Shoot like a pro - what camera do you need?
So you want to be a professional photographer or maybe you think you already are. Now that you've got the idea you need the kit to go with it, so the first thing that you need know without reading much further is that it ain't going to come cheap.
While there's an excellent second hand market for lenses out there, the trouble with camera bodies is they take a bit of a battering over the years and after a while they start to look pretty dated. 7 years ago, a 4-megapixel camera was top end, but it might not get you so far any more.
Fortunately, the good people of online stock specialist Getty Images have compiled a list of the cameras they consider to be recommended for submissions. Each will produce RAW format files and you might be lucky enough to find that you already own one.
If you're going to get serious about cameras, the first port of call for most consumers is either Nikon or Canon, so it's of little surprise to see both manufactures well represented at the professional end of the market.
1Ds Mark III - £3979.95
It's big, it's heavy and it's the top of the line as far as Canon cameras go. This full frame sensor, 21-megapixel camera (pictured) isn't refreshed very often, but it'll probably take around 4 years to figure out how to use it properly - 5fps shooting, 63-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system.
1Ds Mark II - £1609.95
Top of the line until August 2007, the 1Ds Mark II still has a full frame sensor, but considerably less resolution with still a healthy 16.7 megapixels to play with. Naturally, it's still big and heavy but the biggest loss is probably the LCD screen which is just 2 inches on the diagonal - 4.5fps shooting, 21-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system.
1Ds - £7587.47
The Canon 1Ds is not an easy camera to track down, which might be why the only one we could find costs the same as a reasonable family saloon. Of course, few people would fork out that kind of money for an 11.1-megapixel DSLR even if it is a full frame sensor. No point in buying one with the upgrades around but, if you happen to own one already, rest assured that Getty Images still considers it professional grade - 4fps shooting, 21-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system.
7D - £1046.99
Around 25 per cent lighter and considerably less expensive than the 1Ds Mark II is the Canon EOS 7D DSLR with a cropped 18-megapixel APS-C sensor. The good bits are the Full 1080p video recording at up to 30fps, the 100 per cent viewfinder and the up to 8fps continuous shooting mode. Very tidy and quite affordable - 8fps shooting, 63-zone exposure metering, 19-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
5D Mark II - £1599.99
The 5D Mark II has a similar build to the 7D, but is more about offering a full frame sensor without having to pay the megabucks required for the 1Ds Mark II purchase. There's Full HD movie shooting, 21.1 megapixels at your disposal but all with only a 98 per cent viewfinder size this time - 3.9fps shooting, 35-zone exposure metering, 9-point + 6 assist AF system - FULL REVIEW
5D - £1459.62
Not many people are going to be happy to pay essentially the same price for the lower model. The LCD drops down to 2.5 inches, the resolution to 12.8 megapixels and yet the current market value is just lower by £100 or so. There's no live view mode and no video shooting either - 3fps shooting, 35-zone exposure metering, 9-point + 6 assist AF system.
1D Mk IV - £3399.99
Announced in 2009, the 1D Mk IV is very much a flagship Canon DSLR and the first to bring consumer sex appeal to a professional camera. While the 16.1-megapixel sensor isn't quite full frame it is the bigger APS-H size with a 1.3x crop. It has two image processors to crunch the numbers, does Full HD video and has a 100 per cent size viewfinder and live mode as well as a seriously impressive burst - 10fps shooting, 63-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system.
1D Mk III - £2800.99
Take the video shooting, live mode and a few megapixels out of the Mk IV and you're looking at the older model that is the Mk III. Out in 2007, it has a 10.1-sensor and downgraded set of processors but is still a pretty fierce machine - 10fps shooting, 63-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
1D Mk II N - £2218.92
The Mk II N is the successor to the Mk II - which, curiously, Getty Images hasn't mentioned - and only differs in that it has a 2.5-inch LCD and a better buffer for image processing. They each have an 8.2-megapixel APS-H sensor, a single image processor and an ISO up to 1600 - 8.5fps shooting, 21-zone exposure metering, 45-point AF system.
550D (Rebel T2i) - £574.36
The Canon 550D is the lowest entry into the mid-range consumer world of Canon that Getty Images is happy to recommend for high-end stock images. Released in 2010, it has an 18-megapixel APS-C sensor with a 1.6x crop, HD video shooting and a nice 3-inch LCD with live mode to go with it. It may not have quite the raw power of the bigger boys but it costs and weighs about half as much - 3.7fps shooting, 63-zone exposure metering, 9-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
50D - £569.95
Considerably older and yet "higher end" than the 550D is the 50D and its 40 and 30D compatriots. The 50D has a 15.1-megapixel APS-C sensor, 3-inch LCD with live view but no video mode to go with it. All the same, the results are decent as backed up by a sturdy image processor - 6.3fps shooting, 35-zone exposure metering, 9-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
40D - £640.77
The 40D was the first of the prosumer range to come with the bigger 3-inch LCD and to go into double figures in terms of resolution. Its RAW file format is also a higher bit-rate than the 30D as well. As with its siblings it sits somewhere in between the chunky professional range and the lightweight 550D for body size - 6.3fps shooting, 35-zone exposure metering, 9-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
30D - £684
At the bottom of the pile is the 2006 Canon 30D with its 8.2-megapixel sensor. It still has plenty of good about it and is doubtless still a decent camera to have even if the headline specs don't cause the ripples of delight they once did - 5fps shooting, 9-point AF system
You can pretty much buy the same models as above pound for pound in the Nikon format - and whatever you might read to the contrary, both camera makers are just as good as each other. However, if you prefer things this way, then these are the pro machines to watch out for.
D3s - £3589
One of the Nikon flagship models, the D3s is the latest professional grade DSLR and is the only one of them to feature 720p HD shooting as is the style in Nikon camera video. It has 12.1-megapixel full frame sensor redesigned to offer ISO boost up to 102,400 - a massive help for light conditions - 9fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D3x - £4798
There's no video on offer with the D3X but it's all about the high resolution. The full frame sensor is packed with 24.4 megapixels and both shooting burst and ISO drop a little, but otherwise it's the same kettle of fish as the big old D3s - 5fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D3 - £2995.95
Launched in 2007, the Nikon D3 is a 12.1-megapixel, full frame DSLR with plenty of extra dials to play with on its 1.2kg body. As with the newer models, it has a 100 per cent viewfinder, a 3-inch LCD screen and still maintains a respectable ISO of up to 6400 given its age - 9fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D2xs - £2406
The Nikon D2Xs is the upgrade to the older flagship shooter that is the D2X. The X once again refers to high resolution which at the time was considered to be 12.4 megapixels. It's a full frame camera with a 2.5-inch LCD screen and typically hulking 1kg plus body - 5fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF system.
D2x - £649 (used)
Very hard to find one of these new but, if you can, a firmware upgrade will more or less turn it into the D2Xs. The differences are largely minor, as you might have gathered, but include a low contrast AF system, black and white mode and a better buffer for continuous shooting - 5fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF system.
D700 - £1649
The D700 is the least expensive of the Nikon full framers and it comes in just below the big one at 995g. There's no video shooting but there's plenty to play with including live view mode, a respectably high ISO and it'll rattle off 8fps if you have the external battery pack. Shame about the 96 per cent full viewfinder - 5/8fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system
D300s - £1089.95
If you'd rather not carry around quite the same bulk, the D300s is Nikon's top of the line DX (1.5x crop) size sensor DSLR. It shoots 720p HD video onto the 12.3-megapixel sensor and even has a stereo mic and mic input to go with it as well as all the power you'd expect from a pro machine - 7/8fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D300 - £999.82
Considered a benchmark in its class when it arrived in 2007, the Nikon D300 is the same as above minus the inclusion of video recording and the tiny odd tweak. It's still got a 3-inch LCD, it still rattles them off and it's still a great camera to use - 6/8fps continuous shooting, 51-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D200 - £420
The old school predecessor to the D300 is the D200 which was first seen in 2005. The 10.2-megapixel sensor, 2.5-inch LCD and ISO up to 3200 were obviously a big deal at the time, but no great shakes now. All the same, it still has plenty to crow about compared to the D80, D50 and D40 being more robust having a larger buffer and being less prone to sensor exposure error - 5fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
D90 - £569.95
The D90 was the very first DSLR to shoot video and it does so at 720p at 24fps with mono sound. It has a 12.3-megapixel sensor with the APS-C crop. It still reigns as the top Nikon prosumer model designed as a step up for those that dare and it comes with a high-res LCD and all sorts of other worthy technology to make your shots look better - 5.5fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
The professional opting for a Leica is certainly going to get something very different. The German company makes digital versions of the old rangefinder cameras which cost lots and lots of money, but ooze the style. There's not so much choice out there but what you'll find will probably knock your socks off all the same.
M9 - £4945
The pinnacle of the rangefinder experience comes in the form of the Leica M9 and its 18.5-megapixel full frame sensor. It weighs around half as much as all the big DSLRs, but still has room for a 2.5-inch screen on the back. It's no Gatling gun but there's still room for stats like an ISO range of 80 to 2500 and you'll certainly stand out from the crowd. Flash not included.
These two, although distinct, are far too similar on the inside to separate. The M8.2 features lots of interesting external design options - don't miss the safari one - and gets the upgrades you can sign up to receive with the M8 anyway. Neither has quite a full frame sensor. It's a 10.3-megapixel Kodak unit with a 1.33x crop. Otherwise, they're essentially the less premium cousins of the M9.
X1 - £1389
The X1 is as entry level as Leica gets. It's all the suave sophistication of a rangefinder camera with beautiful optics at the price of just the one kidney. There's a 12.2-megapixel APS-C sensor waiting inside, along with a manually operated flash which is novel if not that bright. There's also some good image stabilisation technology to help shoot at shutter speeds down as low as 1/15 sec.
E3 - £979.40
The E3 was announced in 2007 and is currently the only professional grade DSLR from Olympus of note. It uses the Four Thirds system with a 10.1-megapixel sensor with a crop factor of 2 compared to a full frame unit. It has an in-body image stabilisation system that will work with any lens and features a 2.5-inch screen as well as a host of respectable specs. That said, it could certainly do with an upgrade - 5fps continuous shooting, 11-point AF system - FULL REVIEW
Pentax has been in a state of some decline for a while, but that hasn't effected the quality of cameras it comes out with; it's just that there's far fewer off them than there used to be. In the interim while the company rediscovers its form, these are the ones to choose from.
K7 - £793.30
The Pentax K7 started shipping in July 2009 and although not the first to many minds, there's still a lot to like about this DSLR. It uses a 14.5-megapixel APS-C size sensor, it has a 3-inch LCD, a viewfinder that covers 100 per cent of the scene. It'll shoot 720p HD video and also uses high dynamic range image composition if that's what you're after - 5.2fps shooting, 77-segment exposure metering - FULL REVIEW
K20D - £553
The K20D is the predecessor to the K7 and was first held aloft to the public in 2008. It has a 14.6-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch screen and is a fair lump at 715g - 3fps shooting, 16-segment exposure metering
Last on the Getty Images list is Sony - purely for alphabetical reasons, of course - but with a lot of good development from the Japanese tech giant here, the DSLRs being produced are gaining some considerable acclaim. If you're not interested now, you probably will be in the future.
Alpha 900 - £1889
The only choice for the professional photographer in the Sony range is the Alpha 900 DSLR. It has a whopping 24.6-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, two BIONZ processors and a really nice Live Preview feature, which allows photographers to test out camera settings as they would affect a captured scene at the flick of a button and only taking a single test shot. It also has a 100 per cent viewfinder and 3-inch screen - 5fps continuous shooting, 9-point AF with 10 assists.
But which camera is your professional shooter of choice? Is yours on the list and which one do you covet if so?