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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: anti-shake and anti-dust

Camera shake is responsible for spoiling more photos than almost any other problem and the manufacturers are responding with a variety of anti-shake solutions. Canon and Nikon for example both strongly believe in lens-based optical stabilisation which adjusts specific glass elements to counteract most wobbles.

This system works very well, but you’ll need to buy a specific lens with optical stabilisation built-in, and these generally cost more. For example, if you wanted to upgrade the Canon kit lens to one with Image Stabilisation, you’d be looking at spending around USD$600 or GBP£370 on the EF-S 17-85mm. If you wanted a general purpose Nikkor zoom with the company’s Vibration Reduction, you’re pretty much restricted to the 18-200mm which costs around USD$1000 or GBP£500 and is frequently out of stock. While both options additionally offer faster focusing and longer ranges than the typical kit lenses (especially for the Nikkor 18-200mm), they obviously both add quite a lot to the total price.



Super SteadyShot with the Sony Alpha A100 and DT 18-70mm
Sony Alpha A100 - Super SteadyShot off
Sony Alpha A100 - Super SteadyShot on
Super SteadyShot Off. Exposure 1/8 sec
18-70mm at 35mm, f13 (53mm equivalent)
  Super SteadyShot On. Exposure 1/8 sec.
18-70mm at 35mm, f13 (53mm equivalent)















In stark contrast the Sony A100 boasts anti-shake facilities built-into the body itself, called Super SteadyShot – see our Sony A100 review for more details. This means any lens you attach including the cheapest kit option automatically becomes stabilised. Unlike lens-based stabilisation, you won’t see the effect as you compose your shot, but a small scale in the A100’s viewfinder indicates how hard the system’s currently working. See the crops above for exmaples with and without Super SteadyShot.

While Canon and Nikon argue lens-based stabilisation allows a tailored solution for each model, there’s no denying the Sony’s value proposition. The bottom line is if you want a Canon 400D / XTi or Nikon D80 with a stabilised lens, you’ll be spending at least double that of the Sony A100 kit. These Canon and Nikon lens upgrades may offer additional benefits, but if you’re after the most affordable package with anti-shake, you can’t beat the Sony A100.

Anti-dust

Dust has finally become a recognised issue by DSLR manufacturers and dust removal a hot feature worth talking about. All three cameras here offer some form of dust reduction beyond basic manual cleaning, but fight it in quite different ways.

The Canon EOS 400D / XTi should be commended for offering the widest variety of anti-dust features in a DSLR to date. Like most it starts with an anti-static coating on the low pass filter, and Canon’s also produced the body cap from a material less likely to produce dust through wear.

  Canon 400D / XTi sensor cleaning

More significantly, the 400D / XTi’s low pass filter is vibrated when the camera’s switched on or off in an attempt to shake any dust free; while only taking a second, this process can also be sensibly interrupted during power-up by pressing the shutter release button if you spot a photo opportunity. The 400D / XTi can also record a dust reference frame which is embedded into subsequent images (with little impact on file size) and used for automatic retouching of marks later using the supplied Digital Photo Professional software.

The Sony A100 also employs anti-static coatings on its low pass filter, and exploits its anti-
shake mounting to vibrate the sensor when switched on and off, again in an attempt to shake free any foreign particles.

The Nikon D80 doesn’t incorporate any physical means to shake-free dust and instead relies on creating a dust reference frame for automatic retouching of marks in software later. The big difference between this and Canon’s implementation though is the D80 reference frame can only be applied to RAW images and you’ll also need to pay extra for the Nikon Capture NX software. Restricting dust removal to RAW images is bad enough, but to not support it with software out of the box is just plain mean.

Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi dust example
Canon EOS 400D / XTi example shot with dust
Canon EOS 400D / XTi crop showing dust mark
Full frame, reduced in size to 282x188 pixels
  100% crop measuring 282x188 pixels
 

 



So in terms of anti-dust, the Canon 400D is the clear winner in terms of sheer effort and variety, although sadly neither it nor the Sony’s vibrating parts were able to dislodge every particle in our tests - see left. Canon’s DPP software cleared up most through software later, but revealingly some still remained.

Like other DSLRs, some marks required manual intervention either with a blower brush or software retouching. It’s finally worth noting while it’s impossible to create a consistent test bench for dust tests, we didn’t notice any dust marks during our time with the Olympus E-500 – although its Super Sonic Wave Filter infuriatingly could not be interrupted during power-up.


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

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



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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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