Monday, March 23, 2009
D-SLRs: Buy Now!
Why there has never been a better time to upgrade your primary camera
More powerful image processors make possible more features, quicker performance and better image quality, even at higher ISOs and even with the smaller pixels required to increase pixel counts on a given-size image sensor. Canon’s DIGIC 4 processor and Nikon’s latest EXPEED processing provide enough power to bring HD video to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Nikon D90 models. Better analog-to-digital converters (many D-SLRs now provide 14-bit A/D conversion, which provides four times as many tone gradations as 12-bit) and much improved noise-reduction capabilities also enhance image quality. RAW conversion software is getting better with each new generation, and that, too, can translate into better image quality.
The Olympus E-620 with Live View also features unique, illuminated controls.
Another common compact digital camera feature has come to the D-SLR recently, thanks to Nikon and Canon: video capability—and not just video, but HD video. The Nikon D90 can shoot 720p HD video at a cinematic 24 fps, and the Canon EOS 5D Mark II can shoot 1080p HD video at 30 fps. Because the image sensors in D-SLRs are much larger than those in compact digital cameras (and HD camcorders, for that matter), image quality—especially in low light—is much better with D-SLRs.
Another great feature is now available to D-SLR users of all brands: image stabilization to counter handheld camera shake. Canon, Leica, Nikon, Panasonic and Sigma offer stabilizer lenses for their D-SLRs, while Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Samsung and Sony offer D-SLR models with built-in sensor-shift stabilization. (Sigma also offers stabilizer lenses for popular non-Sigma D-SLRs, as does lensmaker Tamron.) Optical (in-lens) stabilization offers the advantages of being optimized for the specific lens characteristics and stabilizing the viewfinder image as well as the recorded image, but you get stabilization only with those lenses. Sensor-shift stabilization works with any lens you put on the camera, but stabilizes only the recorded image, not the viewfinder image. Both are wonderful if you shoot handheld.
Another reason now is a great time to buy a D-SLR is that the choice of lenses has never been better. Each manufacturer offers a wide range of focal lengths for its D-SLRs, including some designed specifically for digital imaging. Independent lensmakers like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina also offer lenses for many popular D-SLR models. Most SLRs are available in kits that include a lens well suited to the camera at a discounted package price (see the D-SLR Kits chart for details).
A SAMPLING OF TODAY'S NEWER D-SLRs
Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Canon’s newest D-SLR features a full-frame Canon CMOS sensor, the same 21.1-megapixel resolution as the company’s flagship EOS-1Ds Mark III, a new super-powerful DIGIC 4 image processor, 1080p full HD video capability, and by Canon’s own data, the best image quality ever in a Canon D-SLR.
The Mark II’s high-res, 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor provides both phase-detection and contrast AF, along with the HD video capability. Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System keeps the big sensor free of dust. The Mark II can use all Canon EF lenses, but not EF-S lenses, which were designed specifically for the smaller-sensor cameras. Focal lengths from 14mm to 800mm are available, plus 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
Nikon D90. Here’s a great deal: excellent image quality, a host of features and HD video—all in an under-$1,000 D-SLR. The D90 sports a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor similar to the one in the well-respected D300 and produces excellent image quality for the speeds throughout its normal ISO range of 200-3200 (expandable to 50 and 6400). The D90 is quick—it starts up in just 0.15 seconds and can shoot up to 4.5 fps. It shares the D300’s excellent 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor and self-cleaning sensor unit, and also provides three contrast-based Live View AF modes. The D90 will accept all AF Nikkor lenses, DX and full-frame FX, providing 35mm camera-equivalent focal lengths from 16mm to 900mm (a 2x teleconverter can take that out to 1800mm, albeit with manual focusing).
Page 2 of 4