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The DSLR Difference

Low Light Photography

High ISO settings are used to achieve higher shutter speeds either to freeze action or prevent camera shake in hand-help photography. The Konica-Minolta A2 has an Anti-Shake system which reduces camera shake. It turns out that the anti-shake system works exceptionally well. So well that in cases where ISO 1600 does not allow a sufficiently fast shutter speed for hand-held photography with the 20D, the A2 managed to produce quite sharp and noise-free pictures using only ISO 200. This demonstrates that the A2 can be better suited for hand-held low-light photography than the 20D when light-levels are to low for using ISO 1600.

The contrast of images is difficult to quantify because once they are brought to a discretized color-space the ratio of values is the same for any image which includes deep shadows and strong highlights. What we measured then is the dynamic range of each camera. The 20D appears to have about 1/3 stop more dynamic range than the A2 which has 8 stops dynamic range. Subjectively speaking, the 20D also appears to have slightly more gradations in the lowest stop of its dynamic range. This contributes to the 20D's more appealing long-exposure pictures.

Colors produced from both cameras are extremely good. With both camera's default settings, the saturation is stronger on the 20D. This produces appealing pictures but less accurate than the A2's default color. We found that by adjusting in-camera parameters the color saturation can be matched between both cameras. As for automatic white-balance, the A2 produced better results outdoors while the 20D produced better results under artificial lighting. Manual white balance was dead-on with both cameras. As a side note, the multi-segment metering of both cameras produced identical exposure parameters.

All in all, an SLR is not absolutely better than a non-SLR camera, and vice-versa. There are distinct advantages to both, but both are extremely capable and useful photographic tools. Using a non-SLR is significantly simpler (due to its live preview, 100% coverage, compactness and light weight) and more convenient (except for manual focusing). This type of camera is even usable for hand-held low-light photography (for up to 12"x9" prints at ISO 800 or using anti-shake for prints up to 25"x19") and for landscape photography (due to its immense depth of field). DLSR cameras are more useful, despite their weight, for sport photography (due to focusing and continuous-drive speeds), for large prints in any type of lighting that ISO 1600 can handle, and for having countless lenses to chose from.

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