Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $1000
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
May 25, 2010 Updated: May 27, 2010
Overview

With Live View, Full HD video, a 18 mp imaging sensor and a generous 3.0” LCD screen, the Canon Rebel T2i is a sure winner for both professionals and amateurs alike. This camera has everything a picture taker could ask for built into a lightweight body that is ready for action.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

For those interested in getting into digital photography, looking at the Canon EOS T2i first would save a lot of time and energy.

Built as an entry-level digital SLR, the T2i takes a lot of features from it’s older (and more expensive) cousin, the 7D, and adds a few new ones that grew out of feedback the Canon R&D team culled from past customers.

Take the 63-point iFCL metering system for example. An exposure analysis tool first introduced in the 7D model, this metering system will ensure you are getting the best exposure possible, and at 3.6fps! Your 18mp images are then run through Canon’s advanced Digic IV processor for fast camera operations and improved quality and stored on SD, SDHC or SDXC media cards.

For the aspiring filmmaker, the T2i records video at a full 1920x1080p HD resolution and has an integrated HDMI port for immediate viewing on HD compatible T.V.’s. You can even zoom in an additional 7x, at 640x480 resolution, when getting close to the action is prohibitive. Manual controls are also available for both still and video images.

Built tough but lightweight, the 550D has a 3.0” LCD and a variety of preset controls, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and program controls and two dedicated buttons located within easy reach to make decisions fast and easy. There’s the dedicated Quick Control Screen button for adjusting ISO, white balance, etc. and the live view/video button for toggling between those two choices.

Taking low light images has gone to a new level for both still images and video with enhanced in-camera noise reduction technology. Expect to be able to shoot up to 6400 ISO with the ability to take that up to 12800 ISO when needed.

That’s the kind of quality mixed with creative control new digital photographers have been asking for, and Canon has obviously been paying attention.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A500 (with 18-55mm Lens)

Besides not having video, the A500 has a smaller imaging sensor. The T2i also has a brighter LCD screen.

Pros
  • +
    Full HD Video
  • +
    Live View
  • +
    High ISO
  • +
    Bright LCD screen
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (with 18-55mm IS Lens) is the Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
  • Best Price: $648
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Canon RC6 Wireless Remote Controller for Rebel T2i, Rebel T1i or Rebel XS
    $23.98 @ Amazon.com
  • Power2000 LP-E8 Replacement Lithium-Ion Battery, 7.2 volt 1500mAh, for Canon EOS Rebel T2i Digital Camera
    $7.99 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 29mm (21% wider)
  • Resolution: 18.0MP
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

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Canon EOS Rebel T2i (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
2
Sony Alpha DSLR-A500 (with 18-55mm Lens)
3
Nikon D5000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $648.94 $599.99 $999.00
Camera Format SLR SLR SLR
Weight (with batteries) 18.7 oz 22.2 oz 21.6 oz
Body Material Stainless steel, Fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin Plastic Plastic
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Sensor Size
22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
Max Consecutive Burst Frames 10 frames 12 frames -
HD Video Available Yes - Yes
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Image Stabilization Available
Yes Yes Yes
Viewfinder Type Optical Optical Optical
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 2.7 in.
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SDHC Memory Card, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
LCD Screen Resolution 1040000 pixels 230400 pixels 230000 pixels
2
Sony Alpha DSLR-A500 (with 18-55mm Lens)

Sony has made switching from a point and shoot camera to a DSLR an easy choice with the Alpha A500.

With features like Quick Auto Focus Live View and Face Detection Technology, composition issues are brought to a minimum. Thanks to the Bionz processor you can expect quick focusing and shutter speeds of up to 4fps in live view and 5fps using the optical viewfinder.

For perfect set-ups of your important shots, use the Manual Focus Check when in live view and even zoom in up to 14x to make sure you have precise focusing, regardless of ambient light. And when using the tilt angle LCD, you can position the camera in many creative ways for a unique point of view. And speaking of creativity, the A500 offers an Auto HDR mode for images that seem to pop out of the screen with defined highlights and shadows.

For situations dealing with low light when you don’t want to use flash, Sony has developed SteadyShot INSIDE, an optical image stabilizer that allows the camera to shoot at slow enough speeds to allow for ample light while giving you up to 4 extra stops on the aperture. That’s a big deal when flash isn’t allowed or you aren’t close enough to use flash.

Battery power has long been an issue when out shooting for the day or weekend. Sony has thought about that too, delivering up to 1000 shots per charge. That’s a lot of power. But I still recommend an extra battery, because when the powers out, there’s no more shooting. And nobody wants that to happen.

Pros
  • +
    Sensor Shift stabilizer
  • +
    Bionz processor
  • +
    Tilt angle LCD
  • +
    Auto HDR mode
  • +
    Long Lasting Battery
Sony Alpha DSLR-A500 (with 18-55mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Sony Alpha DSLR-A500 (with 18-55mm Lens)
  • Best Price: $599
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Sony NPFM500H Li-Ion Rechargeable Battery Pack for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Cameras
    $29.94 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.1x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.3MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
3
Nikon D5000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

For an entry-level DSLR with all the bells and whistles, but not the professional price tag, the Nikon D5000 is a stand-out choice.

Built solidly and lightweight enough to take on vacation or to a neighborhood get-together, the D5000 may be going with you more often than you would have expected. Especially when you see the results. In addition to a 12.3mp CMOS sensor, live view, 720p movies with an HDMI output for easy connection to your HDTV, and a 2.7”, 180 degree Tilt/Swivel LCD screen, the D5000 has the EXPEED high-speed image-processing system that allows you to keep shooting while the camera does it’s own work behind the scenes.

For those who are new to the digital world, the D5000 features 19 different scene modes to guide you along the way to taking better pictures. It even shows a sample picture of the scene mode you’ve chosen to make sure you are on the right track. And for setting up still shots or video, there is a dedicated button accessing the live view function so you can compose the shot before tripping the shutter.

If you happen to be an experienced photographer who likes to play around with fstops and shutter speeds or a combination of both, the D5000 has a full complement of choices like Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program located right on top of the camera body within easy reach so you can make your changes on the fly without a lot of fussing around with menus. Everything is positioned for optimum use and very intuitive.

So, whether you are a seasoned pro looking for a reasonably priced DSLR or a new member of the growing converts to digital, the D5000 has what you are looking for. This camera just may be in your future photo-taking plans for years to come.

Pros
  • +
    Full Manual Controls
  • +
    Tilt angle LCD
  • +
    Great entry level price
Nikon D5000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $1000
Where to buy
Nikon D5000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
Recommended with
  • Opteka RC-2 Wireless Remote Control for Nikon D40, D40x, D50, D60, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D3000, & D5000 Digital SLR Camera (Nikon ML-L3 Replacement)
    $9.54 @ Amazon.com
  • Nikon En-EL9a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
    $36.05 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.3MP
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

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