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The Best Entry-Level DSLRs for 2014
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The Best Entry-Level DSLRs for 2014

Check out the most popular DSLR cameras for beginner photographers. Also find out about more about DSLRs and why they are so popular.

Meet four fantastic starter DSLRs with a kit lens that cost less than $650. Learn why these are not just great bargains, but also great cameras!


DSLRs have the largest image sensors, and therefore will produce the best quality images of any digital camera. Interchangeable lenses give you entrée into a world of flexible picture-taking options that lets you run with the pros. And yet, if you are intimidated by the thought of too many controls to learn, no worries: The current crop of starter DSLRs, available at Adorama's DSLR department, is just as point-and-shoot easy as compact digital digicams.

So, if you're bored with your point-and-shoot, and your smart phone's camera isn't cutting it any more, here are some great low-cost DSLRs that can get you pro results with ease (Prices are accurate as of August 6, 2014):

Camera/feature

Canon Rebel T5

Nikon D3300

Pentax K50

Sony A58

Resolution 18MP 24MP 18MP 20MP
Sensor APS CMOS DX APS CMOS APS CMOS APS CMOS
ISO Range 100-6400 (12,800) 100-12,800 (25,600) 100-51,600 100-16,000
(25,600)
AF system 9-pt, 1 cross pt 11-pt 11-pt Hybrid 15-point (3 cross)
Continuous shooting 3fps 5fps 6fps 8fps
Shutter speeds 1/4000-30 sec 1/4000-30 sec 1/6000-30 sec 1/4000-30 sec
Video 1080p/30fps 1080p/24, 30fps 1080p/30fps 1080/60p
LCD Size/Res 3-in/1,040k 3-in/921k 3-in/921k 2.7-in/480k
Ext. Mic No Yes Yes No
Special Effects Yes 13 Yes Yes
Extras Feature Guide Guide mode HDR Transluscent mirror
Adorama Price $549 $646.95 $596.95 $448


Canon EOS Rebel T5
Adorama price: $549

Lab test results (Provided by DxOMark):
Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 800
Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 800
Color depth: Very Good (21.7 bits on a scale of 1-25)
Overall image quality: Very Good (61 on a scale of 1-100)
Dynamic range: Up to 11.2 stops
Since the T5i and the T5 share the same sensor, we are using the T5i's test results here. Image quality is overall very good for a starter DSLR—it's a major improvement over compact cameras.

Overview: Designed for first-time DSLR users on a budget, the Canon EOS Rebel T5 has an easy-to-use interface and a help guide that holds the hands of novice users through the picture-taking process. It's the least expensive way to gain access to Canon's legendary lineup of EF and EF-S interchangeable lenses, ranging from ultra-wide-angle to super telephotos and macro.  

The system: An extensive range of Canon lenses from the mid-range "kit"zoom lens (kit lenses are typically 18-55mm, with smaller apertures. They are relatively inexpensive; quality is usually good enough for up to 8x10 prints) to a wide range of pro optics. Canon was the first camera company to offer image stabilization in its lenses, and offers a wide range of IS lenses if you are willing to pony up the extra cash. Most Canon lenses are extremely quiet and autofocus quickly and decisively.

Who would love it: Snapshooters with ambitions to improve their photography, enthusiasts looking for a low-cost body that provides optimal image quality in low light.

Nikon D3300
Adorama price: $646.95

Lab test results (Provided by DxOMark):
Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality (digital noise): 1600
Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: 1600
Color depth: Outstanding (24.3 bits on a scale of 1-25)
Overall image quality: Excellent (82 on a scale of 1-100)
Dynamic range: Up to 12.8 stops
The Nikon D3200's sensor showed one of the best performances of all APS sensors tested by DxOMark Labs. This includes a 13-stop Dynamic range and 42db signal-noise ratio at its native ISO (100). When applying noise reduction this camera should deliver excellent image quality for just about all uses right up to ISO 1600. Tested ISO is consistantly half a stop lower than the indicated one.




Overview: Nikon has raised the bar for image resolution in the sub-$700 camera category. The D3300 combines a 24MP DX-format (APS) CMOS sensor that measures 15.4x23.2mm with a feature set that's designed to please snapshooters who are stepping up from point-and-shoot photography as well as serious shooters looking for a low-cost second body. An improved image processor means better responsiveness and more reliable video quality. Nikon's popular Guide Mode, which was introduced with the D3000, offers on-screen guidance for beginners and holds your hand as it allows you to explore the camera's range of creative picture-taking options. Full HD 1080p video capture should appeal to budget-conscious videographers.  The lightweight Nikon D3300 is compatible with a new WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter ($58). 

The system: Over 70 current-production Nikon lenses and teleconverters (including close-up lenses, fisheyes, superwides, long zooms, Vibration Reduction lenses, and super telephotos) are available (although some may not focus automatically), plus eight flash units, many with wireless operation. Note:  because the D3200 lacks an internal focusing motor, some older Nikon lenses may not focus automatically. They will focus manually, however.

Who would love it: Snapshooters with ambitions to improve their photography, enthusiasts looking for a low-cost body that provides optimal image quality in low light.

Pentax K-50
Adorama price: $596.95 with kit and tele-zoom lens

Lab test results (Provided by DxOMark):
Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality: ISO 1200
Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: ISO 1600
Color depth: Excellent (23.7 on a scale of 1-25)
Dynamic range: Excellent (13 stops)
Overall image quality: Excellent (79 on a scale of 1-100)
Low-light performance is exceptional.


Overview: If you're stepping up from a compact camera to a DSLR to improve image quality, the K-50 should be at the top of your list. As one of the top cameras for overall image quality, the K-50 has an ISO range up to 51,600, which makes it a great camera to have in low-light situations. If you prefer letting the camera make exposure decisions for you, the K-50 is an expert, thanks to its Auto Picture mode, which can take the guesswork out of picture taking. If you are more advanced, the camera offers manual expsure control, and many features you'd expect of a more expensive model. Built-in HDR improves shadow and highlight detail capture, and a wide-range of in-camera special filters and effects creative results. Mode dials, a multi-function four-way controller, and switches take you under the hood so you can tinker with focus, exposure, color balance and more.


The system: Pentax has spent decades perfecting the art of lensmaking. And while you can get great shots with the kit lens that is bundled with the camera, the Pentax lens mount is compatible with just about any lens Pentax has ever made (although you may lose some automation with the older lenses).

Who would love it: Snapshooters for whom image quality is a high priority, low-light photography fans students and travelers.

 

Sony A65
Adorama price: $448

Lab test results (Provided by DxOMark):
Maximum ISO for acceptable image quality: ISO 800
Maximum ISO for acceptable dynamic range: ISO 800
Color depth: Excellent (23.5 bits on a scale of 1-25)
Overall image quality: Very good (74 on a scale of 1-100)



Overview: The A58 represents a great value and comes fully loaded with 1080p HD video recording capabilities. It features a fixed, transluscent mirror, so most of the light reaches the sensor, while the rest is displayed electronically in the viewfinder.  Lock-on AF makes it easy to focus on moving objects, while advanced noise reduction makes high-ISO images usable. As with all Sony DSLRs, the A58 has in-camera image stabilization rather than stabilization on the lens. The 2.7-inch, 460k LCD monitor flips out for high- and low-angle photos, and built-in HDR lets you capture a wider range of brightness and shadow. Multi-Frame NR and Hand-held Twilight modes add to this camera's shooting abilities in low light.

The system: In addition to all of those already-owned Minolta lenses, Sony has a full line (over 25) lenses in the Alpha/Maxxum mount, many of which are made for Sony by Carl Zeiss.

Who would love it: First-time DSLR users, and anyone who needs to keep their payload light and small. It's a great camera if you want to learn as you shoot! And if you used to own a Minolta SLR and still have the lenses, they'll fit on the Sony. The interchangeable lens mount is the same.


Backgrounder: What are the "Test results"?

Test results accompanying the camera descriptions above are based on objective measurements provided by DxOMark's state-of-the art camera test facility, with their permission. DxOMark has become the industry standard for independent lab image quality test results for today's most popular cameras and lenses.

Each camera's sensor is measured for color depth (which indicates how smooth the transitions are between colors), dynamic range (the range of visible detail in shadows through bright highlights in the same scene), and low-light ISO. Low-light ISO determines which is the highest ISO that will produce acceptable levels of digital noise in an image. I present the data along with an explanation which is intended to help you understand each camera's performance.




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