The best Nikon DSLRs under $1000

If you already own a Nikon point & shoot and are looking to upgrade to an APS-C DSLR, Nikon would probably be your first choice. Of course, there are exceptions to that statement.

An entry level photographer loyal to the brand Nikon and having a budget of about $1000 would be basically looking at four options.

These 4 best Nikon DSLRs under $1,000 would be the:

  1. The Nikon D5300,
  2. the Nikon D5500,
  3. the Nikon D7100 and
  4. the Nikon D7200.
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The 4 Best Nikon DSLRs under $1,000

1. The D5300

The Nikon D5300 is the fourth generation in the D5000 series. It is a very capable camera powered by a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor.

Best DSLR for under 1,000: Nikon 5300
The Nikon D5300

A key difference from the older D5200 is that the D5300 has no optical low pass filter (OLPF). The absence of the OLPF produces sharper images. However, the camera is susceptible to moiré and false colors when making images of fine patterns such as when photographing fabric.

The Nikon D5300
The Nikon D5300: One of the best DSLRs under $1,000

For landscape and other types of photography, you can however definitely expect a quantum jump in sharpness and detail over the older D5200.

Having said that, you need to add a sharper than average kit lens to translate all that promised sharpness into actual sharp images.

DPReview Silver AwardThe D5300 has a 39-point auto-focusing system, with 9 cross-type sensors. This is the same as the older D5200 and the older and more upmarket D7000. For all practical purposes, a 39-point AF system is good enough.

The camera has a swiveling (also called vari-angle) LCD monitor with a resolution of 1037 K dots. The D5300’s rear screen has increased in size. 3.2” over 3” on the outgoing model.

The D5300 has both GPS and Wi-Fi. The advantages of having GPS is that you can now embed location data in EXIF details and use that to seamlessly update places you have visited when posting images to social media.

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With built-in Wi-Fi, you would not only be able to remotely transfer images to a computer but also be able to control the camera shutter mechanism via an app on a compatible mobile device. Both Wi-Fi and GPS will, however, put a strain on the battery life. It is advisable to turn them off when not using.

The other features include a high native ISO of 12800, EXPEED 4 image processing, full HD movie capability and a decent 5 fps continuous shooting speed. The movie feature needs a special mention as the new camera can shoot full resolution HD videos at 60fps.

For slow motion effect, this feature is a good addition for videographers. You can record stereo sound via the built-in mic while also have full-time autofocus.

The Nikon D5300 won’t, however, come with a touch screen. For this, you will have to opt for the D5500…

2. The D5500

The Nikon D5500 is the upgraded version of the D5300, a tried and tested design that had seen a number of new feature upgrades when it was launched. Despite being termed a fully loaded camera there were a couple of features that photographers badly missed on the D5300.

Nikon D5500 DX-format Digital SLR
Nikon D5500 DX


One of them was the touchscreen. When compared with rival Canon models, the D5300 sorely lacked the convenience that comes with a touchscreen. This is something that has been remedied in the D5500. The 3.2” 180 degrees articulated screen now has touch capabilities.

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DPReview Silver AwardApart from navigating menus, you can now pinch to zoom, as well as set the precise focus point when shooting by simply tapping your finger. A new built-in eye sensor turns off the LCD display when you look through the viewfinder and then turn it back on in playback mode when you take your eye off.

Another upgraded feature is that the new camera has a higher native maximum ISO capability of 25,600.

Nikon D5500 DX-format Digital SLR LCD
Nikon D5500 with Touch Screen

The other features of the camera include a lighter overall weight and some slightly inconspicuous ergonomic changes. The D5500 is lighter than the D5300 – 420 grams against 480 grams.

Plus, the grip on the new camera is slightly pronounced giving you a better grip. Apart from those, the D5500 is a mirror image of the older D5300.

Related Post: Best DSLR for Video Shooting

3. The D7100

The third camera on this list is the extremely popular, designed for the enthusiasts is the Nikon D7100.

It is an update of the tried and tested D7000. The D7100 is an APS-C DSLR that is built around a 24.1 megapixel CMOS sensor and has no OLPF. It is the first Nikon DSLR which is missing the OLPF (optical low pass filter) altogether.

Nikon D7100
The Nikon D7100 24.1 MP DX-Format

Nikon did launch an earlier camera which had the OLPF canceled out (not removed) – the D800E. But the two approaches are different. The D7100 has an edge in terms of optical sharpness over a similar resolution camera with the OLPF filter. There is going to be some likely issues resulting from moiré and false coloring.

DPReview Gold Award

The D7100 shares the D4’s auto-focusing system – 51 AF points with 15 of them cross-types. Another new feature of the D7100 is its newly designed 3.2” 1.2 million dot LCD monitor. It has an extra White dot that produces slightly brighter representation (suitable when viewed under bright light) than traditional RGB displays. The D7100 is powered by Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processing engine.

When shooting stills the D7100 has a faster continuous speed of 6 fps compared to 5 in the previous two cameras that we discussed, but same as the older D7000 that it replaced. When used in 1.3x crop mode the camera gives a 2x zoomed angle of view with a slightly faster 7fps continuous still shooting speed.

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Nikon D7100 Back
Nikon D7100 Back

In terms of video shooting the D7100 gives three choices – 24p, 25p and 30p in full HD with stereo sound recording via built-in stereo mic.

The D7100 has a pentamirror viewfinder and offers 100% frame coverage, unlike the cameras that we discussed previously in this article. It has a native high ISO of 6400. The D7100 has a very handy auto ISO feature that ensures you can always set the slowest shutter speed corresponding with the aperture used, with the ISO selected by the camera. The D800 and the D5200 both have this feature.

The D7100 carries on the well-made tag from D7000. It is made out of magnesium alloy and has a decent resistance from dust, dirt, and moisture.

The D7100 retails just under $1000 and was the flagship APS-C DSLR when it was launched.

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4. The D7200

There is a fourth model the Nikon D7200 which should be given a mention here. It is an upgrade to the D7100 and is a great camera. It retails just a shade over $1000. But it’s possible to get a bargain price just under $1000 for this delightful camera. Thus, I decided to mention it in this stack-up.

Nikon D7200 DSLR Body
Nikon D7200

The D7200 is a 24.2 megapixel APS-C DSLR powered by EXPEED 4 image processing. Just like the D7100, it does not have an OLPF, meaning if you pair the camera with an optically sharp lens you are likely to get extremely sharp images.

DPReview Silver AwardIt has a 3.2” 1229k dot resolution LCD screen. The native highest ISO is 25,600.

The D7200 shoots at the same continuous speed of 6fps in DX mode and at a slightly higher 7 fps at the 1.3x crop mode as the D7100.

Videographers would be happy to see the new shooting mode now supporting full HD clips at 60fps and stereo recording. Additionally, you have full manual controls while recording videos.

Many of the upgrades of the D7200 is to ward off increasingly high competition that the DSLR segment is facing from high-resolution smartphones. The D7200 has NFC connectivity that allows any compatible smartphone devices to connect with it. It also has snap bridge Wi-Fi connectivity.

Related Post: Best Canon DSLR under $1,000

Conclusion: Best Nikon DSLR under $1k

To round up if you have about $1000 and you are looking to buy a Nikon APS-C DSLR go for the new D7200.

It has the highest resolution with guaranteed good sharpness, provided you are using a sharp lens with it. It also has a good video mode, high-speed continuous shooting, and all the communication goodies you need.

Additionally, being a crop sensor DSLR you get tighter crops when shooting sports and wildlife photography with lenses designed for full-frame cameras because of the crop factor.

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