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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

D-SLRs For The Professional

2008 was a big year for D-SLRs, and there are now more choices than ever for pros seeking a primary or backup camera. Check out some of the key innovations and the latest models.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Nikon D3
The D3 was the first ever full-frame model in Nikon’s D-SLR lineup and has quickly become one of the most formidable cameras in the market. Top features include an FX-format, 12.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, an extremely quick 51-point AF system, a maximum burst rate of up to 9 fps at full resolution, and a high-res 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor with two Live View modes. The CMOS sensor contains very large photosites that enhance the low-light performance of the D3, allowing higher ISOs with much less noise being introduced into the frame. Other features of interest include Active D-Lighting Technology where highlight and shadow correction is applied automatically, a Scene Recognition System with the 1,005-pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II sensor that analyzes colors and light patterns to recognize what sort of image is being shot to improve its autofocusing, superquick 0.12-second startup and dual CompactFlash-card slots.

Another unique function is that the D3 automatically switches to a cropped 5.1-megapixel DX-format mode when a DX-Nikkor lens is attached, so you can use the DX lenses as well as full-frame ones. An added bonus: The top burst rate goes up to 11 fps in DX crop mode. The D3 was also the first D-SLR to have a virtual horizon graphics indicator that gives you an accurate reading of your frame’s horizon level, either through the LCD or the viewfinder.

Key Specs
Sensor: 12.1-megapixel CMOS
Format: 36.0x23.9mm (FX-format full-frame)
Storage: CF (UDMA-compliant)
A/D Conversion: 14-bit or 12-bit
Max. Drive Rate: 9 fps
LCD: 3.0-inch, 920K-dot with Live View
AF: 51-point
Metering: 1005-pixel 3D Color Matrix II, adjustable CW, 1.5% spot
ISO Range: 200-6400, plus 100, 12,800 and 25,600
Dimensions: 6.3x6.2x3.4 inches
Weight: 42.5 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $4,500
Mid-Level D-SLRs
Canon EOS 5D Mark II

One of the most exciting introductions of the last year, Canon’s long-awaited EOS 5D successor matches the top-of-the-line EOS-1Ds Mark III’s resolution with a new 21.1-megapixel full-frame Canon CMOS sensor in a smaller, lighter body that costs nearly $5,000 less. The new sensor features a new RGB filter, four-channel readout, better sensitivity, lower noise and lower power consumption than the EOS-1Ds Mark III’s. That and the new DIGIC 4 image processor help deliver what Canon calls the best image quality of any EOS camera. ISOs now go as high as 25,600, with a normal range of 100 to 6400. AF and metering systems are the same as the original EOS 5D—we found them to be very good, but not as good as the EOS-1Ds Mark III’s.

The 5D Mark II’s new 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor (4x the resolution of the original 5D and the flagship EOS-1Ds Mark III) offers Live View capability, including 1920 x 1080p HD video shooting, with mono sound via a built-in microphone or stereo sound via an external stereo mic. Search the web for “Vincent Laforet Reverie” for an example of what this camera can do, video-wise. The Mark II also offers three still Live View AF modes. Quick Mode AF uses the camera’s normal phase-detection AF system, but momentarily disrupts the live view while the mirror flips down so the camera can focus. Live Mode AF uses compact-style contrast-detection AF, with no disruption. Quick is good for action and handheld shooting, while Live is great for tripod-mounted studio and landscape work. And Face Detection AF can detect up to 35 faces in a scene and adjust focus to get them all as sharp as possible. You also can focus manually, zooming the image 5x or 10x. With a USB cable (or wirelessly, with the optional wireless controller unit), you can run the live image to a computer monitor and run the camera from the computer via provided software.

Key Specs
Sensor: 21.1-megapixel CMOS
Format: 36x24mm (full-frame)
Storage: CF (UDMA-compliant)
A/D Conversion: 14-bit
Max. Drive Rate: 3.9 fps
LCD: 3.0-inch, 920K-dot with Live View and HD Video modes
AF: 9-point, plus 6 Assist points
Metering: 35-zone, 8%, 3.5%, CW
ISO Range: 100-6400, plus 50, 12,800 and 25,600
Dimensions: 6.0x4.5x3.0 inches
Weight: 28.6 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $2,699


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