Digital SLRs are taking a turn for the better this year. As the cliche goes, these are not your fathers’ SLRs. Who would have thought that a DSLR would have Live View, or record movies, or even lose the mirror? Here are the top 10 trends to look for in a new DSLR:
- HD Movie – It’s all the rage and being able to take advantage of the availability of interchangeable lenses as well as the narrow depth of field possible, HD movie making on a DSLR is one step closer to reality.
- High Resolution LCD – Look for 460K dots as average. The best goes up to 920K dots resolution.
- Swivel LCD – If you’ve never used one, you don’t believe you need it. But once you’ve used one, you can never do away with it. Some like the type that opens and rotates — but I personally find it too bulky and no one ever uses all those angles. The type I prefer simply pulls out and tilts up or down. It’s fast and instant to use and does not add too much extra bulk to the camera.
- Live View – Even though Live View is not that new, it is unfortunately plagued with s-l-o-w contrast-detect AF that makes it impractical to use. Panasonic has introduced fast contrast-detect AF in its G1 and GH1, so look for the other DSLR manufacturers to follow suit.
- Mirror-less DSLRs – Again, Panasonic leads the pack with the G1 and GH1. By removing the mirror and using Live View to show the photographer exactly what will be recorded on the camera’s image sensor, Panasonic can make its DSLRs smaller and lighter. Without a mirror, the viewfinder has to be of necessity electronic, and these are getting better with each generation of DSLR.
- Low noise at high ISO – The traditional camera manufacturers still lead when it comes to clean images at high ISOs. If image quality is paramount, including being able to take clean images in low light situations, then the choice is currently limited to only Nikon and Canon DSLRs. The other manufacturers are trying too hard to “clean up” the noise in firmware instead of capturing a clean image to start out with. In-camera noise reduction results in loss of detail in images.
- Extended Dynamic Range – Dynamic range has to do with whether your camera is able to take a picture that conserves detail in both shadows and highlights. Usually if you meter for the shadows, the highlights are blown; if you meter for the highlights, the shadows become almost solid black. The technology now exists whereby the camera takes 3 pictures, one for an average metering, a second metering for the shadows, and a third metering for the highlights. The three images are then combined in-camera to produce one final image with extended dynamic range — conserving details in both shadows and highlights!
- Weather-resistant body – Not every manufacturer is doing this, but the availability of a DSLR and lenses that are weather-resistant has to be an attractive proposition for lots of photographers. You don’t want to put away your DSLR when it starts raining or it gets dusty, nor do you want to mess with plastic sleeves, etc.
- GPS – GPS is used to mark a spot where you may want to come back at a later date, say at night, or in Winter. Some cameras offer this capability in-camera, while there are also external accessories that clip onto the hot shoe.
- Eye-sensor – This is a must in every DSLR that features Live View. When you bring the camera to your eye (so you can use the viewfinder), the eye-sensor automatically switches the view from the LCD to the viewfinder. When you take your eye away from the camera, the view automatically switches back to the LCD. Without the eye-sensor, you have to manually push a button everytime you want to switch from LCD to viewfinder and vice-versa.
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