Editors' Choice
Presented by Datacolor

APS-C DSLR

Digital Photo Editors Choice Awards

Digital Photo Magazine’s 2017 Editors’ Choice Awards

BEST RANGEFINDER-STYLE DIGITAL

Fujifilm X-E3

The Fujifilm X-E3 is a super-compact APS-C camera with all the image-quality features of the rest of Fujifilm’s X-series cameras. The new AF system works with improved image-recognition software to track much smaller and faster subjects than the company’s previous ultra-compact cameras.

Digital Photo Editors Choice Awards

BEST STARTER CAMERA

Canon EOS Rebel SL2

Canon’s new EOS Rebel SL2 is a fast, powerful and inexpensive APS-C camera. With a 24.2-megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 7 Image Processor, the SL2 can keep up with the action. The Vari-angle Touch Screen LCD enables compositions from a variety of angles, and the Canon Dual Pixel CMOS AF system allows for full autofocus tracking during video capture use.

Digital Photo Editors Choice Awards


Digital Photo Magazine’s 2016 Editors’ Choice Awards

The APS-C camera market is an interesting one, as it’s generally aimed at the serious shooter who’s not quite ready for the expense and the size of a full-frame camera. The APS-C world is where many photographers land when they realize they’ve fallen in love with photography, but want more control and more quality than they can get with their mobile phone.

The strange-sounding format comes from the end days of film photography when Kodak and Fujifilm and Agfa were trying to create an easy-to-use image format that would allow for smaller, lighter cameras than was possible with the traditional 35mm canister.

APS-C film suffered a quick and painful death, as it was introduced in the beginning days of digital photography. With compact digital cameras on the market, no one had a need for canisters of film, especially since the APS-C negative was smaller than a 35mm piece of film, and therefore lower resolution than “traditional” film cameras.

Luckily, the size of digital cameras is as tied to the sensor size as film cameras are tied to their canisters, so when digital photography was blossoming, the APS-C-size piece of film was used as a template for a sensor of matching dimension. As with film, APS-C cameras are smaller and lighter than their full- frame counterparts.

That made the APS-C sensor perfect for everything from entry-level Canon Rebels up to cameras like the Nikon D500, which is a professional camera based on an APS-C sensor instead of a full-frame one. There are more APS- C DSLR cameras introduced each year than full-frame models, by far, and they come in a variety of price points and with a wide range of performance.

Manufacturers use the APS-C sensor in two distinctly different ways, both of which keep the cost down. One type of APS-C, like the aforementioned Nikon D500, uses the smaller sensor combined with powerful processors to create a camera that’s as powerful as a professional full-frame system, but in a lighter and relatively cheaper package.

The other design style uses the APS-C sensor and a less powerful processor to create an affordable entry-level or mid-range camera. That’s why so many photographers start with an APS-C camera and keep using it as they increase their level of skill. The format is so flexible that it’s possible to find an APS- C camera that fits every need.

In this Editors’ Choice Awards category, we honor both of these design choices, picking six cameras that span the range of entry level to professional and that exemplify good design in the APS-C market.

Our overall winner for best APS-C SLR was unanimously the Nikon D500, as it represents a no-holds-barred approach to APS-C camera design. Nikon filled the lightweight body with the same top-end image processor, AF sensor and storage card as the D5, but at a much, much lower price. Thanks to the extended reach of APS-C when shooting with a full-frame lens, the Nikon D500 is already starting to find its way into the camera bags of some of the world’s top professional sports and wildlife photographers. We think it would be great in anyone’s camera bag.

Nikon D500 shot by tony rowell
Looking at this image you’d be hard-pressed to tell it wasn’t captured with a full-frame DSLR. The image quality from today’s APS-C cameras, like that in this Nikon D500 shot, is astounding. Photo by Tony Rowell

BEST APS-C FOR THE PROFESSIONAL

Nikon D500

Nikon D500 SLR

The Nikon D500 is essentially a Nikon D5, but in a smaller, lighter and less expensive body. The APS-C sensor has enough dynamic range and resolution to complete jobs for demanding clients, and the crop factor of the APS-C sensor makes it perfect for capturing sports and wildlife. The 22-megapixel sensor uses the same EXPEED 5 processor found in the D5, capturing images up to 10 fps and tracking subjects with a 153-point AF system, with an impressive ISO range of 100-51,200 (expandable up to 1,640,000).

BEST STEP-UP APS-C

Canon EOS 80D

Canon EOS 80D DSLR

The Canon EOS 80D is a great enthusiast shooter and a great upgrade for the photographer who started with a Rebel. The 80D has a fast 7fps capture rate and a very wide dynamic range for an APS-C camera, meaning more detail in the highlights and shadows. While it doesn’t do 4K video, it can capture HD at up to 60p, and uses Canon’s Dual Pixel technology for smooth autofocus in video mode.

BEST FOR THE NEW DSLR SHOOTER

Canon EOS Rebel T6

Canon EOS Rebel T6

The Canon Rebel recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, and it has always been synonymous with affordability and quality. The Rebel T6 is one of two APS-C cameras that win the Best For The New Shooter award this year. The camera comes in a kit with an 18-55mm image-stabilized lens for around $550, less than many smartphones cost. While the Rebel won’t win any awards for fastest DSLR, it takes the performance-per-dollar prize, hands down. The camera has an 18-megapixel sensor and an ISO range of 100-6400, making it suitable to capture anything from your kid’s sports games to low-light portraits. Unlike many more expensive cameras, the Rebel T6 has built-in WiFi and NFC connectivity and works with the company’s external storage device, the Canon Connect Station CS100.

BEST FOR THE NEW SHOOTER

Pentax K-70

Pentax K-70 DSLR
The Pentax K-70 takes the great features of the older Pentax K-3 and squeezes them into a teeny and affordable package, making it our second Best For The New Shooter pick this year. The camera is weather-resistant and uses the same Anti-Alias simulation of the K-3 to reduce the effects of moiré without having to have a full-time (image- softening) Anti-Alias filter in place. A new focus system makes the K-70 faster than its predecessors. For loyal Pentax shooters (we know you’re out there), this is the birthday present you’ve been waiting for.

BEST FOR THE ENTHUSIAST

Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400 DSLR

The Nikon D3400 just barely made it into this year’s awards, with an announcement a few weeks before we went to press. A (very minor) upgrade to the venerable Nikon D3300, the D3400 has a 24-megapixel sensor and a new ISO range of 100-25,600—a stop better than the D3300—and can shoot at 5fps. New scene modes and playback modes make it a great camera for the photographer who’s stepping up from an entry-level camera, but not ready for a full-frame system. With a battery life of 1,200 shots, it’s also one of the longest-lasting cameras on the market.

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