It’s no secret that mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras are seriously challenging the once unassailable dominance of the DSLR. Since they don’t have a mirror box or flipping mirror, mirrorless cameras are generally more compact and mechanically simpler than DSLRs. And they can provide full-time autofocus even at the moment of exposure, along with impressive framing rates and responsiveness. Nevertheless, in terms of real-world performance, value and features, the compact DSLRs covered here are attractive propositions for many emerging and serious enthusiasts.
These portable cameras offer ergonomically contoured, well-balanced bodies, full feature sets at attractive prices and, of course, optical viewfinders that present a direct through-the-lens view of the world instead of an electronic (EVF) image taken off the image sensor.
A “real DSLR” also lets users mount any legacy lenses acquired for a previous DSLR, so long as they don’t switch brands—a good reason for “sticking with the system.” Finally, all the DSLRs here have high-res APS-C-format sensors capable of delivering high image quality while keeping the size, weight and cost of the body and lenses to manageable proportions. It’s little wonder that finely honed cameras like these have managed to maintain their market share in the face of stiff competition.
Here is a sampling of six compact DSLRs.
This newly announced, enthusiast-aimed DSLR provides top-of-the-line performance in a sleek, ergonomically contoured package. It incorporates many key features of the very successful Nikon D500 in an attractive monocoque, weather-resistant body. These features include the same 20.9 megapixel DX-format (APS-C) CMOS sensor, minus the optical low-pass filter to enhance resolution. Moreover, it’s integrated with an advanced Expeed 5 image processor. The D7500 has an 8-frames-per-sec, full-res burst rate with full AE (autoexposure) and AF (autofocus) for up to 50 14-bit lossless, compressed RAW frames. In addition, a native sensitivity range of ISO 100–51,200 is expandable to ISO 1,640,000 for low-light performance.
Robust multimedia specs include 4K UHD (3,840×2,160) video capture at 30/25/24 fps as well as a 4K UHD time-lapse movie function. Its impressive still and video capabilities are enhanced with a 51-point, 15-cross-field-sensor AF system with outstanding speed and accuracy. The DSLR also provides a slim-line, tilting, 3.2-inch, 922K-dot touch-screen LCD. Also, a convenient new auto picture control system provides pro-grade creative tools. Other advanced features include built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for instant image transfer and remote shooting, along with the same 180K-pixel, RGB sensor as the D500 to detect faces and improve AF performance, especially when shooting high-speed sequences. The exciting Nikon D7500 is slated for summer delivery. It measures 5.4×4.1×2.9 inches and weighs 22.6 ounces. With AF-S DX Nikkor 18–140mm f/3.5–5.6G ED VR lens, $1,749.95. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS Rebel SL1
Canon’s littlest Rebel is an entry-level true DSLR that combines an elegantly petite form factor with many of the features found on higher level, broad-spectrum models. These include an 18MP, APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to a Digic 5 image processor. The ultra-portable SL1 delivers Full HD video capture at 30/25/24 fps as well as HD recording. Its movie servo AF function allows continuous autofocus tracking of moving subjects while recording video.
ISO settings for still images span from 100 to 12,800 and are expandable to 25,600 (ISO 100–12,800 for video). It also offers a 4-fps, full-res continuous burst rate and a 9-point, hybrid AF system with contrast- and phase-detection sensors as well as a high-precision central cross sensor. Other features include: a 3-inch, 1,040K-dot, touch-screen LCD with touch AF operation; a 0.87x optical viewfinder; scene intelligent auto mode; seven creative filters; and effect shot mode that captures two images of the scene, one with and one without the special effect. Another bonus, is a background simulation function that makes it easy to achieve dramatic blurred or sharpened backgrounds, both of which can be previewed on the LCD. The SL1’s body measures 4.6×3.6×2.7 inches and weighs a mere 13 ounces! With Canon EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens, $499.99. usa.canon.com
This handsome, ergonomically designed, compact DSLR delivers many upper tier Pentax features at an enticingly moderate price. These include a 24MP, APS-C-format, AA filter-less CMOS image sensor integrated with a Prime MII image-processing engine. They are optimized for Full HD 1080i video capture at 60 fps with continuous AF and 4K interval recording. Sensitivity settings range from ISO 100 to 102,400, and there is also a full-res, continuous burst rate of 6 fps.
Its advanced hybrid SAFOX X 11-point AF system uses 9 cross-type sensors and works with 77-segment metering. Other key features include: a 3-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle LCD with a night vision function; a bright, 100%-view optical pentaprism viewfinder; an in-camera, sensor-shift shake reduction system; pixel shift resolution mode; custom image modes as well as filters; an antialiasing filter simulator for moiré reduction; and built-in Wi-Fi. It’s all built into a robust weather-sealed body that measures 4.9×3.7×2.9 inches and weighs 22 ounces. In black or silver with Pentax-DA 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 ED AL DC WR lens, $899.95. ricohimaging.com
A thoughtfully upgraded successor to the much-admired D3200, this popular, versatile DX-format DSLR has a 24.2MP CMOS sensor coupled to an Expeed 4 image processor. They deliver high-res images, impressive low-noise performance in low light with sensitivity settings of 100–12,800 that are expandable to ISO 25,600, and excellent responsiveness. The D3300 provides a maximum burst rate of 5 fps and Full HD 1080p video capture at 60/50/30/25/24 fps.
Other key features include: an 11-point AF system with a Multi-CAM 1000 AF sensor for quick, accurate focusing; a 3-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle, wide-view LCD; a penta-mirror optical viewfinder; active D-lighting for enhanced shadow and highlight control; and six selectable scene modes plus scene auto selector mode. Picture control settings allow in-camera adjustments of color and brightness. The D3300 works with the optional WU-1a wireless mobile adapter to provide Wi-Fi connectivity. The camera measures 4.9×3.9×3 inches and weighs 14.5 ounces. In black, gray or red with AF-S DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.55.6G VR II lens, $449.95. nikonusa.com
Canon EOS Rebel T6i & T6s
These stylish new Rebels represent a significant advancement for Canon’s popular, compact entry-level series. They’ve been upgraded with a 24.2MP, APS-C-size CMOS sensor coupled to a state-of-the-art Digic 6 image processor. They also incorporate a new Hybrid CMOS III AF system with 19 cross-type AF sensors for faster, more accurate autofocus with action subjects during movie shooting and live view. And a top native ISO setting of 12,800 can be expanded to ISO 25,600. Other features include: a 3-inch, vari-angle, 1,040K-dot touch-screen LCD; a .82x magnification viewfinder; a maximum full-res burst rate of 5 fps; Full HD 1080p video capture at 30/25/24 fps; an updated advanced scene analysis system; and a range of creative filters.
Aimed at more advanced photographers, the Rebel T6s model is the first Rebel to feature a top LCD panel, a built-in electronic level, a quick control dial and also servo AF in live view for continuous tracking of moving subjects. Like the T6i, the Rebel T6s provides built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC, enabling fast connection to mobile devices for sharing and remote operation as well as to the CS100 Connect Station. They measure 5.2×4.0x3.1 and weigh 20 ounces. T6i with Canon EF-S 18–135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, $649.99; T6s with Canon EF-S 18–135mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens, $1,049. usa.canon.com
This cool, rugged-looking compact DSLR employs a 20.1MP, APS-C-format, AA filter-less CMOS sensor. It’s paired with Pentax’s upgraded Prime MII image processor to deliver a maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 51,200, a maximum shutter speed of 1/6,000 sec and an impressive top continuous burst rate of 5.4 fps. Advanced features include a bright pentaprism viewfinder with 100% coverage; a swiveling, swing-out, 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor; built-in sensor-shift image stabilization; as well as advanced HDR and clarity enhancement modes.
Other features include: an AA filter simulator; 4K interval movie capture; Full HD 1080p video at 30/25/24 fps; an 11-point SAFOX X AF system with 9 cross-type sensors; and also a 77-segment metering system. The K-S2 accepts Eyefi and Flu SD cards and also offers built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC along with Micro USB and Micro HDMI output terminals. With 100 weather seals, the K-S2’s weather-resistant body measures 4.8×3.6×2.6 inches and weighs 22 ounces. In black or white with water-resistant Pentax-DA L 18–50mm f/4.0–5.6 DC WR RE lens, $599.95. ricohimaging.com