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Holdiay Gift Guide

Holiday Gift Guide: DSLRs

If you're considering a DSLR as a holiday gift, here are several of the latest full frame and APS-C cameras, from top performing professional models to more budget-friendly entry level options.

Full Frame DSLRs

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II updates its predecessor with a newly developed sensor, improved processing speed, speedier continuous capture, Dual Pixel AF (among other AF improvements), expanded ISO sensitivity and enhanced video capabilities—and those are just the highlights.

Outdoor photographers will appreciate the 1D X Mark II’s weather resistant seals and rugged build, but other than dual CF and CFast card slots, an improved grip and a touch-screen LCD (for focusing rather than accessing menus), most of the 1D X Mark II’s improvements are under the hood. Built around a new 20.2-megapixel, full-frame Canon CMOS sensor, the 1D X Mark II is the first EOS camera with dual DIGIC VI processors and is the fastest EOS camera to date. When using a CFast card, the camera can reach speeds of up to 16 fps in Live View and up to 14 fps using the viewfinder with AE and predictive AF. Better yet, the 1D X Mark II can capture up to 170 consecutive RAW images at 14 fps and unlimited JPEGs (up to the capacity of the CFast card).

Although, like its predecessor, the 1D X Mark II utilizes 61 AF points, several improvements should prove invaluable to photographers who need quick, responsive AF, even in low light. AF sensitivity at the center point offers better low-light sensitivity at -3 EV (versus the 1D X’s -2 EV), AF point coverage across the frame has been expanded, and all AF points are selectable and are supported to a maximum aperture of ƒ/8. Low-light capabilities have been enhanced, as well. The native ISO of 100-51,200 can be expanded to ISO 50 and up to a remarkable 409,600.

The 1D X Mark II can shoot 4K at up to 60p using the CFast card slot, and with the new Frame Grab feature, you can pull an 8.8-megapixel still JPEG from the 4K footage. Canon also has added 120p full HD recording for slow motion. The touchscreen LCD can be used to select the AF point prior to and during recording. And, notably, the 1D X Mark II utilizes Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast, accurate and quiet focusing. List price: $5,999 (body only).

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

The newest addition to Canon’s popular full-frame 5D camera line is the EOS 5D Mark IV. The first 5D model to offer 4K video capture at 24p or 30p, the 30.4-megapixel Mark IV can capture stills at up to 7 fps and, like the flagship EOS-1D X Mark II, also offers the ability to extract 8.8-megapixel stills from recorded 4K video, a nice advantage for fast-moving subjects like wildlife and sports action.

The 5D Mark IV incorporates a 61-point AF system similar to that found in the EOS-1D X Mark II, with 41 cross-type sensors and, with many lens and tele-extender combinations, AF functionality at apertures as small as f/8 at all 61 AF points. For video capture, Canon’s Dual Pixel AF sensor-based focusing system enables continuous focus tracking of subjects. The camera also features built-in GPS, plus WiFi connectivity for remote control of the camera and wireless transfers. List price: $3,499 (body only).

Nikon D5

Nikon D5

The Nikon D5, flagship of Nikon’s professional full-frame cameras, is a 20.8-megapixel FX-format sensor camera with many upgrades from the D4, including a new autofocus system, 180K RGB Metering, EXPEED 5 processors that enable 4K UHD video capture and compatibility with Nikon’s first radio-controlled Speedlight, the SB-5000, which was introduced along with the camera.

One of the most remarkable features of the D5 is its ISO range of 100 to 102,400, which can be expanded to an incredible 3,280,000. Nikon describes this setting as “near-night vision capability that’s well beyond the visibility of the human eye.” Nikon also states that the sweet spot range for sports and wildlife photographers, 3200 to 12800, delivers “unprecedented image quality.”

The new AF system has 153 AF points, 99 of which are cross-type sensors. All AF points can be employed for Continuous AF focus tracking, and 15 of those AF points function at apertures as small as ƒ/8. The AF system is also designed to perform well in dark conditions down to -4 EV.

The D5 is also among the fastest pro DSLRs, capable of continuous shooting at up to 12 fps with active autofocus and exposure, or an even faster 14 fps with focus and exposure preset and the mirror locked up. An “extended buffer” can accommodate bursts of up to 200 14-bit images, even in NEF+JPG capture mode. The D5 is available in two versions, one with dual CF card slots and one with dual XQD card slots to take full advantage of the camera’s 4K video and high-speed shooting. List price: $6,499 (body only).

Pentax K-1

Pentax K-1

The Pentax K-1 — the company’s first full-frame model — follows in the footsteps of its weatherproof predecessors, with 87 seals to protect the camera from the elements. It’s well constructed and offers some impressive features. Built around an AA-filterless, 36.4-megapixel sensor, the K-1 (an AA filter simulator option is available) offers a broad ISO range of 100-204,800, as well as an updated 5-axis shake-reduction mechanism capable of up to 5 steps of image stabilization. Beyond IS, because the sensor can be tilted in all directions, you can fine-tune compositions in-camera.

Perhaps even more interesting is the K-1’s ability to photograph the night sky. In combination with the camera’s built-in GPS and the movable sensor, the K-1’s Astro Tracer is capable of tracking heavenly bodies to keep stars in sharp focus (versus capturing star trails) for exposures of up to five minutes.

Other notable features include a Pixel Shift Resolution option, which captures and combines four images into a single composite. While the composite is still a 36-megapixel image, Pentax promises increased resolving power for high-quality images. In addition to improved AF performance for stills and movies, videographers will appreciate the K-1’s microphone input and headphone jack, and while the camera doesn’t record in 4K, full HD 1920x1080 motion capture is possible.

Lens compatibility has always been one of Pentax’s strong points, and the K-1’s multiple image area modes will accommodate full-frame and APS-C lenses. List price: $1,799 (body only).

Sony a99 Mark II

Sony a99 Mark II

Sony’s flagship SLT camera, the a99, was introduced four years ago, and in the time since, most of the big news from Sony has been around its E-mount mirrorless systems, especially the full-frame a7 series.

Now the A-mount line is getting a significant update in the form of the a99 II, which nearly doubles its predecessor’s resolution: 42.4MP versus 24.3MP with the a99. Even more impressive, the a99 II manages to double the a99’s frame rate — capable of shooting at 12 fps — despite all of that extra resolution to record.

The a99 II can also capture 4K video in XAVC S format with stereo sound via a built-in microphone or with select external Sony mics. Other new features include 5-axis image stabilization in-camera, and a hybrid AF system which combines a 79-point phase detection AF sensor and a 399-point focal-plane phase detection sensor. List price: $3,200 (body only).

APS-C Format DSLRs

Canon EOS 80D

Canon EOS 80D

The Canon EOS 80D updates the popular 70D with newly developed 24-megapixel sensor, Dual Pixel CMOS technology and broadened AF coverage across the frame with 45 AF points — a big jump from the 70D’s 19 AF points. Better yet, the 80D offers ƒ/8 compatibility at 27 different AF points, even for long lenses with tele-extenders. You’ll also find large zone AF adjustment, AF point auto switching and an improvement in metering capabilities. The 80D also borrows the mirror vibration control system from cameras like the Canon EOS 5DS, which helps prevent mirror slap vibration.

High speed continuous shooting is rated at up to 7 fps and ISO can be expanded up to 25,600—even in movie mode. Videographers will appreciate the addition of a headphone jack for monitoring sound, and Canon promises more accurate AF in movie mode. List price: $1,199 (body only).

Canon EOS Rebel T6

Canon EOS Rebel T6

Building on its Rebel line of DSLRs, Canon’s new 18-megapixel EOS Rebel T6 uses the company’s DIGIC 4+ image processor to deliver up to 3 fps continuous shooting with predictive autofocus using its 9-point AF system and AI Servo AF. A native 100-6400 ISO range can be expanded to 12800 for low-light shooting, and WiFi/NFC delivers easy image transfer. You’ll also find a high-resolution, 3-inch LCD and a variety of manual and automatic features, including a new “white priority” auto white balance for more neutral tones under incandescent lighting. List price: $550 (with 18-55mm kit lens).

Nikon D500

Nikon D500

The DX-format D500 has a lot in common with the top-of-the-line Nikon D5, including its autofocus and metering systems, the new EXPEED 5 processor and 4K UHD video capture. While the D500 doesn’t quite match the D5’s extreme ISO range, it’s still remarkable with a max ISO of 1,640,000.

The D500 features a new 20.9-megapixel sensor and is capable of capturing 14-bit, uncompressed NEF images at 10 fps in continuous bursts of up to 79 images. The camera offers dual memory card slots—one XQD and one SD slot, and also features a built-in intervalometer function that enables it to create 4K time-lapse movies in-camera. List price: $1,999 (body only).

Nikon D3400

Nikon D3400

Designed for photographers who want to easily share DSLR-quality images, the Nikon D3400 features built-in Bluetooth for wireless image transfers to your smartphone or tablet via the Nikon SnapBridge app (free). The 24.2-megapixel DX-format camera is similar in most respects to its predecessor, the D3300, but does offer significantly more shots per charge (1,200 versus the D3300’s 700). It can capture still images at up to 5 fps, plus Full HD 1080p video. The D3400 is available in a kit including the AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR for $649 or in a two-lens kit that adds the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED for $999.

Pentax K-70

Pentax K-70

The 24-megapixel Pentax K-70 was designed with outdoor photographers in mind, with its compact dustproof and weather-resistant construction and ability to withstand temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It also includes features previously found only on higher-end K-series cameras like Pentax Pixel Shift Resolution System and an AA Filter Simulator that eliminates moiré without the use of an anti-aliasing filter. Continuous shooting at 6 fps allows the camera to capture bursts of up to 10 RAW images or 40 JPEGs. List price: $649 (body only).

Sony a68

Sony a68

The Sony SLT-a68 features a 24-megapixel APS-C-sized sensor and is compatible with Sony A-mount lenses. Trickle-down features from the a77 II and Sony a7-series cameras include 79 AF points with 15 cross-type sensors and a dedicated ƒ/2.8 AF sensor for focusing in low light, along with 10 customizable buttons. The camera is also capable of capturing images at up to 8 fps. Advanced video features such as clean HDMI out add value to this affordable camera. List price: $600 (body only).

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