Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $500
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
December 21, 2009
Overview

When the search is on for a DSLR that fits into your budget, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi should be your top pick. In the ever-competitive camera market with prices falling on older models, this versatile camera with great features has become affordable for anyone ready to move into a serious picture taking mode.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (Body Only)

Tried and true, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi has earned the right to be considered among the top digital cameras for amateurs and professionals within a budget.

Sporting a 12.2mp CMOS sensor, a 3.0” LCD screen with Live View, a 9 point AF system and speedy enough to capture 3.5 fps, the XSi has the features that are most desired by those seeking a complete DSLR package.

Lightweight, compact and tough, the XSi fits nicely in your hands and is easily navigable thanks to a more intuitive menu system, including a My Menu feature that stores your most common shooting setups.

Tap into the wide variety of Canon lenses to explore your creativity. Add an external flash unit and expect to get magazine quality photos of friends, family and just about anything that falls into your viewfinder.

Canon long ago established it’s standing as a leader in the design and manufacture of user friendly camera bodies and lenses, now you can experience the fun at a price you may have been waiting for.

Comparison with Nikon D3000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

I chose the XSi over the D3000 for the Live View and the faster fps speed. Otherwise, I think they are both great cameras for different reasons. One is brand loyalty, the other has to do with equipment you may already own. No sense discarding good Nikon or Canon lenses and flashes to make the switch.

Comparison with Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens)

Although the Olympus E-520 is an excellent camera with a lot of the same attributes of the XSi, I still prefer the XSI for it’s bigger sensor, Digic III processor and bigger LCD screen.

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (Body Only) is the Best Digital SLR Camera Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (Body Only)
  • Best Price: $485
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
    $90.99 @ Amazon.com
  • Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash for Canon Digital SLR Cameras
    $265.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • 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

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (Body Only)
2
Nikon D3000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
3
Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens)
Customer Rating
Price $485.00 $528.19
Weight (with batteries) 18.5 oz 18.9 oz 19.4 oz
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Effective Sensor Resolution
12.2 megapixels 10.2 megapixels 10.0 megapixels
Anti-Dust Technology Low-pass Filter Vibration Low-pass Filter Vibration, Airflow Control Supersonic Wave Filter
Max Shooting Speed (continuous) 3.5 frames/sec 2.4 frames/sec 2.1 frames/sec
Video Available No No No
Max ISO Setting 1600 3200 1600
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Face Detection Available
No No Yes
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 2.7 in.
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Live View Yes No Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) Optical (lens shift) Optical (in-body sensor shift)
2
Nikon D3000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)

Now is one of the best times to get into a digital SLR. The prices seem to be falling rapidly, allowing those who were on the fence about investing in a system like the Nikon D3000 to make the move with relative ease.

And what a great system it is. Designed for the beginner in mind, the D3000 has an easy to use guide mode for choosing the right settings for certain shooting situations, ensuring that you get the best shot every time.

Built tough and lightweight, the D3000 has an 11-point AF system with Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module, the EXPEED image processing system and a 10.2mp DX-format CCD sensor. There is an Integrated Dust Reduction System to keep the sensor dust-free, a long lasting rechargeable battery that handle up to 550 shots and a built in flash that pops up when needed, or when you want to add a little fill during low light situations.

This great low price includes the 18-55mm VR Lens, but consider expanding your creative possibilities with other Nikkor AF-S lenses like the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED for zooming in closer on your subjects. Like the saying goes, ‘if you don’t like your pictures, you probably weren’t close enough’.

Comparison with Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens)

I think the Guide mode on the D3000 is enough of a difference between these two cameras to make the choice an easy one. If Live View is what you want, then the E-520 will be the right choice. Otherwise, the Nikon D3000 is a well built camera that feels good in your hands.

Nikon D3000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Nikon D3000 (with 18-55mm VR Lens)
  • Best Price: $528
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G ED AF-S DX Nikkor Zoom Lens (Black)
    $199.95 @ 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
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com
3
Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens)

Olympus has made the choice between buying a digital SLR and a Point and Shoot camera a lot easier by including Live View to the E-520. Now it’s a snap to compose your shot using the 2.7 ” HyperCrystal II LCD screen that covers 100% of the frame. Take advantage of the face detection and shadow contrast AF features to simplify your shooting experience. Add a remote control and get yourself in the picture too!

Built to ergonomically fit your hand, the E-520 has a 10mp imaging sensor, a Supersonic wave filter to control dust, built-in image stabilization and 32 shooting modes all ready to go wherever your dreams take you, at only 16.2 ounces. And for good old fashioned quick draw shooting, the E-520 will capture up to 3.5 fps.

Easy to use. The E-520 has it’s dials and buttons all conveniently located for quick changes and rapid viewing. Plus, with Shadow Adjustment Technology, it’s easy to get the exposure right with either the Highkey or Lowkey setting.

For optics, start with the 14-42mm kit lens and work your way through the more than 20 Zuiko digital lenses available, all image stabilized thanks to the internal image stabilization.

So now, at a price that compares to higher end point and shoot cameras, the Olympus E-520 is a robust DSLR that will have even the most ardent hobbyist shooting like a pro.

Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital SLR Cameras Overall Under $500
Where to buy
Olympus E-520 (with 14-42mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Opteka RC-6 Wireless Remote Control for Olympus EVOLT E-520, E-510, E-500, E-420, E-410, E-330, E-300, E-30, E-3 & E-1 Digital SLR Camera ~
    $9.99 @ Amazon.com
  • Olympus Zuiko 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 ED Lens for Olympus and Panasonic Standard Four Thirds Digital SLR Cameras
    $299.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

How It Works

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