Top Five Beginner Digital SLRs

Buying Guides DSLR Featured

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Beginner Digital SLR

Sony Alpha SLT-A37 Digital SLR

At just $499 with a lens, the Sony Alpha SLT-A37 is the cheapest camera on this list. But that’s not the main reason it’s here. If you compare the features and specs you’ll see the A37 compares very well with more expensive cameras from Canon and Nikon. I also believe Sony’s SLT camera design is the future. Instead of a traditional mirror / pentaprism optical viewfinder, the SLT design has a transparent mirror and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). The transparent mirror allows Sony to offer faster burst speeds and better video auto focus performance than the competition. The EVF means you can use the viewfinder when you’re recording video – something no other digital SLR maker can offer. That adds a third point of contact while recording movies, helping steady the camera. With Sony’s excellent in-camera image stabilization and the EVF, you’ll be able to record smoother handheld video with the A37 than any other camera in this guide. Unless you’ve got your mind set on another brand of camera, Sony is my top recommendation to first-time DSLR buyers. They’ve got the most advanced camera design along with very competitive features and pricing, so if you’re buying your first digital SLR, Sony is your best investment.

  • Street Price: approximately $499 with 18-55mm kit lens
  • 16.1-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • 1920 x 1080 60i full HD AVCHD video with stereo sound
  • Sensitivity: ISO 100 to 16,000
  • Burst: 5.5 FPS or 7 FPS in Tele-zoom Cont. Adv. Priority AE mode (reduced resolution)
  • 1.4-million-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • 2.7-inch tilting LCD display
  • Built-in sensor-shift image stabilization

next cameraNikon D3200 >>


Sony Alpha SLT-A37
Alpha SLT-A37

Nikon D3200

Nikon D5100

Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D
EOS Rebel
T3i / 600D

Pentax K-30



About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Thien says:

    Olympus E-PL1 FTW!

  • Photo-John says:

    You like the E-PL1 huh, Thien? Do you think it’s an adequate DSLR replacement? I know you have a DSLR, too. How much do you use it now that you have the E-PL1?

  • derek says:

    Wish I could field test the Sony Alpha SLT-A33 to see how it performs against the A100 I’ve been using for the past three years. I had really good results with some minor peeves with the Alpha A100 and would like to see how the technology has improved up to this point.

  • Photo-John says:

    I’m really curious about the A33 image quality and performance, too. It’s quickly moving to the top of the list of cameras I’d like to review next. There’s no doubt that it’s better than the A100 since the A100 is over 4 years old now and Sony has been making some of the most innovative cameras on the market in the past couple of years.

  • chris says:

    @ derek,

    I compared it to my A550 and had to return the A33. Mine might be a fluke, but the A550 not only had better focus accuracy, but it never overheated. The A33 overheated after using it about 30 minutes in 75-80 degree weather, nothing extreme temperature wise. I would be afraid to use it in anything warmer. While the image size was the same, I had a 2 in 10 shot ratio of spot on focus compared to the A550. This may be ok for portraits, not good when needing to crop the image (where every pixel counts). Last straw was the auto focus during video recording. I found no way to control it for objects running across your focus path. If ANYTHING runs across it, the lens cycles to gain focus. There is no way to program the camera to allow a 1 second pause for light poles, children, or team-mate players that block the shot for a second. The overheat and non-controllable auto focus forced me to return to carrying a camera and video camcorder. Note: also, as a matter of prefference, the A33 never felt right in my hands due to it’s small size. Sony should have kept a traditional size camera and filled it with heat sinks or something. :)


  • Fivish says:

    I bought the top rated bridge camera of 2005. It was rubbish. Then I bought the Nikon D40 in 2008. WOW!!!
    Now I have been a Nikon man since 1975 with the Nikkormat FT2, Nikon F301, Nikon F601. But the D40 is brilliant.

  • sonny says:

    It is not about the camera. It is about the person using it. We’ve heard about that a million or so times. But the underrated Sony is way too efficient that users of traditional gear do not believe it since they haven’t tried it.

  • jason says:

    Olympus makes some great cameras.I think if I were to pick one for someone starting I would say go with the E-30 though, as it is an actual SLR. And since it has been out a while can be had for about the same as a newer pen.pick up the 14-54 2.8 and you have an amazing camera that will last you through the beginner stages and far beyond.a nice fair to have in a body its dual control knobs- one for aperture and one for shutter. It has a solid AF system as well. Compared to the rebel series and the entry level Nikos the quality its
    significantly higher as well.

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