bu YerS guide
PrOFessiONAL digi TAL sLrs
by dAN HAvLik
New professional digital SLRs were few and far between this year but that doesn’t mean the market was bare. While neither Nikon
nor Canon announced a new pro SLR rig in 2011 at the time of this writing, we heard rumblings that something could be unveiled
by the time this issue was published. While the dearth of new cameras is partially because of the flagging economy and the fallout
from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, it may also be because the market is already saturated with some very good top-of-the
line DSLRs. This is why we chose to once again spotlight the Nikon D3s and Canon 1D Mark IV in this issue. Meanwhile both Sony
and Sigma released pro-worthy DSLRs in 2011, which may give the Big Two a run for their money.
PRO DSLRS, OLD AND NEW, ARE STILL THE CAMERAS TO TURN TO FOR YOUR TOUGHEST ASSIGNMENTS
The biggest DSLR news in 2011 was the 24.3-megapixel Sony SLT-A77, which has more
bells and whistles than an amusement park. The first thing that strikes you about
this APS-C-based DSLR—which is the long awaited follow-up to the A700—is
the shear speed. Capable of firing off 12 frames per second at full resolution,
the A77 uses Sony’s second generation Translucent Mirror Technology, which
simultaneously directs light to both the image sensor and the Phase Detection AF
sensor. According to Sony, that blazing speed is the fastest continuous autofocus
shooting performance of any DSLR on the market (as we went to press). The A77
is powered by Sony’s fast BIONZ processor, which helps the camera capture full
1080p HD videos at smooth 60p, standard 60i, or the cinema-like 24p. Movie
clips can be recorded in AVCHD or the slightly smaller, and easy-to-upload MP4
codec. Best of all for movie buffs, you have full manual control over your video
clips and because of the translucent mirror, you can employ full-time Phase
Detection autofocusing to make even fast moving action look sharp. Some of the
A77’s features are shared with its smaller and less expensive little brother, the A65.
Along with a faster frame rate, the A77 has a higher-end LCD than the step-down model. On the A77, the 3-inch LCD is a three-way tilting display—up, down, sideways and back—
letting you frame shots from unusual angles. There’s no optical viewfinder but the A77 compensates
with a nice OLED viewfinder, along with the high-resolution LCD. Like the A65, the A77 comes loaded
with a suite of Sony’s in-camera technology including 3D Sweep Panorama, Handheld Twilight mode and Auto HDR.
The build of the A77 is heavier and more robust than the A65, which should be more appealing to pros.
Price: $1,399 (body only)
Sig MA Sd 1
Price: $9,700 (body only)
While we haven’t, at the time of this writing, tested the SD1, other
review sites are impressed with the image quality. The build and
features of the SD1—solid magnesium alloy body, weather sealing,
five frames person second shooting speed but no video—are about
average for a prosumer camera but a step down for a pro camera.
So what’s appealing about the SD1? There’s a Foveon mystique to
it that intrigues some photographers and an almost 3D quality to
images produced from Sigma’s Foveon-powered models, which don’t
use anti-aliasing (blur) filters. Controversial, perhaps, but definitely
worth checking out.