Broad-Spectrum DSLRs: A Redefined Category of Interchangeable-Lens Cameras

Broad-Spectrum DSLRs: A Redefined Category of Interchangeable-Lens Cameras


These days, a broad-spectrum DSLR is defined as any interchangeable-lens camera that provides the DSLR shooting experience and appeals to casual shooters and first-time DSLR buyers. Of course, they can also be attractive to serious enthusiasts that demand state-of-the art features and high imaging performance.

In other words, this enticing and profitable category now includes traditional DSLRs with optical viewfinders like the Canon Rebel SL1, Nikon D3300 and Pentax K-S1, as well as mirrorless compact system cameras (CSCs) such as the Olympus OM-D E-M10, Sony Alpha a6000 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5.

This once clearly defined species has rapidly evolved over the past few years as technology has transformed the DSLR market and consumers have increasingly pursued a higher level shooting experience, more advanced features and something approaching pro-caliber performance at attractive price points.

From a marketing perspective, all the cameras described here compete in the DSLR space, irrespective of how they’re technically classified by optical experts. While some are entry-level models offering enthusiast performance creds, others are best described as enthusiast-aimed cameras that deliver convenience, affordability and a compact form to enhance their appeal to casual shooters and first-time DSLR buyers.

Needless to say, all these cameras are great step-ups that can be used to showcase and promote the advantages of higher priced middle-tier DSLRs that offer an even higher level of performance, features and construction—and profit potential.

Establishing your store as the source of broad-spectrum DSLRs, offering a choice of models for hands-on test-drives, and having a knowledgeable staff dedicated to helping your customers make intelligent choices is definitely a winning strategy in today’s super-competitive market.

One thing that will probably never change is that DSLRs are cash cows. They comprise the most efficient gateway to repeat sales, since DSLR shooters generally upgrade their cameras more often and look for high-margin accessories, including lenses, flash units, filters, bags, tripods and virtually everything else in your store.

Indeed, the sale of a DSLR, broad-spectrum or otherwise, can be the foundation of a successful long-term retail relationship—one that enhances your customers’ experience with photography and ensures your continued success.

A Selection of Broad-Spectrum DSLRs
Sony Alpha a6000.
This remarkable camera takes the performance parameters of the CSC up a few notches with 179 on-sensor, phase-detection autofocus (AF) points covering more than 90% of the image area. It delivers full-time AF when shooting video and boasts a 0.39-inch, 1,440K-dot OLED EVF. Other key features include: a 3.0-inch, 9,216K-dot, tilting LCD; a fast hybrid AF system capable of achieving precise focus for stills and video; an APS-C-format 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS sensor; the latest high-tech Bionz X image processor that enhances speed and provides ISO settings up to 25,600; a maximum full-res framing rate of up to 11 fps in continuous high mode; Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps or cinematic 24 fps in MP4, MPEG-4 and AVC/H.264 formats; and built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity. Many current E-mount lenses provide image stabilization with active mode. $799 with Sony 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS zoom lens.

Nikon D3300.
Upgraded with a 24.2MP DX-format (APS-C) CMOS sensor and with no optical low-pass filter for enhanced sharpness and resolution, this compact optical-viewfinder DSLR has an advanced Expeed 4 image processor that delivers Full HD 1080p video capture at 60, 50, 30, 25 and 24 fps. Its sensitivity settings are expandable to ISO 25,600, and it provides a full-res 5-fps burst rate. Its 3D color matrix metering system offers multi-zone, center-weighted and spot options. Other key features include: a 3.0-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle LCD monitor; an 11-point AF sensor; and easy panorama and guide modes. Picture control settings provide in-camera adjustment of color and contrast settings for stills and movies. The D3300 is compatible with Nikon’s optional WU-1a wireless adapter that delivers full wireless connectivity. The D3300 is offered in black, red and gray. $549.95 with DX Nikkor 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6G VR II lens.

Canon EOS Rebel SL1
. This fetchingly petite, entry-level DSLR offers many of the key features found on higher level broad-spectrum models (like the Rebel T5i). These include an 18MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor coupled to a Digic 5 image processor. The duo delivers Full HD video capture with continuous AF at 30, 25 and 24 fps, ISO 100–12,800, expandable to 25,600, scene intelligent auto mode, and 4-fps, full-res bursts. It uses a 9-point hybrid autofocus system with contrast- and phase-detection sensors and a high-precision central cross sensor. Other features include: a 3.0-inch, 1,040K-dot, touch-screen LCD; effect shot mode that captures two images of the scene, one with and one without the selected effect; and background simulation to achieve dramatic blurred or sharpened backgrounds. The SL1 measures only 4.6×3.6×2.7 inches and weighs a tad more than 13 ounces! It comes in black or white. $749 with EF-S 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS STM lens.

Samsung NX mini.
This sleek, slim new entry has a neo-retro form factor and employs a 1-inch, 20.5MP BSI CMOS sensor. It features built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and a 3.0-inch, 460.8K-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD. The mini delivers an impressive full-res 6-fps maximum burst rate and is capable of Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps. It also provides: extended sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600; a 35-point contrast-detection AF system; a 1/16,000-sec shutter speed; and smart filters. And it has a cool wink shot feature that lets users shoot self-portraits by just winking at the camera. It comes with a Samsung SEF-7A accessory flash unit and Lightroom 5 image-processing software. The mini’s svelte body measures 4.4×2.4×0.9 inches, and it’s available in five colors—black, white, pink, mint green and brown. $550 with Samsung NX-M 9–27mm f/3.5–5.6 zoom lens.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GM5.
Panasonic’s most petite CSC to date is not only a gorgeous example of retro styling, but it’s also technically advanced. Measuring a mere 3.9×2.3×1.4 inches and weighing in at only 6.4 ounces (body only), it packs in a 1-inch, 16MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor, a giant 4.7-inch, 6,220K-dot, touch-screen LCD (3.0-inch viewing area) and a 1,166K-dot LVF (live viewfinder). The ultracompact GM5 can record Full HD 1,920×1,080p video in AVCHD or MP4 formats with stereo sound, and it delivers a maximum full-res 5.8-fps burst rate and an astonishingly fast data throughput rate of 240 fps. It also offers Light Speed AF, eye detection, face recognition AF and 22 built-in creative filters. All this is built into a magnesium alloy body that’s available in black or red. $899 with Lumix G Vario 12–32mm f/3.5–5.6 lens.

Pentax K-S1.
This stylish, new compact DSLR features an optical (pentaprism) viewfinder and distinctive LED indicator lights on its ergonomic grip and lighted camera controls. Inside is a 20MP APS-C-format sensor coupled to an advanced Prime M II image processor that delivers Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps, sensitivity settings up to ISO 51,200 and a maximum 5.4-fps full-res burst rate. Other key features include: a 3.0-inch, 921K-dot TFT LCD monitor; an advanced SAFOX IXi 11-point AF system with nine cross-field sensors; an in-body, sensor-shift shake reduction mechanism; HDR capability; creative filters; and an AA filter simulator for eliminating moiré patterns when needed. The K-S1 is available in black, four colors in its Fabric collection, five in its Night Sky collection and three wild new colors in its Sweets collection—lime pie, strawberry cake and blue cream soda—all with trim in the appropriate hues. $699 with Pentax DA L 18–55mm lens.

Olympus OM-D E-M10.
With a slim, stylish body reminiscent of the classic Olympus OM cameras of the film era, the E-M10 incorporates the same 16MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds sensor as the landmark OM-D E-M5. It couples the sensor to the latest TruePic VII image processor to achieve FAST AF—a system that provides very rapid AF speed using an 81-point selectable system—plus an impressive maximum 8-fps, full-res burst, ISO 25,600 and Full HD 1080p video capability at 30 fps with effects. Other key features are: a 1.44M-dot EVF with a blazingly fast 120-fps refresh rate; a 3.0-inch, 1,037K-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD monitor; in-body three-axis, sensor-shift image stabilization; and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The E-M10, which is available in five colors, is the only camera in the OM-D line with a pop-up auto flash. $749 with M.Zuiko 14–42mm f/3.5–5.6 II R lens.

Fujifilm X-E2. This retro-looking CSC provides full DSLR functionality but looks and handles like a classic rangefinder 35, right down to its analog dials and function buttons. It delivers on its high-tech image with a 16.3MP APS-C-format X-Trans CMOS II sensor that has a unique color pixel array to reduce noise and increase resolution. It also features: a hybrid AF system said to achieve focus in 0.08 sec; a lens modulation optimizer; a high-def, 2,360K-dot, eye-level viewfinder; a 3.0-inch, 1,040K-dot LCD monitor; Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps; 7-fps continuous bursts; ISO 100–25,600; digital split image and focus-peaking functions; and one-touch wireless transfer to a smartphone, tablet or PC. $1,099 with a Fujinon XF18–55mm f/2.8–4 R LM OIS lens and SanDisk 32GB Extreme UHS-I SDHC memory card.