In the $1,000 to $2,000 range, you'll find semi-pro DSLRs that experts say will satisfy most serious photography enthusiasts. For this price, you'll get faster frame rates and shutter speeds, a sturdier build, more sophisticated autofocus and other advanced features. These cameras are often sold body-only, since buyers are usually stepping up from a more modest DSLR by the same manufacturer and already own at least one lens.
The Nikon D7000 (*Est. $1,000 body only) easily steals the show in this class. It outshines even pricier cameras in tests, and experts recommend it more often than any other DSLR costing less than $2,000. In test after test, this camera gets pretty much everything right.
The D7000 shoots impressive images with its 16.2-megapixel compact sensor, even in dim light with no flash, and can fire off 6 fps at full resolution. It boasts some of the same body specs you'll find on hardcore pro DSLRs costing thousands more: dual memory card slots, a shutter designed to last for 150,000 shots, and a dust- and weather-sealed shell with magnesium top and rear covers. And it shoots 1,080p full HD video.
There are plenty of competitors in this price range, but none are as complete a package, experts say. The D7000's closest rival, the Canon EOS 60D (*Est. $935 body only), nearly matches the Nikon's image quality but isn't quite as fast, rugged or full-featured. The Sony A77 (*Est. $1,300 body only) can blaze away at 12 fps thanks to its unusual translucent-lens design, but dim-light shots can get grainy. The Canon EOS 7D (*Est. $1,500 body only) adds more pro-grade specs and is built tougher with an all-metal body. It also shoots a faster 8 fps, but the Nikon D7000's low-light images still look slightly clearer.
The Olympus E-5 (*Est. $1,700 body only) is the flagship Four Thirds camera, a class of DSLRs that use smaller sensors and lenses. If you already own some Four Thirds lenses, experts say you'll be very happy with the E-5. Otherwise, this pricey Olympus is a hard sell: It just can't match the speed, image quality or video capabilities of regular DSLRs in tests.