For truly professional-looking photography to use in your artworks, you need an interchangeable lens camera. These are most commonly digital SLRs, which are becoming increasingly popular among creatives. They’re physically bulkier, yes, but they offer more features for your money than ever, and you can pick them up at increasingly competitive prices too.

For example, five or six years a ago a digital SLR body and lens combination would set you back the best part of £1,000. Now a comparable set-up won’t cost much more than £300 with a bit of shopping around.

Dealers’ online sites, and of course eBay, often feature great deals on recently updated models that are ideal for those looking to get a bit more bang for their buck. Just because a new model is out doesn’t mean its predecessor isn’t worth considering, as slightly faster operation and a boost to resolution are often the only improvements to a model.

That said, the six digital SLRs we’ve chosen here – all available at around £500 or under with standard zoom lens – are current models at the time of writing. To ensure a level playing field, we’ve collected together our examples based on the latest recommended prices as stated by the manufacturer.

This means that in the vast majority of cases you’ll be able to find them even cheaper with a bit of research – there are still great deals to be had, even on new stock. Bear in mind, too, that digital SLRs tend to hold their value, as they’re replaced on average once a year or less, rather than every six months as you’d expect for a pocket digital camera.

With all this in mind, what are the features and functionality you should be looking for in a digital SLR? Build quality aside, how about Live View, where the LCD screen can be used to both compose and review shots; in-body or lens-only image stabilisation to help avoid blurry shots; dust reduction or prevention to avert spots on the sensor showing up in images; and, if you’re lucky, HD video recording alongside stills.