Nine Models That Define the Digital SLR Experience
Strictly speaking, not all of these models are DSLRs, but as the game changes, all deliver the DSLR experience.February 2013 By Jason Schneider
Today’s DSLRs are a far cry from what they used to be a few years ago in terms of resolution, high ISO and autofocus performance, burst rate, shutter lag, HD video capability and many other quantifiable parameters. In fact, four out of the nine cameras in this compilation of upmarket models are not technically SLRs at all, because they lack the SLR’s defining feature—a flipping mirror behind the lens that reflects the image up into an eye-level optical viewfinder.
The reason? The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has come a long way in terms of resolution, color fidelity and refresh rate. OLED EVFs in particular provide users with a satisfyingly realistic 100%, high-magnification view of the image directly off the sensor in real time and as the camera and its exposure system “sees” it. In other words, from a user perspective, the EVF cameras in this article all provide the DSLR shooting experience, and they’re marketed alongside traditional DSLRs. Ergo, you now know why we’ve included mirrorless models, one Translucent Mirror technology (TMT) camera and one remarkably advanced classic rangefinder camera in our roundup.
Despite increasing competition from DSLR-style, extended-range point-and-shoot cameras, and mirrorless compact system cameras (CSCs), DSLRs are still the go-to models for most pros and many serious enthusiasts. And that’s why the camera manufacturers are still actively developing impressive new models.
Clear trends: An increasing number of full-frame models in the new $2,000 class aimed at emerging pros and more knowledgeable prosumers (the Nikon D600, Canon 6D and somewhat higher priced Sony A99); the migration to technically advanced and upscale APS-C and Four Thirds-format mirrorless designs, as exemplified by the Samsung NX20 and Panasonic DMC-GH3; and innovative approaches that deliver unique feature sets, as demonstrated by the one-of-a-kind Leica M, the Sigma SD1 Merrill and the “filterless” high-res Pentax K-5 IIs.
Sony Alpha SLT-A99
When Sony announced the Alpha 65 and 77 based on Translucent Mirror technology (TMT), it set off a wave of speculation among enthusiasts and industry experts that a blockbuster, full-frame TMT flagship model was in the offing. Well the Sony Alpha 99 (officially dubbed the SLT-A99) has finally been announced, and it meets or exceeds expectations. Its pro/prosumer performance credentials include a full-frame 24.3MP Exmor CMOS sensor, a tilting high-res 3.0-inch Xtra Fine TruBlack LCD, an XGA-res OLED electronic viewfinder, a 6-frames-per-sec maximum full-frame burst rate, an advanced Bionz image processor, and an enhanced “Quick Navi Pro” control interface. It also features a dual AF system that combines phase-detection and contrast-detection AF, a 1,200-zone evaluative metering system, built-in GPS, auto HDR, Full HD 1,920x1080p video recording at 60 fps, internal SteadyShot sensor-shift image stabilization, area-specific noise reduction, a quiet multi control dial optimized for video shooting, and a magnesium chassis with comprehensive weather sealing. $2,799, body only. sony.com