Do you need a pro dSLR?

Peter Fenech

What does the extra cash really buy you?

At some stage, most photographers will admit to suffering from gear jealousy – wishing they had a full range of pro level camera equipment. Even more experienced shooters can fall into the trap of assuming an upgrade to their kit will yield more success in their photography. While it is true that certain features of professional grade cameras can be useful for specific shooting assignments, it is important to ask yourself exactly what it is about a new, high-spec model that will benefit your portfolio. Here we consider the key aspects of high-end dSLR’s to find out what you get for the extra cash.

Build quality

Do you need a pro dSLR?














One of the biggest advantages offered by pro-line digital cameras is the extremely rugged build quality of the body. Unlike entry-level models, which are often made from reinforced polycarbonate (a form of plastic) pro models are constructed from magnesium alloy and other metals such as aluminium. This all-metal structure provides additional resistance to sharp knocks and the other rigours of everyday use by a working professional, in all environments. All ports and apertures in the camera body such as the lens mount and battery compartments are also likely to be fully sealed, for weather resistance and reliable operation in a range of temperatures.


Do you need a pro dSLR?












This may be slightly less applicable in 2018, since many enthusiast cameras have sensors with over 24MP, but high-end cameras often still win in the pixel-count area. Models like the Canon EOS 5DS and Nikon D850 have resolutions over 40MP, which now rival medium format for sharpness and detail. When combined with advanced in-camera processing, the smaller full-frame sensors are capable of capturing very finely detailed subjects, with greater convenience and lower weight.

Low-light shooting

Do you need a pro dSLR?












Many dSLRs come complete with ultra-high sensitivities, with most models now able to shoot up to ISO 25,000 as standard. However, what sets the pro-spec cameras apart is in the image handling and noise control. Full frame cameras such as the Canon EOS 1DX II feature sensors with larger photosites and a more sophisticated circuit design, which optimises light capture and tips the signal-to-noise ratio in the photographer’s favour. This makes shooting in low-light easier, allowing the photographer to push the ISO higher with minimal image degradation. In reality, the highest sensitivities are not practically useful in entry-level models, while these same settings are regularly used for serious assignments by pro photographers, using specialised gear.

Frame rates and autofocus

Do you need a pro dSLR?












Many dSLRs and advanced CSCs are touted as having very fast frame rates, extending up to 30 or 60 fps, however, these high-speed modes often lock autofocus functionality, or lock up the reflex mirror, thereby rendering the viewfinder useless. In pro cameras, very fast burst rates are possible while full AF control and function is retained, allowing rapid subjects to be tracked and captured without interruption. This makes cameras like the Nikon D5 and Canon 1DX II the tools of choice for sports and wildlife shooters.


Do you need a pro dSLR?













As far as functionality is concerned, a big advantage offered by high-end cameras is the level of flexibility of control and shooting options. Pro cameras allow full tailoring of button function, often providing the option to reassign controls to suite the users preferences and shooting style. This is available to some level on lower-range models, but not to the same extent. Pro models also permit almost unlimited customisation of AF operation and sensitivity, such as subject tracking response times. The custom function menus on these cameras are complex and wide-ranging – if you’d like to alter a setting or camera behaviour, the chances are you’ll find a custom option to do exactly what you require.




Do you need a pro dSLR?












It is easy to assume that the more money you pay, the more features you get. This is true to some extent, but you will also find the inverse is true in some areas of professional photography. The additional functions you are are presented with are usually designed for specific use in certain genres, often at the expense of ‘everyday’ features. A good example is a built-in flash – most high-end dSLRs are not equipped with these, as the removal allows better weather sealing on the top plate of the camera. While you may not use the internal flash for regularly, it can be very useful for triggering external off-camera flash units. Pro photographers often have to buy multiple external speedlights to compensate and additional radio or infra-red triggers. This creates additional expenditure beyond the cost of the camera itself. Furthermore, full frame cameras are only compatible with appropriate lenses, which need more glass in their construction and so are expensive and heavy, compared to digital optics.

In conclusion, pro cameras are designed to do specific tasks very well – they do not necessarily make good general purpose tools. Unless you work almost exclusively in the areas for which the models are tailored, you may find a pro dSLR to be more of a burden than a benefit.

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