Canon, Nikon and Sony are the three main brands selling Digital SLRs. Pentax are another option, although they have a smaller number of cameras available. In recent years a number of brands have dropped out of the picture altogether or have radically reduced their presence. This includes brands such as Samsung and Minolta.
Olympus used to be a main player in the Digital SLR market, but they now concentrate on Compact System Cameras instead.
If you are looking for a high end, professional level Digital SLR, Canon and Nikon more or less dominate the market. Sony cameras are targeted mainly at the hobby / enthusiast market, although there are options for the pro photographer.
There has been a lot of innovation in recent years. This includes the introduction of video modes and LCD screens that can be used to compose images. These innovations have been copied over from digital cameras. In most cases video quality is far better than what is produced by a compact digital camera. Another innovation pioneered by Sony is the introduction of a new type of mirror inside the camera. The main benefit of this is it allows faster shooting rates. If this is of interest to you check out their SLT range.
Canon's EOS DSLR range comprises 8 models. The most affordable, and designed very much with the beginner in mind, is the 1100D, which includes 720p HD video recording. Other entry-level options, more highly specified and packing more features, are the 550D and the 600D. For enthusiasts there is the 60D, which features a multi-angle articulated screen, and the semi-pro 7D, which is favoured by action photographers because of its 8 frames per second fast shooting rate. At the top end of the Canon range is the professionals' favourite, the 5D Mk II, the 1D Mk IV, which features an APS-H sized sensor (in between APS-C and full-frame), and the full-frame 1Ds Mk III. At the very top of range sits the EOS-1D X.
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Nikon's current line-up of DSLRs also features 8 models. The D3100 features everything a beginner could want, including full HD 1080p video recording. The D5100 features a pivoting screen. For enthusiasts, the D90 is a feature-packed solid performer, though perhaps starting to show its age. Next up is the D7000, which doesn't have the articulated screen of more recent models but is a very capable performer. The D300s is geared towards more advanced amateurs, and features a 51-point autofocus system and 7 frames per second fast shooting rate. Nikon offer no less than three full-frame sensor models. The 12 megapixel D700 is the most affordable of the three, whilst the D3s has a more rugged magnesium alloy metal body, 100% coverage viewfinder and 9 frames per second shooting rate. Finally the 24.5 megapixels of the D3x can produce a level of detail to satisfy the most demanding of professionals.
Nikon have also now entered the CSC market, with the launch of their J1 and V1 models. With sensors only about a third of the size of their APS-C sized sensor it remains to be seen how successful these will be, but Nikon are using new technology which they claim will overcome any issues caused by the small size of the sensor. These new models are also the first CSCs to offer the kind of phase-detect autofocus system normally only seen in DSLRs.
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Digital SLR Basics
Digital SLRs and Digital Cameras Key Differences
Digital SLR or Compact System Cameras
Digital SLR Handling
Help for Beginners
Lenses and Accessories
Buying a Camera Lens
Digital SLR Accessories
Learn More About Features
Resolution and Sensor Size
Manual Exposure Modes
Help With Tricky Lighting
Live View and Articulated Screens
Depth of Field Preview Button
Current and Recommended Models
Summary of Current Models
Recommended Digital SLRs
Digital SLR Guide Author
This guide was written by Ian Younger
Olympus are not the force to be reckoned with that they once were when it comes to DSLRs, and seem to be devoting most of their energy to developing CSC cameras these days. They have just four current DSLR models. The E-450 offers 10 megapixels and no less than 18 different scene modes. Proving the saying that good things come in small packages, the 2009 winner of the "Best Entry-Level DSLR" title in the prestigious TIPA (Technical Image Press Association) awards was the E-620, which Olympus boast is the world's smallest and lightest DSLR. The semi-pro E-30 has 11 autofocus points, all cross-type, and a vari-angle screen, also a feature of the top-of-the-range E-5, which also boasts a rugged metal alloy body that is splash proof and dust proof.
Olympus is perhaps better known these days for its 'PEN' range of CSCs, and has indicated it has no plans to release any further DSLR models. The E-PM1 is the 'mini' variant, whilst the E-PL3 is the latest addition to the range, joining the earlier E-PL1 and E-PL2. All of these models use a four-thirds sized sensor. There are some 11 lenses available, but an adaptor will allow the use of Olympus DSLR lenses, and Panasonic's lenses are also compatible.
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There are no DSLR offerings from Panasonic, but they make the excellent 'Lumix' range of CSCs, now comprising four cameras and fourteen lenses, though Olympus lenses are also compatible.
There are four cameras in the Pentax DSLR range, together with over 30 lenses. Pentax boasts of being the first brand to introduce a DSLR to the European market in a range of 12 different colours, with the K-x, which also won the 2010 TIPA award for "Best Entry-Level DSLR". The K-r is also an entry-level model, but it offers some improvements, such as a 6 frames per second fast shooting rate and an excellent ISO range of up to 12,800 and expandable to 25,600. The K-7 is an enthusiast's model, boasting features such as a 77-zone metering system and fastest shutter speed of 1/8000sec. The flagship of the Pentax range is the K-5, which has a weatherproofed metal body and built-in shake reduction system.
Pentax have recently launched their first CSC, the Pentax Q, which claims to be the world's smallest CSC.
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After briefly dabbling in the DSLR market, Samsung's main focus is now firmly on its NX range of CSCs, featuring four current models and seven lenses.
Sony have been at the forefront of some interesting innovations over the last few years, pioneering a new type of camera that features a translucent mirror. This new design of mirror allows light to pass through it, so the mirror does not need to flip out of the way when the shutter opens. This allows much faster shooting rates. Sony have coined the name SLT to describe this new breed of camera.
The current Sony Alpha range comprises five DSLRs and four SLTs. The A290 is an easy-to-use entry-level model, while the A390 adds live view and a tilting screen. For more proficient users there is the A580 DSLR with 16 megapixels and a fast shooting rate of 7 frames per second or if you prefer the SLT route there is the 14 megapixel A33 or the 16 megapixel A35. Above those sits the A55, which offers shooting rates of up to 10 frames per second, and the 24 megapixel A65. Top of the enthusiasts range is the A77, which can shoot at a mighty 12 frames per second. Sony's full-frame professional DSLRs, the A850 and A900 are serious competition to the dominance of Canon and Nikon.
On the CSC front, too, Sony are proving to be a force to reckon with, and their NEX range have won many accolades.
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