Best Entry-Level DSLRs 2012: our top four entry-level DSLRs of the year…
- Mon, 1 Oct 2012
Best Entry-level DSLRs 2012
Entry-level DSLRs: best for image-making control on a budget
‘Entry-level' DSLR cameras, as they're so often called, are great for first-time DSLR users looking to take more control over their image making. Better still, the best entry-level DSLRs aren't necessarily ‘low spec' DSLRs; indeed such models are often quite highly specified, on top of which their larger sensor sizes will help you create images far beyond what a regular compact camera is capable of.
For example, the blurred background effect you so often see in professional shots - or ‘shallow depth of field' to give it its proper technical name - is much easier to achieve with a larger DSLR sensor, just so long as you've got a lens with a fast enough maximum aperture, or enough distance between your main subject and the background. And, of course, even entry-level DSLRs benefit from being part of a system, which means you can build up a collection of lenses and swap them around as you see fit.
In addition to giving you full manual control over exposure settings, all of the best entry-level DSLRs can record Raw image files too. If you're looking to get serious about digital photography, then having a camera that can shoot Raw is all but essential because it adds so much more flexibility in a digital darkroom environment. This is because Raw image files retain all of the data from the sensor - as opposed to JPEGs, which discard some data altogether and compress what's left. This means that they can be much more effectively altered using post-production software without affecting overall image quality.
Each manufacturer listed in our best entry-level DSLRs list uses a different lens mount, so once you've invested in your first purchase it's easier to take steps up the ranks for more advanced features in more pro-spec bodies.
Here are four of the best
entry-level DSLRs to grace the shops' shelves during 2012...
£320 with 18-55mm kit zoom
The Canon EOS 1100D - also known as the Rebel T3i in the USA - is the entry point to Canon's extensive DSLR system. Employing a 12.4MP CMOS sensor and a nine-point autofocus system, the 1100D is compatible with Canon's massive range of EF-mount lenses. Simple to use and capable of great results, it's a fantastic camera to learn the ropes with and build your DSLR skills. At around £320 with an 18-55mm kit zoom it's also excellent value for money too.
£350 with 18-55mm lens
Released earlier this year the A37 isn't technically a DSLR - rather it's a SLT (Single Lens Translucent) model. This means it lacks an optical viewfinder and instead uses a 1.44m-dot electronic viewfinder and a fixed semi-transparent mirror that enables it to shoot at speed of up to 7fps, making it great for capturing action with. Fitted with a Sony-made 16MP CMOS sensor it's capable of great image quality and can shoot 1080p Full HD movies too.
£450 with 18-55mm lens
Pentax still lists this strongly featured entry-level DSLR on its ‘current models' page whereas it is, in fact, sadly discontinued. Search around online though and you can still pick one up quite cheaply. Built around a 12.1MP CMOS sensor the K-r comes with an 11-point AF system (nine of which are cross-type sensors), a generous range of built-in digital filters and image processing options, and can shoot continuously at up to 6fps. While movie capture is limited to ‘just' 720p HD, in all other areas the K-r blows most of its competitors straight out of the water.
£475 with 18-55mm kit zoom
The D3200 replaces the two-year-old D3100 with a range of component and specification upgrades. The most striking thing about it though is that is offers a whopping 24.2MP of resolution - by far the highest in its class. This isn't the camera's only selling point however and other highlights include a 3in, 921k-dot LCD monitor, 1080p Full HD movie capture and an expanded Guide Mode to help you learn the basics with.
TIP: Use Old Lenses
When choosing the best entry level DSLR for your needs consider the old film-based SLR lenses you already have, because many will still work on digital models. Canon's EF-mount goes back decades, Pentax's K-mount is some 35 years old, Minolta lenses fit Sony Alpha and Nikon's F-mount is 60 years strong.
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