There is a Nikon digital SLR camera for every level of photographer: from basic beginner to full-time professional.
Nikon has a long and storied history dating all the way back to 1917. The company began when three Japanese optical companies joined forces.
I place the emphasis on the word optical, because this is what Nikon is renowned for: while they have created a long line of memorable cameras, the lenses that they produce are exceptional.
Nikon's main competitor in the digital SLR market is Canon, and these two companies are constantly trying to out-do each other in terms of the capability of their cameras.
For every Nikon digital SLR that you see below, there is competing model from Canon and vice versa. There's nothing like constant competition to keep a company on its toes.
While all of the Nikon digital SLR cameras capture images with exceptional color and detail, there are several distinct levels of performance.
Which one is the best Nikon digital SLR for you?
A lot depends on the speed of your subject matter. As you step up through the levels, the cameras become more and more responsive.
If you're not terribly passionate about photographing dirt bikes and race cars, then you'll be perfectly happy with one of the entry-level cameras.
If the subject matter of your photos is in constant motion OR you'd like to eventually earn some money from your photo hobby, then consider buying a more advanced camera, but make sure that you learn how to use it.
Release Date: March 2013
OVERVIEW: 24 megapixels, 51 point autofocus, 6 photos per second, 1.3x crop mode, 3.2 inch LCD screen, Full High Definition video, ISO up to 25600.
If it's your goal in life to capture the ultimate
action/sports moment, then the D7100 is the DSLR to do it. Its 51 autofocus points cover the viewfinder so that no matter
where your subject goes, focus is sharp. You can fire in bursts of 6 photos per second, capturing
peak moments. You can also leverage 1.3x crop
mode, which extends the telephoto zoom of any lens you attach to
the camera. Now you can capture action in the middle of the field even if you're stuck on the sidelines.
Release Date: January 2013
OVERVIEW: 24 megapixels, 39 point autofocus, flexible 3 inch LCD screen, Full High Definition video, ISO up to 25600.
The main reason to consider a D5200 over the D5100 (see below) is the substantial 24 megapixels sensor (increased from 16) and the 39-point autofocus (increased from 11). The higher megapixel count will let you print at larger sizes and will let you crop aggressively. The increased focus points will help ensure that active subjects are in focus even when they're off-center. If you're not sure how you could take advantage of these features then you might be better off with the less expensive D5100.
Release Date: September 2012
OVERVIEW: Full frame, 24 megapixels, 39 point autofocus, Full High Definition video, ISO up to 25600.
Want to capture images at the highest quality possible? Then the full-frame D600 may be just what you need. This is especially true if you want to take lots of photos in low-light conditions. If you're not interested in stills but instead want to make the next great independent film, then you leverage the Full HD 1080p, custom frame rates and headphone input. With a 39-point autofocus and a max speed of 5 photos per second, the D600 is ready to capture just about any subject you put in front of it.
Release Date: April 2012
QUICK OVERVIEW: 24 megapixels, 4 photos per second, wide ISO range, Full High Definition video, wireless compatible.
The Nikon D3200 is part of Nikon's entry-level line of digital SLR cameras. However, its full feature set makes it far from "basic": with a large 24.2 megapixel sensor and compatibility with all Nikon F-mount lenses, the D3200 will be able to capture a wide range of photographic subjects. The body is available in both black and cherry red.
Release Date: March 2012
QUICK OVERVIEW: Full frame, 36 megapixels, 51 point autofocus, Full High Definition video, ISO up to 25600, advanced light metering.
The D800 includes a massive full-frame 36.3 megapixel sensor. Aimed at professional photographers and videographers, the camera also includes a 51-point autofocus, Full HD video (with manual exposure and audio control) and a sophisticated metering system designed to capture accurate exposures in all kinds of lighting conditions.
Release Date: April 2011
QUICK OVERVIEW: 16.3 megapixels, Full High Definition video, flexible 3 inch LCD screen, creative image filters.
The D5100 sits right between the beginner and advanced Nikon digital SLR cameras. You can shoot pictures at a rate of 4 per second
and Full High Definition 1080p video. A new filter option lets
you apply effects to your images and movies without needing a computer. Beginners can leverage the camera's AUTO modes, while more advanced photographers can take full control of shutter speed, aperture, ISO and white balance. My favorite feature is the flexible LCD screen, which makes it much easier to shoot video and photos from high and low angles.
Release Date: October 2010
QUICK OVERVIEW: 16.3 megapixels, 6 photos per second, Full High Definition video, metal body, ISO up to 25600.
The Nikon D7000 is a mashup between Nikon's pro cameras and their high-end cameras for advanced amateurs. It builds on the feature set of the Nikon D90, offering a Full High Definition 1080p movie mode (activated via a single button the camera's back), a 39-point autofocus system, and the ability to capture 6 photos per second at a max shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. The D7000 also borrows something else less obvious from the pro cameras: the body is made of magnesium alloy (metal) which lends it a heavy, solid, durable feeling.
|The ultra-simple Nikon D3000 is designed for anyone who wants to take better pictures but is intimidated by the number of features available on digital SLRs. It lacks the video capture feature and flexible LCD available on the more robust D5000, but still has dust control and the 11-point autofocus. A "guide" mode makes changing camera settings easier for beginners.
|The D300s takes all that was good about the D300 - dust control, live view, ultra-fast continuous speed, superb image quality at high ISO - and throws on a big extra feature: now you can capture HD video too. Movie enthusiasts will be happy to hear two things: there'a plug for an external stereo microphone and autofocus can be used during video capture.
|If you took a Nikon D60 and smashed it together with a D90 this is the camera you'd get. Sporting all the features of the popular D60, the D5000 throws in a few extras: the ability to record High Definition video, a live view LCD screen that flips out from the camera body (for high and low angle shots), and an 11-point autofocus system.
|Creating a new category all its own, the Nikon D90 has it all: dust control, a 3 inch live view LCD, an 11-point autofocus sytem with face detection, 4.5 photo per second continuous speed and a compatible GPS unit. As if that weren't enough, the D90 also scores a FIRST: it is the first digital SLR to include a movie mode (allowing the user to capture both stills and High Definition video clips).
|Packed with features, this camera includes a full frame 12.1 megapixel sensor, a dust control system (not previously available with this type of sensor) and a massive ISO range from 100 to 25,600. Paired with a 51-point autofocus sytems and a 5 photo per second continuous shot speed, the D700 should be ready for just about any photographic challenge you throw its way.
|Continuing the Nikon trend of small, compact and cost-effective cameras, the D60 offers some upgrades over previous models. The big improvements are a dust control system that includes an airflow control to blow dust away from the sensor and improved autofocus. The D60 kit includes a vibration reduction (VR) lens for clearer photos in low-light conditions.
|If you're looking for ridiculous speed in a digital SLR camera, then look no further - the Nikon D300 is the camera for you! With its standard EN-EL3e battery the camera zips along at 6 photos per second up to a maximum of 100. If you add the optional MB-D10 battery grip, that speed increases up to 8 photos per second. This speed is paired with a new dust control system, a new live view mode, an advanced autofocus and metering system (called Scene Recognition), enhanced dynamic range (active D-lighting) and weather resistant seals.
|The D40 features an innovative LCD display that actually shows you how changing camera settings affects your images. It's a great tool for photographers who are learning terms like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The D40 is also one of the smallest, lightest and cheapest Nikon digital SLR cameras.
|The D80 falls in the middle ground between the entry-level D40 and the more advanced D200. Put simply, if you want a camera that performs (and shares many of the features on the D200) but don't want to pay up for a D200, then the D80 is an excellent choice.
|The D200 is an ultra-fast camera with an 11-point autofocus and a 5 photo-per-second continuous shot rate. The most common camera controls are available from one-touch buttons, so altering settings on the fly based on the available light and subject matter is easy to do. The D200 has received rave reviews.