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CONTENTS INTRODUCTION ..............................................................................................................................................4 DSLR CAMERAS MAXIMUM SPEED, VERSATILITY AND SYSTEM EXPANDABILITY.............................6 DSLR LENSES FROM AFFORDABLE TO HIGH-GRADE FOR GREAT FLEXIBILITY...............................24 COMPACT-SYSTEM CAMERAS SMALL, POWERFUL AND FEATURE-PACKED CAMERAS................36 COMPACT-SYSTEM LENSES A GROWING RANGE OF ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES............................54 FIXED-LENS COMPACT CAMERAS BECOMING MORE ADVANCED THAN EVER................................58 COMPUTER HARDWARE NOTCHING UP YOUR COMPUTER PERFORMANCE ...................................64 IMAGING SOFTWARE A SECOND CHANCE—FIX IT IN POST-PROCESSING........................................83 PHOTO APPS THE TECH-SAVVY PHOTOGRAPHER’S TOOLBOX ..........................................................86 PHOTO PRINTERS GIVE YOUR IMAGES GREATER PRESENCE WITH LARGER PRINTS....................90 FLASH UNITS AND ACCESSORIES ADD EXTRA LIGHT FOR BETTER IMAGES OR VIDEOS ..............92 STUDIO LIGHTING AND ACCESSORIES PRO-CALIBRE TOOLS FOR PRO-GRADE PHOTOS.............96 VIDEO ACCESSORIES SHOOT BETTER VIDEOS WITH A CSC OR DSLR CAMERA ...........................100 POINT-OF-VIEW CAMERAS ACTION VIDEOS AND STILLS FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE..................104 CAMERA BAGS DURABLE CARRYING SOLUTIONS WITH USEFUL FEATURES ................................106 TRIPODS AND HEADS SUPPORT ACCESSORIES FOR STABILITY AND CONVENIENCE..................111 PHOTO FILTERS VALUABLE GLASS FOR OPTIMIZING PHOTOS.........................................................116 ESSENTIAL EXTRAS USEFUL ADD-ONS FOR YOUR PHOTO ARSENAL .............................................118
BINOCS AND SPOTTING SCOPES EXTRA ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE
2014 PHOTO LIFE BUYERS’ GUIDE CONTRIBUTORS PETER K. BURIAN is a long-time contributing editor with Photo Life and Photo Solution, specializing in equipment test reports. He is the author or co-author of over a dozen books, including Mastering Digital Photography and Imaging, a series of Magic Lantern Guides and several David Busch Guides. peterkburian.com DAVID GIRAL is originally from France and has lived in Montreal since 1997. He works primarily in Montreal and Toronto, specializing in travel, lifestyle, architectural and interior photography. davidgiralphoto.com LEE RICKWOOD is an award-winning media producer and freelance writer covering developments in digital media tools, techniques and technologies. On a recent video documentary series, he used a DSLR—and several helpful accessories—for the first time. CHAD SAPIEHA is a freelance columnist with the National Post. His work has also appeared in The Globe and Mail and on CBC Radio’s Definitely Not the Opera, as well as glossy magazines and websites. He likes taking pictures of his daughter frolicking in hay. DAVID TANAKA is a writer, editor and photographer currently living in Alberta. Digital photography hardware and software has been his beat for more then a decade. He has been Photo Life magazine’s digital workflow columnist for almost ten years. LOUIS WONG is a contributing editor of Photoxels and started writing about digital cameras in 2001. He got hooked on photography as a teen with a 120 roll film camera. These days, he exclusively uses a CSC and loves shooting nature. Photo Life Buyers’ Guide 2014 3
INTRODUCTION Welcome to this expanded edition of our annual Buyers’ Guide with several additional categories of photo equipment and more products than ever before. For example, you’ll now find extensive coverage of point-of-view cameras, studio lighting and apps for smart devices. We have also added essays providing overviews of the major camera/lens manufacturers’ technologies and product lines for greater insight into those important brands. Even an expanded buyers’ guide cannot cover every single product in a certain category or provide full details of every camera, lens, tripod or other accessory on the market. We selected the latest and the most noteworthy items in every product category and the summary of each should certainly help you to decide which models might be of interest. The listings also provide the primary website where you can find a great deal of additional specifics. Many of the retailer’s e-commerce sites are also valuable sources of information as well as exact current prices. (Unless stated otherwise, the prices shown in the Guide are average selling prices and the camera weight is that of the body only, without batteries and memory cards. For brand new products, the prices are the manufacturers’ estimated selling prices or list prices at our publication date.) Although I have been writing several sections of the Photo Life Buyers’ Guide for years, this is my first tenure as the Editor since the year 2000. How the entire industry has changed in those 14 years! While you can still buy a new 35-mm camera and some types of film, we have shifted almost entirely from an analogue to a digital era. Naturally, some digital cameras were available when the 2000 Buyers’ Guide was published (November 1999). You could find many point-and-shoot models and some DSLRs, including several from Kodak and Fujifilm (based on Nikon bodies) as well as the first purely Nikon entry, the D1 (US$5500). That professional model featured a DX (or APS-C) size 2.62-megapixel CCD sensor and boasted a 4.5 frame per second continuous drive mode. And at our press time, the 3.1-MP EOS D30 and Fujifilm S1 Pro had not yet been introduced. The 1999 Guide had provided coverage of digital cameras but that was dropped for the 2000 edition, for reasons explained in my Editorial, “We have omitted digital cameras this year. The reason is simple. It is impossible to keep up with the changes in this industry; new models are released frequently, old models are discontinued, and the technology is changing rapidly. No matter which models we listed at press time, the Guide would soon be out of date. Should the situation stabilize over the next year, we may again include digital cameras in future.” Granted, new models of all types of equipment are released frequently, but cameras are not discontinued at the same pace as in the past. For regular updates as to newly announced products, be sure to visit photolife.com. We hope you’ll find this issue it to be of value in helping to decide on the equipment you’ll want to buy or add to your wish list. And be sure to keep this copy for comparison to the 2028 Photo Life Buyers’ Guide when that’s published. I guarantee there will be even more dramatic changes than in the previous 14 years.
Peter K. Burian Editor in Chief Photo Life Buyers’ Guide
PHOTO LIFE BUYERS’ GUIDE 185, St. Paul Street, Quebec City, QC, Canada G1K 3W2 1-800-905-7468 • www.photolife.com Editor in Chief Peter K. Burian Assistant Editor Valérie Racine Graphic Designer Catherine Robitaille Production Manager Guy Langevin Publisher and Media Sales Director Guy J. Poirier Account Executive Michael Skinner Distribution Manager Guy Langevin Accounting Annie Goulet Advertising Sales: 1-800-905-7468 ext. 101 (Toll Free) The annual Photo Life Buyers’ Guide (ISSN 0700-3021) is published by Apex Publications Inc., which also publishes Photo Life magazine six times a year. Photo Life Subscriptions: 1-800-461-7468 (Toll Free), email@example.com, www.photolife.com © 2013/2014 Apex Publications Inc. Printed in Canada. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not, under any circumstances, be reproduced or used, in part or in whole, without the written permission of the publisher.
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life is in the details When you’re in the moment, you feel like it can last forever. When it’s over, it always feels like it went too fast. But the more of it you’re able to capture, to freeze and make a part of you, the more you never have to leave behind. So when you use a camera with a sensor large enough to grab every detail, every morsel of chubby cheek or glistening eye, you know it doesn’t matter how long the moment lasts, it’s there with you forever. Introducing the Sony NEX-5T. Extraordinary sensor size. Ultra compact body.
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MAXIMUM SPEED, VERSATILITY AND SYSTEM EXPANDABILITY
By Peter K. Burian
In the 12 months since we prepared last year’s report, Digital SLRs have remained the best sellers in the interchangeable-lens category. Granted, more new mirrorless compact-system cameras (CSCs) have been announced than DSLRs, and the CSC models are also selling well. That’s understandable given their smaller size and often, comparable versatility. Still, many photo enthusiasts already own DSLR lenses making this type of camera the most logical when they want to upgrade to a new, improved model.
Check our essays about the primary DSLRs brands for more specifics as to features and technology provided by Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony.
Unlike CSCs, all DSLRs are equipped with an optical viewfinder. However, the Sony Alpha models to be discussed in this section are actually SLTs: Single Lens Translucent cameras that employ a highresolution electronic viewfinder (EVF). In most other respects, SLTs are very similar to DSLRs. In addition to Live View, Movie mode is available with all recent cameras, usually with Full HD resolution. Check our essays about the primary DSLRs brands for more specifics as to features and technology provided by Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony. Before moving on to discuss each DSLR manufacturer’s system as well as the most popular and the latest cameras, let’s take a look at some of the general aspects that are important when considering DSLRs that are suitable for your budget and level of experience.
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RESOLUTION As the cost of CMOS and CCD sensors has declined, resolution of 16+ megapixels (MP) is common. Some cameras, even in the affordable category, feature 20 MP or higher resolution. DRIVE SPEED Because increased resolution requires greater processing speed to avoid sluggish performance, the latest DSLRs are employing new engines to achieve this goal. In some cases, the processor allows for very fast continuous drive mode, such as 5+ frames per second (fps), ideal in sports photography. LCD The 3-inch size is now the norm and screen resolution has been increasing—some LCDs boast resolution of 900,000+ dots, which provides a superb display. Some DSLRs are equipped with a tilting or fully articulated screen, useful for image preview when you hold the camera above your head or at ground level, for example. A few models also offer some touch-screen controls. VIDEO CAPTURE Nearly all DSLR models can record full HD 1080p video but some offer more overrides and more options for autofocus modes, framing rate, file format etc., than others. If you plan to use a DSLR for serious moviemaking, this is an aspect worth checking on the manufacturer’s website, since video features consume more space than is available in this Guide. All can capture sound in Movie mode, using a built-in mic—a stereo mic produces better audio than a mono mic. The better cameras also accept an optional external stereo mic that provides the best possible sound quality.
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THE CANON EOS SYSTEM
By Peter K. Burian Canon’s EOS system started as a long line of 35-mm SLRs, but gained a digital model in 1995. The 1.3-megapixel (MP) EOS DCS 3, developed in conjunction with Kodak, was massive and was followed by three additional models, some available only in Japan. The first consumer-oriented model available worldwide, in 2000, was the 3.11-MP D30 ($2500). Numerous EOS digital cameras followed and, at our press time, the series was comprised of nine models with the so-called APS-C format (14.9 x 22.3 mm) CMOS sensor, which produces a crop factor of 1.6x with any lens. Three other EOS DSLR employ a 24 x 36 mm or full-frame CMOS sensor, including the expensive 18.1-MP EOS-1D X for working pros, the fully loaded 22.3-MP EOS 5D Mk III for enthusiasts and the smaller/lighter 20.2-MP EOS 6D. The latter is nearly as impressive as the Mk III and offers two extra benefits: built-in GPS and Wi-Fi connectivity. ADVANCED FEATURES The EOS cameras, especially the latest models, employ state-of-the art technology that offers the user numerous benefits, including the following that you’ll find in many of the latest models. DIGIC SENSOR Depending on the camera, the DIGIC sensor may be as high as v.5 but all current engines offer very (or incredibly) fast processing and fabulous quality in still photos and videos. Most EOS models’ Raw photos are recorded at 14 bits so that processed 16-bit TIFF images contain rich blacks and great detail in highlight and shadow areas.
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MULTI-MODE AF Canon’s autofocus technology is second to none, with multi-point AF and fast, reliable continuous predictive Servo focus for action photography. The 5D Mk III is particularly impressive, with its 61 AF points, AI Servo AF III tracking sensitivity and acceleration/deceleration tracking technology. Some recent EOS models employ Hybrid AF, with phase detection, switching to continuous contrast detection tracking AF in Live View and in Full HD Movie mode.
Canon’s autofocus technology is second to none, with multi-point AF and fast, reliable continuous predictive Servo focus for action photography.
INTELLIGENT LIGHT METERING Canon’s multi-segment evaluative metering systems are very sophisticated, particularly the iFCL 63-zone Dual-layer version in the four latest cameras. Many EOS DSLRs offer features for expanding dynamic range and a few now offer in-camera auto HDR (high dynamic range) as well. LIVE VIEW AND MOVIE MODE All recent models provide Live View on the LCD for use when shooting stills or video clips. A Full HD video mode, at 1920 x 1080p, is becoming standard. The EOS 70D is particularly noteworthy because of Dual Pixel CMOS AF for fast, accurate autofocus during Live View and Movie recording. It also features an LCD with touchscreen controls, still an uncommon amenity in DSLRs. WI-FI CAPABILITY Two EOS cameras (70D and 6D) offer built-in wireless technology for communication with smart devices for sharing images via email or social-media websites or for remote control of the camera via the device.
IN-CAMERA PROCESSING The EOS 6D allows for modifying Raw photos in Playback mode and saving them as JPEGs, while the EOS 60D also allows for adding special effects to JPEG photos. LENSES AND ACCESSORIES Canon is a major lens manufacturer, marketing both EF lenses (suitable for any EOS DSLR) as well as EF Lenses (only for DSLRs with the smaller sensor). If there’s a lens you need for an EOS camera, Canon probably makes it. At last count there were 70 models, including Tilt/Shift lenses for architectural photography. Many are equipped with Canon’s proprietary Image Stabilizer. Lenses with a USM designation employ a fast, quiet Ultrasonic Motor for autofocus. Canon owners can buy many accessories as well, including external Speedlights, teleconverters, triggers for off-camera flash, remote control devices, Wireless File Transmitters and GPS units (for certain EOS models), AC adapters, cases and more.
WIRELESS OFF-CAMERA FLASH Most EOS cameras provide this feature, when using an optional Speedlite or a transmitter accessory on-camera. The 7D, 60D and T3i can also trigger certain off-camera EX II Speedlites using the built-in flash, eliminating the need to buy an accessory for doing so.
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Photo Life Buyers’ Guide 2014 9
THE NIKON SYSTEM
By Peter K. Burian A major manufacturer, Nikon has been making digital SLRs since 1999, when the 2.62-MP professional D1 was introduced ($5000). Since then, the company has developed and marketed dozens of models. The line currently includes over a dozen models at all price levels, most employing a 15.6 x 23.6 mm DX-format sensor that produces a crop factor of 1.5x with any lens; up to 24.2MP resolution is available. Nikon makes full-frame DSLRs too with 24 x 36 mm FX sensors, including the very large, heavy, ultrafast and expensive D4 and D3x FX with tank-like construction. The full-frame FX series also includes cameras for serious amateurs, such as the full-featured 24.3-MP D610 and the brand new 16.2-MP mechanical Df with retro 35-mm SLR styling and controls. The D800 duo boasts the highest resolution currently available with any 24 x 36-mm sensor: 36 megapixels. The D800E omits the optical low-pass filter for even greater per-pixel resolution; any moiré (which occurs infrequently) can be removed later, with imaging software. ADVANCED FEATURES Nikon’s DSLRs are loaded with sophisticated technology for a wealth of benefits, including the following that you’ll find in many of the latest models. EXPEED PROCESSOR Nikon cameras boast highly advanced engines for fast processing of large volumes of data as well as excellent noise reduction and chromatic aberration correction. Some of the high-end DSLRs provide 16-bit image processing for deep rich blacks and great detail in highlight and shadow areas. SCENE-RECOGNITION SYSTEM This feature enables the camera to analyze brightness and colour of the scene and applies this data to autofocus, auto exposure, i-TTL flash and auto white balance control for fine results in most circumstances. MATRIX METERING The multi-segment light-metering system is regularly
10 Photo Life Buyers’ Guide 2014
Nikon cameras boast highly advanced engines for fast processing of large volumes of data as well as excellent noise reduction and chromatic aberration correction. MATRIX METERING The multi-segment light-metering system is regularly fine-tuned and the latest 3D Color Matrix II version is particularly impressive in terms of fine exposure. ACTIVE D-LIGHTING All of the Nikon DSLRs include this feature that uses special processing, at the level set by the user, to preserve detail in the highlight and shadow areas of images shot in highcontrast light. Some of the latest Nikon DSLRs offer HDR options to generate a JPEG with exceptionally high dynamic range—maximum highlight and shadow detail.
RELIABLE TRACKING AF The cameras employ a multi-point autofocus system with a very effective 3D Tracking for action photography. All of the latest Nikon models provide a Dynamic AF option that maximizes the odds of maintaining focus on a moving subject in the most difficult conditions. ADVANCED WIRELESS LIGHTING Many of the latest high-end Nikon DSLRs with built-in flash allow the flash to act as the master controller for off-camera flash units, eliminating the need to buy a controller accessory. IMAGE RETOUCHING Some Nikon DSLRs offer many tools in Playback mode for modifying technical aspects of your JPEGs or for adding special effects. LIVE VIEW AND MOVIE MODE All recent models provide Live View on the LCD for use when shooting stills or video clips. The Full HD video mode, at 1920 x 1080, has become standard, but was intentionally omitted with the Df.
and/or aspherical elements. As well, most current DSLRs (except the most affordable models) can use the older manual focus Nikon F-mount lenses, with some limitations. A vast range of FX and especially DX-format lenses are available, many with a VR image stabilizer. Models with the AFS designation employ a fast, quiet Silent Wave (ultrasonic) autofocus motor. Youâ€™ll find many Nikon accessories too, including teleconverters, external flash units, wireless transmitters, remote control devices, a GPS unit, stereo microphone and filters.
Nikon makes AF and AF-S Nikkor lenses of every type imaginable, most with ED glass and/or aspherical elements. As well, most current DSLRs (except the most affordable models) can use the older manual focus Nikon F-mount lenses, with some limitations.
WI-FI ADAPTER Some of the latest Nikon DSLRs accept an optional WU-series adapter for sending images to a smartphone or tablet; the latter can also be used as a remote controller for the camera. The new D5300 is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi (and GPS). LENSES AND ACCESSORIES Nikon makes AF and AF-S Nikkor lenses of every type imaginable, most with ED glass
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Published on Jan 28, 2014