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

Sigma SD15

The new Sigma SD15, like its SD9, SD10 and SD14 predecessors, stands out for its unique Foveon image sensor and straightforward concept. The Foveon sensor records all three primary colors at every pixel site, eliminating the need for a Bayer-array filter grid over the pixels, an image-softening low-pass filter to minimize the resulting artifacts and the complex demosaicing algorithms that interpolate the missing colors at each pixel site by using information from neighboring pixels. Sigma purchased Foveon in 2008, so it’s likely to continue to be the only brand offering the X3 sensor.

Pros will appreciate the SD15’s no-nonsense design. The rugged body features a clean, straightforward design that provides quick, simple operation, and it doesn’t require an evening with an owner’s handbook to figure it out.

A handy drive-mode dial makes it easy to set a drive mode or mirror-up operation; just rotate the dial to the appropriate mark. Likewise, you can set any exposure mode merely by rotating a dial—no need to press a button while rotating a dial and monitoring an LCD readout.

The SD15’s 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor is the largest and highest resolution to appear on a Sigma DSLR. A simple, intuitive user interface makes it easy to use the monitor menus, and the camera’s built-in, pop-up flash unit provides handy fill light when needed. Images are recorded to SD/SDHC cards.

Why You Should Buy This Model:
The SD15 is ideal for the photographer who wants a sensor that, uniquely, records all three primary colors at every pixel site.

Sony DSLR-A900

The A900 features a Sony-produced, 24.6-megapixel, full-frame Exmor CMOS sensor. The body has a rugged, straightforward design and the price is well under $3,000. Easy to use, the A900 offers uncomplicated controls and intuitive operation. The bright pentaprism viewfinder shows 100% of the actual image area for accurate framing. There’s a 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor, and slots for both CompactFlash cards and Sony Memory Stick Duo media.

Sony’s five-step Advanced Dynamic Range Optimizer is quite effective with high-contrast scenes, and the 40-segment honeycomb metering also performs very well.

The A900 and the A850 are the only full-frame DSLRs with built-in image stabilization. Sony’s SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift system works with all lenses; the drawback is that it stabilizes only the recorded image, not what you see in the viewfinder. But it’s a great feature, providing sharper handheld shots at all focal lengths. Both cameras also feature a mechanism that vibrates dust off the image sensor, a vital feature for a full-frame DSLR.

The A900 and A850 are the only current full-frame D-SLRs that don’t provide live-view shooting. They do provide an Intelligent Preview feature, which lets you check the effects of exposure value, shutter speed, aperture, white balance and Dynamic Range Optimizer before you take a shot.

Why You Should Buy This Model:
The A900 offers competitive image quality and performance at much less cost than competing 20-megapixel DSLRs if you can live without Live View and extreme focal lengths.

Sony DSLR-A850

The first full-frame DSLR to sell for under $2,000, the A850 features the same 24.6-megapixel Sony Exmor CMOS sensor as the A900, along with most of the A900’s features, in an even lower-cost package.

The A850 retains the A900’s rugged magnesium-alloy body shell with good weather sealing, 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor, SteadyShot INSIDE sensor-shift image stabilization that works with every lens, dual Bionz image processors, 40-segment multipattern metering, a fast 9-point AF system with 10 assist points, sensor-dust remover, AF micro-adjustment, dual memory-card slots (for CompactFlash and Sony Memory Stick) and more.

What do you give up for the $700 difference in price between the A900 and the A850? Mostly shooting speed—the A900 can shoot at 5 fps, the A850 at 3 fps. The A850 also has a viewfinder that shows just 98% of the actual image vs. the A900’s 100% finder. But image quality and AF performance are the same for the two cameras. While neither has a Live View mode or video capability, they do have Sony’s Intelligent Preview: You can preview the effects of shutter speed, aperture, Dynamic Range Optimizer and white balance before taking the final shot.

Why You Should Buy This Model:
The A850 has 24 full-frame megapixels for under $2,000! It’s a great choice for photographers who want maximum megapixels and multiple bodies.


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