DPReview Recommends: Interchangeable Lens Cameras for Under $1000

A few years ago, the idea of a DSLR under $1000 was just a distant dream, but these days the financial bar to entry is much lower than it was in the past. And DSLRs aren’t the only game in town anymore either – mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are maturing quickly, and there are plenty of affordable options on the market. Here’s our list of the top five interchangeable lens cameras that we’d currently recommend for under $1000 – including a kit zoom lens.

Prices given are representative of street pricing, and our recommendations are arranged from most to least expensive.

Recommendations are subject to change and are current as of December 2013

Canon Rebel T5i / EOS 700D (w/18-55mm STM kit zoom)

$750 / £550 | 18MP | 5fps max framerate | 3″ 1.04 million-dot LCD | 1080/30p video

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The Canon Rebel T5i is a barely-altered update to the older T4i, which offers the same excellent 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the same image quality and an almost identical feature set. The T5i is a capable and reliable camera which delivers great images across a wide ISO sensitivity span of 100-25,600. Autofocus performance is good, especially when paired with one of Canon’s higher-end USM lenses and a large, fully-articulated 1.04 million-dot touch-sensitive LCD screen is great for live view and movie shooting.

Speaking of which, the T5i’s sensor incorporates Canon’s Hybrid CMOS AF II for improved autofocus in live view and movie modes compared to older Rebel-class cameras. You’ll need one of Canon’s STM lens to really get the benefit though, and the system isn’t as capable as the much more advanced ‘Dual Pixel AF’ mode found in the more expensive EOS 70D.

Also consider…

Canon EOS 100D / Rebel SL1 The SL1 is Canon’s smallest DSLR yet, but despite its slimline form factor the SL1 doesn’t skimp on features, offering a capable 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, and Canon’s ‘Hybrid CMOS AF II’ autofocus system which is especially useful when shooting movies.

Sony SLT-A65 (w/18-55mm kit zoom)

$600 / £580 | 24MP | 10fps max framerate | 3″ 921k-dot LCD | 1080/60p video

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Sony’s SLT cameras are innovative alternatives to more conventional DSLRs which due to their fixed half-silvered mirrors can offer full-time phase-detection autofocus in live view and movie modes, electronic viewfinders and very competitive fast capture options.

The SLT-A65 has been on the market for a while but it’s a highly competitive camera, built around a 24MP APS-C format sensor with an upper ISO sensitivity limit of 25,600 and with a raft of innovative features including a 2.4 million-dot OLED finder, 15-point AF system and a maximum framerate of ten frames per second with continuous AF (when the lens aperture is locked wide open). The SLT-A65 is a powerful tool when it comes to video capture as well, offering full HD 60p video with stereo sound.

Also consider…

Nikon D5200 Technically now replaced by the D5300, the D5200 can currently be had for a bargain price. While stocks last the 24MP D5200 is a highly attractive DSLR offering very good image quality in both still and video modes with plenty of advanced features like a 39-point AF system and fully-articulated rear LCD screen.

Nikon D3200 (w/18-55mm kit zoom)

$500 / £340 | 24MP | 4fps max framerate | 3″ 921k-dot LCD | 1080/30p video

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The Nikon D3200 is a powerful and capable entry-level DSLR which builds on the novice-friendly design philosophy of earlier 3000-series cameras, but adds some advanced features into the mix like a 24MP CMOS sensor and high-resolution 921k-dot rear LCD as well as a maximum framerate of 4fps and compatibility with Nikon’s optional WU-1a wireless unit.

The D3200’s ISO sensitivity span covers 100-12,800 and you also get the usual DSLR features like full manual control, RAW mode and HD video. As such, it offers a pretty rounded feature set, and image quality is great. Despite the raft of features, the D3200 is designed to be user friendly, offering a GUIDE mode which is perfect for novice and student photographers who are still learning the technical ins and outs of photography.

Also consider…

Nikon 1 V2 Unlike lower-end 1 System models the 14MP V2 has plenty of traditional button and dial inputs, fairly conventional DSLR-style ergonomics and a built-in electronic viewfinder. What we like most about the V2 is its hybrid AF system which in good light is capable of accurately tracking moving objects – something that few mirror less cameras can do convincingly.

Pentax K-50 (w/18-55mm kit zoom)

$600 / £540 | 16MP | 6fps max framerate | 3″ 921k-dot LCD | 1080/30p video

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Pentax packs a lot into its DSLRs, and the K-50 is appropriately feature-rich. Highlights include a 100% coverage glass pentaprism viewfinder, a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000sec (high for its class, allowing you to freeze fast movement effectively) and a maximum ISO of 51,200, which is very useful in low light. This is in addition to the expected DSLR features like full manual exposure control, a RAW capture option and plenty of external controls. The K-50 can also be ordered in any one of 120 possible color combinations, if that’s your thing.

The K-50’s 16MP sensor is excellent, offering very good image quality through to moderately high ISO sensitivity settings. Although it remains relatively compact and lightweight, the K-50 is a solidly built DSLR which features weather-sealing – something that’s still unusual in the sub-$1000 price bracket. 

Also consider…

Sony NEX-6 The NEX-6 is one of our favorite NEX models, offering a built-in electronic viewfinder, a proven 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor and a hybrid autofocus system that enables fast and accurate AF in most lighting conditions, even when it comes to tracking movement.

Samsung NX300 (w/20-50mm kit zoom)

$550 / £500 | 20MP | 9fps max framerate | 3.3″ 768k-dot | 1080/60p video

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The Samsung NX300 is one of Samsung’s best NX-series cameras yet, built around a 20MP APS-C format CMOS sensor. In common with all of Samsung’s current NX-series, the NX300 is a ‘smart’ camera, equipped with a large touch-sensitive LCD and built-in Wi-Fi for connection to smartphones, tablet computers and Samsung’s cloud service.

The NX300’s AF system is very capable, combining 247 contrast-detection AF points with 105 phase-detection points for faster, more positive focusing than previous NX cameras, something that in our experience holds true even in marginal light conditions. This translates to better autofocus performance than most mirrorless compact cameras of its type, albeit still not as reliable (especially when tracking) as a typical entry-level DSLR. A nine frames per second burst rate does mitigate that disadvantage a little (in some situations at least) and of course compared to a DSLR the NX300 is nice and compact.

Also consider…

Fujifilm X-M1 The X-M1 shares a lot of technology with well-established X-series cameras like the X100S and X-E1 / 2 but it’s aimed at a broader, less specialist audience. The body is plastic, but remains well-constructed and the 16MP X-trans sensor is a proven performer capable of excellent image quality.

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