The Best Digital SLR of 2007

Selecting the best digital SLR of 2007 was pretty easy for me, and one thing's for sure - there are many who will disagree with my choice.

Before I tell you which camera I've selected, or talk about it in further detail, let me explain my criteria for selecting the best digital SLR camera of the year.

It boils down to one simple principle: value for money.

The cameras that I select in the "best annual" category are not necessarily the most powerful cameras available. They are the ones that offer a great number of features to photographers who aren't pros but would still like to capture great-looking photos.

OK, disclaimer time is over - which camera did I select as the best digital SLR of 2007?

Let's find out.

The Contenders

Here's an overview of all the digital SLRs released in 2007, so you know which cameras were considered.

Samsung GX-10January10.2
Nikon D40xApril10.2
Olympus E-410June10
Olympus E-510July10
Pentax K100D SuperAugust6.1
Canon 40DSeptember10.1
Sony DSLR-A700November12.2
Nikon D300November12.3
Olympus E-3November10.1
Panasonic DMC-L10December10.1

And The Winner Is...

My pick for the best digital SLR of 2007 is the Olympus E-510.

The E-510 was the first digital SLR camera to market to include what I call the digital SLR "trifecta" of features: dust control, a live view LCD screen and built-in image stabilization.

Even now at the end of the year, the only other camera to include all three is ALSO an Olympus: the pro-grade E-3.

Many other digital SLRs include two of these features (typically dust control and a live view LCD) but no others have got it all.

Quick Feature Run-Down

Here's a quick overview of the main features on the Olympus E-510. If you'd like the full rundown, you can read the complete Olympus E-510 Guide.

Built-in Image Stabilization Image stabilization combats blur that can occur when the camera shakes (because you're holding it in your hands). Built-in image stabilization works with every lens you can attach to the camera (as compared to lens-based stabilization which is limited to certain lenses).
Dust Control Oympus pioneered the dust control system in their digital SLRs - this prevents dust from sticking to the camera's sensor when you change lenses. Dust particles appear as black smudges in digital photos.
Live View LCD Olympus also pioneered the live view LCD - allowing SLR users to compose photos using the camera's LCD, just like they can with any compact digital camera. With a non-live-view SLR, you must compose all your photos by looking through the viewfinder.
Fast 3-point Autofocus It's easy to assume that the NUMBER of autofocus points is an important feature, but what's more critical is the SPEED: how fast the autofocus system is able to lock on. Even though it only has 3 points, the AF system in the E-510 is extremely fast and reliable.

Video Tour

This quick 7-minute video introduces you to some of the main features on the Olympus E-510.


Comparative Analysis

I've told you which camera I think is the best digital SLR of 2007 - now let me justify my choice.

Compared to its sibling, the Olympus E-410, the choice is a simple one, since the E-410 doesn't include the immensly useful image stabilization feature. While the E-410 is the most compact and lightweight SLR you can buy, the addition of IS makes the E-510 more versatile.

It's pretty easy to compare the E-510 to the Samsung GX-10, Nikon D40x and the Pentax K100D Super - just take a look at the extra features:

CameraStabilizationDust ControlLive View LCD
Nikon D40x   
Olympus E-510XXX
Pentax K100D SuperXX 
Samsung GX-10XX 

The fact that the E-510 includes all three "extra" features means that this SLR can take photos that the others can't. For example, I use the viewfinder to compose my photos 90% of the time when I'm using an SLR camera - it's what I'm used to.

However, when I was using the E-510 I found myself leveraging the live view mode to capture shots that would not have been possible otherwise: photos where my primary subject was at an odd angle or low to the ground.

When I use a camera without it, I make do - but when the feature is available, it's there to be leveraged for those few shots where you really need it.

The Big Guns

Toward the end of 2007, virtually every major camera manufacturer - with the exception of Pentax and Samsung - released a new pro-sumer camera (Canon 40D, Nikon D300, Olympus E-3, Panasonic DMC-L10, Sony DSLR-A700).

Pro-sumer cameras are geared toward advanced amateur photographers who take a lot of photos in manual mode and demand a lot of features from their digital SLRs, and professional working photographers who don't want to spend the money on a true pro-level camera (which cost upwards of $3,000 WITHOUT a lens).

Every single one of these cameras is packed with features and is designed for rigorous use and challenging shooting conditions (i.e. football games in torrential downpours).

So why didn't I select one of these powerful cameras as the best digital SLR of 2007?

The answer is quite simple: price. Because of the features that they offer, many of these cameras cost well above $1,000 for the camera body alone. Add a nice lens - which you should - and you're looking at about $2,500 for your new camera.

By contrast, you can get an Olympus E-510 with two lenses for approximately $700.

Furthermore, if you're NOT a professional or semi-professional photographer, then you probably won't leverage the power, speed and performance of these advanced cameras enough to justify the additional price.

The low price might seem like a dead giveaway that the E-510 doesn't capture the highest quality images: not true.

The E-510 with its two-lens kit produced some of the best 10 megapixel digital images of any camera that I've the opportunity to review.

You be the judge: the three photos below were taken with a Canon Rebel xTi, Nikon D80 and Olympus E-510. You can click on each one to view a full-size version of the image and compare the quality yourself.

More Olympus E-510 photo samples can also be found here.

canon xti sample
Canon Rebel xTiNikon D80Olympus E-510

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