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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

DSLRs & Lenses For Landscapes

The best cameras, lenses and gear for achieving the ultimate landscape photography no matter your budget

Labels: CamerasD-SLRsGear
This Article Features Photo Zoom


Canon EOS 6D
Canon's entry-level full-frame DSLR features a 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor that delivers 14-bit RAW files. A new 11-point AF system offers a center cross-type point that works in light down to EV -3, which can be handy for moonlit landscapes. Relatively compact for a full-frame DSLR, the EOS 6D measures 5.7x4.4x2.8 inches and weighs only 24.0 ounces. A built-in GPS receiver can record latitude, longitude, elevation and Coordinated Universal Time as EXIF data for geotagging. There's also a built-in WiFi transmitter, a large pentaprism viewfinder with 97% coverage and a 3.0-inch, 1040K-dot LCD monitor. The 6D can use all Canon EF lenses (but not APS-C-sized EF-S lenses, which will vignette). These currently range from the 8-15mm fisheye zoom and 14mm superwide-angle to an 800mm supertelephoto.

Nikon D600
The D600 features a 24.3-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor and can deliver either 12- or 14-bit RAW files. For the economical price point of the D600, you gain the same weather sealing and dust resistance as the much more expensive D800/800E, only the shutter is rated for 150,000 cycles instead of 200,000 cycles. The D600 includes a pentaprism viewfinder that shows 100% of the actual area in full-frame mode and 97% in cropped DX mode. It has a 3.2-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor, and the body is compact for a full-frame DSLR at 5.6x4.4x3.2 inches and 26.8 ounces. It's compatible with optional WiFi and GPS units, and like all full-frame Nikon DSLRs, it can use more affordable DX lenses designed for APS-C sensors, automatically cropping to 24x16mm DX format when one is attached and delivering 10.3-megapixel images. Dual memory-card slots accept SD/SDHC/SDXC media.

There are now full-frame models available in what would be considered the mid-range bracket, along with higher-end APS-C cameras. With all other factors equal, full-frame sensors offer a much better signal-to-noise ratio over APS-C simply because more real estate at the sensor results in better light-gathering abilities. While APS-C cameras are speedier because the files are smaller, this doesn't matter much to landscape work, and what's more, full-frame DSLRs will show a large advantage over APS-C sensors in high-ISO performance, which can be of significance, especially when shooting in the low-light levels of sunrises or sunsets, and even at night. Sure, you're probably using a tripod for landscapes (you should be) and you can get away with longer exposures, but this also introduces more image noise, of course.

This doesn't rule out APS-C models for landscapes, however. Besides cost and size advantages, modern middle-tier APS-C cameras pack plenty of resolution and a wide variety of significant features into formidable little bodies. Mid-range DSLRs also provide several prosumer and amateur-oriented features like in-camera auto HDR (high dynamic range), as well as multiple-exposure and even intervalometer capability or WiFi in a few newer models. They also offer AF fine-tuning to compensate for manufacturing variations among camera bodies and lenses, especially important when the maximum resolution is essential.

With a mid-range budget, you can move up from entry-level lenses to higher-end short-range zooms, and even one-stop-slower-than-top-end primes. The fastest prime lenses really aren't necessary for most landscape work, and slower models (a 24mm ƒ/2.8 versus a 24mm ƒ/1.4, for example) can save you a lot on money and bulk while still delivering excellent images. The shorter-range zooms can be better corrected digitally than the "superzooms," too, which also results in better image quality.


Pentax K-5 IIs
The Pentax K-5 IIs features an excellent 16.3-megapixel APS-C sensor with no low-pass filter for increased sharpness, but more moiré. There are two 14-bit RAW formats (PEF and DNG), and construction features dustproofing and cold and weather resistance, as well. The eye-level glass pentaprism viewfinder shows 100% of the image area, as does the 3.0-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor, which also features an air-gap-free design with a reflection-reducing resin layer and AR coating for better visibility outdoors. A standard K-5 II model is available with a low-pass filter for $100 less.


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