Once you learn the basics of photography, you might crave a faster, more sophisticated camera. That's where step-up entry-level DSLRs come in. They're easy enough for a beginner to master but advanced enough that you won't outgrow the camera quickly, all for $1,000 or less.
The 18 megapixel Canon EOS Rebel SL1 (Est. $750 with kit lens) wins the awards in this category. It sits on the boundary between beginner cameras and step-up models, boasting easy-to-use features and offering good direction for novice DSLR photographers. We include it here since reviewers say the Rebel SL1 is also suitable for more experienced DSLR users. Some experts identify the Rebel SL1 as Canon's revolutionary answer to consumers' demand for smaller and lighter DSLR cameras without skimping on controls and features, and without compromising image quality.
In close competition is the Pentax K-5 II (Est. $925 (with kit lens)) and its sibling, the K-5 IIs (Est. $1,200 with kit lens) . Although the K-5 II has less resolution than the Canon EOS Rebel SL1, reviewers say it has a great autofocus system and note that you can record video in both HD and VGA. With a continuous shooting speed of 7 fps, the K-5 II is faster than other cameras in its class.
If you're looking for a higher-resolution step-up camera, the Nikon D5300 (Est. $1000 (with kit lens)) offers 24 megapixels that are usually found only on more expensive cameras. The D5300 is at the more advanced end of the step-up range, with several external controls to learn as well as an extensive selection of creative effects and scene modes. This camera excels at video recording, and you'll appreciate the built-in Wi-Fi and GPS functions if you travel a great deal. At 3.2 inches, its articulated LCD screen is larger than those of the other two cameras named here, making it easier to see what you're shooting.