Best 2008 Digital SLR Cameras

by Enche Tjin on September 19, 2008

Last two years has been awesome years for Digital SLR cameras. Many new innovation in technology and gadgetry. Last year, we enjoy many digital cameras and lens that supports Image Stabilization, live view and image stabilization system. This year these features are improved and this fall, we will able to get a digital camera slr with movie recording capability (Nikon D90).

Entry level or Consumer cameras
Engineered mostly for: first time digital slr users, buyers with tight budget, students.

We have Canon XS/1000D, Nikon D60, Olympus E-420, Pentax k200D and Sony A200. It is hard to determine which is the best cameras in this class because each cameras has its unique strength.

Canon XS enjoys fast auto focus, access to more than 60 Canon lenses and live view lcd screen.

Nikon D60 is approx. $50 cheaper, has a better body and ergonomic than Canon XS and Olympus E-420 (although this is subjective), but lack of live view mode. D60 only has 3 points auto focus and its auto focus does not work on all Nikon lens collection, especially older lenses and prime lenses.

Olympus E-420 is an attempt from Olympus to create an ultra portable dSLR with the released off 25mm f/2.8 prime pancake lens. When fit in together, this camera is fittable in jacket/coat pocket. Although prime lens is usually sharper than kit lens, but user lose the versatility of zoom lens. The major downside of the camera compared to its competitors is lack of Image Stabilization option. Image stabilization is becoming more important to eliminate the need of a tripod on most occasions. Although the 14-42mm and 40-150mm kit lenses are above average kit lenses, but there are also limited lens upgrade options.

Pentax has another strategy in developing its entry level camera. Pentax K200D is a weather sealed camera. It also has top lcd screen. This is rare in entry level camera. The other advantage is the built in body stabilization. This make every lens attached to this camera gain 2-3 stops of stabilization. The drawback of this camera is the speed of auto focus. It is twice as slow as other brands in medium and low light. Shootings fast action such as sports in cloudy or evening will be a big challenge.

Pentax k2000, a new entry level camera released this fall, shared most of k200d’s features. But it is more compact than k200d, but it has no top lcd screen and weather seal. It is bundled with Pentax external basic flash and 18-55mm kit lens.

Sony A200 is the cheapest camera released in 2008. It is just $500 with 18-70mm kit lens. Even though it is cheap, but the feature does not disappoint. It sports 2.7 inch lcd screen, built in stabilization, and 18-70mm average lens which has a longer length than usual kit lens. Like Nikon D60, it does not have live view feature which entry level consumer who used digital compact camera might love.

There is no clear winner in this category, but there are some hints:
Choose Canon XS if you like an all around camera with huge option of compatible lenses and accessories. But I will strongly recommend to take a look at Canon XSi. With $50 more, you can get a much better camera (bigger screen, spot metering, rubber textured grip, 9 point Auto Focus).

Choose Nikon D60 if you like it’s ergonomic and body control, willing to give up some lens selection and live view mode.

Choose Olympus E-420 only if you want the portability when attached to 25mm pancake lens. If portability is not an issue, I will recommend you to look at E-520 or E-510 instead because of the built in Image Stabilization advantage.

Choose Pentax K200D if you want a solid, compact weather seal body with extra top lcd screen. Don’t choose Pentax K200D if you plan to shoot a lot of fast action sports in dim light condition.

Choose Sony A200 if your budget is tight. This camera is very economist because the price and built in stabilization on the body. It also has a twin kit lens bundle deal that save you a lot of money.

Mid range digital SLR cameras
Engineered mostly for Enthusiasts, Amateur photographer

We have Canon XSi/450D, Nikon D90 (on sale this fall), Olympus E-520, Pentax k20D and Sony A300 and A350.

Canon XSi /450D is a full-featured camera that has many features of its older brother, Canon 40D. It has almost everything except magnesium alloy body and faster continous shooting. This camera has a good noise handling up to iso 1600, fast auto focus, 12 megapixels, 3 inches lcd screen with live view mode and also priced very competitive, $700 with stabilized kit lens.

Nikon D90 is just announced and is predicted will shock and revolutionized the dslr camera. It has a solid and compact body, ability to record high quality video clip with sound with all kind of Nikkor lenses, continuous shoots 4.5 fps, and iso up to 6400. The only weakness of this camera is the price point. It is priced $1000 (above average in mid range class) but it might worth every penny.

Olympus E-520 is a slightly improved camera from it predecessor E-510. Olympus improved its live view mode with face detection technology and other small features that make taking pictures more enjoyable especially for people who used digital compact cameras before. Its built in stabilization and above average kit lens is a plus. Because the improvement is not so significant, I will suggest users to get last year model E-510 with twin kit lenses bundle (14-42mm and 40-150mm).

Pentax K20D is built like a tank, it is weather sealed, has top lcd screen, sports 14 Megapixels, Built in image stabilization and produce great image quality. But same as Pentax K200D, the auto focus system is half as fast in medium or low light condition compare to other brands, especially Canon and Nikon. Noise handling in high ISO is as good as Nikon and Canon’s. This camera is priced $1100, which is above average on its class. Some people might argue that this camera belong to pro grade /advance dslr camera instead. update: Now the price fell to $750 turning this camera into a hot deal for general photography.

Sony A300 and its cousin Sony A350 are released early this year in January. These cameras are identical. A300 can shoot faster in continous mode and A350 has 4 extra megapixels. The last is slightly more expensive. This camera unique strength is the tilting lcd screen and instaneous live view mode. Users of digital compact cameras would love this. But for most of dslr users, this feature might be redundant. Sony also employs built in stabilization, that could potentially save you money when you upgrade a better lens. The disavantages of Sony cameras are the limited lens and accessories collection and also has poorer ability to handle noise especially 800 and up compared with Nikon or Canon.

Winner in this category
Nikon D90. If you have the budget, it is worth to wait.
Closely following Nikon D90 is Pentax k20d and Canon XSi which are $300 cheaper.

Related article: Nikon D90 vs Canon 40D

Pro grade cameras
Pro grade cameras has two characteristics. They are made by magnesium alloy not rugged plastic, fast continuous shooting (usually above 5 fps), and they usually weather sealed and has all or most the features that the mid range or entry level camera has in the same year.

There are two pro grade cameras released or announced so far this year. They are Canon 50D, Nikon D700 and recently announced, Sony A900.

Canon 50D is an upgrade from Canon 40D, as a respond for Nikon D300. It now has a better sensor that allow iso expansion up to 25600, diminishing Nikon D300 advantage over Canon 40D. But because there is no test yet, we won’t know who is winning on ISO noise war. It also has 5 extra megapixels with 6.3fps. Update: based on the test, 50D does not outperform D300 in noise handling.

Related article:
Canon 50D vs Canon 40DNikon D300 vs Canon 40D

Nikon D700 is a full frame camera that has most of the features Nikon D3 (his older brother has) with half the price and shorter (without battery grip attached). Nikon D700 is designed for sport or fast action photography.

Sony A900 is a full frame camera from Sony, its strong point is in the image resolution up to 24 megapixel and 5 fps continuous burst, but it does not have live view mode and iso only up to 6400. Sony A900 has built-in stabilization 2 to 4 stops.

Canon 5D mk II is the newest full frame camera that that features up to 25600 iso (same as Nikon D700) only 3.9 fps continuous burst, can record Hi Definition (HD) movie clip up to 12 minutes (4GB).

Depend on your need, I think Nikon D700 is suitable for action especially sport photography and Canon 5D mk II is more suitable for general photography where high resolution and detail are crucial. For example: fashion, advertising, landscape, and wedding photography.

It is an amazing year and there might be even more cameras released this year.

2007 cameras that worth your attention:
Mid / entry level: Olympus E-510 with dual kit lenses
Pro grade / Advanced: Canon 40D, Olympus E-3 and Nikon D300

Related Post:

Leave a Comment

Previous post: Sigma Lenses vs Canon Lenses

Next post: Photokina 2008 and some thoughts