This discussion aims at finding the best Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera under 1000 dollars. Sony’s interchangeable lens camera line-up, also known as the Digital Single Lens Translucent (DSLT), are not considered here as they are technically not the same as DSLRs. They don’t have a reflex mirror that bounces off light to an Optical Viewfinder (OVF).
Okay! The candidates are all lined up and this promises to be an exciting race to the finish line. So, buckle your seatbelts. Here we go! At any point if you wish to understand the basic digital camera terminology feel free to check this online course out.
The best DSLR should undoubtedly have a great sensor beating at its heart and both Nikon and Canon offer some excellent choices in this regard. Available for less than $700 (body only) the Canon 60D comes with an 18 megapixel APS-C sensor. The Nikon D7000 is another good choice in the segment and it has a 16 MP sensor. On the downside both these cameras are a good three years old. At less than $500 both the Pentax K-50 and the K-500 are two great APS-C sensor based 16 megapixel DSLR cameras also in the same segment that you can look into. However, the latest entry level DSLRs such as the Nikon D5200 and the D3300 handsomely wins the megapixel war with 24 MP sensors powering them.
Build-quality & Weather-sealing
In less than $1000 it is hard to find a camera that is well-sealed from the elements of nature. However the Pentax K-50 with its sub-500 price tag and fully-weather sealed body design can surprise you. The D7000 is another great camera. In spite of the fact that it does not offer full weather-sealing, the build quality is excellent. It is designed using magnesium-alloy and definitely feels quite solid in the hands. Another camera that is worth mentioning here is the Pentax K-5 IIs. Retailing at less than $700 (body only) this camera comes with plenty of nice features to boot. It is protected from the elements of nature because of its all-weather sealing. Please note, buying a weather sealed body only will not guarantee protection from the elements of nature. You will also need to invest in a lens that is weather sealed. Canon’s weather sealed L series lenses are an example.
Canon’s bulk of entry level DSLR’s have the tried and tested 9-point autofocusing system. Nikon on the other hand has an 11-point AF system in a majority of its entry level DSLRs including the D3300. Both the older D7000 and the latest D5300, however, have the 39-point AF system. The Pentax K-500 has an 11-point AF system 9 out of which are cross-type AF points. Canon’s Rebel T5i also has a 9-point AF system, however, all of them are cross-type.
If you prefer faster auto-focusing then go for a camera that has the highest number of cross-type AF points as they are much better in locking focus. This is because standard line sensors can only detect contrast along a horizontal line. Cross-type sensors have two lines of intersecting sensors which ensures that they can ‘see’ contrasts vertically as well as horizontally.
Apart from the sensor, the image processing engine of a DSLR is the next most important component. The more powerful the image processing engine of a DSLR, the faster is going to be its shooting speed and lower the quantity of noise. Speaking of noise check this online course to find out how to deal with noise in low light situations. The latest Nikon D3300 and the D5300 come with EXPEED 4 image processing engine, the manufacturers latest. Similarly Canon’s newest upper-entry level DSLR the Rebel T5i come with the latest DIGIC 5 image processing engine. A faster image processing speed can also promise a better frame rate when shooting videos as is suggested by the 60 fps video frame rate at full-HD for both the above mentioned Nikon DSLRs.
DSLR manufacturers are definitely trying very hard to woo customers based on not only excellent still photography performance but also with excellent movie recording features. The latest DSLRs with higher resolution sensors and faster auto-focusing capabilities does help a lot when it comes to shooting videos. Faster auto-focusing ensures that the camera does not hunt for focus when a subject moves across the frame or when the camera follows a subject. Older DSLRs had this problem. You would find when you start shooting that a subject is out of focus and then immediately comes into focus as you keep shooting.
My pick for the best movie performance on sub-1000 DSLRs is the Canon Rebel T5i which sports the latest hybrid autofocusing system. The Canon 70D narrowly missed a mention, in spite of its excellent dual-pixel CMOS AF system, because the camera comes at a price tag of just above 1K (body only). Check this online course out to figure out how you can keep your subjects in focus when they are moving about.
External Mic Input with Sound Level Adjustment
Both the above features go hand in hand with a DSLR’s video shooting capabilities. While an external mic input is not a niche any more, with cameras like the D7000 and the 60D already boasting it, audio level controller is something that is rarely seen in entry and semi-professional bodies. This is exactly what seems to be in demand these days from professionals. This is because a lot of cinematographers are experimenting movie-making using a DSLR.
Lens Based Image Stabilization vs Sensor-shift Type
The DSLR world is split into two when it comes to the Image Stabilization. While Nikon, Canon and some other leading brands have opted for lens-based image stabilization others such as Pentax and Sony have opted to walk the path of sensor-shift type image stabilization. Both have its pros and cons. But if you prefer to have a system where all your lenses are automatically stabilized then opt for a Sony or Pentax. There is however no clear winner as we don’t always need image stabilization (such as when we are shooting in a studio setup using tripod and actually have to shut off image stabilization). At those times it makes sense to use a lens that does not have built-in image stabilization. Additionally, lenses without image stabilization are cheaper compared to those with it. So the choice is entirely yours. Check out this link for more information on in-camera (sensor-shift type) and lens based image stabilization.
Buttons and Dials
Believe it or not buttons and dials, though they appear quite intimidating, can actually help you to shoot faster. Once you get the hang of things, you won’t have to take your eyes off the viewfinder to change exposure settings, white balance or ISO. This is a critical advantage. The D7000 and the 60D both come with a plethora of buttons and dials. The cheaper models such as the Nikon D3200, the D5100, the Canon Rebel T3i or the Pentax K-500 don’t have so many buttons and dials.
Continuous Shooting Speed /Burst Rate
None of the entry and mid-range DSLRs offer what can be termed as a really fast continuous shooting speed. For sport, action or wildlife photography, though a fast continuous shooting speed is imperative. The Nikon D7000 comes close to offering something respectable with a frame rate of 6 fps with full AF/AE. Even with all the latest in image processing technology the Rebel T5i, the D5300 and the D3300 goes up only as high as 5 fps. The Pentax K5-IIs which comes without the Optical Low-Pass Filter (OLPF), however, has a fast maximum burst rate of 7 fps winning the race hands down.
There is no single sub-1000 DSLR that encompasses all the best features. As we have just seen above, each of the cameras discussed have one or two features that are class-leading. So while the Rebel T5i has excellent video mode, the D7000 is a well-built camera and the Pentax K 5 IIs has an excellent weather-sealing with very sharp resolution. As such the one camera you decide to pick depends on the features that you want badly. The ultimate decision may very well be a compromise. Want more information on picking the right camera? Check this great online resource out.