Holiday Buyers Guide 2011: Which Big Sensor Camera Should You Buy?

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Which One Should You Choose?
Here comes the tough part – picking one. Each system, big and small, has its own merits and is best suited for a wide range of users. But why pony up for a full frame DSLR when a mirrorless will serve all of your needs just fine? Here are some guidelines, based on the primary photographic interest of whomever you’re shopping for.

Professional Sports: You’re best off sticking with a DSLR at the moment. Small cameras with big sensors like the NEX-7 will do the job, but they’re no match in speed, reliability and handling for a full-fledged DSLR. Either way you go, a viewfinder is practically essential. It will you keep the camera steady as you shoot and will be much easier to use for composition in bright outdoor conditions.

Landscapes and Travel: If you can shell out the big bucks, a full frame sensor with a wide dynamic range and color depth is ideal. However, an Olympus Pen or Panasonic GF Micro Four Thirds camera will serve these needs just fine with a lot less bulk, and both systems offer an array of in-camera processing tools for more creative options.

Kids and Youth Sports: A small camera with a big sensor can do the job, but something with phase detection that can track moving objects perfectly would be the better choice. Look at entry-level DSLRs like the Canon EOS T3i and Nikon D3100. You’ll be able to keep up with the kids on the soccer field and upgrade lenses whenever you’re ready.

Food: You can use any camera for this as long as you have the right lighting. You should spring for something with great color depth, such as the Nikon D7000. However, the budding food critic and photographer may be shooting in a dim restaurant without flash. Small camera bodies will be easier to tote without attracting attention. Choose one with class-leading noise performance to get the most out of low light situations – the Olympus E-P3 is a solid option.

Studio: Studios are typically equipped with DSLRs. Without concerns of weight and bulk, you’re better off buying a traditional DSLR and a great lens rather than splurging on the latest, chic-est mirrorless camera. An optical viewfinder will provide more precision that the current electronic counterparts.

Keep all this in mind when you’re ready to make the purchase and you’ll be well on your way to obtaining the right large sensor camera.

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