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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

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Nikon D700
Nikon D700
The D700 has proved a very popular camera, as it offers the D3’s 12.1-megapixel, full-frame image sensor and superb high-ISO image quality in a much lighter and lower-cost package. Normal low-noise ISO range is 200-6400, with expansion to 100, 12,800 and 25,600 when needed. Unlike the D3 and D3X, the D700 has a Dynamic Integrated Dust Reduction System to keep dust off the image sensor—the first full-frame Nikon DSLR with this feature (the new D3S also has it).

The D700 can shoot at 5 fps (8 fps with an optional MB-D10 Multipower Battery Pack) and seems to have the same excellent AF performance as the D3, which (along with its more compact size and lighter weight) makes the D700 an excellent action camera. The 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor provides Live View with both phase-detection and contrast-based AF.

While not as rugged as the D3/D3S/D3X series, the D700 can hold its own in the field. The D700 has only one memory card slot (for CompactFlash), while the D3 series has two slots. Like the D3-series cameras, the D700 automatically switches to cropped DX format when a DX Nikkor lens is attached—so you can use any DX lenses you have, albeit at a reduced pixel count.

Nikon D300S
Nikon D300S
The full-frame DSLRs have an advantage when it comes to image quality: Due to their much larger image sensors, they can have bigger pixels, more pixels, or some of both, compared to an APS-C DSLR. But the DX-format (Nikon’s name for APS-C) D300S does itself proud among the smaller-sensor cameras. The normal low-noise ISO range remains the same as with the D300 (200-3200, expandable to 6400), but image quality is better at all speeds.

The D300S adds to the popular D300 with 720p/24 HD video capability (and a stereo microphone jack to supplement the built-in mono mic), and the more powerful processor required for video also speeds up the already excellent autofocusing. Our D300S test camera seemed quicker in all respects than the D300.

The D300S can shoot at 7 fps (up one from the D300). It features the same 51-point AF and 1005-pixel metering systems as the D3-series cameras, albeit with slightly slower (but still excellent) performance, due to the high-end models’ more powerful processors. New is the Virtual Horizon Graphic Indicator from recent pro-level Nikon DSLRs, dual memory card slots (the D300S accepts SD cards, as well as CompactFlash cards), and a handy Live View button that facilitates entering Live View and video modes. Live View on the 3.0-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor provides both phase-detection and contrast-based AF. Nikon’s Dynamic Integrated Dust Reduction System helps keep the image sensor spot-free.


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