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Monday, September 1, 2008

Does Your Camera Have An Evil Twin?

What’s in a camera’s DNA? We’ll show you the features and technologies that have trickled down from the top-end models to the popular sweet-spot cameras.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Many camera manufacturers talk about their upper-mid-range models, those most used by nature photographers, as being inspired by the same technology as their uber-pro models. For most nature photographers, the top-end cameras aren’t practical options, however. They’re often quite expensive, tend to be large and heavy, and might be overbuilt for someone who isn’t as hard on their gear as a typical pro. Camera makers compromise by taking the most useful features from the top models and reworking them for lighter, more compact bodies. While these choices are indeed compromises, they almost always work out in favor of nature shooters like us. The trade-offs are made where we want them to be made. We get many of the benefits of technology built for the most demanding pros, but in a much more user-friendly package.

But how much of that coveted pro camera’s technology trickles down the line? We decided to make some comparisons for ourselves. For Canon and Nikon, we compared their top-end pro cameras to their advanced amateur/prosumer models. For Panasonic/Leica, Pentax/Samsung and Sony, we compared models in their lineups that are more like identical twins. Each manufacturer has cameras that are almost identical beneath the skin—the Sony A350 and A300 are identical except for their image sensors; the Sigma SD14 interchangeable-lens D-SLR and new DP1 fixed-lens compact share the same image sensor, but are otherwise completely different cameras.

Read on. You’ll get a sense of what you gain and what you miss out on between the top-end models and the more modestly priced options. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which camera will work best for your style of shooting.


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