Buying an SLR camera can be a daunting task. That’s why Outdoor Photographer magazine has tips and articles on buying a SLR camera that work for you. You could spend all day at the store trying to review digital SLR cameras. We make it easy.
By Ibarionex R. Perello
There’s a definite visceral reaction when taking pictures with an SLR. The look of the camera and the way it seems to be an extension of my hand often evokes a sense that something wonderful is only a fraction of a second away. Although I’ve taken great photographs with a compact digital camera, a digital SLR provides the features and controls I often need to ensure I come away with the photograph I expect.
Despite the emotions D-SLRs evoke, what really matters are the pictures it produces. Today’s interchangeable-lens cameras offer a host of features that seem to make anything possible. From high-res sensors to wireless flash systems, these cameras are pushing what ís possible with photography, digital or not. Here’s a look at what to look for when you compare digital SLR cameras.
Sensor And Resolution Since the first digital camera broke the 1-megapixel barrier not so long ago, the question of a camera’s resolution always seems to be the measuring stick by which all newcomers are gauged. Although there’s more to a quality photograph than a camera’s pixel count, resolution still is important to consider.
The 16.7-megapixel Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and 12.4-megapixel Nikon D2xs produce large image files whose quality many say rivals that produced on medium-format film. The large files delivered by these cameras translate to quality 16x20-inch and larger prints with retention of detail, even when aggressively cropped.
Even moderately priced D-SLRs deliver enough resolution for excellent 13x19-inch prints. Entry-level cameras offer approximately 6-megapixel resolution, making quality enlargements both possible and affordable. For a boost in resolution, the next level includes 8 to 10 megapixels.
Regardless of your preference in resolution, all of these cameras produce enlargements that are comparable to anything created on 35mm film.
APS ANd Full-Frame Sensors Photographers who use 35mm lenses immediately notice the difference in magnification that occurs when those lenses are mounted on a D-SLR. This is because most D-SLR sensors are smaller than a standard 35mm frame. Named after a film format released in the ’90s, an APS-size sensor measures approximately 15x23mm. Because the light from the rear of the lens is covering a smaller surface area, the lens delivers an image that looks as if it was taken with a longer focal length.
The lens magnification factor, which often ranges between 1.3x and 1.6x, increases the effective focal length of an attached lens. A 300mm lens, when mounted on a camera with a lens magnification factor of 1.5x, will perform as a 450mm. This occurs with no loss of light as would be experienced with the use of a teleconverter. For photographers who prefer to use their existing lenses at their “true” focal length, however, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 5D are full-frame digital SLRs whose sensors have the same dimensions of a 35mm frame.
Nikon takes advantage of this lens magnification factor in the High Speed Crop (HSC) mode of its D2xs camera. The 12.4-megapixel camera normally features a 1.5x magnification factor, but in HSC mode, the camera’s resolution is reduced to 6.8 megapixels. By using a smaller area of the CMOS sensor, lens magnification increases by 2x, making a 300mm ƒ/2.8 lens into a 600mm.
Olympus has based its cameras on an entirely new system. Using a Four Thirds sensor, Olympus SLRs allow for the creation of optics that have been specifically designed for digital image capture. In addition to being lighter and more compact than comparable focal lengths, these lenses also promise improved color and tonal rendition while delivering excellent sharpness.