Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Big-Time DSLRs Under $1,000
Packed with power, advanced features and high performance, the latest sub-$1,000 HD SLRs are outstanding options for serious nature photographers
Not all of the top features found in sub-$1,000 DSLRs are the result of image sensor and processor advancements. Some are mechanical, and others combine mechanical and processor advancements. Most notably, several models include high-resolution, 3-inch color LCD monitors for live preview, movie composition, menu access and image playback. The Canon EOS T3i's Vari-Angle monitor features 1.04 million dot resolution and a reflection-reduction coating, with a left-side hinge that lets you swivel the screen around and tuck it against the camera for protection. The Nikon D5100's 921,000-dot, 3-inch LCD monitor has the same swiveling arrangement, while the Sony A580's 921,000 dot, 3-inch screen can be tilted 90º up or down, allowing you to shoot from the waist or overhead. Several cameras take advantage of the size, resolution and brightness of their LCD monitors, allowing you to easily view multiple image thumbnails in playback, and add easy-to-read tutorials and in-camera guides with information that was once buried in the camera manuals.
Memory card read and write speeds also have increased as a result of in-camera processing and improved card technologies. Most cameras can read and write at high speeds to the latest SDXC cards, and are backward-compatible with older SD cards. In addition, many DSLRs are compatible with Eye-Fi wireless cards, allowing you to automatically transmit image and movie files to your computer via high-speed Wi-Fi.
Wireless control functions are also built into the pop-up flash units of both the Canon and Sony models (surprisingly, the Nikon D5100 lacks a Commander mode for its pop-up flash). So you can adjust the output of the pop-up flash, as well as control external flash units available from both companies—a good thing since none of these cameras includes a PC sync jack.
The Bottom Line
The increased performance and features now available in at least three DSLRs priced under $1,000 may soon have pros wondering whether to buy a single high-priced pro body or two advanced-class bodies—plus a few lenses and flash units—for the same price. But serious photographers on a budget, or those looking to move up from an entry-level DSLR or sophisticated point-and-shoot, will find value in the sub-$1,000 category.
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