Buying guide: best SLR for beginners

Our rundown of the greatest beginner SLRs on the market right now

The only drawbacks with the EOS 100D are the rather sluggish Live View focusing and the fact that you can only use digital filters in Live View. Stick a big lens on the EOS 100D, too, and its size and weight advantages soon become a bit irrelevant.

Read our full Canon 100D review

Canon EOS 1200D (or Rebel T5)

Price (with 18-55mm IS II lens): £390/$499/A$568

  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Pixel count: 18Mp
  • Screen type: 3 inch, 460,000 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 3fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

EOS 1200D

The 1100D was a decent entry level SLR that had got pretty long in the tooth, and its successor is a solid if unspectacular upgrade. It's more of an update than a rethink, and the specifications, while worthy, won't make any headlines. These include an 18Mp sensor and the older Digic 4 processor.

Its continuous shooting frame rate of three frames per second seems a bit leisurely compared to the Nikon D3300's 5fps rates and as with the Nikon, the 1200 lacks built-in Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity (though the camera's support for Eye-Fi cards widens the options). There is no touschscreen either, and you have to download beginners guides through a separate smartphone app, which again makes the Nikon D3300 seem a better integrated option. Image performance is decent for the money, although again the D3300 aces it on detail resolution (the D3300 lacks an anti-aliasing filter, remember).

Image quality isn't a massive leap forward from the EOS 1100D, but they are significantly larger. Also, the 1200D is very keenly priced, and once you have downloaded the tutorial app (iOS and Android) you will have plenty of opportunities to get to grips with this SLR and take some good images.

Read our full Canon 1200D review

Pentax K-50

Price (with 18-55mm WR DAL lens): £449/$596/A$659

  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Pixel count: 16Mp
  • Screen type: 3-inch LCD, 921,000 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 6fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

Pentax K 50

Just because you are a less experienced photographer doesn't mean you aren't an adventurous one. The weatherproofed K-50 will encourage you to get out shooting in all weathers, which is obviously a good thing – the kicker being that you'll have to partner it with the more expensive WR (weather resistant) lens for the full benefit.

Another great practical touch is the vibration reduction system (called Shake Reduction in Pentax-speak); as well as reducing judder, this enables the sensor to automatically move by one degree to help correct sloping horizons. Fast continuous shooting of up to six frames per second is also possible, while the ISO range goes as far as 51200.

The K-50 automatically saves raw files in the DNG format, too, which means Photoshop or Lightroom can open them instantly. Sadly, you can't add digital filters to raw files. The other drawbacks are the noisy kit lens, the lack of Wi-Fi or a touchscreen and the lack of a guide mode for beginners. To sum up, the K-50 is a good example of a entry level SLR that goes the extra mile. Well worth considering if you're not wedded to Canon or Nikon.

Read our full Pentax K-50 review

Sony A-58

Price (with DT 18-55mm SAM II lens): £359/$448/A$607

  • Sensor size: APS-C
  • Pixel count: 20.1Mp
  • Screen type: 2.7-inch LCD, 460,800 dots
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: 8fps
  • Maximum video resolution: 1080p

Sony a58

The Sony is not strictly an SLR, being an SLT (single lens translucent) device instead. This won't make a massive difference to beginners, though you do have to use an electronic viewfinder (EVF) rather than a more conventional optical device.

For less experienced photographers, the advantages are that you can see the effect of changing camera settings in real time (via the viewfinder), so there's less 'chimping' – constantly checking whether an image has worked or not on the rear screen. The EVF on the A-58 is bright and clear, so it's all good so far.

Another advantage of the SLT design is accurate autofocus during fast burst speeds, and the A-58 can deliver up to 8fps, which makes the rest of the SLRs here look a bit pedestrian. Other benefits of this innovative camera include impressive low-light performance, and a wide range of Picture Effects. Sweep Panorama is particularly useful if you shoot landscapes.

The drawbacks are relatively slow focusing in more challenging lighting conditions, the lack of a touchscreen or fully articulated screen and the inability to use Picture Effects when shooting in raw format. Otherwise, this a well-specced camera at a competitive price.

As with the Pentax, this is well worth considering if you're not sold on Canon or Nikon.

Read our full Sony Alpha 58 review