We would all love to produce consistent professional-quality images, but doesn't that require the appropriate, and very expensive, gear? Not at all, says Tim Coleman, as he explains why Canon's EOS 1100D and Nikon's D3100 entry-level DSLRs could save you thousands of pounds
When it comes to a camera’s specification, we are bombarded with facts and figures. However, judging a camera’s quality correctly requires more than just examining its specification. Higher numbers do not in themselves equate to a better camera because, while some features may favour one model over another, the important thing is how they affect your photography in real terms.
|Canon EOS 7D||Canon EOS 600D||Canon EOS 1100D||Nikon D3100||Nikon D5100||Nikon D7000|
|Street price (body only)||£1,179||£649||£389||£389||£669||£949|
|Body material||Magnesium alloy||Polycarbonate||Polycarbonate||Polycarbonate||Polycarbonate||Magnesium alloy|
|Sensor||APS-C 22.3×14.9mm CMOS||APS-C 22.3×14.9mm CMOS||APS-C 22.2×14.8mm CMOS||APS-C 23.1×15.4mm CMOS||APS-C 23.6×15.6mm CMOS||APS-C 23.6×15.6mm CMOS|
|Sensitivity (ISO)||100-12,800||100-12,800||100-6400||100-3200 (Hi mode 6400 and 12,800)||100-6400 (Hi Mode 12,800 and 25,600)||100-6400 (Hi Mode 12,800 and 25,600)|
|Dynamic range (EV)||11.7||11.5||11||11.3||12.5||13.9|
|Metering zones||63 i-FCL||63 i-FCL||63 i-FCL||420, 3D matrix||420, 3D matrix||2016, 3D matrix|
|AF points (cross type)||19 (19)||9 (1)||9 (1)||11 (1)||11 (1)||39 (9)|
|Lens compatibility||Canon EF & EF-S||Canon EF & EF-S||Canon EF & EF-S||Nikon AF-S||Nikon AF & AF-S||Nikon AF & AF-S|
|LCD screen (type)||3in, 920,000-dot articulated||3in, 1.04-million-dot articulated||2.7in, 230,000-dot, fixed||3in, 230,000-dot, fixed||3in, 921,000-dot articulated||3in, 921,000-dot, fixed|
|Movie||Up to 1920x1080p at 24, 25 or 30fps||1920x1080p at 24, 25 or 30fps||1280x720p at 25 or 30fps||1920x1080p at 24fps||1920x1080p at 24, 25 or 30fps||1920x1080p at 24fps|
|Weight including battery and card (g)||820||610||495||505||560||780|
Want more for your money?
so, what additional features do you get when you buy a more advanced DSLR? Well, you get a better frames per second rate (although Pentax’s K-r’s 6fps virtually matches them); more AF points, including cross-type AF points that can make for quicker AF in tricky low-light situations; and a more durable build quality. The magnesium-alloy housings of more advanced DSLRs are harder wearing and usually include weather-proofing, whereas the less expensive polycarbonate bodies do not. Then there’s direct control of wireless flash functionality; better dynamic range, although only slightly; brighter pentaprism-type viewfinders; and higher resolution LCD screens.
In practice, action photographers will appreciate faster frame rates and a more versatile AF system, together with a tougher magnesium-alloy body. However, depending on your application and whether you are likely to push your camera to its limits, you may never see the benefit of many of these additional features.