Entry-level DSLRs are capable of producing awesome images. Yet, every time I teach a photography class, a number of students complain that they only have such or such entry-level DSLR and so they cannot get truly nice images. Sometimes this comes from being disappointed from their own images or by being impressed by professional images and attributing their success to the camera. That’s quite far from the truth!
An entry-level DSLR can produce almost any image which is possible by a high-end model when viewed up to a certain resolution. Just take a look at sample images from our Nikon D5100 review for example. With high resolutions available today, this covers all display use and common print sizes, easily including 8″x12″ prints of photos taken in low-light.
Higher-end models have features which make them more desirable for professionals such as a 100% viewfinder, weather-sealed body, dual-control dials and higher frame-rates. Thinking about these carefully, one can easily figure out that none of these actually affect image quality. They allow a photographer to work faster, in adverse conditions and avoid spurious cropping but have no effect on resulting images. It makes no difference for the outcome that a photograph was taken at 3 FPS instead of 12 FPS or using one dial instead of two!
The big catch is that entry-level DSLRs are often sold with a kit-lens and people quickly forget that these are two separate items. A lens actually has far more impact on image quality than the camera. It also affects what a photographer sees which determines how subjects can be framed and this is the most important factor for outstanding photography. For learning how to choose a lens for your DSLR, read our Lens Buying Guide.
There are of course exceptional circumstances which need extremely high-ISO, super-fast shutter-speeds, resistance to adverse weather or another pro-level-camera-only feature but those are not that common. In most cases, if a photograph is possible using a pro-level camera, it is possible using an entry-level DSLR too. So, do not give up on yours just yet!