FOGEY 5 DIGITAL SLRs

Jun 06, 2012 No Comments by

The Fogey 5 are the five most consistently highly-rated products in their category by virtue of expert and consumer review from at least ten respected and authoritative websites.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Discovering which is the ‘best’ digital SLR camera is becoming increasingly tricky, not only because there are so many fabulous bits of kit out there at any number of price points but also because some reviews sites are including hybrid/micro four-thirds cameras such as the Sony NEX7 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2
in the DSLR mix.  If you’re curious as to what defines a camera as DSLR or hybrid read Ian Farrell’s article on compact camera systems here.

There’s also the issue that ‘serious’ camera reviews sites are aiming themselves, notionally at least, at a professional audience.  Few camera owners are pros and sites dedicated to photography alone can be ever-so-slightly intimidating to all but the most enthusiastic amateur.  None of the top ten-rated DSLRs at whatdigitalcamera.com is under £1,200.  Only one of the top ten most popular DSLRs at photographic retailer jessops.com is over £1,200. One site even found room in its top picks for the Leica S2 which retails for a sphincter-loosening £21,000.  Others don’t give ratings to such high end paraphernalia, perhaps appreciating the irrelevance of doing so.

It’s still the case that where DSLRs are concerned, Nikon and Canon rule.  Pentax, with the K-5 and K-r, have made a creditable comeback in recent years; Sony’s Alpha range is well-regarded and Olympus’s E-5 garnered a few plaudits.  Leica is a law unto itself.  If you’re not bothered by definitions and have small hands buy a Panasonic Lumix DMC G2, a Which? Best Buy and unfeasibly good value at around £330.

In a few months’ time, when the reviewing frenzy has abated, this Fogey 5 will likely be headed by the Nikon D800 (body only, nearly £3,500 – eek) and Canon EOS 5D MK III such is the buzz.

For now, though:

 

1= Nikon D3100

An ‘entry level’ DSLR that is cheaper than a banker’s conscience.  At £400 or less and kitted out with an 18-55mm lens it’s no wonder the D3100 has gained so many high review scores from experts and consumers alike.  The blurb on Nikon’s website lists no fewer than 32 features crammed into what is, for a DSLR, a pretty weeny casing.  Among the less penetrable being ‘DX-format, 14.2 effective megapixel CMOS image sensor’ and ‘EXPEED 2 – Nikon’s new image processing engine’.  The basic gist is the D3100 does all the hard stuff for you; there’s even an in-camera guide to help you not cock things up.  It can shoot 1080p Full HD video for 10 minutes (4GB of video is all any DSLR can shoot continuously before things get a tad toasty) and has ‘live view’ which means you can see what you’re shooting on the rear LCD screen.  Those only familiar with point-and-shoot compacts will wonder why this is a big deal but it’s a relatively recent convention in DSLRs.  We could explain why but befuddlement would ensue.  Its 14 megapixels are up from 10MP on its 3000 predecessor and it can shoot raw and fine jpeg which will appeal to photo clever clogs. “For the price, it should make for a very sound investment for first-time DSLR buyers,” said Cnet.  “All things considered, the D3100 is nothing less than the best entry-level DSLR available today,” said whatdigitalcamera? although they said it at the tail end of 2010 when the D3100 was launched and it’s not as if some competition hasn’t hit the shelves since (see below).

Around £400 or less. More info here  Buy Nikon D3100 with 18-55VR lens kit

 

1= Canon EOS 600D

The 600D differs from its forebear – the 550D – principally by virtue of shooting Full HD video and having an articulated rear screen.  Although it’s unlikely a seasoned pro would use a 600D ((three digits (eg 500D) = entry-level; one digit (eg 5D) = pro)) it’s increasingly becoming common for news journalists to use DSLRs in circumstances where the obviousness of a full-on, over the shoulder video camera could easily get them shot.  In similar vein, the fact that the screen twists and turns means you can shoot around corners or shoot in one direction while seeming to be looking in another.  Whether this will be handy for taking snaps of blue tits snacking on a peanut feeder in your back garden is debatable.  There are all manner of noodly features that will make sense to someone, such as, “18-megapixel CMOS sensor,  Scene Intelligent Auto mode, up to 3.7fps continuous shooting, wide-area 9-point AF and 1,040k-dot vari-angle 7.7cm (3.0”) screen” and some ‘creative filters’ that seem to do what Instagram (don’t ask…) does with your snaps after you’ve taken them.  Tech Radar liked: “A raft of new features and up-to-date specs give the beginner buying this DSLR more room to grow than with, for example, the Canon EOS 1100D announced at the same time as the EOS 600D.” And Cnet’s verdict: “The Canon EOS 600D might not be the swankiest camera in the world but it’s a well-balanced, competitively priced digital SLR with a knack for making expert photography highly accessible.”  At around £600 the 600D just falls within the ‘prosumer’ category – ie lonely men who wish they’d done something else with their lives (such as being a professional photographer) but let inconsequential fluff such as a mortgage and children get in the way.

Around £600 or less. More info here Buy Canon EOS 600D with 18-55mm lens kit

 

1=Nikon D7000

It’s one of the anomalies of all Fogey 5s – products take time to garner sufficient positive review scores to feature.  And so it is with the Nikon D7000, launched Q4 2010.  It’s another DSLR that sort-of bridges the gap between entry-level and pro; what you’d buy if your first camera didn’t spend most of its life gathering dust.  It’s competition for the likes of the Canon EOS 60D and 7D, Olympus E5 and Pentax K-7.  It doesn’t have an articulated screen but does have two SD card slots which reduces the chance you’ll miss that crucial shot because your memory card was full.  Given that SDXC cards (which the D7000 supports) can now hold 2 terabytes (that’s 2,000 gigabytes) of info you might think it unlikely two cards would be needed but if you’re shooting video in Full HD they could fill up pretty fast. Actually, that’s crap – they couldn’t, unless you’re shooting a 3-hour HD blockbuster.  “The D7000 is a fantastic step up camera for those who have outgrown entry level digital SLRs,” said Trusted Reviews.  “The D7000 is an absolutely exceptional DSLR that, although categorised under Nikon’s ‘consumer’ bracket, offers a lot of pro-like specification,” said whatdigitalcamera.com.  The full spec is very, very long.  Assuming what comes first is most important… “Sensor – 16.2MP CMOS,  Output Size – 4928 x 3264,  Focal Length Mag – 1.5x,  Lens Mount – Nikon F-mount,  File Format – Raw, JPEG, RAW + JPEG,  Compression – Fine, Normal, Basic // Size Priority vs Optimal Quality Compression // Large, Medium, Small,  ISO -100-6400 (12,800-25,600 extended), Shutter Speeds – 30-1/8000th sec” (blah, blah, blah….)

Around £1,000 or less. More info here  Buy Nikon d7000 with 18-105 VR lens

 

4= Canon EOS 60D

And by not-that-spooky coincidence we arrive at another confection of photographic prosumer frippery, the Canon EOS 60D (incidentally, EOS stands for ‘electro-optical system’ but you knew that…).  Apologies – getting bored.  Need food and beer but neither will be forthcoming until this waffle is done.  Trying to assimilate the puffery and techno-babble of camera websites and the very, very serious, committed and thorough assessments of professional reviewers makes TF long for a world in which it could make money watching re-runs of 30 Rock while eating cakes but realising this can never happen.  We don’t really care that much about DSLRs, personally, having had a very nice one for several years and hardly ever used it, not least because it needs its own bag and who lugs a camera bag around on the off-chance something worth taking pics of will happen right under your nose?  Just buy a Canon Powershot S95 and have done with it.  The EOS 60D is a very clever bit of kit – all the cameras here would make mincemeat of any comparable device that was more than five years old – but so what?  Unless you really are a professional (in which case you probably won’t be toting a 60D) who needs 16 megapixel resolution?  Are you planning on printing A2-sized posters?  Back in photo-world…. “The Canon 60D feels more like a camera designed to bridge the gap between the relatively simple EOS 550D and the more advanced EOS 7D, as if it’s trying to carve out a new niche in the market. As such, it falls slightly short of serious, semi-pro requirements but should satisfy most amateur enthusiasts,” said Tech Radar.  “The Canon EOS 60D is a pumped-up powerhouse of a digital SLR. It’s crammed full of class-leading but consumer-friendly features that could make it the only camera an amateur photography enthusiast will ever need,” said Cnet.

£1,000 or less with two lens kit. More info here  Buy Canon EOS 60D with 18-55mm lens and 55-250 lens

 

4= Pentax K-5

The first 35mm SLR this Fogey ever owned was a Pentax ME-Super.  Took some very pretty shots with it.  Probably by accident.  It had no auto-focus and auto-wind was a bolt-on extra.  We still have it, in a box, in the loft; too sentimentally attached to chuck it out.  Anyway, nostalgia trips aside, chapeau to Pentax for disturbing the Canon/Nikon DSLR duopoly.  The K-5’s spec won’t seem that much different to most others in this Fogey 5 but here are the highlights: “16.3 megapixel stabilized CMOS sensor, weatherproof body with 77 independent seals, sensitivity range: ISO 80 to 51200, 7 fps high-speed continuous shooting, CMOS-shift Shake Reduction, SAFOX IX+ AF sensor with 11 selectable points, Live View on a 3’’ LCD monitor with 921000 dots, video recording in Full HD.”  Any idea what a ‘SAFOX IX+’ auto-focus sensor is?  You’re not alone. CMOS stands for “Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor”.  It’s the sensor that takes the picture.  Most digital cameras seems to have CMOS sensors.  A cursory glance at the Wikipedia entry for CMOS reveals they don’t draw much power and don’t get that hot, which is handy in a camera sensor.  The rest of blurb is impenetrable unless you have a degree in electronics or somesuch.  The weatherproof body is a useful feature.  Doesn’t say anything about ruggedness – whether it can be dropped and survive – but none of the other cameras do either.  Another camera launched Q4 2010 it can be had, with single lens kit, on Amazon for under £750 (at launch it was over £1,000) which now represents pretty good value.  Some reviewers bemoaned the lack of auto-focus during video shooting and less-than-impressive low light ISO performance but most users were very happy.  “It may lack the Nikon D7000′s continuous AF during movies and the Canon EOS 60D’s articulating screen, but the K-5 is arguably more intuitive to use and more customisable than either,” said photographyblog.com.  “The Pentax K-5 may be an expensive [not any more] digital SLR, but it certainly packs in plenty of features for the price, and its performance is worth coughing up for,” concluded Cnet.

£950 or less with two lens kit. More info here  Buy Pentax K-5 with 18-55mm and 50-200mm lens

CAMERAS, FOGEY 5 PRODUCT REVIEWS