It’s worth remembering that when buying a digital SLR you’re not just buying a camera – you’re locking into your chosen manufacturer’s system, each offering varying amounts of swappable lenses, accessories and support.

So let’s see what each has to offer.

Summing up
So which of our six cameras should you buy? It’s not a clear-cut decision, as none of the models we’ve looked at have serious failings. Canon’s EOS 1000D is a solid, competent option, but it’s not a great deal given its feature set.

For those who don’t have that much to spend, the Sony Alpha 230 has to be one of the most affordable new digital SLR-and-lens options around.

Also something of a bargain from high-street electronics shops is the sturdier Olympus E-600. The fold-out and swivel LCD gives it an edge, as do built-in image stabilisation and a smaller-than-average overall form factor.

Given that, the E-600 is a worthy runner-up, pipping the less well-featured but reliable Nikon D3000 – for which our cheapest high street price was £370 – to the post in terms of value. The E-600 also beats Panasonic’s G1.

However, cramming in all the latest features – including 14-megapixel still resolution and HD movie recording – for its price the K-x from Pentax is a clear winner.

Cameras featured in this group test include: