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Best Mid Range DSLR For 2010

So you got money to spend, but not that much. You don't want an entry level digital SLR like the Nikon D5000, but you can't afford a Canon Mark IV either. Here are some great mid-range digital SLRs:

1) Nikon D90 (with 18-105 mm lens)

Nikon D90

The Nikon D90 was the first DSLR to introduce video capture, You can buy the D90 with the body only, or with a kit (that comes with a 18-105mm lens).

First off, the design and body. It feels pretty heavy compared to other mid-range DSLR cameras, but it's quite sturdy, and that's what counts. The grip is rather comfortable, and it features wireless flash controls and improved shutter durability. The LCD is protected rather well from dust by polymer.

We liked using the D90. The controls and layout are all intuitive, particularly if you used a Nikon camera before. If you just used Canon camera, it might take some time to get used to it.

One of the most innovative features introduced by the D90 is its movie mode. However, we think the implementation is not as good as it could have been. The movie capture performs pretty well though at 24 FPS.

We love the performance of the D90: It's superb, and a clear improvement from the Nikon D90. It takes just .2 seconds from power up to shoot. And it takes just a measly .5 seconds to shoot 2 raw frames consecutively. That's the best amongst its class.

When we tested continuous shooting, the D90 measured at 4 frames per second. This is quite fast for a camera in this price range. You'll have no problems shooting sports, or fast moving objects.

Let's move on to image quality. We shot many photos before with the D90, and up to an ISO of 3200, the photos all looked accurate, sharp, with very little noise. One thing of note: with most Nikon cameras, the D90 underexposed most of the time.

We don't recommend buying the kit lens that come with the D90 however. We don't like the zoom ring, and the lens are not as sharp as we would have liked.

What's great about it:
- Terrific, best in class performance
- Sturdy body with great viewfinder
- Supports video capture
- Excellent image quality

What's not so great:
- Kit lens could be improved
- Poor HDMI output

Summary: Overall, this is a great bang for your buck DSLR that will definitely meet your expectations in 2 main categories: photo quality and performance. If you have the money, we highly recommend buying it.

2) Canon EOS 50D (with 28-135 mm lens)

Canon EOS 50D

The 50D is an update over the Canon 40D and is a good option in the mid range camera category. There's 3 options if you want to buy it: opt for the f/3.5-5.6, 28-134 mm IS USM lens, or the new EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, or just the body. We recommend getting the 28-134mm lens.

The EOS 50D performs very well, taking just .2 seconds from power on to first shot, and .3 seconds shot-to-shot for both JPEG and raw. We tested the burst mode, and it came out at 6 FPS, which is pretty good.

One area the 50D is kind of lacking is the ability to focus fast continuously. There were situations when it was attracted to brighter areas in the frame. More AF points would have solved this issue.

But on to the major stuff. The photo quality is excellent, and delivers tremendous photos at ISO 1600 and 3200. Our photos were uber sharp, with very little noise. When we upped the ISO to 6400, that's when we saw noise, but this is the case with most cameras in this class.

What's great about it:
- Delivers great performance and image quality
- Excellent design

What's not so great:
- Expected more features for camera of this caliber

Summary: The Canon EOS 50D delivers tremendous performance and photos, which is what most people care about. With 15 megapixel resolution, and sharp photos with very little noise up to ISO 3200, this camera is an excellent option for the mid-range buyer that cares about his craft.

3) Pentax K-7 DSLR

Pentax K7 Camera

The Pentax K-7 is Pentax's follow-up to the K10D and is another solid mid-range DSLR. It has a nice sturdy build with feels strong, and durable.

We love the controls for the Pentax K-7... so intuitive, and when we started using it, we "got it". Even if you usually use Canon or Nikon cameras, we think it won't take long for you to get used to these Pentax controls here. Pentax really excelled in this department.

When you first hold the Pentax K-7, it will feel lighter than most cameras in this price range. That may or may not be helpful to you. Personally, we like larger cameras, but if you hate bulky cameras, you'll feel right at home with the K-7.

Let's move on to performance. We think this camera is the fastest camera you'll find in this class, with a burst shooting speed of 5.25 frames per second. It has very little shutter lag, and met all our expectations. It performs well with action shots too, like sports.

On to image quality: The Pentax K-7 shines in the area of delivering white balance. We tested the camera by shooting under poor lighting conditions, and in each scenario, our photos STILL turned out with great white balance. Almost amazing. Up to an ISO of 3200, our images showed very little noise, and were incredibly sharp.

One of the new features introduced in the K-7 is HD video capability. We tested this feature and loved what we saw. We think the video quality here is pretty much as good as it gets compared with other DSLRs. It has HDMI capability so you can watch your videos on your HDTV.

What's great about it:
- Great build, and speed
- Many useful features
- Great in camera editing features

What's not so great:
- When using live view, AF detection is slow.
- in camera editing can slow down camera

Summary: There's not much to dislike about the Pentax K-7. There are only minor issues we saw with it. Everything else from the image quality, video quality, performance, and myraid of useful editing features exceeded our expectations. You can't go wrong buying this camera.

4) Olympus E-30 (body only)

Olympus E30 DSLR

Olympus's entrance to the mid-range DSLR competition is their 12 megapixel E-30, which is a pretty spiffy camera.

We recommend buyers get the 12-60mm lenses. It definitely is better than the 14-42mm kit lens.

One of the coolest features about the E-30 is their 2.7 inch LCD that you can actually flip and twist. There were many situations we found this incredibly convenient.

We also loooove the nice art filters Olympus put into this camera. There are 6 cool effects here from pop art to light tone, to pin hole. If you want to have some fun with your camera, the E-30 definitely is the perfect camera for you to play with.

Performance is not the high point for the E-30. It takes slower for it to start up compared to other cameras in this class, at .7 seconds from power on to first shot.

The photo quality though is a different story. It produces accurate colors, good exposures, and sharp photos (with a great lens). It maxes out at ISO 3200, though but that wasn't a major issue for us.

What's great about it:
- Solid photo quality and performance
- Lots of customizable features
- Lots of cool art filters
- Prices are dropping

What's not so great:
- Bad my mode custom settings

Summary: Great, versatile all-around DSLR that is great for shooters who are not stuck to a particular system. It is rather inexpensive too, and we've seen prices going down recently for them. We love the cool art filters, and the flexible LCD - it's a great choice.

5) Nikon D200

Nikon D200

We might have cheated in putting this camera in the mid-range category, but we think it belongs here. It is however, in the upper echelon among mid-range categories in terms of price.

We love how they placed the controls here.. it was so easy to navigate. It took us just a day of shooting to get the hang of it, and once we got the hang of it, it made shooting more fun.

There's a lot of options and stuff you can customize here. So if you're into tweaking and customizing, the D200 is perfect for you.

In terms of performance, wow, we were pretty amazed. There is virtually no shutter lag, due to the great autofocus system. The image quality also met our expectations. Even at a high ISO of 3200, the images were fairly acceptable.

All the lens are fairly good, although we would recommend the new VR lens because of their sharpness.

What's great about it:
- Lots of controls + accessories
- Great performance
- Outstanding photo quality

What's not so great:
- TIFF mode is not available
- JPEG artifacts affect photo quality

Summary: If you're looking a camera that packs a lot of customizable features, this is a great camera for you. If you don't need those features however, we suggest looking at cheaper options.


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