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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Best D-SLRs For B&W

There’s more to getting a good black-and-white image than just shooting in color and doing a conversion. In the field, take advantage of your camera’s settings and you can unleash its inner TRI-X!

Labels: CamerasGearBuyer's Guide

This Article Features Photo Zoom
The vast majority of today’s D-SLRs provide monochrome modes; a quick check of the instruction manual’s index for “monochrome,” “monotone” or “B&W” should get you there. Set the camera for RAW (or RAW+JPEG) shooting, activate monochrome mode, and you’re off to the races. But even if your camera won’t shoot mono-chrome images, you can convert color ones to monochrome using image-editing software (see the sidebar below).

best dslrs for b&w
Canon’s current and recent D-SLRs (EOS 5D and later) provide a Picture Style setting called Monochrome. Select this, and your JPEGs will be in black-and-white. You can fine-tune sharpness and contrast, apply colored filters (none, yellow, orange, red or green) and apply a toning effect (none, sepia, blue, purple or green). The newest models have a handy Picture Style button on the camera back, which accesses the Picture Style menu window directly. Some earlier EOS D-SLRs also allow you to shoot images in monochrome, although they don’t have the Picture Style feature. And, of course, you always can convert a color image to black-and-white in the computer.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II
While all of Canon’s current D-SLRs provide a Monochrome Picture Style, the EOS 5D Mark II stands out for several reasons: It provides the best image quality of any EOS D-SLR, its 21.1-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor provides a wide angle of view and beautiful bokeh (out-of-focus background effect), and it can shoot true HD video with any Picture Style applied, including Monochrome. A handy Picture Style button below the LCD monitor brings up a menu screen on which you can select Monochrome style, then apply a colored-filter effect (none, yellow, orange, red or green) and/or a toning effect (none, sepia, blue, purple or green). If you use Live View mode (including HD movie), the 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor will display the monochrome image, complete with chosen effects, making it very easy to preview tonal mergers and filter effects.

best dslrs for b&w
Nikon’s most recent D-SLRs (D3, D300, D700 and D90) provide a Picture Control setting called Monochrome. You can shoot straight black-and-white, apply colored filter effects (none, yellow, orange, red or green) or tone the image (none, sepia, cyanotype, red, yellow, green, blue-green, blue, purple, purple-blue or red-purple). You also can adjust sharpening in 10 steps, contrast in seven steps and brightness in three steps. With earlier Nikon models (D40, D60, D80, D200, D2XS, etc.), you get monochrome via the Optimize Image feature, which converts already-shot images in-camera. The newer models also allow you to convert color images to monochrome copies in-camera.

Nikon D700

Like its D3, D300 and D90 brethren, the D700 provides Nikon’s Picture Controls, including Monochrome. We like the D700 because it provides the top-of-the-line D3’s 12.1-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor (and excellent image quality, due in part to those huge pixels) and excellent AF and metering systems in a lighter, more compact and much lower-priced package. There’s also a sensor-dust reduction system to help keep that big sensor clean. Two Live View modes let you preview monochrome filter effects on the 3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD monitor, so you can detect and fix tonal mergers. In the shooting menu, highlight Set Picture Control and press OK, highlight Monochrome, then press the right-arrow key to bring up the settings menu. Adjust sharpening, brightness and contrast as desired, and apply a colored filter (none, yellow, orange, red or green) and/or toning effect (none, sepia, cyanotype, red, yellow, green, blue-green, blue, purple, purple-blue or red-purple).

best dslrs for b&w
Olympus’ current and recent D-SLRs provide a Picture Mode setting called Monotone. Select this, and your JPEGs will be recorded in black-and-white. You can apply a number of black-and-white filter effects (neutral, yellow, orange, red or green) and Picture Tones (neutral, sepia, blue, purple or green).

Olympus E-3
All of Olympus’ current D-SLRs offer similar monochrome capabilities, but the top-of-the-line pro E-3 model features a tilting/swiveling Live View monitor that makes it easy to shoot those monochrome images at odd angles and preview the effects of filter settings. Olympus calls its monochrome mode Monotone, and you access it by pressing the OK button to call up the Super Control Panel screen. Select Picture Mode, then Monotone. You then can adjust contrast and sharpness in five steps, choose a filter effect (neutral, yellow, orange, red or green) and select a picture tone (neutral, sepia, blue, purple or green). If you want to check for tonal mergers or see the effects of filters, activate Live View mode by pressing the Live View button. The mirror will flip up, and the image will appear on the LCD monitor.


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