Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $2000
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
October 26, 2010 Updated: November 8, 2010
Overview

For an all-around camera that takes great still shots as well as HD video, pro’s and amateur’s alike will tell you that Nikon is the choice for every level of talent. Speedy, sensitive and built to fit comfortably in your hand, the Nikon D7000 is my Best In Class choice for a DSLR that will do it all. Take the D7000 out for a test run and you’ll be amazed at what you can do regardless of your experience or training.

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My Best In Class Pick
Nikon D7000 (with 18-105mm VR Lens)

For those intent on shooting still photos with the best tools available, the obvious choice in the ever-widening world of digital cameras is the Nikon D7000.

Hailed by photographers of every level as the best offering yet from Nikon, the D7000 has a 16.2mp CMOS sensor, an Expeed 2 image processor that allows you to shoot at up to 6fps, an AF system that features 39 focus points including 9 cross-type sensors in the center, a 921k dot 3.0” LCD screen and the ability to record 1080p full HD movies and an electronic virtual horizon that helps you keep all of these great functions on the straight and narrow . Whew! And that’s just for starters. Take a closer look at some of the other features and you should be convinced that the Nikon D7000 is just the camera that you’ve been looking for.

For shooting in low light or situations where flash is undesirable, the D7000 offers sharp images with low noise at up to 100-6400 ISO (extendable up to 25600). There is the live view function with contrast detection AF mode with a dedicated switch right next to the LCD screen, face detection that can detect up to 35 people within approx. 0.08 seconds and subject tracking that keeps focusing even while your subject is on the move.

The D7000 offers great quality features like Nikon’s wonderful D-lighting system that preserves highlight and shadow details in high contrast situations, a super-fast scene recognition system that reads a scenes brightness, colors and autofocus, makes white balance and i-TTL flash calculations and delivers the best possible image in seconds.

Image editing is a snap with in-camera editing functions for movie clips and a retouch menu for your still images. In fact, discovering all of the wonderful controls and functions that are contained within the well-built magnesium alloy camera body will astound you and feed your creative instincts to do more than you ever thought possible.

Comparison with Nikon D300S (Body Only)

Although priced lower than the D300s, the D7000 has features that give it the look and feel of a truly professional camera. The D7000 has a larger imaging sensor, more ISO capability, an improved autofocus and wireless remote control. The only issue I have with the D7000 is it’s compatible with only AF lenses.

Comparison with Nikon D3100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

More powerful and with more technical features than the D3100, the D7000 is more of a prosumer camera and may be too much camera for an entry level photographer.

Pros
  • +
    100% viewfinder
  • +
    2 card slots
  • +
    High ISO
  • +
    AF-F mode for video
Cons
  • -
    AF lenses only
Nikon D7000 (with 18-105mm VR Lens) is the Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $2000
Where to buy
Nikon D7000 (with 18-105mm VR Lens)
  • Best Price: $1499
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.9x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 16.2MP
More

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Nikon D7000 (with 18-105mm VR Lens)
2
Nikon D300S (Body Only)
3
Nikon D3100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $1499.00 $1699.95 $549.00
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Effective Sensor Resolution
16.2 megapixels 12.3 megapixels 14.2 megapixels
HD Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Video Sound Available Yes Yes Yes
Max ISO Setting 25600 6400 12800
Viewfinder Type Optical Optical Optical
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 3.0 in.
Storage Media SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, CompactFlash Card SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
?
Face Detection Available
Yes Yes Yes
2
Nikon D300S (Body Only)

For a DSLR that is packed with state of the art technology, is rugged and easy to use, the Nikon D300s should make your short list of models to choose from.

Building on their long tradition of creating a camera that keeps both professionals and amateurs coming back, the Nikon D300s has taken the best ergonomics and technology of their earlier models and integrated them into this workhorse with the confidence that their reputation will remain intact.

Starting with a 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, the EXPEED image processor that allows for up to 7fps continuous shooting while keeping the power use to a minimum, a Multi-CAM 3500DX AF sensor module with 51 AF points densely positioned across the frame to ensure that you get the shot you’re aiming at with speed and accuracy and a wide ISO sensitivity range of ISO 200 to ISO 3200. With those features in place when you start out on your photo safari, you can rest assured that you will be rewarded for whatever efforts you put into your outing.

Add some of the other great features and you will know that you are truly holding the best camera on the market. Consider the 3” 920K dot high definition TFT LCD screen with a virtual horizon level for handheld video and live view shooting, an integrated dust reduction system, Dual CF and SD card slots allowing you to keep your still images on one card and your video on another, Active D-lighting for improving the quality of images taken in high contrast situations and a high performance built-in flash with the added ability to control remote flash units. These are just some of the great features that come from years of trial and error and customer feedback all packed into a solid, ergonomically comfortable camera body.

For video, the D300s offers full 720p HD video recording with autofocus capability and a dedicated button for switching between stills and video located right next to the LCD screen. Edit your video in camera or use the Type C HDMI interface to edit and view your movies on a compatible HD video display. Hook up an external microphone to include sound.

And finally, as you begin to learn all of the great features of the D300s, I recommend adding the MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack for extended shooting power. It will come in handy when you realize how much fun it is to use this top of the line camera.

Pros
  • +
    Dual CF and SD card slots
  • +
    100% viewfinder accuracy
  • +
    Low light sensitivity
  • +
    Rugged and reliable
  • +
    Great menus
  • +
    High ISO
Cons
  • -
    Video functions
Nikon D300S (Body Only) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $2000
Where to buy
Nikon D300S (Body Only)
  • Best Price: $1699
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Nikon MB-D10 Multi Power Battery Pack for Nikon D300 & D700 Digital SLR Cameras
    $242.24 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Resolution: 12.3MP
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Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
3
Nikon D3100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

If an entry level DSLR that is fast, lightweight and with a price point that won’t break the bank is what you seek, the Nikon D3100 should be at the top of your list when deciding which camera to buy.

For those who are moving to a DSLR from a traditional point and shoot camera, the D3100 is the perfect transitional model from Nikon’s outstanding line of cameras. With enough automatic settings and a guide mode that let’s you see sample images of what you’ll get at certain settings, you can take those important shots with confidence that you are getting a higher quality image in a lightweight, easy to hold camera with professional grade features.

Consider the generous 14.2mp imaging sensor, the powerful EXPEED 2 processing engine for speed and sensitivity (ISO 100-3200 that is extendable up to 12800), a bright 3” LCD screen that lets you see your live view framing with ease and full HD video capture (1920 x 1080) at 24fps movie clips.

With creative features like a scene auto selector, in-camera video editing functions, picture control that lets you choose between 6 different settings (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape) and active D-lighting, the D3100 is a camera that you can operate with ease and trust for all of your picture taking moments.

Pros
  • +
    Guide mode
  • +
    High ISO
  • +
    Light and durable
Cons
  • -
    No bracketing option
  • -
    AF S lenses only
Nikon D3100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $2000
Where to buy
Nikon D3100 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
  • Best Price: $549
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.1x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 27mm (30% wider)
  • Resolution: 14.2MP
More

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