Best entry-level DSLR 2015: what to look for, which to buy

We help you choose a great camera without spending a fortune

Your first DSLR needn t cost a fortune

Entry-level digital SLRs are perfect for photographers who've gone beyond the basics and want to take photography a bit more seriously.

The point about DSLRs is that they deliver a big step up in image quality from a compact camera, much more manual control and the ability to change lenses to tackle a huge variety of projects.

Best of all, entry-level DSLRs are remarkably cheap. Obviously, the more features you want the more you pay, but do you actually need them? Our top camera is one of the cheapest – but it's still a serious camera that's a massive step up from a compact camera and is likely to do everything you want for a long time to come, especially if you're still learning.

There are four makers competing for your money. The two biggest are Nikon and Canon, but don't rule out Pentax DSLRs either, and we've included a Sony SLT camera, even though it's not strictly an SLR – it still looks like one, handles like one and does all the same things.

Nikon D3300
It's not the most expensive entry-level DSLR but we think it's the best

Best buy: Nikon D3300

Price with kit lens: about £389/US$500 | Sensor: APS-C CMOS | Megapixels: 24.2 | Lens mount:Nikon DX | Screen: 3-inch fixed, 921,000 dots | Continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Max video resolution: 1080p

The D3300 is the best DSLRs for beginners right now and you get a lot for your money. The 24 million pixel sensor provides bags of detail resolution, which means you can safely crop into the image for extra reach or to improve composition. A higher pixel count can mean a greater risk of noise, but the D3300 keeps it well under control. Noise only really becomes apparent at ISO 3200 or higher and even then, it's at acceptable levels.

As with several other DSLRs in Nikon's range, the D3300 does without an anti-aliasing filter so that you get slightly sharper, more detailed shots.

The D3300 is also easy to use. The Guide Mode is a great learning tool for less experienced photographers, giving real time explanations of important functions and features.

Moreover, the 18-55mm lens collapses down to make it more convenient to carry, which will further widen this camera's appeal.

It's a shame you don't get an articulated touch-screen display, but that's a lot to expect at this price. The D3300 lacks built-in Wi-Fi too, though Nikon makes a cheap Wi-Fi adaptor that just plugs straight in. Otherwise, though, the D3300 is a winner.