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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

Pentax K20D
While rumors of a new full-frame Pentax model have been circulating for a while, for now at least, the K20D is the company’s top D-SLR model—and a good one it is. It shares a 14.6-megapixel Samsung/Pentax APS-C-format CMOS sensor with Samsung’s GX-20, although each camera uses its own image-processing system, so the images are a bit different.

The K20D’s weather-resistant, dustproof body incorporates a 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor with Live View capability. You can focus manually on a magnified image during Live View or use the camera’s standard phase-detection AF system (which momentarily disrupts the live view while the camera focuses). Autofocusing is quick and smooth with the high-end SDM lenses and can handle quick action. Battery life is very good, even with the Shake Reduction system in constant use.

Sensor-shift Shake Reduction counters handheld camera shake and works with all lenses. There’s also a system that vibrates dust off the image sensor assembly, along with a new fluorine SP coating that helps keep dust off the low-pass filter in the first place; this also worked very well in our testing. Other features include a PC socket for studio flash and an interval timer for time-lapse sequences.

Pentax recently dropped the price to $999, which makes the K20D a bargain backup camera.

Key Specs
Sensor: 14.6-megapixel CMOS
Format: 23.4x15.6mm (1.5x)
Storage: SD/SDHC
A/D Conversion: 12-bit
Max. Drive Rate: 3 fps
LCD: 2.7-inch, 230K-dot with Live View
AF: 11-point
Metering: 16-segment, CW, spot
ISO Range: 100-1600, plus 3200
and 6400
Dimensions: 5.6x4.0x2.8 inches
Weight: 25.2 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $999

Samsung GX-20
The Samsung GX-20 and Pentax K20D are very similar, though not exactly the same. (The two differ primarily in image processing, interface design and menu navigation.) The GX-20’s 14.6-megapixel sensor, manufactured by Samsung and codeveloped with Pentax, uses an Enhanced Digital Filter for improved dynamic range and 5 micron pixels for minimizing the gaps between diodes to provide more efficient light capture.

Unique to the GX-20 (aside from the Pentax K10D/K20D and the GX-10), a Sensitivity Priority mode automatically selects the appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the ISO you’re currently using. Conversely, the Shutter & Aperture Priority mode automatically selects the best ISO from your shutter and aperture combination. Optical Picture Stabilization (OPS), up to four stops, is built into the body, saving money in the long run by keeping new-lens costs minimal and providing compensation for compatible lenses. An Anti-Dust coating and Dual Dust Removal keep the camera debris-free by using a vibration mechanism to shake dust loose and a special coating to trap it. Including the shutter button, the construction of the body itself is moisture- and dust-resistant for further protection.

The 2.7-inch TFT LCD provides Live View coverage and a wide angle of view, while the Glass PentaPrism provides a 95 percent field of view with 0.95x magnification. A few of the other features include 100K-stepped white balancing for more accurate tonal control, a My Settings mode for quickly choosing preselected modes of shooting, and a multiexposure function for providing two to nine exposures in-camera on one frame. There’s also internal support for the Adobe DNG system of RAW files.

Key Specs
Sensor: 14.6-megapixel CMOS
Format: 23.4x15.6mm (1.5x)
Storage: SD/SDHC
A/D Conversion: 12-bit
Max. Drive Rate: 3 fps
LCD: 2.7-inch, 230K-dot with Live View
AF: 11-point
Metering: 16-segment, CW, spot
ISO Range: 100-1600, plus 3200
and 6400
Dimensions: 5.6x4.0x2.8 inches
Weight: 25.2 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $1,100
Sony DSLR-A700
Sony’s DSLR-A700 features a design reminiscent of Konica Minolta’s D-SLR, the Maxxum 7D. This isn’t too surprising, since Sony bought Konica Minolta’s technologies in 2005 and has based the successful Alpha series largely on them. The 12.2-megapixel Exmor APS-C CMOS image sensor has incredibly low noise, thanks to double noise elimination performed both before and after A/D conversion.

Sony has integrated SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization into the body of the A700, making it compatible not only with current Alpha series lenses, but also with the optics of Alpha lens mounts from Minolta and Konica Minolta, with approximately 2.5 to 4 stops of compensation. Other features include an Eye-Start Autofocus System, Creative Style settings for a variety of enhanced image styles, and construction that includes static-free and anti-dust coatings and anti-dust vibration coupled with a tough magnesium-alloy body, making it an ideal backup in the field.

First seen in the A100, the Dynamic Range Optimizer is the A700’s most notable feature, providing in-camera high dynamic range for securing detail in dark and bright areas in the same exposure. Standard mode uses gamma curves for subtle improvement in shadow detail, while the Advanced Auto mode lets you choose any of five correction levels of intensity. DRO Advanced Bracketing offers an alternative route by automatically taking three shots at differing exposure levels with a single shutter press for alignment later.

Key Specs
Sensor: 12.24-megapixel Exmor CMOS
Format: 23.5x15.6mm (1.5x)
Storage: CF (I & II), MS (Duo, PRO Duo, PRO-HG )
A/D Conversion: 12-bit
Max. Drive Rate: 5 fps
LCD: 3.0-inch TFT

AF: 11-point
Metering: TTL 40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC
ISO Range: 100-3200, up to 6400 expanded
Dimensions: 5.6x4.3x3.3 inches
Weight: 24.34 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $1,299


 

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