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Best mid-range DSLR

If you're shopping for a mid-range DSLR, you've come to the right place! At my sister-site Camera Labs I write in-depth reviews of cameras but understand you're busy people who sometimes just want recommendations of the most outstanding products.

So here I'll cut to the chase and list the bestmid-range DSLRs around right now, with links to my reviews.

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Gordon's favourite mid-range DSLR right now: Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D review


The market for mid-range cameras is always an exciting one, offering a step-up from budget models, but without the cost or complexity of true semi-pro bodies. There's some cracking options here whether you're shopping for a mirrorless camera or a traditional DSLR. Nikon's D5200 and D7100 are very strong contenders as are the higher-end Olympus PENs, but for me right now my personal favourite is the Canon EOS 70D.

The Canon EOS 70D is a mid-range DSLR featuring a 20.2 Megapixel APS-C sensor, Full HD video, a fully articulated touch-screen monitor, built-in Wifi and an innovative new 'Dual Pixel CMOS AF' system which delivers far superior continuous focusing during Live View and movies. It's the latter which has always plagued DSLRs, but by effectively switching any of the sensor pixels into confident phase-detect AF points and back again, Canon's nailed the solution. It's literally revolutionary if you use your DSLR for movies, but Canon's not neglected the traditional aspects, bringing it close to the semi-pro 7D and even surpassing it in some respects. So with the 70D you get a camera that takes great quality stills and movies. Compose with the viewfinder and you'll enjoy a fast AF system and quick burst shooting which makes it ideal for action or quick portrait and street shots. Switch to Live View and you'll enjoy a fully-articulated touch-screen and Single AF acquisition that's as good as the best mirrorless models. Start filming video and you'll benefit from the best continuous movie AF on the market. It's an easy camera to Highly Recommend.

Pros: Quality stills & movies; best C-AF for movies; Wifi; articulated touchscreen.
Cons: Live View AF is confident but slow. No built-in GPS. No miniature mode.
Overall: A powerful DSLR balancing traditional and modern features.

Highly recommended Alternatives

Nikon D7100 review


The D7100 is Nikon's latest upper mid-range DSLR aimed at enthusiasts. Slotting between the D7000 and full-frame D600, Nikon describes the D7100 as being the best that the DX-format can offer. It inherits the 100% viewfinder, 6fps shooting and twin SD card slots of the D7000, but increases the resolution to 24.1 Megapixels, boosts the AF system from 39 to 51-points, offers 1080p at 24, 25 and 30fps, boasts full weather-sealing and introduces a new 1.3x crop mode resulting in an overall field-reduction of two times at a resolution of 15.4 Megapixels and boosted speed of 7fps. It also becomes the company's second DSLR after the D800e to dispense with the low pass filter for sharper images. In my tests the images may not have been perceptively sharper than the D5200, but the D7100 offers so much more to the enthusiast photographer that it remains highly recommended. Just remember that you can essentially match the image quality with the D5200 and enjoy many of the same features with the D7000, both at a noticeably lower price - see below.

Pros: 24MP; weatherproof; 6fps; 100% viewfinder; Full HD; dual SD slots.
Cons: Screen doesn't flip-out; no Wifi or GPS built-in; no better quality than D5200.
Overall: A very capable mid-range DSLR even if the lack of OLPF has little impact.

Canon T4i / EOS 650D review


The Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D is the company's second latest upper entry level DSLR. It's the model prior to the T5i / 700D, but is almost identical in every regard. So with the T4i / 650D you get virtually the same feature-set as the new model, but at a lower price. You get 18 Megapixels, 1080p video and an articulated 3in/ 1040k screen.The screen is touch-enabled with smartphone style gestures, the 9-point AF system has been overhauled with cross-type sensors in all locations, while a new hybrid AF system embeds Phase Detect capabilities into the main sensor, allowing it to offer better continuous autofocusing in Live View and movies. Other specifications include 5fps shooting, multiple exposure modes along with the chance to buy it in a kit with lenses featuring Stepper Motor Technology for faster and quieter autofocus during video recording - an 18-135mm kit zoom and a new 40mm f2.8 pancake prime. A great choice for those looking for a decent step-up from a budget DSLR, but also consider Sony's SLTs if you're into action and continuous movie AF.

Pros: 3in articulated touch-screen. Best continuous movie AF from a traditional DSLR.
Cons: Basic 3-frame bracketing. Lacks the movie crop mode of T3i / 600D.
Overall: A solid step-up from budget DSLRs, but compare closely with Sony's SLTs.

Nikon D5200 review


The D5200 is Nikon's 'upper entry-level' DSLR from last year, replacing the best-selling D5100 and offering a step-up in features over the budget D3200 without the expense or complication of the D7100. The D5200 inherits the 24 Megapixel resolution of the D3200, but employs a new sensor which in our tests delivers excellent results. It offers 1080p video at 24, 25 and 30p with stereo audio recorded by built-in microphones or via an external jack. The screen remains side-hinged for compositional flexibility and the viewfinder now regains the on-demand grid lines absent from its predecessor, although sadly there's still no proximity sensors. Completeing the specs are 5fps continuous shooting, the same 39-point AF system of the D7000 and support for an optional Wifi module for wireless remote control with a compatible smartphone. It all adds up to a worthy rival for Canon's EOS T4i / 650D, and while there are still pros and cons to each, those who choose the D5200 will be impressed by its quality. Look out for bargains now that the D5300 has been announced.

Pros: Great quality; 1080p video with mic input; flip-out screen; optional Wifi.
Cons: C-AF in video distracting; no viewfinder proximity sensor or touchscreen.
Overall: A big step-up from budget models and one of the best Nikons for video.

Sony SLT A57


The Alpha SLT A57 is the mid-range model in Sony's innovative SLT range. SLT stands for Single Lens Translucent, and refers to their fixed internal mirrors which reflect a small portion of light to a fast AF system, while the majority passes through to the main sensor. The benefit is having the unique combination of fast and continuous AF like a DSLR, but with full-time Live Vie composition via a hinged screen or detailed electronic viewfinder. The fixed mirror also allows very quick burst shooting at 10fps, or 12fps in a crop mode. The main sensor delivers 16 megapixel images and can capture 1080p Full HD video with stereo sound, again with continuous tracking focus which DSLRs and even Compact System Cameras can only dream of. Sony's SLT cameras redefine what we can expect in this category for speed and focusing, especially for video.

Pros: 10fps shooting, fast and continuous AF for stills and video.
Cons: Optical DSLR viewfinder still preferable in low light or panning action.
Overall: A superb mid-range camera that's faster than most at this price.

Olympus E-PL5 review


The E-PL5 is the mid-range model in the Olympus PEN range. Like other PEN models, it's an CSC, based on the Micro Four Thirds format, which packs a large sensor into a small body. The E-PL5 employs the same 16 Megapixel sensor as the top-end OM-D E-M5 (see my semi-pro section), and this also means you get 1080p video. The continuous shooting isn't quite as fast, but is still impressive at 8fps. On the top is a hotshoe which supports flashes or an optional viewfinder, while round the back is a 16:9 touch-sensitive screen which tilts vertically for easy composition at unusual angles and can even flip round to face the subject. What really makes the Olympus PEN cameras stand out from the competition though is built-in stabilisation which works with any lens you attach. Couple all these features with great image quality straight out the box and you've got one of the best CSCs around. If money's tight, also consider the cheaper E-PM1 in the budget section, or look out for discounted options on its predecessor, the E-PL3.

Pros: Built-in stabilisation; great quality; 1080p movies; 8fps; tilting touch-screen.
Cons: 16:9 screen not iideal shape for shooting 4:3 photos.
Overall: Compelling features and quality make for a great CSC.

Sony NEX 5R


Sony's NEX-5R is the company's mid-range Compact System Camera (CSC), which packs a DSLR-sized sensor into a much more portable body. Like all NEX bodies, the 5R features nothing less than an APS-C sensor, which matches the size of those in most budget to mid-range DSLRs. The 5R's sensor sports 16 Megapixels and can also record 1080p movies. Sony's also squeezed-in a detailed 3in touch-screen which can tilt vertically for easier composition at unusual angles. Like most Sony cameras, the NEX-5R also boasts a wide array of innovative shooting modes which can stack multiple images to reduce noise, shake or generate spectacular panoramas. The neat focus-peaking guide greatly aids manual focusing in movies and there's also 10fps burst shooting. New to the 5R over its predecessor is built in Wifi which lets you upload images direct to Facebook or remote control the camera via a smartphone, and a bunch of quick and accurate phase detect AF points on the sensor to improve focusing accuracy. If you can live without the Wifi and AF enhancements though, look out for deals on its predecessor, the NEX 5N. See my Sony NEX 5N review for more details and check back soon for my 5R review!

Pros: Large APS-C sensor; tilting touch-screen; 1080p; Wifi; Phase Detect AF.
Cons: No hotshoe for third-party accessories.
Overall: One of the most feature-packed and best value CSCs.

Sony NEX 6 review


Sony's NEX 6 slots between the NEX 5R and the top-end NEX 7, and in many respects is a cross between them. Like all NEX models, it packs an APS-C sensor, but to avoid treading on the flagship's toes, Sony's fitted the NEX 6 with the same 16 Megapixel sensor as the 5R, leaving the NEX 7 to rule the roost with 24 Megapixels. But this does mean the NEX 6 enjoys the same on-chip phase-detect AF assistance as the 5R, compared to the 100% contrast-based NEX 7. Externally the NEX 6 greatly resembles the NEX 7, sharing its tilting screen, high resolution OLED viewfinder and popup flash, albeit not the magnesium alloy construction or mic input. And while it 'only' has two soft control dials, it does feature a first for the NEX system: a proper exposure mode dial, allowing you to switch between PASM and the auto modes with a simple twist. Like the NEX 7 there's a flash hotshoe, but joy-of-joys, it's a standard one making it easy to mount third-party accessories. And in one more trump over the NEX 7, it also boasts built-in Wifi which can push images to smartphones or direct to Facebook. Annoyingly the screen lacks the touch controls of the 5R, but for many the NEX 6 will be more tempting than the 7, especially bundled with the new 16-50mm Power Zoom lens. Are you sure you really need 24 Megapixels, a mic input and a non-plastic shell?

Pros: OLED viewfinder, tilting screen, standard hotshoe, Wifi, phase-detect AF.
Cons: Lacks the 24 Mpixels, mic input & tough build of the 7 and the touchscreen of the 5R.
Overall: If you're happy with 16 Mpixels and a plastic shell, it's arguably better than the NEX 7.

Canon EOS 60D review


Canon's EOS 60D is the predecessor to the latest 70D and lacks much of its sophistication, but remains a worthwhile choice if you instead think of it as a classy step-up from a budget DSLR. It shares the same 18 Megapixel resolution and HD movie modes as that the cheaper T3i / 600D, but features a larger, brighter penta-prism viewfinder, faster continuous shooting, a fully articulated screen, a more sensitive AF system, wireless flash control, an upper information screen, virtual horizon indicator, and much more. The body materials may be the same, but the EOS 60D feels better in your hands and much more like a semi-pro body, even without the ultimate toughness of magnesium alloy. An ideal step-up model without the cost, weight and complexity of a semi-pro DSLR.

Pros: Articulated screen; 5.3fps shooting; Full HD movies.
Cons: No continuous AF during movies; out-featured by D7000.
Overall: An ideal step-up model, especially for movie shooters.

Nikon D7000 review


Nikon's D7000 is the predecessor to the D7100, but remains a great choice at a lower price. It captures 16 Megapixel stills or 1080p video at 24fps. Continuous shooting is 6fps and the viewfinder coverage delivers a 100% view. There's a 39-point AF system, while the metering employs a 2016 pixel RGB sensor. Nikon's also toughened-up the D7000 by using magnesium alloy on the upper and rear plates, whereas most mid-range DSLRs are all plastic, and there are also dual SD memory card slots. It's an impressive spec which still stands comfortably against the newer D7100 above; indeed Nikon's kept it in the range as it remains a contender against current mid-range models, and represents great value at the discounted prices.

Pros: Tough; 6fps; 100% viewfinder; Full HD; dual SD slots.
Cons: Screen doesn't flip-out; movie AF indiscreet.
Overall: Semi-pro features at a very affordable price now the D7100 is available.

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