We couldn’t decide whether the Nikon D90 or Pentax K-7 should win advanced
DSLR of the year, so we chose them both.
Canon EOS 50D
This new model boosts the short-lived EOS 40D's pixel count by 50 percent, to 15.1 megapixels, for roughly 25 percent higher resolution. Higher pixel density usually means more noise, but in our tests the 50D's JPEGs delivered about one stop less noise than the 40D's. The improvement is the result of both bigger microlenses (which focus more photons on each pixel) and smarter DIGIC 4 processing. The new camera even quadruples the 40D's top sensitivity, from ISO 3200 to ISO 12,800, and offers four JPEG high-ISO noise-reduction settings, for more control of sharpness vs. smoothness.
The faster imaging engine also means the EOS 50D can shoot at 6.3fps, virtually the same as the 40D, despite its larger files. And it captures more continuous JPEGs with a fast UDMA Compact Flash card. The new camera also offers two smaller RAW sizes, which let you make space- saving files with the wider tonal and color range of 14-bit postprocessing.
The 50D inherits the 40D's large viewfinder and super-swift diamond-pattern AF system, which we judge top in its class for both low-light focus acquisition and continuous tracking.
The 50D's live view is also superior to competitors' because the mirror stays up when you're shooting, allowing for much faster, quieter operation. And the view on its 920,000-dot, three-inch LCD is dazzling-twice as sharp as the 40D's. That makes it easy to check minute details and critical focus and adds clarity to the 50D's more elegant menu system and new joystick-operated Quick Control interface.
15.1 MEGAPIXELS/CMOS IMAGE SENSOR
1.6X FOV CROP
3.0-INCH LCD (920K dots)
IMAGE STABILIZATION: IN-LENS
TOP ISO: 12,800
LIVE VIEW: YES
The Four Thirds-format Olympus E-3 tied for 2008 Camera of the Year in this category, an honor it earned for its solidly built weatherproof body; its huge, best-in-class viewfinder; its fast 11-point biaxial autofocus; its swift 5fps capture speed; and its fully articulated live view LCD screen, a D-SLR first. You get the better part of all that in the smaller, lighter, and more affordable Olympus E-30. You give up a certain amount of ruggedness and weatherizing, and the E-30's pentaprism finder provides a somewhat smaller view (98 percent coverage and 1.02X magnification, versus the E-3's 100 percent and 1.15X). But that viewfinder still trumps the tunnel-vision pentamirror finders in most Four Thirds D-SLRs. And the E-30 is actually superior to its big brother in its sensor resolution (12.3 megapixels vs. the E-3's 10.1) and the size of its versatile tilt-swivel LCD (2.7 vs. 2.5 inches).
It even adds new features such as a dedicated mode dial; contrast-detection AF (with face detection) that we found to be a third faster than that in the Canon EOS 50D; a new image stabilizer mode that disengages vertical sensor shift, for panning up or down; and in-camera Art Filters, including Grainy Film and Pinhole effects, among many others.
The Olympus E-30 offers seemingly infinite custom configurability, one of the E-3's best qualities; an external white balance sensor; the ability to control strobes wirelessly, straight from its LCD panel; and best of all, access to superb Zuiko Digital lenses, many of which have no equal in competing full-frame systems.
12.3 MEGAPIXELS/LIVE MOS IMAGE SENSOR
2.0X FOV CROP (four thirds format)
2.7-INCH TILT/SWIVEL LCD
IMAGE STABILIZATION: IN-BODY
TOP ISO: 3200
LIVE VIEW: YES