As you’re probably well aware, there’s an enormous selection of cameras that cost less than £700. Although we can’t really complain too much about the fact there’s plenty of choice, it can make the job of finding a camera that’s tailored to your requirements rather difficult.
If you’re looking to upgrade from a basic point-and-shoot compact and are in search of better image quality, improved handling and faster performance, it’s easy to be overwhelmed when there’s hundreds of pounds lying on your decision. To make the process just that little bit less complicated, we’ve compared five of the hottest and most competitively priced cameras on the market right now to give you a better idea of which might be best suited for your needs.
Sitting just above entry-level DSLRs in the camera market are a selection of models which are aimed at users who’d like a few more perks than the cheapest models provide. Thanks to features from more expensive DSLRs filtering down to these types of camera over recent years you’ll find they’re better specified now than ever before. A couple of features that used to be exclusive to semi-pro and professional models were weather seals and high-resolution sensors – both of these are now found in affordable models and reinforces the point you’re getting incredible value for money from these types of camera. Before we look at each camera one by one and then compare image quality, head to the next page where we’ll explain the reasons for choosing these cameras and the key features they offer.
Best DSLRs for £700
If your budget exceeds the price of an entry-level DSLR but can’t quite reach the price of a semi-pro camera, one of the models we’ve chosen for this test will make a great choice. Ideal for new starters, families and those who’d like a few more creative functions, they all feature their own unique selling points in a bid to fight off the competition and make them attractive options to their potential users.
So what stands out from our selection of five and why were these models chosen? The three DSLR manufacturers in this test are Canon, Nikon and Pentax. Canon’s EOS 600D might be the oldest of the bunch, but it’s a camera that provides a strong specification on paper with a tilting screen and full support of all Canon’s EF-S and EF lenses. It fits the test in terms of price, too, and works out at £104 less than Pentax’s K-30. The latter is a tank of a camera in terms of its build: with full weather sealing throughout and a stainless steel chassis, it’s built to last and is designed to appeal to anyone who’d like a camera to survive all manner of challenging shooting conditions.
The D3200 stands just above the D3100 in Nikon’s DSLR line-up. Producing the highest resolution of our five chosen cameras with an astonishing 24.3 megapixels squeezed onto its APS-C sized chip, we expect it to resolve the greatest detail of the five but we’ll have to wait until we compare the image quality results to find out if this is the case. As with many advanced cameras aimed at those upgrading from a compact, the D3200 features a Guide mode that combines sample images and clear instructions to show how great photos can be taken very easily.
Sony’s A57 isn’t branded as a DSLR but is a DSLT. The ‘T’ in its name represents the translucent mirror technology that it employs. Stripped of a conventional mirror box as typically found inside a DSLR, it splits the optical pathway of light between an AF sensor and the imaging sensor to give it an advantage of an uninterrupted AF performance. Rather than having an optical viewfinder it features an electronic variant and the key benefit it has over many rivals is the ability of shooting at 12fps, making it as fast as much more expensive pro-spec models!
Last but not least we have Panasonic’s Lumix G5. Newest of the five, this compact system camera is notably smaller than a DSLR or DSLT. It is by no means out of its depth up against its rivals and offers innovative features such as a vari-angle touchscreen and touch-focus AF which allows you to focus on a specific area in the frame by simply tapping the screen. It’s also on an equal playing field with the K-30 in terms of price, costing £599 for its body only.
With £174 separating the cheapest model from the most expensive, we’ve got some very strong contenders battling it out to be the best performer. We expect each camera to perform admirably in a multitude of different situations, so to give them a thorough workout we put them through a series of challenges on a What Digital Camera field test. This consisted of the team using each camera, taking a selection of portrait, landscape, action and low-light shots to uncover which camera is best suited to each situation. Head to the next page to read up on each camera in full.
Best DSLRs for £700
Canon EOS 600D
The Canon EOS 600D features much the same specification as its predecessor, the EOS 550D. It offers a sensor with the same 18MP resolution as the 550D, 7D and 60D, although Canon is keen to point out that it’s not an identical chip.
The model’s ISO range runs from 100 to 6400, with an extended setting equivalent to 12,800, while a DIGIC IV processor also features, facilitating 14-bit Raw files capture and a burst rate of 3.7fps. There’s also a 63-zone metering system and nine-point AF system complete with a central cross-type point to enhance sensitivity.
The rear of the camera features an impressive 3in LCD screen complete with a resolution of 1,040k dots. Furthermore, the LCD screen is of the vari-angle variety, meaning it can be swung out from the body 180° about a vertical axis, and then rotated about 270° on a horizontal axis. This screen offers a range of shooting angles for use during either live view or video recording, the latter of which is facilitated at 1080p with a choice of 30, 25 or 24fps.
The EOS 600D is a well-designed DSLR; it features a mode dial that gives it the feel of a more high-end model, while it also incorporates a rubberised grip which allows for a more secure hold. While the vari-angle LCD screen is of benefit when shooting at difficult angles, it does mean that the 600D is slightly more chunky than its predecessor. This screen has also resulted in the loss of eye-sensors which previously cut the shooting info on the camera’s LCD screen on raising the viewfinder to your eye.
While there’s no denying that the 600D feels well put together, with the well-defined handgrip proving particularly pleasing, the smooth matt exterior does feel quite plasticky. Admittedly, this may not bother everyone.
Canon’s nine-point phase-detect AF system performs well in use. The points are tightly grouped in a diamond formation and generally select the subject accurately, although user selection is also offered and simply achieved.
A real benefit regarding performance is the presence of a vari-angle screen, much like that found on other models in this test, as it allows live composition and capture at a variety of angles. One disappointment is with the viewfinder which, despite being of the optical variety, only offers a 95% field of view.
- 18MP CMOS APS-C Sensor
- ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800)
- Optical Viewfinder (95% coverage)
- 3.7fps Burst Mode
- 3in, 1,040k-dot Clear View Vari-angle
Best DSLRs for £700
The Nikon D3200 has the highest resolution out of all the cameras here, housing a 24.2MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor.Nikon has stuck with the 11-point Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus module that was featured in both the D3100 and D3000 before it. Along with single-point AF and dynamic-area AF, there’s auto-area AF and Nikon’s clever 3D tracking. This latter mode will track your subject from AF point to AF point as it moves across the frame, utilising colour and distance information from the D3200′s 420-pixel RGB sensor that provides input into the Scene Recognition System.
Like the Nikon D5100 model, the D3200 features in-camera Effects that include Monochrome, Miniature, Sketch and a variety of others. Rather than apply these at the point of capture though, these can be only added after you’ve taken the photo.
There is also a Retouch menu with a selection of tools to edit and adjust your image including straighten horizons, trim photos and control distortion. All of this is displayed on the 3in, 921k-dot TFT LCD on the rear that sits flush with the camera’s body.
The outer shell of the D3200 is constructed from a high-impact plastic with a relatively matt finish
to it, while there’s a textured rubber coating round the handgrip and thumb rest at the rear. The handgrip is pretty comfy, but if you’ve got big hands then you may find your little finger hangs off the bottom of the grip thanks to the camera’s proportions.
AF is pretty fast and dependable in single-point AF, and it does well when tracking subjects. In continuous AF the 3D-tracking proves itself to being one of the best AF tracking systems on a camera of this class. In live view, however, the autofocus speed just isn’t as quick as that offered by the G5 and A57, which each feature a non-standard internal construction.
Although the rear screen shares its 3in size and resolution with its peers, it fails to deliver clarity on a similar level. Furthermore, images are displayed with a cool blue cast, which isn’t entirely accurate.
Most shooting settings are set via the interface on the rear screen, though the function button can be set up to control a host of options. There’s also a useful Guide mode to help newcomers to shoot a variety of subjects.
- 24.2MP CMOS APS-C sensor
- ISO 100-6400 (Expandable to 12,800)
- Optical viewfinder (95% coverage)
- 4fps burst mode
- 3in, 921k-dot TFT DISPLAY
- Guide Mode
Best DSLRs for £700
Panasonic Lumix G5
The newly designed 16.05MP Live MOS chip inside the G5 is paired with an up-rated Venus Engine 7 FHD image processor that promises improved processing of images and videos, with an ISO range that now reaches ISO 12,800.
Unlike the other models here, the G5 uses a contrast-detect AF system, which promises focusing speeds as fast as 0.09sec, and also offers a host of AF options that include Multi-area, Selective single-point, Tracking and Face Detection.
Like the G3 before it, the G5 features a 3in touchscreen with Touch Control, which not only allows for adjustment of settings but also full-area touch focusing and the ability to fire the shutter by simply tapping the screen. Mounted on a hinge, the screen itself can be pulled away from the body and also rotated through 270°, while its resolution has improved over the G3, doubling from 460k dots to 920k dots here.
For more traditional composition, there’s an electronic viewfinder with a 1.44m-dot resolution and a 100% field of view. On top of this, the G5 sports an eye-sensor: lift the camera up to your eye and the feed will automatically swap from the rear screen to the viewfinder.
The G5 features a large, DSLR-like handgrip that’s been nicely sculptured to make it comfortable in the hand, and there’s also a handy function lever that can be used to control a plethora of settings.
Even with the relatively large handgrip, the G5 is a compact package, especially if you opt for the slightly pricier 14-42mm power-zoom kit lens. Bar the odd niggle with the noticeably plastic command dial at the rear of the camera, there’s little to fault with the fit and finish of the G5. It’s a nicely made camera, underlined by the front which boasts a largely-aluminium construction.
The Light Speed AF inside the G5 features a drive speed of 120fps; during single-shot AF it’s hard to dispute this. If you want, you can also just simply tap anywhere on the rear touchscreen, and the camera will focus. It’s also possible to set-up touch shutter as well to fire the shutter at the same time.
In continuous AF, however, we found that the AF just can’t quite keep up with moving subjects fast enough, particularly when they’re moving towards or away from you.
Overall, the G5 is a nice camera to use and the touchscreen – while not perfect – works very well.
- 16.05MP Live MOS MFT sensor
- Micro four Thirds Mount
- ISO 160-12,800
- 1.44m-dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 6fps burst mode
- 3in, 920k-dot touchscreen
Best DSLRs for £700
Pentax’s K-30 sits below the K-5. Featuring the same 16.3MP APS-C CMOS sensor as found within Pentax’s Compact System Camera, the K-01, it employs a Prime II image processor and offers an ISO range that spans from 100-12,800, expandable to 25,600.
It’s a strong candidate for shooting high-speed sequences and has the ability of rattling out a continuous burst at 6fps. The SAFOX IXi+ AF system the K-30 uses is an entirely new development. Designed with improved optical components that include a diffraction lens, it’s intended to improve AF responsiveness in low-light situations. As for the arrangement of AF targets, nothing has changed since the K-5: it features Pentax’s tried and tested 11-point array with nine of the AF points being the cross-type.
Improving on the Pentax K-x and K-r models, which are now no longer in production, the K-30 has a pentaprism viewfinder offering a 100% optical field of view. Directly beneath this lies a fixed 3in LCD screen that boasts a 921k-dot resolution supporting live view.
Unlike its rivals in this test, the K-30 is the only camera to feature full weather sealing, a feature we’re more used to seeing on semi-professional models. With 81 weather seals it’s cold proof to temperatures as low as -10°C and is designed to withstand dust, dirt and moisture creeping inside.
With a stainless steel chassis, the K-30 feels solid, robust and highly durable. The deep grip gives you plenty to wrap your fingers around, and with two command dials it allows you to take independent control of aperture and shutter speed settings.
As for video, the K-30 provides full 1080p HD movie capture at 30, 25 and 24 frames per second, however there’s no 3.5mm port for attaching an external microphone.
Though the kit lens has a tendency to whir loudly, the K-30 does lock onto subjects at an impressive speed in both single-point and continuous AF. Enter the K-30′s live view mode and the AF performance is more sluggish and we noticed the shutter button doesn’t feel as refined as its rivals when it’s half depressed.
Colour and sharpness was well resolved by the fixed 3in screen. The K-30′s 6fps frame rate also means it’s no slouch in terms of speed: we found it happily recorded eight Raw files before the buffer became full.
- 16.3Mp CMOS AFS-C sensor
- Pentax KAf2 bayonet mount
- ISO 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600)
- Optical Viewfinder (100% coverage)
- 6fps burst mode
- 3in, 921k-dot TFT display
Best DSLRs for £700
Considering its sub-£600 price tag the A57 packs in a bevy of impressive features. These include a 16.1MP sensor capable of full HD video recording, a 15-point AF system with three cross-type sensors, and a wide sensitivity span of ISO 100-16,000.
As one of Sony’s SLT models, full-time phase-detection AF is on hand for both stills and movie recording. The technology also necessitates an electronic viewfinder, which has a capable resolution of 1,440,000 dots, while the rear 3in display can be pulled away from the body and adjusted around its pivot to face a multitude of directions.
The camera’s burst functionality is also likely to please those into action photography. This is set to 8fps as standard, with 10fps in the Continuous Priority AE mode (where control over certain exposure settings depends on the focusing mode chosen), and 12fps when the Tele Zoom option is activated.
Despite a healthy selection of buttons and controls around the body, there’s plenty of space for even larger-handed users to get sufficient purchase around the grip and thumb-rest. All buttons are clearly labelled and any commonly-used option which isn’t among these can be found within the Fn menu, which has its own button.
Considering its upper-entry-level size the camera feels relatively light, and Sony points out that recycled materials are used for the construction of both the chassis and the casing. Build quality is as hardy as expected for a model of its kind, with no creaking under pressure, and plenty of rubber has been used around the grip and thumb-rest areas.
The menu system’s straightforward design ensures it’s easy to navigate, although a colour coded system similar to that adopted by other manufacturers for their own models would improve this even further.
The 15-point AF system quickly finds focus in the majority of situations, although as these are concentrated in the centre of the frame peripheral details can be harder to pick out.
The screen does an excellent job to reproduce detailed images, with good contrast and excellent colour, and the bright, detailed viewfinder is usable in the majority of situations.
The 8, 10 and 12fps burst rate options come in handy, although it’s worth keeping an eye on the ISO setting chosen for these as this is raised to enable fast shutter speeds.
- 16.1MP Exmor HD CMOS SENSOR
- Iso 100-16,000 (expandable to 25,600)
- 1.44m-dot Electronic Viewfinder
- 8fps (12fps with Tele-Zoom feature)
- 3in, 921,600k-dot Tilt-angle extra fine LCD with Trublack technology
Best DSLRs for £700
Studying white balance revealed that the G5′s results were the least consistent, being a touch warm in some shots and cooler in others. Though the Nikon D3200′s white balance performance was more consistent, we found that some images were slightly warm and fractionally overexposed when compared to the same scene shot on the other cameras. Out of the five we were most impressed by the Sony A57′s white balance, as it managed to faithfully represent natural colour that was true to each scene that we photographed.
The Nikon D3200 offers impressive levels of detail but, as we discovered, sharpness levels weren’t as good as we’d expected and the same could be said for the 600D’s results. We found the best combination of detail and sharpness offered by Pentax’s K-30. The images it produced were exceptionally clean, although you should bear in mind it has a tendency to underexpose slightly.
Moving onto ISO performance, we were careful when converting each Raw file to ensure it wasn’t subjected to any automated sharpening or noise reduction. Viewing images at 100% in Adobe Bridge, we compared the results beside each other to help identify any discrepancies. Our findings showed Canon’s EOS 600D to resolve excellent detail at high ISOs. The Nikon D3200 struggled to define the same amount of detail in the roof of our low-light scene and although the Panasonic’s G5 results appeared slightly waxy at high ISO sensitivities, they did appear to feature fractionally more detail than that found within the Sony A57 files.
Pentax’s K-30 handles noise at higher sensitivities very well and all the finer details in our test image were very well recorded. Out of the five cameras on test we were most impressed by the K-30′s performance in low light. Contrast and colour wasn’t quite as impressive as the 600D but we couldn’t fault the detail at higher sensitivities.
To view the Canon 600D test images click here.
To view the Nikon D3200 test images click here.
To view the Panasonic Lumix G5 test images click here.
To view the Pentax K-30 test images click here.
To view the Sony A57 test images click here.
Best DSLRs for £700
Best DSLRs for £700
If your budget exceeds the price of an entry-level DSLR but can’t
quite reach the price of a semi-pro model, then you’re most likely in the £700 range. Thankfully the good news here is that £700 still buys you an awful lot of camera. You might even find that you have some change left over, which you can use to purchase a better lens or a tripod.
For £700, you can expect your money to secure a generously featured DSLR with a host of advanced features, creative functions and up-to-the-minute technologies. We’ve rounded up five of the best DSLRs for £700, all of which scored at least 90% when tested by our in-house team of experts.
With all of that in mind, here’s our selection of the best DSLRs for £700…
£590 with 18-55mm IS lens
Also known as the
Rebel T5i in some markets, the EOS 700D replaces the now discontinued 650D as the top model in Canon’s popular triple-digit EOS DSLR range, bringing with it with a range of hardware upgrades. Chief among these is a
3-inch/1040k-dot vari-angle LCD display that offers touchscreen control over
certain aspects of the camera. Elsewhere the 700D employs an 18MP APS-C CMOS
sensor alongside Canon’s DIGIC 5+ image processor (the same one that’s used in
the significantly more expensive 5D Mark III). The 700D uses the same 9-point
(all cross-type) phase detection autofocus system as its predecessor, while the sensor itself also hosts a number of phase detection pixels in the central area, which helps to improve focus speeds when
the camera is being used in Live View mode or to record video with. Speaking of
video, the 700D keeps up to speed with the competition by offering a top
quality setting of 1080p Full HD at 30fps. All in all, the 700D is a really solid mid-range DSLR that’s now available at a price that makes it well worth serious consideration.
WDC score: 90%
£620 with 18-55mm VR lens
this year the D5200 replaces the two-year-old D5100 and occupies the middle ground of Nikon’s DSLR range, briding the gap between the entry-level D3200 and the more enthusiast targeted D7100. The D5200 is built around a 24.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor, although not the same one that’s used inside the D3200. In addition the D5200
also gets Nikon’s EXPEED 3 image processor that allows it to offer a standard
sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400 (expandable to ISO 25,600) along with a
maximum continuous shooting speed of 5fps – impressive for a camera with this high a resolution. Elsewhere, the D5200 also gets an improved 39-point AF
module that has been borrowed from the older D7000 and which includes
nine cross-type sensors. On the back is a 3inch/920k-dot LCD that benefits from
a side-hinge allowing it to be tilted and swivelled to accommodate all kinds of
extreme shooting angles (or even self-portraits).
WDC score: 90%
£600 body only
being two and a half years old, the Nikon D7000 remains a fantastic DSLR for enthusiasts
looking for extra control and customisation options. Based around a 16.2MP
APS-C CMOS sensor and Nikon’s EXPEED 2 image processor, the D7000 further
benefits from a 39-point AF system that includes 9 cross-type AF sensors. Opening up the main in-camera menu reveals a host of advanced customisation options that allow you to set the camera up to shoot exactly the way you want it too. Despite the camera being a bit older, image quality remains hugely impressive with the 16.2MP sensor revealing plenty of detail and producing bold, punchy colours. All
in all, the D7000 is a serious bit of kit and with the recent introduction of its
successor – the D7100 – it’s also now less than half its launch price.
WDC score: 92%
£660 with 18-55mm lens
The K-50 is an excellent all-rounder that comes with a weather-sealed body to keep out the elements, making it an ideal choice for those that like to shoot in all weathers. In addition, the 18-55mm kit lens that’s it’s generally bundled with is also weather-sealed so you really can shoot with confidence in the rain. Internally the K-50 shares much in common with the cheaper K-500 model, which is to say it’s equipped with the same 16.28MP APS-C CMOS sensor, offers the same broad sensitivity range of ISO 100-51,200 and can shoot continuously at up to 6fps. In addditon the K-50 also gets Pentax’s SAFOX IXi+ AF sensor module, which offers 11 AF points in total, nine of which are of the cross-type variety. Unlike the K-500, the K-50 does superimpose the individual AF points in the viewfinder. All in all, the K-50 is a very well featured and competitively priced DSLR.
WDC score: 90%
£600 with 18-55mm lens
Despite being nearly two years old the Sony A65 remains a
very well specified camera – especially given how it’s now available a lot
cheaper than it’s initial launch price of nearly £800. Built around a 24.3MP
APS-C CMOS sensor the A65 features Sony’s Smart Teleconverter technology that
allows it to be used at 1.3x (12MP) or 2x (6MP) focal lengths, which is
especially useful if you want a bit of extra telephoto reach. Like other Sony
SLT cameras the A65 is not a DSLR strictly speaking thanks to its fixed
semi-transparent mirror design and lack of optical viewfinder. However, thanks
to its 2.36m-dot electronic viewfinder the A65 remains a fantastic camera to
operate. Furthermore, the SLT design enables the A65 to shoot at a super speedy
10fps – the highest in its class. Elsewhere, other hightlights include a 3-inch/921k-dot
LCD display that’s double hinged to assist with shooting from high or low
angles along with the ability to record 1080p Full HD movies at 50fps.
WDC score: 91%
£699 body only
Launched at the start of the year the K05 II is the
successor to the original K-5 that we reviewed in January 2011 (90%) and while
it only offers a handful of improvements over its predecessor, it’s still a highly impressive all-round enthusiast’s camera. The most notable upgrade is with regards to the 11-pint
autofocus system, where the K5-II impresses with its low-light capabilities.
Elsewhere you get the same 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 1080p Full HD video
recording and outer body weather sealing. All in all, the K-5 II is another top DSLR
release from Pentax that’s well worth a closer look.
WDC score: 90%
£530 with 18-55mm IS lens
The Canon EOS 100D was only released a few short months ago and yet its street price has already fallen quite significantly. The big sell with the 100D is it’s size – to date it’s the smallest DSLR with an APS-C sensor on the market, making it an ideal choice should you be looking for a DSLR that’s easier to carry around for extended periods. Thankfully, the 100D’s diminutive stature doesn’t extend to its feature set as it offers plenty of useful features and technologies to keep more advanced users happy, including a 3-in touchscreen display on the back and the same Hybrid autofocus module that’s used by the 700D. Elsewhere the 100D is equipped with an 18MP CMOS APS-C
sensor and Canon’s latest generation of DIGIC 5 image processor. In addition
you also get a 9-point AF system, 1080p Full HD movie recording and a range of
in-camera digital filter effects.
WDC score: 90%