5 DSLRs Under $500

Just in time for the holidays, here’s 5 great DSLRs (with kit lenses) under $500:

1. Canon Rebel XT – The Rebel XT was my first digtal SLR camera. I bought it shortly after it became available in 2005 for $1000 (a Rebel XT is $499 with a lens as of Nov. ‘07). I still use it on almost a daily basis. I’ve shot somewhere around 25,000 – 30,000 shots now. No hiccups yet. Anyway, I can personally vouch for the reliability and image quality that this camera packs. (Read more about the Rebel XT here.)

2. Nikon D40 – I’ve been using a Nikon D40 for a few months. I’m primarily a Canon user; however, I wanted one of these cameras to play around with and to see what Nikon had to offer. I am very pleased with the capabilities of my D40. The D40 is significantly lighter than any DSLR that I’ve ever used, even the Canon Rebel series. It’s now $477. (Read more about the Nikon D40 here.)

3. Pentax K100D – The K100D is compatible with any Pentax lens ever produced. The in-body Shake Reduction (.pdf fact sheet) means that you get image stabilization with every K-Mount lens out there. This is the only DSLR under $500 that does this. The K100D also features a 2.5″ LCD, an 11 point AF system with 9 cross-type sensors, ISO 200-3200 and 16-segment multi-pattern metering. All this at $449 is a heck of a deal. (Read some reviews of the K100D here.)

4. Samsung GX-1S – The Samsung GX-1S is a 6.3-megapixel digital SLR featuring world renowned Schneider optics and a high-resolution 2.5-inch LCD. The interchangeable-lens DSLR was developed jointly with partner Pentax Corporation, meaning that it accepts K-AF Mount lenses. The $441 GX-1S is essentially a rebadged Pentax *ist DS2, which is just fine for this price.

5. Olympus E330 – The E330 was the first Live View DSLR, meaning that the LCD screen serves as a viewfinder. You won’t find this feature on any other DSLR under $500 (the E330 is $450). The E330’s LCD is “articulated,” it can extend out from the camera body and swivel downward or upward so the E-330 can be held overhead to shoot over a crowd, held at the hip, or even placed on the ground–something that’s not possible with a traditional SLR that relies on an optical viewfinder alone.

As noted above, all these cameras come with a kit lens in the wide-normal zoom range, which is typical. Still want more shopping options? Consider this broader post on a variety of photographic gadgets that everyone wants for Christmas.

Where to Buy?

The links above are to Amazon.com, which usually has the best prices on these DSLRs and many other consumer electronic items. However, if you’re not interested in shopping online, consider going to your local camera store (and I don’t necessarily mean Wolf Camera at the mall). By going to your local camera store, you’re supporting your community and you just might build a lasting relationship with people you can rely on when you need some help or answers.

Your local camera store probably won’t beat out Best Buy and other big box vendors; however, if you have a question later, it’ll be worth the extra $20 that you pay for your camera to walk into the store with it and talk to a professional about what’s troubling you. This kind of advice isn’t limited to technical problems either. If you simply want to get better photos of you’re kids opening presents on Christmas mornings, these folks will gladly show you how to set up your camera for those shots.

If you’re buying online, I recommend sticking with Amazon, B&H Photo or Adorama. These three vendors are reliable, trustworthy and generally have the best (legitimate) prices. If you steer outside these three, be sure to read the reviews of the vendor on ResellerRatings.com. If you think you can get a Nikon D40 for $372, take a closer look at the 1.11 out of 10 rating and run away.
[tags]dslr, digital camera, shopping, christmas, gift, guide[/tags]