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Digital SLR Image Stabilization, Burst Rate
Camera Image Stabilization
Any cheap digital SLR camera you buy today should have an autofocus feature. That's a given.
The Sony A390 and Olympus PEN E-PL1 feature in-camera image stabilization. The Canon EOS Rebel T3 and Nikon D3000 don't have in-body image stabilizers; instead they come with lenses that have the feature built in. That said, in-camera stabilization is preferable because, not surprisingly, lenses with image stabilization can cost more than those without. Buying additional lenses can mean either spending more or foregoing image stabilization.
Burst Rate.Sometimes you may want to shoot several photos in a very short period of time -- for example, when photographing a fast-moving sporting event. Just point your camera at the action, hold down the shutter button, and keep your eye on the ball as your camera fires off photos in rapid succession. To do this, you need a digital SLR capable of continuous shooting. This feature, which is common on cheap digital SLR cameras today, has been around for a long time. But older digital SLRs could take only three or four photos in succession before they had to wait for their memory to catch up and process the images. Today's entry-level digital SLRs are more robust when it comes to continuous shooting. Some cameras let you hold down the shutter button and keep snapping photos until you run out of memory. As with image stabilization, this is a feature you probably won't use an awful lot, but it is nice to have.
The speed at which a cheap digital SLR can capture all those images in succession is called the burst rate. The Canon EOS Rebel T3 and XS, the Nikon D3000, and the Olympus PEN E-PL1 share a burst rate of 3 fps, while the Sony A390 comes in at 2.5 fps.
DSLRs With Live View.Live view is becoming fairly common in more expensive DSLRs but is just now making its way into the cheap digital SLR market. Live view lets you compose and focus your shot using a camera's LCD rather than making those adjustments through the camera's viewfinder. If you're used to composing photos with the LCD on the back of a point-and-shoot camera, then using an entry-level DSLR with live view will feel familiar. This is a feature that users clearly want, according to reviews, and three of the cheap digital SLRs on our list -- the Canon EOS Rebel T3, Sony A390, and Olympus PEN E-PL1 -- include live view. DigitalCameraReview points out that you must use live view when composing photos with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 because it has no optical viewfinder, a design decision that doesn't go over well with the site's expert reviewer.
DSLR ISO.If you remember shopping for film for those good ol' film cameras, you probably remember seeing a number on the box. That number was the film's ISO, a fancy way to describe how sensitive the film is to light. Films with different ISO ratings have different characteristics. Film with a high ISO, such as 800 or more, can produce grainy photos but doesn't require a lot of light. ISO 800 film is good for shooting indoors or in low-light conditions. ISO 100 film, on the other hand, produces very sharp, detailed photos but requires a lot of light, which may make it difficult to use indoors or at dusk. Digital SLRs mimic that film speed internally, with similar results: Higher ISO settings produce grainier photos, while lower ISOs need a lot of light. When it comes to choosing an ISO, the biggest (and best) advantage of a digital SLR camera is that you can simply change the ISO setting to that which best suits your needs at the time. With a film camera, you have to remove the film, pop in new film with a different ISO, then change the ISO setting on the camera -- a real hassle.
ISO range is a basic camera feature that's very similar from camera to camera. Most cheap DSLRs have ISO ranges between 100 and 3200. The Olympus PEN E-PL1 starts with an ISO of 200 rather than 100, and the range on the Canon EOS Rebel T3 goes up to 6400. For most frugal shutterbugs a range of 100 to 2400 should be plenty, and a range beginning at 200 is acceptable.
Don't Bother Cheap DSLRs
Olympus PEN E-PL1
Whether you think the Olympus PEN E-PL1 is a good camera or not may turn on whether you consider it a shoestring-budget DSLR or an upscale point-and-shoot that happens to have interchangeable lenses. It takes good pictures, but its performance lags far behind that of other cheap DSLRs. Users don't want a slow camera, especially when taking action shots. Read more »
Nikon D5000 Review
Canon EOS Rebel XS Review
Olympus PEN E-PL1 Review
Nikon D3000 Review
Canon EOS Rebel T3 Review
Sony A390 Review
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