If you’re a serious photography enthusiast chances are that you would be looking for a DSLR to satisfy your inner creative urge. In fact a compact Point & Shoot will always be a continuous source for dissatisfaction whenever you want to have more manual controls over the shots. However there is one major caveat and that is DSLRs can be cumbersome, lens hungry and downright more confusing to operate than compact Point & Shoot cameras. Okay, I think I have already lost some of my readers there. So without much further ado let’s delve into some of the best entry level DSLR cameras that are out there in the market.
Digital SLR cameras are divided into three major segments; entry level, semi-professional and professional. Entry level models are of course the cheapest and have some of the go-between features. Though some of the entry level cameras like the Nikon D3200 have a very high resolution sensor (24.2 effective megapixels) or the Canon 550D which shares the same 9 point AF system as the more pricier 650D.
If you’re looking for an entry level DSLR then chances are that the following three brands – Nikon, Canon and Sony will be at the top of your choices. Out of these three, Nikon and Canon enjoy the lion’s share of the consumer DSLR market. So I have taken the liberty to discuss five models, two each from Nikon and Canon and one from Sony, in this discussion about the best five entry level DSLR cameras currently available.
1. Sensor type and Megapixels
All these cameras are based on Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) technology powered sensors and have an APS-C sized 1.6x crop factor. However the actual sensor size varies between one model to the other. While the Sony SLT-A35K has a 23.5 x 15.6 mm sensor, the Canon 550D has a 22.3 x 14.9 mm, the Canon 1100D has a 22.0 x 14.7 mm, the Nikon D3100 has a 23.1 x 15.4 mm and the Nikon D3200 has a 23.2 x 15.4 mm one.
Each of these camera sensors have different effective megapixels. D3100 has a 14.2, D3200 has 24.2 (launched with the D800/D800 E this one has one of the largest effective megapixels count for an entry level DSLR), the 550D has 18.0, the 1100D has 12.20 and the Sony SLT-A35K has 16.2 megapixels.
|Nikon D3200||23.2 x 15.4||24.2||Buy Now|
|Nikon D3100||23.1 x 15.4||14.2||Buy Now|
|Canon 550D||22.3 x 14.9||18.0||Buy Now|
|Canon 1100D||22.0 x 14.7||12.20||Buy Now|
|Sony SLT-A35K||23.5 x 15.6||16.2||Buy Now|
2. Auto-Focusing points and AF system
Auto-focusing points are extremely handy when quickly focusing on a predetermined point using the AF system of the camera. These AF points light up like tiny square boxes when looked through the viewfinder and help the photographer to focus more easily. The more the AF points the more precise is the focusing system of a camera. Having said that, AF points are not everything about a DSLR and having more AF points certainly does not assure you of taking better pictures.
The D3100 has an 11 AF system, same as the D3200 and which is 2 points more than the 550D and the 1100D. However the Sony SLT-A35K wins the race hands down with its wide area 15 point AF system.
But the main fight would be who has the better AF system; both during shooting stills and during video mode. The Sony SLT-A35K with its translucent mirror technology has a much easier time while auto-focusing in still or video modes. Since the mirror absorbs 70% of the light and passes it on to the sensor and the remaining 30% goes to the full time Phase detection AF system, the camera has a much easer time focusing on a moving subject.
Viewfinder coverage is a critical issue for precision level photography and if you’re into one (well in that case you’re reading the wrong review) then how much the viewfinder covers can be a deciding factor. Viewfinder coverage means basically how much of the frame you can see through the Optical Viewfinder (OVF) located at the top of the camera. What you see should be what the sensor captures. But with an entry level crop body that is rarely the case and so 95% to 99% is sometimes all what you can see through the OVF. What it does is that in case there is a tight shot of a house and a tree and you don’t notice the power line just kissing the top of the tree, when the final image is captured, you will be in for some surprise and for some frustrating post production.
4. Pentamirror or pentaprism or even translucent?
Nikon and Canon both provide pentamirror and pentaprism based viewfinders, while the pentamirror technology is used in the entry level DSLRs, the pentaprism technology is used in the more expensive semi-professional and professional bodies. They both serve the same purpose but in the case of a pentaprism there is a single solid chunk of glass that is used to focus the image to the viewfinder. As a result the image (viewed through the OVF) is brighter and it is also easier to manually focus. Comparatively the pentamirror is actually made from many pieces of glass. The resulting image is darker and it is difficult to manually focus (easier though for AF). The pentamirror technology is cheaper and is lighter where as the pentaprism technology is expensive and bulkier. All the Nikon and Canon models mentioned above have the pentamirror technology.
Comparatively translucent technology is one in which the mirror does not shift up and down when the images are taken. Out of all the light the lens receives, 70% is absorbed and the remaining 30% is bounced off to the OVF meaning the mirror never has to move when taking images. This has several advantages, faster AF when shooting still or videos, better phase detection, faster continuous shooting speeds (as the mirror does not have to readjust after taking the shot) and of course less camera shake as nothing is moving inside.
5. LCD screen
Not that it is actually something which is going to be a deal breaker, a LCD screen is important for a few things, namely, reviewing the images and videos shot and at times for checking the live view histogram (if it is provided by the manufacturer). A good quality LCD screen is thus something that most entry level DSLR enthusiasts would be willing to pay some attention to.
6. Image processing
8. Video modes
10. Buy from Amazon
|Camera||Manufacturer||Model Number||Buy Now|
|Nikon||Nikon D3200||Buy Now|
|Nikon||Nikon D3100||Buy Now|
|Canon||Canon 550D||Buy Now|
|Canon||Canon 1100D||Buy Now|
|Sony||Sony SLT-A35K||Buy Now|
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