There's more choice than ever when it comes to buying a digital SLR. Here we've round up the best cameras available, with some tips to help you buy the right camera.
An SLR gives you a whole array of shooting options at your fingertips, including manual control and the ability to change lenses and add accessories like external flashes as you need. If you're looking for more information on photography or what SLR to buy, make sure to check out our digital camera basics, or our digital SLR super guide.
Do you have a particular price point in mind? Under AU$1000 is a common target, which mostly limits your choices to the entry-level models in each manufacturer's range — such as the Canon EOS 1100D or the Nikon D3100. You can also hunt around for some bargains whenever a new model is announced.
With a bit more to spend, you can get a camera with more features; that way, as your skills progress, the camera can grow with you.
It's rare to find a digital SLR that doesn't come with some sort of HD video-recording mode these days, either at 720p or full 1080p. For videographers and those looking for the most control, try a camera with full manual exposure controls in video mode, such as the Canon 650D.
Some digital SLRs come with an articulating LCD screen, and all SLRs listed here come with Live View, which allows you to compose an image on-screen rather than looking through the viewfinder. Other features that you might want to look at include a touchscreen, which more closely simulates the experience from a mobile phone or tablet. Touchscreens let you touch to focus and touch to take a photo, as well as pinch to zoom and swipe through photos in playback mode.
Need to take photos of fast-moving kids, pets or sports? Consider an SLR with fast continuous shooting speed in the region of 4 or 5 frames per second (fps). You can find all of these details on each review page, with comparisons of camera features and performance times.
Batteries and weight
Most of the digital SLRs listed below come with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but for AA battery compatibility, you will be limited to a number of models in the Pentax range. You may also want to invest in a dedicated battery grip (pictured to the right) for your camera, which holds extra battery charge and attaches to the SLR to provide a larger grip area, as well.
If you're looking for a lightweight camera, the Sony A37 and Canon 1100D are the most feather-like options here, weighing in at 448 grams and 459 grams, respectively (body only).
Interchangeable lens cameras
Not quite ready for the bulk and complexity of a digital SLR? You may want to consider an interchangeable lens camera (ILC). These are small cameras designed specifically for those people who are stepping up from a compact camera, and feature interchangeable lenses just like an SLR — sans bulk. All of the major manufacturers produce these sorts of cameras. You can find a list of our favourite ILC cameras here.
All cameras listed in our round-up come in a kit configuration, with one or two lenses to get you started. Remember to be aware that each company uses different lens mounts: Olympus bodies have the advantage of being compatible with the Four Thirds system; Nikon uses the F-mount, which means that you can use most old lenses, even 50-year-old ones, from the company (though autofocus and metering may be unavailable); and Sony is compatible with some old Konica Minolta lenses.
One of the most popular requests from people investing in their first SLR is to be able to take photos with a sharp foreground and blurred background. This shallow depth-of-field effect can be achieved by choosing a lens with a wide maximum aperture (small f/stop number), such as a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8 lens. To read up on depth of field and aperture, check out our guide to exposure. We also have a lens buying guide that's got the low-down on just about every type of lens available.
Now that you've made the decision on which camera body to get, consider the little extras that will make your photography life so much better. A tripod is a must for those who like shooting landscapes and long exposures, while an external flash or strobe is perfect for those who want to learn how to use off-camera light. Filters are a perfect way to add a bit of extra flexibility to your existing lens without investing in new glass; try a Neutral Density (ND) filter or circular polariser for some dramatic effects.
Finally, make sure that you are constantly learning and challenging yourself as a photographer. For inspiration, check out our monthly Exposure and Exposure Pro features, and share your shots with us on Flickr.
Still stuck on which camera to get? Post your comments below, and we'll do our best to help.