DPP Home Gear Cameras Beyond the D-SLR

Monday, August 10, 2009

Beyond the D-SLR

For professionals, there are times when the modern D-SLR isn’t the camera that will get the job done


This Article Features Photo Zoom


Leaf AFi-II
While the lion’s share of professional photography is made with conventional, 35mm-type D-SLRs, there are still plenty of situations when a different kind of camera is called for. It’s the old 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of your work calls for the mainstay camera, but the other 20 percent needs something different. We write about those mainstay D-SLRs a lot in DPP, but in this issue we’re taking a look at the eclectic 20 percent and what these cameras can do for you.

Larger-format digital cameras and backs offer more megapixels than 35mm-based D-SLRs. They also offer larger pixels for a given pixel count, due to those larger sensors. The larger pixels translate into better image quality—more accurate colors, 16-bit rather than the 12- or 14-bit color of the 35mm-based D-SLRs, wider dynamic range and better detail.

The big “negative” for medium-format digital has been high-ISO performance: Medium-format D-SLRs don’t provide ISOs as high as those of 35mm-based D-SLRs, and the smaller cameras provide better image quality at the highest ISOs. But even that’s changing, and Phase One’s 60.5-megapixel P65+ medium-format model recently wrested the top spot in DxO Labs’ RAW sensor performance ratings away from Nikon’s D3X (www.dxomark.com). The 35mm-based D-SLRs are still best for high-ISO and action work, but the medium-format models shine at everything else.

Many architectural, landscape, studio and fine-art photographers like the perspective and depth-of-field control offered by view cameras, courtesy of their tilt, shift and swing movements. Thanks to digital backs, most view cameras now can be used for digital photography. Large-format film photographers can enjoy the benefits of digital imaging by having their transparencies and negatives scanned by a service bureau or doing it themselves with a high-end film scanner. And users of 35mm-based D-SLRs can turn them into mini-view cameras via kits that provide front-standard and even rear-standard view-camera movements.

There also are smaller-format digital cameras that suit specific pro needs. Olympus’ new E-P1, Sigma’s DP1 and DP2, and Leica’s M8 and M8.2 are compact and easy to have handy, yet offer the standards that a professional needs for serious shooting. Here’s a sampling of the digital options available to pros other than 35mm-based D-SLRs.

Today, many medium-format D-SLRs are dedicated digital cameras, designed specifically for digital photography, resulting in better performance and easier operation.


 

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