Budget DSLRs group test

Introduction

For truly professional-looking photography, you need an interchangeable lens camera, most commonly a digital SLR (DSLR). And, while digital compact camera ownership is static in the UK – and in decline elsewhere – sales of DSLRs continue to rise. They’re physically bulkier, yes, but they offer more features for your money than ever – and you can pick them up at increasingly competitive prices too.

For example, five or six years a ago a DSLR body and lens combination would set you back the best part of £1,000; now a comparable setup won’t cost much more than £300, with a bit of shopping around.

Dealers’ online sites, and, of course, eBay, often feature great deals on recently replaced models for those looking to get a bit more bang for their buck. Just because a new model is out doesn’t mean its predecessor isn’t worth considering, as slightly faster operation and a boost to resolution are often the only improvements to a model.

That said, the six DSLRs we’ve chosen here – all available at around £500 or under with standard zoom lens – are current models at the time of writing. To ensure a level playing field, we’ve collected together our examples based on the latest recommended prices as stated by the manufacturer.

This means that with a bit of research, in the vast majority of cases you’ll be able to find them cheaper still – there are still great deals to be had, even on new stock. Bear in mind, too, that DSLRs tend to hold their value, replaced on average once a year or less, compared to every six months for a pocket digital camera.

With all this in mind, what are the features and functionality you should be looking for in a DSLR? Build quality aside, how about Live View, where the LCD screen can be used to both compose and review shots; in-body or lens-only image stabilisation to help avoid blurry shots; dust reduction or prevention to prevent spots on the sensor showing up in images; and, if you’re lucky, HD video recording alongside stills.

It’s worth remembering that when buying a DSLR you’re not just buying a camera – you’re locking into your chosen manufacturer’s system, each offering varying amounts of swappable lenses, accessories and support. So let’s see what each has to offer...

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