What About Medium Format?
The popular “35mm” DSLRs (those that look like 35mm film SLRs) are not the only DSLRs. There also are models based on the medium-format SLR form factor, with much larger sensors—and much larger prices.
Were he around today, Ansel Adams might be using a 60-megapixel medium-format digital back on his view camera (assuming he could get sufficient sponsorship—those cameras cost tens of thousands of dollars). But 60-megapixel images result in huge file sizes, which in turn require lots of time and computer power to process (and lots of hard-drive space to store). Many outdoor photographers simply can’t afford to shoot medium-format digital.
Like their film brethren, medium-format DSLRs produce noticeably better image quality than smaller-format DSLRs at lower ISO settings, due to their larger sensors (which collect more light and allow for higher pixel counts, larger pixels or even both simultaneously) and their 16-bit image files. The better “35mm” DSLRs handle higher ISOs better, however, and are better suited for wildlife action and handheld low-light photography.
Medium-format DSLRs (and backs for view cameras) are expensive, starting around $10,000 and going up to $40,000 and beyond. The file sizes they produce are huge, requiring lots of computer power and time to process. Current medium-format DSLRs range from 22 to 60 megapixels, with image sensors from about 50% larger to more than twice as large as a “full-frame” 35mm-based DSLR sensor. Leica’s $22,995 37.5-megapixel S2 looks and operates much like an oversized “35mm” DSLR, while the others look and operate like medium-format SLRs. Besides the camera bodies, lenses for medium-format DSLRs cost more than equivalent lenses for 35mm-based DSLRs. The 35mm-based DSLRs also offer a wider range of focal lengths, especially at the long end—a consideration for wildlife photographers.
Another notch down the megapixel scale, we find three more Canon models: a sturdy semi-pro camera, an upper-end entry-level model, and the second-lowest-priced model in our high-megapixel lineup. All have APS-C sensors with a 1.6x “crop” factor, and are compatible with all Canon EF, EF-S and TS-E tilt-shift lenses.
Canon EOS 7D. The 7D is the Canon 18-megapixel model with the most rugged construction (including dust- and weather-resistance), the quickest performance and two DIGIC 4 processors vs. one for the 60D and Rebel T2i (although the 60D has a newer version of the DIGIC 4). The 7D has an “intelligent” pentaprism viewfinder that covers approximately 100% of the actual image area, at 1.0x magnification (vs. 96% and 0.95x for the 60D, and 95% and 0.87x for the T2i’s pentamirror finder). Focusing screens are interchangeable, and a grid screen is available to help keep horizons horizontal. The 3.0-inch Live View monitor features 920,000 dots. Like all recent Canon DSLRs, the 7D has a self-cleaning sensor, a valuable feature when you’re changing lenses frequently in the field, and the 7D features 14-bit RAW recording. For those who want to capture landscapes with motion and sound, the EOS 7D features full HD video capability, with auto or manual control over exposure and focus, and mono sound via a built-in microphone, or stereo via an optional external stereo mic. Estimated Street Price: $1,499.
Also Consider: Canon’s newest DSLR, the EOS 60D features essentially the same sensor and metering system as the 7D in a more compact (albeit less rugged) body. The 3.0-inch, 1,040,000-dot LCD monitor has a 3:2 aspect ratio that better matches still images and HD video, and tilts and swivels, handy during live-view operation. The 60D uses the same high-capacity battery as the 7D, but stores images on SD/SDHC/SDXC cards instead of CompactFlash. Video features are the same as for the 7D. Estimated Street Price: $1,299.
Also Consider: A low-priced, 18-megapixel DSLR, the Canon EOS Rebel T2i also provides the same sensor as the 7D and 60D, in an even more compact package than the 60D. The T2i features the same 3.0-inch, 1,040,000-dot 3:2 LCD monitor as the 60D, but it doesn’t tilt or swivel; and the T2i uses a smaller, lower-capacity battery. Video features are the same as for the 7D and 60D. Estimated Street Price: $799.