I was recently asked by a client to recommend an upgrade for his old Nikon D80. They had a budget of £300-£700 and wanted to stick with the DX format so they could keep their lenses.
Here are the three models I recommended (the prices are just for the camera bodies, no lens included):
Nikon D3300 (£400): Cheapest of the three so not the best build quality but it’s a perfectly good DSLR, a big step up from the D80 and it’s also the lightest. (24 megapixels, HD video, 430g, 11 focus points)
Nikon D5300 (£530): Better build quality than D3300 and only slightly heavier. The technology inside is better too, giving it a faster and sharper focus. Has a better microphone and also the LCD screen on the back flips out and can be angled, helpful if you are taking pics of things at an awkward angle. (24 megapixels, HD video, flip-out LCD screen, 480g, stereo microphone, 39 focus points)
Nikon D7100 (£715): The best model of the three with superior build quality giving it protection from water and dust, which also makes it the heaviest. It’s faster and has a much better focus than the other two, along with far more options for things like image size and various shooting modes. The batteries have a longer life and are more resistant to cold weather. It also has two slots for SD memory cards rather than just one. (24 megapixels, HD video, 765g, stereo microphone, 51 focus points)
You’ll notice all three have the same number of megapixels but are very different in price, that’s because megapixels are hardly important these days in determining the price of a camera. The build quality, batteries, memory cards and technology inside the camera are far more influential. Pretty much all digital cameras these days are over 12 megapixels and that’s more than enough. The quality of the image comes down to the choice of lens and understanding your camera so that you know how to make the most out of it.