Top cameras for those just starting out, or those who are already in the DSLR game.
If you feel like you’ve outgrown your point-and-shoot model and want to explore the world of more advanced DSLR cameras, then ease-of-use will probably feature at the top of your list of requirements. After all, alongside the beefier specification found inside a DSLR, there’s little point in having much more picture-taking power at your fingertips if you’re not sure which function does what.
However, even using a DSLR in full auto mode will provide an improved photographic experience, including the core benefit of being able to shoot much larger RAW files. Added to that, oodles of extra features and the opportunity to adopt a more manual hands-on approach once you have mastered those new controls, means that it’s a step well-worth taking.
So, inspired by our recent 5-star review of the Canon EOS 70D, here are ten of the best DSLRs that deliver way more than a conventional compact ever can, while retaining relatively simple and easy-to-use functionality that’ll help to take your photography to the next level. Yes, some of them are very expensive and yes, for a while you may only be using one of these snappers to a fraction of its abilities but if you’re going to jump in the DSLR puddle – you may as well do it with both feet.
Canon EOS 70D
The inspiration for this updated top ten and Canon’s latest 5-star snapper – the Canon EOS 70D is Canon’s top enthusiast level camera of the moment. If you want more from a DSLR, you’re probably a professional. It’s a terrific mid-level DSLR camera. It has a solid, usable design, a lifetime of guides and features to explore and captures wonderful colour photographs at even low light levels.
Key features: A newly designed 20.2-megapixel APS-C sized sensor, a superb 3-inch LCD screen.
Perfect for: Anyone who’s really keen to push their abilities with some challenging features that guarantee great results.
Guide price: From £970
The Nikon D3200 remains in our list, simply because it’s a great camera that’s ideally suited to a beginner. That’s not to say it doesn’t have all of the muscle of its pricier counterparts, but this is an affordable and simple to master camera that benefits from a natty Guide Mode option. It’s nicely designed and one of the less bulky DSLRs around too, while the 24.2-megapixel sensor will capture quality shots every time.
Key features: 24.2 megapixels, Guide Mode, D-movie mode and Full HD video, wireless mobile adapter.
Perfect for: Those who need a helping hand, want excellent picture quality and not too much bulk.
Guide price: From £369
Sony Alpha A57
Sony offers up this neat twist on the DSLR thanks to its Single Lens Translucent, or SLT cameras of which the A57 is a solid, fairly-priced middle ground offering. The build quality is top-notch and there are plenty of controls, some of which can be customised to suit your own requirements. The electronic viewfinder will certainly appeal to some, as will the articulated LCD screen that’s really effective in challenging conditions.
Key features: 16.1-megapixels, Exmoor APS HD CMS sensor, Electronic Viewfinder, Full HD video, 3-inch TruBlack tilt/swivel screen.
Perfect for: People who want a responsive performer and prefer an EVF that’ll partner seamlessly with any of the Sony A-mount lens range.
Guide price: From £695
Canon EOS 100D
The brand new EOS 100D is the smallest and lightest APS-C DSLR yet produced and has been developed with aspiring enthusiast photographers firmly in mind. There’s a simplistic in-camera feature guide, plus an impressive touchscreen while the picture quality in both still and HD video is second to none. Compatibility with a wide variety of lenses should make it a sure-fire hit.
Key features: 18.0 megapixels, Vari-angle LCD touchscreen, Full HD movies, Creative Filters, built-in feature guide.
Perfect for: Any first-time DSLR photographer in need of a cracking camera thanks to its easy to use features and surprisingly beefy specification.
Guide price: From £449
Pentax K-5 II
This is a fine-looking DSLR if you don’t want to follow the Canon / Nikon pack. Alongside its classy styling and reassuring build quality, the K-5 II proves to be a nimble, easy to master camera that’s an improvement over the earlier K-5 thanks to a super-speedy autofocus system and other subtle tweaks. Alongside the overall perkiness, this is a DSLR that comes sealed against the elements, making it another good bet if you’re out in all weathers.
Key features: 16.3-megapixels, 3-inch LCD screen, Full HD video, shake-reduction system, weather-sealed.
Perfect for: Any accident-prone shooter who’s after an easy to use DSLR that’s able to take its fair share of knocks.
Guide price: From £656
The brand new Nikon D7100 is a very exciting proposition in that alongside its specially developed 24.1-megapixel sensor, the camera has been designed with the great outdoors firmly in mind. That’s because it has a series of weather seals to protect normally vulnerable openings. It’s also small, light and boasts the enticing Nikon usability factor. The D7100 is keenly priced too, so makes a good choice if you want something bang up to date.
Key features: 24.1-megapixel, 51-point AF system, 3.2-inch LCD screen, magnesium-alloy construction, weather-sealed, good battery life.
Perfect for: Anyone serious about their photography who demands top results from a durable go-anywhere camera.
Guide price: From £690
Canon EOS 700D
Another brand new DSLR from the Canon camp and, much like the 100D, this is compact and lightweight. That makes it instantly attractive to keen photographers who want quality but not the backache that comes from lugging lots of kit around. It’s a great looking camera too and comes with a host of popular Canon trademarks, such as their Creative Filters and excellent Full HD video capability. Better still, it’s a doddle to use thanks to lots of fuss-free pre-sets.
Key features: 18.0 megapixels, DIGIC 5 processor, Creative Filters, 3-inch Vari-angle LCD touchscreen, Full HD video.
Perfect for: Those keen to start snapping rather than spending hours picking through a thick and intimidating manual.
Guide price: From £587
Shop around for the Nikon D5100 and you’ll be able to buy one of the cheapest DSLRs on the market. It’s also hugely versatile and very easy to use thanks to its intuitive design and straightforward controls. There’s an articulated and crystal clear rear screen that’s very practical, the movie mode is impressive while the design and build makes it a perfect size for enthusiasts on the go. Special effects modes add in a touch of fun.
Key features: 16.2-megapixels, Expeed processing engine, Full 1080p HD video, 3-inch vari-angle LCD screen, lightweight design.
Perfect for: There might be more powerful cameras out there, but if you’re looking for top value and a rock-solid starter DSLR then this is a contender.
Guide price: From £350
Canon EOS 5D
You’ll need deep pockets for the 5D MK III and that’s before you’ve bought a lens, but the outlay will be worth it if you’re after image excellence. It comes packed with features, plus a specification that allows you to capture everything from tricky low-light shots through to creative High Dynamic Range images. Full 1080 HD video is hugely impressive, while the sophisticated 61-point autofocus will keep you on your toes.
Key features: 22.3-megapixels, Full frame sensor, DIGIC 5 processor, Full HD video, excellent HDR mode, 3.2-inch LCD screen.
Perfect for: Anybody who’s not afraid to tackle a wealth of new picture-taking options in their quest for great pictures.
Guide price: From £2,300
The Nikon D800 is a full-on DSLR that’ll be part intimidating and part irresistible such is its shooting potential. The man-sized sensor captures huge images that’ll be sure to impress your friends, particularly if you have wall prints in mind. Meanwhile, the camera itself is chunky, feels built to last and has a feature set that’s both comprehensive and compelling for anyone who loves their photography.
Key features: 36.3-megapixel, Expeed 3 processor, 3.2-inch LCD screen, Full 1080p HD video, magnesium-alloy body, rugged design.
Perfect for: A beginner who wants to get stuck in and make use of the seemingly endless shooting options on-board.
Guide price: From £1,600