DPP Home Gear Cameras Pro DSLR Roundup

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pro DSLR Roundup

DPP takes a look at the currently available top-level cameras and calls out the key features to help you find the model that’s best for you and the way you shoot

This Article Features Photo Zoom

There have been several intriguing digital camera introductions recently, from the under-$10,000, 40-megapixel, medium-format Pentax 645D to mirrorless, interchangeable-lens cameras with DSLR-sized sensors to a new generation of fixed-pellicle-mirror DSLRs. But the pro photographer’s mainstay is still the “pro DSLR,” and today’s pro can choose from among nearly a dozen models. Here’s a rundown of what’s currently available and what you need to know about them.

What Makes A Pro Camera A Pro Camera?
A pro DSLR is a serious photographic tool that provides better all-around performance than lesser models—better weather- and dust-proofing, superior image quality, a higher usable ISO range and more high-level capabilities. Pro cameras have more powerful processors and larger buffers, so they can provide the fastest shooting speeds and offer the most shots per burst at those fast rates. These models also provide quicker and more accurate autofocusing and more precise metering systems. (Even when the pro cameras have the same AF and metering systems as the manufacturers’ mid-level cameras, the pro DSLR’s increased onboard processing power enables it to deliver higher AF and metering performance.)

A pro DSLR is usually bulkier and heavier than lower-end models, but that’s because they’re far more rugged and built to withstand hard use. There’s also increased size and weight because most pro DSLRs have larger and heavier batteries to give the photographer more shots per charge. When outfitted with top-tier pro lenses (and even flash units, in some cases), pro cameras let you keep shooting in harsh weather conditions without water or dirt penetrating the more sensitive areas of the body. Many pro DSLRs have shutters tested to 300,000 cycles vs. the 100,000 to 150,000 cycles typical of other DSLRs.

The models designed for the most demanding users generally have a longer product life. Entry-level models seem to come out yearly, and midrange models every year-and-a-half, while pro models often stay in the line for several years. This is a good thing because it means your pro DSLR likely won’t be obsolete a year after you buy it, but it does mean that occasionally improvements in technology will appear first in lower-end models.

The design of a typical pro model assumes a certain level of competence as well as a need for quick access to key functions. You’ll find more direct-set buttons and dials on pro cameras, while lesser models require more scrolling through menus. You’ll also find accessories that aren’t available for lower-end models, like interchangeable focusing screens.

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Still Canon’s top-of-the-line model some three years after its introduction, the EOS-1Ds Mark III features a 21.1-megapixel, full-frame Canon CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC III processors that permit shooting those big files at 5 fps in bursts of up to 12 RAW or 56 Large JPEG images. Like other 1-series EOS models, the Mark III is rugged and well sealed against the elements, with a 300,000-cycle shutter. It has a Self-Cleaning Sensor and slots for both CompactFlash (UDMA-compliant) and SD/SDHC (but not the new SDXC) memory cards.

Live View on the 3.0-inch, 230,000-dot LCD monitor is especially useful in studio situations. But the Mark III also can do action, with a startup time of 0.2 seconds, a shutter release lag of just 0.55 seconds and an AF system that can handle birds in flight.

Being a full-frame camera, the EOS-1Ds Mark III can’t use Canon EF-S lenses, which were designed specifically for the smaller APS-C sensors in lower-end EOS DSLRs. But the lenses it can use cover a focal-length range from 14mm to 800mm, including several macro and tilt-shift lenses and 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. Canon applies an “L” designation to its pro lenses, and these are the best choices for the Mark III.

Why You Should Buy This Model:
This all-around, top-of-the-line pro still camera provides super-high resolution and excellent performance in a versatile, rugged package.

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV

Canon’s newest pro camera, the Mark IV features a 16.1-megapixel, APS-H format (1.3x magnification) Canon CMOS sensor and dual DIGIC 4 processors, giving it the ability to shoot those files at a whopping 10 fps in bursts of up to 28 RAW or 121 Large JPEG shots when using a fast memory card. There are slots for both CompactFlash (UDMA-compliant) and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. The versatile upgraded AF system handles action subjects very well.

The Mark IV can shoot 1920x1080 full HD video at 30p or 24p (25p PAL), as well as 1280x720 HD video at 60p (50p PAL), with mono sound via a built-in microphone or stereo sound via an accessory external mic.

As a newer camera, the Mark IV even bests the top-of-the-line EOS-1Ds Mark III in some areas, including ISO (you can set speeds to 102,400), the LCD monitor (920,000 dots instead of 230,000), image processing (two DIGIC 4 processors vs. dual DIGIC IIIs) and storage (SDXC-compatible). The Mark IV also has Canon’s best AF system.

With a sensor midway between APS-C and full-frame, the Mark IV can’t use the small-sensor EF-S lenses. The sensor’s 1.3x “crop” factor means that the range of focal lengths available is equivalent to 18.2mm to 1040mm on a full-frame camera.

Why You Should Buy This Model:
The Mark IV is ideal for photographers who need speed, and it does full HD video, too.


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