By Jane Magaro, Cheapism.com
This summer, take vacation photos worth showing off to family, friends, and the Facebook universe with a serious camera - a DSLR. Yes, these are the "big" cameras with large interchangeable lenses that you see swinging from the necks of amateur and professional photographers alike. More technically, DSLR stands for "digital single-lens reflex," so-called because the camera uses a mirror/viewfinder setup to let you see your subject directly through the lens and compose your photo.
If you're ready to graduate from your point-and-shoot digital camera to more manual control and versatility, a DSLR camera is a fine choice. Cheapism analyzed reviews of popular DSLR models to find the best budget DLSR cameras on the market. Below are our top recommendations for affordable DSLR cameras:
- The Canon EOS Rebel T3, one of Canon's recent entry-level DSLRs, starts at $499. Experts and consumers rave about the outstanding image quality for the price. The Rebel T3 has 12.2MP resolution, CMOS image sensor, and 2.7" LCD screen with live view. While image stabilization is not internal, compatible lenses feature built-in optical image stabilization.
- The Sony A390 appeals to users for its ease of operation, making it an especially good choice for new DSLR photographers. The camera starts at $498 and boasts a 14.2MP resolution, CCD image sensor, internal image stabilization, and a tilting LCD screen.
- The Nikon D3000 is another excellent entry-level camera from a top camera brand, starting at $490. While users praise its image quality and CCD image sensor, the 10.2MP camera lacks features such as live view and internal image stabilization.
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The more megapixels a camera has, the better, right? Not necessarily. High resolution images retain their sharpness when enlarged or printed in large sizes, but too many megapixels crowded on an image sensor can actually diminish image quality. Ten megapixels is generally sufficient for the average photographer, and most DSLRs offer at least 10MP resolution.
Budget DSLRs' image sensors are smaller than those found on higher-end DSLRs and traditional 35mm film cameras. DLSRs generally use one of two types of image sensors: CCD and CMOS. CCD sensors tend to cost more and have better light sensitivity, but CMOS technology is improving and consumes less power. Budget cameras often use CMOS sensors to keep costs down, but two of our top picks for cheap DSLRS, the Sony A390 and the Nikon D3000, contain CCD sensors.
Other key features to note when buying a DSLR include image stabilization and live view mode. Image stabilization helps prevent blurring from camera shake. This feature is built into the camera itself or the lens; image-stabilized lenses may cost more than non-stabilized lenses, so consider this if you plan to buy additional lenses. Live view lets you preview a photo you're about to take on the LCD screen, so you can see if you need to adjust any of the manual controls or effects.