As the economy improved in
1998, the market was ready for new and improved SLR cameras in 1999.
And the manufacturers delivered, with emphasis on two categories: "Pro"
models packed with every capability imaginable and entry-level cameras
that are simpler to operate than previous versions.
New Pro Canon. Although the EOS-3 was briefly mentioned
in our "Best Of 1998" issue, that coverage was based only
on a preliminary press release. Since then, I have had an opportunity
of testing this ultrahigh tech model and becoming more familiar with
its many innovations. The most significant is the entirely new "Area
AF CMOS Sensor" the heart of a more effective autofocus system
with an extremely large (15x8mm) 45 point focusing area with Eye Controlled
Previously, autofocus SLR cameras used the more conventional CCD (Charge
Coupled Device) AF sensors, and these were indeed very effective with
the earlier systems. However, for maximum efficiency with the 45 point
system of the EOS-3, an entirely new approach was required. Canon engineers
switched to CMOS (Complemen-tary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) with 10,724
pixels, some 30 times more than the pixels in the Multi-BASIS CCD sensor
system of the EOS-1N. The pixel size was reduced to 1/4 of those found
in the EOS-1N to maintain excellent autofocus response in low light
and in low-contrast situations.
As well, the central focus
detection point maintains its cross-type operation, ensuring quick focus
on patterns of any type, with lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/4
or larger. (The EOS-1N maintained cross-type detection only with lenses
of f/2.8 or faster.) Autofocus operation--employing the central sensor
with horizontal-line AF--is maintained even with a maximum aperture of
f/8 so that autofocus is maintained with many EF telephoto lenses even
when a tele-converter is used.
The EOS-3 also includes numerous other capabilities: 32-bit microcomputer
for faster eye controlled focus response; seven cross-type AF sensors;
two CPUs that operate at double the clock speed of those in the EOS-1N;
higher autofocus speed; a 21 zone evaluative metering system plus five
other options including multi-spot metering; 7 fps film advance with the
new Power Booster E2 in manual and autofocus; extremely sophisticated
and versatile flash metering with 21 metering zones; additional flash
capabilities; reflex mirror pre-lock; and all the operating modes, 18
custom functions, moisture and shock resistance, etc. that you would expect
from a pro Canon camera.
After testing the EOS-3, I wrote the following summary. "Designed
to entice the working professional, the EOS-3 system will also appeal
to advanced photo enthusiasts, particularly those who want the latest
technology, extra features, and more speed. Far more than a series of
high capacity computers, the new camera with its accessories, provides
incredible flexibility in real world photography. The additional creative
options of the EOS-3 should augment the photographer's ability to
capture the decisive moment."
Rebel With A Cause.
The EOS-3 garnered all the headlines for Canon this year, but
the new EOS Rebel 2000 is every bit as impressive considering its modest
price. A handsome camera, the new model is competitive with the more expensive
EOS Elan II.
The two most impressive features are the seven point CMOS autofocus system
(less complex than that of the EOS-3) and the 35 zone evaluative metering
system but there's plenty more in addition to the familiar 10 operating
modes. You'll find improved low-light autofocus response; faster
(1.5 fps) film advance plus mid roll rewind; depth of field preview; autoexposure
bracketing; advanced E-TTL auto flash, high-speed synch, and flash exposure
lock with EX-series Speedlites; 35 zone evaluative flash metering; superior
focus assist and redeye reduction Krypton light; and a slightly smaller/lighter
body when compared to the Rebel G.
In spite of all the extra capabilities, I found the Rebel 2000 as simple
and intuitive to operate as its predecessors. But it proved to be a more
effective photographic tool, with and without flash, especially when used
with the EX-series Speedlites. Not merely an SLR intended for the beginner,
the EOS Rebel 2000 is an entry-level model that should continue to satisfy
its owner for years, even as his or her skills and needs increase.
Affordable Maxxum Trio.
This year, Minolta released several models, starting with the STsi and
HTsi Plus with the new style controls and the budget-priced QTsi that
offers a combination of new and old controls.
The HTsi Plus is an upgraded version of the HTsi with a new silver metallic
finish. Otherwise it's identical to the HTsi but with two significant
additions: wireless off-camera TTL flash control and a terminal that accepts
a remote control cable for tripping the shutter without creating shake.
Naturally, the Maxxum HTsi Plus maintains all HTsi capabilities: three
point autofocus sensor (with the central point cross-hatched); continuous
predictive follow focus; numerous operating modes; 14 segment Honeycomb
pattern plus spot metering; the usual overrides; high-speed synch with
certain Maxxum flash units; a full nine custom functions; and more.
The Maxxum STsi was announced just before the deadline for this issue.
This camera, with silver metallic finish, is an entry-level model but
is well specified, with all the essentials for taking good pictures. You'll
find six program modes plus the semiautomatic and manual modes; spot and
eight segment Honeycomb pattern metering; exposure bracketing and compensation;
single shot and continuous predictive autofocus with central sensor, remote
release terminal, and wireless remote (off-camera) TTL flash control with
certain Maxxum flash units. High-speed synch is not available and the
top synch speed is 1/90 sec. Maximum film advance is 1 fps and the top
shutter speed is 1/2000 sec (vs. 1/4000 sec for the more expensive models)
but both are adequate for most subjects.
One of the smallest/lightest
SLR cameras in the world, the STsi omits advanced features that some find
complicated; consequently, it handles more like a compact lens/shutter
camera than most SLRs.
Minolta intentionally omitted manual and semiautomatic modes as well as
overrides. Instead, they provided a full automatic programmed AE mode
plus five subject specific programs. Other necessities are included, too:
true Through The Lens viewing; self-timer; wide-area autofocus with continuous
predictive AF for moving subjects; focus assist illuminator; 1 fps motor
drive; multi-segment metering system; AE and AF lock; and multimode automatic
pop-up flash. Surprisingly, it even includes wireless remote TTL flash
control capability with certain Maxxum flash units. The QTsi certainly
seems like a camera that would be a fine gift for someone who previously
considered an SLR "too complicated."
System. In some countries, many professional photographers shoot
with a Minolta system. This trend deserves to reach North America, too,
especially since the advent of the Maxxum 9: the ultimate pro camera from
All of the characteristics required in a true pro camera are built-in:
reflex mirror lock-up with the self-timer; an extremely rugged chassis
with stainless steel, aluminum, and zinc components; excellent dust and
moisture resistance; high-speed continuous predictive autofocus capable
of keeping up with 4.5 fps film advance; a built-in 5.5 fps motor drive;
the highest available shutter speed (1/12,000 sec); a full 1/300 sec flash
synch speed plus higher speed synch with certain Maxxum flash units; a
new (extremely bright/contrasty) viewfinder that offers a 100 percent
field of view; exposure bracketing up to seven frames, in various increments;
flash exposure compensation, two large mechanical knobs for quick access
to some functions; shooting data storage memory for seven rolls and computer
uploading capability; 21 custom functions to tailor the camera to personal
preferences; and a great deal more.
This is the only current pro
camera with built-in flash, sure to be appreciated in close-up work. Naturally,
Minolta has included the very best of the features from its other cameras,
too. These include: three CCD autofocus sensors (one cross-hatched for
greatest reliability); eye-start automation; four segment flash metering,
14 zone ambient light metering, plus center-weighted and spot; all the
usual operating modes and overrides; diopter correction eyepiece; the
ability to use various battery types; full information data panels; remote
control terminal; depth of field preview plus screw-in PC cord terminal
for studio flash systems.
There's a lot more to this camera than we can cover in a few words;
check for additional information on the Minolta web site or request an
Professional Nikon. Photographers who consider the F5
to be too large, heavy, and expensive should love the new Nikon F100,
a more compact/affordable body that shares much of the flagship's
innovations. Although some F5 capabilities were not included, the F100
is an extremely versatile, high tech camera in its own right with a rugged
magnesium alloy chassis, well sealed against dust and moisture. Naturally,
it includes the latest multimode autofocus technology with five (three
cross-hatched) focus detection sensors, overlap servo, lock-on and dynamic
AF technology like the F5. High-speed tracking focus operates at a film
advance rate up to 5 fps.
The most significant other capabilities include: 10 segment 3D matrix
metering plus center-weighted and shiftable spot metering; intelligent
multi-sensor balanced fill flash with compatible Speedlights and high-speed
synch (to 1/4000 sec) capability with SB-28; numerous other flash modes;
wireless off-camera flash with an accessory; five segment TTL sensor;
improved controls; numerous operating modes, overrides plus AE and flash
exposure bracketing; 22 custom settings; depth of field preview; and a
great deal more plus many accessories including remote control devices,
a vast range of lenses, Ni-MH battery pack, and multiple power sources.
The F100 is also compatible with the Photo Secretary II accessories for
data download to a personal computer.
During my tests of the Nikon
F100, I was impressed with all facets of this camera, particularly its
highly effective, accurate, and versatile autofocus system. Especially
with the new Silent Wave (AF-S) lenses, AF performance was almost on par
with the F5, one of the top-rated models. The exposure metering system
of the F100 (even without the RBG Color Evaluation system) proved to be
almost infallible except with very difficult lighting situations. Then,
I switched to more personalized control or AE bracketing. Since the F100
uses the same--superb and incredibly versatile--flash metering system
as the F5, it offers accurate, predictable, beautiful, and highly controllable
exposures with flash.
A new F100 owner--whether working pro or advanced hobbyist--will continue
discovering useful capabilities for months. Called a "professional
entry-level camera" by Nikon, the new model combines the most useful
technology, automation, and overrides with uncomplicated operation.
Entry-Level Pentax. This fall, Pentax announced another
addition to its ZX-series of cameras, the entry-level ZX-7. Billed as
"super compact" the specs confirm that this is indeed a very
small camera, likely to appeal even to those who now use a point-and-shoot
lens/ shutter model. (We have yet to test this new model but hope to do
Designed for maximum simplicity unlikely to intimidate even the novice,
the ZX-7 is primarily intended to be used in one of the five program modes.
The built-in flash pops up and fires automatically when necessary offering
fill-in flash outdoors and full flash in darkness; redeye reducing pre-flash
is also available. Correct focus is assured with a three point, wide-area
autofocus sensor system, employing the successful SAFOX IV system of the
ZX-5N. Should the subject begin to move, continuous predictive follow
focus is automatically activated.
Once the owner is ready to progress to the next step, he or she will notice
the other useful capabilities: 2 fps motor drive; semiautomatic and manual
modes; remote control terminal for an optional cable release; full information
data panel in the viewfinder and on the exterior; multiple-exposure mode;
exposure compensation and AE lock; plus diopter-correction eyepiece. Panorama
mode can be selected, too, and the viewfinder is masked to show only the
actual image area. Exposure metering is achieved with the familiar Pentax
six-segment multi-pattern metering system when AF lenses are used.
The ZX-7 would be great for someone first moving up from a more basic
K-mount camera, because it accepts the manual focus lenses, though with
Manual Focus Phoenix. Not everyone needs or wants an
autofocus camera, so several manufacturers still offer manual focus models.
The most recent is Phoenix Corp. of America's Phoenix P1 available
in black and in titanium color and its sibling, the Phoenix P2, is in
black and in "gold tone." Some publications have called these
models "bare-bones SLRs" and indeed, there are few bells and
Fortunately, many photographers still want a no-frills camera, particularly
students who want to learn the concepts without the assistance of extensive
automation. Well, they'll love the P1, a model that includes only
a metered manual mode. This requires the user to select both aperture
and shutter speed, and provides full control over exposure, depth of field,
and the depiction of motion. The shutter is fully mechanical (with speeds
from 1 to 1/2000 sec) so it will operate even without battery power. Naturally,
the light meter requires batteries: two LR44 button cells.
The list of other specifications is brief: hot shoe with X-contact; PC
cord socket for most any type of flash system; flash synch at 1/125 sec
or slower; split image focus aid; exposure warning LED lights in the viewfinder;
and center-weighted TTL metering. Film advance is as quick as your thumb
can operate the full-stroke lever, because there is no built-in motor
drive or an accessory. Nor will you find extras like depth of field preview,
self-timer, spot metering, etc.
The Phoenix P2 is a nearly identical model but uses an electronic metal
focal plane shutter so it does require batteries. However, shutter speeds
may be more accurate and longer exposures are possible, as long as 6 sec
in the Aperture Priority AE mode. Both cameras sport a polycarbonate chassis
with metal lens mount and tripod socket plus a solid glass penta-prism.
They accept a vast range of optics: any lenses with the familiar K-type
bayonet mount from Phoenix or others. The P1 and P2 are not models you
would buy to impress the neighbors, but they are cameras you might recommend
to friends who want to learn all the basics of photography.