Best DSLRs for £700
Canon EOS 600D
It's long been the case that when it comes to Canon's triple-digit EOS range, there are certain things you can rely on. The first of those is image quality, and that certainly rings true with the EOS 600D. The general build quality of the camera is also pleasing, although when compared to others in this group test it shows that it's certainly not the most rugged on the market.
It is, however, a dependable performer and in many ways a jack of all trades. The 3in LCD screen is up there with the best on the market, although the 3.7fps continuous shooting range is some way behind the market leaders in this field. The same can be said about the model's AF system - it's well specified, but other cameras around this price range excel in that area. Overall, if you opt for the EOS 600D you can rest assured you'll certainly be getting a lot of dependable camera for your price.
If you're upgrading from a compact, then DSLRs can be a slightly daunting proposition for the first-time user. Nikon's well aware of this, and the D3200 has been designed with the beginner in mind. Thanks to the excellent Guide mode offered by the camera, those with little or no photographic experience can be capturing creative images in no time thanks to the way the D3200 shows you how it should be set-up to get certain shots.
The 24.2MP chip delivers plenty of detail at low ISOs, though this does come at the expense of image noise at higher ISOs, with images from the D3200 not retaining as much detail as its lower-resolution rivals. For those looking for their first DSLR with an excellent system to buy into, the D3200 is a sound choice. More experienced users may find it a little restrictive, however, due to the limited exterior shooting controls.
Panasonic Lumix G5
The smallest and lightest model on test, the G5 is a great option for those wanting DSLR performance, but don't want the added bulk. It's not all about the size with the G5, however, as it offers an array of features for both the beginner and those already used to shooting with a DSLR, while AF performance is fast - in single AF and during live view at least.
The G5 is also one of the best-built cameras here. While it doesn't have the weather-sealing of the K-30, the metal front and buttons deliver a high-end feel that goes some way to justifying its premium price. Finally, image quality impressed us on the whole, especially when you consider it uses a physically smaller sensor than its rivals. It's the most expensive model on test, and it's up against some stiff competition, but you'll be rewarded with a great camera if you take the plunge.
The K-30 is an excellent all-rounder and it's challenged its rivals hard with a faultless build quality, fast continuous shooting and excellent image quality at high sensitivities.
There's no doubting the fact that it features the most rugged build of the five, and thanks to its 81 weather seals it's able to withstand the most arduous weather conditions. It may not feature as many AF points as some of its rivals, but you can't really fault the AF speed other than it being a little slow in live view mode.
Unfortunately continuous AF during movie capture isn't supported and there's no 3.5mm mic port, stressing the point the K-30 is made to excel at taking stills not video.
Using the K-30 is a pleasing experience. Everything is well laid out and, most importantly, as with any camera, it'll provide the quality of images you expect when shelling out £679.
It's difficult to argue with what the A57 offers: a blistering burst rate, high-resolution LCD screen, full-HD video with continuous AF and an expansive ISO range, among many other things.
Indeed, the model is arguably the best specified option within its price bracket, and a perfect upgrade option for users of previous Alpha models. Whether it's the best option for first-time users, however, would depend on whether the SLT technology finds itself being more a help or hindrance: if continuous AF during movies and LCD-based composition are your thing, and you don't mind an electronic rather than optical viewfinder, it's a tough camera to beat.
SLT technology aside, the A57 delivers pleasing images with excellent colour and good default sharpness in both Raw and JPEG files. Just a slight tendency to underexpose lets it down.
In summary, each of these cameras has performed admirably and the
benefit of comparing them side-by-side has allowed us to identify any
differences that can't easily be traced in isolation.
Nikon's D3200 might pack the highest resolution and provides the flexibility to crop your images, however the large sized files will quickly fill up storage space and won't always be beneficial unless you're printing at large sizes on a frequent basis.
Canon's EOS 600D is a strong all-rounder but it hasn't stood out in any key area. That's not to say it's a bad choice by any means - it delivers good image quality at a respectable price point and is supported by an extensive range of lenses and accessories.
Sony's A57 is a great option if you're after a
fast-performing camera. The clarity and contrast of the screen is best
in class, but the electronic viewfinder might not be to everyone's
Panasonic's G5 is well made with an excellent viewfinder. The G-series is an expanding system but you'll need to be aware it's a system not quite as expansive as its DSLR and DSLT rivals.
Finally, Pentax's K-30 offers an excellent array of features for the price. In terms of value for money it stands out and it offers the best handling too. Considering its commendable performance on top of that, we'd happily choose the K-30 as the overall pick of the five.