5 mins

10 of the best DSLRs for travellers

Want to capture professional quality images? Need some serious kit for the road? Want to zoom and macro at will? Then a DSLR camera is what you’re looking for…

(Michal Osmenda)

Check out Wanderlust's new magazine Take Better Travel Photos for this article and many other practical guides

Don't forget you can purchase this equipment, plus other gadgets from the Jessops' online store now

1. Canon EOS 600D

Target price: £700

Fairly easy to use, competitively priced and a clear winner in terms of picture performance

The latest in Canon’s best-selling series of EOS cameras includes handy on-screen guides, with explanations of lingo like ‘Aperture Priority’. Like its predecessor, the 550, it has an 18MP pixel count and 9-point autofocus, but now also boasts a flip-out LCD for shooting at awkward angles, and five effects filters you can
add during playback.

The 600D might not be as ergonomic or travel minded as similar models but scores big on image. Switched into Auto mode, it consistently produces flawless shots in test with its high pixel count paying dividends in picture detail, producing sharp shots and perfectly capturing and reproducing natural and exaggerated man-made colours.Too pricey? Consider its little brother, the new 1100D, for around £430.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 133x99x79mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution – 1080p
Megapixels – 18MP
Memory card type – SD (HC/XC)
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 800g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

2. Nikon D5100

Target price: £660

Accessible and versatile, the D5100 produces image quality comparable to significantly pricier models

High-specced enough to satisfy hardened photographers, easy-to-use for enthusiasts, comfy enough for travellers to get some serious mileage out of it – the D5100 is a great camera for journeying snappers.

The narrow back, thick body and stocky lens of the D5100 make it comfortable to use over lengthy periods, though the easy ergonomics of the camera aren’t quite matched by its controls: Nikon’s shunning of the conventional layout used by other brands prompts the odd mis-fingered control. The D5100 is capable of capturing and sharply reproducing
even the tiniest of details within a shot, while the colours it captures strike
the perfect balance between being
vivid but not artificial. Class.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 128x97x79mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution– 1080i
Megapixels – 16.2MP
Memory card type – SD (HD/XC)
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight– 570g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

3. Sony Alpha SLT-A55

Target price: £630

Lightweight, compact and oh-so-fast – and packed with features other cameras can’t deliver

The A55’s bleeding edge tech brings with it a plethora of advantages, most obviously the ability to shoot continuously at an incredible 10fps. That’s (count ‘em) ten full-size 16.2MP shots. Every. Second. Factor in the laser-accurate Autofocus and you’ve got one heck of a speed demon, ideal for snapping away at fast-moving subjects.

Photo quality is excellent, colours are natural and detail is sharp. The A55 ain’t no one-trick pony, either. There’s its ability to shoot 1080p video, in-body SteadyShot image stabilisation and you can even snap in 3D – as long as you have the correct sort of telly to watch it back on. The fact that Sony has stuffed all that into a lightweight, compact body makes it all the more impressive.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 124x92x87mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution – 1080i
Megapixels – 16.2MP
Memory card type – SD (HC/XC)/ Stick
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 441g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2

Target price: £370

Panasonic provides fuss-free high-quality photography for newbies and vets alike

The Panasonic G2 is a Micro Four Thirds camera, making it lighter and smaller than most interchangeable lens snappers, while its chunkier shape, fully adjustable screen and electronic viewfinder make it arguably easier to handle.

The screen isn’t the sharpest we’ve seen but can be twisted to face any angle: a boon when framing shots above your head or close to the ground. It’s also touch-sensitive so you can simply tap an area to set the focus and metering point: very useful indeed. The viewfinder comes in handy if you’re shooting in bright sunlight.

Whether you’re an old hand or a young pretender, you can grab the G2 and will pretty much instantly be able to use it. Designed to cater for all types of photographer, it succeeds brilliantly.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 124x84x74mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution – 720p
Megapixels – 12.1MP
Memory card type – SD (HC/XC)
Optical viewfinder – Electronic
Weight – 593g with lens
Zoom function during movies – Yes

5. Canon EOS 60D

Target price: £990

Canon deliver a mid-range DSLR that gets a gold star for both video and stills

The Canon 60D is a DSLR camera aimed at the serious amateur: a ruggedly built, feature-stuffed snapper that counts full 1080p video among its charms.

It’s also a stunner when it comes to image quality. We took snaps with the ISO set to 800 and, when viewing the 18MP prints zoomed to full size on our screen, could barely see any noise. That’s rare.

The 3-inch screen is bright, ultra-sharp (over 1,000,000 dots) and fully adjustable to almost any angle. The viewfinder is large and bright, and there’s an info-packed LCD on the top plate, just like on pro DSLRs.

It’s pricey, a bit weighty and not initially idiot-proof, but it feels like the perfect camera for the buyer looking to step up from the entry level and grab something almost pro quality.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 144.5x105.8x78.6mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution – 1080p
Megapixels – 18MP
Memory card type – SD (HC/XC)
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 755g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

6. Nikon D700

Target price: £2,000

Nikon adds another big hitter to its already strong range of higher end SLR cameras

Nikon rich vein of form at the higher end of the SLR range continues. Featuring the smaller body body size of the D300 but the larger, full-frame sensor of the D3, the D700 successfully jostles for position between those two imaging Goliaths.

While the majority of cameras use an APS-C sensor size, full frame is larger - the same size as the 35mm film frame - meaning that each photo sensor can gather more light. These sensors capture incredible colours and detail, giving you truly stunning image quality - there's very little noise up there at ISO 1800.

It might not be as fast as the D3 but when it comes to the photos, there's very little in it - the D3 edges it for accuracy and speed of the autofocus, rather than the picture quality. The Nikon D700 is - if you class a £2,000 camera as such - one of the finest consumer SLRs you can currently buy.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 147x123x77mm
Maximum movie resolution – n/a
Megapixels – 12.1MP
Memory card type – CF
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 995g

7. Canon EOS 1000D

Target price: £410

An amazing entry-level snapper with plenty of room for growth before your creative juices overflow

It might not have the megapixels, spot metering, continuous shooting speed and LCD size of its more expensive rivals, but the 1000D more than punches its weight, giving you awesome image quality, with excellent tonal range, realistic colours and very low noise levels at high ISO.

The flash shots are the best in class, autofocus is fast and accurate and Live View is a useful addition. The body is much the same as the 450D’s, which means that, while it doesn’t feel rugged, it’s light and comfortable to hold.

The controls have been aimed soundly at the enthusiast, so you shouldn’t outgrow them – and having dedicated buttons for white balance and exposure compensation makes creativity easy.

NB As we went to press, the 1000D got an upgrade in the shape of the new 1100D, priced around £430 with lens.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 126x98x62mm
LCD Size – 2.5in
Megapixels – 10.1
Memory card type – SD, SDHC
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 450g

8. Nikon D300

Target price: £1,300

A great value DSLR that excels in low light conditions. Only the lack of image stabilisation irks

Boasting just about every feature you could ever imagine needing – and a ton you couldn’t – the D300 is aimed at the very serious enthusiast.

The most impressive thing about the D300 is its ability to minimise noise throughout the ISO range. Right up to ISO 3200 the shots are usable, even if detail is softened.

Colour rendition is superb and detail excellent; the exposure is also superbly controlled and everything you might expect is in there – dust reduction, 6fps continuous shooting and the now widespread Live View, which means you can use the LCD screen as a viewfinder like you would on a compact.

Considering the deals available, the D300 is amazing value: a pro-spec camera which is – just – within reach of us mere mortals.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 147x114x74mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum movie resolution – n/a
Megapixels – 12.3
Memory card type – CF
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 825g

9. Nikon D3100

Target price: £440

A very solid performer, but lacks a killer feature to make it stand out from the pack

The D3100 stands out thanks to its HD movie capture: it can snaffle movies at 1920x1080 resolution and a film-apeing 24fps – the same speed as cinema film.

And yep, movies do look suitably lovely when filmed with the D3100, especially in good lighting conditions, or when you’ve bolted a top-notch lens onto the front. Clean, bright colours and crisp detail abound.

The low weight and compact size will also appeal to travelling shutterbugs – it autofocuses like a cheetah on speed through the viewfinder and its AF tracking function keeps a lock on moving subjects nicely. Photo quality is solid, making this a superbly reliable DSLR, particularly for beginners.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 124x96x74.5mm
LCD Size – 3in
Maximum frames per second – 3fps
Maximum movie resolution – 1080p
Megapixels – 14.2MP
Memory card type – SD, SDHC, SDXC, Eye-Fi
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 505g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

10. Pentax K-r

Target price: £442

A dependable DSLR sidekick with some handy extras, from an alternative to the usual brands

Using the same sensor as the earlier Pentax K-x model but boosting the build quality and performance, the K-r model is a reliable performer with a great kit lens. The ISO soars all the way up to 25600 meaning you can happily shoot at usable shutter speeds in all but the murkiest of conditions. Your pics at this setting will be noisy, sure, but at lower ISOs the picture quality is superb and sharp.

It’s very “old school DSLR” and that’s no bad thing: The 720p HD video quality is nothing to write home about, but does the job. The body is sturdy and chunky enough to sit snugly in your hand.

The K-r doesn’t really do enough for us to recommend it over equivalent Sony, Canon or Nikon mid-range models, but if you’re already a Pentax DSLR user looking to step up it’s a great choice.

Tech Specs:
Dimensions – 125x97x68mm
LCD Size – 3inMaximum movie resolution - 720p
Megapixels – 12.4MP
Memory card type – SD (HC)
Optical viewfinder – Yes
Weight – 598g
Zoom function during movies – Yes

Versions of these reviews were originally published in Stuff Magazine. Each issue, the team put the latest cameras (and other gadgets) through their paces. For more info, pick up the latest issue or head online to: www.stuff.tv

This article has also been reproduced in Wanderlust's new photography magazine Take Better Travel Photos

You can purchase these cameras, equipment, gadgets and more from Jessops' online shop here

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