Consumer Digital SLR
Canon EOS 600D
Canon has got to the top of the D-SLR market – and actually stayed there for a very long time – by making cameras that people want. It has always competed on features and performance rather than pricing which has also helped keep real value in the D-SLR business. Cleverly, the bargains come with the previous-generation models which Canon tends to keep going, providing buyers with a wider range of options.
The 600D is its “top-of-the-line entry-level D-SLR” so it straddles the line between being a very well-featured beginner’s camera and an affordably-priced enthusiast’s camera. It works equally well in either role.
It’s compact and lightweight, but boasts Canon’s 18.7 megapixels ‘APS-C’ size CMOS sensor which is also used in the 60D and the 7D. There are higher-end features such as a tilt/swing monitor screen with a resolution of 1.04 million dots, 63-zone metering, Full HD video recording and manual flash output control, but also features for the point-and-shooter such as auto scene selection.
This is a D-SLR that beginners can grow with, developing their skills as they graduate from the auto controls to making more manual inputs.
But it’s also a D-SLR that the more experienced shooter can drive to achieve their creative objectives as well as ensuring technical challenges can be met through capabilities such as Highlight Tone Priority’ (dynamic range expansion), the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ settings and ‘Peripheral Illumination Correction’.
Beyond all this, Canon’s deep understanding of D-SLR design mean the 600D works effortlessly and efficiently. It’s a camera that immediately feels part of you; an extension of your ideas and imagination which then, almost seamlessly, turns them into images.
A winner indeed.
Enthusiast Digital SLR
Sony Alpha SLT-A77
It might be a bit early to suggest that Sony is going through a D-SLR renaissance, but after a few years of not really doing anything to attract very much attention – beyond the remarkable A900 – suddenly it has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.
This is partially due to making its translucent mirror technology the cornerstone of its D-SLR range, but it’s mostly due to a new generation of cameras that are interesting, innovative and exciting.
The most exciting of them is undoubtedly the SLT-A77 which we think is the best Alpha-series D-SLR Sony has built so far because it’s now very distinctively a Sony product – rather than a Konica Minolta derivative – but it’s been designed with a seemingly intuitive feel for what users at this level really want and need.
In this regard, Sony has finally acquired the same philosophical mindset as Canon and Nikon which, with no tradition in still cameras of this calibre, is something we once doubted it might be able to.
There’s a mighty chasm between designing a D-SLR by simply throwing a bunch of technologies into the pot, and creating one that has the essential elements to make these technologies effortlessly accessible and applicable.
With the A77 Sony has leapt this chasm in one bound... this is a camera that’s Nikon-like in its ergonomics and the sheer efficiency with which it goes about its business, and is Canon-esque in the way it pushes the performance boundaries, but in a thoroughly practical way.
To be frank, we remain slightly stunned at just how well everything has come together in the A77 and how it feels just like Sony has been designing and building SLR cameras since the 1960s.
It has the same completeness and confidence – the secret ingredients that make a camera more than just enjoyable to use; you fall in love with it.
It’s the first Sony D-SLR to have this special ‘something’ and it can be elusive even for Canon and Nikon... although the D7000 definitely has it so it’s a mark of just how good the A77 really is that it still triumphed in this category.
Beyond the philosophical, the A77 is a technological tour- de-force; the 24.7 megapixels sensor, the fantastic OLED electronic viewfinder, and the pellicle mirror which allows up to 12 fps shooting and super-fast AF with both live view and video shooting.
There’s a lot more to it, of course, but with the A77 Sony has achieved D-SLR greatness and, after just five years in the business, that’s akin to conquering Mount Everest after previously having only climbed just a few flights of stairs.