Now Is a Great Time to Upgrade Your Camera!

 There has never been a better time to be a photography enthusiast than right now.  The camera industry has made incredible advancements in a really short time.  Additionally, because the field of DSLR cameras is so competitive, the prices for these photographic marvels have also dropped significantly.  


In August of 2008, Nikon came out with the D90 model, it was considered groundbreaking.  The D90 featured 12.3 megapixel resolution and was the first DSLR capable of providing high definition video recording at 720p.  The the cost of the D90 (body only) was over $1000.


Today, there is a whole range of quality DSLR cameras in the sub $1000 category.  So many in fact, that the sub $1000 price range has been broken into Entry Level DSLR’s and Advanced Level DSLR’s.  If you are looking to upgrade from a point and shoot pocket camera, here are in my opinion, the best values in the Entry Level DSLR camera field.


The Nikon D3100Nikon d3100(59248)




At $599.00 (Amazon listed price which includes a Nikkor 18-55 mm f3.5-5.6 Autofocus lens) the D3100 is definitely a bargain.




With a 14.2 megapixel CMOS DX sensor,  the Nikon model offers one of the highest image resolution in the entry level DSLR category.  However, the DX sensor belongs to Nikon’s older technology as there newest and more expensive cameras feature an FX sensor.  


Video Mode


I will be honest with you, don’t purchase a DSLR for the video capabilities.  If you want a camcorder, than you should buy a ....camcorder.  However, there have been moments when I’ve been out with the family and have left my video camera at home and there is a certain level of convenience in being able to switch the DSLR to video mode to record brief segments of video.


That being said, the Nikon D3100 has the ability to record video at 1080/at 24 frames per second.  This high resolution well insure both crisp video images and clear sound.


Auto Focus


A huge area of improvement in all DSLR’s can be found in the camera’s ability to focus quickly and accurately.  the D3100 features an 11 point auto focus system that includes multiple autofocus modes such as an auto-area autofocus that will select the subject from which to focus on and a 3D tracking autofocus mode that utilizes the 11 point system to the fullest and keeps the subject in focus independent of the movement of the scene as long as the shutter button is held in the halfway position.


Quick Shooting


Being able to shoot at three frames per second is not the quickest frame rate of entry level DSLR's.


Image Processing


The D3100 utilizes Nikon's new image processing technology with the EXPEED 2 processing engine.  This processing engine was first developed for more expensive cameras like Nikon's mid level D7000.  The EXPEED 2 engine provides faster image processing with greater performance in noise reduction and color representation.


Compact and Lightweight


For a DSLR, The D3100 is very portable as it weighs only 1 lb. 1.8 oz.  This makes it a perfect camera to take on a hike as it won't weight to much on your neck and shoulders.


The Sony Alpha A-33


Sony Alpha A33


This Sony DSLR is at the upper end of the Digital SLR entry level price point at $699.00 (Amazon listed price with a 18-55 mm F3.5-5.6 lens).



The A33 offers comparable resolution of 14.2 megapixels; however, whereas the Nikon sticks with older technology with its CMOS DX sensor, Sony utilizes updated sensor technology with the Exmor APS-C HD CMOS sensor.


Auto Focus and Quick Shooting


Because of Sony's development of the Single Lens Translucent (SLT) design which utilizes a fixed semi transparent mirror that allows a small amount of light directly onto the auto focus sensor while filtering the rest of the light to the imaging sensor, the camera to shoot lightening quick stills of up to 7 frames per second.  An additional benefit of the SLT system is that the process auto focuses the camera when shooting high definition video.  The ability to use auto focus while shooting video is big plus.  With my Nikon D90, I can only focus at the beginning of a video clip but if there is any movement, the picture quickly becomes fuzzy as it goes out of focus.


Also, Sony does Nikon one better in terms of the auto focus accuracy.   The A33 incorporates a 15 point phase detection system (compared to Nikon's very good 11 point system). 


Image Processing


The most important factor of any camera is how well it produces images.  With Sony’s improved Bionz Image Processor, which is a big reason behind the camera’s speed, color reproduction is finely reproduced with very little noise even when shooting at the higher range of ISO.


Bulkier and Less Portable

Weighing in at a hefty 3.2 lbs. The Alpha A33 is much heavier than the Nikon.  Three pounds doesn’t sound like a lot but when you throw on zoom lens and are constantly cradling the camera to keep it from getting banged around in the woods, the added weight begins to be noticeable.


Final Verdict


Since we are talking about Entry Level DSLR Camera’s I would have to give the nod to the Nikon D3100.  Both cameras are exceptional values for what they do, but most people who are just looking to upgrade into a DSLR from a point and shoot camera probably don’t need quite all the features of the Sony and at it’s current price point, you should really start looking at the next level up of DSLR cameras - the advanced DSLR category.