Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Few Quick DSLR Camera Reviews and Recommendations

A few readers commenting on the last post regarding compact camera reviews rightfully realized that because cellphone camera technology is getting better and better each year, it might not make sense to spend $200 for a separate camera. While that might be true for smaller units, most publications still look to DSLRs in the field of professional photography. Here then are a few quick DSLR Camera Reviews and Recommendations.

Nikon D700

While I have always expressed my brand loyalty to Canon, there's no doubt that other camera manufacturers like Olympus, Pentax, Sony and the like produce top-quality DSLRs themselves. However, in my experience, the only other brand that has consistently performed as Canon is Nikon. In this case, the Nikon D700 has been a good workhorse for photojournalists and wedding photographers in the Nikon camp.

If you're complaining about the paltry 12.1 MP resolution, there's the upgraded Nikon D800 with 36.3 MP of image resolution, but unless your images are going up on 100-foot billboards and you have an extra $1,000 to spare, the D700 will suit most everyone's needs.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Yes, Canon has upgraded this camera to the 5D Mark III, but why spend $1,300 more when you can get all that full-frame goodness in the Mark II? Granted that the Mark III has significant improvements in terms of speed, ISO performance, HD video recording, etc. but the Mark II can still hold its head up high.

When this camera was first released in 2009, it was a game changer in almost all aspects of modern commercial photography. Suddenly, anyone with the right budget could have a professional camera for the fraction of the price. It's 21.1 MP picture capability was the right mix of large resolution and quality. It's HD video capability spawned a new generation of cinematographers.

This was the first camera that truly impressed me as the right balance between price and performance, and I think the Mark II will be a classic for as long as Canon continues to manufacture it, regardless of the future Mark IV, V, VI, etc. iterations there will be.

Of course, a DSLR body wouldn't be complete without a few lenses and accesories, so here are a few:

Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L USM Lens

A good camera like the 5D Mark II also deserves a good lens, and if you could only pick one lens, it would have to be the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM. This won't get you those impressive bird shots from a hundred feet away, nor will it give you those ultra close-up, wide-angle views, but it's a great general purpose lens that delivers superb images, and that's good enough.

Yes, it's big. And heavy. And it doesn't have Image Stabilization, but it's not called the bread and butter lens for nothing. It's built like a tank and, coupled with the 5D Mark II, feels very comfortable in the hands. I  have yet to meet a serious photographer who's regretted purchasing and using this lens for their everyday photography.

The only downside to this lens is that it the upgraded version has been delayed, so if you're in a hurry, you'll have to settle for this 2002 version which is still pretty good, all things considered.

Canon  BG-E6

The light and small profile of the 5D Mark II makes it a great DSLR for everyday use. That is, until you find yourself shooting vertical most of the time. Then you realize light and small isn't so great without a vertical battery grip. This is where the Canon BG-E6 Battery Grip comes in. The device attaches beneath the camera and inserts through the battery slot. You can use either 6 AA batteries or 2 Canon LP-E6 Batteries (I tend to go with the LP batteries, but if you want to go with AAs, check out the Sanyo Eneloop ones below). This not only gives you a more comfortable grip, it also doubles the life of your batteries, which is a nice touch if you're scheduled shoot takes you most of the day.

There are of course third-party branded battery packs for $200 less, but if you're going to stick something into your $2,000 DSLR, it might as well be a branded and reputable product like the official grip.

 Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash

I personally haven't tried out the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash, but from the reviews I've read, this external flash is the the logical iteriation after the Canon Speedlite 580EX II. While the larger guide number (which means more light power) is very much appreciated, the real feature is the wireless radio system which allows it to communicate wirelessly with your DSLR, and control up to five other external Speedlites.

So far, reviews have been mostly good, so this will be my next purchase (should my current 580EX decide to fail).

Sanyo Eneloop 1500 4 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries with Charger

Eneloop's Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries are the go-to batteries for Canon's Speedlite flash. Actually, they're the go-to batteries for all brands of external flash. The company's reputation rests on their long-lasting charge (these particular set comes pre-charged, so you're assured that the batteries can in fact hold on to their charge), and their consistent performance time after time.

Every time you use the flash, the batteries give a short burst of intense power. Because professionals rely on the batteries to do this every few seconds, it's not hard to see why battery life is of utmost important. While I'm not sure how my half a dozen or so sets of Eneloop batteries have fared over the last few years, these guys have a lifetime of 1,500 charge cycles so I think I'll be alright for a few more years.

Get a a few packs for your external flash, and then a few more for your other household electronics.

Going into digital photography is not cheap, and unless you're a millionaire, you should spend days and weeks and months researching and testing the gadgets yourself. Hopefully, these short DSLR and accessories recommendation and review links will help you decide if you're will to spend more than $1,000 with camera gear, or just fiddle around with Instagram.


The Angry Lurker said...

Thanks again for this Jay!

MRanthrope said...

my girlfriend was big into photography when she was younger. I bought her compact canon cameras over the years but yeah she's stopped using them because of the handy dandy iPhone =/

She DOES still bust out her Grandpa's old DSLR camera for special things though. I guess the good stuff never goes out of style.

G said...

I have a Nikon D5100 and it rocks...but it's odd in photography that brand loyalty seems to go into overdrive. I'd never think twice about buying anything other than Nikon...probably because of the money I've invested in lenses.

T. Roger Thomas said...

Nice review - I would really like to see the price drop dramatically on these units.

Bart said...

they look pricey.

Unknown said...

Good review. :)

YouTube Talent Reviewer said...

woah, it is pretty pricey, but i guess you should expect to pay that much for good quality stuff

Unknown said...

This post couldn't have come at a better time. I just accidentally broke my camera on Sunday and need to get a new one. Great job explaining and I have to agree that Nikon has performed as well as Canon has for me. Thanks for sharing Jay!


dimz said...

amazingf pro camera, 5d MKIII it's so cool
thank you for review :)

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