The Best Entry Level DSLR Cameras
Before you take out a 3rd mortgage on your home to buy the most expensive photography gear on the market in 2015, 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 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 2015 is capable of taking photos that are nothing short of amazing. Even the most affordable DSLR cameras from Nikon, Canon, Pentax, 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) need. 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, 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 and 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 2015 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 2015. Priced below $1200 for the camera and kit lens, 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 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 still worth considering. 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 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.
Priced slightly less than the T5i, the 18 megapixel Canon SL1 is much smaller than most DSLR cameras. 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.
With a 24.2 megapixel sensor, the Nikon D3300 is one of the most popular entry level DSLR cameras on the market. The small and lightweight D3300’s sensor omits an optical low-pass filter, which helps to improve image sharpness. Autofocus For good low light performance, the ISO sensitivity can be expanded to 25600. You can shoot great looking full 1080/60p HD videos with the D3300. Easy Panorama Mode allows you to pan across the scene to capture a panoramic image in-camera, saving you the trouble of stitching together your panoramas later. A continuous shooting speed of up to 5 frames per second makes this a good performer when it comes to capturing quick action sequences.
The 24.2 megapixel Nikon D5500 offers many of the same features of the more inexpensive Nikon D3300, while adding in some higher end features that more advanced photographers will appreciate. Like the D3300, the D5500 also has no optical low-pass filter, for maximum image sharpness. Continuous shooting can also be done at up to 5 frames per second and low light shooting is possible with a maximum ISO of 25600. The D5500 features built in Wi-Fi, a 3.2 inch variable angle swiveling touchscreen, and a 39 point autofocus sensor for quick and accurate focusing,
The 20 megapixel Pentax K-S1 is a great entry level DSLR for photographers who love the Pentax brand and want a very affordable DSLR with some great basic features. Full 1080p HD video recording is possible at 30fps, and for low light image capture, the ISO sensitivity can be increased to 51200. One of the most exciting features of the K-S1 is in-body shake reduction, which helps to counteract the effects of shaking that can blur photos at slower shutter speeds.
Like the Pentax K-S1, the Pentax K-S2 also uses a 20 megapixel sensor, but unlike the K-S1, the K-S2 features a weather sealed body and several other more advanced features like built in Wi-Fi connectivity. Full HD 1080p video capture is possible and in addition to this, the K-S2 can also capture time lapse videos at up to 4K, 24p resolution — a handy feature for time lapse shooters. The K-S2 features a 3 inch variable angle LCD screen which makes it easy to compose and review shots when you’re holding the camera in awkward angles to get a photo. For low light shooting, the K-S2 ISO sensitivity goes up to 51200, and for fast action sequences the camera can shoot at up to 5.5 frames per second.
Even though Sony has focused much of their attention on mirrorless and compact cameras, they’ve still got the entry level DSLR market covered too with the 20 megapixel Sony Alpha a58. Featuring translucent mirror technology, the Sony a58’s autofocus system can work during continuous shooting mode and while shooting video. For overhead and waist level shooting and reviewing photos, the 2.7 inch LCD screen tilts up and down. Continuous shooting is possible at up to 5 frames per second and SteadyShot Inside stabilization helps to correct for camera shake, allowing you to shoot with slower shutter speeds in low light without getting blurry images.