The Best SLR Cameras for Beginners

Written by toni owen
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The Best SLR Cameras for Beginners
SLR cameras take detailed photographs in all conditions. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

If your photographic experience is with simple point-and-shoot cameras, switching to even a basic single-lens reflex, or SLR, model can be intimidating. Still, beginners who want sharper, cleaner images can get cameras that do most of the work for them, leaving them free to compose the subject and take photos that capture all the details in shadows. Whatever your experience, one of these cameras will give you an excellent introduction to SLR photography.

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An SLR camera has a video display that shows the image before you take a shot, but the principle way to compose a photo is to look through the viewfinder, or eyepiece. The image you see is exactly what you will get in your photo. You can also see the settings through the viewfinder, making adjustments easy. An SLR camera is fast, so you can capture shots as they happen while looking through the lens.


SLR cameras need a body and at least one lens. A 50mm lens is equal to the human eye, good for portraits and middle-distance shots. A wide-angle lens is 15 to 35mm and is for landscape shots; a telephoto lens of 100 to 500mm brings the action up close.

Zoom lenses allow you to get closer to or further from a subject. They are more expensive, but combine several single lenses in one.


The price range for SLR cameras is in the thousands of dollars. Top cameras can cost £6,500, plus lenses. SLRs for beginners start in the hundreds, including lenses. Invest in a good lens; you can use it when you move up to more advanced SLR bodies. Consider a used camera body to learn on, as it reduces the expense while you learn basic SLR photography. Look for them in camera stores, online or at camera clubs.


Sony's a-390 digital SLR, or DSLR, has an anti-shake feature to keep shots in focus, as well as a self-cleaning sensor to prevent dust. The 14-megapixel DSLR turns on instantly and focuses automatically as soon as you look through the viewfinder. It comes with an 18 to 55mm zoom lens and tilting LCD screen. The recommended price was £325, as of March 2011.

The 18-megapixel Canon EOS Rebel T3i is a basic DSLR suited for beginners, with an automatic mode that analyses scenes to adjust settings. It has an adjustable LCD screen to allow high and low-angle shots, and zooms up to 10x in video mode. The integrated flash is easy to use and controls include four artistic mode options. A kit including an 18 to 55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II zoom lens was £585 as of 2011.

Nikon's 16.2-pixel D5100, introduced in 2011, is for DSLR beginners. It has an entry-level menu with a live view and a swivel LED screen that allows high and low-angle shots. The compact body allows special effects, including night vision and takes instant high-definition movies. The body was £520 in April of 2011.

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