Whether it's for a Christmas present, a birthday present or time to treat yourself, you're going to need to know where to spend your hard-earned cash when shopping for the best DSLR cameras around. Now, we recognise at Pocket-lint that there's no one single best DSLR camera. It all depends on who you are, what exactly you want to use it for and where you need to use it.
We'll be updating this list as we get each new DSLR into our review labs. When we find one that becomes the king of its particular category, we'll be inking the necessary alterations. So, rest assured that whatever you're reading here, whenever you're reading it, is the very best DSLR cameras available today.
Best full frame DSLR
Nikon D800, £2,000
There are higher-spec models at far higher prices but, in terms of value, there’s no better full-frame DSLR on the market today than the Nikon D800. Photographically speaking, the 36.6 megapixels is an amazing leap forward from the D700. Images have an awe-inspiring level of detail and this gives a lot of flexibility for using the camera. There’s little noise from pixel density and the camera’s performance - even at low light - is one of the most impressive things we’ve seen. The pictures are usable right up to ISO 3600.
Video too is mind-blowing. Broadcasters might not leap on this camera but, for low-budget filmmakers, or professionals in need of something cheap but flexible that has a wealth of very capable lenses, this really is a beautiful performer. The only real issue we found was with buffer writing 36-megapixel images to SD or CF taking an inevitably long time. So, maybe not one for sports photographers.
READ: Nikon D800 review
Best rugged DSLR
Pentax K-5, £600
While we wait to put the Pentax K-5 II through its paces, the original variant can keep the throne for the best rugged DSLR camera warm. Weatherproof, freezeproof and dustproof, thanks to 77 independent body seals, it still boasts a highly competitive 7 frames per second shooting rate, HD video and 100 per cent viewfinder coverage.
It's got an impressive 16MP sensor and image engine combination that deals well with noise reduction at low light/high ISO situations and a respectable 11-point AF system. Best of all, it's come down in price by about 50 per cent since launch so offers quite a lot of camera for not too much cash. There are some super specialist rugged DSLR cameras out there but the Pentax K-5 is the sensible option for those who are looking for some that's tough but basically normal.
READ: Pentax K-5 review
Best for video
Sony Alpha A77, £800
If you want to get technical, the Sony Alpha A77 is an SLT rather than a DSLR but the effect is much the same. Whatever the mechanism behind light capture, it’s the best consumer end camera for video right now. The super-speed and focus point magic of the SLT eloquently translates into the A77’s movie mode. It’s superb stuff.
It shoots at 50 frames per second (60 for the NTSC regions) and delivers data at a staggering 28mbps with very solid 24MP stills capture at the same time. If you need a more pro spec, then the Canon EOS 5D mkIII is the place to go, but that will cost you around £1,500 more. Ouch.
READ: Sony Alpha A77 review
Best entry-level DSLR
Pentax K-30, £369
The Pentax K-30 shows off what a DSLR can do without blowing the budget. But that doesn’t mean this DSLR scrimps on its features. The weather-sealed body is a great bonus, and something that would usually be found only in a pricier camera, but that doesn't detract from the K-30’s ability to produce great images.
There’s a 100 per cent optical viewfinder, 6fps burst mode matched with a decent buffer and capable continuous autofocus too. Complete with 16MP APS-C sized sensor, it’s only really the sluggish AF system that lets it down. If it weren’t for that, the Pentax K-30 would have received full marks from our boys in the labs.
READ: Pentax K-30 review
Best for under £1,000
Canon EOS 60D, £685
The mid-range section of the DSLR market is crying out for a real champion to show the way but, for the time being, the Canon EOS 60D will have to do. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a quality piece of kit but if you’ve got the £1,030 or so to splash on the EOS 7D instead, then it’s well worth the upgrade.
Nonetheless, the 60D is a popular choice, and for good reason. It succeeded by reintroducing the vari-angle LCD screen once more and that’s very handy. The pictures are great, HD video is a bonus and, despite one or two hiccups in design, there’s a fair whack of specification here for the money. It’s a fast use and a great camera. Don’t let our highfalutin dreams put you off.
READ: Canon EOS 60D review
Best luxury buy
Nikon D4, £4,385
The Nikon D4 is a camera to get excited about. In fact, it’s phenomenal and there’s no doubt some of the images that will be seen around the world from this camera will be stunning. It’s not a massive step forward from the D3S for quality but where it’s exceptional is the likes of the autofocus system which is among the best, if not the best, available in the world right now.
The design is bang on the money; the burst mode and huge buffer make continuous shooting effortless; and the new movie capabilities are tip top too. Make no bones about it - the Nikon D4 is an epic camera but, for your average consumer, it’s a Ferrari: out of reach in both price and realistic use. For the pros out there, it’s a priceless tool, for the wealthy enthusiast though, there’s a lot of fun just ready and waiting inside.
READ: Nikon D4 review