The Best DSLR Camera: A Beginner’s Guide

With so many digital SLR (DSLR) cameras on the market, choosing one that fits your budget and is beginner-friendly can be a real challenge. There are some cameras that have an easier learning curve than others. Consider these four top-rated DSLRs when shopping for cameras.

Nikon D7000: Coming in at an average $900, the Nikon D7000 is not inexpensive. However, if you’re a loyal Nikon user and have accumulated a Nikon lens collection, you’ll love using your existing lenses with this DSLR. Inheriting an instant collection of lenses can add value to this camera. This Nikon DSLR is perfect for professional cameras and Nikon aficionados, but it’s also a great beginner camera. The operations and control panel are streamlined compared to previous Nikon DSLR offerings. The ISO range from 100 to 6400 has you covered in all different light levels, and you can even shoot crisp 1080p HD video.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i, with 18-55mm IS II lens: Dubbed the best DSLR under $1,000, the EOS Rebel T3i often retails for $500-$600, although you may be able to score one for less. With this body, you’ll be able to use existing Canon lenses, another plus. The Rebel T3i’s video and still image quality is excellent, and it’s an all-around solid pick. However, the controls are not always intuitive and it can be frustrating to switch between video and film. If you’re hoping for fast action shots of sports, pets or children playing, this camera isn’t your best bet.

Sony Alpha NEX-6: If you’re not already in the Nikon or Canon camp, consider Sony’s NEX-6, an all-around great camera that’s very user friendly. It comes with a 16-50 mm PZ lens and average $900 to $1,000 in price. The NEX-6 offers a winning triad of performance, design and image quality. While the price is high for a camera that isn’t from one of the big two manufacturers, the dependability and all-around utility of the NEX-6 make it a competitive model. One major downside is that you can’t save custom settings. As a beginner, remembering what combination of settings you used to capture that perfect shot can be frustrating.

Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS: If all this has you wondering how savvy you’ll be with the manual settings on a DSLR, or if you don’t have the budget right now to spend $500 on a camera, consider the Canon PowerShot. It’s more of a budget compact camera and isn’t actually an SLR. However, it is capable of 1080 p HD video, excellent low-light photography and high-speed burst shooting. The auto setting chooses the best aperture and shutter speed for the situation based on 32 pre-set modes. This allows you to focus on your image composition without worrying about setting the ISO and f-stop. You’ll notice a definite improvement in image quality over your smartphone camera, and even over other point and shoot camera. You can find this Canon digital camera for around $225.

As a beginner, you’ll definitely want to visit a photography or electronics shop to feel these cameras. Review the manual modes and settings, take some test shots and see which cameras feel intuitive to you. There’s a lot to learn when starting photography, but a good camera should make it easier, not more challenging.