In our recent update to our camera ratings, you'll find three recommended advanced cameras for just $450: Nikon D3100, Sony NEX-3NL and Pentax MX-1. I found two things that are striking about this.
Each is a different type of advanced camera: one is an SLR (Nikon D3100, $405; Yahoo! Shopping), the next is an SLR-like (Sony NEX-3NL, $449; Yahoo! Shopping), and the third is an advanced point-and-shoot (Pentax MX-1, $447; Yahoo! Shopping).
Not long ago, you'd often have to pay $1000 or more for an advanced model. (That's still the case for some models, such as the Nikon D7100, $1155; Yahoo! Shopping.)
So, when it comes to buying a budget advanced camera, what's the difference between types? How much does $450 get you?
If you're looking for the most feature-filled camera, which includes more dials, buttons and controls, you'll want the D3100. It includes a through-the-lens viewfinder, which can be very helpful when shooting in bright light. It also uses interchangeable lenses, which you can change at will. Plus, unlike the other two models, the D3100 has a hot shoe that lets you attach an external flash for better flash shots. (Most advanced models, though, do include hot shoes.) One down side: The D3100 is heavier and bigger than the other two.
(See also: Unboxing the $99 OUYA video game console)
If you're looking for a more lightweight interchangeable lens camera, consider the Sony NEX-3NL. Like the D3100, it shoots very good quality stills. It also includes some unique features, including an auto framing mode, which analyzes a subject, crops it, and then resaves the image to automatically create a more pleasing composition. Another nice feature is its swiveling LCD, which has very good quality.
If you never intend to change your lens, you should consider the Pentax MX-1. You might also like the retro look of its body, a throwback to the film era of cameras. But it's a very capable digital camera that shoots good quality stills and very good quality video.
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