You can do an awful lot with a compact digital camera, but as high-tech as these little cameras have gotten there are still plenty of things that DSLR cameras just do better. The wide array of interchangeable lenses, larger sensor sizes, and amazing low light performance ensures that DSLRs won’t be going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Trying to decide which DSLR to buy can be a daunting task though since they come in all different price ranges, offering various features that all sound like you really need them.

Before you take out a 3rd mortgage on your home to buy the most expensive photography gear on the market in 2014, consider the fact that if you’re new to DSLR photography you really do not need to spend a fortune to get results that look professional. If you’ve got only a modest amount of money to spend on camera gear, your #1 investment will be purchasing a few excellent lenses that will continue to help you take amazing photos for many years to come, long after your first DSLR has been replaced. In fact, good lenses are so important to good photography, that you should research the lenses each camera brand offers before deciding to buy into a particular camera system. Even if the features of that camera are out of this world, if there are no lenses available for it that are suited for the kind of photography you want to do, it’s probably not the right camera for you.

The Best Entry Level DSLR Cameras of 2014

Paired with a high quality lens, entry level cameras can take professional quality photos without the high costs associated with buying a pro level DSLR.

The most affordable DSLR cameras on the market are known as entry level cameras. This term “Entry Level” is somewhat unfortunate because many consumers associate the phrase with sub par quality. Would you want to go to an “entry level” surgeon or buy a car with “entry level” safety features? Probably not! When it comes to digital cameras though, entry level does not mean low quality, it just means that it’s designed with new photographers in mind, with features that make it easy to take good photos regardless of your experience level. Paired with a good lens, virtually every single entry level DSLR camera available in 2014 is capable of taking photos that are nothing short of amazing. Even the most affordable DSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony allow photographers to take impressive photos that will wow viewers.

There is an obvious price difference between entry level and professional cameras, but much of this cost is related to the construction of the camera body itself and the inclusion of additional features which are beyond what most newer photographers (and honestly even many pros) will need. In 2014, every new entry level DSLR camera is built to a high standard, but they aren’t intended to be used in harsh environments where they will be exposed to very high heat, extreme cold, and inclement weather. Professional photographers who need their camera to keep working in the middle of a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert or at the racetrack during a thunderstorm will find a professional level DSLR to be more suited to their line of work. These pro DSLR bodies often offer higher ISO ranges, faster burst speed, shorter shutter lag time, and typically have full frame sensors, larger viewfinders, and more focus points. All of these features sound pretty great — and they are — but they’re really not useful to most beginning photographers. Until you really find yourself needing a specific feature, you should save your money (or use it to buy great lenses) and learn all you can about photography using an affordable entry level DSLR camera.

Entry level DSLR cameras typically include several convenient presets and automatic modes to help new photographers explore the world of photography as soon as they open the box and charge the battery. Learning the ins and outs of exposure and figuring out how to operate your camera using manual mode is very rewarding, but an entry level DSLR allows you to keep taking great photos while you learn.

Camera manufacturers LOVE to brag about how many megapixels their latest cameras have. New photographers end up spending a lot more money than they really need to every year, thanks to very effective marketing. Just like people rush out to buy the latest smartphone, even though their last phone hasn’t even seen its first birthday, camera manufacturers know that consumers love to have the latest technology, even if they don’t need it. The truth is that almost all of the DSLR cameras produced within the last 5-10 years have enough megapixels to allow photographers to print sharp images at 20×30 inches…and often even larger. Digital camera sensor technology continues to improve (low light performance in these new cameras is really incredible), but in 2014 you’re not going to go wrong whether your DSLR has a 12 megapixel sensor…or a 36 megapixel sensor. There are very real advantages to having more megapixels like being able to crop an image more heavily, but most new digital photographers will be very satisfied even with digital SLR cameras with a lower megapixel count. You’ll even find many photographers who are still using entry level cameras that were released more than 5 years ago — if they can keep taking awesome photos with their much older technology, just imagine what you can do with one of these newer entry level DSLR cameras!

We’ve put together a list of the best entry level DSLR cameras for 2014. Priced below $1100 for the camera body, you’ll find our list arranged in alphabetical order. While they vary in price, every one of these cameras will allow you to take your photography to new heights. The list below will be kept updated through the entire year, to ensure that the latest DSLR offerings are displayed.

 


Canon EOS Rebel T5i

canon-t5iThe 18 megapixel Canon T5i gives photographers the capability to shoot amazing, professional quality photos and 1920 x 1080 Full HD video without spending enough to buy a used car! The Canon T5i is the successor of the Canon T4i and Canon T3i, which are both very good cameras and worth considering as well. The T5i has impressive low light performance with an expandable ISO range to ISO 25,600. The 9 point all cross-point autofocus system is fast and accurate and much like the previous T4i, the T5i can autofocus while shooting video, a useful feature for the budding videographer who doesn’t want to manually pull focus. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5 frames per second makes the T5i a great camera for capturing fast moving action and wildlife. A variable angle 3 inch LCD touch screen makes it easy to take shots in a variety of positions.

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Canon EOS Rebel SL1

canon-sl1 If you struggle to figure out what the difference is between the 18 megapixel Canon T5i listed above and the 18 megapixel Canon SL1, you would be easily forgiven because they’re extremely similar and were released at the same time. Priced slightly less than the T5i, the SL1 is much smaller and doesn’t feature a swivelling touch sensitive LCD screen which is an important feature for some photographers, but irrelevant for many others. While the T5i features 9 cross point AutoFocus sensors, the SL1 has 9 auto focus sensors, but only the center one is a cross point sensor. While cross point sensors are more accurate, this isn’t a major deal breaker for most people who typically use the center AF point to focus their shots. Like the T5i the Canon SL1 also has a high maximum ISO of 25,600 for impressive low light performance and also features continuous autofocus in movie mode with subject tracking. The SL1 can shoot up to 4 frames per second, one less than the T5i, but still plenty for most photographers. One of the biggest differences between the SL1 and the T5i is in size and weight, with the much smaller SL1 weighing in about 6 ounces lighter than the T5i. Still compatible with the full range of Canon lenses, the SL1 is a great choice for photographers who want outstanding image quality, don’t need a swivelling LCD screen, and want a small DSLR that can fit into many purses and small bags easily.

 

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Canon 70D

Canon-70DThe 20.2 megapixel Canon 70D is often considered a semi-pro DSLR camera, but is a great camera for beginners as well. A Full HD movie mode with continuous autofocus and tracking of moving subjects makes it a great camera for DSLR filmmakers. The 19 point all cross-type AF sensors make autofocusing quick and very accurate. Like the one found on the SL1 and T51 the 70D’s variable angle LCD screen is useful for photographers who need to compose their shot even when they can’t put their eye to the viewfinder. An extendable ISO range up to 25,600 makes for great low light performance. With a continuous shooting rate of 7 frames per second combined with exceptional autofocus, the 70D is one of the best cameras on this page for shooting sports and wildlife. A built in WiFi system allows the camera’s exposure settings to be operated wirelessly from an iOS or Android smartphone. With the EOS Remote app installed, photographers can shoot remotely from a distance even in Live View mode and images can be transferred and saved to the smartphone wirelessly. HDR mode merges three images of varying exposure in camera, saving them as a single image with a high dynamic range, capturing higher detail in shadows and highlights. While more expensive than the T5i and SL1, the 70D is a more advanced camera that is perfect for photographers who want a balance between affordability and professional features.

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Nikon D5300

Nikon-D5300The 24.1 megapixel Nikon D5300 is essentially visually indistinguishable from its predecessor, the Nikon D5200. The image quality is slightly improved and the video mode has a serious improvement in the form of true 1080/60p HD video, making this camera great for recording slow motion footage in full HD. The LCD screen also got improved, increasing in size from 3 inches to 3.2 inches — a feature that may not impress still photographers, but is of note to DSLR videographers. Battery life is also improved in this camera by nearly 100 shots, meaning that the D5300 should last for 600 shots instead of only 500 like the D5200. An expanded ISO range goes up to 25,600 allowing photographers to shoot in very low light and a 39 point AF system with 9 cross type sensors makes autofocusing fast and accurate. 

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Nikon D5200

Nikon D5200The predacessor to the Nikon D5300, the 24.1 megapixel Nikon D5200 is a serious camera offering professional results. While it’s no longer the most recent model in Nikon’s D5xxx lineup, the D5200 still offers excellent results and will appeal to photographers who don’t need or want to spend the extra money for the latest model. For photos with both dark and bright areas, the D5200 includes in-camera exposure bracketing high-dynamic range (HDR), taking two shots at different exposures and blending them into one image. Autofocus with subject tracking makes taking videos of subjects in motion simple, and the D5200 can capture 1920 x 1080 Full HD video. The handy tilt and swivel LCD screen is great for when you need to move the camera into a position where you couldn’t otherwise see the LCD screen. The Nikon D5200 features 39 autofocus points, an increase from the D5100′s 11 points.

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Nikon D3200

Nikon D3200The Nikon D3200 has a 24.2 megapixel sensor, very similar to the newer D5200 and D5300 but at a reduced price point. Like the Nikon D5200 and D5300 it can also shoot 1920 x 1080 Full HD video with continuous autofocus. Unlike the D5200 and D5300 however, the D3200 doesn’t offer in-camera exposure bracketing. Since this is something that you can yourself do in post-processing without much difficulty, the loss of convenience won’t be a big deterrent to most photographers. Also missing on the D3200 is the tilt and swivel feature on the LCD screen — another handy feature, but maybe not one you’d be willing to spend $200 more for. For digital photographers who want the extra megapixels, but are happy to combine their exposure in post processing and don’t need an LCD screen that swivels, this camera is a perfect choice.

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Sony A65

Sony A65While Sony has a smaller chunk of the DSLR camera market compared to Nikon and Canon, Sony’s DSLR offerings are well worth considering and their lens offerings continue to increase. The 24.3 megapixel Sony A65 offers the highest resolution among the cameras on this list and also features an impressive 10 frames per second burst shooting with continuous autofocus, thanks to Sony’s Translucent Mirror Technology which also allows for continuous live view. An OLED electronic viewfinder, also capable of liveview is a great feature as well. The Sony A65 can shoot 1920 x 1080 Full HD video with full time autofocus and like the Nikon D5100 and D5200, the Sony A65 can capture in-camera HDR, combining the exposures of multiple shots into a single image. The 3D Sweep Panorama Mode allows you to capture panoramic images in 3D, recording separate right eye and left eye images.

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Pentax K-50

pentax-k50Even though Pentax accounts for only about 7% of global DSLR camera sales, they’ve got the best customer satisfaction rating according to the 2012 J.D. Power and Associates report for DSLR Online Buyer Report. Released about one year after the still very capable 16mp Pentax K-30, the 16 megapixel Pentax K-50 is also weather-sealed and built for serious outdoor use and is a great choice for outdoor photography. While most modern DSLRs can handle a little bit of light rain without dying, the Pentax K-50 is weather sealed, making it an excellent choice for the photographer who plans on going to some less favorable locations where a few drops of rain are the least of your worries. Designed with ergonomics in mind the K-50 also features a very impressive ISO range that goes up to 51,200 ensuring great photos in very low light. A fast burst mode allows shooting at 6 frames per second, and the Pentax K-50 can record 1920 x 1080 Full HD video. A shake reduction mechanism reduces blur from camera shake, useful for shooting in low light conditions or with long telephoto lenses. While the Pentax K-50 doesn’t have the high megapixel count that some cameras on this list do, it’s one of the best values for photographers looking for high end performance in a rugged camera body.

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Pentax K-500

pentax-k500Essentially the same camera as the Pentax K-50, the 16 megapixel Pentax K-500 includes nearly all of the features of the K-50. The big difference between the cameras, and the one that makes this camera much cheaper, is that the K-500 is not weather sealed. If you are the sort of photographer who loves to explore the humid rainforests and jungles of the world or who spends time climbing and hiking in the winter, the K-50 may be the better camera for you. If you use your DSLR like 95% of the population does, taking photos of people, animals, and landscapes in more normal conditions that don’t require weather resistance, the K-500 is a more affordable choice that offers the same performance in every other regard.

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Ready to learn what to look for in a lens? Head on over to our accompanying guide — After the Kit Lens: Choosing the Best Lenses on a Budget!

 

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