Serious photo enthusiasts favor high-performance interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) that deliver superlative imaging performance, impressive speed and comprehensive feature sets enabling exceptional image control. Here we cover some terrific, full-featured DSLRs.
The eight digital SLRs on our short list handily meet all these criteria and more. They include such cutting-edge features as 4K video capture; ultrafast, super-precise, multi-zone AF systems; and superfast framing rates. They also offer high-resolution sensors integrated with advanced image-processing systems that enable amazing performance at elevated ISOs. Add to that high-res, tilting, touch-screen LCD monitors and sophisticated multi-axis image stabilization systems.
Despite stiff competition from the latest mirrorless ILCs, traditional (and not-so -traditional) DSLRs are still top sellers among committed, knowledgeable photographers. That is because they provide a familiar form factor, easy compatibility with legacy lenses and also an extremely high performance-per-dollar quotient. That spells value for savvy photo enthusiasts.
Enthusiast Full-Featured DSLRs
Nikon’s attractive enthusiast/pro D750 has established itself as a leading contender in the highly competitive full-frame DSLR arena. At its core is a full-frame 24.3 megapixel FX-format CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Expeed 4 image processor. The D750 delivers continuous full-res bursts up to 6.5 frames per sec and Full HD 1080p video recording at 60/30/24 fps. Its top native ISO setting of 12,800 can be extended from ISO 50 to 51,200.
It also provides a big 3.2-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD monitor as well as a 0.7x eye-level pentaprism optical viewfinder. Its Multi-CAM 3500FX II 51-point AF sensor achieves fast, precise autofocus with a wide variety of subjects. In addition, a 91K-pixel RGB exposure sensor enhances metering precision, while group area AF enables superior focus tracking with fast-moving subjects.
The D750 also has integrated Wi-Fi connectivity for easy sharing and remote operation with compatible devices. Other features include: time-lapse shooting; exposure smoothing functions for expanded in-camera creative opportunities; and customizable picture controls. $1,299.95.*
Canon EOS 6D Mark II
This substantially upgraded full-frame Canon model appeals to advanced enthusiasts because it delivers “the 5D experience” at an attractive price point. It employs a 26.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor coupled to a state-of-the-art Digic 7 image processor. The combo achieves a full-res, 6.5-fps maximum burst rate and Full HD video recording at 24/30/60 fps.
Also employed are a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, vari-angle, touch-screen LCD; a 45-zone, all-cross-sensor AF system; and a 97%-view, all-glass pentaprism viewfinder. It also offers built-in Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth LE connectivity with NFC.
Other features include: Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology; a movie servo AF function; time-lapse and HDR modes; 14-bit A/D conversion, in-camera RAW processing and JPEG conversion; and sensitivity settings expandable to ISO 102,400. This is housed in a rugged dust- and weather-resistant body. Its performance is sure to impress enthusiast and pro Canon shooters wanting an advanced full-frame DSLR at a great price. $1,499.
Sony Alpha a99 II
This pro-caliber Sony DSLT has a fixed translucent mirror and a high-res electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead of a traditional DSLR’s optical viewfinder. Its Translucent Mirror technology enables full-time AF before, during and after the exposure. The 99 II has a 42MP full-frame Exmor R BSI CMOS sensor that delivers 14-bit RAW output. It works with an advanced Bionz X processor and a front-end LSI. This innovation dramatically improves the throughput speed of the imaging system, enabling continuous 12-fps, full-res shooting with AF/AE, sensitivity settings to ISO 102,400, and internal 4K UHD video capture at 30/24 fps in the XAVC S format with S-Log3 Gamma and custom settings.
The a99 II also uses a hybrid phase-detection AF system that combines 79 hybrid cross AF points, providing both phase- and contrast-detection autofocus, and a 399-point focal-plane AF system on the image sensor. Moreover, it incorporates five-axis SteadyShot Inside image stabilization for a 4.5-stop advantage in handheld shooting.
Other features include: a 0.5-inch, 2.36M-dot OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 1.23M-dot, tilting LCD; Wi-Fi/NFC; and an S&Q motion function to record Full HD video at 1–120 fps. The DSLT also has robust, lightweight magnesium alloy top and rear covers and chassis, as well as full weather sealing. $3,199.99.
Sigma SD1 Merrill
The standout feature of Sigma’s pro/enthusiast flagship DSLR is a full APS-C-format high-res 46MP version of its unique three-layer Foveon X3 sensor. The sensor works like film to deliver full color information at each pixel location. Other enhancements include Dual True II image-processing engines and an 11-point twin-cross AF sensor. It also sports a 3-inch LCD. In addition, the SD1 Merrill houses its high-performance features in an upgraded magnesium body with O-ring-sealed buttons and enhanced weatherproofing.
Those key performance features include: a maximum burst rate of 5 fps; ISO sensitivity settings up to 6,400; and shutter speeds to 1/8,000 sec. While the SD1 doesn’t offer live view, video capture or tethering capability, it does deliver pro features like micro AF adjustment, three custom mode settings on the exposure mode button (PASM) and an easily removable IR filter for infrared shooting.
However, where the Sigma SD1 really shines is in its imaging performance, especially at lower ISOs, delivering film-like images with exquisite detail and superb color rendition. $1,799.
Pentax K-1 Mark II
Pentax’s full-frame K-mount DSLR incorporates a 14-bit image processor with a Ricoh-developed accelerator unit that reduces noise plus enhances clarity and color accuracy. It also boosts the sensitivity range up to a remarkable ISO 819,200. In addition, its 5-axis Shake Reduction (SR) system minimizes the effects of camera shake and enables Pixel Shift Resolution II. This technology factors in the movement of the sensor to record sequential frames and merge them into one image with greater color detail and higher resolution.
The DSLR employs an ultrahigh-res 36.4MP CMOS sensor and Prime IV processor to deliver full-res bursts of 4.4 fps for 17 RAW images. Moreover, the camera utilizes a AA filter simulator to minimize moiré patterns, but it omits the antialiasing filter to ensure sharper images. Also, its SAFOX 12 AF sensor covers nearly the entire full-frame area and has 33 AF points. They include 25 cross pattern and three f/2.8-luminance points that can operate in light down to -3 EV. Furthermore, a unique 3.2-inch, cross-tilt LCD tilts up 90º, down 44º and 35º laterally.
Other features include Full HD 1080p video recording and built-in GPS with an astrotracer function to minimize star trails. And LED-illuminated body points on the lens mount, card slots, back of the LCD and cable switch facilitate low-light operation. In addition, its weather-sealed body with a stainless steel chassis and magnesium alloy outer shell operates down to 14ºF. $1,799.95.
Canon EOS 80D
This outstanding Canon DSLR incorporates an upgraded 24.2MP APS-C-size CMOS sensor and a 45-point, all-cross-point AF sensor coupled to a Digic 6 processor. It employs Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (DAF) technology to achieve superior tracking of fast-moving subjects. The camera is also optimized for shooting video or high-speed action in live view. Moreover, the 80D’s anti-flicker function automatically compensates for flickering light sources to provide consistent exposure and color accuracy during continuous shooting.
Other key features are: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60/30 fps in the MP4 format for sharing on social media; a 7-fps, full-res burst rate with full-time AF; a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot, swiveling, touch-screen LCD monitor; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC; and sensitivity settings of ISO 100–16,000 that are expandable to ISO 25,600 (stills).
Moreover, for working with telephoto lenses and extenders, 27 of the DSLR’s AF points are capable of focusing down to f/8, and their dual cross-focus design offers enhanced precision at wider apertures. The 80D has a glass pentaprism viewfinder and Canon’s 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor that enhances exposure metering and AF performance. $899.
Providing high performance in a sleek, compact, ergonomically contoured package, the D7500 from Nikon incorporates many key features of the Nikon D500. It employs the same 20.9MP DX-format CMOS sensor (sans the optical low-pass filter to enhance resolution) as the D500, paired to an Expeed 5 processing engine. The result is a maximum full-res burst rate of 8 fps with full AE/AF and a native sensitivity range of ISO 100–51,200, which extends to an incredible ISO 1,640,000.
Its pro-level multimedia capabilities include 4K UHD video capture at 30 fps and the ability to produce 4K UHD time-lapse movies in-camera. Its impressive still and video performance are both enhanced with a 51-point, 15-cross-field-sensor AF system that delivers outstanding AF speed and accuracy. It also boasts a slim-line, tilting, 3.2-inch, 922K-dot, touch-screen LCD and a convenient auto picture control system.
Other advanced features include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for instant image transfer, sharing and remote shooting. It also has the same 180K-pixel RGB sensor as the D500 to detect faces as well as improve AF performance—especially when shooting high-speed sequences. The enthusiast-aimed camera features an attractive monocoque-constructed, weather-resistant body. $999.95.
Sony Alpha a68
Sony’s sleek broad-spectrum enthusiast-aimed DSLT has a fixed translucent mirror like its full-frame big brother the Sony Alpha a99 II. In addition, it provides many of the advantages of a mirrorless camera, including continuous AF during the exposure. The a68 also utilizes a 24.2MP APS-C Exmor CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Bionz X image processor, along with SteadyShot Inside image stabilization.
Moreover, the camera employs a 2.7-inch, 461K-dot, tilting LCD screen and a 0.39-inch, 1.44M-dot OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder. In addition, its 79-point AF system, with 15 cross-type points, enables precise phase-detection AF. And it operates even with continuous shooting and movie modes. And the AF system performs in dimly lit conditions, as low as -2 EV.
The a68 also provides ergonomic controls and dials, as well as a top display panel and a rear control wheel. Other features include: sensitivity settings from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600; an impressive full-res burst rate up to 8 frames per sec; and Full HD 1080p video capture at various frame rates in the XAVC S format. $599.99.
* All MSRPs are body only.