DailySnap.com

Best DSLR Under $1500

With $1500, you have more than enough to buy a mid-range DSLR. There are many cameras in this price range, but keep in mind that the body should cost no more than $1000, as you want to make room for a high quality lens too. In general, there are no "best" digital SLRs - it depends on your needs, criteria, and experience, but here are some good solid cameras under $1500 that offer a good combination of features, performance, image quality, and build:

1) Pentax K-7

Pentax K7 DSLR

The K-7 earned lots of praise from us when it first came out. Packed with many upgrades, and features, making it versatile to many types of photographers.

One of the many things we like about the Pentax K7 is its small, compact design without feeling flimsy or cheap. It weighs just 26.5 ounches, shaving 2 ounces or so from the previous Pentax K20D. The grip is short, and close to the lens, making it well balanced. We've used the K7 for hours in many occasions, and never felt any discomfort from using it. It's just a joy to use and handle.

There's a lot of useful features in the Pentax K7 that really ensures a good shooting experience. With a reach and click of a button, you can easily switch to RAW. There's the green button, located in the back. This button enables you to re-center the exposure. There's a ton of bracketing options to choose from from the usual white balance, saturation, hue, contrast, as well as simple no-nonsense exposure bracketing. The shutter noise is practically non-existent and extremely quiet.

Pentax K7 rear

For the advanced user, you'll love the customization that the Pentax K7 offers. There's in-camera editing where you can apply changes to any RAW file, and save it to a JPEG. There's many HDR modes that you can experiment with, though we caution against over-using it.

In terms of image quality, Pentax intentionally made the colors overly vivid, and bright to appease the mainstream consumer. For professionals that prefer less vivid colors, and more accurate ones, you just lower the saturation and contrast. Hue accuracy was pretty good, though orange tended to shift towards yellow sometimes. During our test shots, we were amazed at how sharp our photos with very fine details.

The K-7 also had a decent noise profile. When using low ISO up to 400, noise is very low, and most of the details are retained. At ISO 800, you'll notice more noise, but overall, the details are still sharp. Even at ISO 1600, many of the details are still there, although you'll see noticeably more blurring. It's only when we upped it to 3200, that the noise became a bit too much, with blurring and chroma noise. If you stick with ISO 400, and below you can get good prints up to 16 X 20. When using ISO 800, 13 X 19 prints still look surprisingly pleasing. At 1600, 11 X 15 is manageable. At 3200, 8 X 10, and at 6400, we were still able to get decent prints at 5 X 7. Overall, this is pretty remarkable, and we were impressed with the high ISO performance for the K7.

The performance is also great for a camera of this price. While start and shutdown times are just average, shot to shot times, and continuous shooting speed are really good. 5.2 frames per second is as good as it gets. Buffer depth shouldn't be a huge issue as well. Overall, when handling and taking shots, you won't notice speed as a problem.

What's great about it:
- Small, compact, simple design
- Weather-proof
- Controls are laid out intuitively
- 5.2 frames per second is very fast

What's not so great:
- We had some problems focusing in low light
- Focusing in low light could yield issues

Summary: Overall, given the wealth of good features, a great compact design, and superb photo quality + solid performance, it's hard not to love the Pentax K7. It's a favorite for us, and we think it'll continue to be a favorite for a long time. If you pair the K7 with a lens such as the 18-55, 50-20mm, you'll still end up below $1500.

2) Nikon D90

Nikon D90 DSLR

The D90 is another excellent camera aimed at the prosumer market (mid-range buyers). We actually bought this camera the day it came out, and it didn't take long for us to really fall in love with.

The D90 really feels similar to the D80, from the look and feel, to the weight and size. It has a good comfortable grip, and feels like a solid piece of metal, which is what we want. There's not much to talk about in terms of the design - it's fairly intuitive.

There's live view, which is becoming increasingly commonplace in DSLRs. But the D90 was the first camera to have movie recording in live view. You can manually focus while shooting videos, and zoom too. It's great if you want practice quick and dirty filming. The D90 supports movie resolutions up to 1280 X 720, but clip time is limited to 5 minutes for HD. It's not perfect, but definitely fun to experiment with.

In terms of performance, the D90 earns high marks in all aspects. Start up and shut down times are fast, and not an issue, as is mode switching time. Full autofocus shutter lag is excellent at .2 seconds, and using flash is .25 seconds. When using live view, full autofocus is a bit slow to focus, taking 2-2.5 seconds on average. We recommend sticking with the optical viewfinder for most shooting situations.

Shot to shot times was speedy at .35 seconds for large JPEGs, .35 seconds for RAW, and just .32 seconds for RAW + large JPEGs. Continuous shooting speed was solid, clocking in at 4.5 frames per second.

Image quality is superb and better than we expected. You can definitely produce good photos even at ISO 3200. At this high ISO, you can even have prints as large as 13 X 19, which is astounding if you think about it. If you have to use an ISO of 6400, you can manage good looking prints at 5 X 7. Colors are a bit over-saturated, especially red, but we think most consumers should be happy with it. You can always lower the saturation and contrast to fit your preferences. Hue accuracy is solid. Overall, the D90 delivers.

What's great about it:
- Top-rate performance
- Good photo quality
- Has video capture

What's not so great:
- Bad HDMI implementation
- Kit lens is sub par

Summary: There's not much to add about the D90. It delivers a lot in a very reasonable price. It's well under $1500 in Amazon, and you can still pair it with any decent lens after buying the body.

3) Nikon D5000

Nikon D5000 DSLR

While the D5000 is considerably less than $1500 (usually $700-$800), we often recommend people to save money on the body, so they can spend more on the lens. Besides, the D5000 is also considered one of the best bang for your buck entry level cameras.

The D5000 does have some weaknesses but they can be easily overlooked when you consider its solid image quality + performance. If there's one major weakness, it's the design. The LCD screen, while articulated can be a nuisance to deal with. It's almost impossible to see in direct sunlight, and equally as tough to determine the sharpness of the photos you took. In addition, the multi-selection switch often accidentally moved the selected autofocus points.

Luckily, the D5000 makes up for all those weaknesses with its performance and image quality. It's fast. Power on to first shot takes just an impressive .2 seconds. Shot lag is .3 seconds in good light, and .7 seconds in dim light. Shooting and saving JPEG and RAW both took .5 seconds with no flash, .9 seconds with flash. Continuous shooting measured at 4 fps, making it tops among its class. All in all, performance deserves an A.

The image quality is even better. The photos we shot all displayed good exposure, and accurate colors. Noise profile is solid, and you can have reasonably good prints even using an ISO of 6400.

What's great about it:
- Great image quality
- Solid performance
- Kit lens is above average

What's not so great:
- Viewfinder is pretty small
- Video quality is not great.

Summary: Even though the D5000 may be lacking a bit in the design category, it has many features, good performance and good photo quality for a camera of this price range. Great camera for the money.


Why Compare Prices At DailySnap

Unlike price comparison websites that list only retailers that pay them, DailySnap list prices for every retailer. That way, you have more choices and always get the lowest price available.

We always update our prices throughout the day, and our staff is always on the lookout for deals online. If you have a tip on a cool deal, email us at tips@dailysnap.com

 

Categories: Home | Shop & Compare Point and Shoots | Shop & Compare DSLRs | Buying Guides

 

About Us | Contact Us

 

(C) Copyright 2004-2010 DailySnap