Best value beginner DSLR camera 2009

by Enche Tjin on September 23, 2009

This year, beginner DSLR camera do not evolved much in term of image resolution and new features. Except Canon which increase the megapixel count from 12 (Canon XSi / 450D) to 15 MP, other manufacturers stay with 10-12 MP resolution.

Many new features are inherited from more advanced camera. These include movie recording mode. So far, there are three beginners digital SLR cameras that able to record movie: Canon T1i / 500D, Nikon D5000 and Pentax k-x. Although this movie mode implementation is not excellent and not user friendly, but the ability to change lenses and ability to shoot decent video in low light situation are great advantage over consumer camcorder.

Here is a comparison table of best beginner DSLR camera 2009 candidates

Name MP fps LCD MV LV Price ISO Note
Canon T1i / 500D 15 3.4 3″ hi res Y Y $720 12800 record 1080p @ 20fps
Nikon D5000 12 4 3″ swivel Y Y $650 6400 no AF motor
Nikon D3000 10 3 3″ Y N $465 3200 no AF motor
Olympus E-620 12 3.4 2.7″ swivel N Y $650 3200 compact, 4/3 sensor
Sony A230 10 2.5 2.7″ N N $500 3200
Sony A330 10 2.5 2.7″ tilt N Y $600 3200 fast AF in live view
Sony A380 14 2.5 2.7″ tilt N Y $800 3200 fast AF in live view
Pentax K-x 12 4.7 2.7″ Y Y $550 12800 compact, hdr, no AF indicator light in viewfinder

And the best value DSLR camera for 2009 are:

1. Pentax K-x Price: $550

Pentax_KxAlthough it is not released to the public yet, Pentax K-X is the best value DSLR camera 2009 on the paper. It has advanced features of higher end DSLR camera, but it is significantly cheaper than beginner digital SLR cameras. It features 12 megapixel, 4.7 fps continuous burst and wide ISO range up to 12800 (Because physical limitation, I believe that ISO 1600 – 3200 will be the limit of acceptable images).

It also has a very compact DSLR camera body, built-in image stabilization, movie recording mode, and auto HDR (high dynamic range). Pentax k-x is surely a small camera that have a lot of potential inside it. The nice thing is it comes with several alternative colors such as red, white, and navy blue.

It does has a downside. There is no auto focus light indicator in the viewfinder (the indicator will be in the lcd screen), and smaller camera body might be not comfortable for user that has big hand.

One thing that unique about K-X, like other Pentax beginner cameras is the use of four AA batteries instead of rechargeable lithium battery. Pentax claims that four AA lithium batteries will be able to power the camera up to 1900 shots (based on CIPA Standard), which is very impressive. This could be an advantage but can also be disadvantage. For example, AA batteries are universally available and cheaper, but it might not be very reliable.

2. Canon T1i / 500D Price: $720

T1i is the most expensive beginner DSLR cameras up to date, but it is also very high in performance. It has 15 megapixel sensor, ISO sensitivities up to 12800 (producing acceptable images up to ISO 3200). It has movie recording mode and able to record full HD 1028 but only at 20 fps. Canon T1i LCD screen is also the best of the bunch, 3″ with 910k resolution. Various reviews also state that Canon T1i has a very fast auto focus system either in bright light or dim light condition.

Perhaps, the most important feature that Canon T1i has is the compatibility to all Canon EOS lenses from very cheap model (50mm f/1.8 which is under $100 until the super telephoto pro grade lenses). Canon has a wide collection of high-end lenses with a reasonable price.

For beginners who does not interested in movie recording mode, then I will suggest to get Canon EOS XSi / 450D. It is $200 cheaper, but you will lose some features such as 15 mp, hi res lcd screen, wide ISO range up to 12800 and movie mode.

3. Nikon D5000 Price: $650

Nikon D5000 has the same sensor as the higher end cameras such as Nikon D90, so it has nice looking and relatively clean images in high ISO setting (1600-3200). Nikon D5000 has swivel LCD screen to support the movie recording mode.

At a glance, this camera seems to be a better value compared to Canon T1i because it is cheaper than Canon T1i, but Nikon D5000 has a major downside. It does not have built-in AF motor in camera body. Therefore, the camera is not compatible with many older lenses Nikon produces, especially prime/fixed focal length. The new lenses with built-in motor such as Nikon 35mm f/1.8 and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G are not very cheap either. However you will still able to mount the lens and focus it manually.

4. Sony A230 Price: $450

Sony A230 is the cheapest beginner DSLR camera released in 2009. A230 is a very basic photography camera without any gimmicky features. A230 features are pretty much the same as older A200 model, but the the body design has been changed significantly. It looks more modern and stylish, but many users reports that the cameras are not very comfortable to hold.  A230 features built-in image stabilization but there is no live view or movie recording mode.

5. Nikon D3000 Price: $465

Nikon D3000 is an improved version of Nikon D60. It adds a guide mode, 11 auto focus points, and a larger LCD screen. But it still does not have live view and buit in AF motor. Therefore, like D5000, you can’t auto focus when using older Nikon AF lenses.

Thanks to guide mode, operating Nikon D3000 become very easy and simple for beginners. You might pick up some interesting insights too. The kit lens is quite good for casual shooting from landscape to close up. [Read D3000 Full Review]

6. Olympus E-620 Price $650

Unlike the other DSLR cameras, Olympus use four third sensor which is smaller than regular digital SLR camera. This has a good and a bad implication. The good side Olympus is able to make the camera and lens smaller and lighter, but the bad side is performance in high ISO. E-620 image is good up to ISO 800, a stop lower than most APS-C digital SLR cameras. The other disadvantage lies in Olympus lens collection. Because Olympus DSLR camera has small bayonet mount, Olympus does not have big aperture lenses such as f/1.2 or f/1.4 (except Sigma 30mm and 50mm f/1.4 HSM). However, other than compact body, E-620 still has some good selling points such as swivel LCD, better than average kit lens and back-lit buttons.

7. Sony A330 and A380 Price: $600 – $800

Sony A330 design is similar to Sony A230. It has more advanced feature such as live view mode. Unlike other DSLR, Sony A330 and A380 has two sensors. This additional sensor is built to enable faster auto focus in live view mode. Therefore, you might consider this camera if you love composing picture using LCD screen. To exploit live view feature, Sony A330 and A380 has tilt-able LCD screen. A330 and A380 weaknesses include poorer noise control, uncomfortable grip, relatively expensive price per features ratio.


Competition between manufacturers are very tight in 2009 especially in beginner DSLR cameras. Many of the new cameras has been only slightly improved from its predecessors so you might find unnecessary to upgrade. The biggest improvement might be the addition of movie mode in DSLR cameras. Many still photographers do not like it because it drives the price up, but for amateur videographer or multimedia designers, this might be a dream product.

However if you are looking a solid camera for still photography, then you might look at last year models, They might be cheaper so that you can invest more on lenses. Check link below for last year beginner and enthusiasts DSLR cameras.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

tanya25m September 29, 2009 at 7:05 am

Thanks for this post!! Was very helpful… Had been looking for a comparison like this and, to my delight, came across your blog.

henrychiah November 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm

very help list .. .thx pal.

Tariq November 13, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Just bought the K-x (had the K100D before). Love the camera, the low light performance is just amazing and the images upto ISO 3200 are very good. The video is an added bonus. Most recommended for anyone who is in the market for a decent DSLR

Steven November 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

If you want, and I have time, I’d be happy to help you with the English.
You regularly neglect to pluralize, and leave out the word “the”. It’s no problem at all. Just let me know. I did offer before.
Thanks for the useful and thorough reviews, nonetheless. They have been very helpful for me.

admin November 23, 2009 at 11:59 am

Thanks Steven, yes I definitely need help.

~බිன்ku~ December 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Pentax k-x, Sony A500, Olympus E-620 are Most Recommend dSLR Cameras for Beginners who wants to go though. Not only because of Bodies are chaper (that means you will have more money to buy Lens), but also they are supporting many lens than Nikon and Canon do. IS is pretty good for beginners.

guest December 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm


I came upon this site looking for info on different beginner cameras. Although I think you are trying to help, I think telling someone on their site that they need help with grammer and spelling is a bit over the top. Would have been much more appropriate to offer it privately. That said I thought the info was very good.

Kunaal February 8, 2010 at 10:23 am

very informative…
good notification..

Rick June 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Ohhh what a dilema..!!!

Nikon D5000 or Pentax K-x. ????

I really cannot make a decision…. please help me.

(Excelent post..!!!)

Enche Tjin June 6, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Hahaha if you have extra budget go for Nikon D5000.

buy kitchen scale June 18, 2011 at 10:18 am

I’m going to show my wife this later, she will enjoy it

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