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Digital SLR Guide News - The Best Digital SLR of 2007
December 27, 2007
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The 2007 Digital SLR Year In Review2007 was an interesting year for the digital SLR camera.
Things started off pretty slow - a full SIX MONTH went by with the release of only two new digital SLR cameras: the Samsung GX-10 and the Nikon D40x. Neither one of these cameras was especially ground breaking since the GX-10 is pretty much a Pentax K10D (released in 2006) with a Samsung label and the Nikon D40x is mostly a 10 megapixel version of the Nikon D40 (also released in 2006).
Then in June and July there were some new cameras to pay attention to: the Olympus E-410 and the Olympus E-510.
These consumer-level cameras were a perfect reflection of current digital SLR technology trends: in addition to their 10 megapixel sensors and fast autofocus systems, both cameras included dust control systems and live view LCD screens - technologies pioneered by Olympus.
The E-510 took it a step further, bundling in an image stabilization system - first seen on Konica Minolta Maxxum digital SLR cameras - giving it a feature set unavailable on ANY other digital SLR camera.
Soon after, Pentax announced the release of their update to the K100D - the K100D Super. The older K100D used to be the least expensive digital SLR camera you could get that included built-in image stabilization. That title is now held by the K100D Super, which also adds a dust control system to its feature mix.
All of this news for the consumer/beginner digital SLR market was soon washed away in a rush of announcements for new pro-sumer (advanced amateur) models to be released in the fourth quarter.
Running neck and neck in the feature department, these large and heavy cameras all include ultra-fast autofocus systems paired with fast continuous capture speeds: the Canon 40D, Nikon D300, Sony DSLR-A700 and Olympus E-3.
The 40D is notable since it's the least expensive, the DSLR-A700 features vast improvements over the DSLR-A100 (the first Sony digital SLR released after their acquisition of Konica Minolta), the Olympus E-3 boasts the world's fastest autofocus system (when paired with a special lens) and the Nikon D300 is a huge step up from the D200, which had already garnered top ratings and tons of favorable user reviews.
While these cameras generate a lot of excitement because of their impressive specifications, they are definitely not for everyone - the armchair photographer certainly doesn't need speed and performance at this level - although if you have the cash to burn, you can certainly get one just to be the envy of other photographers around you.
Does this mean that photographers without professional aspirations now have nothing to choose from? Not at all - there are still plenty of great digital cameras released in 2006 that you can choose from: the Canon EOS Rebel xTi, Nikon D40 and D80, and the Pentax K10D.
These are now supplemented by the Olympus E-410, E-510 and the Pentax K100D Super.
But change is just around the corner...and that's what I'll talk about next.
What to Look For in 2008There are two big pieces of digital SLR news in 2008, and they go by the names PMA and Photokina.
PMA is an annual trade show that showcases cameras, printers, professional lighting and a huge variety of photo-related accessories. Many camera retailers often use the PMA show to announce the release or upcoming release of new digital SLR camera models. PMA 2008 takes place from January 31 - February 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As if the PMA show wasn't enough reason to expect the arrival of a slew of new cameras, this year is also a Photokina year. Photokina is an enormous show held every other year that focuses on technology and services for the photographic community. This year's Photokina will be held in Cologne, Germany from September 23 - 28.
With excitement building for both shows, the online photographic community is buzzing with people speculating - sometimes quite wildly - about which new cameras will be released.
The rumor mill is already in full swing about two new Pentax cameras: a full replacement to the K100D (K200D?) and an upgrade to the Pentax pro-sumer K10D (K20D?). Those are expected to be announced officially in the first months of 2008.
If Pentax is going to upgrade their cameras, you can bet that Canon and Nikon aren't too far behind.
Now that live view LCDs are becoming more commonplace, we might see a new Canon digital Rebel camera that includes this feature. I'd also guess that every new Canon digital SLR that comes out in 2008 will be packaged with a kit lens that includes image stabilization. This will allow the Canon Rebel to cover the same feature set as the Olympus E-510.
The Nikon consumer camera line is also in need of an upgrade, since the D40, D40x and D80 include NONE of the "extra" features that are becoming commonplace - the most glaring omission is a dust control system, since this feature is now included on EVERY other competing camera model at the same price level.
The new pro-sumer D300 does include dust control AND a live view LCD, so expect to see a less expensive Nikon camera in 2008 that also includes them (and will most likely come with a stabilized lens).
The overall trends will be the same as they have been in years past: better performance for less dough.
And there's one trend that I sincerely hope will come to an end: the desire on the part of the manufacturers to pack more and more megapixels into their sensors. 10 megapixels is plenty for many photographers, even when you want to make enormous prints.
I do think that the new standard will become 12 megapixels (we can thank Nikon and Sony for pushing that envelope) but then I believe that the so-called "megapixel race" will come to an end and camera makers will focus on different ways to improve their SLRs.
One new "extra" feature might soon become commonplace on digital SLR cameras: extended dynamic range.
Dynamic range controls are currently only available on the Nikon D300 and Sony DSLR-A700. Nikon's name for it is Active D-Lighting while Sony calls it Dynamic Range Optimization or DRO for short.
Regardless of what it's called, the technology does the same thing: it lightens areas of deep shadow in images with strong contrast.
It's addressing a "limitation" of both film and digital SLR cameras. Here's the thing: your eyes have exceptional dynamic range. When you're looking at a sunlit landscape, there is a great deal of variance between the parts of the scenery that are lit - the highlights - and the parts that aren't - the shadows.
The more powerful the sunlight, the greater the contrast: highlights are VERY bright and shadows are VERY dark.
The amazing part about your eyes is that you're able to see detail in BOTH, regardless of how strong the contrast. But your digital SLR camera CAN'T, and one of two things is going to happen when you take a photo:
Regardless of which way your camera goes, it's definitely not capturing what your eyes see in front of you and - more importantly - details and textures that are readily apparent to your eyes are lost in the transfer to digital image.
Cameras with extended or enhanced dynamic range attempt to compensate for this: they expose images for highlight detail (creating dark black shadows) and then they increase the brightness of the shadows without affecting other parts of the image.
This correction is something that you can easily accomplish with image editing software - but why sit and front of a computer brightening the shadows on all of your photos when the camera can do it for you at the moment of exposure?
The advent of in-camera extended dynamic range finally leverages the true power of digital capture over film (the same trick would never have been possible with film) and at the same time "corrects" a problem that has been plaguing photographers for decades.
Look for more consumer-level cameras that include this feature in 2008.
How and WhenIt's the online version of How and When this month...just follow the link to find out How to Photograph Cats.
If you've got a favorite photography subject but just can't figure out how to photograph it request a tip, and I'll include it in a future issue of the newsletter.
Cameras and Accessories
Coming Soon...Watch this space for new and upcoming camera announcements - I'm sure that there will be plenty for me to report very soon!
LinksThe following collection of links will help to keep you posted about what's new at the Guide and in the world of digital SLR cameras.
Recent Updates to the Digital SLR Guide
Other Photography Sites
In ConclusionThat's it for this issue - look for a lot more digital SLR tech news and tips coming to your inbox next year.
I hope that you have a Happy New Year, and - as always - happy picture taking!
--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide
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