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No longer a two horse race

May 21, 2008 - Dave Hecei
Back in the film days, Canon and Nikon were the top ‘Pro’ level cameras. There were other companies like Olympus, Pentax, Minolta, and Leica who also made great cameras. But then everything has pretty much gone digital. For a while now, Canon and Nikon, have dominated the DSLR market. That seems to be changing.

While both Canon and Nikon are still the most popular, the other camera makers have come back with some surprisingly good DSLR models. These new model have lots of features that are ideally suited for the amateur or even more advanced photographer.

If you already have an autofocus 35mm SLR with several lenses, then you will want to probably stay with the same manufacturer. If you have a Nikon N-80, a great 35mm autofocus SLR, then you will want to take a look at Nikons DSLR, like the new D60. By staying with the same maker, the camera will be familiar to you and should be able to use all your 35mm lenses and most of the accessories. If you don’t own an SLR and are looking to go digital, then you may want to take a look at the new models from Pentax, Sony, or Olympus.

Minolta had one of the first 35mm auto focus SLR systems, the Maxxum. Minolta faltered in their switch to digital and eventually was bought by Konica. They made a couple of nice DSLR models, but they never became popular and Konica/Minolta was financially strapped. Sony soon bought them out and overhauled the line. Sony now has some amazing new DSLR models available. In January 2008, Sony introduced three new DSLRs in the Alpha series: the A350, A300, and A200. These models still use the Minolta lens mount, so if you have older Maxxum lenses, they may work on the new models. Sony has added some great technology to the line making them worth looking at.

For one, they now own Carl Zeiss. This name is well known in the optics industry as one of the best. The new Alpha series cameras also have features like sensor dust removal, in-camera image stability, live-view LCD displays, and in the A-350, an articulating LCD display – tilts up and down for easier view at different angles.

Pentax has is another company that has fought back. They’re new DSLRs are extremely well built and have some great features. They had a big hit on their hands last year with the K10D. Pentax is probably best known for one of the most popular 35mm cameras, the K1000. They have just brought out an update to the K10D, the K20D. It has built-in image stabilization, extra seals to keep out dust and moisture, 14.6 megapixel sensor, PC flash outlet for studio use, and can use practically any K-mount lens.

Olympus is also ‘back in the game’. When Olympus decided to create a new DSLR line, they went a slightly different route. They adopted the 4/3rds standard. This is a system of lenses that work with image sensors that are 4/3” in size. While the sensor is even smaller than the APS-C size in most DSLRs, a few manufacturers have adopted this standard so lenses are completely interchangeable from any 4/3rds system. The lenses themselves have been designed ‘from the ground up’ for digital. The new Olympus E-520 has many of the new features: in camera stabilization, live-view, dust reduction, face detection, and wireless flash control.


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