I need recommendations on entry level budget DSLRs with plenty of bracketing modes (exposure, F-stops, etc for HDR and DOF shots). I am in Germany and am willing to spend upto €600. The brand doesn't matter to me. Also want to know if there are programmable bracketing modes available in entry level DSLRs.

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    The answers to this are getting pretty out of date (including mine!) illustrating the problem with this sort of question. I recommend closing and deleting this. – mattdm Apr 12 '13 at 13:31
  • Maybe a good answer would be that of 2013 all/almost all entry level cameras offer this functionality and it is called x,y,z for Nikon, Canon, Pentax etc? – Unapiedra Apr 12 '13 at 16:46
  • Answers to this will turn old, of course, but the question is good. Finally the last answer will be "100% every DSLR in every price level can do it". Is this the case already? – Esa Paulasto Apr 13 '13 at 8:56

The Pentax K30 is currently at €570 with the 18-55mm kit lens, and it includes a basic automatic bracketing mode, which will take three shots with different exposure. It also has an automatic in-camera HDR mode (also with three images), and a multi-exposure mode which automatically overlays the 3 with a simple blend.

You can choose how many stops to vary the exposure by, and what order (underexposed first, then regular, then overexposed, or another way) you want them in. And it'll take all three exposures with one click.

However, if you want more shots than 3, or if you want to vary something other than exposure (or choose which exposure parameter is varied), I don't think you'll be able to get it without spending more. (The almost-twice-as-pricey Pentax K-5II has many more options.)

Depending on your needs, you might be best served by a non-dSLR camera — specifically, a Canon point-and-shoot model running the CHDK firmware hack, which could give you very powerful programmatic control over bracketing. (Models change all the time, of course; if you come back to this question a year from now, make sure to see what's latest.)

Or, you can, of course, simply bracket manually.

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  • I've heard (literally, in a podcast) that the new Nikon D5100 has built-in HDR function. Whether this can be changed from its default settings, I don't know. – gerikson May 5 '11 at 13:35
  • @gerikson — I've only loosely followed the Nikon D5100. It looks like a very nice camera. It's quite a bit more expensive than the Pentax K-r, though — currently €650 at amazon.de, without a kit lens, and over €1000 in a kit comparable to the Pentax one. I'm a Pentax user but am happy to recommend other brands; in this case, though, trying to stick to the given budget ruled that one out. – mattdm May 5 '11 at 14:34
  • ok, I confess I didn't check out the price of the D5100 before recommending it. I also think that Pentax has the edge when it comes to advanced features in "entry-level" bodies compared to CaNikon.... – gerikson May 9 '11 at 8:14
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    @gerikson — I think the top two companies have to be more concerned about their entry level models cannibalizing the midrange. Companies with a smaller market share have less to lose in that way. – mattdm May 10 '11 at 21:40

With that budget, I believe you are looking at something along the lines of the Canon EOS 500D or the Nikon D5000. These are now slightly out of date cameras (still damn fine though) but newer entry level models (like the Nikon D3100) don't have bracketing.

Bracketing usually means auto-exposure adjustment, which is what you use for HDR. F-stop bracketing is more of a 'hack' - you set the AE bracketing as normal, but you set the camera to Shutter Priority, so that the camera is forced to adjust the aperture to modify the exposure.

I am not sure what you mean by 'programmable bracket mode'.

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  • The D3000 has been replaced with the D3100. I believe the price points are the same though. – gerikson May 5 '11 at 9:36

From what I know, any Canon SLR has it - it is called AEB (auto exposure bracketing).

I had it on my 400D (lowest model) and it is available on my 5D MK II. You will however only get 3 exposures. Though I have found changing the shutter speed to shoot more images isn't an issue if you have a sturdy tripod. (And have successfully created a 40 and 60 exposure HDR).

If you look at the Canon website, you will find that the 1100D also contains AEB: http://www.canon.de/for_home/compare_products/loadcomparator.asp?prod=2764B007AA;3820B001AA;5161B001AA;&lang=DE&country=DE&dir=/for_home/product_finder/cameras/digital_slr/

However I would rather use an older xx0D series camera than a xx00D series cameras.

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My suggestion is the Canon 500D or 550D this is a really great beginner camera with magic lantern addon. Both models have Auto exposure bracketing enabled in the original firmware. But the Auto exposure bracketing is limited to 3stops and 3 images.

For additional settings there is a great firmware addon (free: Magic lantern) that adds a lot of options to the original firmware including exposure bracketing, shutter bracketing.

You can find out more about the magic lantern firmware on this site: Magic Lantern

HDR Bracketing Magic Lantern:

AE Bracketing for HDR images and timelapses.

  • In M mode, this function does shutter bracketing.
  • In the other modes it does exposure compensation bracketing.
  • Preview HDR images in camera
  • For each HDR picture set, Magic Lantern also writes a bash script for stacking the exposures with enfuse.

I have been using this firmware addon in combination with the Canon 550D for over a year now for creating HDR images, Timelapse and long exposures.

Even for a beginner Magic Lantern is simple to install and use.

::Edited the fact that the canon 500d and 550d do have auto exposure bracketing. Thanks Mike for pointing that out.

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  • The 550D, at least, comes out of the box with exposure bracketing (up to 3 stops on either side) as well as white balance bracketing. – whuber Jan 10 '12 at 15:25
  • As the question is from a beginner, I don't think we should be talking about hacking the firmware. Also it is untrue that these cameras don't have bracketing enabled in original firmware. It is there, called Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB). p.86 of the manual confirms this - files.canon-europe.com/files/soft33601/Manual/… – Mike Jan 13 '12 at 11:58
  • @Mike thank you for pointing that out. I correcte my mistake. – xtarsy Jan 13 '12 at 13:08

Sony SLT-A37 is a budget DSLR and it can do autobracketing.

  • Exposure bracketing (three shots)
  • Flash bracketing (in-camera flash)
  • White balance bracketing

$ : Adorama price is $479 atm with the usual 18-55 kit lens.

: Rajala Camera in Finland sells it with the 18-55 kit lens + Sigma 70-300 for 500 Euro.

Sony SLT-A57 is another one and a bit better equipped than the SLT-A37.

It can do the same bracketing modes as the A37, though I did not find confirmation for the flash bracketing in the A57 online manual. No reason why it would not work the same way as in the lesser cousin.

Pricing in general is right at your budget of 600 Euros, but one store in Germany sells it with kit lens (18-55 mm) for €512.

Sony SLT cameras use Exmor image sensor which should produce low noise photos even with high ISO numbers and/or in low light. This should work well in the situations where you might be needing the bracketing, in challenging lighting conditions.

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You could try 'tethering' a camera to a PC - free software is available that has more bracketing functions. One is a .HTA file so written in Javascript - you could even re-program it yourself. I think I saw focus when looking at 'focus stacking' software. Google is your friend. I think it requires LiveView, but maybe only for seeing what you're doing on the computer as well as the camera ?

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