Many people find basic camera phones too limiting when taking important photographs, especially when traveling. Basic cell phone camera phones tend to be best for very close-up shots. Entry-level DSLR cameras have the ability to provide significantly more depth and detail at further ranges than what is possible with a standard cell phone camera. This article highlights some of the best options for entry-level digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras priced under $500.
We have included our list of the top 6 DSLR cameras under $500 below. For more DSLR camera information see our Best DSLR Camera Buyer Guide.
Choosing the Right DSLR Camera
Before getting into the details of each of our top 6 options, I wanted to discuss a few important considerations when purchasing a DSLR camera. I use a DSLR camera for the most of the pictures on this web site. I’ve found the pictures to be vastly superior than older pictures I’ve taken with an iphone. However, when I first started using a DSLR camera, I found the options and settings to be fairly confusing and hard to learn.
Over time, I found myself most frequently using the automatic camera setting. I would focus the picture in the LCD viewfinder and click the button. My pictures came out really well and I didn’t have to worry about which camera setting I needed for a certain picture. So my advice for most people at the beginner stage is to keep things simple for yourself. Focus on the following important options:
- Focus on a well known brand like Nikon or Canon. These brands are well known for quality and have a variety of lens options.
- LCD viewfinder. I really love the LCD viewfinder for both taking pictures and reviewing old pictures I’ve taken. I can delete blurry pictures immediately and check to see if I like the pictures I’ve just snapped.
- Megapixels are important but not as important as you might think. Higher megapixels generally equate to higher image resolution. However, I don’t believe anyone other than advanced photographers can tell the difference between a 24 megapixel camera and an 18 megapixel camera. A shaky photograph is going to look bad no matter what camera you use.
- Start out with a basic lens that covers a basic zoom range (typically 18mm to 55mm). As you get more comfortable with your camera, you can experiment with more precise lens.
Most importantly don’t feel like you have to pick the perfect camera. Canon and Nikon make really high quality DSLR cameras. Unless your an advanced photographer, your going to have trouble telling the difference between the picture quality of most entry level DSLR cameras.
If your interested in a high quality DSLR camera with premium features that is surprisingly easy to use, the Nikon D3300 is an ideal camera. The camera includes an auto-focus lens with built-in vibration reduction technology. The camera is compact and provides exceptional detail even in low light with the 24.2 built-in megapixels. This is a great lightweight camera perfect for both beginners and intermediate users.
- Technologically advanced camera with 24.2 megapixels.
- Great level of detail even in low light settings.
- Includes an auto focus lens with vibration reduction technology.
- WiFi enabled for use with your cell phone.
- Easy to use, lightweight, and great for beginners.
The EOS Rebel T6 offers an 18 Megapixel CMOS image sensor and an advanced image processor for detailed photos and videos even in low light. Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity make it easy to get pictures up on select social media sites. Wireless capabilities allow compatible smart devices to remotely control the camera. Remote camera control is useful for self-portraits, group shots or shooting from a distance as long as the camera is in wireless range. If you’re new to DSLRs, Scene Intelligent Auto mode can automatically adjust the camera’s settings to best capture photos.
- 18 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor with DIGIC 4 image processor.
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for sharing to compatible smart devices, select social media sites, and the Canon Connect Station CS100 device.
- Compatible with apple and android smartphones.
- Includes an EF-S 18-55mm IS II Lens.
- Scene Intelligent Auto mode simplifies DSLR images so users can concentrate on taking pictures.
If you’re looking for a quality camera with advanced technology the Nikkon D3400 should be on your list. The camera includes 24 megapixels, a wide ISO range of up to 25600, and an LCD viewfinder. However, this camera also includes Snap Bridge technology.
With Snap Bridge, users create a continuous connection with their smartphone via Bluetooth. This means each photo you take is automatically transferred to your phone or tablet immediately. No need to worry about all that time wasted uploading your pictures with an annoying USB cord.
- 24 megapixel camera.
- Transfer photos instantly to your smartphone with Snap Bridge technology.
- Includes an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G lens with auto focus and vibration reduction technology.
- Great for beginners.
- Lightweight camera.
The Canon EOS Rebel T5 camera with the EF-S 18-55mm IS II standard zoom lens is perfect for families, photo enthusiasts, and first-time users. EOS Rebel T5 provides an 18 megapixel CMOS image sensor and a DIGIC 4 image processor for easy recording of HD video and high-resolution photos. The camera includes an LCD screen for live viewing before snapping your pictures.
The camera has an expanded ISO range for outstanding operation in less-than-perfect light. Beginners will love the Scene Intelligent Auto option. This technology automatically adjusts the camera’s settings to take the best possible picture in any given situation.
- 18 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor with DIGIC 4 image processor.
- Includes an EF-S 18-55mm IS II standard zoom lens.
- LCD viewfinder.
- Scene Intelligent Auto mode takes the best possible picture so new users can focus on taking pictures instead of adjusting camera settings.
If your looking for a premium camera that’s great for travel, consider the Canon Rebel SL1. This camera was designed to minimize size and weight without compromising quality. Despite its modest size and weight, the camera includes 18 megapixels and has an ISO range of up to 12800 (expandable to 25600). The camera bundle includes two lenses: 18-55mm STM and the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Lens.
- Extremely lightweight and small camera. Perfect size for traveling.
- Includes two lens (18-55mm STM and the 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III).
- Optical viewfinder.
- Easy for beginners.
The Nikon D5200 has a 24.1-megapixel DX-format CMOS image sensor which captures pictures in great detail, even in low light. The camera includes an LCD screen that lets you shoot from just about any position.
For shots that have very dark and very bright areas, the D5200 includes built-in HDR (high-dynamic range). It takes two shots at different exposures and blends them into one image. The Camera also includes built-in effects and filters which enhance creativity: isolate a single color, explore black & white, and reduce the picture size. The camera includes an intelligent Scene Recognition System which compares your shot against an on-board database for optimum exposure.
- 24 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor.
- WiFi and GPS compatible but requires the purchase of additional adaptors.
- Up to 5 fps of continuous shooting.
- Includes an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S DX VR NIKKOR Zoom Lens.
- ISO range from 100 to 6,400, with the ability to expand up to 25,600.
*Note: the Nikon D5200 has been discontinued because a newer model, the Nikon D5300 has been released. The major difference with the Nikon 5300 is that model includes both WiFi and GPS built into the camera. The downside is the newer camera costs greater than $500. The Nikon D5200 is still available for purchase and is a quality camera, it is just not the newest Nikon model within this quality level.
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