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Monday, January 7, 2008

D-SLR Wars: Episode III

Resolution always will be a buzzword for digital cameras, but the current crop of professional-quality D-SLRs is about much more than advances in megapixel counts

canonCanon EOS-1D Mark III Capable of shooting 10.1-megapixel images at 10 per second (in bursts of up to 110 Large/Fine JPEGs or 30 RAW images), the EOS-1D Mark III is a superb action camera. But that image quality also appeals to photographers who don't need its tremendous speed. The APS-H image sensor is midway in size between the ubiquitous APS-C and full-frame, with room for large pixels that—along with the dual DIGIC III processors, 14-bit A/D conversion and new anti-noise measures—make for great images even at higher ISOs.

Like the EOS-1Ds Mark III, the EOS-1D Mark III features a 3.0-inch monitor with Live View capability, and Canon's effective EOS Integrated Cleaning System keeps the sensor free of dust. And like the other Mark III, it can send its live image to a computer monitor and can be operated remotely from a computer with the provided software (wirelessly, with the optional Wireless File Transmitter).

Sports Illustrated photographer Peter Read Miller says, “While all these things are major significant aspects of the camera, there's also little things that make a big difference—like you only need one button to change the ISO, and you can actually see it in the viewfinder. That's such a big thing to me because I change my ISO all the time because I'm kind of stuck. My lens is usually wide open. My shutter speed can't go below a certain point, so I work by just taking the ISO up. And amazingly enough with this camera, I'm going up to 2500 and still getting stuff that looks good in a two-page spread in a magazine.”

Miller says the functionality is something that has been improved across the board. “Now you can easily access all the menus, all the custom functions,” he says. “You don't have those ‘personal functions' that you had to pick up off the computer. It's like they had all these elements in their other cameras, but they really were able to bring them together.”


10.1-megapixel CMOS 28.1x18.7mm
APS-H 1.3x lens magnification factor
14-bit A/D conversion
10 fps, full resolution
Dual DIGIC III image processors
JPEG, RAW and sRAW formats
3.0-inch LCD with Live View
EOS Integrated Cleaning System
63-zone metering linked to AF points
1⁄8000 to 30 sec. shutter speed
ISO 100-3200, plus 50 and 6400

  • Dimensions: 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 inches

  • Weight: 40.7 ounces

  • Estimated Street Price: $4,499

  • nikonNikon D2XS The rugged 12.4-megapixel Nikon D2XS, with its low-noise CMOS sensor and 12-bit A/D converter, can capture images with a quality that rivals medium-formats. It's also very fast. The D2XS can make full-res captures at 5 fps (in bursts of up to 29 RAW files or 38 JPEGs) and up to 8 fps with the high-speed cropping function. This crops the sensor to 6.8 megapixels and limits coverage to the central portion of the frame.

    When fashion and lifestyle photographer Rob van Petten first used the D2XS, the file size and image quality were the most impressive characteristics. The ability to adjust every aspect of the RAW files after a shoot was revolutionary for him. Says van Petten, “This camera sensor, with low noise and great detail in the high end, is particularly good for the metallic colors and textures in most of my pictures. My models are moving pretty fast, and this camera keeps up—very quick response time and frame rate. The image quality rivals the medium-formats, at four times the speed. As I got more familiar, I realized there's a huge realm of custom settings and infinite adjustments built into the menu to suit every situation I could encounter. Most prominent is the autofocus menu, which allows me to dial in the autofocus very carefully. I shoot moving targets, handheld. Now I take perfect focus for granted.”

    Other notable features include instant startup and a minimal shutter release lag time of a mere 37 ms, greatly reducing the chances of missing the money shot. There's also selectable color mode options—the Adobe RGB profile (Color mode I and II) and the sRGB profile so you can tailor the color gamut to your shooting needs.


    12.4-megapixel CMOS
    23.7x15.7mm, DX format
    1.5x lens magnification factor
    12-bit A/D conversion
    5 fps, full resolution
    20-area AF system
    2.5-inch LCD
    1⁄8000 to 30 sec. shutter speed
    ISO 100-800, plus 3200

  • Dimensions: 6.2 x 5.9 x 3.4 inches

  • Weight: 38.4 ounces

  • Estimated Street Price: $4,300

  • hasselbladHasselblad H3DII The fourth generation of Hasselblad's medium-format D-SLR system, the H3DII is yet another step in the evolution of the highest-resolution digital cameras. With a choice of 22-, 31- or 39-megapixel CCD image sensors up to 49x37mm, these Hasselblad cameras are currently the largest, highest-quality formats available in the D-SLR category.

    Notable upgrades in design include improved controls and functionality, along with a new and more intuitive user interface, a bright 3-inch TFT display and improved noise reduction. The entire line features a physical heatsink, which is attached to the sensor and dissipates the heat generated to the entire camera body.

    Four buttons on the hand grip (two in the front and two in the rear) can be reprogrammed to one of 19 different functions so you can work more efficiently in exactly the way you prefer. For example, the rear AE-L button can be set to Dig.Foc.Chk., so one press of the button zooms in to the image 50% to check focus. And the front top M. Up button can be set for gray balance exposure, so you can place a neutral-target GretagMacbeth card in the image area, then press the M. Up button to neutralize that image and all subsequent images, and the neutralization transfers upon import into the Flexcolor software.
    An optional accessory, the Global Image Locator, records your location at the moment of image capture and puts the coordinates in the metadata; it will be available in early 2008.


    49x36.7mm CCD
    16-bit A/D conversion
    ISO 50-400
    1⁄800 to 32 sec. shutter speed
    3.0-inch TFT
    RAW 3FR

  • Dimensions: 6.02 x 5.16 x 8.39 inches

  • Weight: 80.8 ounces

  • Estimated Street Price: $33,995


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