Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Essential DSLR Features For Landscapes
Discover sophisticated DSLR modes and functions to free your creative vision in the field
Landscape photography once was primarily the realm of large-format view cameras, but no more. Today’s DSLR models with their high-quality sensors, excellent optics and robust computerized processing and features have taken over. Sophisticated DSLR modes offer nature photographers more possibilities than ever before, as well as unique ways to explore and photograph the expansive world around us. Your landscape images can reap the benefits with better color, absolutely perfect exposures and dynamic compositions. In this article, we break down the key features for landscape shooters and discuss why these are important and how you can use them to your advantage when shooting landscapes. We’ve also included a chart showing the current lineup of DSLRs with these key features.
Yes, megapixel count is overhyped in the never-ending race for more, but more pixels are good for the landscape photographer because more pixels mean that you can make bigger prints with better detail. Image-resizing software applications can make big prints from fewer pixels, but all other things being equal, you’ll get better-looking prints with native pixels and no upsizing. Of course, the more pixels you start with, the better an upsized print of a given size will look, too. More pixels also mean smaller ones on a given-sized sensor, and that can mean reduced image quality, so pay attention to stats besides just megapixel count, like pixel size, as bigger pixels can collect more light, which results in better image quality.
In the rough-and-tumble world of technology, though, there are very few hard-and-fast rules. To prove it, the Nikon full-frame, 24.5-megapixel D3X, as well as the Pentax K-5, Nikon D7000 and Sony DSLR-A580 in the APS-C-format, outscored lower-pixel-count contemporaries in their formats in DxO’s RAW sensor performance ratings at lower ISO settings (go to www.dxomark.com for more information). Bottom line: It doesn’t pay to choose a camera based on one specification alone and certainly not megapixel count. It’s an important spec to take into consideration, however.
Live view is one of the most important breakthroughs in photographic technology. DSLRs with live-view capability let you check compositions on their three-inch LCD monitors and fine-focus on a greatly enlarged section of that image (both best done with a view camera-style dark cloth or other shade to block out the sunlight). If you like to shoot from high or low angles, a camera with a tilting/swiveling LCD monitor will allow you to do so comfortably with no contortions required. (Non-tilting LCD monitors can be viewed at an angle, generally at a maximum of about 170º, but that’s not always ideal for fine-tuning compositions and focus.) Most importantly, this ease of shooting from different angles will encourage you to break free from the usual human eye-level perspective so often used for landscapes. For occasions when you want to use the eye-level viewfinder, cameras with pentaprism rather than pentamirror viewfinders generally provide brighter, clearer viewfinder images, and many prosumer and top-of-the-line models will offer 100% coverage for precise compositions.
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