A Buyer’s Guide: DSLR Cameras

In Gear by Jim Harmer42 Comments

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.


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. Jim travels the world to shoot with readers of Improve Photography in his series of free photography workshops. See his portfolio here.


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. I’ve bought some of your books and found them so informative and easy to read as a new photographer . Thanks . However , it would be useful to see your reviews on mirror less cameras .

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