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  • Nikon D5300 vs. D5200: What’s the difference?

    We take a closer look at the differences of the Nikon D5300 and D5200

    Customers are constantly asking us, “what’s the difference”? There are a lot of great products out there, and product features often overlap. Is one brand better than the other? Is one product better than another? The answer is not often an easy, definitive “this one’s better”. There are many aspects and features of a product that will require taking a closer look. In addition, each individual person has different requirements, so not all products are the same to each person.

    The issue gets especially blurred when new products are made. And beyond that, camera makers now have the tendency of keeping older products around for longer. When a new product comes out, the old product is discounted, and kept in the line-up. The tendency used to be to completely discontinue a product, and take it off the shelves, so there was less confusion when making a choice. Newer was better, and that was all you could get. Now, newer may be better, but the older model may be good enough, and the lower price tag is always attractive.

    The new Nikon D5300 and the now older D5200 are perfect examples of this problem at large. We know the D5200 is going to be cheaper, and the D5300 should be better, but “what’s the difference”? It’s not until we take a closer look at the main differences that we can make an informed decision. So let’s take a closer look.

    Image Sensor

    24.2 Megapixels (D5300) vs. 24.1 Megapixels (D5200)

    For a digital camera, the image sensor is a huge part of the equation when making a purchasing decision. Unlike a roll of Kodak Gold 200 film that would be the same from camera to camera, image sensors and the quality of the picture produced by that sensor differ in almost every incarnation of a model line. The easiest difference to spot is megapixel count. In the case of the Nikon D5300 and D5200 they’re essentially the same. Unfortunately, that information alone is not helpful, but let’s take a closer look.

    The D5300 is missing the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) that is typically placed in front of the image sensor. The D5200 still has the OLPF in tact. We first saw Nikon removing the OLPF from the D800E. The Nikon D800 actually has the OLPF, but the D800E does not. This is true with the D5300 and the D5200 too. What is an OLPF, and what is the big deal anyway?

    The OLPF is used to slightly soften an image. You would think that with a high-resolution image sensor you’d want to keep things sharp. To avoid issues with moire, however, camera makers place a filter in front of the image sensor to ever so slightly blur the image. Moire is an effect caused when the pattern in a subject is overlapped with the pattern of an image sensor’s pixels, and you get a strange, additional patterned effect. Well, with high-resolution image sensors, you certainly would like to keep things sharp, so Nikon has started to remove the OLPF. There are really not many situations where moire will be an issue, and with modern software, this issue can often be resolved post-processing. The benefit is ever-so-sharper images.

    If you take pictures of intricate textiles or patterns of colors and shapes, the absence of an OLPF will be a definite downside. For most other situations, the D5300 is going to be a sharper choice.

    OLPF Moire Effect Comparison This image was taken directly from Nikon's website. Here you can see how intricate patterns can create a moire effect when with the absence of an OLPF.

    Processing Engine

    EXPEED 4 (D5300) vs. EXPEED 3 (D5200)

    Along with the image sensor is the image-processing engine. Image processors are small, specialized computers that take all of the information recorded by the camera’s image sensor and turn that into a (hopefully) beautiful picture. Each incarnation of a model line typically has an improved processor. This usually translates into a faster camera, better video, increased low-light (better ISO) performance, etc.. Nikon’s EXPEED 4 is an improvement over the EXPEED 3. One of the biggest benefits includes 1080 60p HD video. The D5200 has 1080 60i HD vdieo.

    Video

    1080 60p HD (D5300) vs. 1080 60i HD (D5200)

    Although the Nikon D5200 is capable of shooting progressive 1080 HD video at lower frame rates, the D5300 expands the video shooting capability of the product line by featuring progressive HD video at 60 frames per second. The D5200 is capable of 60 frames per second too, but the video is interlaced.

    Interlaced video is essentially video with half the resolution, but shown twice to get full resolution. One frame of video is essentially split in two. One frame will feature even lines of a picture, while another frame will feature odds. When the frames are flashed quickly on a screen, one after the other, the human eye perceives the image as having full resolution, not separate frames of alternating lines of resolution. This usually works out fine, until there’s action. When watching fast moving objects you can observe “artifacts” with interlaced video. It will look like the moving object is slightly blurred at the edges and has horizontal lines through it. Progressive video displays every line with each frame, so there is no potential for artifacting. The overall quality will look much better, especially when viewed on bigger TVs or screens.

    Interlaced Video Example of Fast Moving Object This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia. It shows the artifacts of interlaced video, especially for moving objects.

    Wi-Fi

    Built-in (D5300) vs. WU-1a Adapter (D5200)

    The Nikon D5300 and D5200 are both capable of connecting to Wi-Fi, but the D5300 has it built-in. The D5200 requires an adapter, the Nikon WU-1a, which is an additional $60 purchase.

    Wi-Fi in these cameras is really cool, and for at least two reasons. The first is for being able to share images quickly and easily. The smartphone camera has become wildly popular for several reasons, but a big part of it is being able to easily and instantly share images on social networks. The only problem with smartphone cameras is that the quality of the images is still lacking overall. The Wi-Fi capability of the D5300 and D5200 with the optional WU-1a, allows you to connect to your smartphone to share your images instantly like you would with pictures taken by your smartphone. This is a win-win. Instant sharing, plus exceptional image quality.

    Another benefit of Wi-Fi is being able to control these cameras remotely. Although this benefit is used less often, it is pretty cool that you can control the cameras from your smartphone. I know of a customer who set their camera on a tripod near a hummingbird feeder and went around the corner of his house. He was able to capture some amazing pictures of the birds by snapping away from his smartphone, and didn’t have to worry about scaring the birds away.

    In addition to Wi-Fi being built in, the D5300 also features built-in GPS. Again, the D5200 is capable of GPS, but requires a Nikon GP-1A adapter, which is an optional accessory that costs over $200. GPS can be really cool. Each image capture can record and save the GPS coordinates of the location where the image was taken. You’ll never forget where you took a picture again. Using Google Maps or Nikon’s software you can view on a map the locations of each of your recorded shots.

    Build/Construction

    Monocoque design (D5300) vs. More traditional structure (D5200)

    The Nikon D5300 is even smaller and lighter than the already light and compact D5200. This is due to the monocoque design of the D5300. What exactly does this mean? Think of a monocoque structure as like an exoskeleton. Instead of the insides supporting the structure of the outside, the outsides help to give the overall structure support and durability. The D5300 uses some specialized materials and design in its outer coverings to reduce joints and increase the support and durability of the camera, all the while reducing its overall weight and size. The D5200 weighs approximately 555g to the D5300 at 530g.

    Final Thoughts

    Overall there’s no doubt that the D5300 is an improvement over the D5200. In addition to the differences noted above, the D5300 has a bigger, higher resolution LCD screen. It is 3.2” and a 1037k dot resolution screen over the D5200’s 3” and 921k dot resolution screen. The D5300 also added a couple more picture (art) modes, which include Toy Camera Effect and HDR Painting.

    The biggest features to stand out are the removal of the OLPF and the built-in Wi-Fi. Right now there isn’t really a big difference in price. Actually, the starting prices are the same. The D5200 has been on sale for $100 off, however, and we assume this will only increase. Are these features worth $100 or more? It depends on what you are using the camera for and how these features meet your needs. If you are going to use it, the built-in Wi-Fi saves you $60 for that feature, and the GPS will save you more. If you want the best resolution possible, and are not afraid of some moire at times, the D5300 will be tack sharp. Whatever you decide, both cameras will overall take great pictures.

  • Nikon D3100, D3200 and D5100 -- What's the difference?

    Nikon D3100, D3200 and D5100 Comparison

    With the recent release of the Nikon D3200 a lot of customers are wondering how it fits into the current lineup of Nikon digital SLR cameras. The first question most customers have are, "Is the Nikon D3100 being replaced?" No. The Nikon D3100 is Nikon's entry level digital SLR at an entry level price tag. Right now, including instant savings, the Nikon D3100 is selling for only $549.95, and that's including an 18-55mm VR lens. The Nikon D3200 is being pegged also as an entry-level camera, but with the horsepower of a higher-resolution 24.2MP image sensor. The current price of the Nikon D3200 is $699.95, including an 18-55mm VR lens.

    Perhaps the bigger mystery surrounds the Nikon D5100. The base price of the Nikon D5100 is higher than the Nikon D3200. The D5100 currently rings up with a base price of $849.95. There is currently an instant savings on the Nikon D5100, however; which puts the D5100 at the same price as the Nikon D3200--$699.95. So, the question we've been receiving is, "If both the Nikon D5100 and D3200 are the same price, what camera should I get?" This is a difficult question to answer with one sweeping response. It depends. Some people will be instantly drawn to the higher-resolution of the Nikon D3200. Others will hesitate and wonder what else is under the hood? For those who are looking for a more detailed comparison, we offer the following information. We hope this helps.

    The Nikon D5100 and D3200 both have:

    • Up to 4 frames-per-second continuous shooting
    • 11 auto-focus points
    • 1080p HD video recording
    • 3" 921,000 dot monitor (D5100 screen can flip out)
    • 1/4,000 to 30 second shutter speeds

    The Nikon D3200 has a ~24MP image sensor with EXPEED 3 processing, and the Nikon D5100 has a ~16MP image sensor with EXPEED 2 processing.

    The Nikon D3200 offers on-screen audio levels as well as the ability to shoot 1280x720 HD video at 60 frames-per-second.

    The Nikon D3200 shoots 12-bit RAW, and has a estimated battery life of 540 shots. The Nikon D5100 shoots 14-bit RAW files, and has an estimated battery life of 660 shots.

    The Nikon D5100 has a more customize-able "Active D-Lighting", whereas the Nikon D3200 is either On or Off.

    The Nikon D5100 has an ISO range that is expandable to 25,600, and the Nikon D3200 is half that at 12,800. The D5100 also offers 1/3 stop ISO increments.

    The Nikon D5100 features a greater range of scene modes as well as "Effects" that can work in both stills and video.

    The Nikon D5100 features the ability to create a multiple exposure image, and also offers in-camera HDR (high dynamic range).

    The Nikon D5100 offers interval timer shooting in-camera, and also features a full Custom Settings menu. The D3200 has some custom settings that may be set in the Setup menu.

    As you can see, the Nikon D5100 features an all-around more advanced experience than the D3200. For the more advanced user who doesn't require the higher resolution of the Nikon D3200, it is likely they'll gravitate towards the D5100.

  • Sony Alpha A65 and A77 Feature Comparison

    We recently reported on Sony's introduction of the Alpha SLT-A65 and Alpha SLT-A77. That post has received a lot of interest and we have already started to receive a lot of questions. A question that we are hearing again and again is "What are the main differences between the A65 and the A77?"  We decided there has been enough interest and enough people asking this question that we should just post the main differences here.

    Sony Alpha A65 and A77 Feature ComparisonOne big factor that differentiates the two cameras is the pre-packaged kit lens. The A65 is available as body only or with the Sony 18-55mm lens as a kit. The A77 is also offered as body only, but is also offered with the new 16-50mm f/2.8 lens as a kit. That difference alone may be appealing for some customers to decide one way or the other, and there is a big difference in price to support that decision. The A65 body is $900, and the kit is $1000. The A77 body is $1400 and the kit is $2000. Customers who already have a strong investment in Sony and Minolta glass may not care too much, and will opt for the body only approach. If you are interested in the A77 and acquiring the new 16-50mm f/2.8, the kit is $100 less than buying the lens and body separately (the lens as a standalone purchase is $700).

    Certainly there are more differences than just that:

    A65 A77
    Strong Polycarbonate Body Magnesium Alloy Body with Moisture & Dust Resistance
    Up to 10 FPS with AF In Speed Priority AE Up to 12 FPS with AF In Speed Priority AE
    2-Way Tilt TruBlack LCD 3-Way Tilt TruBlack LCD
    15-point AF; 3-cross type 19-point AF;11-cross Type
    Single Front Dial & Function Button Front & Rear Dials, top LCD Panel, Multi-direction Control Stick & Function Button
    1/4000th Sec. Top Shutter Speed
    1/160th Sec. Flash Sync Speed
    1/8000th Sec. Top Shutter Speed
    1/250th Sec. Flash Sync Speed
    + / - 3.0 EV + / - 5.0 EV
    Optional Vertical Grip
    DMF Direct Manual Focus Function
    Programmable 3 Memory Recall Function
    PC Flash Sync Post
  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens vs. Non-L Lens Comparison

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM L vs. non-L LensesWhen Canon announced the 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens late last year, we took it as very welcoming news. We could not think of a customer who was not happy with their 70-200mm L lens in terms of performance (whatever version it may be, although the f/4 non-IS is our most popular seller most likely due to the size, weight and price), but many of those 70-200mm owners wished they could have just a little more reach without the heft and weight of the 100-400mm L lens, in addition to the more awkward "push-pull" zoom function (the 70-200mm f/4 L is approx. 1.5 lbs., the 70-300mm L is approx. 2.3 lbs. and the 100-400mm L is just over 3 lbs.). The 70-300mm L lens now fits perfectly in that void of L lenses: a good compromise in size, weight, and focal length.

    The non-L 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens has always been a good seller for us. The price is right for the quality and features packed into this lightweight and portable zoom telephoto lens. Our customers on the whole have always been pleased with this lens, although we normally do not market it to the most discerning enthusiasts or professionals. One question that we have been hearing for a little while now is how does this lens compare with the newer L version of the same focal length zoom? In terms of L lenses, the 70-300mm L lens is not necessarily considered expensive, but compared to the non-L 70-300mm lens, it certainly does seem expensive, considering it is close to $1000 more. So, again, customers wonder, how do they compare? Is the L lens really that much better? We decided we had to definitively find out for ourselves, so we got out our old lens test chart from the basement, and had a look. What we found was interesting.

    We first tested both L and non-L 70-300mm lenses at the 300mm focal length. Customers purchasing a longer focal length telephoto lens are most likely purchasing it because they are planning on using the longer focal length. So, it only makes sense to start testing the lens at the longer focal length end of the zoom. We decided to try the testing with the Canon 60D, which is currently our most popular selling Canon digital SLR camera body. We set up the camera on a tripod at 26 times the focal length being tested, and shot with the exact same settings, only changing the lens in between shooting through a couple of apertures. We made sure to turn off any in-camera corrections, like Canon's peripheral illumination correction, noise reduction, etc.. The differences between these two lenses at the 300mm focal length are very, well, different. The L lens, hands-down, wins. Browse through the images below to see for yourself. Each image is a 100% crop of the lowest most right-hand corner of the lens test chart.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/16

    non-L @ f/16

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/16

    L @ f/16

    We took a shot at f/16 to see both lenses closed down a bit. Looking at just the non-L image, you would consider that fairly sharp considering it is a 100% crop at the very edge of an image taken with a lens at 300mm. But, when you scroll down to see the image taken with the L lens, you realize the first is really not all that good. The clarity of the image taken with the L lens is phenomenal. The green and red Chromatic Aberrations of the non-L lens are very unsightly and distracting. The L lens holds them in check quite wonderfully.

    We then wanted to check the lenses both wide open. At the largest aperture, the optics of a lens are put to the test.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/5.6non-L @ f/5.6
    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/5.6

    L @ f/5.6

    As you can see, the non-L lens falls apart and turns to mush while at the largest aperture of f/5.6 for this focal length. Although no longer tac-sharp, the L lens still maintains definition--you can make out what some of the numbers are supposed to be.

    We then wanted to see what the images looked like at the shortest focal length of both these lenses--70mm. S0, we moved the tripod closer to the test chart and gave it another go. Here we are including just the image taken with these lenses wide-open, at f/4.

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens at f/4

    non-L @ f/4

    Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens at f/4

    L @ f/4

    As you can see, at 70mm, there is not as great a difference between the two lenses as there was at 300mm. Both lenses are very sharp. If you quickly scroll up and down the L 70-300mm appears to have a little bit more clarity. As the aperture was stopped down, the differences between the two became less apparent.

    Although we did not have the time (this test was to just quickly see if there was a noticeable difference between the lenses) it would be interesting to try the lenses at other focal lengths to see how they compare. We imagine that most people purchasing a telephoto zoom will be leaning more towards the longer focal length end than the shorter focal length end of the zoom, and in comparing the two lenses at 300mm the L is therefore a much better lens to have in your camera bag. If you are looking for a telephoto zoom that will produce tac-sharp images, the L 70-300mm is an obvious choice. Also, you have to keep in mind that when purchasing this lens, the image quality is not the only part of the equation. The L lens is more solid, and better weather sealed. It just feels more sturdy in the hand. In addition, the speed of the autofocus is phenomenally fast. If you are looking to capture images of wildlife, the L 70-300mm is a great choice for getting quick-moving animals (think birds in flight) in focus and capturing them in a tac-sharp image.

    If you are interested in purchasing either of the lenses mentioned here, please visit our retail website by clicking here.

     

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