Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cameras, Cameras, Cameras

This isn’t exactly new news, but camera manufacturers have announced several cameras of interest in gearing up for the Christmas sales season. Considering it’s an off year for Photokina, it’s slightly surprising that so many cameras have been announced.

Canon announced the EOS 1Ds Mark III, the EOS 40D, and the Powershot G9. All of these are significant updates and upgrades from the models they’re replacing, which are respectively the 1Ds Mark II, the 30D, and G7. The 1Ds Mark III will have a CMOS sensor measuring 21 MP, the 40D with 10 MP, and the G9 with 12 MP. All will have much larger rear LCD screens and of course higher resolution. The 1Ds Mark III and 40D will also feature anti-dust technology and Canon’s Live View, which is what all point and shoot cameras have so you can view and compose the image through the screen on the back of the camera. DSLRs haven’t had this feature in the past, mainly because the internal reflex mirror has prevented this from being the norm. In the new cameras, the mirror flips up out of the way so the sensor chip can preview the image. It’s unclear at this time how much battery power will be eaten up in using Live View. More important news for the 40D is that it will shoot at 6.5 frames per second for up to 75 images without stopping. This will make it very useful for sports photographers. And it will have more weather sealing included in its construction. It won’t be waterproof, but should hold up better in wet conditions. The big news for the G9 is that it will be able to shoot RAW images, which is preferred by most pro photographers. The previous model, the G7, had dropped this capability, much to the dismay of serious shutterbugs around the world.

On the Nikon front, they have two cameras of note coming out: the D3 and the D300. The D3 is Nikon’s first entry into full-frame sensor cameras. For a while, some people were speculating that Nikon would stick with their reduced chip cameras, but that is not the case. The D3 will have a full-frame 12 MP sensor and it is reputed to have amazingly good high ISO capability (up to 25,600 ISO!!!). It should be a good fit for photojournalists who shoot with available light. Personally, I think most of the manufacturers have gotten too hung up on pixel count and haven’t paid enough attention to image quality, especially high ISO image quality. I can only hope that this is the reasoning behind Nikon’s 12 MP full frame chip, which is a bit low on the pixel count by today’s standards. Anyway, if this is the reasoning, it’s a very smart move. The D300 replaces the D200 and will have a 12 MP sensor (1.5 cropping) and will shoot at 6 fps. Both cameras will also have Live View capability, anti-dust technology, and use a 51 point AF sensor.

In the Sony camp, the A700 has been announced. Since Minolta/Konica was absorbed by Sony a few years ago, they haven’t introduced any pro-level cameras. The A700 changes that. It has a 12 MP sensor, 11 point AF sensor, faster focusing, and built-in image stabilization (IS). In comparison, Canon and Nikon put their IS technology in their lenses, not the camera bodies. With the Sony camera, you have IS for every lens, not just a few, more expensive, lenses. It will also use both Memory Stick Duo and CompactFLash formats for image storage. Another point in its favor is that the A700 will have access to the excellent Carl Zeiss lenses, which are very fine indeed.

DSLRs are obviously not going away and this season proves that there is still room for innovation and improvement.

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