Camera Choices post Photokina

The big Photokina show happened and had a chance to look at the Fuji X1-Pro and talk about cameras, here’s the scoop on what looks good:
Big dSLR
With a Canon 5D Mark II already and a big investment in Canon glass, it is hard to switch systems, but I’d say that right now, it looks like the technological lead is now with Nikon but Sony is moving so quickly with its E-Mount, that if you can I would hold buying the next dSLR. The technological changes are huge right now as there is a shift away from optical viewfinder to electronic which makes the camera smaller and Nikon right now leads in autofocus and exposure control, but Sony has this translucent mirror technology which means you can shoot videos (see the next section) with phase detection so the camera will autofocus. The system needs more time to develop as there are relatively few lenses, but the fact that the lenses are compatible across dSLR, camcorder and small cameras is pretty amazing. What is great is that while APS-C sensors looked like they were going to kill full frame, the Sony 24MP imager and Canons proprietary offering seems to have made it an easy choise to stay full frame so you can get really high quality and theoretically better low light performance with bigger sensors. So the best value choices right now appear to be in order:

  1. Nikon D600. The D800 is the amazing flag ship with a 30Mp imager, but the d600 at 24MP is much more affordable and doesn’t need the highest quality glass to get great photos and it is full frame. More reviews coming, but in a more mature segment, getting the second model down is a pretty good deal. $2K body only.
  2. Sony Alpha A99. The system is still maturing and doesn’t quite best Nikon right now, but the idea of a translucent mirror means that you can get autofocus while shooting video and it is full frame as well with same imager as the D600. It uses the Sony E-mount which is the main drawback and at least previous models didn’t do quite as well in noise etc. $3K body only.
  3. Canon 6D. This in effect replaces the 5DII with about the same resolution and same autofocus but with hopefully much better low light performance. $2K body.

HD Camcorder
The goal here is to use all that super high quality, low-light lenses that are available for dSLRs for movies. While you can use your dSLR as a professional grade camcorder, it definitely has limitations like the lack of autofocus, the difficulty in doing a smooth pull and with an optical viewfinder, you don’t see what is really going on image wise. I have bought lots of fancy hardware for my 5D2 that trys to fix these limitations like a high quality stereo microphone (Rode Videomic, nice but keeps breaking), magnifier for the screen (works well, but keeps falling off) and the next steps would be a big mounting system so you can pull effectively (there is actually a box you can plug into the USB that does this now), but the truth is that something more integrated makes sense. And the new cameras are also putting out raw vs mpeg-4 compressed so you can do more post productions
The leader in this area seems to be Sony, it uses the same E-mount lenses, but the other candidates are third party manufacturers who use Canon glass or to a lesser extent Nikon. The big issues here are as usual, there is more Canon glass out there right now and the area is evolving so quickly, it makes sense if you can to wait for the perfect 35mm, raw, more than 1080p camera. The main problem with

  1. Blackmagic. The Canon C300 looks like a great camera, but is priced for professionals at $10K, but Blackmagic is $3K body only and actually shoots bigger than HD at 2.5K raw. The main issues are ergonomics and rolling shutter than has some issues but is still better than dSLRs.
  2. Sony

Small and Light Pro
Small and Light Point and Shoot
 

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