Pro models are designed and built for artists, very serious (deep pockets) hobbyists and those who make their living from photography. They are considerably heavier and more durable, more complex and harder to operate, as well as significantly more expensive than semi-pro cameras. But they generally are more versatile and offer greater user control over every shooting aspect. Depending upon the model, they also may offer considerably higher resolution or strikingly faster performance (but not both—at least, not in the same camera). And unlike semi-pro models, most of which come with a built-in flash, no pro model is flash-equipped. Rather, they're designed to work with auxiliary flashes or studio strobe-lights. Or with faster lenses and greater ISO equivalencies, they may take better available light shots.

Figure 2-5: Semi-pro cameras are powerhouse systems with interchangeable lenses and other optional accessories. This Olympus E-1 is shown with an auxiliary battery pack attached to the bottom, to extend how long you can shoot before having to change batteries. (Photo courtesy of Olympus America.)

Generally, pro D-SLRs have physically larger image sensors than semi-pros, and larger usually translates into higher sensitivity, greater dynamic range, and superior image quality (see Chapter 1). Some pro models can fire better than 8 fps and have bigger buffers and faster processing power so they can capture more frames before having to pause to write the images to memory

Unlike semi-pro models, which are generally sold as a kit with a matched lens, most pro cameras are sold as bodies only. The buyer, who almost always is an experienced and knowledgeable photographer, usually selects the brand according to whatever legacy lenses and accessory lenses he happens to own and use. For example, if he has a considerable investment in Canon bodies and lenses, he would most likely buy a pro camera that uses a Canon camera as its front end. This allows him to protect his investment in lenses, flashes, filters, and other Canon-specific accessories. Equally important, since he is most familiar with Canon gear, he'll feel right at home making the transition to digital with a Canon body very similar to his Canon film camera bodies.

Pro camera bodies cost between $3,200 and $5,000, lens not included, and typically offer resolutions of 4-14 megapixels. Current pro models include the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, Kodak DSC SLR/c (Canon-based), Kodak DSC SLR/n (Nikon-based), Nikon D2H (see Figure 2-6), and Nikon D2X.

Figure 2-6: This Nikon D2H is a professional's tool, which means that it's heavy and heavy duty, with features that provide control over every shooting situation and aspect. (Photo courtesy of Nikon USA.)
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