Mid-Level DSLR

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When categorizing the many DSLRs we carry at B&H into three groups—entry level, midrange and professional— there are some models that, depending on their attributes, price points or your point of view, fall into more than one camp. Our selection of mid-range DSLRs is no exception. You can call them "Mid-Range" cameras, but a few of them are well up to the challenge of full-time pro shooting.


While compiling this list of mid-range DSLRs I was well aware that each of these cameras, depending on the exact nature of the assignment, would serve me well out in the field. They all shoot JPEG and/or RAW, and some shoot 14-bit RAW files, which contain 4x the volume of tone than 12-bit capture (4,096 vs. 16,384 shades of gray). Twelve out of sixteen of them shoot video, and most with stereo sound and the ability to plug in optional microphones for higher-definition directional sound. A few are moisture- and/or weatherproof and many offer the ability to shoot with multiple memory card formats. In a nutshell, you can't go wrong with any of the following cameras, and depending on your own particular needs and preferences, there's something here for everybody.

Nikon

From Nikon we have a trio of mid-range cameras starting with the first DSLR to offer video capture, the Nikon D90. Available as a body only or with an 18-105mm Nikkor VR zoom lens, the Nikon D90 features a 12.3MP APS-C format CMOS imaging sensor, a 3.0" (921,000-dot) LCD, 720p video capture (monaural sound) at 24 frames per second with D-Movie Mode, Auto Active D-lighting, an 11-point AF system, Nikon's wickedly accurate 3D Color Matrix Metering with Scene Recognition System, an all-glass optical finder, Live View and in-camera editing and filter effects.

Next up is the Nikon D300s, a ruggedly built, weather-resistant DSLR that along with a 12.3MP APS-C format CMOS sensor and a 3.0" (921,000-dot) LCD, features 720p video capture at 24 frames per second, with built-in stereo sound and the option to plug in higher-fidelity external microphones. Other highlights of the D300s include 14-bit RAW capture, still shooting at up to 7 frames per second, a 51-point AF system, a 1005-Pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II exposure system and dual card slots—one for CF and another for SD/SDHC.

The Nikon D300s is available as a body only or with an 18-200mm VR II zoom lens.

 The Nikon D7000 is the most recent in Nikon's mid-range lineup. Among its features are a 16.2MP APS-C-format CMOS sensor, which is powered by an EXPEED 2 image processor, a 3.0" LCD, ISO sensitivity up to 25,600, 1080p video capture with D-Movie, 6-frame-per-second burst rates for up to 100 exposures, dual card slots for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, 14-bit RAW capture, a 39-point AF system, a 2016-pixel RGB 3D Matrix Metering system and magnesium-alloy top plate and rear body covers with weatherproof seals all around.

Nikon's D7000 is available as a body only as well as in numerous kits, including a choice of a D7000 and an 18-105 DX VR zoom, a 70-300mm AF-S VR zoom, an 18-105 DX VR zoom and a 70-300mm AF-S VR zoom,  a 14-24mm/2.8 wide zoom, a 70-200mm/2.8G AF-S ED VR II, or a 28-300mm/3.5-5.6G ED VR zoom.

It's also worth mentioning that each of the above Nikon cameras is compatible with more than 60 Nikkor optics, from fisheye to ultra-long telephoto.

Canon

From Canon we have two mid-range DSLR offerings, the first one being the Canon EOS 60D. The EOS 60D packs a slew of features including a DIGI4-powered 18MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, a variable-angle 3.0" LCD, a 63-Zone metering system, 1080p HD video, up to 5.3 frame-per-second burst rates, 14-bit RAW capture and in-camera RAW processing to JPEG.

The Canon EOS 60D, which is compatible with almost all Canon EF and EF-S optics, is available as a body only, with an 18-135mm zoom, and with an 18-200mm zoom.

 

 Able bodied is a good way to describe Canon's EOS 7D, which along with an 18MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, features a 3.0" 921,000-dot LCD, a 19-point AF system, an Intelligent Viewfinder display, a 63-zone iFCL metering system with up to 8 frame-per-second burst rates for up to 126 images, ISO sensitivity up to 12,800, a DIGIC 4 image processor, 14-bit RAW capture, weatherproof magnesium-alloy construction and full 1080p video capture with the option to plug in a higher-fidelity stereo mic.

The Canon EOS 7D is available as a body only, with a 28-135mm IS zoom, or with an 18-135mm IS zoom. And like the Canon 60D, the EOS 7D is compatible with the full line of Canon EF and EF-S optics.

Sony

From Sony we have a choice of five mid-range camera options, starting with the Sony Alpha a500 kit, which includes an 18-55mm Sony DT AF zoom. The Alpha a500 features a 12.3MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, a tiltable 3.0" LCD, ISO sensitivity up to 12,800, Quick AF Live View with Manual Focus Check, up to 5 frame-per-second burst rates, Auto HDR capture and SteadyShot Inside for sharp, low-light imaging with all Sony and Minolta AF optics. The a500 has dual memory card slots—one for SD/SDHC cards and another for Memory Stick Pro Duo memory cards.

Similar to the Alpha a500 is the Sony Alpha a550, which in addition to all of the features found in the Alpha a500, includes a larger 14.2MP imaging sensor and up to 7 frame-per-second still capture. The Sony Alpha a550 is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm DT AF zoom lens.

The newest addition to Sony's a500-series DSLRs is the Sony Alpha a580, which sports a 16.2MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, a tiltable 921,000-dot LCD, and—a first in the a500-series—full 1080/60i HD video, with stereo sound. Other neat features found on the a580 include ISO sensitivity up to ISO 25,600, continuous burst rates up to 7 frames per second, in-camera HDR capture, and a Handheld Twilight Mode for capturing handheld, flash-free stills in near darkness. The Alpha a580 can also capture in-camera panoramic images, viewable in 3D, when played back on compatible HDTVs.

The Sony Alpha a580 has dual card slots for SD/SDHC/SDXC and Memory Stick Pro Duo and Pro-HG Duo memory cards and is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

The last two Sonys in our mid-range DSLR roundup, the Sony Alpha SLT a33 and Sony Alpha SLT a55, are truly ground-breaking DSLRs. The biggest deal about these two compact cameras is their respective viewing systems, which unlike any other DSLRs available today feature a translucent mirror that rather than flipping up and down each time a picture is taken, remains in a vibration-free fixed position and allows the light image to pass through it. Aside from vibration-free still capture with 100% image viewing, the translucent mirror system also allows for blackout-free video capture with full-time autofocusing.

 The "lesser" of the two newbies, the Alpha SLT a33, features a 14.2MP APS-C format CMOS sensor, can capture up to 7 frames per second in JPEG/RAW capture and has a high-definition electronic viewfinder that closely emulates the "look and feel" of a traditional glass optical finder. Other features include a swivel-based, 921,000-dot 3.0" LCD, ISO sensitivity up to 12,800, a Handheld Twilight Mode for handheld low-light shooting, SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization and a 3D panoramic mode for viewing in-camera processed wide field images in 3D on compatible HDTVs. The Sony Alpha a33 is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

The Sony Alpha SLT a55 contains all of the goodies found in the a33, but with a larger 16.2MP imaging sensor, up to 10 frames per second and built-in GPS. The Sony Alpha a55 is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

Both of Sony's SLT Alpha cameras accept SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards and are compatible with all Sony Alpha and Minolta AF lenses. 

Olympus

We have two mid-range DSLRs from Olympus, starting with the Olympus E-30, a FourThirds-format DSLR containing a 12.3MP Live MOS imaging sensor, JPEG/RAW capture, a 2.7" Swivel LCD, in-body image stabilization, 5 frame-per-second continuous shooting, 20 Scene Select modes, Shadow Adjustment Modes, a Digital Level Sensor and dual card slots—one for CF l/II and another for xD cards. The Olympus E-30 is available as a body only or with a 14-42mm ED zoom lens.

 Choice two is the Olympus E-5 (body only), a rugged (splash-proof and dustproof) FourThirds format DSLR that features a 12.3MP Live MOS imaging sensor, JPEG/RAW stills, 720p HD video capture with stereo sound (and a jack for plugging in an optional higher-fidelity stereo mic), 5 frame-per-second continuous shooting, a 3.0" dual-axis swivel-based LCD and dual memory-card slots—one for CF Type l and another for SD/SDHC memory cards.

Both the Olympus E-30 and E-5 are compatible with the full range of FourThirds-format optics.

Panasonic

Another mid-range choice for FourThirds fans is the Panasonic DMC-G10, a micro FourThirds DSLR that comes with a 14-42mm zoom and features a 12.1MP Live CMOS sensor, Double Live View and a dual-axis, swivel-based 3.0' LCD. Other features include an 11-point AF system, 720p HD video, RAW/JPEG stills and dual slots for CF and SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

The Panasonic DMC-G10 is compatible with all Micro FourThirds lenses and FourThirds lenses when used with a FourThirds lens adapter. 

 

Pentax

From Pentax we have a choice of mid-range DSLRs. The Pentax K-7 is a compact, rugged and weatherproof DSLR that features a 14.6MP CMOS sensor, JPEG/RAW still capture, 720p HD video with an input jack for a higher-fidelity stereo mic (not included) and a 3.0” LCD.
Other features found on the Pentax K-7 include a 77-segment metering system, in-camera image stabilization that works with all lenses, an all-glass pentaprism with 100% image area (rare in this class!), and 7 frame-per-second continuous shooting. The Pentax K-7 is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm zoom lens.

Last on our list is the recently announced Pentax K-5, which while similar in size and construction to the Pentax , features a 16.3MP CMOS sensor, ISO sensitivity up to 51,200(!!!), and up to 7 frame-per-second continuous shooting. Other features found on the Pentax K-5 include a 3.0” 921,000-dot LCD, 1080p video with a 3.5mm stereo jack for external stereo mics (optional), 14-bit RAW capture with in-camera A/D conversion, a 77-segment metering system, 100% image viewing through its all-glass pentaprism, full weatherproofing and as with the Pentax K-7, compatibility with all current and past Pentax K-mount optics as well as Pentax 645 and 6x7 lenses with adapters. The Pentax K-5 is available as a body only or with an 18-55mm zoom.


A Selection of Mid-Range DSLRs Available at B&H
  Sensor LCD Max FPS Imaging Formats Max ISO ShutterRange (Flash Sync) Bit Depth Memory
Nikon D90

12.3MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(921,000-dot)

 4.5 fps

 JPEG/RAW

720p Video

 ISO 6400

 30- 1/4000

(1/200 Sync)

12-bit  SD/SDHC
Nikon D300s

12.3MP

(APS-C)

 3"  7 fps

 JPEG/RAW/TIFF

720p Video

 ISO 6400

 30 - 1/8000

(1/250 Sync)

14-bit

 SD/SDHC & CF

(Dual Slots)

Nikon D7000

16.2MP

(APS-C)

3" 6 fps (up to 100 frames)

JPEG/RAW

1080p Video

ISO 6400

30 - 1/8000

 (1/250 Sync)

14-bit

SD/SDHC/SDXC

(Dual Slots)

Canon 60D

18MP

(APS-C)

 3"  5.3 fps

 JPEG/RAW/sRAW

 1080p Video

 ISO 12,800

 30 - 1/8000

(1/250 Sync)

14-bit  SD/SDHC/SDXC
Canon 7D

18MP

(APS-C)

 3"  8 fps

 JPEG/RAW

1080p Video

 ISO 12,800

30 - 1/8000

(1/250 Sync)

14-bit  CF I/II

Sony Alpha a500

(Kit only)

12.3MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(Tiltable)

 5 fps

 JPEG/RAW

 ISO 12,800

30 -1/4000

(1/160 Sync)

 12-bit

Memory Stick Pro Duo

SD/SDHC

(Dual Slots)

Sony Alpha a550

14.2MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(Tiltable)

 7 fps  JPEG/RAW  ISO 12,800  

30 -1/4000

(1/160 Sync)

 12-bit  

Memory Stick Pro Duo

SD/SDHC

(Dual Slots)

Sony Alpha a580

16.2MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(Tiltable)

  7 fps

 JPEG/RAW

1080p Video

 ISO 12,800  

30 -1/4000

(1/160 Sync)

 12-bit  

Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro HG Duo

SD/SDHC/SDXC

(Dual Slots)

Sony Alpha a33

14.2MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(Tiltable)

 7 fps  JPEG/RAW

1080/60i Video

(Stereo Sound)

ISO 25,600

 30 - 1/4000

 12-bit  

Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro HG Duo

SD/SDHC/SDXC

Sony Alpha a55

16.3MP

(APS-C)

 3"

(Tiltable)

 10 fps   JPEG/RAW

1080/60i Video

(Stereo Sound)

ISO 25,600  

 30 - 1/4000

12-bit  

Memory Stick Pro Duo/Pro HG Duo

SD/SDHC/SDXC

Olympus E-30 

12.3MP

(FourThird)

 2.7" Swivel  5 fps JPEG/RAW ISO 3200

 60-1/8000

(1/250 Sync)

12-bit

 CF & xD

(Dual Slots)

Olympus E-5 12.3MP

(FourThird)

 3" Swivel   5 fps

JPEG/RAW

720p Video

(Stereo Sound)

ISO 6400  60-1/8000

(1/250 Sync)

12-bit  CF & SD/SDH

(Dual Slots)

Panasonic DMC-G10 

 12.1MP

(FourThird)

 3"  3.2 fps  

JPEG/RAW

720p Video

(Mono Sound)

ISO 6400  60-1/4000 12-bit  SD/SDHC/SDXC
Pentax K-5

 16.3MP

(APS-C)

 3"  7 fps  

JPEG/RAW

1080p Video

 ISO 51,200

30 - 1/8000

(1/180 Sync)

14-bit  SD/SDHC/SDXC
Pentax K-7  14.6MP  3"  5.2 fps  

JPEG/RAW

1080p Video

 ISO 6400  

30 - 1/8000

(1/180 Sync)

12-bit  SD/SDHC

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The Panasonic G10 is an entry-level camera.  Why you included it here is bizarre. It is the lowest spec'd of all the currently available cameras in Panasonic's M4/3 line.

 The TAG above lists the D700 as mid-level and then talks about the D7000.  Looks like they forgot a zero in the Tag.  The D700 is most certainly NOT a mid level DSLR !!

I am all set to buy the Canon 7D with a couple lenses and have been for almost a year waiting for "things" Now comes the 60D, short one DIGIC chip, so perhaps it works a little slower than the 7D and only 5.3 fPS vs 8, but I am not shooting sports events or the like.

I am trying now, with those two items in consideration, to justify getting the 7D.  Besides what I mentioned, what am I going to lose by going for the 60D???  The difference in price may be what I mentioned, but hey, the difference in price can buy maybe a nice little fast lens, or a fishtank for something to shoot (and a quick dinner snack :-)

I am just thinking outloud. The 60D does look rather attractive at the moment, and I am hungry!