Friday, 11 May 2012

Choosing A DSLR For You

I often get questions from others saying which DSLR is the best for them and all. Following the tips given from seniors and other photography friends. I will sort the choices I think is good for specific uses. NOTE: This recommendation is true for May 2012. I would highly recommend you to research about available options. These are just my thoughts

1. For the starter. 
Sony A37 (YET TO BE ANNOUNCED. expected 17th May 2012, predicted US$599 with kit lens)
Sorry what? SONY? Yes I said SONY. To be honest with you Nikon may make the best beast for sports photography ever and Canon makes the most legendary video capable DSLR ever. (click the link to see what I mean). But those things costs a hell lot.

DSLRs are made for people who demand control over their camera. Manual control for more freedom in expressing creativity. The problem with the entry levels that Nikon and Canon makes are extremely undermined. The Nikon I linked has too much megapixels until shooting RAW is a hassle, plus without a focusing motor in the body, you gotta spend for expensive lenses with built in motor. You'd feel it when buying your Nikon 50mm. Then the Canon without 1080p video and worse, it wont even autofocus during video (well I dont think users from this range would love manual focusing and everything manual things, sadly, I don't too)

Cut to the chase, although the Sony is not released yet, the facts are simple. It uses the same sensor on a previous camera which is proven a good one, and uses a body of another previous camera which is also good. There's nothing much new about it. But the combination into one camera makes this EVEN BETTER than the two cameras I said before it. For the spec sheet click this link here.

The A37 is called a DSLT, Digital Single Lens Translucent. You learnt about the mirror reflecting light to the pentaprism and then to the viewfinder of DSLRs in SPM Physics. Replace that with a translucent mirror. Thanks to the technology there is no mirror flip action, making it capable of taking pictures in high speed, in the rate of 7 pictures per second, with autofocus (AF). Nothing from competitors in the same price range offers that.
See a video of a similar technology captures 10 frames per second here.

With the mirror also comes full HD video WITH PHASE DETECTION AF. This AF is faster and more reliable than Nikon's. At least having an AF system when compared to the Canon. This makes recording videos a breeze. See how the autofocus works in video here.
In the video the person prefers full control over the focusing. But that's for a more cinematic style video. But for a video of a family outing, I'd love to relax than to strain my head having a videography session with them.

Sony is going to ship this camera with a special kit lens upgrade for an extra of US$ 200. It is a 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that is considered to be a very slow lens but versatile with more zoom and a compact size. That is a worthy upgrade. The thing that makes this camera cheaper than the brothers is the video mode, it has no advanced controls and it loses the high frame rate that the brothers offer. Still, the video mode works gracefully fine. Inferior in video maybe, still with a compact body this won't bother photography lovers. This is the lens I was talking about.
I love the fact that the auto features actually work compared to other cameras in its range. You can start shooting with ease. But when you want to start to explore the manual settings, with this camera you can. Pretty much, a camera that takes DSLR quality photos without much headache is a good thing for a beginner. Because of that, I am brave enough to recommend it.

Alternatives and reasons on why I don't find it recommendable:
1. Canon 1100D - but its technology is old, doesn't feature full HD video and no AF in video.
2. Nikon D3200 - too much megapixels for RAW, noise issue, no focusing motor in body so lenses are expensive.
3. Sony NEX-C3 - lack of buttons for PASM modes, not many E-mount lens choice and the lenses are expensive.

2. For the upper level starter. DSLR VIDEO shooters also take note.
Sony A57. (US$799 or RM2,599 with the kit lens. FRESHLY announced April 2012)
It is about the same as the A37 I said above, but with a bigger, fatter body. The technology remains the same. But for more money you get a bigger camera with better ergonomics. It means that it is designed better for your hands to fit it. I had the opportunity to test it and trust me on this, IT IS VERY COMFORTABLE IN THE HANDS. The carefully curved ribs on the grip makes it better to hold. Even better than my 600D. I liked it. See the features video here.

For more money you get a better battery life, and slightly more in features. One that I want to highlight is the manual video exposure settings. We can meddle around with settings just like on manual mode in taking pictures, but this time it is for video. This makes it fun to play with. The highlight to me is there are smart digital zoom which my 600D has, but this A57 has more tricks and zooms better. 

Next is the manual exposure settings in video mode. With it I can easily make what people call the dizzy video effect shown here. Where everything looks blurry and lights becomes trails of light. Only Sony DSLTs allow these settings for the time being apart from expensive video cameras. Ah I forgot to mention the full HD 60fps video can make good slow motion videos when slowed down to 24fps. No other DSLR are capable of doing the same frame rate at 1080p. I recorded a video while testing the Sony A57, can be found here.

Plus the burst speed is much higher. This A57 can digest 12 photos per second. See it in action here. Note that nothing in this price range has this speed. The photos in 12fps (frames per second) is slightly cropped from 16MP to 8MP. For speed I'd say. But it has the capability to churn 16MP photos in the rate of 10fps. What I like about this over competitors is the superior video mode. In stills competitors would envy the ability of the A57 having in body stabilization. Even those super sharp prime lenses have optical stabilization thanks to the in body system. That is just precious. Because of that I give it a two thumbs up!

Alternatives and reasons on why I don't find it recommendable:
1. Canon 600D - Noisy shutter, full HD videos without AF, awkwardly expensive for its features.
2. Canon 550D - Better choice than 600D but still with no AF and annoyingly noisy shutter.
3. Nikon D5100 - No built in focusing motor so lenses are expensive.
4. Sony NEX-5N - lack of buttons for PASM modes, E-mount lenses are expensive.

3. Enthusiast Level. This is when the game changes.
Canon 60D. (Announced August 2010, US$899 or RM3,338 body only)

I gotta warn you, this might be a little 'advanced'. I can recommend an enthusiast oriented entry level camera which is Canon 60D. 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. Superb image quality too, with the right glass in front of course, like the picture above^

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, more silent 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. It is slightly faster in live view than Rebels too. 5.3fps burst rate which is a bit slower than its own predecessor, impressive battery life at 1100 shots per charge and an LCD panel on the top for quicker access to exposure settings especially when mounted on top of a tripod.
 I am not impressed by Canon's decision of not making the body from magnesium alloy for strength handling heavy lenses on it and simply more rugged chassis.
Hear the shutter noise here.

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. You gotta play with the focusing ring or just mess around with the exposure controls to set for maximum DOF if the light conditions allows you. The flipping screen is proven to very useful in video recording especially mounted on a dolly slider. One more thing! I HATE THE MODE WHEEL LOCK!


Only here I shouted my discontent about the DSLT. But still it serves it purpose and the loss is so little you wont even notice them. But I have some unhappy points with the 60D too right? Nothing is perfect. For the money this is the best enthusiast level DSLR out there. The 60Da came out a few months ago. But fear not. There are rumors spreading around that there will be an update coming for the old 7D and the 60D before 2013. We'll see what is going to happen.


Alternatives and reasons on why I don't find it recommendable:
1. Nikon D90 - good, but has no full HD video recording function.


4. Pro grade.
Sorry pros, you are much more experienced than I am so you know what is the best for you.

As for me, I will be using my Canon 600D for a while. I think I wanna wait and see the update going to look like. Perhaps that is going to be my next upgrade.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

for pros, the humble Canon 1D mark III is enuff they said~~and Nikon D3 too~~

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