Video: How to use your digital SLR
CHOICE experts give you some quick tips on how to get the best out of your digital SLR camera.
'High end' cameras
In this test, we've decided to include other digital cameras marketed to high-end users, even though they may not have an interchangeable lens. The criteria for inclusion are:
• Manual override for focus and exposure controls.
• RAW format recording (to allow you more control over the image once it’s taken).
• Manual white balance control.
• Manual ISO adjustment of ISO3200 or more.
Cameras with interchangeable lenses are called System cameras.
Brands and models tested
• Canon EOS 650D Kit + Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS II
• Canon EOS M Kit + EF M 18-55mm 1:3,5-5,6 IS STM
• Canon Powershot G15
• Casio Exilim EX-ZR1000
• Nikon 1 J2 Slim Zoom lens Kit + 1 NIKKOR 11-27,5mm 1:3,5-5,6
• Nikon 1 J3
• Nikon 1 S1 (not in Aus)
• Nikon 1 V2 Zoom lens Kit + 1 NIKKOR 10-30mm 1:3,5-5,6
• Nikon Coolpix P7700
• Nikon D5200 + 18-55mm VR Kit
• Nikon D600 + AF-S NIKKOR 24-85 1:3,5-4,5 G ED VR
• Olympus Pen Lite E-PL5 Standard Kit with 14-42 II R
• Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5K + Lumix G 14-42mm
• Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
• Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7
• Pentax K-5 II + smc DA 18-55mm WR
• Samsung EX2F
• Sony alpha 37K Kit + 18-55mm DT SAM SAL1855 (Not in Aus)
• Sony NEX-5RK + SEL 1855 (new f3,5-5,6 OSS) (Not in Aus)
Note: We regularly test cameras and add them to the list as the results become available. This list will grow over time and cameras that are discontinued will be marked with a
strikethrough like this.
How we test
This overall score is a combination of the following scores:
- Image quality: 40%
- Ease of use: 30%
- Monitor: 10%
- Movie quality: 10%
- Viewfinder: 5%
- Flash: 5%
Image quality score
This score is an evaluation of:
Pictures taken in normal situations (indoor and outdoor simulations with and without flash in automatic and some manual modes).
Colour reproduction (photographed in controlled conditions and appraised by a panel of expert reviewers).
Focusing and sharpness in low light, with and without flash.
Resolution (sharpness) for minimum, maximum and normal focal lengths, at ISO100, ISO800, ISO1600 and ISO3200 settings, where possible, in both JPEG and RAW.
Lens characteristics (distortion, vignetting, veiling glare and reflections from strong side lighting).
Low light performance in JPEG and RAW (noise and ability to capture and resolve detail at ISO 1600 and above). We also appraise the noise in images at ISO 200.
Vignetting (loss of brightness at the photo’s edges in both wide and tele modes).
Distortion (curving straight lines in both wide and tele modes).
Face detection (subjects at different distances from the lens).
Ease of use
This involves five people evaluating each camera’s manual, shutter release button, times for data transfer, shutter delay, start up, taking pictures in single shot and continuous modes. They check for ease and smoothness of zooming, manual focusing and speed of operation by going through a cycle of taking and deleting an image a number of times. Ease of inserting and removing a camera's memory card and changing its settings, controls and batteries is also tested. Movie ease of use is appraised in a similar way, with emphasis on recording and playback controls.
These cameras are also appraised for their manual and autofocus performance in both normal and Liveview modes in both bright and low light conditions. We also check how difficult it is to change lenses.
The difference between the height and width displayed in the monitor and what is recorded on the final image, an appraisal of the image quality in bright and low light conditions and measure of its overall size and resolution.
Its overall size as well as the difference between the height and width displayed in the viewfinder and what is recorded on the final image, an appraisal of the image quality in bright and low light conditions and the quality of its resolution and refresh rate when panning across scenes.
Tested at one, three and five metres to check the exposure is even across the image.
Cameras that are able to record video were used to make four "highest quality" movies and then scored on resolution of detail, colour accuracy, fluency of playback, picture noise and pixelation caused by compression. This is done in both bright- and low-light conditions and our testers check also the cameras autofocus and macro performance in video mode. The sound quality is appraised by recording in a quiet room with both classical music and voice played back through high-quality speakers. Testers also check for noises caused by zooming or focusing the camera when taking video.
High-end cameras are put through a more extensive test procedure than basic cameras using the lenses that are normally bundled with them. Even though the testing is done with the camera in Auto mode for most procedures, you cannot compare scores between the two tests.
Most manufacturers supply relatively cheap lenses in their kits. If you're in the market for a system camera and already have some good-quality lenses, you can get better image quality results than achieved in our test. However, older lenses designed primarily for film cameras may not produce the same image quality when used on a digital camera.
What you'll get in this report
As well as the test results for 18 camera\lens combinations you'll also get:
- Specs, prices, features and functions for all models.
- Buying information, practical advice and tips.
- A sortable table including all cameras tested. Select by brand, price, overall score, image quality, viewfinder, monitor, ease of use or versatility.
CHOICE Shopper: Buy a membership and get this exclusive members' service. Save time and money on your next purchase.
For more information on Digital cameras, see Cameras and camcorders.