Digital SLRS - 11 models tested and reviewed
They may look big and complicated, but a digital slr is just as easy to use and takes far better pictures than a pocket digicam
The digital SLR camera’s time has come. Until recently, the marketing battleground was in digital compact models, but now the big guns have swung and we can reap the benefits of a huge amount of competition. There are plenty of reasons for your next digital camera to be a DSLR rather than a pocket-sized compact.
Ever find yourself shouting, “Stay there! Don’t move!” to your friends as you wait for your digital compact to wake itself up, extend its lens and finally – agonisingly – take the shot, only for the moment to have passed? Not with a DSLR. Just switch it on and take the shot – there’s almost no delay and no shutter lag, and autofocus is blindingly quick compared to compact models.
You don’t need to be scared of the apparently complex controls, either. Every DSLR on test this month has a fully automatic mode that’s no more complex than pointing the camera and pressing the shutter. And finally, there’s the price – this month’s winner is great value for money. The ratings explained
The star ratings you’ll find at the bottom of each review are relative only to the products on test in any particular Labs. A one out of six rating doesn’t mean the product is the worst of its type to be made, just that it’s the least impressive that month. Likewise, a six out of six score isn’t necessarily an indication of perfection.How we test
Testing digital cameras isn’t quite like testing other types of hardware. The major aspects of choosing a printer, for instance – speed, running costs and print quality – are all easily quantifiable.
Assessing a DSLR is unavoidably more subjective, so while we give the testing process a healthy dose of objective scoring, there’s inevitably more scope for personal preference. Some, for instance, may like a camera body that’s as small and portable as possible; others might find that same quality annoyingly fiddly. We try to take that into account as far as possible when we’re testing.
The basic categories of assessment we use for every Labs don’t change with DSLR testing, though. We still award each camera a mark out of six in four categories: Quality (in this case Image Quality), Features & Design, Value for Money and an Overall rating.Image Quality
When we test digital compact cameras, we put an emphasis on the quality of the lens. With digital SLRs that can be contentious, since the lens can always be changed for a different model, and most SLRs can be bought body-only for a lot less cash. So we award each camera two overall quality scores: one Kit quality rating and one Body-only quality rating.
The Kit quality is the overall image quality with the kit lens fitted to the camera, so taking effects such as geometric distortion and chromatic aberration – which are largely caused by the lens – into account.
|We test the stock lenses at both ends of their zoom range and at low-end ISO |
For the Body-only quality rating, we place more emphasis on image-quality aspects that reveal the abilities of the camera body itself, in particular the sensor’s high-ISO performance, exposure-metering accuracy and dynamic range. Note that the Fujifilm S5 Pro isn’t supplied in a kit with a lens, so it receives no score in the Kit quality test. Since noise performance is one of the main differentiators of DSLRs these days, we’ve teased that aspect out to give a High ISO quality rating, too.
Our DSLR tests also deviate from compact testing insofar as we adjust some settings manually to get a level playing field, rather than setting the cameras in fully automatic mode.
For outdoor testing, for example, we put each camera in aperture-priority mode and take a shot at f/5.6 at ISO 100, at both the kits lens’s maximum wide-angle and maximum zoom settings. Then, we take the same pair of shots at ISO 1600 to assess noise performance and look for signs of things such as clipped highlights, which indicate potential problems with sensor dynamic range.
|Image quality scores|
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This Group Test appeared in the December, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine