With a budget of around Rs. 25,000 at your disposal for a digital camera, you have few, but clear directions in which you can head – a premium compact digital camera like the PowerShot G12, which offers incredible performance in a tiny body, a prosumer camera with a sweet 30x zoom lens, or a DSLR camera. Each of these has their own pros and cons, but when it comes to picture quality, nothing comes even close to DSLR cameras.
The biggest advantage you get with a DSLR camera is a large photo sensor, and a large sensor means least noise in low-light conditions and excellent depth of field due to larger optics needed to converge light. You also have a wide choice of interchangeable lenses depending on the type of subject or scene you wish to shoot. If you’re meticulous about image quality, but at the same time don’t want to spend a fortune on a digital camera, entry level models like the Canon EOS 1000D or the Nikon D3100we are good starting points. Higher-end models like the Canon EOS 550D or the Nikon D5000 are perfect for experienced users and those who want a rock-solid build. We put these entry-level and mid-range cameras to the test and arrived at some interesting conclusions.
We tested the five DSLR cameras on the basis of five parameters:
- Build quality
Canon EOS 1000D – Best Value
Canon EOS 1000D
The Canon EOS 1000D has been out for a long time and is presently the most affordable DSLR camera in the market. It features a 10.1 megapixel sensor and ships with a simple 18-55 mm lens, which has a maximum aperture of F3.5 at the widest end and F5.6 at full zoom. Even though it doesn’t boast too many extras, it offers complete manual control over exposure and has all the necessary functions for getting pro-quality shots if the subject is framed well. The layout of the control panel is somewhat similar to that of the EOS 550D, with all the buttons to the right of its 2.5-inch LCD. The UI is uncluttered and doesn’t feel intimidating. The shape of the body lends a good grip, but the camera feels too plasticky. Canon should have at least provided rubberized grip. The overall performance of the camera is very good. It fared quite well in both indoor as well as outdoor tests, delivering very good reproduction of colors and details. The low-light performance is also good. If you want a DSLR but are on a strict budget, this baby will keep you happy.
Verdict: The most affordable DSLR. It’s easy to use and delivers quite well.
For: Great value, very easy to use.
Against: Build quality could've been better, non-IS lens.
Sony Alpha SLT-A55
The Sony SLT-A55 is a somewhat different camera position. It’s a full-fledged DSLR-like camera but with an electronic viewfinder, which although handy isn’t the best solution you expect when you spend close to Rs. 47,990 for it. The translucent mirror adds things a little more efficient and fewer moving parts means that it’s going to be a little faster. A lot of photography enthusiasts and professionals still prefer the optical viewfinder on a traditional viewfinder. Image quality is good and sensor noise is minimal at higher ISO settings. Overall though, it’s a solid camera with good features and performance.
The Nikon D3100 is an upgrade to the trusty D3000, which was in turn the predecessor for the D40, D40X and the popular D60 DSLRs. This new model uses a 14.2 MP sensor. The biggest addition is the full HD video recording functionality which was completely lacking in the D3000. Along with that feature, you get Liveview functionality. The 3-inch screen comes handy unlike the D5000, which only has a 2.7-inch screen. In terms of the other features, it’s more or less identical.
If you’re willing to spend a little more than the D3100, you’re very likely to find the D5000 attractive. 720p video recording and the folding 2.7-inch screen are part of what makes the D5000 special. The D3100 gets closer to the D5000, but there are a few things such as the burst speed performance that make the D5000 a superior machine. Although a somewhat older camera than the rest, the low price tag of the D5000 makes it an ideal companion if you’re looking for better photo quality and performance.
Canon EOS 550D – Best performance
Canon EOS 550D
The Canon EOS 550D is an upgrade to the EOS 500D with a higher resolution sensor, full HD recording at 30 fps, and a denser LCD display, among many other features. That said, photos look great on the 3-inch LCD display of this camera, which has a resolution of 1040K pixels. Even the finest details such as a strand of hair or fur are clearly visible. It’s very useful when you have to examine the sharpness of the photos you’ve shot when viewed at 100 percent size. The large crisp display is also useful while shooting still images in live view mode and videos. The EOS 550D feels great when held thanks to excellent quality of materials used in construction and the provision of rubberized grip for your fingers and thumb. The control panel is very well laid out, with most buttons to the right of the LCD display, which helps controlling the camera entirely with your right thumb. The user interface is also very intuitive. The scores clearly indicate this camera is an ace performer. If you’re looking for a mid-range camera with a good feature set and incredible performance, this one’s for you.
Verdict: For experienced shutterbugs, this is the best mid-range DSLR.
For: Excellent color and detail, full HD video recording, excellent UI.
Against: No swivel LCD.