Saturday, 18 February 2012

Best RM2,000 Beginner DSLR

Best RM2,000 Beginner DSLR: Sony Alpha A35

Yes the Sony SLT-A35 is really THAT small
Although next month Sony is going to unveil something called "Sony Alpha A57" but I think the price wont be this low as it is a mid range camera according to sources. In this price range we have Canon 1100D and Nikon D3100 sharing the spotlight with the A35. In this price range I'd expect ease of use for new users to begin shooting right away. But the Canon doesn't shoot full HD video. It has no manual exposure settings in video and it wont autofocus either. The Nikon is fine, but it has no AF motor built in so you're gonna need lenses that has them. These lenses costs a lot mate.

So it leaves the Sony A35 alone in the spotlight. The 16MP sensor significantly offers best image quality until ISO 1600 and usable until ISO 3200, which is normal for a APS sized sensor. The SLT-A35 also comes with two continuous shooting modes - 5.5 frames per second at full resolution and 7 frames per second at a 1.4x crop for sports shooting. In addition to stills photography, the Sony Alpha A35 allows you to record full HD videos in AVCHD format (17Mbps). Thanks to the translucent mirror technology there is phase detection autofocus in video. So you can point it anywhere and it will focus for you.

What I like about it is its image stabilization system is sensor shift type. So no matter what lenses you use, you still have an anti-shake system working. Prime lenses like a 50mm does not have these in the lens so a system like this is indeed very useful and impressive. A range of new 'Picture Effects' is available for both stills and video, including Retro Photo, High-key, Toy Camera and Posterisation are supported aside from Sony's traditional CyberShot toys like HDR, Sweep Panorama and more. Weighing in at 415 grams, the Sony A35 is compatible with range of A-mount lenses and comes with an integrated electronic viewfinder with 100% frame coverage for accurate framing. The battery life is also not bad at 420 per charge, which is close to the big brother Canon EOS 550D.

Let's go to the little bad parts I'd like to reveal about this camera. The translucent mirror is a gift, but it comes with some setbacks. The mirror is always there, blocking the light so you're not getting the shutter speed other cameras get with the same exact parameters. Let's say with a traditional DSLR at ISO 3200 f/2.8 we can get 1/500s. But with the A35, you'll get 1/400s, which is slower. Plus in video mode, the microphone although records stereo sound, the ambient noise, sensor shift mechanism, lens autofocus sounds sometimes get into the recording. But still, it is useably quiet and not such a big problems as beginner shooters wont mind the minor defects in quality like a pro would. It's ancestor, the A33 offers a swivel screen but to bring the price down, the A35 doesn't.

At this price, it offers a great package for beginner shooters. From fun effects to play with, to easy auto operations. At the price, this is the best for those who still in the dark about what aperture and shutter speed means.

US$ 699 with kit lens (RM2,100, KRW780,000)
recommended secondary lens: Sony SAL50F18 50mm f/1.8 SAM DT (US$124, MYR 373. KRW 138,000)

Sunday, 12 February 2012

For serious photo hobbyists | Canon 60D

For serious photo hobbyists: 
Canon 60D + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (in picture, with a video viewfinder)

Some people like to start from below, like me, when the time comes we climb one step at a time. I just like the compact body and keeping my equipment below 1kg limit for the comfort of my neck and shoulder. But this decision haunts me sometimes with inaccurate AI SERVO, slow burst speed and noisy mirror flip mechanism.As you go up in the price range, these things gradually get better. As a traveler mobility is everything to me but for those who can sacrifice for the sake of excellent quality photos, there are some higher end options, which costs an arm and a leg so hobbyists must allow some give and take.

I can recommend an enthusiast oriented entry level camera which is Canon 60D with Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. For those of you who are really into photography, learnt the basics and are looking forward of jumping in as an enthusiast, this is the best bang for buck.

The US$ 899 Canon 60D has 18MP APS-C sized sensor with reliable performance. The approx 22x15mm sensor gives pleasing shallow DOF at large apertures and produces digital noise free images until ISO 1600. At 3200 and 6400 it is still usable. It has better mirror flip mechanism than Rebel line, having shutter speeds until 1/8000s. The 60D has improved focusing system with 9 cross type AF points for quicker AF in difficult situations, 5.3fps burst rate, good battery life at 1100 shots per charge and an LCD panel on the top for quicker access to exposure settings.

In terms of video it shoots very high quality 48Mbps MP4 format full HD video with options of 1080p, 720p and VGA, all with manual exposure settings available. 60fps video is available at 720p and VGA, the 1080p max frame rate is 30fps. It does not autofocus at all in video mode, so you have maximum control over it. The flipping screen is proven to very useful in video recording.

Let's go to the lens. The kit lens might be something good to start with but images sometimes are not that sharp. The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 produces better photos with fast shutter speed along the whole zoom range as the aperture does not change. Although the lens focuses slightly noisy and doesn't feature a focusing motor, it is fast and accurate. A missing feature is it doesn't feature an image stabilizer in the lens, so you must really hold the camera steady while shooting photos and videos. But the sharpness and speed is worth the US$ 439.

There you have it. Our recommendation for stingy photo hobbyists,
Canon EOS 60D with Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 lens.
US$ 899 + US$ 439 = US$ 1338 (approx MYR 4028, KRW 1,494,000)

As I was researching about this, I realized that my 600D is only US$ 100 cheaper from the 60D which is way better. I was like NO! But in the end of the day, the most important thing is how your own talent and techniques to make masterpieces out of it.
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