Digital SLRs group test

Introduction

For anyone looking to up the quality of their photographs, a digital SLR (DSLR) plus a high-quality interchangeable lens is a must. Smaller, lighter bodies and optics, plus user-friendly technology trickling upwards from compacts, mean those previously put off by weight, bulk or apparent steep learning curve have fresh cause to reconsider owning a DSLR.

It is possible that this, coupled with falling prices and some exceptional bundle deals, is why DSLR sales are defying the current economic gloom and are still on the rise.

Wish lists for a DSLR should, of course, include the best of what’s currently available. That ideally means built-in anti-shake, so that any attached lens becomes immediately stabilised, avoiding blurry shots in low light or at maximum zoom. A dust reduction system, which vibrates the camera’s sensor at high speed to dislodge any undesirables that have intruded when swapping lenses, is another feature to look out for.

For those who like to roam the great outdoors for that winning shot, some form of weather resistance or sealing is also beneficial so rain need not stop play. A magnesium alloy body is typically tougher than the plastic alternative, although such features usually demand a premium price.

Another must-have for many is Live View, where the user can utilise the rear LCD screen to compose an image when, because of the angle of the shot or conditions at the time, it’s otherwise tricky to get your eye level with the optical viewfinder. That said, Sony’s A900 has gone for a better quality, larger optical viewfinder at the expense of Live View and debate rages as to whether this was a good decision.

What does seem to have caught the imagination is the introduction of another staple of compact cameras to DSLRs – video capture. And, in today’s world of widescreen televisions, high definition video at that. First seen on the D90 from Nikon, Canon quickly followed suit with its own 5D Mark II. Others are sure to follow the lead of the ‘big two’ in the market. The advantage with video on a DSLR over the same feature on a compact camera (or camcorder) is that the photographer has the ability to use an almost limitless array of swappable lenses to film with.

So let’s take a look at what each of our six contenders has to offer, how they match up to our wish list, and how they perform as all-round image-capture devices.

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