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Although visually understood as “the type of camera the pros use,” DSLRs comprise a wide-ranging genre of cameras with numerous options available for all skill levels. Offering significantly more control while photographing than nearly any compact point-and-shoot camera available, DSLRs are a tried-and-true technology that blends intuitiveness and familiarity with the most current and up-to-date designs available in the world of camera design. In specific regard to the models mentioned here, this is a current lineup of DSLRs that strive to be equally as friendly and welcoming to the novice photographer without sacrificing the image quality all photographers have grown to expect.
Canon is one of the most versatile and expansive systems to begin with, and as such, offers a variety of gateway DSLRs to choose from. The current entry-level model is the EOS Rebel T5, which has a modest feature set, but a wealth of imaging capabilities. It revolves around an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 image processor, which afford Full HD 1080p/30 video recording, a 3 fps shooting rate, and expanded sensitivity to ISO 12800. A 3.0" 460k-dot LCD monitor lets you review imagery and shoot in live view, and a Feature Guide mode helps newcomers learn the ins and outs of how to work with various shooting modes and functions. Next in line and a bit more stacked in the feature department, is the EOS Rebel T6, which uses the majority of the same imaging components of the T5, but with an improved DIGIC 4+ image processor for quicker performance. This model also sports a higher-resolution 3.0" 920k-dot LCD monitor and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC for sharing photos and movies wirelessly and controlling the camera remotely from a mobile device.
The EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR is distinct from the first two Rebels because it is one of the smallest DSLRs available from any manufacturer. Weighing slightly more than 13 oz and measuring 4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7", this camera is an ideal option for photographers looking to have a camera with them at all times. It features an 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor and DIGIC 5 image processor, which together combine to avail a top native sensitivity of ISO 12800, 4 fps continuous shooting rate, and Full HD 1080p/30 movie recording. A 9-point phase detection system incorporates a central dual cross point for added precision, and when working in live view or recording movies, the Hybrid CMOS AF system takes control and pairs both phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods for accuracy and speed. Despite its small stature, the SL1 still features a large 3.0" Clear View II LCD with 1.04m-dot resolution, and the LCD is also a touchscreen for intuitive menu navigation, as well as Touch AF focusing control.
Moving up in Canon’s EOS lineup, there is a pair of DSLRs, the Rebel T6i and Rebel T6s, which differentiate themselves from the T5, T6, and SL1 in many ways, yet share a similar compact form factor. Both cameras feature a 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor, DIGIC 6 image processor, and a 3.0" 1.04m-dot vari-angle touchscreen LCD. The two DSLRs also share the ability to record Full HD 1080p/30 video, a continuous shooting rate of 5 fps, expandable sensitivity to ISO 25600, and built-in Wi-Fi with NFC. A 19-point all cross-type AF system offers speed and accuracy during still shooting, while the Hybrid CMOS AF system benefits video and live view shooting applications by combining phase- and contrast-detection focusing methods. While the same in most regards, the T6s does stand out among the two with its inclusion of a top LCD panel for settings review, a Quick Control Dial for faster settings adjustment, and a horizontal level for ensuring consistently straight horizons while shooting.
In regard to Nikon, there are two featured DSLR models that are ideally suited for those just learning, as well as those already well versed in the basics of photography. The entry-level option is the D3400, which is paired with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. A 24.2MP DX-format CMOS sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor form the central imaging components, which enable shooting up to 5 fps, native sensitivity to ISO 25600, and Full HD 1080p/60 video recording. A unique feature among entry-level DSLRs is the D3400’s omission of an optical low-pass filter, which helps to garner increased image sharpness and resolution compared to models featuring an OLPF to counteract the effects of moiré. Even with this filter removed, however, the processing capabilities of the EXPEED 4 serve to negate the false colors and artifacting to maximize the benefits of removing this commonly used filter. This stout set of features is backed by an 11-point autofocus system, a 3.0" 921k-dot LCD monitor, and SnapBridge Bluetooth connectivity for wirelessly transferring imagery from the camera to a linked smartphone or tablet. Also serving newcomers to photography, this model incorporates a dedicated Guide Mode that helps familiarize one with the variety of features throughout the entire camera system.
For photographers looking for a richer feature set and more versatile control, Nikon’s D5500 is the next model in line, and offers a number of distinct advantages over the D3400. The sensor and image processor remain the same—24.2MP DX-format CMOS and EXPEED 4—as well as the 5 fps continuous shooting rate and 1080p/60 video recording. From here, though, the D5500 adds a larger, higher-resolution 3.2" 1.04m-dot tilting touchscreen LCD screen, more expansive 39-point AF system with nine cross-type sensors, and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The basic image quality specifications are quite similar between the two models, but the added functionality of the D5500 allows users greater control when working with a variety of subject types, as well as more efficiency for sharing imagery.
While recently Sony has clearly been focusing much of its attention on the mirrorless market, the company is still committed to developing its branch of unique DSLRs—or to be more correct, DSLTs. Right from the beginning, Sony differentiates itself in that its A-mount cameras feature a Translucent Mirror and electronic viewfinder, as opposed to the traditional swinging reflex mirror and optical viewfinder. The benefits of this technology include previewing any exposure effects or creative settings prior to exposure, the ability to utilize contrast-detection AF during shooting, and being able to work with the viewfinder during movie recording.
Sony’s entry-level A-mount option is the Alpha a68, which features a rich set of forward-thinking technologies to benefit multimedia image-makers. Pairing a 24.2MP APS-C-sized Exmor CMOS sensor and BIONZ X image processor, this camera has a top sensitivity of ISO 25600, continuous shooting up to 8 fps, and 1080p/30 video recording at 50 Mbps in the XAVC S format. Beyond these specifications, a 79-point phase-detection AF system, with 15 cross-type points, covers a broad area of the image frame to suit working with moving subjects and in mixed lighting conditions, and SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization minimizes the appearance of camera shake with any mounted lens. As previously mentioned, the a68 incorporates a 1.44m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder in addition to a 2.7" 460.8-dot LCD screen, which features a tilting design to ease the ergonomic strain of photographing from high and low angles.
A manufacturer known for thinking outside of the box, especially in regard to its variety of styling options and colored exteriors, Pentax has a duo of entry-level options, featuring a number of distinctions that separate themselves from the pack. The K-S2 is the current entry-level model, and with it comes a 20.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor and PRIME M II image processor that afford sensitivity to ISO 51200, 5.5 fps continuous shooting, and Full HD 1080p/30 video recording. The K-S2 also features the SAFOX X 11-point AF system, a 3.0" 921k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor, and in-camera Shake Reduction image stabilization. One area that is especially unique to Pentax, however, is the inclusion of a user-controllable anti-aliasing filter effect; a feature echoed in the flagship K-1 and K-3-series of DSLRs. Effectively, the K-S2 does not feature an OLPF (optical low-pass filter), and uses this omission for greater image sharpness and resolution, but the moiré-reducing capabilities can be simulated with a feature that subtly vibrates the sensor to break up any aliasing or artifacting that certain scenes are prone to cause, such as when photographing against brick walls or with certain fabric types.
Moving ahead, the more recently introduced K-70 improves on a number of features for more controlled image-making. This APS-C format DSLR ups the resolution to 24.2MP and also features the PRIME II image processor to avail a top sensitivity of ISO 204800, 1080p/30 video recording, and up to 6 fps shooting. The K-70 also features the SAFOX X 11-point AF system with 9 cross-type points, a 3.0" 921k-dot vari-angle LCD monitor, and in-camera Shake Reduction image stabilization, which further contributes to the anti-aliasing filter simulator and Pixel Shift Resolution functions. This model is also characterized by its weather-resistant construction, to permit working in trying environments, along with built-in Wi-Fi for sharing imagery wirelessly and controlling the camera remotely from a linked smartphone or tablet.