Nikon D3200
Nikon D3200

Best digital SLR for beginners

An extraordinarily high resolution of 24 megapixels makes the Nikon D3200 the entry-level DSLR to beat. Experts say it captures as much detail as some pro-quality cameras. The D3200 is particularly easy for beginners to master, and still delivers a few high-end specs that you won't find even on some pricier models.
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Canon EOS Rebel SL1
Canon EOS Rebel SL1

Step-up entry DSLR

The Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is the smallest and lightest DSLR camera anywhere, and without sacrificing quality or features. Its preset creative functions make it easy for beginners to use, yet it also offers advanced manual and semi-auto features for those who like more control over their cameras.
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Nikon D7100
Nikon D7100

Best-value advanced DSLR

One of the most complete DSLR cameras, the Nikon D7100 balances everything: superb ergonomics, an outstanding autofocus system, great image quality for its class and ease of use. Its 24 megapixels provide clean and sharp images even at the upper ISO sensitivities.
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Nikon D800
Nikon D800

Entry-pro DSLR

A record-breaking resolution of 36.3 megapixels makes the Nikon D800 unbeatable if you're looking for high-def detail. With a full-frame sensor and tough magnesium alloy shell, it's professional-grade. The high-res shots will fill up your memory card fast, so the D800 offers two card slots.
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Est. $2,800 body only Estimated Price
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See a side-by-side comparison of key features, product specs, and prices.

Digital SLR Cameras Runners Up:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Est. $3,400 (body only)

6 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Pentax K-50 Est. $610 (with kit lens)

5 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Canon EOS 70D Est. $1050 (body only)

4 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Pentax K-5 II Est. $925 (with kit lens)

4 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D5100 Est. $480 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Sony Alpha A77 Est. $1,050 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D600 Est. $1500 (body only)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Canon EOS Rebel T5i Est. $650 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D5300 Est. $1000 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D610 Est. $1700 (body only)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Pentax K-3 Est. $1450 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Sony Alpha A58 Est. $450 (with kit lens)

3 picks including: DPReview.com, CNET…

Canon EOS 60D Est. $1,100 (with kit lens)

2 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D3100 Est. $400 (with kit lens)

2 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Nikon D7000 Est. $1,000 (with kit lens)

2 picks including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Canon EOS Rebel T3i Est. $695 (with kit lens)

1 pick including: Amazon.com, DPReview.com…

Canon EOS Rebel T3 Est. $495 (with kit lens)

1 pick including: Amazon.com, CNET…

Anyone can create better images with a DSLR

Even if you're a novice photographer, experts say you can quickly learn to capture better photos with a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera than with a point-and-shoot model. Here's why:

  • Image quality: DSLRs' big sensors will make your photos look clearer and less grainy. Often, you can skip the flash. Even if you set a DSLR in point-and-shoot Auto mode, you'll wind up with better photos than with a pocket camera.
  • Speed: Even the slowest cameras in this report can shoot 3 frames per second (fps), and up to 12 fps for the fastest. They start up almost instantly, too. You can capture fast-action sports and the perfect blow-out-the-candles moment, and painlessly achieve that one family photo where everyone's eyes are open.
  • You can change the lens: This opens the door to an entirely new world of photography. You can choose super-wide-angle, super-zoom and many more.
  • You can get creative: "Unleash your inner Annie Leibovitz," says camera expert David Elrich of DigitalTrends.com. Blur fast-moving subjects or set a shallow depth of field for a professional-looking portrait; DSLRs let you create all kinds of effects.
  • Video: Every DSLR in this report can shoot HD video with the same advantages, including better image quality, a choice of lenses and more.

DSLRs do have their drawbacks: They're bigger, heavier and usually more expensive than point-and-shoot cameras. A good beginner DSLR starts at about $500, while entry-pro DSLRs cost about $2,000 and up. Mirrorless cameras are a different breed altogether; they have interchangeable lenses like a DSLR but are small enough to fit into a jacket pocket. These cameras are faster than DSLRs and have electronic viewfinders.

Even the most dedicated photographers don't always carry a bulky DSLR everywhere, so you may still want a smaller digital camera for backup. For the best picks, see our separate reports on:

Digital cameras, including pocket point-and-shooters and small interchangeable-lens cameras.

Cheap digital cameras, good cameras for less than $250

Ultra-zoom digital cameras, pocket cams with built-in long-zoom lenses.

We're spoiled for choice with many highly credible review sources for DSLR cameras, including DPReview.com, Imaging-Resource.com and PhotographyBlog.com. To find the best DSLRs, experts shoot hundreds of photos, then scrutinize them with magnifying glasses and computers. Sharp details and lifelike colors earn the highest marks, but cameras also get points for being fast and easy to handle. Owner reviews are essential, too, because they reveal which cameras hold up best in real-life use. Contributors to Amazon.com are often passionate in sharing the pros and cons of their cameras, giving detailed accounts of their experiences.

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