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10 Megapixel DSLR group test Gordon Laing, October 2006

Lenses and viewfinder
/ Screen and menus / Sensor and processing / Anti shake and anti dust
 
   

 

10 Megapixel DSLR group test: lenses

As digital SLRs, the Canon EOS 400D / XTi, Nikon D80 and Sony A100 all employ removeable lenses, which thanks to their sensor sizes result in the field of view being reduced. The Nikon and Sony reduce the field of view of all lenses by 1.5 times, while the Canon with its fractionally smaller sensor reduces fields by 1.6 times.

In terms of the manufacturer’s own lenses, the Canon and Nikon bodies currently have access to more options than the Sony, but it’s crucial to consider your needs and see if there’s an ideal lens to match. Indeed the choice of DSLR for some people is greatly influenced by having access to a particular lens system. For example you may be drawn to Canon for its range of luxury ‘L’ lenses, or opt for a Nikon body simply to enjoy the wildly popular Nikkor 18-200mm; amazingly Canon still hasn’t produced an equivalent lens, forcing its owners to consider third party solutions from Sigma and Tamron.

         
Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
Using EF-S 18-55mm
Nikon D80
Using DX 18-70mm
Sony Alpha A100
Using DT 18-70mm
Canon 400D / XTi kit lens coverage wide angle   Nikon D80 kit lens coverage wide angle   Sony A100 kit lens coverage wide angle
18-55mm at 18mm (29mm equivalent)
18-70mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent)
18-70mm at 18mm (27mm equivalent)

If this is your first DSLR or you’re on a tighter budget though, the quality and capability of the kit lens will play a crucial role – indeed many DSLR owners will never use anything else. Consequently we’ve included comprehensive tests of the kit lenses for each camera in our results section, in addition to resolution tests with top-quality prime lenses for the purists who want to see what each body is capable of delivering. In the meantime to compare coverage, we’ve included samples from each kit lens zoomed all the way out to wide angle (above) and in to telephoto (below).

         
Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi
Using EF-S 18-55mm
Nikon D80
Using DX 18-70mm
Sony Alpha A100
Using DT 18-70mm
Canon 400D / XTi kit lens coverage telephoto   Nikon D80 kit lens coverage telephoto   Sony A100 kit lens coverage telephoto
18-55mm at 55mm (88mm equivalent)
18-70mm at 70mm (105mm equivalent)
18-70mm at 70mm (105mm equivalent)

 

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Canon 400D / Rebel XTi - front view

Canon 400D / Rebel XTi - rear view

The Canon EOS 400D / XTi is typically supplied with the EF-S 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 which delivers an equivalent range of 29-88mm. The Sony A100’s kit lens is the DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6, which delivers an equivalent range of 27-105mm. The Nikon D80 is available in three lens bundles with either the D X 18-55mm f3.5-5.6, DX 18-70mm f3.5-4.5 or the DX 18-135mm f3.5-5.6, which deliver equivalent ranges of 27-83mm, 27-105mm or 27-203mm respectively.

Clearly the third Nikkor lens has the greatest range, but is also the priciest option. For our tests we selected the middle, 18-70mm option. The extra range of the 18-70mm Nikon and Sony kit lenses when zoomed-in is apparent over the Canon 18-55mm in the coverage examples above, and if you look very carefully, they both capture a fractionally wider field too. Check our results pages to compare their actual performance, and our fourth Features page concerning anti-shake.


If you're torn between the various kit lens and upgrade options available, allow us to be of assistance! Potential Canon owners should check out our Canon 400D / XTi lens upgrade group test which details the benefits of upgrading the kit lens to the EF-S 17-85mm, EF-S 17-55mm or EF 17-40mm models. Anyone confused by the wealth of Nikon kit lens options should head over to our Nikkor kit lens group test which compares the DX 18-55mm, DX 18-70mm, DX 18-135mm and the premium DX 18-200mm VR. Potential Sony owners considering the great value twin lens kit option should visit our Sony 75-300mm review to see how this longer lens performs.


10 Megapixel DSLR group test: viewfinder


As traditional digital SLRs, all three employ optical viewfinders exclusively for composition, but there’s a few differences worth pointing out. While all three deliver 95% coverage, the Canon, Nikon and Sony have different magnifications of 0.8, 0.94 and 0.83x respectively. What this means is the actual scene through the Nikon viewfinder appears larger than that on the Canon and Sony models. It doesn’t mean the lens captures a wider field, but it does make the composition larger and easier to see. By using a Pentaprism rather than a Pentamirror, the D80’s viewfinder is also a little brighter than the other two.

The D80 also sports one of our favourite DSLR features: a three-by-three grid in the viewfinder which can be electronically switched on or off. These grids have long-helped compact camera owners line up shots and ensure horizon lines are straight, and it’s great to have one in a DSLR without having to buy and fit replacement focusing screens – which we should add are not an option for the canon 400D / XTi and Sony A100.


10 Megapixel DSLR group test: Focus

The Canon 400D / XTi and Sony A100 both employ 9-point auto-focus systems, whereas the Nikon D80 features a slightly more sophisticated 11-point system based on the higher-end D200. It’s a small difference, but if you regularly photograph moving subjects, the D80 may have the edge.


10 Megapixel DSLR group test: Metering

In terms of metering, the Canon 400D / XTi, Nikon D80 and Sony A100 feature multi-segment options for general use with 35, 420 and 40 zones respectively; clearly the Nikon’s the most sophisticated, but as you’ll see in our Gallery, all coped with varying light conditions with ease. If you require spot metering though, you’ll need to go for either the D80 or A100; it’s not available on the 400D / XTi.

One quick note: when photographing certain outdoor scenes with each camera for comparative purposes we noticed the Nikon D80 often metered a brighter exposure than the Canon 400D / XTi and Sony A100. When this occurred we’d say the Canon and Sony were slightly underexposing, while the D80 was slightly overexposing. Like all cameras though, you’ll soon get used to how each meters for particular scenes and use exposure compensation for the result you prefer. Ultimately it’s not something to penalise a particular model on, but it’s worth knowing about none-the-less.

Canon 400D / XTi vs Nikon D80 vs Sony A100 features continued...

Lenses and viewfinder / Screen and menus / Sensor and processing / Anti shake and anti dust



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Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi

Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi

Nikon D80

Nikon D80

Sony Alpha A100

Sony Alpha A100
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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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