As a result of the recent rush to 10 megapixel digital SLR cameras, everything that has been held sacred in the camera business is now upside down. At the price of yesterday's 6 megapixel cameras you can now buy almost twice the resolution - and you can definitely see the difference in pictures taken at 6 and 10 megapixels. The $1700 Nikon D200 is now mostly the same feature set and virtually the same 10 megapixel sensor as the new $999 Nikon D80, and the $800 Canon Rebel XTi has almost the same processing engine as the $1500 Canon 30D and a 10 megapixel resolution compared to the 8 megapixel of the 30D. Since so much has progressed so fast in the last few months, it is time for a hard look at what is available in the hottest digital camera segment - digital SLRs.

The new "entry" level digital SLR market, generally defined as digital SLR cameras that sell for $1000 or less, has certainly expanded at both the bottom and the top. Today you can actually buy a digital SLR camera in the $400 to $500 price range, which was unheard of as recently as last year's Holiday buying season. This lower entry price has practically made the popular fixed lens SLR and "quality" pocket digital cameras all but obsolete. Why pay $800 for a fixed lens digital when you can get more features and flexibility with an interchangeable lens digital SLR at a lower price? This "prosumer" category of the past is rapidly disappearing, but it is worth pointing out that there is always room for a high-quality, pocketable fixed-lens digital camera.



The $1000 and under segment, which used to be entry level SLR cameras, now includes10 megapixel models at the top, and the feature sets for this new generation include enhancements previously available only on much more expensive cameras. All of the 10 megapixel SLRs are faster than their predecessors - borrowing processing engines from higher priced models (Nikon and Canon) or pioneering new high-speed processing circuits (Pentax and Sony).


The "entry" market is now segmented into true entry level SLR cameras in the $400 to $600 price range, the new 10 megapixel mid-range SLRs at $700 to $1000, and a couple of mid-range 8 megapixel SLRs that straddle the middle in the $600 to $700 range. In practical terms it is very difficult to tell any difference between 6 and 8 megapixel images, or between 8 megapixel and 10. However, there is a discernable improvement in moving from 6 to 10 megapixels.

This SLR Buyer's Guide will take a closer look at the top of this range, comparing the new 10 megapixel models. We will also compare models in the true entry level $400 to $600 range. The 8 megapixel models will be considered at both ends of the spectrum for features and value. Prices quoted in this guide are based on the best prices we could find at major online retailers like Newegg or Amazon. These are also typical prices in our own price engine. The prices quoted should be available to any online shopper, but you may find even better prices if you are willing to do more searching. Conversely, local photo specialty retailers normally provide better customer support and return options than etailers, and their prices for the same item will generally be higher.

If you are shopping for a digital camera but you're not really a photo hobbyist, you might want to start with our overview of digital photography in Digital Photography from 20,000 Feet. In that introduction we cover the terms and concepts used in this Buyer's Guide. If you're a photo hobbyist then dive in. Our advice is not jaded, and many will be surprised that Nikon and Canon were not our first choices in every category. 2006 was definitely the year of the Digital SLR camera, and the names that are new or that resurfaced this year are definitely making shopping for a new Digital SLR more fun than it has been in a very long time.

10 Megapixel SLRs
POST A COMMENT

89 Comments

View All Comments

  • Seasonpraises - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    Just to let you know, you made a mistake on Page 5 of your article regarding to the Pentax K100D and Samsung GX-1S. Samsung GX-1S is NOT a rebadged model of K100D, instead it is a rebadged of the Pentax *ist DS2 model. GX-1S *does not* have built-in image stabilization. The digital K-series is a brand new line to Pentax digital SLR line. Although one thing to remember is that both K100D and K110D feature the cheaper type of the pentamirror viewfinder, which covers around 85% of the view (based on normal 50mm lens). On the other hand, the new 10MP K10D and the Samsung GX-1S feature the Pentaprism viewfinders, which have 95% coverage. I know this because I currently own a Samsung GX-1S. But the Samsung is still a good camera for its low price. I got mine for $700 with 18-55mm kit lens, a Pentax F50/1.7 and a Tamron 80-210mm on ebay.

    I also found a spelling mistake on Page 2 of your article. Under the Autofocus section, you spelled Canon as Cannon. It's not a big deal tho, but just want to let you know.
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    You are correct. The Samsung GX-1S does not have IS and is a rebadge of the older *ist DS2. I have corrected those references in the review. The Samsung GX-10 DOES have image stabilization and it is a rebadge of the K10D. Reply
  • dsumanik - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    The problem with this article is that it basing the final recommendations on the camera performance alone. Im sorry, but as a photographer i would not shoot anything but nikon or canon period.

    When you get into the DSLR world, and the whole reason for taking the plunge into an SLR camera...is that you have an interchangeable lens.

    All modern digital camera bodies provide exceptional quality...you literally cant go wrong.

    However once you take into account the long term value of your purchase you have to consider a wider picture, literally.

    The purchase you make with your camera brand, locks you into the upgrade path with that brand's lenses.

    Out of all camera makers, the best quality lenses are from nikon and canon, period, and by a large margin.

    If you want pro quality images, that have that "pop" and first impression that blows you away...you'll soon discover it is the lens, not the body you capture it with, that truly makes the difference between a crappy snapshot and pro artistry.

    A portrait shot on an 85mm 1.4 prime on a nokon d70, will blow the pants off of the same image shot on the $5000 D2Xs with a p.o.s sigma wannabe $200 zoom lens.

    Go canon or nikon, spend as little on the body as possible, and buy the nicest lenses you can afford.

    The d40 is actually the best value on the market right now, regardless of what this article says. The image quality is superbm it is extremely compact, affordable, and works with a good majority of the pro level zooms availiable from nikon.

    In 5 years you will be shopping for new camera bodies, in 10-15 years these high end lenses from nikon and canon will still be very valuable, holding thier resale value, providing excellent, sharp, amazing images.

    And BTW, it has been proven already that "in lens" image stabilization is better than the "in body" sensor stabilization, so you get what you pay for....nikon and canon do it this way for a reason.

    Nice article anandtech, but obviously written by computer hardware junkies and missing perhaps some long term vision, and maybe the point of buying an SLR in the first place....

    Its not for the body, its the access to the lenses.

    so that should be your first consideration before you choose a brand.
    Reply
  • appu - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    quote:

    And BTW, it has been proven already that "in lens" image stabilization is better than the "in body" sensor stabilization, so you get what you pay for....nikon and canon do it this way for a reason.


    I've thought long and hard about this, and while I do not know of any site or text or any other resource that says clearly that one method wins over the other, I personally believe in-lens stabilization is better for the following two (main) reasons -

    1.) With an in-lens stabilizer, you are actually seeing a stable image in the viewfinder. I think this is important. SLR photography is all about seeing the image as you are going to record it, and it makes more sense to me to see a stable image in the 'finder rather than guess at something and letting the sensor finally decide exactly what's captured. Also, with a really long telephoto lens, focussing can be tough if your image in the viewfinder is all dancing around.

    2.) Current in-sensor stabilization offers only two dimensions of anti-shake - length and height-wise. Actually it was interesting to read in the article that Pentax's K10D delivers shake reduction along diagonals as well. Still, this cannot compete with the virtually unlimited degrees of freedom the gyroscopic lens element in VR/IS lenses has.

    Of course, the conspiracy theorists will continue to say that the big two will continue to use VR/IS in their lenses only to get more money out of selling more VR/IS-enabled lenses. I don't think camera manufacturers and photographers are all that naive. Infact, I'm willing to bet my a*** that the likes of Canon and Nikon are now exploring the possibility of sensor-based stabilization techniques that can work in conjunction with VR/IS-enabled lenses if needed. A simple custom setting in the camera body that tells it to automatically use in-lens stabilization when detected will enable photographers to have the best of both worlds. Or I'm probably just being too optimistic. In any case, we haven't seen the end of this debate - but I'll stick to in-lens stabilization for now.

    quote:

    All modern digital camera bodies provide exceptional quality...you literally cant go wrong.
    .
    .
    .
    Out of all camera makers, the best quality lenses are from nikon and canon, period, and by a large margin.


    I'll agree with the first point and disagree with the second. One of the reasons why Pentax didn't make it big like Canon and Nikon is probably because they didn't have a sturdy enough body pros could bank on. Their lenses were always damned fine.

    I'm not saying any this out of fanboyism. I own a Pentax film SLR and a Nikon DSLR - neither of which is a pro model - and I'm perfectly happy with both. The reason I bought a Nikon DSLR over a Pentax DSLR last year was because I wasn't quite impressed with Pentax's DSLR offerings back then and in any case it's difficult to find Pentax models here in India, whereas Nikon and Canon are easily available, and more importantly, easily serviceable if needed.

    The fact remains though that any body is fine if you're shopping for one right now. It's the lenses and other accessories (flashes etc.) and support/service backup that matters more, and while Nikon and Canon are a lot better in this aspect, Pentax isn't far behind. They definitely aren't behind by a *huge* margin, and they've already developed some new lenses to go along with their modern DSLR offerings. Presumably these lenses offer the better linear resolution digital sensors require over film to really make the pictures shine. If I were to buy a new DSLR and a bunch of lenses right now (assuming I don't have the cameras I already have) I definitely wouldn't rule out a Pentax K-mount system.
    Reply
  • dsumanik - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    I agree pentax is nice, and you make some very valid points, and obviously have some experience with what you are talking baout. Pentax is definately not "inferior".

    But if i got 10 grand to blow, ill be stopping by the canon or nikon shop. And would recommend anyone else in that same position to do the same.

    why?

    because i KNOW, without a DOUBT, you will have a winning combo either way.

    The new pentax sounds great on paper, and is also a great system in reality. In the hands of a competent photographer it will provide all the tools necessary to get the job done, and then some.

    However, i just sold my 80-400mm VR on ebay 2 days ago for 1330 dollars CAD. I paid 1530 tax included and shipped brand new (which was 300 dollars off the retail so i got a good deal to start with). I took care of the lens, and it didnt lose value.

    here is a link ot my auction:

    http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&i...">http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vie...mp;item=...

    thats proof of why it is good to with nikon, as long as you care for you gear you have an excellent chance of getting your money back out of it when you look to sell and upgrade, which every photographer will do at some point.

    Nikon and canon gear holds its value extremely well, will have far more potential buyers in the future, and will be more desireable to a resale buyer. This is something that needs to be considered when spending thousands of dollars on anything...be it a car or a camera lens.

    I personally own high end nikon gear...tried canon out on many occasions, and have seen extremely impressive results on both systems. I KNOW, without a doubt, that either of these companies provide EXCELLENT upgrade paths, warranties, and image quality...

    im not informed enough to make a comment for any other brand, but that said i dont see any reason to ever consider anything else apart from these two brands, and definately cannot be ignored by anyone making a serious venture into photography.

    Congratulations on your pentax, and to all other pentax owners out there, and for pentax challenging the envelope to push all camera makers be better and coming out with a very competitive product, im sure your camera will provide you excellent images for years to come!

    As the results of this thread are showing however, theres more to the story than anandtech has portrayed and recommended, even though it was a wonderful article made from the point of view of a new DSLR buyer, in the SLR world its not just the inital purchase that can be taken into account, and getting that one or 2 pixels of sharpness or saving yourelf a 100 bucks on the body wont make jack squat of difference when the picture is being printed, or when you mount a nice fast high end prime, stop the lens down, and capture detail that isnt possible with inferior glass.

    "best buy" perhaps, for the first intial purchase.

    Then you wonder why the guy with 3 year old d70 shooting through a 70-200mm VR is blowing the socks of what your $1200 brand new camera and lens from sony is able to do.

    oh wait i cant get that lens if i dont own a nikon f-mount camera.

    Good thing my new alpha has 1 pixel better resolution and cost less than a D80.

    anyways like i said.

    Research photography in general before you buy.

    Think of what you want to do as a photographer, what kind of shots you want.

    Look into the cost of additional lenses.

    Look into what is availiable form your potential brand.

    see how those lenses compare to others.

    Plan your purchase path.

    If whats avialibale form sony, pentax or any other "off brand" is good enough for you...then congratualtions, and happy shooting.

    If you want the best, expect to pay way more than ytou thought and dont waste your time buying the cheap stuff...commit, and buy quality glass from the start...itll be cheaper in the long run, and youll get better pictures.


    Reply
  • dblevitan - Tuesday, December 26, 2006 - link

    I don't think this is a good article at all. It's inaccurate in places and gives users a bad recommendation.

    First, as some have already pointed out, you don't buy an SLR for the body - you buy it primarily for the lenses. The body is going to be good for a few years, and then be replaced by another body, but you can still use lenses that are 40 years old on Nikon cameras (at least on the more expensive bodies).

    Second, the recommendation that people should buy SLRs is misguided. Most people do not need SLRs. SLRs are bulky, heavy, and annoying to use unless you want to fiddle with every setting possible and understand what you're fiddling with. If you just want to pick up a camera and take a photograph, point and shoots are what you need, not an SLR.

    Third, cameras need to be easy to use. You need to be able to get to all the right settings quickly and easily. My D70 is very good at this, but there are still times I get annoyed with it due to stupid features. This review never looked at these issues.

    Fourth, among other things, the review noted that Nikons use the top LCD to display settings. They do, but they also use the main LCD for menus to control the camera (and certain features). If certain cameras light up the main LCD for settings display, then this is just bad, since it will just blind you at night.

    If you want a good camera review, there are much better sites than this for it. The article also seemed a "This is how good Pentax is and how bad all the other cameras are". Maybe the author wasn't thinking this, but I definitely saw the slant.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, January 9, 2007 - link

    quote:

    I don't think this is a good article at all. It's inaccurate in places and gives users a bad recommendation.


    Thats your opinion. We all have them, like a few OTHER things . . .

    quote:

    First, as some have already pointed out, you don't buy an SLR for the body - you buy it primarily for the lenses. The body is going to be good for a few years, and then be replaced by another body, but you can still use lenses that are 40 years old on Nikon cameras (at least on the more expensive bodies).


    What do you recommend for the first time SLR buyer then ? Go out and buy a bunch, or few lenses, and let the lenses take pictures by themselves ?

    quote:

    Second, the recommendation that people should buy SLRs is misguided. Most people do not need SLRs. SLRs are bulky, heavy, and annoying to use unless you want to fiddle with every setting possible and understand what you're fiddling with. If you just want to pick up a camera and take a photograph, point and shoots are what you need, not an SLR.


    See, now buddy, you're stepping into my realm. I've owned a PaS Camera for some years now, and while its fine for other than low light situations, it will NEVER take photos as well as a Nikon D40, or D50. Dont EVER presume to tell people what they should use, you have no idea what they need, or want.

    quote:

    If you want a good camera review, there are much better sites than this for it. The article also seemed a "This is how good Pentax is and how bad all the other cameras are". Maybe the author wasn't thinking this, but I definitely saw the slant.


    Let me say this: lets assume you're a photographer, how would you like it, if you were an amateur photographer, and I compared you to a Professional, and told everyone that if they wanted to see a REAL picture, go see the other guy ? I think you, and all the other nay sayers are old, cranky photographers, who are getting pissed off, by someone who is clearly trying to help out those of us who know little about photography. That is, 'we' aren't professionals, and you're pissed, because 'we' aren't paying YOU to take our pictures.

    All of you, how about getting off your high horses, and staying at those photography site you seem to love so much (whom I will just about guarantee DO NOT go out and buy their own cameras for reviews). The rest of us, who may need, or want an entry level DSLR may actually be interested in this article.

    In simpler terms, stick to the business you claim to know so well, photography. Let the rest of us 'imbeciles' alone. *wave*
    Reply
  • Frumious1 - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    There are a LOT of people that would like to have a better-than-PaS (Point and Shoot) camera but don't need a bunch of lenses. A good SLR with 2-3 lenses can be very nice to have around. Talking about size is fine when comparing to many PaS models that take okay pictures, but there are shots you can't take (fast motion stuff) with PaS that you might like.

    I myself am very much an amateur photographer. I take pictures of family sometimes, I've attended some sporting events where I wanted to snap some photos, etc. but I am by no means even at the pro-sumer level. And yet, given the choice between some of the more expensive non-SLR cameras and a decent entry-level SLR, I'd take the latter in a heartbeat over a lot of other options... as a second camera.

    I'm happy with my Canon Powershot SD400, but it really doesn't take great pictures compared to my Canon Digital Rebel... even when I only have the kit lens and a "portrait" lens on the latter. I doubt I will ever have more than three lenses for my SLR, and I'm not going to buy any of the $300+ offerings. So, in that case, what will be better for me? Another Canon or Nikon, or perhaps the Pentax stuff really isn't as bad as some of you are making out?

    Presumably, Wes has personally tested all of the cameras discussed in this article. This isn't a review of cameras, though, merely a guide to what he experienced. Now, if that's correct, have you actually used any of the Pentax stuff or are you bashing it merely on what you've read/heard? (By "you" I mean IronChef, Justin, etc.) Second, when you talk about "whipping out your camera and snapping a shot in five seconds", I could care less, so obviously advice from you isn't really applicable to me. Another pro might agree wholeheartedly with you, but amateurs may not do things the same way. I know I don't!

    If Wes has tried all of these cameras and actually finds that the Pentax stuff can really be better in terms of price/performance than the heavyweights, I'm inclined to believe him, at least from an amateur viewpoint. I really DON'T plan on upgrading SLR bodies on a regular basis, and I DON'T plan on investing a lot of money in lenses. I want some good basic SLR stuff for the situations where PaS cameras just fall short. Besides, when you're talking about high-end PaS models that cost $500+ and lower end SLRs that cost $500, doesn't it seem like an SLR is going to be quite handy as a secondary camera for a lot of folks? My dad is interested in getting one as well, because his small Sony PaS isn't really doing everything he wants. Maybe I can give him my Rebel and then I can go out and get a Pentax 100D for kicks?

    Again, let me put it this way: my pocketable PaS if fine for a lot of quick pictures and such, stuff I might post on the web, but for example the pictures I took around the Christmas tree yesterday look washed out/blurry/noisy compared to the images I took with the SLR. I have a few using the SLR that I may go out and print because they look very nice. A higher-end PaS might match the quality of my SLR, but considering I bought it used with two lenses (kit plus portrait) and a 2GB CF card for $600 that's not too bad a price I don't think. I'd love to know what I did wrong by picking up this relatively inexpensive SLR package. IMO, an entry level SLR is not something everyone needs, but at the same time it shouldn't be avoided if you've tried several PaS models over the years (I have) and were repeatedly left wanting.
    Reply
  • IronChefMoto - Tuesday, December 26, 2006 - link

    If you buy your first dSLR, spend $50 - $75 on a decent, well-padded camera bag to go with it. I overbought for my first and only Nikon SLR -- a Lowepro Orion AW beltpack/backpack. It was expensive, and it also wasn't easy to use with a single camera body and 1-2 lenses.

    Test a bag out with your camera at a local camera store. No -- NOT RITZ CAMERA!!! They don't have decent bags. They sell what your mom would buy for a friggin' point and shoot.

    Go to a real camera store showroom with your camera and try out a few bags. The most important thing to look for is accessibility. How quickly can you take the camera out of the bag and shoot a picture? The fancy bag I bought was awful -- took too much effort to pull the camera out and snap a shot.

    I just got the Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW, and it's MUCH better for rotating around (it's like a sling-backback) and grabbing the camera and/or a different lens/accessory.

    BTW -- the "AW" on a Lowepro bag means that it's got a hidden water repellant pouch that can be pulled out and wrapped over the bag in the event of rain or dirt/mud. VERY handy at a baseball game when the bottom drops out -- I know from experience.
    Reply
  • Justin Case - Wednesday, December 27, 2006 - link

    But try to get one that doesn't just scream "steal me". :) I use a custom-modified rock-climbing backpack to carry my lenses. From the outside no one would say it has over $4K of photo equipment inside it. And when I'm in some places (think big street markets in South America), I carry the camera with a single lens inside an ordinary plastic bag. Hold it the right way and you can go from totally undetectable to ready-to-shoot, and back again in less than five seconds. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now