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In this report

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.

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…

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Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera with EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $3,999.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Pentax K-50 16MP Digital SLR Camera Kit with DA L 18-55mm WR f3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $779.95 $525.89   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Canon EOS 70D 20.2 MP Digital SLR Camera with Dual Pixel CMOS AF (Body Only)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,199.00 $1,099.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Pentax K-5 II 16.3 MP DSLR DA 18-135mm WR lens kit (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,449.95 $991.12   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Nikon D5100 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens (OLD MODEL)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $649.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Sony Alpha SLT-A77 Translucent Mirror Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm Lens
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,399.99   
Average Customer Review:  
image
Nikon D600 24.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,899.95 $1,569.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Canon Rebel T5i Digital SLR Camera and 18-55mm EF-S IS STM Lens Kit
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $849.00 $749.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Nikon D5300 24.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR AF-S DX NIKKOR Zoom Lens (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,299.95 $1,046.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
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Nikon D610 24.3 MP CMOS FX-Format Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,999.95 $1,896.95   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Pentax K-3 lens kit w/ 18-135mm WR 24MP SLR Camera with 3.2-Inch TFT LCD and 18-135mm WR f 3.5-5.6 (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $1,649.95 $1,310.19   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Sony SLT-A58K Digital SLR Kit with 18-55mm Zoom Lens, 20.1MP SLR Camera with 2.7 -Inch LCD Screen (Black)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $599.99 $448.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Nikon D3100 DSLR Camera with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S Nikkor Zoom Lens (OLD MODEL)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $429.95 $380.00   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  
image
Canon EOS Rebel T3i 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (DISCONTINUED)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $599.00 $528.49   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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