The entry-level camera market is full of fantastic options that all vary in price and performance. It’s often hard to determine which factors are important to you as a first-time buyer. Check out the following best budget DSLR cameras for beginners and unpack some of the technical features of each.
Words by Urth HQ
Photography has a bad reputation for being an expensive hobby. Of course, you can burn a hole in your pocket if you fall victim to G.A.S. (a common photographer’s illness otherwise known as Gear Acquisition Syndrome), but with the amount of technology on the market today, you can also pick up a great DSLR camera without breaking the bank.
What is a DSLR Camera?
Firstly, what is a DSLR camera?
Single-Lens Reflex forms the SLR part of this acronym, which refers to the mirror inside the camera body and how it reflects the light entering the lens into the viewfinder. SLRs provide an exact field of view. You can see exactly how you’re shooting and how the frame will be taken. Once the shutter is released, the mirror will flip, allowing light to enter the lens and press upon your film or your sensor to make the image.
This technology is the hallmark of SLR cameras; the ability to see the world as the world will see your photograph. It’s real time photography, without delay. Competitor mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras often have to transfer the image from sensor to an LCD or digital optical viewfinder display.
The other benefit of SLR cameras is the interchangeable lens function, providing the photographer with the ability to chop and change lenses as they wish, whereas fixed lenses are quite common with mirrorless and point-and-shoot cameras.
With SLR referring to the technology of mirror reflection or reflex first introduced in film cameras, DSLR then simply refers to a Digital Single-Lens Reflex.
The DSLR acronym is often associated with professional camera set-ups but is more accurately just a reflection (pun intended) of the technology which can be used by beginner and advanced photographers.
DSLR cameras are incredibly versatile and suited to every skill level and every style of photography. But when you walk into a camera shop, you may be overwhelmed with camera specifications. Here’s a little glossary of the camera specifications you may expect to see when shopping and exactly what they mean:
MP stands for megapixels, which account for one of photography’s greatest debates. Camera manufacturers use the megapixel myth to sell cameras. It’s one of their greatest marketing tools. But do more megapixels mean better photographs? No, not always. For example, a 20 MP APS-C DSLR camera will underperform against a 16 MP full-frame DSLR camera because of the frame size. Don’t let megapixels be the deciding factor in your camera choice.
Camera sensors vary in size but DSLRs most commonly have two sizes, in APS-C and Full Frame. An APS-C sensor measures 23.6mm x 15.7mm.
Sensor size is the physical dimensions of the sensor, not how many pixels are on the sensor. A full-frame sensor measures 36mm x 24mm – the traditional size for 35mm cameras. An APS-C sensor size is smaller, measuring 23.6mm x 15.7mm. This is often referred to as a crop sensor.
It’s believed that APS-C sensors are inferior to full-frame sensors although there are several advantages and disadvantages of each that are worth exploring before purchasing a DSLR. See here for more information in the APS-C vs. full-frame debate.
Full-frame sensors on the other hand are a nod to traditional 35mm film cameras, measuring 36 x 24mm. It’s understood that while megapixel size doesn’t necessarily matter, sensor size does as a larger sensor can utilise more light to create an image, and fit more in the frame compared to a crop sensor.
See the image below for examples of APS-C sensor sizes versus 35mm full frame sensors.
ISO RANGE FROM 100-6400 (EXPANDABLE TO 12800):
This refers to the ISO abilities of the camera, with the native settings sitting between 100-6400, and the extended ISO settings via software processing of 12800. Expect this expanded number to reach over 200,000. Don’t worry too much about this number. It’s rare you would ever use an ISO higher than 12800 anyway without seriously compromising the image quality due to noise.
Now that we know some of the lingo, let’s look at some of the best DSLR cameras for beginners by three major manufacturers in Canon, Nikon and Sony.
Best Canon DSLR for Beginners
Any camera in the Canon EOS range is worth a test drive, no matter your photographic skill level. From portraits to landscape photography, the Canon EOS 850D is one of the best budget DSLR cameras on the market.
1. 45-point cross-type AF
2. 4K 30p video recording
3. Microphone input
4. 7 FPS continuous shooting
5. 24MP APS-C sensor
The Canon EOS 850D boasts easy-to-understand settings but packs a punch when it comes to image quality. The 45-point autofocusing system ensures both photographs and 4k video recording are sharp as a tack while tracking fast-moving subject matter. The 7 frame-per-second rate means you won’t miss a thing.
The EOS 850D is being hailed as one of the best DSLR cameras for beginners for many reasons, but with the added benefit of a fully articulating touchscreen. The ability to twist and turn the LCD screen to suit your shooting needs can be a game changer.
A Canon EOS 850D with a 18-55mm STM Lens will set you back around $1,299, which is great entry-level DSLR value for beginners. Also, be sure to check out the Canon EOS 1500D.
Best Nikon DSLR for Beginners
The Nikon D5600 is successor to the Nikon D5500 and continues a long Nikon tradition of superb image quality and portability for a DSLR camera. This lightweight set-up will cost around $1,199 with an AFP 18-55mm VR lens.
1. 24.2 Megapixel APS-C CMOS Sensor
2. Swivelling touchscreen Vari-angle LCD display
3. Full HD (1080/60p) video recording
4. SnapBridge with Built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity
5. 5fps continuous shooting
Like the Canon EOS 850D, Nikon have catered the D5600 to beginners and enthusiasts hoping to take their photography to the next level. More features, but more functionality makes the D5600 is one of the best budget DSLRs for beginners. Access and experiment with new settings without the overwhelming interface of other DSLRs.
Still out of your price range? Check out this Nikon D3500 kit as well.
Best Sony DSLR for Beginners
Despite this being an article about the best DSLR cameras for beginners, we’re going to deviate slightly and provide a defense for mirrorless camera systems.
Sony is an industry leader in the manufacturing of mirrorless cameras. Their full-frame Alpha range of cameras is the preferred choice of many professional photographers because of their DSLR-like functionality, without the bulkiness and weight.
One of the niftiest and most powerful cameras in their wheelhouse is the Sony a6000. With an interchangeable 16-50mm lens, you can expect to pay just over $1,000.
1. Class-leading AF performance
2. 11FPS Burst shooting
3. High resolution EVF
4. Built in Wi-Fi & NFC – Share images easily
5. 24MP Sensor
Notice the frame-per-second rate between the a6000 and the DSLRs above? The a6000 is a pocket rocket renowned for its premier auto-focusing system. No matter what length lens you lock into the a6000, expect the best quality images which are all easily shareable from the palm of your hand thanks to the in-built WiFi and NFC.
The above are all great entry-level cameras for beginner photographers. These silent achievers would be a welcome addition to any camera bag. When choosing a camera to purchase, remember that the features or sales pitch of any camera are only relevant in relation to your needs.