Great Gift Ideas: Top Digital SLRs to Buy for Christmas

By Geoff Harris



If you’re looking to buy a Digital SLR for Christmas, the choice can be baffling.   Here’s our selection of some of the best budget buys, mid-price and advanced, to help you get those prized shots over the festive period.  

For the ultimate in image quality, control and versatility nothing touches a digital SLR. So if you are looking to get creative and want the best results, a DSLR is the only way to go.  All of these have been recommended by

Best digital SLR cameras for... Budget Buys

A budget model DSLR camera will give you the same essential DSLR features, plus access to the same range of lenses and accessories and, for all but the most ultra-critical user, much the same image quality offered by more expensive stablemates. Here are a few to consider...

Pentax K-r

£480.00 body only 

The Pentax K-r sits in the middle of Pentax's DSLR range, above the entry-level K-x but below the enthusiast K-7 and flagship K-5 models. It is reassuringly solid build and yet surprisingly compact, which sits nicely in the hand and is easy to operate. The K-r is capable of delivering consistently good results, with high ISO performance especially noteworthy.

See the Pentax K-r review


Canon EOS 1100D

£500 body only


The Canon EOS 1100D, is the latest entry-level DSLR to come from Canon's stable since the Canon EOS 1000D (Rebel XS). It's been almost three years since then. Though around the £500 mark, the match of performance and image quality makes it a worthy purchase.

See the Canon EOS 1100D review


Nikon D3100   

£500 body only


The new D3100 looks set to shake up the entry-level market. As well as a helpful Guide Mode toassist newcomers, its new 14.2MP CMOS sensor and EXPEED 2 imagine engine make for detailed stills. The new D-Movie mode continues to impress, with 1080p HD movies that outclass other DSLRs in this category. However, for all this kit you'll need to be prepared to up your budget.

See the Nikon D3100 review


Sony Alpha A390

£400.00 body only 

Although the build quality is a little ‘plasticy', the A390 has a number of attractive features to attempt to make it stand out from the crowd and for a fair price. It's capable of capturing stills at a high-resolution 14.2 megapixels, the camera's Quick AF Live View speed remains to be beaten in this class, and the 2.7in, 230K-dot tilt-angle LCD screen is a great addition when compared to some competition. The A390 stands its ground well and produces decent pictures throughout its ISO 100-3200 range.

See the Sony A390 review


Sony a230

£350 body only

The A230 is one of the cheapest DSLRs currently available but cheap doesn't mean nasty. The Sony offers a 10MP sensor, built-in SteadyShot stabilisation, dual card slots for SD or Memory Stick Duo, and a Dynamic Range optimiser. The user interface is particularly clear and easy to follow too.

See the Sony a230 review


Best digital SLR cameras for... Mid-price DSLRs

Spend a bit more for your DSLR and you get step-up features such as high resolution LCD screens, live view and HD video. You'll probably get a faster burst rate and more pixels on the sensor too - useful if you want to make big enlargements or crop your photos.

Canon EOS 600D review

£749.00 body only    

The EOS 600D is a great camera. Admittedly, the performance can be left a little wanting, especially with certain aspects of the AF and frame advance, but results from the 18-megapixel sensor are great, with bags of detail and well-controlled noise. Then there's the polished user interface that allows novice users to grow with their new bit of kit, while the list of features shouldn't leave more experienced users feeling short-changed either. It may not feel particularly cutting edge, but the Canon EOS 600D has been years in the making, evolving into a great camera for the price.

See the Canon EOS 600D review


Nikon D5100

£780.00 body only

The D5100 succeeds in delivering top image quality from an affordable mid-level body, married with ease of use and a series of improvements over other Nikon DSLR cameras. Nikon D7000-like quality for less cash and a more advanced live view focusing mode than seen before from the brand are big plus points, as is the high quality movie mode. All in all the D5100 is well-priced, strongly-specified and decent performing bit of kit that delivers great quality pictures.

See the Nikon D5100 review

Sony Alpha A580

£550.00 body only

The A580's image quality, is impressively consistent. Results are of an equivalent level its rivals and the camera performs reasonably well in low light, although above ISO 800 image noise becomes apparent. The A580's LCD screen is excellent from a detail and colour point of view, making it extremely useful in combination with the tilt-angle hinge. Similarly the optical viewfinder is perfectly serviceable for framing images. In all the Sony A580 ticks a number of boxes for the mid-range DSLR genre.

See the Sony Alpha A580 review


Sony a380

£500 body only

Sony has slicked-up the body styling of its DSLRs to appeal to a new generation of first-time DSLR buyers, though the traditionalists are not convinced. The A380 boasts most user-friendly live view mode of any current DSLR with full AF, which with its tilting LCD screen makes high- and low-level shooting a breeze.

See the Sony a380 review


Olympus E-620

£590 body only

The world's smallest image-stabilised DSLR also boasts the best implementation of an articulating screen. Great design and features, including ‘art filters' so you can get creative in-camera, make this great value.

See the Olympus E-620 review


Best digital SLR cameras for... Avanced DSLRs
These highly desirable cameras offer professional level features and image quality, but in a relatively compact and affordable body.


Canon EOS 60D

£1,099 body only 

The 60D does is designed for ease and simplicity. It has a vari-angle high-resolution screen and Full HD video capture. The mode button lock and the new multi-controller won't suit all users however - especially those used to older Canon models. For those upgrading or looking for a high-performance mid-range DSLR however, you won't be disappointed. The 60D is fast, easy to use and produces stunning results.

See the Canon EOS 60D review


Pentax K-7

£1030 body only


We looked hard for the kitchen sink on the K-7 and couldn't find it - but it has almost everything else the serious user would want: a compact but fully dust and moisture sealed body,100% viewfinder, 920K-dot LCD screen with live view, 720p HD video with external audio input and much more. The smallest pro-spec DSLR you can buy.

See the Pentax K-7 review


Canon EOS 7D

£1700 body only

Patches of drool appeared all over the UK when this was announced. An 18MP sensor, huge 100% viewfinder, 1080p HD video recording, 8fps continuous shooting. Canon redesigned its EOS system from the ground up to make this the ultimate APS-C sized DSLR.

See the Canon EOS 7D review


Nikon D300s

£1250 body only

The D300 has been one of the best and most successful DSLRs of all time, and this upgrade adds a few bells and whistles to keep it that way. The main additions are HD video (with audio input) and dual media card slots (CF and SD), but the handling and image quality remain unchanged. After all, why mess with a winning formula?

See the Nikon D300s review


Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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