But we're not happy with the clunky way that this dial works in conjunction with the C-dial. When you choose manual, aperture-priority, or program modes, the C-dial allows you to set the aperture or shift exposure without moving your finger far from the shutter button or lifting your eye from the viewfinder. However, when you select shutter-priority, the C-dial goes dead instead of acting as the shutter-speed dial. To change shutter speeds, you must reach awkwardly across to the S-dial located on top of the Exposure selector lever and rotate it in the directions marked "Fast" or "Slow" (this on a pro-level SLR?).
What's on the menu?
Fortunately, other camera controls are much easier to use. Most of the Pro SLR/c's back panel buttons are similar to those on the Pro SLR/n's, but lack its useful rubberized surface. Pressing the menu button gives you access to four pages of options, most of which are identical to those found on the Pro SLR/n. These include the ability to set color space to sRGB, Adobe RGB, and Kodak Pro RGB. You also can change settings for JPEG file type (standard or extended range imaging-ERI-JPEG), compression levels, sharpness, noise reduction, look, exposure bias, and digital exposure correction. As with the Pro SLR/n, you can save images in JPEG, RAW, or RAW+JPEG formats, or in a combination of file formats using both CF or SD cards.
The ISO on the Pro SLR/c can be set in 1¼3-stop increments from 160 to 800 for JPEG images and up to 1600 for RAW. And there's a High Performance-Low Noise (HPLN) mode that sets the camera down to ISO 6 for low-noise long exposures even in bright light-a remarkable feature that first appeared on the Pro SLR/n. White-balance controls are also identical, with five presets including auto, daylight, tungsten, fluorescent, and flash, plus an eyedropper tool for manually setting white balance off a neutral color. However, the CSM (custom) menu page is missing many useful Nikon settings found on the Pro SLR/n.
Other similarities between the Pro SLR/c and Pro SLR/n include the same rechargeable Lithium ion battery and most of the connections, including USB, FireWire, and PC-sync for external flash units. There's also an auto-activating vertical shutter release and depth-of-field preview button. In playback mode, the Pro SLR/c has the same features and fast response time of the Pro SLR/n, and images can be shown with a histogram, exposure warnings, and data. But playback zoom and pinpoint luminometer still work only on RAW or ERI-JPEG images.
Focus in focus
While the Pro SLR/c is compatible with most Canon EF lenses, its focusing system is based on a TTL phase-detection system that includes a single cross-type sensor in the middle surrounded by four linear sensors. These are concentrated more toward the middle of the image area than on the Pro SLR/n, and our tests show that the system performs much like the Sigma SD9 and SD10. However, it doesn't lock onto detail below EV 2, while the Pro SLR/n still focuses at EV 0 and in total darkness with an AF-assist light that's missing here.
After shooting extensively in the field, we'd rate the AF system of the Pro SLR/c as a step backward from Pro SLR/n, and not even in the same league as the EOS Mark II (with seven cross sensors out of 45). However, its metering, white balance, and overall exposure controls were very accurate in auto mode.
In burst mode, the Pro SLR/c captured up to 19 JPEG or RAW images at about 1.7 fps (tested using a 2GB SanDisk Extreme CF card). But after a full burst, the camera locked up for a minute before allowing us to shoot another frame, and then it only let us shoot another JPEG every 15 seconds, or another RAW image every 10 seconds. Definitely not a camera for action photographers. For slower-paced, high-resolution studio and portrait work? Yes!
Our tests also showed the Pro SLR/c requires more power than the Pro SLR/n. It only lasted for 508 shots on a full charge without using the LCD at all for playback. The Pro SLR/n got 700 shots on the same battery-with half taken using its pop-up flash and the LCD in review mode.