What makes a DSLR “professional”?
There aren’t hard and fast rules, but several features set these cameras apart, like beefy alloy bodies, rubberized handgrips, and dependable shutters that can be fired hundreds of thousands of times without a hiccup. They also combine zippy, multipoint autofocus systems with the ability to fire upwards of 10 frames per second, meaning they can track and capture action in ways not possible with consumer models.
Why is it always Canon versus Nikon?
There are other camera companies selling DSLRs—notably Sony, Pentax, and Olympus. But when it comes to professional, $2,000-plus cameras, Canon and Nikon control 97 percent of the market, due mostly to their early dominance in 35 mm, which locked most pros into their lenses. And it’s clear that they care only about each other: Though their previous-generation pro-level shooters were on the market for years, their four newest models, featured here, all have release dates within just months of one another.
How important are megapixels?
No number is more misunderstood or abused than pixel count. What matters more is pixel size, and that’s dependent on sensor size. In two cameras with the same megapixel count, the one with the bigger sensor should produce better photos. In models with equal sensor sizes, the one with fewer megapixels should perform better in low light or at high speeds, and the one with more will capture better detail—if the lighting is good.
Think about how and where you’ll be shooting. The action and variable lighting of reporting and sports photography require the more expensive models with fast motors and fat pixels; the controlled environment of studio work is very friendly to higher-pixel-count models.