Expert Recommendation

.
Best Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Expert (88 Recommendations and 32 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
January 2, 2009 Updated: February 5, 2009
Overview

The Pentax K20D is an outstanding value with best-in-class image quality, a large and bright pentaprism optical viewfinder, excellent quality weather-sealed body, and an in-body image stabilization system. The kit lens is one of the best in class, and the sensor resolution is the highest in its class. It has a top-mounted LCD, which helps confirm critical shooting parameters, like shutter speed and ISO, and its live view feature is great for shooting landscapes.

Best badge
My Best In Class Pick
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)

While it’s a DSLR, which supports interchangeable lenses and the ability to view through the lens, one can always use it as a typical point-and-shoot camera with its kit lens mounted and in Auto Mode or a Scene Mode.

DSLRs have a real advantage in low light because of their much larger-sized pixels (6-10 times) than a typical compact camera. They focus faster too by using a phase-detection AF system, which is generally faster than the contrast detection method used by compact cameras.

This feature-packed DSLR provides unbeatable value. Its features, including 14MP resolution (best in class), weather-sealed body, large and bright pentaprism viewfinder (great for framing on bright sunny days & in fading light conditions), live-view (great for shooting landscapes & portraits with camera on a tripod), RAW-DNG image format, ISO6400 setting are usually found in much higher-priced DSLRs. It supports a RAW-DNG format (DNG is standard RAW format recognized by most image editing programs, while other cameras use proprietary RAW formats, which may not be supported by older image editing software) and includes a unique Sensitivity (ISO) priority and Shutter+Aperture priority modes.

It has in-body shake-reduction (CCD-shift type) feature so image stabilization is available for all of its lenses. You can save a lot of money by buying cheaper non image-stabilized lenses.

Other useful features are the sensor dust-reduction system & a live view mode in which one can use the rear LCD for framing the shot (as is the case with point-and-shoot cameras).

The camera provides a useful top-mounted LCD, which can be used to quickly verify critical parameters like the ISO setting and shutter speed. It saves on battery life too.

The camera also offers the highest amount of cross-type AF points (at this price range), which helps more quickly auto-focus when the scene contains subjects with weak vertical lines (e.g. when taking photographs while holding the camera in a vertical orientation). It shows the ISO speed in the optical viewfinder, which is a nice feature as ISO is an important parameter for low light shooting.

Its kit lens is among the better ones. The camera uses less noise reduction than others at high ISOs. Consequently resulting images are full of fine details and noise reduction artifacts are minimal.

It would have been perfect but for the missing AF assist lamp. Instead it uses Flash strobe as AF assist in low light (as is being done by many other such DSLRs except those from Nikon).

In nutshell, the best-in-class features, image quality, large & bright pentaprism optical viewfinder, build quality and in-body image stabilization makes this camera a steal at the prevailing price.

Comparison with Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)

The Pentax K20D has better build quality, a larger and brighter pentaprism viewfinder, higher resolution, a live view, and better features.

Comparison with Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

The Pentax K20D has better build quality, a larger and brighter pentaprism viewfinder, a higher resolution sensor, in-body shake reduction, which makes it possible to use much cheaper non image-stabilized lenses, RAW-DNG format, and a top-mounted LCD.

Pros
  • +
    Class-leading resolution
  • +
    In-body shake reduction feature
  • +
    Larger and brighter pentaprism viewfinder (cheapest camera with such a feature)
  • +
    Top mounted LCD and weather sealed body
  • +
    One of the better kit lenses
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    ISO6400 setting (highest in this price range)
  • +
    RAW - DNG format
  • +
    Well built
Cons
  • -
    Lacks an AF assist lamp
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens) is the Best Digital Camera Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 14.6MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Pentax K20D (with 18-55mm Lens)
2
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)
3
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $949.00
Size (W x H x D) 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in. 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
14.6 megapixels 10.2 megapixels 10.2 megapixels
?
Sensor Size
23.4 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor 23.5 x 15.7 mm CCD senso 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD senso
?
Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time)
0.3 sec 0.3 sec 0.3 sec
Power to First Shot Time 0.5 sec 0.6 sec 0.5 sec
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 3.0 frames/sec 2.8 frames/sec 3.0 frames/sec
?
Min Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
27 mm 27 mm 27 mm
?
Max Focal Length (35 mm equivalent)
84 mm 84 mm 83 mm
Auto Focus Assist Light Available Flash Strobe Flash Strobe Yes
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f/3.5 f/3.5 (f/2.8 with Sigma 18-50mm lens) f/3.5
?
Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f/5.6 f/5.6(f/2.8 with Sigma 18-50mm lens) f/5.6
Max ISO Setting 6400 1600 3200
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable four AA sized Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 530 shots 550 shots 500 shots
Image Quality
lens quality good good (very good with Sigma 18-50mm lens) good
colors & fine details excellent very good very good
High ISO performance Excellent Excellent Excellent
view finder quality Excellent Very good Good (ISO indication missing)
?
Image Stabilization Available
Yes (in-body) Yes (in-body) Yes (lens based)
Max Usable ISO (subjective) 1600 1600 1600
Sensor Raw Format Available Yes (RAW-DNG too) Yes (RAW-DNG too) Yes
2
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)

This DSLR from Pentax provides terrific value in its category (entry-level DSLRs).

It too has in-body shake-reduction (CCD-shift type) feature & a top-mounted LCD.

The camera has one of the larger and brighter viewfinders among entry-level DSLRs, which helps when verifying your focus & low light shooting. The camera also offers the highest amount of cross-type AF points (among entry-level DSLRs). It too shows the ISO speed in the optical viewfinder.

Other useful features are the weather-sealed body, sensor dust-reduction system, RAW-DNG format.

It is the only DSLR which runs on standard AA batteries.

When coupled with bright Sigma 18-50mm lens, the camera gathers lot of light and produces sharp & more blur-free images under variety of conditions. Nevertheless its kit lens is among the better ones. The camera uses less noise reduction than others at high ISOs. Consequently resulting images are full of fine details and noise reduction artifacts are minimal.

It too uses Flash strobe as AF assist in low light.

If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend a fortune on lenses, the K200D with the Sigma 18-50mm lens is the best option overall.

Comparison with Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

The Pentax K200D has an in-body shake reduction feature, which makes it possible to use much cheaper non image-stabilized lenses, supports RAW-DNG format, has a larger viewfinder, and has a top-mounted LCD. However if you are often taking pictures of people in low light without a flash then the Nikon D60 is the better choice because of its dedicated AF assist lamp, which is less annoying than using a flash strobe as the AF assist.

Pros
  • +
    In-body shake reduction feature
  • +
    Larger and brighter viewfinder
  • +
    Top mounted LCD and weather sealed body
  • +
    One of the better kit lenses
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    RAW - DNG format
  • +
    Uses AA batteries
Cons
  • -
    Lacks an AF assist lamp
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC SLD ELD Aspherical Macro Lens for Pentax and Samsung Digital SLR Cameras
    $419.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.1x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

Nikon is currently the only DSLR manufacturer that includes a dedicated Auto-Focus assist light on all their DSLR camera models. Other entry level DSLRs use a Flash strobe as the AF assist in low light, which might startle the subject and is annoying too. The Nikon D60 was recently introduced as an entry-level DSLR by Nikon.

The camera also has ISO3200 option and comes with image stabilized kit lens. However the ISO speed setting is not indicated in the optical viewfinder. The kit lens is among the better one of these and produces images with good corner-to-corner sharpness.

The image quality including high ISO performance is one of the best.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)

The Nikon D60 has a better kit lens and has a dedicated AF assist lamp.

Pros
  • +
    AF assist lamp
  • +
    ISO3200 option
  • +
    Good high ISO performance
  • +
    Good kit lens
Cons
  • -
    No in-body shake reduction
  • -
    Smaller viewfinder
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Nikon D60 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
  • Best Price: $949
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
4
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)

Like Pentax, Sony also makes a DSLRs with a built-in image stabilization feature. The Sony A200 is their current entry-level model. However the kit lens is among the worst and suffers from purple fringing and soft corners (blurring of fine details in corners of image). The ISO speed is not visible in viewfinder, which is a negative. It does not have a dedicated AF assist lamp and uses a Flash Strobe for the purpose. Nevertheless when coupled with bright Tamron AF 17-50mm lens, the camera provides great value producing sharp blur-free images.

Comparison with Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

The Sony A200 has an in-body shake reduction system.

Pros
  • +
    In-body shake reduction feature
  • +
    Large and bright viewfinder
Cons
  • -
    One of the worst kit lenses
  • -
    Lacks dedicated AF assist lamp
  • -
    Smaller range of compatible wider aperture lenses
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Sony Alpha DSLR-A200 (with 18-70mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP ZL Aspherical (IF) Zoom Lens for Konica Minolta and Sony Digital SLR Cameras
    $499.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.9x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.2MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
5
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

Like K20D this DSLR too has a live view mode. Like the Pentax K200D, it shows the ISO speed in optical viewfinder, which is a nice feature.

The camera’s image stabilized kit lens is one of the best around with good corner-to-corner sharpness. The camera has good high ISO performance too. However it lacks an AF assist lamp and uses a flash strobe instead to auto-focus assist in low light.

Comparison with Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

The Canon Rebel XSi has much better resolution, dynamic range and noise performance, and less image processing artifacts.

Pros
  • +
    One of the best image-stabilized kit lens
  • +
    Higher resolution
  • +
    Live view feature
Cons
  • -
    Lacks dedicated AF assist lamp
  • -
    Lacks in-body image stabilization feature
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
  • Best Price: $689
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 29mm (21% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
6
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

This camera is top of line superzoom offering from Fuji. Equipped with a 50% larger sensor (than other superzooms) and a 14x optical zoom range, it is being promoted as an all-in-one alternative to DSLR cameras. The rich feature set includes a tilt LCD (up and down), ability to zoom during movie capture and RAW mode.

However the camera disappoints on the image quality front. The images suffer from fringing problems (purple/green halos around high contrast borders). The effect is quite noticeable. In addition the lens produces soft corners blurring away fine details in that area.

Pros
  • +
    Tilt LCD
  • +
    Good zoom range and feature set
Cons
  • -
    Less noisy among superzooms but no match to DSLRs
  • -
    Soft corners in images
  • -
    Fringing problems at high contrast edges
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
  • Best Price: $735
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 14.3x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 11.1MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com

How It Works

You tell us your budget, intended uses, and desired features. We show you personalized recommendations from unbiased experts to quickly identify the best digital camera for you.

Advertisement

best hdtv Looking for an HDTV? BestInClass.com also provides expert recommendations for the best HDTV for you.