By Jo Plumridge
If you're passionate about photography, sooner or later you will want to upgrade from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR. A DSLR provides you with far more control over your images, the image sensors are bigger, and the image quality is better. Additionally, you receive access to an entire manufacturer's range of lenses.
The benefits are obvious.
The number of DSLR cameras in the market can make choosing one seem daunting, though, so here are the best entry-level DSLRs, listed in alphabetical order. All of these cameras should give beginners years of hassle-free photography ... and they won't break the bank!
Canon's budget DSLR, the Rebel T3, and it is a fun camera to use. It has 12.2 megapixels of resolution and an HD movie mode (although only at a maximum of 720p).
The Rebel T3 is a simple camera, with fairly basic specifications, but it gets it right where it counts -- with reliable metering, decent AF accuracy, and detailed and natural JPEGs straight out of the box.
However, if you aren't already tied-in to using Canon cameras (for instance, if you have a large collection of EF lenses from film camera days), then I would certainly consider investigating other manufacturers, who offer a little more for your buck.
The Rebel T3i is Canon's replacement for its hugely successful Rebel T2i, although existing T2i users needn't feel that they are missing out. The T3i keeps the 18 megapixels and full HD movie mode, but it offers several new features which might tempt those new to the DSLR market.
The T3i camera comes with an articulated LCD screen. Canon included a "Feature Guide," which is designed to help beginners learn the functions of their camera. It produces high quality images at all ISOs, and JPEG quality is vastly superior to that found in many other cameras. It's a great buy.
Nikon's entry-level D3100 DSLR camera is a great option for beginners.
The award-winning D3100 has 14.2 megapixels of resolution and a full HD movie mode. It comes with a clever feature called "Guide Mode," which helps new users without taking away all of their control. This helps make the D3100 a fairly easy camera to learn to use.
Inexplicably, JPEG images show less noise at high ISOs than converted RAW images. But the D3100 performs exceptionally well in most conditions, even high contrast scenes.
The Pentax K-x is another attractive camera for those on a tighter budget.
It has 12.4 megapixels of resolution, and it does offer HD movie mode (but only at 720p). Image quality, even at low light, is superb and the K-x easily keeps up with, and sometimes surpasses, its rivals.
This camera is also by far the smallest and lightest of all these beginner-level DSLR cameras, which will certainly appeal to those who like to travel light! The only slight drawback with this camera is that, while it has 11 autofocus points, these aren't viewable in the viewfinder. If this isn't a concern to you, though, the K-x is a fabulous camera.
Extremely fast autofocus for both still images and movies highlights the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V "hybrid DSLR" camera. The award-winning A55V (sometimes called the a55) includes a new technology Sony calls "translucent mirror technology" that allows both the image sensor and the autofocus sensor to receive the light at the same time, improving speed. The a55's interior mirror does not "flip up," as in a traditional DSLR mirror. This technique means the a55 must use an EVF.
The A55V can shoot at 16.2 megapixels with a large CMOS image sensor, which results in great image quality. The A55V's 3.0-inch LCD can tilt away from the camera, which is handy.