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Full frame DSLR cameras

Customer guide

In our new column started in the last issue I introduce you to the world of full frame high sensitivity sensor cameras. We have received plenty of emails recently with questions regarding the newly launched Nikon D600 and Canon 6D, asking whether it is worth switching to full frame sensor cameras.
Photo: © Canon

As I have already mentioned in my previous article I would not run a super test this time, I’d rather provide an entirely subjective but professionally well-thoughtout shopping guide for you. Full frame cameras of Nikon and Canon has been completely changed in the past year. These cameras were available for the editors of Nature Photo Magazine often for weeks of testing, thus I have sufficient experience to write my suggestions for a possible shopping. The present digital singlelens reflex (DSLR) cameras have been improved to an incredible degree compared to their predecessors. The market has definitely orientated producers in the direction of higher resolution but full frame cameras.
Let’s have a look at Canon’s solution. In 2009, our editor team tested Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor and bigger micro lenses. The resolution and size of the final pictures was 21.1 megapixel and these pictures could be huge sized, 5616 x 3744 pixel in JPEG or RA W formats. The latter could have even in 14-bit color depth and ISO 100-ISO 6400 sensitivity which brought a picture quality which had never been seen before. It sold like hot cakes, but the AF system of this camera was not really good. Then in 2012 altogether three full frame cameras was launched by Canon one after the other, first came the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Canon has worked a lot on the new cameras, such users requests were included which so far could have been found in the most professional EOS 1 series. The resolution of the sensor had only minor changes - 36×24 mm CMOS, 22,3 megapixel - thus the size of the pictures could be 5760×3840 pixel. However, the ISO sensitivity was increased fantastically, currently it is ISO 100-25600 and the 61 focus points AF system is completely equivalent to the professional EOS-1D X body. The second camera was the long-awaited Canon EOS-1D X which came onto the market at the end of summer. A long-awaited big gun appeared in the Canon portfolio with a resolution of 18.1 megapixel, its AF has a completely new 61 focus points system and offers hundreds of customizable options for photographers.
The sensitivity of the camera is incredibly good, ISO 100-51200, which can be extended even up to ISO L: 50; H1: 102400; H2: 204800. And that’s not all: we can soup up our camera even up to a speed of 10-11 picture/second. The robust construction of the body makes it suitable for shooting in very extreme conditions as well. The Canon EOS 6D body was the greatest surprise for the professional press, when it was announced no one expected it, and here you are, how good it is! Let’s have a look at the data. They made customers happy with a full frame 20.2-megapixel sensor, a sturdy, lightweight construction, sensitivity to ISO 25 600 (ISO can be expanded to 102 400), 11 points autofocus, a position capture option as an addition (with GPS), Wi-Fi file transfer, remote control and Full-HD video make customers happy, and last but not least with excellent price/value ratio.
Let’s have a look at Nikon’s palette, 2012 was a crazy year here too. They also launched three full frame cameras. First Nikon flagship Nikon D4 was put on the market in February. This body is the successor of the legendary Nikon D3, but with higher resolution. It has a 16.2-megapixel sensor, FX format (full frame) CMOS which can achieve even 11 picture/second speed in FX format. It has a sensitivity of ISO 100–12 800 which can be expanded up to ISO 204 800 and ISO 50 equivalent. This fantastic camera is the rival of Canon EOS-1D X. We did have to wait too long, exactly after two weeks Nikon’s another novelty Nikon D800 was in the shops. It represents a brand new category as there is no other camera body on the DSLR market which could produce such resolution. It is the king of high resolution with 36.3-megapixel FX-format (full frame) CMOS-sensor with outstanding signalnoise ratio, wide dynamic range and 12-channel data reader. It has an optical low-pass filter without anti-aliasing function. Actually two different types of cameras appeared on the market, Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E and everybody can choose the one suitable for him. Its ISO sensitivity is also quite good in spite of the high resolution, ISO 100–6400 which can be expanded up to ISO 25 600 and ISO 50 equivalent. Both D4 and D800 work with 51 autofocus points for the sake of razorsharp pictures. And then, at the end of the summer Nikon came up with another new body to make ots customers happy, Nikon D600 which has not less but 24.3-megapixel, FX-format (full-frame) CMOS-sensor. Its AF system is the high-sensitivity Multi-CAM 4800 which makes 39-point, fast operation possible. The body’s sensitivity range is ISO 100–6400, but it can be expanded up to ISO 25 600 and ISO 50.
It has an interesting new function, the Time Lapse. It is an exciting and creative option, in which the camera makes exposures at predefined intervals and saves the captured images into a video file, so the events can be played back 24,000 to 36,000 times faster than the reality. Which full frame DSLR do I need? – that is the question. Let’s see who uses it for what. Canon EOS 6D is the entrance to the full sensor DSLR cameras and is recommended primarily for travel, portrait, press, ambitious hobby, landscape and macro photography - the point is that the subject should not move too fast. Actually Nikon D600 is the same category, in similar price range. The next category has a different meaning in both segments. Canon EOS 5D Mark III has received a fantastically redesigned AF system with excellent HDR options, even higher resolution and fantastic video function. Wedding, landscape photography, travel, nature action, press or studio photography are all OK for Canon’s new camera.
Nikon D800 is a different category, it is designed for slower themes, but with a resolution we have never seen before. 36-megapixel, oh my God, that is quite something! Landscape photography, travel, architecture and studio photography are its strengths - if you do not want to compromise, choose D800 E. Canon EOS-1D X is currently the king of DSLR cameras, it is excellently suitable for every theme, fast, precise and ruthlessly accurate. I think that professional photographers have never ever had such a good camera. Nikon D4 makes Nikon professionals’ heart thump and now it can produce the killer speed of 10-11 picture/second at 16-megapixel resolution. This body has been designed primarily for action nature photography and sports photography. We have a market condition in which no one will regret switching to a full sensor camera or start buying DSLR straight with this type. All the six cameras are excellent quality and have an incredibly good ISO sensitivity, which characterises full frame sensors, and thanks to that we can capture enchanting moments which are beyond our imagination. It is also important to mention that Nikon DX or Canon EF-S lenses are not recommended to use for the full frame sensor cameras of Nikon and forbidden to use for the full frame sensor cameras of Canon.
If you are interested in any of our DSLR tests, please find them in our previous issues, we have written field tests of almost all of the bodies. Have a good browsing in the price lists!
Text: Tamás Imre
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