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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

DSLR Performance In A Point-And-Shoot Size?

The new class of cameras—mirrorless, interchangeable-lens models—gives serious nature photographers some interesting options

Labels: CamerasD-SLRs

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Samsung NX10
Samsung’s mirrorless, interchangeable-lens model is the NX10, which has the familiar look and feel of a DSLR, but is much smaller despite its APS-C-format, 14.6-megapixel Samsung CMOS image sensor. That’s largely thanks to replacing the bulky SLR mirror box and pentaprism finder with a high-resolution, eye-level electronic viewfinder. The NX10 also features a 3.0-inch, 614,000-dot AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) monitor, which uses much less power than conventional LCD monitors, has a faster refresh rate and higher contrast, and provides easy viewing in all light. The NX10 can do 1280x720/30p HD video and 640x480/30p and 320x240/30p SD video, all in MPEG-4 (H.264) format, with mono sound. Features include a built-in flash unit, built-in sensor-dust remover, shooting up to 3 fps and ISO settings from 100 to 3200. The NX10 takes NX-mount lenses, of which there are currently three, but more are on the way. Dimensions: 4.8x3.4x1.6 inches. Weight: 12.4 ounces. List Price: $699 (with 18-55mm zoom).

Sony Alpha NEX-3
The NEX-5 “kid brother,” the NEX-3 offers just about all the same fine features (including the 14.2-megapixel, APS-C-format CMOS image sensor, 7 fps shooting, ISO settings to 12,800, 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot tilting LCD monitor, Sweep Panorama mode, Auto HDR mode, Dynamic Range Optimizer, simple operation and more). The main differences are the NEX-3 doesn’t provide the NEX-5’s 1920x1080/60i AVCHD video format or the NEX-5’s magnesium-alloy front fascia. Both models lack a built-in flash unit, but come with a detachable flash; neither has an eye-level EVF (nor is one available as an accessory). Both cameras feature a new electronic E lens mount and can take new Sony E-mount lenses. Lenses for Sony’s Alpha DSLRs also can be used via adapter, but with manual focusing only. Dimensions: 4.4x2.4x1.5 inches. Weight: 8.1 ounces. List Price: $599 (with 18-55mm zoom).

Sony Alpha NEX-5
The tiny and stylish NEX-5 has lots going for it, including a new 14.2-megapixel Sony APS-C CMOS sensor, a 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD monitor that tilts for easy high- and low-angle shooting, the ability to shoot full-res images at 7 fps (with focus and exposure locked), ISO settings from 200 to 12,800, and slots for both Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC media. It can shoot 1920x1080/60i AVCHD video, 1440x1080/30p HD video and 640x480/30p SD video. A turn-and-click wheel and two soft keys make design and operation simple. There also are such outdoor-oriented features as Sweep Panorama (press the shutter button and sweep the camera horizontally or vertically to produce in-camera stitched panoramas), Dynamic Range Optimizer (to tame high-contrast scenes), Handheld Twilight mode (combines data from six shots made in rapid succession to minimize blur) and Auto HDR. Dimensions: 4.4x2.4x1.5 inches. Weight: 8.1 ounces. List Price: $699 (with 18-55mm zoom and clip-on flash unit).

The Leica Factor

Leica’s superb and costly M9 and M8.2 digital rangefinder models qualify as “mirrorless, interchangeable-lens” cameras, but they’re in a whole different category. For one thing, they’re rangefinder models, with precision wide-base rangefinder manual focusing. For another, you could buy all of the other mirrorless, interchangeable-lens models, with their standard lenses, for less than the price of an M9 and its lowest-cost lens. But the Leicas are the ultimate “connoisseur” cameras in the category. The M9 features a full-frame 18-megapixel sensor, and the M8.2 has an APS-H (1.3x focal-length factor) 10.3-megapixel sensor, both CCDs.

Basically, these cameras are classic Leica M-series rangefinders, with digital sensors in place of the 35mm film mechanisms. They use the same quality lenses and feature the same rugged construction and smooth, silent operation that built Leica’s reputation, but shoot digital images instead of negatives and slides. Focusing is manual-only, as is advance (the accessory Leica Motor M drive can’t be used with the digital M cameras).


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