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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

New State Of The Art

A look at four of the latest high-end, pro-caliber DSLRs

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Pro DSLRs should be very rugged, able to withstand the rigors of hard pro use. Canon and Nikon pro DSLRs have long met this requirement, and the new EOS-1D X and D4 carry on that tradition. Even shutter life has been raised to a tested 400,000 cycles. The SD1 is Sigma's most rugged DSLR ever, and it's sealed against moisture and dust, as well. Despite the fact that Sony doesn't market its SLT-A77 as a pro camera, we feel that it features a rugged, pro-caliber body and is well sealed against moisture and dust. The SD1 is rated to 100,000 shots, and the A77 is rated to 150,000.

The EOS-1D X and the D4 have high-capacity batteries. The Nikon D4 is CIPA-rated at 2,600 shots per charge, and while Canon hasn't released shots-per-charge figures for the EOS-1D X's new battery, the camera is also compatible with the battery used in the EOS-1D Mark IV, which is CIPA-rated at 1,500 shots per charge. In keeping with their smaller size, the Sigma SD1 and Sony A77 utilize smaller batteries. The A77's is CIPA-rated at 530 shots per charge (the camera is in Live View mode all the time), and while Sigma doesn't give battery-life specs for the SD1, we haven't been able to verify a figure, but it should be higher than 530 since the SD1 doesn't have a Live View mode.

Sony SLT-A77

In 2010, Sony introduced a new-concept DSLR, the SLT, with a nonmoving semitranslucent mirror that solved a lot of problems caused by the conventional SLR system. (See the sidebar "Are EVFs Suitable For Pros?") The SLT-A77 is Sony's current top-of-the-line model, and while not specifically a pro model, it has lots to interest many pro photographers.
Sony Lens Lineup. Like all Sony DSLRs, the A77 can use all Sony A-mount lenses, as well as legacy Konica Minolta Maxxum lenses. The camera has Sony's SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift image stabilization, which works with all lenses. The Sony lens lineup currently numbers 30, from an 11-18mm superwide-zoom (equivalent to 16.5-27mm on a 35mm camera) to a 70-400mm zoom (equivalent to 105-600mm on a 35mm camera), and a 16mm fisheye and three macro lenses, plus 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.
HD Video. A new AVCHD Progressive 2.0 codec provides 1920x1080 full HD video at 60p (as well as 60i and 24p for a "movie" feel), plus 1440x1080 and 640x480 MP4 video at 30p. You get eye-level viewing and full-time phase-detection AF while shooting. You can record stereo sound via built-in microphones, plus plug an external mic into the provided jack.

LCD Monitor. A 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor that tilts 150° up and 180° down, as well as 180° clockwise and 90° counterclockwise, provides another viewing/composing option, handy for odd-angle shooting.

Rugged, Sealed Body. The rugged magnesium-alloy body is well-sealed against moisture and dust, and contains a shutter tested to 150,000 cycles. The DT 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 SSM "kit" zoom, VG-C77AM vertical grip and HVL-F43AM flash unit also are sealed against weather and dust. The camera automatically corrects for vignetting and chromatic aberration and distortion, and provides AF fine-tuning.
Resolution And Shooting Speed. The 24.3-megapixel, APS-C image sensor delivers 6000x4000-pixel images in RAW or JPEG form. A new Bionz imaging engine can process all that data quickly enough to permit shooting full-res images (RAW or JPEG) at 12 fps with continuous autofocusing (albeit with the lens at its widest aperture and exposure locked at the first frame). It can do 8 fps at any aperture, with exposure set for each frame. Built-In GPS. A GPS unit automatically geotags your images as you shoot (with latitude, longitude and altitude); you then can use that data to see where a specific image was shot, organize and search for images, or place images on digital maps. Special Functions. Auto HDR quickly shoots three bracketed exposures and merges the best of each into an image with detail from shadows through highlights—even for handheld shooting. Dynamic Range Optimizer improves shadow and highlight detail with a single shot. Handheld Twilight shoots a six-shot burst at different settings, then uses proprietary Sony digital compositing technology and noise reduction to produce a single image with suppressed blur and noise. Sweep Panorama makes it easy to create dramatic stitched panoramic images in-camera by simply sweeping the camera across a scene. There's even a 3D Sweep Panorama mode.
Translucent Mirror System. The SLT concept permits full-time continuous phase-detection AF, even in Live View and video modes, with eye-level viewing via the built-in OLED Tru-Finder. The finder shows 100% of the actual image area, at a 1.09x magnification (with a 50mm lens at infinity), and provides dioptric eyepiece correction from -4.0 to +3.0—more than typical DSLR finders. It also can provide extensive information displays when you want them, as well as preview exposure compensation, white balance and Creative Style settings. You can display three types of grids to keep your shots perfectly lined up.


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