Think of the 10.2-megapixel Nikon D3000 as the smaller cousin of the long-standing models it replaces. With the $550 D3000, Nikon improves on its previous entry-level model (the Nikon D40), refining the design and adding a slew of features that make the D3000 a great choice for point-and-shoot owners looking to explore the digital SLR world. We appreciated the improved autofocus of the D3000, as well as its compact design and light weight.
Nikon's compact, $750 DSLR kit captures great images, offers 720p video recording, and has a handy tilt-up screen that allows for more creativity when you're shooting.The D5000 comes with an 18mm-to-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR AF-S DX lens, and provides a variety of in-camera editing options.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS
While not one of Canon's newest offerings, the 10.1-megapixel Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS has plenty that will appeal to the budding digital photographer, including a wide assortment of features and modes, excellent image quality, and an affordable $570 price. The XS doesn't have as many advanced features as the Digital Rebel XSi or other newer models, but it is a great starting point. It comes with Canon's image-stabilized 18mm-to-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens.
Though the menu and navigation of the E-520 leave us cold, Olympus has pulled together a pleasing package that makes for a great entry into digital SLRs for new users. For $600, you can buy the E-520 body together with both the 14mm-to-42mm and 40mm-to-150mm lenses. We were impressed by its autofocus in daylight, but we also found that it had poor performance at high ISOs.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi
Currently $650, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi provides a strong range of capabilities. At its original price of $800 (when we reviewed it), it cost more than other entry-level models; now, however, it's more in line with the competition. When purchased as part of a kit, this model comes with an 18mm-to-55mm IS lens (f/3.5 to 5.6), which provides image stabilization and a respectable 35mm focal length range of 29mm to 88mm. The camera can handle up to 3.5 frames per second in burst mode.
The 10.2-megapixel Pentax K2000 may tempt quite a few people to jump into the digital SLR pool. Priced affordably at $560 (with 18mm-to-55mm and 50mm-to-200mm kit lenses), the camera offers compatibility with previously issued lenses--a feature that could increase the K2000's appeal to Pentax enthusiasts of all stripes. We liked how easy the camera was to use, and we also appreciated its handy help button for newcomers.
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