Friday, 11 May 2007

What I want in a DSLR

With all the new models coming out and with all the experience I gain with my camera, I got to thinking about the things I would like in a future camera. I prefer Canon at present, I like the handling, the large range of lenses and the image quality but they can still do better. The quality & features of the recent Pentax models, especially, has got me quite interested.

Here then, the list with some explanation (no particular order):

1. 8-10MP. Actually, pixel pitch of 6.5-7 micron. This seems to give best image quality. That relates to 8-10Mp in an APS-C format. I quite like the slightly smaller format for the extra reach I get at the long end. 28mm-e (17mm actual) is wide enough for me. Any smaller pixels and noise starts to degrade image quality, either directly or through over-processing.

2. 5fps continuous, 10-15 RAW buffer. A great feature as far as I'm concerned. canon are well ahead here. maybe a slower mode switch but I'm not too fussed. definitely don't need the 10fps of the new EOS 1DIII. larger buffer is good, though, for shooting sports events etc. The 6 frame limit in the 20D can start to be a bit limiting.

3. 100% view finder. Or maybe larger. I'm fed up with getting extra stuff in the frame & having to crop slightly. How about going the Leica route with frame lines? If people complain about framing accuracy, well Leica seem to get away with it and the fans rave about the VF. While we're at it, let's get the info around the frame positioned such that I can read it with glasses on. My old EOS500 has a much better VF than the 20D. I'd happily forego built-in flash for better VF.

In-body IS & dust removal. becoming standard these days. Lens IS and body IS can be complimentary. In body is good for wide angle and fast primes. Lens IS is good for the long stuff. Would need some sort of switch-over mode or detection to prevent the 2 systems interfering.

4. direct ISO select & auto ISO metering. the third variable in digital photography. I wish I could set the Set button to be an ISO selector with the thumbwheel. The new Sv mode on Pentax cameras looks promising and several are introducing auto ISO ranges. Let's also have the info in the VF, a la Nikon.

5. High ISO, low noise. Canon take the lead - let's have 5D performance in mid-level cameras, please.

6. MLU button. Sort it out. A range of MLU options for tripod mounting really needed. Lock up for multiple exposures (e.g. bracketing); single button push - even if it's a programmable button. Currently it's a pain and it's a pretty fundamental feature for anyone who puts their camera on a tripod. Canon: SORT IT OUT.

7. Expose-right metering (ERM). there's a whole bunch of possibilities with this but the basic premise is to expose so the lightest part is just below clipping. fundamental for highest image quality in digital. While we're at it, how about a large-array meter, say 28x42 zones (about 1000). Would easily enable ERM. Wouldn't even have to be RGB metering, necessarily. Oh, and a channel clip mode ERM, too.

8. Multi-shot bracketing. Not just regular 3 shot. How about 5, 7, 9 shot? HDR, multi-overlays etc for maximum dynamic range, minimum noise are a great advantage of digital. Would be nice to have a mode for it. Could also combine with MLU and rapid fire modes to capture it all in a burst.

9. Wireless remote control. Something with all the features of Canon's timer control, maybe some extras. Why have wires in this day and age. Would also minimise the points that need sealing. Would help with all manner of tripod mounted shooting, add extra timer & time-lapse options etc. The current timer RC (TC-80N3) limits to 99 frames, why? With large capacity cards, tethered shooting etc, one could do hundreds of images in a time-laps sequence.

That's all I can think of for now. Really I'm looking for things tailored to the digital age, rather than hang-ups from film. For pocket cameras, things have really moved on (not always for the better) to take advantage of the benefits digital offers but yet at the more serious end we're getting little more than a film camera with the transport replaced by a sensor.

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