Many people buying a digital single lens reflex camera for the first time start with an entry-level model. Moderately priced models are often larger and may be better suited to someone with large hands or wishing to use heavy lenses. Higher-end models generally offer features that are considered necessary by professionals but might not be useful for the casual photographer.
The main reasons individuals buy a DSLR is to be able to use interchangeable lenses and external flashes, to take better pictures in low light or at high burst speeds, and to have better control over the image output.
When purchasing a DSLR, here are features to consider:
Entry-level DSLR features
While most entry-level DSLRs do not have the build quality, weather proofing, speed and extra features of more advanced models, they are lightweight and less expensive.
Entry-level digital single lens reflex cameras have a number of the same features as compact digital cameras such as automatic and scene modes. Some new models even offer a video mode, but at the moment, video capabilities on DSLRs are limited at best (no autofocus, for instance).
Entry-level DSLRs have plenty of resolution. Their sensor size is larger than that of a compact, which affords vastly improved high ISO and low light capabilities than those found in compact cameras.
When buying an entry-level DSLR, take a look at some of these features:
Live view: Unthinkable a few years ago, live view is becoming more and more common on DSLR cameras. Not all DSLRs offer it, and its relevance will be based on how the camera is used. In general, live view is not very suitable for low light photography, but can be extremely useful when used with the camera on a tripod, for macro photography and for manually focusing your lens.
Autofocus lenses: some entry-level DSLRs do not have built-in focus motors, and rely on motors placed inside the lens. Some older lenses do not have a built-in focus motor, which means that in some cases, auto-focus lenses will act as manual focus lenses when mounted on an entry-level DSLR. This is generally true for older lenses.
Predictive autofocus: This feature is generally found on all DSLRs nowadays. It allows the camera to track a subject in movement to ensure that it will be sharply focused when the shutter is pressed.
Image stabilization – lens or body: some brands offer image stabilization systems built in the body of the camera so that all lenses become stabilized, while other put the system inside some of their lenses so that the preview in the viewfinder is stabilized. In general, manufacturers have streamlined image stabilization, so that even with an entry-level camera, it remains available at all times.
Viewfinder: in general, the viewfinder in an entry-level DSLR will offer a darker and smaller view than the viewfinder of a more advanced model. Comparing viewfinders made of pentamirrors (entry-level) and pentaprisms (advanced) will let you decide which feels more comfortable.
Automatic sensor cleaning: currently, all brands offer sensor cleaning systems on all their DSLRs. These systems help to remove dust on the sensor.
Which type DSLR?
Only you can decide which level DSLR is best for you. Make a decision based on your current level of expertise and your current and future needs. Remember: the best camera is the one that you enjoy using, whatever its features list!