If you’re a serious photography enthusiast chances are that you would be looking for a DSLR to satisfy your inner creative urge. In fact a compact Point & Shoot will always be a continuous source for dissatisfaction whenever you want to have more manual controls over the shots. However there is one major caveat and that is DSLRs can be cumbersome, lens hungry and downright more confusing to operate than compact Point & Shoot cameras. Okay, I think I have already lost some of my readers there. So without much further ado let’s delve into some of the best entry level DSLR cameras that are out there in the market.If you’re looking for an entry level DSLR then chances are that the following three brands – Nikon, Canon and Sony will be at the top of your choices. Out of these three, Nikon and Canon enjoy the lion’s share of the consumer DSLR market. So I have taken the liberty to discuss five models, two each from Nikon (D3200 & D3100) and Canon (550D & 1100D) and one from Sony (SLT-A35K), in this discussion about the best five entry level DSLR cameras currently available.1. Sensor type and MegapixelsEach of these camera sensors have different effective megapixels. D3100 has a 14.2, D3200 has 24.2 (launched with the D800/D800 E this one has one of the largest effective megapixels count for an entry level DSLR), the 550D has 18.0, the 1100D has 12.20 and the Sony SLT-A35K has 16.2 megapixels.
Considering there is a fetish for megapixels, the Nikon D3200 wins this race handsomely.2. Auto-Focusing points and AF systemThe D3100 has an 11 AF system, same as the D3200 and which is 2 points more than the 550D and the 1100D. However the Sony SLT-A35K wins the race hands down with its wide area 15 point AF system.The D3100 was one of the first few DSLRs to have continuous AF during video mode. Its cousin the D3200 also have that. Both the 1100D and the 550D in spite of being great cameras does not have continuous AF in the movie mode making the Nikon models a slightly better proposition in terms of video shooting. Having said that continuous AF in entry level models leaves a kind of wish-not-granted feeling. They are never quite there, except in the case of the Sony SLT-A35K. One can look into a semi-professional or even a professional body for better AF in movie mode.3. ViewfinderThe D3100 has a 95% viewfinder coverage which is the same as it’s cousin on steroids the D3200. Incidentally this is the same as the 550D and the 1100D. The Sony on the other hand gives a 100% field of view coverage and wins this leg of the comparison handsomely.4. Pentamirror or pentaprism or even translucent?Comparatively translucent technology is one in which the mirror does not shift up and down when the images are taken. Out of all the light the lens receives, 70% is absorbed and the remaining 30% is bounced off to the OVF meaning the mirror never has to move when taking images. This has several advantages, faster AF when shooting still or videos, better phase detection, faster continuous shooting speeds (as the mirror does not have to readjust after taking the shot) and of course less camera shake as nothing is moving inside.Whether one wants to go for a pentamirror or a pentaprism or even a translucent technology is completely up to personal choice.5. LCD screenA 3″ LCD monitor with 230,000 dots resolution is what one will get with the D3100. Comparatively the D3200 has a 3″ but 921,000 dots resolution with 100% frame coverage. The 550D has a slightly sharper 3″ monitor with 1024,000 dots resolution and the 1100D has a 2.7″ LCD screen with 230,000 dots resolution only. The SLT-A35K has a 3″ LCD monitor with 921,600 dots and 100% coverage. The 550Dwins this round with its slightly sharper display.6. Image processingThe D3100 has Nikon’s EXPEED 2 image processing system while the upgraded D3200 has the latest EXPEED 3 version from Nikon. The slightly older 550D has Canon’s older DIGIC 4 image processing system. At the heart of the Sony SLT-A35K is the BIONZ™ Processor which gives its outstanding color saturation and image quality.
7. ISOThe Sony SLT-A35K has an ISO range of 100 to 12,800. The 1100D goes from 100 to 3200 while the 550D is slightly better at 100-6400. The D3200 has an ISO range of 200 – 6400 which can be extended to 12800 and the D3100 is sensitive at 100 to 3200 which can further be extended to 12800.8. Video modesThe 1100D has a movie mode (unlike its predecessor the 1000D) but it shoots only 720p in at either 25 or 30fps. Comparatively the 550D has a better video shooting performance capturing in full HD 1080p and in 24fps / 25fps / 30fps. The D3100 has a full HD movie recording feature as well. The D3200 also capture full HD in 30p/25p/24p. The Sony SLT-A35K captures full HD in both AVCHD and MP4 formats in 25 fps.9. PriceThe D3100 retails at a price of $650 compared to the D3200 which is slightly pricier at $700. Compared to the Nikon models the Canon 550D retails at $700 which makes it slightly disadvantageous to the D3200 which is similarly priced. The 1100D is probably the cheapest of the lot which can be picked up on eBay for under $450. The Sony SLT-A35K is available for a street price of $600.