Which entry level full frame dSLR camera to buy?

Written by Gary on February 16th, 2009

For the purposes of this blog, I am going to exclude the expensive Nikon D3x, Nikon D3 (as the D700 is almost as good) and the Canon 1DsMIII.

So that leaves use with 3 very worthy contenders but with quite different features:

  • Nikon D700:
    • 12mp with live preview, 5fps, good AF tracking, great high ISO performance, some excellent, if expensive new lenses designed for digital such as the wide angle zoom and new tilt-shift lenses and built-in flash
    • BUT no built in image stabiliser, no movie mode and for some the 12mp may not be sufficient for landscapes or wedding photography
  • Canon 5DMII:
    • 21mp with live preview and limited HD movie mode
    • BUT no image stabiliser, not good for action work (only 3.5fps and limited AF capability), and even the L series lenses may not be up to the task of matching the sensor resolution, particularly the zooms when used wide open, while the standard zooms are not anything to write home about although serviceable
    • of considerable concern is the flash sync is slower than the 1DMIII – see here and there is no built-in flash which can be very useful at times
    • perhaps the main concern though is its propensity to fail in moist environments when used with a vertical battery grip – see here
    • dpreview.com has just reviewed it and despite the above, it is an excellent camera but in my view full of compromises (and I own a Canon 1DMIII)
  • Sony A900:
    • 25mp with built-in image stabiliser and comparable image quality at least up to ISO 800
    • BUT NO live preview, nor video mode, no built-in flash, and uses the legacy proprietary Minolta flash hot shoe which creates annoying compatibility issues when using 3rd party flash accessories
    • some very nice Carl Zeiss lenses designed for digital but no tilt-shift lenses as yet

The prime consideration for most is what system they already have, in which case, they will go with the same brand as they have rather than pay for changing systems.

For others, it will be a case of which suits their needs best:

  • the Sony really seems a good buy with its image stabiliser, high image quality and high quality lenses – an almost ideal full frame dSLR camera that I find very tempting if I had the money – but many will not want to risk not having a Canon or Nikon
  • for those that want high resolution in Canon or Nikon, that really only leaves the Canon 5DMII but it really concerns me that it may fail just when you need it, and not everyone can afford a backup dSLR for these scenarios. The lack of sports/action capabilities is not such a big concern – the Canon guys wanting this will probably still go for the Canon 1DMIII or wait for the MIV with its 1.3x crop which gets them that bit closer to the action and with 10fps and weather-proofing
  • so where does that leave the Nikon D700? For most people, 12 mp is plenty, and the greater versatility afforded with its better action capabilities, the better wide angle lenses and reliability with the option of the excellent cropped sensor Nikon D300 as an excellent telephoto back up camera may be enough to persuade them that its the way to go rather than the Canon.

I suspect the pro photographers will go for the Nikon D3x over the D700/D3 or Canon 5DMII/1DsMIII even though it’s price tag seems a bit excessive, at the end of the day, it will be reliability, usability and high optical quality and sensor quality that counts for them.


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. peach says:

    I will choose canonEOS 5DMkII for sure bcos i iam canon fan’s club.