Jay Town checks out a range of digital single-lens reflex cameras that make the step up from compact models a lot smoother than before.
Our original idea for this Lab Test was to do a comparison of entry-level DSLR cameras that were around the $1000 mark with a single 18-55mm (or similar) zoom lens. Everything was going to plan, until Canon informed us that our choice from them, the 500D, had been replaced by the newer 550D, which is around the $1500 mark with lens.
Then Panasonic told us that they could get us the not-yet-released Lumix G2 ($200 cheaper than the Canon, but still $300 over the $1000 mark). We could have tested the Lumix G10 ($999), but when we found out that the G2 had an LCD screen that you swiped your finger across like an iPhone or iPad to review the pictures … well, this IS a Mac magazine.
So the cameras we tested range from $849 to $1499, but despite that, the results are surprisingly even.
Camera makers are now making the jump from compact model to DLSR a lot smoother. The current batch of entry level models are smaller and easier to use than their larger, more professional stable mates. But don’t be fooled by the ‘entry level’ tag; some of these cameras carry the same specs as the big boys, and indeed could easily be found in a professional’s bag as a backup.
To make the transition even smoother, a new type of camera is making waves. It is the Hybrid DSLR – essentially a slightly larger compact camera with interchangeable lenses.
In hybrid cameras there is no mirror to reflect the light to the viewfinder, as there is in DSLRs, so the image is viewed on either the LCD in Live View, or through an electronic viewfinder. ‘Live View’, by the way, refers to a camera’s ability to display what the lens is seeing on the back viewing screen. It’s long been a standard feature on compact cameras, but only came to DSLRs two years ago.
The other big feature to make the jump from compacts is the ability to record movies. Only two of our test cameras record only still images. The rest are all 720p HD video cameras, and the Canon is 1080p Full HD.
There is no overall winner here. The Canon is better than most but also dearer, as is the Lumix. The Olympus produces really nice images, but has no video. The Nikon is the best value, but doesn’t have Full HD video.
My advice would be to look at the specs, decide which three you like, and then go to your local camera store and line them up. After a couple of minutes with each one, one of them will just feel right. It’s important to get the camera that fits.
This lab test originally featured in the July issue of Australian Macworld magazine.