As the market for semi-pro and digital SLR cameras continues to grow, we surveyed 10 models from the top brands. Our tests reveal the product that's right for you, whether you're a beginner or expert photographer.
If you're looking to improve the quality of your photographs and want something beyond a basic point-and-shoot model, a digital SLR (dSLR) camera could be the right choice of kit.
Whereas once such models - and their accompanying lenses - were bulky and unwieldy, they now boast relatively light bodies and optics and are beginning to acquire some of the user-friendliness and usability found in compact cameras. They're also markedly cheaper than they used to be. It's no surprise, then, that dSLRs are defying the economic gloom with rising sales.
They're not the only choice of quality digital camera, though. Compact models are also much improved, with partial or even full manual control. Many pocket cameras also now include intelligent features that take into account camera shake, automatically identify people and recognise when they are blinking when they should be beaming. These are all features that have yet to make their way on to most dSLRs.
A dust-reduction system (in which the camera's sensor vibrates at high speed to dislodge any detritus) and some form of weather-proofing are also desirable features that you find on some but not all dSLRs. Compacts tend to be sufficiently feature-laden not to require separate lenses and are generally more durable and forgiving of the elements. Waterproof cladding options are available for most compacts, however - a more economical option than choosing a pricey magnesium alloy-clad model.
Another must-have for many dSLR owners is Live View. Here, you can use the rear LCD screen to compose an image when the angle of the shot or the conditions at the time make it tricky to get your eye level with the optical viewfinder. This is a feature found in some of the compacts we've reviewed here, too.
Another feature that's caught on with dSLRs is the addition of video capture - something that makes sense as the photographer can use an almost limitless array of swappable lenses to film with.
NEXT PAGE: megazoom - best of both worlds