Best DSLR & ILC Cameras: Entry Level
2016 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
Welcome to our annual Holiday Gift Guide. For 2016, we've decided to segue from wholly budget-based recommendations and instead focus on different camera categories.
There are two types of interchangeable lens cameras on the market today. DSLRs, or digital single-lens reflex cameras, are cameras where a moveable mirror system directs light either to the optical viewfinder or to the image sensor. ILC cameras, also called mirrorless cameras, drop the mirror and pass light directly from the lens to image sensor. DSLRs and ILCs have two main advantages over fixed-lens systems; they typically have larger image sensors (Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, and Full Frame), which improve overall performance, and the ability to swap in any lens that fits your specific camera's mount. In that sense, becoming a Nikon or Olympus or Canon or Sony or Panasonic or Fuijfilm customer for the first time means that, as you learn and grow as a photographer, you can upgrade your camera body while retaining your favorite lenses.
The Entry Level DSLR and ILC market is in an interesting transition. DSLRs were long the go-to camera for larger image sensors and improved performance over point-and-shoots, but the performance benefits of a DSLR (namely speed and sensor size) are mainly found in more expensive cameras. At this sub-$1,000 budget level, the truth is ILCs are going to be faster, lighter, and more compact while offering features like in-body image stabilization. As such, our 2016 list only includes one DSLR in a very capable heard of ILCs.
Here are our picks for Best Entry Level DSLR and ILC Cameras for 2016.
Canon EOS Rebel T6
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 is a budget friendly DSLR with an 18MP APS-C CMOS image sensor mated to the DIGIC 4+ image processor with a 9-point AutoFocus system. Good enough for 3 frames-per-second of continuous shooting, Full 1080p HD video recording, and a 100-6400 ISO range that's expandable to 12800. In addition to Scene Intelligent Auto, which pre-selects the camera's mode based on shooting conditions, and several Creative Filters, you'll have full P/S/A/M controls over your settings. The T6 also sports Wi-Fi and NFC technologies for connecting this DSLR to smartphones, tablets, and devices such as the Canon Connect Station CS100. Pick up the Canon EOS Rebel T6 with an 18-55mm kit lens today for less than $550.
The Olympus E-PL8 is a fantastic, rangefinder style entry-level ILC with a 16.1MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds image sensor mated to the Olympus TruePic VII image processor. With the High-speed Imager AutoFocus system engaged, you can shoot up to 8.5fps Continuous Shooting. Its 3-axis image stabilization system will smooth out your Full 1080/30p HD videos or give you an additional 3.5 stops of exposure. iAUTO with Guide Mode is included for the less experienced among us, but you've got a full set of manual controls and 14 Art Filters to play with as well. The 3.0" Flipdown Touchscreen LCD is perfect for taking selfies and group shots while built-in Wi-Fi turns any smartphone into a remote control. And, since you're getting an ILC, you now have access to an incredible family of M.Zuiko lenses, including their outstanding PRO series lenses. Pick up the Olympus PEN E-PL8 ILC with the 14-42mm f3.5-6.6 (28-84mm equivalent) kit lens for less than $650.
The Fujifilm X-E2S is an interesting, compact, and retro rangefinder style ILC stuffed with 16.3-megapixel APS-C X-trans CMOS II image sensor that captures excellent still images and is capable of shooting Full 1080/60p HD videos. Other features include a nearly-lag-free EVF, a Fast Autofocus System, ISO 100-51200 capability, a built-in interval timer for making time-lapses, and a plethora of film simulations and creative filters. Wi-Fi is, naturally, included for use with the FUJIFILM Camera Remote and INSTAX Share apps. Pick up the Fujifilm X-E2S with its excellent 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens for just under $1,000.
The Panasonic Lumix G85 is a fantastic ILC that offers full manual control and excellent quality in both still image and video capture. At its heart, we have a 16MP Digital Live MOS Micro Four Thirds image sensor without a low-pass filter for clearer, more professional images. The speedy Venus Engine and 5-axis Dual Image Stabilization work together to capture up to 9fps in continuous shooting, numerous Photo Styles, and four separate Bracket modes. The G85 also boasts 4K/30p UHD video recording Live Composition. Other features include in-camera RAW development, Silent Mode, a Power Saving Mode, and Wi-Fi which, when used in conjunction with an Android or iOS device running the Panasonic Image app, will help you share your images and videos online, transfer files to your smart device, or remotely control the camera. Pick up the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-G85 with a 16-60mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens for less than $1,000.
While Olympus and Panasonic lean towards Micro Four Thirds lenses and mounts, Canon's M Series joins Fujifilm in its use of larger APS-C image sensors in their ILCs. The Canon EOS M5 is, in many ways, a Canon EOS 80D DSLR engineered into a more compact body. It even looks a bit like a DSLR in terms of ergonomics. The M5 boasts a 24.2MP CMOS image sensor and the new DIGIC 7, Full 1080/60p HD video recording, Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, up to 9 frames-per-second burst shoot (7ps with AE & AF engaged), and a wide ISO range of 100-25,600. Other features include 5-axis image stabilization, anew 3.2" titling touchscreen as well a 2.36M dot EVF, and a bevy of wireless capabilities, including built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth, making it easy to transfer files to, or remotely control the M5 directly from iOS or Android devices. If you purchase an M-mount camera, you'll have access to a growing variety of EF-M series lenses as well as, with an optional adapter, Canon EF and EF-S lenses. Pick up the Canon EOS M5 EF-M along with the 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM kit lens for less than $1,100.