A Buyer’s Guide: DSLR Cameras

DSLR camera review

Beauty. Pure beauty.

It is very difficult to recommend a DSLR camera without knowing exactly what kind of photography you’re going to do, your budget, and if you have already invested in lenses from a specific manufacturer.  However, I do want to provide some VERY GENERAL principles on what camera you might consider.

If you’re shopping for a camera and you aren’t “up” on the current models available, I think the following table will be helpful for you to decide what to buy.  This table was most recently updated on April 4, 2012.

Under $600 Nikon D3100 (Will be replaced soon) Canon T3 Nikon D3100 for its low-noise abilities for low-light situations, but this camera is going to be updated SOON.
Under $950 Nikon D5100 Canon T3i (Will be replaced soon) Nikon D5100 wins for low light capabilities, but that LCD on the T3i is fantastic!
Under $1,500 Nikon D7000 (Fantastic!) Canon 60D Nikon D7000 for low light capabilities, but 60D is great for video.
Under $2,000 Nikon D300s (VERY old) Canon 7D (Getting old) Canon 7D is the CLEAR winner–even though it’s getting old.  Both cameras will be replaced in Summer 2012.
Under $3,000 Nikon D800 (Brand New) 5D Mark III (Brand new) Depends on what you shoot.  D800 for studio work and most portraits, 5DIII for video, sports, and wildlife.
Your left kidney Nikon D4 (Brand new) 1DX (Brand new) Depends on what you’re using it for.

UPDATE: Some readers have commented that they wish this article would talk about brands other than Canon and Nikon as well.  There are MANY good cameras other than the Nikons and Canons.  Sony and Pentax also make great cameras (as well as other manufacturers).  I fully believe that in the next few years, they will become mainstream and see wide adoption.  Often they are cheaper camera bodies right now, but Sony and Pentax simply don’t have the selection of lenses nor the cheaper third-party accessories available.  The reason I don’t recommend them right now is simply that there isn’t much room to grow into the selection of lenses and accessories like you can with a Canon or Nikon.  If you keep your photography simple and don’t plan on going pro or needing a bunch of lenses or accessories, then you’d be happy with virtually any Sony or Pentax Camera.



  1. Shawn

    I too have purchased “Improve your Photography: How Budding Photographers can get Pro Results. On Kindle and I am learning so much! I’m going to be taking one of your online classes also. Thanks for helping budding photographers like me!

  2. Debbie

    I have the canon 60d and was thinking of up grading to the 7d after reading a few comme ts, do you think I should wait, I have too much. Money invested in canon lens to change to Nikon
    Thanks foe helping beginners like me

    1. Author
      Jim Harmer

      I anticipate that the 7d will be upgraded this Summer. I don’t think it’s a great time to be buying that camera.

  3. Shashank Ramesh

    Hi Jim,
    I am planning to buy my first DSLR n i am totally confused between the Canon 600d and the canon 60d.I hear rumours about an upgrade for 600d,should i wait till then?
    Basically i intend to do a lot of street,nature and landscape photography.
    Request u to also kindly let me know ur take on Nikon d5100 with the Canon 600d!

  4. ups backup machine

    Hmm is anyone else having problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

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    Very interesting details you have mentioned , thankyou for putting up. “I’ve made a couple of mistakes I’d like to do over.” by Jerry Coleman.

  6. shalini

    Just curious, if there is a reason why Nikon 90D is not in the list of camera’s here? Is that something you would recommend for a photographer with a budget higher than for Nikon5100 but lower than for nikon d7000

  7. Bruce

    If someone is looking at getting into photography as a serious hobby or vocation it is not the camera but the camera system that is important. Anything will work for a portrait studio but for sports, wildlife, product, commercial, fashion, wedding, T&I, macro, and nature photography the camera is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg in generating quality images on a reliable and consistent basis. For example the Canon cameras and lenses have been notoriouly bad in terms of autofocus accuracy. Anyone wanting to incorporate flash is going to have many more options with Nikon than Canon and get much more consistently accurate mixed light exposures and white balance. I started with Pentax but switched to Nikon to do underwater photography as all the underwater strobes had a Nikon only connection. I used both Nikon and Canon pro gear for wedding photography as each new generation of cameras would favor one system over the other and I all cared about (and my clients) was results.

  8. Northstar

    I own a nikon D5100, and am completly comfortable with it. In arabic we have a saying that is:” give the bread to the baker, even if he eats half of it” meaning everything has got its person who knows the ins & outs of it, and if i can give examples, then when i need a car then its a mercedes, and a mobile phone is a nokia, and a fax machine is panasonic, and a TV is sony and so on…..and definetly a camera is NIKON.
    So what i want to say to people who are talking about Canon and the likes, you have every right to do so and to express your opinion, but am sure at the end of the day, when you put your head on the pillow and want to sleep, you will certainly know the mistake you have done, and if you dont dare to say that you have mistaken with your tongue, there is no way you will fight your Conscience.

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