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DSLR Guide News - A Brand New Breed of Digital SLR
October 26, 2008
Digital SLR Q & A
Question: What's the difference between Canon EF and EF-S lenses?
AnswerIt's good that I opened this newsletter by talking about different camera types - it will make answering this question a whole lot easier.
Canon EF lenses are designed to work with film SLR cameras and full-frame digital SLRs, while EF-S lenses are only compatible with cropped sensor SLRs.
EF-S lenses are optimized to project an image onto a sensor that's smaller than 35mm film. The theory here is that EF-S lenses will capture sharper images when used with a standard digital SLR than EF lenses which aren't optimized for the digital format.
The only potential drawback of investing in a slew of EF-S lenses today is that if you decide to get a full-frame SLR in the future, the lenses won't be compatible with that camera. If you only purchase EF lenses, then you can rest assured that they'll work with both cropped sensor and full-frame SLRs.
Having said that, cropped sensor SLRs are definitely here to stay and won't become obsolete any time soon.
Full-frame SLRs are becoming more common, but they are currently aimed at the professional photographer market, and are priced well out of the range of the average consumer budget.
So, if you've used my 6-step guide to finding the right digital SLR lens and have determined that an EF-S lens is the best match, don't fret too much about compatibility unless you're 100% sure that you'll be upgrading to a full-frame SLR within a few years.
DSLR Cheat SheetThis month's cheat sheet tackles a fairly universal problem with all digital SLR cameras: How to Take Pictures in Shade.
At first, this sounds extremely straightforward. I mean, why would taking pictures in the shade be any different from taking pictures in sunlight or using a flash?
Here's the problem: virtually all digital SLRs left on AUTO mode will under expose every photo you take in the shade.
This is a sample image taken in the shade in AUTO mode with no further adjustment on my part:
I can honestly say that I have no idea why shade creates such a problem for the exposure sensors inside digital SLR cameras. Regardless of the cause, every digital SLR I have ever used exhibits this behavior.
You can tell that it's a widespread problem, because the new Canon 50D has a feature specifically designed to correct this problem: it's called "Auto Lighting Optimizer".
Auto Lighting Optimizer just boosts the exposure a bit when you're taking photos in the shade - this is something that you can do manually, and I'll explain just how in the steps that follow.
1. Set your camera to Program, Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority mode
2. Point the camera at a subject in the shade and press down halfway on the shutter release
3. Take a picture
4. Find the Exposure Compensation setting on your camera
5. Intentionally over expose
Since the camera is "accidentally" under exposing, forcing it to over expose actually brings things into balance, creating a photo in the shade that's much more vivid and bright than it would be if you took the shot in AUTO mode.
Here's my second pass at the image above:
Special Note: if you do fiddle around with exposure compensation, just make sure you set it back to zero before you take pictures in sunlight. In sunlight, the camera's light meter should take an accurate reading and if you leave exposure compensation set you're going to get a lot of pictures that are WAY too bright.
What Do You Need?The question for this month is: Do you need a small-sized SLR camera?
Not all digital SLRs are created equal when it comes to functionality and the same is also true when it comes to size and weight.
More "professional" models tend to be much larger and heavier than their consumer or "entry-level" alternatives, since pros have come to expect a certain feeling of durability in the cameras that they use.
However, with advancements made in materials, you can now get a camera that's quite durable and can withstand some pretty good bumps without having to carry around a lead weight all the time.
The biggest advantage of small-sized digital SLR cameras is their portability: whether you're into travel photography and want a camera to go with you, or you enjoy snapping photos on the streets, having a small camera will ensure that the camera is with you more often rather than back at the hotel in its bag.
On the flip side, there is a drawback to the new crop of tiny and lightweight digital SLRs: they aren't easy to hold, especially if you have long fingers.
The larger cameras like the Canon 40D, Nikon D90, Olympus E-3, Pentax K20D and Sony DSLR-A350 have very large hand grips which makes them easy to hold - you don't ever feel like the camera might slip out of your hand.
Smaller cameras like the Canon XS, Nikon D60 and the Olympus E-520 require some people to curl their fingers in order to get a good grip on the camera.
If you're thinking of buying one of the small-sized digital SLRs, the best advice that I can provide is to try one first. Go to your local camera store and hold some of the demo models in your hand.
Ergonomics can play a surprisingly large role in how comfortable you feel using a camera and hence how often you want to use it. A camera that "feels good" in your hand will be a joy to use which means that you'll have it with you when those important photo opportunities come by.
New Digital SLRs: Micro 4/3A new breed of digital SLR camera has recently emerged, and it's fitting to talk about it right after the previous section on camera size and weight.
Part of the name gives it away: Micro 4/3rds cameras are almost the size of a compact digital camera, yet they still allow you to use interchangeable lenses (Micro 4/3rds press release).
How do they get away with this? They do away with a part of a "true" SLR camera: the optical viewfinder.
Traditional digital SLRs work like this:
The upshot of all this light getting bounced around is that when you look through the viewfinder of a digital SLR camera, you see exactly what the lens sees. Even if you whip the camera in a circle to track a moving subject, the image that you see in the viewfinder is equivalent to watching the subject with your eyes.
Micro 4/3rds cameras eliminate this reflective system entirely and opt instead for an electronic viewfinder (also called an EVF). When you look through the viewfinder, what you're seeing is a video projection of the image that's passing through the lens and striking the camera's sensor.
It's equivalent to using the live view option on many modern digital SLRs, except that the LCD screen inside the viewfinder is tiny.
The upshot of using an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one is that the camera body can be dramatically thinner: about 1/2 the thickness of a more traditional SLR.
So what you now have is a camera that is virtually the same size and weight as a compact digital camera with one massive difference: you can change the lens whenever you like.
Rather than having to settle for the one lens the manufacturer attached, you can swap lenses out to take landscapes, portraits, wildlife and macro shots.
The companies that developed this new format - Panasonic and Olympus - are hoping that the small size, low weight and electronic viewfinder are the keys that help some owners of compact cameras finally make the transition to an SLR.
The first camera to market that leverages the Micro 4/3rds format is the upcoming Panasonic DMC-G1.
Other Photography Sites
In ConclusionWow - what an incredibly busy month this has been!
I don't often try to tackle two cameras guides at the same time but it has been interesting - and informative - to be simultaneously using both the Nikon D60 and the D90.
Having both cameras at my disposal really allows me to compare and contrast how the "feel" and performance of each camera is different - something that can be just as important as the features packed inside.
In my Nikon D60 guide, I mention the fact that the camera is a great option for beginning digital SLR users - while this is not the case with the D90 (reading some of the manual made me go cross-eyed) the D90 excels in areas where the D60 does not.
I'm hard at work on that Nikon D90 guide even as you read this, so look for that to be published in the very near future.
Until then, happy picture-taking!
--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide
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