choose them otherwise.
- Zeiss lenses often gave the best image quality for cameras of this segment. But the viewfinders to let you see your subject clearly were really bad for the manual focus action of those lenses.
- We’d never recommend a product to you that we haven’t tested or that we really didn’t like. You can reference our linked reviews, for more information on this.
Picking the Right One For You
If you’re still a bit confused as to the right lens for you, here are some questions to ask yourself
- What’s your budget?
- How will you use the product?
- What lighting situations are you in, and how will that affect what you’re doing? Our reviews hyperlinked in this article can help with that.
- Are you traveling a lot with it?
- Will you be using it in a situation that’s a bit rougher?
- Who else uses this product? How are they using it?
- What’s so appealing about this product that I can’t get from what I have already or something else?
- When will I really have time to use this product?
- Where will I bring this product?
- How will this product help bring me joy and joy in my photography?
These are just a few of the questions that we ask ourselves, but we think that you should ask yourself these for sure.