I get this question a lot: What’s the best DSLR on the market? In my opinion, the best DSLR is not the most expensive camera, nor is it the camera that features the most external chachkas and internal doodads. The best DSLR on the market is the one that suits you—the camera that fits your style of shooting to a T. This is my list. I’ve tested most of the cameras on this list, or their budget counterparts, so each choice was based on time spent out in the field with the said equipment. I’ve also tested many other DSLRs that you won’t find on the list here. This includes super expensive professional models that won’t really fit the TechnoBuffalo audience. So, here is my list of top 5 DSLRs on the current market that won’t send you to penury hall, but will still rival professional models. Be sure to leave any questions, comments or concerns in the comment section and I’ll do my best to help you find the right photographic steed.
#5 – Pentax K-5 ($1,749.95 with 18-55mm WR kit lens)
If you’re an advanced amateur in the sub-$2,000 price range, don’t overlook the Pentax K-5. I’ve tested the Pentax K2000, K-7 and K-r, and have been impressed with all three models. Pentax makes a darn good DSLR for the advanced amateur photographer. The K-5 features a 16.3-megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor with 1080p 25fps HD video recording. The sensor and processor offer a mind boggling 51,200 max ISO sensitivity, 7FPS burst mode and lightning-quick 11-point AF system. Let’s not forget the 77-segment metering system, 100% field-of-view viewfinder and 921,000-pixel 3-inch LCD. The Pentax K-5 has a built-in 3.5mm audio jack for an external microphone and its body is weather sealed with a coldproof design. If you don’t have the Photoshop, the Pentax K-5 has one of the best in-camera special-effect and editing suites, allowing shooters to apply any filter in post and save it right onto the camera. Although the K-5 could have benefitted from a flip-out LCD and a better menu system, the camera’s image quality and features make it one of the best DSLRs out there.
#4 – Olympus E-5 ($1,699.99 body only)
The Olympus E-30 is the black sheep of this list because of its sensor. Rather than toy with standard APS-C sized sensors found in most mid-level DSLRs, Olympus went with a Four Thirds size sensor, which is smaller. I tested the Olympus E-620, which has the same 12.3-megapixel Live MOS sensor as the E-5, only the E-620 uses older TruePic III+ processing, and the image quality results were wonderful. The Olympus E-5 recieves the added bonus of the company’s latest TruePic V+ processing for more enhanced image quality, and the camera gains a fold-out, rotating 920,000-pixel 3-inch LCD. The Olympus E-5 also has in-body image stabilization, advanced Dust Reduction system, and claimed “world’s fastest autofocus,” though that crown is passed around more often than the Stanley Cup. Just like Pentax, the Olympus E-5 has a robust suite of in-camera image effects. Two of the E-5’s shortcomings are its more conventional 720p HD video recording and lack of a mic jack. But if the still image side of the game is more important to you, then the Olympus E-5 is a solid choice.
#3 – Sony Alpha a55 ($799.99 with 18-55mm kit lens)
The award-winning Sony a55 was one of Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2010, thanks to the camera’s translucent mirror technology that allows up to 10 well-focused shots per second. Since the mirror stays put in the Sony a55, the camera is smaller than a traditional DSLR. Image quality is great, thanks to the a55’s 16.2-megapixel APS-C size sensor and BIONZ image processing, offering up 1080/60i HD videos with the ability to record in 1080/30p as well for stellar non-interlaced web quality. The a55 brings on built-in Auto HDR, 3D Sweep Panorama, an integrated GPS, 15-point autofocus, built-in image stabilization and a rack focus movie effect. If that’s not enough, the a55’s 921,000-pixel 3-inch LCD can fold out and swivel while Live View can be accessed in the viewfinder as well. There’s a mic jack, popup flash, and dual memory card slot for Memory Sticks or SD cards. The best part about the Sony a55 is its price. It’s the cheapest model in this list, but undoubtedly one of the best. Brace yourself for the upcoming Sony a65 and a77, the former an update to the a55.
#2 – Nikon D700 ($2,699.95 body only)
For still images alone, the Nikon D700 wins my heart. There’s a magical quality about this camera that makes it one of my top DSLR picks. First the caveat: The Nikon D700 does not record videos. It’s strictly a still image machine. Also, being on the market for a few years, the D700 records to CF cards rather than SD. With that out of the way, the Nikon D700’s full frame sensor produced some of the best still image quality I’ve ever captured. In fact, I preferred the D700 over my #1 choice when it came to overall still image quality, Manual controls are bountiful and the camera’s interface caters to the advanced shooter. This camera is ideal for the shooter who does not have the funds to drop on a D3s or D3x, or someone who wants a more portable option. Whatever the case, the Nikon D700 will appeal mostly the hardcore still image snappers—I see it in the hands of photographers looking to submit their work to galleries. If you need the video component, head to my #1 pick.
#1 – Canon EOS 5D Mark II ($2,499 body only)
It’s amazing to think that the omnipotent Canon EOS 5D Mark II has been out for three years now and it’s still my #1 DSLR pick. The second I saw the promotional video shot at night with the 5D back in 2008, I knew that the 5D was a game changer. To this day, no other DSLR has been able to contend with its 1080p HD video quality. Even certain prosumer camcorders failed to give the EOS 5D a run for its money. But that’s because it’s a full frame Canon, my friends. Shooters looking to frame large prints will like the EOS 5D’s massive 21-magapixel CMOS sensor. Yes, the EOS 5D records to CF cards only and lacks a flip-out vari-angle LCD, but those features were not as popular three years ago. The 5D is also devoid of a popup flash. But since the camera has a hot shoe and dedicated mic jack, it’s not the end of the world. Besides, a popup flash on the 5D would be like putting plastic hubcaps on a Ferarri. I can’t wait to see what the followup to the 5D is going to be, but when it’s released, I’ll probably have to make another Top 5 DSLR list.