Digital Camera Holiday Gift Guide - $2000+ Cameras
2013 Holiday Gift Guide TOC
Sony Alpha a7 and a7R
(Our Preview with Sample Images)
Sony has announced two new Alphas Series cameras. The a7 and a7R are -- as of October 2013 -- the world's smallest full-frame interchangeable lens cameras. Both cameras include full-frame image sensors mated to the new, 3x faster BIONZ "X" image processing engine, as well as Full HD 1080/60p Video Recording with full P/S/A/M exposure controls, a XGA OLED Tru-Finder (2.4M dots), a 3.0-inch tiltable LCD display, and 9 customizable buttons with 46 assignable functions. Wi-Fi is built in to both new models, so users can use Sony's PlayMemories Camera Apps with compatible iOS and Android smartphones. More apps are coming for the a7 and a7R, but for now the only two available are Multiple Exposure App and Smart Remote Control. Multiple Exposure automatically combines sequential exposures into one shot. And the Remote control app allows you to control your camera and adjust settings from your phone. NFC (Near Field Communication) is available with enabled Android devices as well. So what are the major differences between the a7R and a7 models?
The a7R costs approximately $600 more than its sibling and is designed for professional photographers and advanced enthusiasts who need a smaller, secondary full-frame camera. The a7R features a 36.4-megapixel Exmor CMOS image sensor with no optical low pass filter (most have them) for "added resolving power and increased image detail." The a7R also includes the new Fast Intelligent AF (auto focus) system with Lock-on AF, Eye AF, and Flexible Spot AF.
For about $600 less, the a7 is designed for mid-level APS-C DSLR users. It also includes Lock-on AF, Eye AF, and Flexible Spot AF, but in a slightly different Fast Hybrid AF system, which combines Phase-Detect & Contrast-Detect AF methods. You also get 5 frames-per-second continuous shooting (with auto focus) in full resolution off the 24.3-megapixel Full-Frame Exmor CMOS image sensor.
Pick either one of these up if you want one of the best cameras made in 2013. And be sure to check out the cameras' Sample Photos.
Click on a model below to see the best prices for the Sony a7R and a7.
Nikon has just announced the Df -- a new retro style full-frame (FX-format) sensor camera. Physically resembling classic Nikon camera systems like the F, FM, and FE, the Df is packed with the best features from top of the line Nikon cameras across its product lines... The 16.2-megapixel FX-format CMOS image sensor and 3.2-inch LCD (921K dot) display straight out of the flagship D4. This large 36 x 23.9mm CMOS sensor is paired with Nikon's proprietary EXPEED 3 image processor to ensure "amazing clarity, accurate color and a broad dynamic range." The 39-point AF (Auto Focus) system and 2016-Pixel 3D Matrix Metering and Scene Recognition System from the D610.
The Df also features nine cross-type sensors and seven AF points capable of working down to f/8. AF Modes include: 9-point, 21-point, 39-point, 39-point with 3D Tracking, and Auto Area AF. The 1400 shots-per-charge EN-EL14A battery from the D5300. The magnesium-alloy body and weather seals are constructed to the same specifications as the "weather resistant" D800. Shutter life is similarly tough, rated to 150,000 cycles The Df also boasts continuous burst shooting at up to 5.5 frames-per-second (fps) with AF engaged. The camera has an impressive 100 to 12,800 ISO range, which is expandable to an impossible ISO 204,800 (can't wait to review this specification). Picture Controls allow users to customize the way the camera filters various colors. Built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) combines two to five exposures into one image with an enhanced tonal range -- basically, you get to see the brightest brights and the darkest darks. Users can capture still images in JPEG, TIFF or RAW file formats. The new Nikon Df is compatible with all sorts of optional accessories and lenses. The optional WU-1a allows the Df to quickly and easily share photos and video on social media sites like Facebook. Also, for long time Nikon owners, get ready to pull out Dad's old NIKKOR lens from storage -- the Nikon Df is compatible with AF, AF-S, DX, and AF-D NIKKOR lenses as well as classic Ai and non-Ai NIKKOR glass. Pick this up if you want a classical camera brimming with modern technologies.
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When we reviewed Nikon's D600 DSLR, we said it was a "powerful and very high quality pro-level DSLR with a smaller body and price tag that may appeal to wider range of photographers. It brings professional quality at a more affordable price." Today Nikon announced the D600's replacement, the D610. It costs about $100 less than the D600, boasts many of the same specifications as well as a few improvements. Built with the same dust and moisture resistance of the Nikon D800, the D610 is constructed with magnesium alloy and its shutter unit it tested to 150,000 cycles. This camera is a full frame, or FX-format, DSLR with a 24.3-megapixel (35.9 x 24mm) CMOS image sensor and the EXPEED 3 image processing engine. Meaning, the D610 captures images with a large dynamic range, precise and vivid colors, and is a very fast , yet energy efficient camera. Other great features include a 3.2-inch (921K dots) vari-angle LCD display, a 39-Point AF (Auto Focus) System, Scene Recognition System, and a number of Advanced Modes. For example, not only do you have built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Time-Lapse modes, but you also have Picture Controls to manually adjust color, saturation, and other image parameters. This professional-grade DSLR is just as adept at capturing Full 1080p HD video in 30fps as well as 24fps. For aspiring and professional filmmakers, this camera's HDMI out can run 100% full screen, uncompressed video to external devices like a display and/or digital recorder. There are also stereo microphone and headphones auxiliary jacks. Finally, those Picture Controls mentioned above can be applied to both still images as well as HD movies. In terms of newer features NOT available on the last generation D600, the D610 improved its Automatic White Balance (AWB) which helps artificial light and skin tones. The D610 is also faster than its older sibling -- it can shoot at up to 6 frames-per-second at full resolution. And, for quiet moments where you want to avoid hearing the noisy shutter every time you take a shot, there is the Quiet Continuous Shutter Mode, which shoots up to 3 frames-per-second in full resolution without making a sound. Pick this camera up if you are looking for a FX-Format (full-frame) camera that is easier to travel with and carry, or if you on the fence about the size and/or price of a full-fame camera.
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One the smallest full-frame dSLR on the camera market, the EOS 6D utilizes Canon's DIGIC 5+ Image Processor and offers a 20.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. In addition, the 6D offers a 3.0-inch, 1.04 million dot LCD display with a viewing angle of 170 degrees. Interestingly, the Canon EOS 6D includes built-in Wi-Fi using a wireless transmitter within the camera. When connected to Wi-Fi, the 6D can transmit photos and video to social networking sites like Facebook or devices like smartphones and laptops. In addition, media can be transmitted between compatible PowerShot cameras. Another wireless function allows the camera to be controlled through an application on a tablet or smartphone, ideal for taking photos remotely. GPS functions are also directly built into the 6D rather than requiring an add-on, external device. The built-in GPS receiver records longitude, latitude and elevation as well as EXIF data for geo-tagging while shooting. When photos are uploaded to social networks, the location data can be included to mark the spot where the photo was originally taken. Regarding video recording, the 6D can record in both NTSC and PAL video modes at 1080p, 720p or standard resolution. ISO capabilities range from 100-25600 and the Canon Auto Focus system includes a newly-developed 11-point AF sensor. Moving away from Compact Flash, the Canon 6D is compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards as well as Ultra High Speed (UHS-I) cards. Pick up the 6D if you want a stellar image with a the latest tech upgrades.
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Canon 1D X
Canon's advanced camera to date, the EOS-1D X. The X label represents two distinct aspects of this camera; one, it's the 10th generation of Canon's Pro EOS SLRs, two it's one eXtreme camera. Canon has taken the strengths of the 1Ds Mark II and 1D Mark IV, and stuffed them into one complete powerhouse, which boasts a full frame 18-megapixel CMOS image sensor, Dual DIGIC 5+ image processors, up to 12fps burst shooting at full resolution or 14fps with no AF, a third DIGIC 4 processor specifically for handling the information from an all new 100,000 pixel RGB metering sensor (107, 250 effective pixels), and much more. These features combined make the 1D X the ultimate professional dSLR, which will cater to the needs of most any photog; whether you're shooting Monday night football, or the latest fashion event.
Other appealing features that pros are sure to love are dual CF card slots, built-in gigabit Ethernet and USB 3.0 ports, two stops lower noise compared to past EOS models, ISO range from ISO 50 - 204,800 with expansion enabled, 2nd generation self cleaning system, new shutter rated up to 400,000 cycles with carbon fiber shutter blades and new drive system, improved intelligent OVF, increased durability, new control layout, a 3.2-inch LCD with over 1 million dots, an all new 61-point phase detection AF system, updated video options with new compression formats and much, much more. Pick up the 1D X if you're a Canon fan and want the best of the best.
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The most powerful dSLR Sony has created to date, the SLT-A99 is packed with their latest technologies, including a new 24.3-megapixel full-frame Exmor CMOS image sensor. The full-frame sensor gives you a true 35mm field of view when using either Sony or Minolta A bayonet glass, along with greater control over depth of field, increased bokeh, etc. They claim this sensor, "realizes high resolution, wide dynamic range, and high ISO sensitivity for corner-to-corner high-quality images.". The standard sensitivity range is from 100 - 25,600 (expandable to ISO 50), and this new unit boasts three new sensor technologies. First, Light connection technology features a thinner wiring layer and on-chip lens color filter to help increase light efficiency, while Photodiode expansion technology allows for expanded receptor surface area. The sensor also boasts a new multi-segment optical low-pass filter; all of which further enhances the a99's ability to create beautiful, high-resolution images. On top of a new sensor, the a99 received an improved BIONZ processing engine to help the camera quickly digest the massive amount of information coming from the 24-megapixel full-frame image sensor. This processor offers a new high-speed front-end LSI to help speed up processing, 14-bit RAW output (8-bit JPEG), and area-specific noise reduction options. The shutter life has been raised to 200,000 cycles, and burst shooting can be realized at 6fps with continuous/tracking AF, or up to 10fps with single AF - both at full resolution.
Another huge upgrade on the a99 is the world's first Dual AF system, boasting two separate Phase Detection AF sensors - a 19-point (11 cross points) precision AF sensor combined with a 102-point Focal Plane Phase AF sensor; for a combined 121 active focus points. Sony claims this level of AF performance is only made possible thanks to their Translucent Mirror Technology. With this new system, Sony has added two new AF functions; AF-D Mode and AF Range Control. AF-D Mode is an advanced continuous AF mode that uses the 102 focal place assist area points to create a depth map to track subjects, while the precision 19-point AF sensors dial in crisp focus. AF range control allows you to set the range in which the AF system can operate, allowing you to reduce front and back focusing due to interference from objects in the foreground or background. Pick up the A99 if you want the best dSLR Sony has to offer.
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