According to the most recent stats, overall sales figures for digital interchangeable-lens cameras (ILCs) are down. This corresponds to the decline in Japanese camera exports compared to last year (14%). However, that downbeat economic news hasn’t curbed the enthusiasm of the leading DSLR and mirrorless system camera manufacturers.
They continue to bring forth exciting DSLRs aimed at enthusiasts, bristling with technological and operational advances. And continuing is the flow of impressive mirrorless cameras that deliver the entire high-end feature array of middle and upper-tier DSLRs—in smaller, lighter, handier form factors.
Mirrorless cameras have fewer moving parts, less shutter-release noise and minimal vibration compared to DSLRs, due to the elimination of the moving mirror. They also have a shorter flange back distance that makes it easier to design high-performance compact lenses. It also allows users to mount legacy lenses.
Additionally, the mirrorless ILC market continues to be technologically driven. Many of the latest top-end models offer high-res sensors and more extensive autofocus (AF) arrays. They also provide enhanced image-processing software for greater responsiveness, faster burst rates and 4K video capture. Add to that Wi-Fi connectivity and multi-axis, in-body image stabilization. Their viewing options also include tech-advanced, high-res tilt/swing and touch-screen LCDs as well as OLED electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
For their part, enthusiast DSLRs have kept pace remarkably well. They can now offer ultrahigh-res image sensors capable of stratospheric ISOs, 4K and Full HD video capture, and sizzling burst rates. Upgrades also include vastly enhanced AF performance and responsiveness.
How will this titanic battle evolve, and which class of enthusiast cameras will ultimately win? It’s anybody’s guess. But for now the result is some pretty amazing choices for the enthusiasts in your customer base.
First-Rate Enthusiast ILCs
Pentax’s full-frame (35.9 x 24mm), K-mount flagship incorporates a 36.4 megapixel (MP) CMOS sensor and a Prime IV image processor. They are engineered to capture detailed low-noise images at ISO settings up to 204,800 and deliver a full-res, 4.5-frames-per-sec (fps) burst rate. Notably, the K-1 incorporates an AA filter simulator to minimize moiré but omits the standard antialiasing filter to ensure the sharpest possible images.
Its wide-pattern SAFOX 12 AF sensor covers nearly the entire full-frame area with 33 AF points. These include 25 cross-pattern and three f/2.8 luminance points that operate down to -3 EV. In addition, built-in 5-axis shake reduction provides a 5-stop advantage in minimizing the effects of camera shake. Additionally, the DSLR’s unique 3.2-inch LCD monitor tilts up 90º, down 44º and laterally 35º.
Other enthusiast features are: dual SDXC slots; Full HD 1080p video capability at 30 fps; and built-in GPS with an AstroTracer function to minimize star trails during long exposures. Also, LED-illuminated body points positioned on the lens mount, card slots, LCD and cable switch facilitate operation in dim light. The K-1 has a stainless steel chassis as well as a magnesium alloy outer shell that’s weather sealed in 87 places and designed to operate down to 14ºF. $1,799.95.* ricohimaging.com
This brand-new X-mount mirrorless camera delivers a full complement of advanced features and capabilities at an attractive price point. An upgraded 24MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor couples to an advanced, new processor. Together they provide a full-res burst rate of 6 fps; sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600 for low-light, low-noise capture; and Full HD 1080p video at up to 60 fps. In addition, the retro-looking camera boasts impressive responsiveness, with an electronic shutter option providing speeds up to 1/32,000 sec.
Optimized to take selfies, the X-A3 has a grip designed to easily take self-portraits, a portrait enhancer mode, and also a self-timer with eye detection, smile detection, buddy timer and group detection modes. Consequently, without having to press the vertical command dial or release button, the shutter is released when subjects smile, two people come close together, or a specified number of people come into the frame.
Other features include: a 180º tilting, 3-inch, 1.04M-dot LCD with touch AF and touch shoot options; a 77-point contrast-detect AF system; and in-lens optical image stabilization providing a 3.5-stop anti-shake advantage for handheld shots in low light. Other niceties are Fujifilm’s film simulation modes; effects filters; and built-in Wi-Fi. In brown, silver or pink, with Fujinon XC16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OIS II lens, $599.95. fujifilmusa.com
This formidable enthusiast DSLR sets a new standard for the class with a 20.9MP DX-format (23.5mm x 15.7mm) CMOS sensor paired with an advanced Expeed 5 processor. The pair delivers a blazing, full-res burst rate of 10 fps, 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps, as well as a native ISO range of 100–51,200. That can be bumped up to an incredible ISO 1,640,000 for shooting in dark conditions.
The D500 employs the Multi-CAM 20K AF sensor with 153-points, including 99 cross-type points, to enhance AF speed and accuracy. In addition, its 3.2-inch, 2.36M-dot, tilting LCD touch screen facilitates framing high- and low-angle shots.
There also two card slots (XQD/SD) and an updated version of SnapBridge is incorporated, with Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity for easy sharing. Its well-balanced, nicely contoured, ergonomic body has conveniently placed controls and is constructed of durable, lightweight magnesium alloy. The body is also dust- and weather-sealed for working in challenging conditions. $1,999.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Alpha a6300
This 24.2MP APS-C-format mirrorless model with a CMOS sensor and Bionz X processor sets the standard in its class with an impressive sensor design. It provides enhanced 4K UHD (3,840×2,160p) video capture and a full-res RAW burst rate of 11 fps for 21 frames. The sensor combines wide-area, 425-point phase detection with 169 contrast-detection zones for more precise, decisive AF in as little as 0.05 sec. It also results in superior object identification, much faster, more consistent tracking, 8-fps bursts in live view, 14-bit RAW file output and ISO settings to 51,200.
The enthusiast camera offers two viewing/reviewing options—a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF and a 3-inch, 922K-dot, tilting LCD monitor.
The a6300 captures 4K UHD video at 30, 25 and cinematic 24 fps, as well as Full HD at up to a slow-motion 120 fps, all in XAVC S format. When using the Super35mm 16:9 aspect ratio, recordings are captured at 20MP resolution (6,000×3,376) and output at 8MP in 4K. The camera also supports custom color and S-Log3 Gamma profiles, as well as Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity. $999.99. sony.com
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
This impressive successor to the acclaimed EOS 7D has established itself as a leading contender among pros and advanced enthusiast photographers. It delivers “the 5D Mark III experience” in a beautifully balanced, more compact package and at a substantially lower price. The DSLR has an upgraded 20.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor that works with dual Digic 6 image processors to deliver 10-fps, full-res bursts. Optimized for low-light shooting, the sensor captures images at up to ISO 16,000 (expandable to 51,200) with low noise.
It also captures Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps with movie servo AF for continuous AF tracking. A 100% field-of-view optical viewfinder that still sets the standard for brightness and clarity for APS-C DSLRs is complemented with a 3-inch, 1.04M-dot LCD monitor.
Other features are: a 65-point, all-cross-sensor AF system for superior focusing with a wider variety of subjects; built-in GPS; and a digital compass. The 7D Mark II’s body is constructed of magnesium alloy, and the DSLR is compatible with Canon’s optional Wi-Fi adapter to add easy transfer and remote shooting capabilities. $1,499. usa.canon.com
Sigma sd Quattro
This unique mirrorless camera combines Sigma’s famous three-layer, 29MP Foveon X3 Quattro CMOS sensor with a Sigma SA lens mount. That’s the same mount used on the flagship SD1 Merrill DSLR. Furthermore, the APS-C sensor delivers full color information at every pixel point without interpolation. And thanks to its amazing 1:1.4 RGB pixel ratio, the sd Quattro creates 19.6MP lossless compressed RAW images with superior color output and a spatial resolution equivalent to a 39MP Bayer sensor.
A hybrid AF system incorporates phase-detection and contrast-detection points with up to nine selectable. Plus it has an operating range of -1 to 18 EV. The camera’s Dual True III image processor enables continuous full-res shooting at 3.6 fps for 14 frames, at sensitivities up to ISO 6400.
The sd Quattro also sports a distinctive ergonomic shape and an intuitive, customizable control layout. Other features include: a bright 3-inch, 1.62M-dot LCD; a 2.36M-dot EVF; and a dust- and splashproof magnesium alloy body. $799. sigmaphoto.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8
This brilliant Micro Four Thirds camera ups the ante with a higher res sensor as well as enhanced 4K video capabilities. Delivering a DSLR shooting experience in a slim, elegant body, it incorporates a 20.3MP Live MOS sensor paired with a Venus engine processor. It records 4K UHD video at 30 and 24 fps, and it also captures full-res stills at 10 fps with AF or 8MP stills at 30 fps.
The enthusiast camera’s dual image stabilization system combines in-lens and in-body IS to minimize the effects of shake. Additionally, for accelerated AF performance, Depth from Defocus technology is used to calculate the distance to subjects in 0.07 sec.
Other features include: a 2.36M-dot, live-view OLED EVF; a swiveling 3-inch, 1.04M-dot OLED touch-screen monitor; a high-speed, 49-point AF system; sensitivity settings to ISO 25,600; and built-in Wi-Fi. Additionally, Panasonic’s 4K Photo technology extracts an 8MP photo from 4K video. The GX8’s sleek, weatherproof body is constructed from magnesium alloy with die-cast front and rear frames. $999.99. panasonic.com
Combining the retro styling of the classic 1960s analog PEN F, this elegant Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera has a 20.3MP Live MOS sensor that omits the low-pass filter. The sensor is married to an advanced TruePic VII image processor to capture low-noise images and also deliver Full HD 1080p video at 30/60 fps. The pair also enables 10-fps, full-res bursts using a mechanical shutter and a sensitivity range that extends to ISO 25,600.
A high-res shot mode combines eight frames into a single 50MP-equivalent image. Additionally, its intervalometer function can be used to record time-lapse movies that can be exported in 4K UHD. Features also include: 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization; 81-zone contrast-detection AF; a front creative control dial for adjusting the look of images with creative effects and filters; a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF; an articulated 3-inch, 1.04M-dot touch-screen LCD; and built-in Wi-Fi. $1,199.99. olympusamerica.com
* All manufacturer’s suggested retail prices are body only, unless otherwise specified.