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Outstanding Digital SLR Cameras For Beginners

Updated on September 15, 2014

Thousands Of Digital SLR Beginners Discover The Camera Of Their Dreams

You can join the thousands of people who are enjoying their great pictures!

Are you one of the many people who are just now finding out that a great camera is much less expensive than you dreamed?

The key is finding out which cameras are best, and that information is not necessarily coming from high-priced ads. You really need to find a reliable resource that you can trust.

That's where this article can help.

Yes, I'm the author, but I am NOT a professional photographer. I am simply an amateur who has done his homework. I have has wrestled with the decision you are faced with right now. And, yes, I have made the wrong choice more than once due to the emotional pressure of great looking ads and a quick mouse button.

Also, keep in mind that there are new cameras being released all the time. This does not change the quality of those cameras that are already available, but what is does change is the price of those existing camera models. For instance, Canon just released two new Rebel models, the T5i and a brand new smaller, lighter version of Rebel they have dubbed Rebel SL1. This release will change the price point of older Rebel models, count on it. For instance, just take a look at what has happened to the price of a Canon Rebel T3i/600D.

Things To Consider When Buying A Digital SLR Camera

This is one situation that calls for a calm decision, one that is based on logic and truth rather than media promotions and good looks (or celebrity endorsements).

But maybe you already own a pro-type camera and you are looking to help out a friend or relative with a less expensive model. You can be a strong influence because you have built a level of trust with your own photography, yet you are not familiar with the entry-level models. This article can also help you.

One of the things you really should avoid is being too impulsive. For instance, if you feel the need to hold and test a camera, you will more than likely go to a camera store or major department store. Try to avoid making a choice right there at the store. Create a plan and work the plan. That plan should include a step-by-step route to the purchase which includes comparing prices. One thing that is always depressing is to buy a product and think you got the best deal only to find it at a huge discount online.

Keep in mind that the store will be there later if you do decide that you can get the best camera at the best price there. But check the competition first.

#1 ~ Canon Rebel T3i - The Author's Personal Digital SLR

Surprise.. Another Rebel!

Should I disqualify this camera because I own it? I don't think so. I own it because it belongs on this list.

In my humble opinion, it should be Number One!

And it is! It is the #1 seller on Amazon, even though it is no longer in production at the Canon plant.

The Techy Junk

  • 18.0 MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor for high image quality and speed
  • ISO 100 - 6400 for shooting from bright to dim light
  • 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
  • Video Snapshot features for enhanced video shooting options
  • Comes with camera body, EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Type II lens, eyecup, wide strap, USB cable, AV cable, battery, and charger
  • Recording Media: SD/SDHC/SDXC card, via external media (USB v.2.0 hard drive, or via Wireless LAN (Eye-Fi card*))
  • Image Format: 22.3 x 14.9 mm (APS-C size)
  • Compatible Lenses: Canon EF lenses including EF-S lenses (35mm-equivalent focal length is approx.1.6x the lens focal length)

The Day My Canon Rebel T3i Arrrived

Again, I share the excitement of owning a fantastic Digital SLR. While it is really a great Digital SLR for beginners, it is also an excellent camera for those of us who have been doing photography for years. Those of us who are still amateurs and can't afford the expensive equipment of the pros. There is no shame in that. These models (the Canon Rebel T3i in particular) take super pictures.

Vintage Photo With Canon Rebel T3i

Old Typewriter taken with Canon Rebel T3i
Old Typewriter taken with Canon Rebel T3i

There are some in-camera editing tools that can help make your pictures look special. This photo was NOT edited outside the camera.

There is no shortage of image quality when you are shooting with the Canon Rebel T3i and a macro lens.

Beautiful Color and Clarity

Birdhouse among Crepe Myrtle
Birdhouse among Crepe Myrtle

The original photo turned out so nice, I decided to play with the edges a bit, but that is the only thing I changed.

Canon Rebel T3 (1100D)
Canon Rebel T3 (1100D)

#2 ~ Canon Rebel T3 (1100D)

The Canon Rebel T3 (aka 1100D) is the quintessential entry level Digital SLR. Why?

Simple, really. It is one of the least expensive (OK cheapest) DSLRs available. Second, it lacks many of the bells and whistles of the other beginners' cameras. And third, It is very simple to use. Oh, and there is a fourth... it takes great pictures!

The user rating for the Rebel T3 really rocks at 4.8 Stars too. This is not a scientific analysis, but I personally think the rating is that high because the folks who buy this camera are looking for a basic camera that will improve the images they were getting from their old point and shoot camera, and, quite frankly, this camera delivers in spades.

Consider this. You may not have thought about this much, but the number one reason for bad or disappointing results from a point and shoot camera is blurry pictures. When a new buyer takes this Canon Rebel T3 in hand and starts taking pictures with it, the number of unacceptable shots plummets like a cow trying to fly off a cliff.

When the new owner sees her pictures, it's like camera bliss!

Just a thought. You may or may not agree. As I said, there is no data to back up this contention.

On to the Geeky Info:

  • 12.2 MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 Image Processor for high image quality and speed.
  • ISO 100 - 6400 for shooting from bright to dim light.
  • Improved EOS HD Movie mode with expanded recording and with in-camera video editing options.
  • High speed, reliable 9-point AF system utilizing a high precision, f/5.6 cross-type center point.
  • Enhanced metering with a 63-zone, Dual-layer metering system for accurate metering between exposures.

Now, take a look at these photos, courtesy of the website.

Canon Rebel T3 (1100D) Review

Nikon D3100 Rating is 4.6 Stars
Nikon D3100 Rating is 4.6 Stars

#3 ~ Nikon D3100

As recent as a few weeks ago, this was the most popular camera in sales on Amazon. The list changes quite often. This little digital SLR has two things going for it...

~ Price

~ Ease Of Use

The Nikon D3100 is most closely compared to the Canon Rebel T3 in size, price, and features, so make sure you check out both while you are looking.

For those who are looking for their first Digital SLR, this camera is well worth a long look. There is no doubt that camera technology has improved over the past couple of years, and these relatively cheap cameras are becoming much more popular because of it. They have some of the features of their more expensive up-line models, and since they have the same image processor, they produce some pretty amazing quality images.

As a new user, you will be interested in being able to set the camera on Auto when you first start out, but then there is the "Learn as you go" guide that shows what each setting does by displaying a description in the LCD when you choose the setting.

Interested in video? Almost all newer models have great video for "capturing the moment." In fact, many of the videos you now see on YouTube are done with cameras that are basically still photo shooters with video capability. It makes life so much easier when you can switch between still and video without having to change cameras.

And these recommendations (found in the Amazon customer comments section) are from brand new users... maybe just like you??

"I recommend, Nikon D3100 as the best entry level DSLR, for those who wish to start photography on a DSLR. "

- Nidhish ABRAHAM

"Great picture quality, very easy to use, video's are good as well. "

- Thomas C. Shaffer

"The manual is very easy to understand, and I am surprised how easy it was to learn how to use the camera. There a lot of shooting options on this, and the quality is great. This is just as good as any of the more expensive Nikon cameras. I am very pleased, and will be buying from Nikon from now on"

- Holly Reed

Where Can You Buy A Nikon D3100?

Most stores carry this model, so it is not hard to find. One of the greatest features of buying online from Amazon is their "customer satisfaction guarantee." If you are not happy for any reason, you can return it with no questions asked. (Don't tell anyone this, but if you just want to try it for a few days, you can do that and return it via their online customer service department.) Shipping for the return is free.

Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)
Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)

If you plan to use your camera for video, a 32 GB card is definitely recommended. If you want to take just still photos, you can get by with less memory, but, hey, the price is really cheap, so go for more.

Nikon Deluxe Digital SLR Camera Case - Gadget Bag
Nikon Deluxe Digital SLR Camera Case - Gadget Bag

The bag is important. You don't want to leave your camera out floating around where is can get knocked or bumped.


Very Creative (and humorous) Nikon D3100 Review

Canon Rebel T2i with Kit Lens
Canon Rebel T2i with Kit Lens

#4 ~ Sony Alpha SLT-A57K

Sony Breaks Into Top 5 List!

If you truly are looking for your very first Digital SLR, this could be the one for you. The experts at state that the Sony A57K is "a solid and proven performer for anyone stepping up to a DSLR from a compact camera or ILC.. one that concedes little in terms of either value or performance to its competitors from Canon, Nikon and Pentax."

This digital SLR has a very high user satisfaction level at 4.7 Stars (second only to the Canon Rebel T3). Those who buy this camera, the real users, love it! The only reason it is not higher on the Top 5 List is that it has less than 100 reviews, but, honestly, the reviews are really heart-felt. Check them out at the Sony Alpha SLT-A57K review page.

Now for the Geeky Stuff

  • 16.0-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor
  • BIONZ image processor gives high image quality and quick response when the shutter button is pressed
  • 10 frame per second continuous shooting mode with AF
  • Auto ISO 100-3200
  • 1,440,000 dot LCD electronic viewfinder
  • 1080p AVCHD 2.0 movies at 60 or 24 fps
  • 920,000 dot bottom-hinged rear LCD
  • Dedicated Live View/Movie shooting button
  • Picture Effects processing options
Was there already a mention of the 4.7 Star customer rating? Very Important!

Sample Image from the Sony Alpha SLT-A57

Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)
Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)

Make sure you get a large enough memory card, especially if you will be doing video with your new Sony A57.


Sony Alpha SLT-A57 Review on YouTube

Nikon D5100 Digital SLR Camera
Nikon D5100 Digital SLR Camera
Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)
Transcend 32 GB Class 10 SDHC Flash Memory Card (TS32GSDHC10E)

Each 16-megapixel shot is about 5MB if done in JPG. Make sure you get enough memory so you don't have to delete shots in the middle of an outing.


#5 ~ Nikon D5100

Don't blink.. The Nikon D5100 just plummeted from the top spot.

As usual, there are comparable cameras by Nikon and Canon. The Nikon D5100 is on par the the Canon Rebel T3i, as you can see from the specs on each camera.

Which one is better? You will have to draw straws. The key here is that if you already own a Nikon, this would be a reasonable choice because you will already have lenses that work on this Digital SLR.

In the case of the Nikon D5100, it has lots of tools and options that will deliver great pictures and videos. We have come to expect excellent image quality at this level of cameras, and this one will not disappoint. A couple of other features that may interest you are a swivel Vari-Angle LCD monitor, full HD movie capabilities, new EFFECTS Mode and the newest camera technology for taking HDR images.

Here is the list of features that might excite a new Digital SLR buyer:

  • 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor
  • 3.0" tilt and swivel LCD monitor (921,000 dots)
  • Movie capture at up to 1080p
  • Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection and subject tracking
  • Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
  • 11 AF points (with 3D tracking)
  • IS0 100-6400 range (25600 expanded)
  • 4 frames per second continuous shooting (buffer: 7 RAW, 25 JPEG fine, 100 JPEG Normal)
  • Expeed image processing engine

Perhaps you are looking to upgrade from an older Nikon model? Here is an honest opinion from just such a photographer:

"For the money I do not think the D5100 can be beat for quality of performance." (you can see more user comments at the web site.

Canon VS Nikon ~ Nikon VS Canon - Are You Ready To Fight For Your Brand?

It's true that all the top sellers are either Canon or Nikon. There is no doubt that they are the most popular. For most of us, this is going to be a one-time decision, because the lenses are not interchangeable between Canon and Nikon (well, they are, but it ain't easy). Take your time with this decision.

Which Camera Manufacturer is your choice?

Top 5 Digital SLR Cameras
Top 5 Digital SLR Cameras

Rating the Top 5 Digital SLR Cameras

Here is how the list was created.

(By the Way, the list is dynamic. If one of the cameras "falls from grace" it will be replaced.)

Picking a Digital SLR camera is simple, right? Well, it is getting easier, but it is not as easy as some might think.

In this article, you will get some ideas about which cameras are the best as rated by others who bought the cameras just like the ones you are looking at.

Criteria for the Top 5 Digital SLR Cameras for Beginners list:

  • Under $1000
  • One of Amazon's Best Sellers
  • At least 100 reviews on Amazon and B & H Photo web sites

Amazon Does More Than Sell Stuff

There is no scientific research formula to determine the Top 5 Digital SLR Cameras. The ratings are from the Amazon online store where camera buyers get to post their experiences and opinions about the cameras that they purchased. You will get truthful, meaningful comments about what is good and not so good about the cameras there. Yes, there are some crackpots who throw in their worthless opinions, but they are balanced out by those who are trustworthy.

Another plus about Amazon user ratings is that there are so many and they come from a diverse cross-section of photographers so that you get a good idea of what the camera can do with respect to how you ultimately want to use it.

How These Cameras Were Rated

The ratings in this article come from having sifted through the long list of Best Sellers to find which Digital SLR cameras were the most liked by consumers like you and me. In this list, the #1 camera is not necessarily the Top Seller, either. The DSLRs in this list are rated with user satisfaction as the top priority. While it is true that they are on the Best Sellers list, the compelling factor is the Star Rating, which is how individual customers express their own opinions. Thus, the Amazon Best Seller could have a star rating of 4.5, and if the #3 Best Seller has a star rating of 4.8, the #3 camera would be higher on this list.

The hope is that this list will give you the information and confidence that you need to proceed with your purchase or give you some ideas that you did not consider before.

New Digital SLR Learning Resource

For New and Budding Photographers

Once you have your new digital SLR, you will want to learn to use it, and the faster the better.


This new book of No-Cost tips for photographers is hot off the digital press!

Get your copy - it's also No-Cost - by going to

Please Weigh In With Your Favorite - If yours is not on the list, make sure you let us know which one your like.

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    • Maugustine profile image

      Michael Augustine 3 years ago from Arizona

      Agreed 100% on the number 1 DSLR. The T3i is simply the best camera for your buck in its class.

    • profile image

      camera_warehouse 3 years ago

      Awesome post! Interesting info to know.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @kenweiss66: Ken, thanks for your vote. The D3100 is a fantastic camera.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @PhotographyMyst: Pentax is a great manufacturer. Unfortunately, they are not able to keep up with Nikon and Canon in the promotion department. Thanks for the comment.

    • kenweiss66 profile image

      kenweiss66 4 years ago

      Great lens. I recommend the Nikon D3100 as the best entry level DSLR camera.

    • PhotographyMyst profile image

      PhotographyMyst 4 years ago

      I prefer Pentax. I started with a SLR, then DSLR. I guess the reason I never changed was the fact i could still use the same lens on both. Good advice on your lens.

    • profile image

      lionmom100 4 years ago

      Thanks for this review. I will be looking to upgrade my Nikon in the next year.

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Your picture of "London Bridge" above is not. That is Tower Bridge! Common mistake

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      Excellent photos and reviews. Thank you!

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 years ago

      Very nice selection and photos!

    • barryk lm profile image

      barryk lm 4 years ago

      This is excellent stuff! Thanks for the tips - very much appreciated.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Thanks for great tips posted here!

      And enclosed photos were a real pleasure to look at them - made my day!