These $3,500-and-under DSLRs boast the same full-frame image sensors as their $6,000-plus, top-of-the-line siblings. They don't shoot as speedily and aren't quite as rock-solid durable, but they'll save you thousands of dollars.
Nikon rules this class right now with two new cameras that have critics' full attention. A headline-grabbing 36.3 megapixels -- the most ever on a 35mm format DSLR -- makes the Nikon D800 (*Est. $3,000 body only) the hottest new DSLR in reviews. Of course, it takes more than megapixels to create great photos. Luckily, reviewers say, the D800 delivers.
"The results from the D800 will blow you away" with staggering detail and a vast tonal range that looks great blown up giant-size, says Phil Hall at WhatDigitalCamera.com. True, that monster megapixel count takes a bit of a toll on shooting speed and low-light prowess, but those are small sacrifices, he says. Other experts agree wholeheartedly: The D800 -- and its even-sharper variant, the Nikon D800E (*Est. $3,300 body only) -- is the most often recommended pro DSLR at any price.
Yet it's nearly a tie between the D800 and its archrival, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (*Est. $3,455 body only). The Nikon ekes ahead thanks to its jaw-dropping resolution, but the Canon shoots faster and handles dim light better.
Meanwhile, the Nikon D600 (*Est. $2,100 body only) has spawned an entirely new category: budget pro DSLR. It knocks nearly $1,000 off the D800's price tag while keeping impressive image quality and features, reviewers say. Canon's extremely similar EOS 6D (*Est. $2,100 body only) won't hit stores until December. Meanwhile, it's older full-frame EOS 5D Mark II (*Est. $1,900 body only) is being offered at a tempting discount.