By Robert Correll

Part of Digital SLR Photography All-in-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Not all digital SLRs are the same. It helps to organize them into broad categories based on features and prices. This is how they are designed and built, anyway. Manufacturers target specific audiences with each camera they produce. Knowing this helps you compare apples to apples when shopping or studying a camera’s capabilities.

  • Consumer-level: These cameras are for beginners or those with a limited budget. Prices are under $1,000, give or take. While they can take great photos, entry-level models at the low end of the consumer spectrum have limited features and capabilities compared to the rest. More expensive cameras in this category feature better performance and features than the bare-bones models.

    Don’t ever be embarrassed at having a consumer or entry-level dSLR. Even the least expensive dSLR is a far, far more capable camera than a compact digital camera or smartphone. The best way to get more out of a consumer-level dSLR is to upgrade your lens.

  • Mid-range: These cameras are for the amateur who really means business, or the professional who needs something smaller, lighter, and less expensive than a top-tier camera. They range in price from between $1,000 and $1,500. Manufacturers begin adding pro-level features such as better autofocus, metering, and flash options.
  • Professional: dSLRs that range from between $1,500 and $2,500 are considered professional cameras. They are designed to operate professionally, but may have performance limitations and form factor compromises that keep them affordable. All the same, they are larger than the mid-range cameras, weigh more, use more magnesium alloy (for strength and durability), and have many more features. High-end professional dSLRs can run anywhere from $2,500 to $7,000 or more. They weigh more, are more durable, have the best sensors, image processors, autofocus, metering, and ISO performance (just to name a few things) than other dSLRs. They represent the pinnacle of digital SLR photography.