Many people own smartphones with advanced cameras, but it’s hard to beat the quality of a digital single-lens reflex camera, or a DSLR. These devices combine film camera mechanics with a digital sensor so you can easily shoot, edit and share photos.
If you’re shopping for a starter DSLR, consider two models: The Nikon D3300 and the Canon EOS Rebel T5i. These cameras are fully equipped for traditional photography, and they come with features that help them snap sharp and clear images. Use our side-by-side review to decide which suits your needs.
The cameras: at a glance
|Nikon D3300||Canon EOS Rebel T5i|
|Price||Starting at $499.95 via Nikon||$599.99 via Canon|
|Color||Black, red, gray||Black|
|Weight||14.5 oz. (body only)||18.5 oz. (body only)|
|Dimensions||4.9 x 3.9 x 3.0 in.||5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in.|
|Battery life||700 shots/per full charge||440 shots/per full charge|
|Photo quality||24.2 megapixels||18.0 megapixels|
|Storage||SD card||SD card|
The cameras: up close and personal
The Canon and Nikon DSLRs can be hard to tell apart. Both camera bodies come in a simple black finish — the D3300 is also available in red and gray — with a 3-inch viewfinder monitor on the back and weigh around a pound each. They include standard camera controls to help users compose their digital photos, and both bodies each come with a 18-55mm general use lens.
Models such as the D3300 and Rebel T5i are good entry-level DSLRs, but both are as easy to use as point-and-shoot cameras. They share common features, such as:
- Scene modes. Daylight, low-light or no light, photographers can choose a mode that will capture a clear picture. Typical modes include nighttime, portrait, sports and landscape. The D3300 has a unique panorama mode to shoot extra wide sceneries, while the Rebel T5i has a Scene Intelligent Auto mode that analyzes and photographs the scene with optimal lighting and focus.
- Autofocus. This option locks in on the subject so that it shows up clear and sharp. It’s especially helpful when photographing moving targets.
- In-camera editing and filters. After taking a picture, users can crop it, alter its saturation and apply special effects directly from the camera’s retouch menu. Black and white and sepia are common filters, but the Rebel T5i also has fun options including fisheye, soft focus, toy camera and water painting. Its LCD monitor is also a touchscreen, which makes in-camera editing a straightforward, hands-on experience.
- Full HD video. In addition to capturing stills, the D3300 and Rebel T5i can shoot high-definition, smooth 1080p video. Built-in mics record audio, and users apply the same features they use with still images — such as zoom and autofocus — to the video frame.
- Accessories. As users become more familiar with a camera, they can rent or purchase accessories, including lenses, flashes and microphones.
What separates the D3300 from the Rebel T5i, however, is its wireless capabilities. The Nikon D3300 is compatible with a WU-1a wireless adapter, which connects the camera body to a smartphone. Users can snap a picture and upload it to a smartphone to share via email or social media. The phone can even serve as a remote and separate viewfinder, which is helpful for taking group photos.
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The D3300 and Rebel T5i are pricey as beginner models.
On Nikon’s website, the D3300 kit starts at about $500 for the camera body and standard lens, but it also comes with a two-lens kit for an additional $150. The two-lens package includes a camera bag and a 55-200mm lens, which is good for taking pictures at a distance.
The Rebel T5i body and lens starts at $600 on the Canon website, but we’ve seen it bundled with accessories on Amazon for the same price or less.
The D3300 and Rebel T5i cameras can handle any photo duties you throw at them, and they make it easy for novices to learn camera and photo basics. Each model has several scenery modes and features to capture the best image possible, no tinkering required.
The Nikon D3300’s wireless capabilities might give it an advantage over the Rebel T5i for some users. If you’re active on social media platforms, the WU-1a adaptor makes uploading photos a breeze. Plus, you can use the remote feature to make sure you’re never missing in group shots.
Photo beginners might like the Rebel T5i’s touchscreen LCD monitor. The retouch menu is simple to navigate and gives you more control over your images.
DSLR cameras can be complicated to learn and operate. If you’re looking for a more straightforward model, consider an instant photo camera, such as the Polaroid Snap or Fujifilm Instax Mini 8. Or if you want to capture and record your action thrills, the GoPro Hero5 Black or Session might be just what you need.