Best DSLR Under $500
Looking for a ticket into the scary world of DSLRs? The Canon Rebel T3 is a great entry-level camera, responsive, intuitive and simple to operate, without sacrificing image quality for user-friendliness. Basic+, Quick Setting and Creative Auto imaging options are easy to master, and the HD video recording and high-quality photographs (even at low light) are equivalent to those of more sophisticated models.
Get it for under $500. $429.99 w/ 18-55 EF-S IS II lens
Also consider: Panasonic DMC-GF5, $499.99
Best DSLR Under $1000
If we want to get into technicalities, the Sony Alpha A57 is not a DSLR since it has a fixed mirror, but for all intents and purposes it's one of the better mid-range cameras in the category (the definitions just need to slide slightly). The 16.1 million pixel sensor and Bionz processor offer high-quality images and the Auto Portrait Framing system automatically improves composition post-capture, so it's just as accessible to the novice as the semi-pro.
$799.99 w/ DT18-55 lens
Also consider: Nikon D7000, $899.99
Best DSLR for Video
The digital camcorder market is quickly being overtaken by DSLRs as they expand their video functionality to capitalize on the versatility of digital technology. The Nikon D5100 is a great example of this trend. The huge 16.2 megapixel image sensor, full HD (1080p) video and multiple exposure capability make the moving images that the camera captures as sharp and dynamic as the still ones.
$449.99 (body only)
Also consider: Canon EOS-5D MK III, $3,299.99
Best Pro/Full Frame DSLR
For serious enthusiasts or professionals looking for a step up, full frame is the way to go. In a nutshell (and as unjargony as possible), the difference is the image sensor, which is the same size as a 35mm film frame. The Nikon D800 offers a class-leading pixel count of 36.3 million, which means extremely detailed shots, great for large prints. Best for landscape and studio photographers, but just as good for serious aficionados.
$2,999.99 (body only)
Also consider: Canon EOS-5D Mk III, $3,399.99 (body only)