Tuesday, December 15, 2009
DSLRs For Low Light
The combination of improved sensors, advanced processing engines and powerful algorithms makes the current lineup of pro DSLRs capable of a whole new kind of low-light photography
Canon EOS 7D
Canon’s top APS-C model, the new EOS 7D features an 18-megapixel Canon CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 4 processors. It provides a normal ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to ISO 12,800 when needed. The 7D can shoot those 18-megapixel images at 8 fps, in bursts of up to 15 RAW or 126 JPEGs (using a UDMA-compliant CompactFlash card). The pixel count and shooting rate are both tops in the category. The 7D also brings HD video to Canon’s intermediate DSLR line (1080p full HD at 24, 25 and 30 fps, and 720p HD and 640x480 SD at 60 and 50 fps), and can shoot video up to ISO 12,800 (with manual control of exposure and focusing when desired).
New AF and metering systems are the most versatile yet in a mid-level EOS DSLR. The 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor provides Live View operation with both phase-detection AF (quick, but disrupts the live view during focusing) and contrast-based AF (doesn’t disrupt the live view, but slower than phase-detection AF). Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System helps keep the image sensor free of dust. Canon, like Nikon, doesn’t provide built-in sensor-shift image stabilization, but both manufacturers offer a wide range of lenses with built-in optical stabilizers. (Sensor-shift stabilization works with any lens you put on the camera, but stabilizes only the recorded image, not the viewfinder image. In-lens stabilization stabilizes both recorded and viewfinder images, but is available only with stabilizer lenses.)
With its high pixel count, 1.6x “crop” factor, new AF system and high-ISO capability, the EOS 7D should be an excellent action camera in any lighting conditions.
Nikon’s newest full-frame DSLR features the same pixel count (12.1 megapixels) as its excellent low-light predecessor, but improves on the original D3 in several ways. Of particular relevance here is that the normal low-ISO range now extends from 200-12,800, expandable to an amazing ISO 102,400, due in part to a newly engineered sensor and EXPEED processing. The D3S also is the first pro Nikon DSLR to incorporate video capability, and it can shoot 720p/24 HD video at ISOs up to 102,400. Naturally, ISO 102,400 images are noisier than lower-ISO images, but the capability is invaluable should you need it. The 13x19-inch ISO 102,400 print Nikon showed us when we got a pre-announcement look at the camera looked amazingly good for the speed.
Like the D3, the D3S can shoot full-res images at 9 fps (for up to 36 14-bit NEF RAW or 82 large JPEG frames, thanks to the new EXPEED processing and a much larger memory buffer) and DX-format images at 11 fps. The D3S’s 51-point AF system is even quicker, due to the more powerful processor. The D3S shares its predecessor’s extremely rugged and well-sealed construction, 100% FX-format viewfinder and 300,000-cycle shutter, and can shoot up to 4,200 images on a single battery charge. Dual CF card slots provide image-saving versatility (auto-overflow, save RAW on one card and JPEGs on the other, save still images on one card and video on the other, etc.). A Dynamic Integrated Dust Reduction System minimizes dust spots on the image sensor, a feature not found in the D3 and D3X. The 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor supports Live View with both phase-detection and contrast-based AF.
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