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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The 10 Megapixel Club

When you need resolution and the compactness of an SLR, these are the four current models you'll want to check out

The 10 Megapixel ClubThere's no question that D-SLRs are hot right now. Manufacturers who had one or two in their lineups a few years ago are rapidly bulking up their offerings to include a range of models that cover the amateur buyer up to the professional. For pros who need the most resolution possible, we're looking at the four 35mm-form factor D-SLRs with image sensors of 10 megapixels and higher—the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II, Canon EOS 5D, Nikon D2x and Nikon D200. Our 10-megapixel cutoff drops some excellent tools from the list, of course, but we want to focus on resolution here.

Each of the four cameras we feature is distinct. The two Canon models are built with full-frame image sensors while the Nikon models feature the “Dx”-sized sensor. Three of the four cameras are built with CMOS technology, while only the Nikon D200 has a CCD sensor. It's clear that each model has its own advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately it's up to you to decide which camera fits your particular needs. Is there a “best” camera in the group? That's always a spurious question because the best camera for one photographer might be inadequate for another. It all comes down to how you shoot.

Ever since the Canon EOS-1Ds hit the market, it has been a professional's favorite. The EOS-1Ds Mark II took the first-generation, full-frame camera a step further in evolution, and Canon took advantage of the opportunity to improve just about everything on the camera (except the name, which continues to generate confusion and occasional references to Speed Racer's Mach V). At the heart of the EOS-1Ds Mark II is the 16.7-megapixel, full-frame CMOS image sensor. In the early days of full-frame sensors, one of the biggest selling points was that the camera didn't have a magnification factor to rob your wide-angle lenses of their wide perspective. While that point is still valid, with the ultra-wide-angle, digital-specific lenses now being made for smaller sensors, the whole magnification factor discussion is fading somewhat.

One element of the EOS-1Ds Mark II sensor that's becoming increasingly important to many shooters is its ability to handle noise. The signal-to-noise ratio from a digital image sensor is directly affected by the physical size of the photosites on the sensor itself. The EOS-1Ds Mark II's large image sensor gives way to large photosites, which are inherently less prone to picking up noise. The upshot is improved sharpness and color rendition. To further assist on noise-reduction and overall image quality, the camera has the DiGiC II image processor built in.

The camera's construction is all business. The magnesium chassis is up to the often punishing treatment pros put it through, and the camera is well-sealed against dust and moisture for confidence in rugged environments.

The EOS-1Ds Mark II is fast-shooting at four frames per second for 11 RAW or 32 JPEGs, and there are dual storage slots—for CompactFlash Type II and SD. All of the usual features are incorporated, including custom white balance, exposure compensation, a high-tech metering system, etc., etc. Not to trivialize these components, but really, if you're looking into the EOS-1Ds Mark II as an option, it's because you want the sensor and you expect it to have the usual shooting features of a pro camera.

The price on the EOS-1Ds Mark II stands at around $8,000 (estimated street price). It's not cheap, but if you need the resolution and the benefits of the full-frame sensor, the price is reasonable.

Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com.


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