Top Ten Digital SLR Cameras in 2013 - By Popularity

Why Some People Are Always Winners When They Buy A Digital SLR Camera

Photography is one of those endeavors that requires equipment and knowledge.

While it's true that you can take a great picture with meager equipment, a great camera makes the job so much easier. (And great lenses are right up there, too.)

My personal experience has finally lead me to a Canon Rebel. My Canon Rebel T3i article has much more about this great DSLR for amateurs.

As a photographer and author, I have made a few horrible purchases. They have all been the result of the same two failures.

  1. Failure to do the proper research. I don't know about you, but I tend to be somewhat impulsive when buying stuff I really think I need. It has resulted in a few disappointing purchases.
  2. Failure to believe the research after I spent the time to do it. This is usually related to price. Cutting corners with some equipment is not a good idea. When you know that one product is superior to another, but it is too much for your budget, it is better to wait until you have the funds rather than buy something that will never be used because it sucks. Or worse, you must use what you bought, but you hate the results almost every time.

People who avoid these two buying failures are much more likely to be Winners when it comes to buying a Digital SLR camera.

That's the reason for this article. Hopefully, you will believe what others who have gone before you have to say. If you don't find the camera you are thinking about buying on the Top 10 list, there can only be two reasons.

First, it is not good enough to make the list. If that is the case, make sure you know why those who bought that camera did not think enough of it to leave positive feedback for others.

Second, the camera just came out and there is not enough user feedback to make the Top 10 list.

So use this list to confirm your choice, or use it as a reason to continue your research. Either way, the list exists for your benefit. Please let me know which camera you picked, and if yours is not on the list, let me know that, too.

Top 10 Digital SLR Cameras - Criteria For Selection

Digital SLR cameras are gaining popularity among photographers of all types, especially new photography hobbyists. Reasons are varied, but the truth is that digital SLR cameras are more accessible due to price, and they are much easier to use due to developments in engineering and technology.

How does a camera make it onto the list of Top Ten Digital SLR Cameras?


Digital cameras in this list are selected by popularity.

One has to decide the criteria for a list of this type, and mine was popularity, specifically user review scores on Amazon.com. For each entry there will be a short review of the DSLR camera and the customer rating.

Please note - this is not the Amazon Best Sellers list.

The Amazon rating system is a 5 star rating system in which each contributor rates the camera with 1 to 5 stars, 5 being the best. They display the star ratings with an average, as well as the number of individuals that rated the camera at each star level. There is no editing involved. The rating is a simple average.

The reason this is so valuable is that it involves people from every level of photography skill. First time users have as much impact on the overall average as seasoned professionals.

Important: Reading the actual customer reviews will give a deeper understanding of the value of each comment and star rating. You can tell if the user was put off by a delivery problem, causing them to lower their evaluation of the camera. This results in a lower average, and therefore can skew the ratings. So be sure to check the ratings personally before making a decision about the quality of the camera.

Nikon D700 Photo Shoot

#1 - Nikon D700

The ONLY full-frame camera on the "Top Ten" list.

Star Rating: 4.9

Techy Stuff

  • 12.1-megapixel FX-format (23.9 x 36mm) CMOS sensor; body only
  • 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot VGA color monitor; 170-degree wide-angle viewing and tempered-glass protection
  • Fast, accurate 51-point AF system; 3D Focus Tracking and two Live View shooting modes
  • Base ISO range from 200-6400 can be expanded to range from ISO 100 (Lo-1) to 25,600 (Hi-2); 0.12-second start-up speed
  • Capture images to CF I/II cards; compliant high-speed UDMA CF cards that will enable recording speeds up to 35 megabytes/second

The D700 digital SLR camera has a 12.1-effective megapixel Nikon FX-format sensor that measures 23.9 x 36mm, which is nearly identical to the size of 35mm film. This is not a beginner's camera, however, if you are confident that you will be a serious photographer, and your budget is not limited, this could be the right digital SLR for you. Generally, it is a camera for professional photographers.

Nikon full-frame cameras are well known for amazing image quality and low-light performance. Sensor sensitivity is much better than the capabilities of the human eye. So much so that some photographers have stated that they can take pictures in the dark with an FX-format sensor.

Taken with a Nikon D700
Taken with a Nikon D700 | Source

Canon Rebel T3 - Low Light Test Video

Canon T3 @ Amazon

#2 - Canon Rebel T3

The Canon Rebel T3 is the bare-bones digital SLR in the Canon lineup. Replacing the hugely popular Rebel XS, it is meant to be the "go-to" model for those who are just upgrading from a point-and-shoot camera.

The goal is to provide a basic model that will allow users to easily get great images without a large learning curve. In fact, if the photographer just sets the mode dial on Auto, it is smooth and easy to take truly awesome photos. No need for photography school.

That does not mean, however, that you can't use the control settings on the camera to totally take charge of the image output. The Canon Rebel T3 offers the best of both worlds.

Star Rating: 4.8

Techy Stuff

  • New 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • ISO 100 - 6400 for shooting from bright to dim light
  • Improved EOS HD Movie mode
  • 2.7-inch Clear View LCD
  • Enhanced metering with a 63-zone
  • Live View Function for stills (Quick, Live and Face Detection AF modes) and video
  • Capture images and video to SD/SDHC memory cards

With the T3, the new user can shoot in "Creative Auto" mode. This is for beginners, usually those moving up from point and shoot models, so they can experiment with their new DSLR in "part auto - part controlled" circumstances. Essentially, it is a learning mode, kind of like "on the job training." Will in Creative Auto mode, you can experiment with your photography and still take super photographs.

User comments and ratings are mostly positive. Here is one that gives an overall evaluation of the T3:

"I think the camera is an amazing buy for the money. I was able to unpack the contents & begin shooting good pictures IMMEDIATELY, using the fully automatic settings & the included partially charged battery... but don't forget to order the storage card."

Sample photo from the Canon Rebel T3

Source

Pentax K-5 Weather Sealed

#3 - Pentax K-5

The Number Three Listing ~ Pentax K-5.

The Pentax people have long been known for fine photography products. However, they have chosen to move ahead without all the advertising and hype that is part of the Canon and Nikon faceoff. Pentax relies on user satisfaction and knowledge.

Building on the huge popularity of the Pentax K-7, Pentax K-5 is a capable piece of photographic engineering. They have created a high quality camera that is the smallest in its category (mid-level digital SLR), yet it still has the 16.3-megapixel sensor and weather-sealed body. Pentax photographers are quite loyal to their brand.

The best part may be that if you have ever owned a Pentax SLR camera, the lenses will be compatible with the K-5 (or any model for that matter). The K-5 is backward compatible with all previous lenses.

Star Rating: 4.8

Techy Stuff

  • High-resolution, 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor; compact, magnesium alloy body
  • ISO range of 80-12800 with improved noise performance
  • Optical viewfinder with 100% field of view
  • Weather resistant, dustproof, and coldproof (14 degrees F, -10 degrees C)
  • Fast 6-7fps captures fast action shots shooting with the new PRIME II Image processing engine; top shutter speed of 1/8000 sec freezes even the fastest action in well-lit settings
  • 3-inch LCD; Live View mode, with contrast AF, Face Detection, and optional histogram, grid, and bright/dark area display
  • Widescreen 1080p HD video at 25 FPS
  • Capture images to SD/SDHC memory cards (also SDXC with firmware update)

A couple of things stand out as unique at the particular price point of the Pentax K-7.

First is the in-camera anti-shake technology. Other manufacturers have put this technology into their lenses. With Pentax, each lens, even an older one, has image stabilization because the stabilization is built into the camera body rather than the lens.

The second feature that is usually saved for the full-frame big brothers is 100% coverage in the optical viewfinder. This lets you see the entire image without having to mentally interpolate what the final picture will look like.

One more thing that has been included is the full weather seal of the camera body. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, the photography can go on.

Here's what one happy user had to say about the K5 at Amazon:

"This is the best APS-C camera on the market. Its built like a tank. Weather seal is awesome. Feels amazing in your hands. Has way more features available in the buttons on the body than most cameras which rocks because you don't have to go through the menu for everything. Handles high ISO amazingly. Beautiful images. Great contrast. I couldn't be more happy with this camera. Look no more! "

Pentax K-5 Sample Image

Off the dock!
Off the dock! | Source

Canon Rebel T2i Overview

#4 - Canon Rebel T2i

The Digital Rebel line of Canon cameras has been very popular since its first release of the Canon Rebel 300D, a 6-megapixel gem. It was one of the first sub-$1000 digital SLR cameras.

Star Rating: 4.7

The Canon Rebel T2i continues the tradition of excellent quality as an entry level DSLR. Beginners and avid hobbyists are gobbling up these cameras as fast as they can be made.

The Amazon description of the T2i: "Featuring a class-leading 18.0-megapixel CMOS image sensor and increased light sensitivity for low light photography, the EOS Rebel T2i also has an advanced HD Movie mode for gorgeous Full HD movies. Able to capture up to 3.7 frames per second, it's ready to go the minute it's picked up. Advanced Live View, a new wide-area screen, plus features like Canon's brilliant Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone features ensure brilliant photos and movies, easily. With some of the most advanced features of any digital SLR, it's simply the best Rebel Canon has ever created."

Techy Stuff

  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor; DIGIC 4 image processor for high image quality and speed
  • Kit includes 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens
  • ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12800) for shooting from bright to dim light; enhanced 63-zone, Dual-layer metering system
  • Improved EOS Movie mode with manual exposure control and expanded recording 1920 x 1080 (Full HD)
  • Wide 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor; dedicated Live View/Movie shooting button
  • New compatibility with SDXC memory cards, plus new menu status indicator for Eye-Fi support

The Rebel line has continued to aggressively lead in technology upgrades that have been well received by the photographic community. There are many pros who have a Rebel T2i as a backup camera, but it is truly meant to sit solidly in the entry level DSLR category.

Those who are upgrading from digital compact cameras will appreciate the excellent image quality and super fast action of their first digital SLR. And those who are upgrading from former Rebel models will be impressed with the upgrades that have been employed in this model. Owners of the T1i will immediately notice the better quality of video capability, along with stereo sound input.

Here is an excerpt from a Rebel XS owner at Amazon (click the Amazon link for the Rebel T2i at the right for all the user comments on the Canon Rebel T2i):

"OVERALL IMPRESSIONS
The camera is very small and light. It is not weather-sealed or as durable as some of the more expensive SLRs, but it doesn't "feel cheap" in my opinion. It features a 3-inch LCD (compared to the Rebel XS's 2.5 inch screen), which also has a very high resolution. It looks lovely! Auto-focus is fast, and I've been very pleased with the quality of the pictures and videos I've taken so far."

Canon T2i Sample Photo

Youth Sports? No problem with a Canon Rebel T2i - use the sports setting for optimal quick shutter speeds. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for T2i
Youth Sports? No problem with a Canon Rebel T2i - use the sports setting for optimal quick shutter speeds. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for T2i

Nikon D3100 - Special Video

#5 - Nikon D3100

The Nikon D3100 has climbed the ranks steadily over the past 4 months. It has become recognized as a solid performer, even though it does not have the extra features of the D5100. What it is, is just what beginners want in their first DSLR - excellent image quality at a price that does not require another mortgage. When camera owners experience this type of quality for this small amount of cash, they are hard to convince that there may be another camera as good as this one.

Star Rating: 4.6

Techy Stuff

  • 14.2-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor
  • 18-55mm Zoom-NIKKOR VR Image Stabilization kit lens
  • APS-C type sensor (1.5 magnification when compared to 35mm full frame)
  • Full 1080p HD Cinematic Video with full-time autofocus and sound
  • 3-inch super-density color LCD monitor with Live View
  • ISO range of 100-3200 (expandable to 12800)
  • Nikon Guide Mode with intuitive controls and on-board assistance which explains each feature when it is selected
  • Capture images to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards (you will have to buy this card separately)

User comment from Amazon (click on the link to Amazon below to read all the comments)

"I'm an amateur photographer and this camera meets my needs. I love the fact that it's small and light, with great quality images."

The thing that makes this camera so desirable is the way the Nikon people have made it so user friendly that someone who is new to Digital SLR photography can simply pick up this camera and start shooting with confidence. The image size and quality will bring a smile to the face of the happy owner.

Example Images from the Nikon D3100

Taken with the Nikon Kit Lens
Taken with the Nikon Kit Lens | Source
Source

New Canon Rebel T3i Owner

#6 - Canon Rebel T3i

The Canon Rebel T3i sits solidly in the "entry-level" niche for digital SLR cameras. However, it has many of the same features as the more advanced Canon 7D. In fact, it has the exact same image sensor, which means that you can get similar photos with both cameras.

Of course, a Rebel T3i is not to be confused with a 7D, but you can certainly learn how to be a good photographer with this model because you have all the tools and controls necessary. Like the Canon 60D and 7D, the T3i is an APS-C sensor camera, so it does not take full-frame photos, but with the advancement of digital technology, this category of camera has come close to professional in every other aspect.

Star Rating: 4.6

Techy Stuff

  • 18.0 MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor for high image quality and speed
  • Vari-angle 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor (3:2) for shooting at high or low angles and 1,040,000-dot VGA with reflection reduction
  • ISO 100 - 6400 for shooting from bright to dim light
  • Video Snapshot features for enhanced video shooting options
  • Capture images to SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards

If you are one who likes in-camera editing, the Canon folks have taken it to another level with their Rebel cameras. There are lots of options for getting really creative with your output.

Some of the creative features can be done after the shot has been taken and without the use of photo editing software. Other creative features are set up using the Feature Guide that "guides" you through the settings. This is a new feature for Canon, and it helps users who are just feeling their way along so they don't have to go to the camera manual every time they want to try something new.

One of the avid proponents of the Canon Rebel T3i had this to say:

"I am not a camera expert, but rather, I'm a busy mom who likes to take pictures and who adores my subjects...I've come to adore this camera even more than I did when we first got it. When baby #2 arrived, the quality of pictures that we got far surpassed the pictures from the first baby's photo shoots."

Sample Image from Canon Rebel T3i

Taken with 18-55mm,Focal Length 28mm,ET 1/10sec,F/4,ISO-3200,no flash
Taken with 18-55mm,Focal Length 28mm,ET 1/10sec,F/4,ISO-3200,no flash | Source

Canon 60D Video - Beautiful!

#7 - Canon 60D

This is the Canon 60D. The experts at DPReview.com had this to say about the 60D: "The 60D is not the direct replacement for the 50D that many Canon users expected but there's still an awful lot of 7D fitting into a smaller, lighter body with an articulated screen that is likely to appeal to video shooters."

Since that was written, many photographers have purchased this digital SLR and they agree that it delivers in quality and performance.

Originally, there was some controversy about whether the 60D was a legitimate upgrade, but now that the dust has settled, buyers of the camera are a happy bunch, as you can see from the popularity and Star Rating.

Star Rating: 4.6

Techy Stuff

  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 4 Imaging Processor
  • ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12800)
  • Improved EOS HD Video mode with manual exposure control
  • Vari-angle 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor
  • 5.3 fps continuous shooting
  • Improved EOS HD Video mode with manual exposure control
  • Stores images on SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards

The Canon 60D is proof that image quality has been a high priority for a long time. This model is just one more example of the way Canon has paid attention to its customers. While the biggest concern voiced was the non-metallic body, that concern has been overshadowed by the great features that the 60D has given in return.

The comments on the Amazon site shows that the Canon 60D is satisfying its customers:

"As someone who has now had the opportunity to use all three of Canon's mid-range lineup (the T2i, 60D, and 7D), I have to say that I really like the feel of the 60D. Even though it no longer has the magnesium alloy body, it feels solid."

Yet another comment went something like this:

"As a professional photographer with many years of experience, I used my 60D recently under rather demanding conditions of dust, moisture and exposure to the elements. The 60D performs well, especially for the price. The camera is a very good value..."

Canon 60D Sample Image

Unedited shot! The colors are simply amazing!!!
Unedited shot! The colors are simply amazing!!! | Source

Canon EOS 7D

#8 - Canon 7D

The Canon 7D is the heart-throb of many photo enthusiasts. It is one step away from the professional models, yet there are many pros who use this camera.

The camera sensor is tried and true. It is used in the Rebel T3i and the 60D. What the 7D has to offer in addition is duel DIGIC 4 processors, making it much more responsive. You will never miss a shot!

Star Rating: 4.6

Techy Stuff

  • 18.0-megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors for high image quality and speed
  • Advanced HD movie mode with manual exposure control and selectable frame rates
  • Intelligent Viewfinder with 100 percent field of view
  • 19-point, all cross-type AF system equipped with dual diagonal cross-type sensors
  • Capture images to CF Card Type I and II, UDMA-compliant CF cards

Here is an interesting observation from an avid photographer about the Canon 7D:

"NEVER JUDGE A CAMERA BUY ITS PRICE, JUDGE IT BY THE THE RESULTS. THIS IS AN AMAZING CAMERA!!! PHOTO SHOOTING TOOK MY BREATHE AWAY. VIDEO FILMING LIGHTED MY HEAD UP ON A HD MODE. I TOOK OVER 5,000 SHOTS ON THE CRUISE TO THE ISLANDS. ON THE SHIP AND OFF."

Canon EOS 7D Sample Photo

Source

Nikon D7000 - #2 in the Top 10 lineup

#9 - Nikon D7000

The Nikon D7000 just appeared on the Digital SLR scene and it is already in the top sellers. It barely made the Top Ten list with 30 customer reviews (30 was the cutoff number - at least that number of reviews required to be considered). So, this newest camera on the list looks to be a major player in the Top Ten Digital SLR Camera list.

Star Rating: 4.8

Techy Stuff

  • High Resolution 16.2 MP DX-format CMOS sensor
  • Magnesium-alloy weather sealed body
  • High Speed 6 frames per second continuous shooting up to 100 shots
  • Breathtaking Full 1080p HD Movies with Full Time Autofocus
  • Dynamic ISO range from 100 to 6400
  • 3-inch LCD with 921,000 dots
  • 100% coverage in the viewfinder

The D7000 is essentially an upgrade to the Nikon D90, which many argue has been the flagship mid-level digital SLR camera for Nikon. Reviewers have been totally positive in their praises of this camera.

Here is the number one comment from Amazon (you can read all the comments by clicking on the Nikon D7000 link at the right):

"This camera is brilliant to hold and use. Nikon has done it again and has made the user interface more usable and streamlined. What to change flash modes. Press the flash pop-up button and rotate the control wheel. Sweet. Want to change create and use a User defined mode? There are two. Set your mode up. Go to the menu and save it. To use it rotate the shooting mode dial to U1 or U2. Presto you are there. In the D300 and D700 you to have to setup things in the menu and switch in the menu. Also, there were 2 sets of things you could change and they were not all inclusive. It was all horribly confusing and I never used it. Speaking of shooting modes. There is now one position on the shooting mode dial for scene mode shooting. You change through the different scene modes with the control wheel and the type scene shows up on the back screen. Sweet. I can go on and on but needless to say Nikon have really improved their interface. One caveat, I don't think it is quite up to par with the GH1 to change exposure compensation (IMO the most important control) but still a huge step in the correct direction in handling. I like the handling of the D7000 better than either the D700/300."

Nikon D7000 Sample Image

Here's a test image, f5.6, iso280, 50 mm, see the second version with the eye enlarged.
Here's a test image, f5.6, iso280, 50 mm, see the second version with the eye enlarged. | Source

Pentax K-x Preview (sexy white body)

#10 - Pentax K-x

The Pentax K-x is the second model from Pentax in the Top Ten Digital SLR Camera list. It offers high-end features including Live View, HD video and photographic performance have been compared to more expensive and technologically complex models.

This is a genuine entry level DSLR and Pentax has broken the color mold with this one. It actually comes in Red, Navy Blue and White, as well as the traditional Black. Being rather small for a DSLR, it can be handled with one hand. It is also lightweight and easy to use.

The Pentax K-x is a capable entry level digital SLR for those who are moving up from a digital compact.

Star Rating: 4.6

Techy Stuff

  • 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor with Pentax Shake Reduction
  • HDR image capture
  • Kit includes 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL lens
  • Capture widescreen HD 720p video at 24fps
  • 2.7-inch LCD with autofocus and Face Detection Live View
  • 4.7fps capture rate with 1/6000 sec max shutter speed
  • 11-point wide-angle autofocus
  • Powered by AA lithium batteries
  • Capture images and video to SD/SDHC memory

As mentioned above, Pentax has avoided the intense ad campaigns in favor of user endorsements and just plain good quality. The result is a camera that is quietly competent as an entry level DSLR.

This camera has features such as HD Video and HDR image composition that are not common at this price point. Before you buy one of the highly visible, heavily advertised cameras, give this camera a long look.

A comment from Amazon users:

"The sensor strength is on high ISO setting. It matches Nikon D90 and even slightly better. Combined with built in shake reduction, this camera is very good in low light photography such as night scene or indoor performance. This performance might be the best for crop sensor camera up to date and only to be beaten by expensive full frame camera such as Nikon D700."

Pentax K-x Sample Photos

Nice action shots with the quick shutter speeds on the Pentax K-x. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for K-x
Nice action shots with the quick shutter speeds on the Pentax K-x. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for K-x
This image shows the excellent color and contrast in difficult lighting situations for the Pentax K-x. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for K-x
This image shows the excellent color and contrast in difficult lighting situations for the Pentax K-x. Source: Amazon.com - sample photos for K-x

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Comments 7 comments

Emperor MArs 5 years ago

false ranking. The D3100 is much better than many up there.


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Hey, thanks for your input Emperor MArs.. The way the ratings work here is based on their Star Rating at Amazon, and this camera is in the right spot based on users' comments. I agree that it is a terrific camera, much more power than the D3000. Have you rated it at Amazon yet? Maybe you can push it up in the ranks.


Canon DSLR Reviews 5 years ago

This is a great list of DSLRs, it would be very useful for me and thanks for sharing.


Fossillady profile image

Fossillady 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

i need a decent camera, i'd be embarrassed to tell you what i have, thanks for this thorough comparison of cameras, great hub and your avatar is an amazing shot,


thewayeyeseeit profile image

thewayeyeseeit 5 years ago from Woodstock, GA Author

Aw, come on Fossillady, tell us what kind of camera you have :-)

Thanks for your input... the avatar is done in photoshop. I wish I had taken that shot, though.


Maralexa profile image

Maralexa 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Excellent hub! Easy to read yet great detail and superb images. Doing research is important, I agree. And reading reviews to sort out the ones that don't talk about the camera itself -- that's a VERY good idea.

Voted up and awesome!


kenyanXstian profile image

kenyanXstian 2 months ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Wow, an amazing and incisive hub. I admire your commitment in offering so much information.

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