Have Your Say: Best DSLR / SLT of 2013
Dec 18, 2013 at 21:56 GMT
Have Your Say: Best DSLR / SLT of 2013
Several new DSLRs were announced in 2013, even as mirrorless cameras nipped at their heels in the entry-level and enthusiast segments of the market. Among the new DSLRs released this year were a handful of iterative updates to existing models, but also some all-new contenders, including Canon's high-tech EOS 70D and Nikon's entirely unconventional (or perhaps that should be entirely traditional) Df. Click through this slideshow to check out the selection, and cast your vote.
Note that much of the content in this article is taken from our extensive series of buying guide articles.
Canon EOS 100D / SL1
Canon's response to the new crop of capable mirrorless cameras is the smallest SLR on the market: the Rebel SL1/100D. Like many Canon DSLRs, it has an 18MP sensor, but in this case with second-generation hybrid AF, giving faster, smoother focusing in both live view and movie shooting. Slotting below the T5i/700D, the SL1/100D has a simplified feature set, but one that's not too compromised. The SL1 uses Canon's clever touchscreen interface but there's no articulated LCD.
In good light the Canon SL1/100D produces excellent quality images, with low noise and good color. High ISO images are also good, even above ISO 6400. Raw dynamic range is not quite as good as some of its competition at low ISO but this difference isn't visible in JPEGs.
Canon EOS 700D / Rebel T5i
The Canon Rebel T5i is a barely warmed-over update to the older T4i, which offers the same excellent 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor, the same image quality and an almost identical feature set. The T5i is a capable and reliable camera which delivers great images across a wide ISO sensitivity span of 100-25,600. Autofocus performance is good, especially when paired with one of Canon's higher-end USM lenses and a large, fully-articulated 1.04 million-dot touch-sensitive LCD screen is great for live view and movie shooting.
Speaking of which, the T5i's sensor incorporates Canon's Hybrid CMOS AF II for improved autofocus in live view and movie modes compared to older Rebel-class cameras. You'll need one of Canon's STM lens to really get the benefit though, and the system isn't as capable as the much more advanced 'Dual Pixel AF' mode found in the more expensive EOS 70D.
Canon EOS 70D
The 70D is the ninth camera in the company's enthusiast DSLR series and adds a clever 'Dual Pixel AF' system that allows most of the camera's sensor to contribute towards faster, smarter live view autofocus. This feature alone helps it stand out from the EOS 700D/Rebel T5i that sits below it, particularly for would-be video shooters. The 70D often comes outfitted with the flexible 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 STM lens that offers fast and quiet focus for video applications.
The 70D's image quality is good - the camera's JPEGs display pleasant color rendition and well-balanced noise reduction at higher ISO settings. The dual pixel AF system makes the 70D one of the easier cameras to capture video footage with, and also provides a quick and convenient option when focus accuracy is paramount (eg for Macro work).
The Nikon Df is a 16MP, full-frame DSLR with the sensor and processing guts of the company's flagship D4, and an AF system borrowed from the D610, all packaged inside a body inspired by a much earlier generation of film cameras. In fact from the front, the Df looks like an oversized Nikon FM.
The Nikon Df boasts a 39-point AF system and a maximum shooting rate of 5.5 fps. The LCD on the rear of the camera is a 3.2", 921k-dot display and, despite its 'fully manual' pretensions, the Df boasts front and rear control dials alongside the dedicated physical dials on the top-plate. Apart from the lack of a video mode, the Df is a thoroughly modern DSLR - despite appearances.
The 24MP Nikon D610 is a minor upgrade to the company's full-frame (FX-format) D600. New features include slightly faster burst shooting, new 'quiet continuous' mode (both of which come courtesy of an all-new shutter mechanism), and improved auto white balance. The rest of the features are unchanged. They include a full-frame 24 megapixel CMOS sensor, 39-point AF system, 3.2-inch LCD, large optical viewfinder, dual memory card slots, and high-end video recording features.
The D5300 is built around a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor with a maximum ISO of 25,600, 5 fps continuous shooting, and the ability to capture Full HD video at 60p. The rear LCD is fully-articulated, and the D5300 has built-in Wi-Fi for easier image sharing and built-in GPS as well. Its lack of an anti-aliasing filter means that image quality is essentially on par with the more expensive D7100. Like most cameras in this class the D5300 lacks a second exposure dial, which makes exposure adjustments easier in Enthusiast DSLRs/mirrorless cameras.
Image quality is very good - detail is excellent when used with a sharp lens, and color is good overall. Noise reduction is well-judged, delivering consistently good detail as ISO rises. Its Raw output offers a lot of detail and plenty of post-processing latitude, handy for rescuing high-contrast images.
The D7100 is Nikon's latest high-end APS-C DSLR, featuring solid build quality and a twin-dial control system. It's built around a 24MP sensor (without an anti-aliasing filter) and a sophisticated 51-point AF system. For less money, the D5300 loses wireless flash control, one of the control dials and the autofocus motor for focusing older lenses.
The D7100's image quality is pretty much the benchmark for contemporary APS-C cameras, with good color response, the clever Active D-Lighting system and well-balanced noise reduction making the camera's JPEG output very usable. Meanwhile its Raw output is highly detailed and offers class-leading dynamic range - giving lots of flexibility when it comes to processing.
The Pentax K-3 is the company's latest range-topping DSLR, which means another robustly constructed, well-proportioned camera built with photographers in mind. The 24MP K-3 does without an anti-aliasing filter, instead offering the unique option of shifting its sensor to prevent moiré, with two settings available for greater or less intensity.
The K-3 includes Pentax's most sophisticated (27-point) autofocus system and largest viewfinder, as well as weather sealing. Image quality is excellent and, while the K-3 is unique for a modern DSLR in that there's no full-frame option to upgrade to, instead if has access to probably the most comprehensive set of lenses designed for the APS-C format, with plenty of good quality options for the enthusiast shooter.
Pentax packs a lot into its DSLRs, and the K-50 is appropriately feature-rich. Highlights include a 100% coverage glass pentaprism viewfinder, a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000sec (high for its class, allowing you to freeze fast movement effectively) and a maximum ISO of 51,200, which is very useful in low light. This is in addition to the expected DSLR features like full manual exposure control, a RAW capture option and plenty of external controls. The K-50 can also be ordered in any one of 120 possible color combinations, if that's your thing.
The K-50's 16MP sensor is excellent, offering very good image quality through to moderately high ISO sensitivity settings. Although it remains relatively compact and lightweight, the K-50 is a solidly built DSLR which features weather-sealing - something that's still unusual in the sub-$1000 price bracket.
Pentax packs a lot into its DSLRs, and the 16MP K-500 is appropriately feature-rich. Highlights include a 100% coverage glass pentaprism viewfinder, a maximum shutter speed of 1/6000sec, and a maximum ISO of 51,200, which is very useful in low light. This is in addition to the expected DSLR features like full manual exposure control, a RAW capture option and plenty of external controls.
The Pentax K-500 offers almost all of the features from Pentax's midrange K-50, but minus weatherproofing and (more annoyingly) AF point indication in the viewfinder. The K-500 is also relatively unusual in being powered by readily available AA batteries, as opposed to the more common rechargeable lithium-ion cells. An optional lithium-ion battery is available, which when installed, boosts the maximum frame rate of the K-500 to 6fps.
While not technically an SLR, the Sony A58 is aimed at the same market. Its non-moving 'Translucent Mirror' enables its high frame rate which is good for sports, along with full-time phase-detection focus while shooting movies. Like most SLRs in this range, the Sony A58 is bundled with an 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens of reasonable quality.
Image quality in good light is very good, offering a little more detail than the competition at high ISO. As sensitivity rises, Sony's aggressive noise processing comes into play, but the sensor's high resolution means that this matters less, allowing the A58's detail to rival more expensive cameras. Overall, the Sony A58 is a good-quality substitute for an entry-level DSLR, with a fast frame-rate, an optional 8 fps zoomed continuous rate, a quiet shutter, and a good set of controls that would serve most amateur photographers.