Monday, February 4, 2008
Sweet Spot D-SLRs
Between the pro and entry-level models lies a paradise of high-performance features, ease of use and excellent value
Nikon's D300 features a new 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor and has an integrated A/D converter with 12- or 14-bit conversion (internal processing is 16-bit). The new camera can shoot at 6 frames per second (or 8 frames per second with the optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D10). Normal ISO range is 200-3200, with ISO 100 and 6400 possible via expansion.
As with the new pro Nikon D3, there are two LiveView modes: Handheld mode with standard 51-point phase-difference AF and Tripod mode with focal-plane contrast AF for maximum accuracy with still subjects. As with the D3, you can use the LiveView preview functionality remotely on your computer via either wired or wireless connection and optional Nikon Camera Control II software.
The magnesium-alloy chassis, enhanced sealing and a 150,000-cycle shutter mean the D300 can stand up to even harsh pro use. Nikon's first Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit uses four different frequencies to vibrate dust off the low-pass filter in front of the image sensor-a great boon to users who change lenses frequently.
The D300 starts up in a superquick 0.13 seconds, and has a shutter-release lag of just 0.45ms and a viewfinder blackout of just 0.1 seconds. Sharing the D3's new Multi-CAM 3500FX AF system with 51 AF points (15 of them central cross-type sensors that function with lenses as slow as ƒ/5.6), the D300 provides superior AF performance.
Camera: Nikon D300
Image Sensor: 12.3-megapixel (effective) CMOS
Resolution: 4288 x 2848 pixels
Sensor Size: 23.6x15.8mm, 1.5x focal-length factor
LCD Monitor: 3.0-inch Live View
AF System: 51-point
Shutter Speeds: 1⁄8000 to 30 sec., X-sync up to 1⁄250 sec.
ISO Settings: 200-3200 (1⁄3-stop increments), plus 3200
Continuous Firing Mode: 6 fps
Recording Format: JPEG, 12- or 14-bit NEF (RAW)
Metering: 3D Color Matrix II, 75% center-weighted, 1.5% spot
Storage Media: CompactFlash, compliant with UDMA
Dimensions: 5.8x4.5x2.9 inches
Weight: 29.1 ounces
Power Source: EN-EL3e rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Estimated Street Price: $1,800
Actually designed for the pro, the 10.1-megapixel E-3 fits into our sweet-spot category because of its price. The rugged magnesium-alloy body provides advanced splash and dust protection, with the shutter tested to 150,000 cycles. While a number of newer D-SLRs now feature Live View LCD monitors, the E-3 LCD swings out and tilts for easy odd-angle shooting. Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) in-body image stabilization works with all lenses, while Olympus' proven Supersonic Wave Filter vibrates dust off the image sensor assembly every time you switch the camera on.
The E-3 features quick startup and wakeup and extremely fast autofocusing with new Olympus Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) lenses, along with 5 fps shooting. As a Four Thirds System camera, the E-3 accepts all Four Thirds System lenses, regardless of manufacturer. Due to the smallish size of the Four Thirds image sensor, lenses can be smaller and optimized for the sensor: the Digital Zuiko 300mm ƒ/2.8 lens frames like a 600mm lens on a 35mm camera, but is much more compact and a stop faster than those super-telephoto behemoths.
Camera: Olympus E-3
Image Sensor: 10.1-megapixel (effective) Live MOS
Resolution: 3648 x 2736 pixels
Sensor Size: 17.3x13mm, 2.0x focal-length factor
LCD Monitor: 2.5-inch Live View
AF System: 11-point
Shutter Speeds: 1⁄8000 to 60 sec., X-sync up to 1⁄250 sec.
ISO Settings: 100-3200
Continuous Firing Mode: 5 fps, 1-4 fps
Recording Format: JPEG, RAW
Metering: 49-point multi-pattern, 2% spot, center-weighted
Storage Media: CompactFlash and xD-Picture
Dimensions: 5.6x4.6x2.9 inches
Weight: 28.5 ounces
Power Source: BLM-1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Estimated Street Price: $1,699
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