Best DSLR for beginners: 6 tested

Entry-level cameras and the best DSLR on a tight budget

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

Canon EOS 1100D - £390

While most of Canon's current range of DSLRs are class-leaders in image resolution, the Canon EOS 1100D has a relatively low-res 12.2MP sensor. It also has a comparatively small 2.7-inch LCD, which is also pretty low-res at 230k pixels. The theme continues with movie capture, which is limited to 720p rather than the Full HD 1080p that's featured on Nikon's similarly priced D3100.

In other areas, there's some serious technology packed into the 1100D's lightweight body. Canon's latest iFCL (intelligent Focus Colour Luminance) exposure metering system puts it on a par with advanced bodies such as the Canon EOS 60D and EOS 7D, while it matches the EOS 600D in its nine-point autofocus system, both of which are accurate and effective. You also get the DIGIC 4 image processor, which enables raw files to be saved as 14-bit files.

Performance

Handling is a mixed bag. On the plus side, there are plenty of direct-access controls to important shooting parameters. The Quick Control menu is also well-implemented, enabling you to get at a wider range of shooting options via an intuitive menu on the LCD. The downside is that the body lacks any textured grip areas and feels a bit slippery in the hand.

Canon's range of 'Basic Zone' shooting modes includes portrait, landscape, close-up, sports and night portrait. A new Basic+ system gives you more control over these modes, with 'ambience' adjustments such as Warm, Soft and Intense.

Despite its limited resolution, image quality is very good. It's on a par with the 600D in terms of colour rendition, contrast and dynamic range, while noise is well-controlled.

Outdoor image test

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

Colour is very natural, and there's plenty of detail in shadows and highlights, but contrast can sometimes be a little lacking.

Resolution test

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

ISO 200

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

ISO 200 at 100%

The Canon EOS 1100D can't match some cameras in the group when it came to resolving fine detail, with a noticeable lower resolution.

Noise

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

ISO 200

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

ISO 200 at 100%

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

ISO 3200 at 100%

An upside of the Canon EOS 1100D's modest 12.2MP resolution is that image noise is quite minimal, even at high sensitivity settings.

Colour error

Best starter dslrs  6 tested

Unlike in the raw files, JPEG colour rendition is accurate, with life-like saturation, especially when shooting in the Standard picture style.

Image test verdict

The Canon EOS 1100D performs very well in most areas of image quality, having natural colour rendition, good dynamic range and low image noise at high ISOs.

Read our full Canon EOS 1100D review