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Digital SLR Guide News - The Best Digital SLR of 2007
November 30, 2007

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DSLR News - November 2007

The BIG announcement this month is that I'm right now putting the finishing touches on my Canon 40D Guide - an in-depth look at this new pro-sumer camera.

For the few weeks that I've had it, I've put the camera through its paces, especially with regard to action photography which is where the 40D excels. It definitely performed to expectation.

For those of you who might not be familiar with this camera, the 40D sits between the Canon consumer digital SLRs (the digital Rebel line) and the Canon professional SLRs (which cost in excess of $3,000 for the camera body alone).

This camera is fast - with its hyper-accurate 9-point autofocus system and 6.5 photo per second continuous shooting speed, it's designed for anyone who wants to be able to capture the "decisive moment".

Oddly enough, it's also relatively cheap ($1,300 for the body), at least when compared to other competing digital SLRs with similar specifications: the Nikon D300 ($1,800), Sony ALPHA DSLR-A700 ($1,400) and the Olympus E-3 ($1,700).

It's no lightweight, measuring 5.8 x 4.3 x 2.9 in. (146 x 108 x 74 mm) and weighing in at a hefty 29 oz (822 g) - not ideal for anyone who wants to travel light or carry the camera around all the time.

It features Canon's new dust control system (also available on the consumer-level Rebel xTi) and it sports a 3 inch live view LCD screen (also available on the professional Canon EOS 1D Mark III). That big 3 inch screen makes reviewing photos and changing menu settings a breeze.

Special holiday offer - I'm selling the camera that I used for this review on eBay (auction ends Friday December 7)

If you've figured out that the Canon 40D is the best camera for you and have been waiting for that big sale, here's your opportunity to pick up the camera body for a discount, since the camera has been slightly used.

On the plus side: I've tested every single feature and can confirm that the camera is fully functional and that there are no problems with it. The warranty card has not been filled out, which makes you eligible for Canon's coverage on the camera.

In This Issue
  • Canon 40D
  • SLR vs. SLR-like
  • The SLR Triad
  • Night Photography
  • Digital SLRs of 2007
  • Photo Links

Latest SLR Guides
Olympus E-510 Nikon D80 Canon Rebel xTi Nikon D40 Sony ALPHA A100

Digital SLR Terms
Megapixels Anti-Shake ISO / Image Noise Sensor Dust Crop Factor RAW vs. JPG Continuous Photos Autofocus Points Aspect Ratio

Lens Terms
Focal Length Prime vs. Zoom Maximum Aperture First vs. Third Party SLR Lens Features Canon Lens Glossary Nikon Lens Glossary

Digital SLR Lessons

  • Learn digital SLR camera jargon
  • Master the controls of your digital SLR
  • Dramatically improve the quality of the photos you take
NEW! Read real-world stories from students of the digital SLR lessons. Register today

Digital SLR Q & A

Question: What's an SLR-like digital camera?


There's an entire category of cameras out there that bear a great resemblance to digital SLRs but are NOT true SLRs - hence their name: SLR-like.

Some examples of these SLR-like cameras include the Canon S5 IS, Panasonic DMC-FZ50S and the FujiFilm Finepix S9000 (pictured to the right).

These are still compact cameras, and they differ from true SLRs in three very fundamental ways:

  • You can't change the lens - the lens is permanently attached to the camera body. You can buy "modifiers" for the lens that will make it wide angle or telephoto, but you never can change the ENTIRE lens.
  • They're not as fast - even though they look quite similar to SLRs, they don't have the same autofocus systems, nor the same low consecutive photo speed. If slow response is one of the main reasons you're considering an SLR, then only the SLR will have this significant speed advantage.
  • They don't perform as well in low light - the sensor in a digital SLR is physically larger than the ones in SLR-like cameras. This means that it produces less digital noise when you're taking photos in dim light without a flash.

Having said this, there are some distinct advantages to buying an SLR-like camera instead of a true SLR:

  • You don't have to change lenses - if you'd like to keep life simple, many of these cameras come with 12x zooms. In order to cover the same range with a digital SLR you'd need to buy at least TWO lenses.
  • They're more compact - even the smallest digital SLR is bulky relative to SLR-like cameras. If portability is one of your main criteria for owning a camera, then an SLR-like model will weigh you down less.
  • They capture video - no digital SLR on the market today can capture video - they just take photos.

So how do you decide which one to get?

Get an SLR if:

  1. You want to take high-quality photos in ANY type of light (from bright to dim)
  2. You're going to take photos of fast-moving action (sporting events, children, pets)
  3. You want the flexibility in the future to completely change the lens on the camera

Get an SLR-like camera if:

  1. You only want a camera with one do-it-all lens
  2. You want a camera that you can carry with you at all times
  3. You want a camera that can capture video as well as photos

Digital SLR Technique

For more digital SLR camera techniques, please browse through the back issues of this newsletter (especially helpful if you find me rambling about something that makes no sense).

Over the course of this year, I've talked about a lot of different camera techniques including the use of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (the triad of digital camera controls).

As we wrap up 2007, it only seemed appropriate to talk about how all three work together to help you capture natural light photos (flash photography is a topic for next year's newsletters).

Let's start out with a quick refresher about each one of these settings:

ApertureF-StopsAperture represents the amount of light that passes through the LENS. A small f number is a WIDE opening and a large f number is a NARROW opening.
Shutter SpeedFractions of SecondsShutter speed is a measurement of how long the shutter stays open. A slow shutter speed lets in a LOT of light, while a fast shutter speed lets in a LITTLE light.
ISOISO ScaleISO indicates how much light the sensor can absorb. A low ISO number means the sensor absorbs LITTLE light, while a high ISO absorbs a LOT of light.

Let's talk about some concrete examples, so that you can see how each one of these settings works together to capture an image that's correctly exposed.


February 20 - Image #050
ISO:200 Aperture:f/8 Shutter:1/500

If you're photographing a static subject (landscape, portrait, macro) set your camera to:

  • ISO 100 to 200
  • Aperture Priority Mode - set aperture between f/5.6 and f/22

Rationale: since there's plenty of available light, you don't need the sensor to be super-absorbent so ISO 100 will do. In aperture priority mode, you set the aperture, and the camera selects a matching shutter speed. Since your subject isn't moving, you don't need a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.

If you're photographing a subject in motion set your camera to:

  • ISO 200
  • Shutter Priority Mode - select the fastest shutter speed your camera will allow
Rationale: ISO need not change much since the light is the same. Since your subject is in motion, you want to make sure the shutter speed is fast enough so that the subject doesn't appear blurry. The top shutter speed will be limited by how wide your lens can open. Here's why: as your shutter speed gets faster, less light is hitting the sensor. In order to get enough light on the sensor for a correct exposure, the lens must open WIDER to compensate for the fast shutter speed. However, your lens will reach a point where it simply can't open any wider - this is called the maximum aperture of your lens. Once the lens is opened as wide as it will go, that will determine the fastest shutter speed you can use with the amount of available light.


ISO:200 Aperture:f/8 Shutter:1/100

For static subjects:

  • ISO 200 to 400
  • Shutter Priority Mode

Rationale: as the light gets dimmer, you want to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent blur from either subject motion or camera shake. A slight increase in the ISO setting makes the sensor more receptive to light, and will ensure that you can use shutter speeds at 1/125th of a second or faster.

ISO:1600 Aperture:f/3.2 Shutter:1/640

For moving subjects:

  • ISO 400 to 1600
  • Shutter Priority Mode

Rationale: taking photos of fast-moving subjects on overcast days is one of the easiest ways to capture a bunch of blurry photos. If you don't increase your ISO, here's the problem: even with your lens set to its maximum aperture (as wide as it will open) the shutter speed for a correct exposure will still be TOO SLOW to freeze a subject in motion. For example, let's say that your lens is open to f/3.5 and your shutter speed is 1/125. While this is just fine for a portrait subject, it won't work well for capturing a soccer game. With your lens open to its maximum, there's only one way to coax a faster shutter speed out of the camera: increase the ISO. An increase up to ISO 400 or 800 will make the sensor absorb more light and will boost that shutter speed (with the aperture left open all the way) up to 1/500 or faster.


ISO:800 Aperture:f/4 Shutter:1/100

For static subjects (without a flash):

  • ISO 400 to 800
  • Aperture Priority Mode - open as wide as your lens allows

Rationale: since you're not working with a lot of available light, you want to ensure that A) the ISO is increased and B) the lens is open as wide as it can be (maximum aperture). With these settings, keep an eye on your shutter speed. If you have an image stabilized lens or camera, you can get away with shutter speeds as slow as 1/30th of a second, but if your subject moves, there will be blur. If you want a faster shutter speed, simply increase the ISO setting.

For moving subjects (without a flash):

  • ISO 800 to 1600
  • Aperture Priority Mode - open as wide as your lens allows
Rationale: dealing with a moving subject in dim indoor light is immensely challenging if you're not using a flash. Your only real option in this case is to once again open the lens as wide as it will go, and keep boosting the ISO until you get a shutter speed that you can work with. In situations like this, I often make do with a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second (too slow for most action photography) and I just time my photos to coincide with brief pauses in the action.

Learning Resource

I devote a lot of time on the web site and in this newsletter toward encouraging you to learn your camera's settings to that you can capture photos correctly the moment you take them.

However, it's inevitable that there will come a time when in your rush to capture a great shot, all that camera theory goes straight out the window and you wind up with a photo that's poorly exposed or has some nasty color tint.

The great part about digital imaging is that it's quite easy to correct some of these common mistakes with photo editing software AFTER the photo has been taken. Even a shot that seems like a total loss need not be so long as you have the tools and technique to fix it.

This month's learning resource focuses on a specific piece of software that will help you manage and edit your photos: Adobe Elements.

The web site is called, and it presents a wealth of tips and tutorials about how you can use the Adobe Elements software to improve and enhance your digital photos.

The site walks you through the steps to add borders to your images, correct red eye, and will also tell you more about the common tools you can use - plus a whole lot more.

It's worth a look if you're just getting started in the world of digital photo editing and your software of choice is Adobe Elements.

How and When

This month I'll be talking about a specialized type of photography: How to Take Photos at Night.


Night photography is challenging on many levels, but can create images that are simply not possible during the daytime.

The very first accessory you're going to need for night photography is a sturdy tripod. And by "sturdy" I don't mean the lightweight plastic tripod that you might have picked up in an eBay auction.

The issue here is one of shutter speed: the limited amount of available light means that the camera's shutter needs to stay open a very long time to capture a good exposure.

Exposure is a balance of two different camera settings: aperture (how wide your lens can open) and shutter speed (how long the sensor is exposed to light). When there's plenty of available light, the shutter only needs to be open a fraction of a second in order to capture an image (regardless of the aperture setting).

At night, you may open the lens aperture as wide as it will go, but you'll still be dealing with shutter speeds measured in seconds, not fractions of seconds.

And here's the problem: very slow shutter speeds also cause image blur.

If you're holding the camera in your hands, you're quite likely to get a completely blurry photo if your shutter speed is slower than 1/15th of a second, EVEN if you have a fancy image stabilized camera or lens.

The only sure-fire way to get completely clear photos at night is to make sure the camera is not moving AT ALL. If the camera twitches even a tiny bit (maybe it's a windy evening) your night photo will wind up as a blur.

This is where the solid base of support comes in, and why a good high-quality tripod is a real necessity if you really are serious about taking photos at night.

The second piece of camera gear you'll need is a remote trigger - it doesn't matter if it's wired or wireless (different cameras have different types of triggers). When using long shutter speeds you don't even want to TOUCH the camera, since pressing your finger onto the shutter release button can cause minute camera vibrations that will blur your photo.

That covers the gear - now you need to adjust your camera settings for night photography.

While you can leave your camera in AUTO mode for night photography, it's often better to use manual mode, because you're dealing with so little available light.

STEP 1: With the camera in manual mode, select a lens aperture first. It really doesn't matter what aperture you use, just realize that the narrower the aperture, the slower the shutter speed you'll have to use to get a good exposure.

In this case, a slow shutter speed isn't a problem, since you've got the camera attached to a tripod and you're using a remote trigger to take the photo.

STEP 2: Once you've selected an aperture, keep slowing down the shutter speed until the camera's light meter tells you the exposure is correct (represented in digital SLR cameras by the number zero or with a graphic indicator that points to zero). You'll find that the shutter has to be open for several seconds in order to let in enough light.

STEP 3: now for the fine tuning. Some digital SLR cameras have a feature called "long exposure noise reduction". Now is the time to activate this feature, which will create cleaner photos when using slow shutter speeds. If you don't have this feature, then just set your camera's image mode to RAW instead of JPG.

RAW files contain unprocessed image data, and capture more information than a JPG. Files in the JPG format are also compressed, which can add grain or "noise" to your night images (hence the long exposure noise reduction).

RAW files can be viewed and edited with a variety of software programs. My personal favorite - mostly because of price to feature ratio - is Adobe Elements.

Cameras and Accessories

The Digital SLRs of 2007

We've just about hit the end of the year here, so now is as good a time as any to quickly summarize the wide range of cameras that were released in 2007.

Samsung GX-10JanuaryThis 10 megapixel camera is essentially a Pentax K10D (released in December of 2006) with a Samsung name.
Nikon D40xAprilThis camera is essentially a 10 megapixel version of the Nikon D40, which was released in December of 2006.
Olympus E-410JuneThe E-410 is one of the smallest and lightest digital SLR cameras, and it also includes both a dust control system and a live view LCD.
Olympus E-510JulyOne of only two digital SLRs you can buy with dust control, a live view LCD and built-in image stabilization (the other is the more expensive semi-pro Olympus E-3).
Pentax K100D SuperAugustOne of the least expensive digital SLRs you can buy that includes image stabilization, and my pick as the best budget digital SLR camera.
Canon 40DSeptemberThis camera offers a fast 6.5 photo-per-second shooting speed, custom color control, dust control and a live view LCD.
Sony DSLR-A700OctoberOne of only two 12 megapixel SLRs (the other is the D300) the A700 includes built-in stabilization, dynamic range optimization (DRO) and dust control but omits a live view LCD.
Nikon D300NovemberPacked with features, the D300 can capture photos at 6 or 8 per second (with the optional battery grip), has a 51-point autofocus, live view LCD, dust control and includes increased dynamic range (called active D-lighting).
Olympus E-3NovemberWhen paired with the new 12-60mm lens, this camera claims the fastest autofocus system in the world along with its dust control, live view LCD and built-in image stabilization.
Panasonic DMC-L10NovemberIncludes a live view LCD that flips out from the camera body, along with dust control and Panasonic's face detection technology, which helps set autofocus and exposure when taking portraits.

And for those of you who are curious about such things, here's my pick for the best digital SLR of 2007.

Digital SLR Buyer's Guide

Thinking about buying a new digital SLR? Get a complete introduction to all the latest cameras with the Digital SLR Buyer's Guide!


The 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

  • - a wealth of photography learning opportunities
  • Photojojo - a great site with tons of photography do-it-yourself (DIY) projects
  • Flickr - THE social media site for photographers
  • Strobist - everything you ever wanted to know about lighting with external flash
  • - lots of learning resources and plenty of examples of exceptional photography

In Conclusion

Here's hoping that the holiday elves bring you that brand new digital SLR camera you've been pining for, or - if you've managed to find the perfect camera already - a nice accessory that will make your SLR photography even more enjoyable.

Next month, the newsletter will reflect what's gone on in the world of digital SLR cameras this year, with a look ahead at 2008 to see what will be coming up in the new year.

As always, thanks for reading and happy picture-taking!

--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide

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