Category Archives: Nikon

Mixed Feelings About the New Nikon Df

I’m a Nikon shooter and it’s a given that when Nikon announces a new full frame DSLR I’ll be following the news closely. I have to admit that I felt a bit disappointed when I first read the details on Nikon’s new Df camera.

At any rate, for those who haven’t seen the info elsewhere, here’s the details:

Nikon-Df-silver-front

 

(images all grabbed from here)

Essentially, the Nikon Df is Nikon taking the sensor from the D4 and putting it into a body that resembles their classic F series film SLR cameras. Here are some of the key specs:

  • Solid, magnesium-alloy construction with weather-sealing
  • 16.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor (same as the one in Nikon D4)
  • ISO sensitivity range of 100-12,800 (boost down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 204,800)
  • Shutter speed range of 30-1/4000s, flash sync-speed 1/200s
  • 39-point AF system (same as the one in Nikon D610), 9 cross-type sensors, focuses down to f/8
  • 2016-pixel RGB image sensor, full non-AI-S lens metering
  • EXPEED 3 processor
  • Large 3.2″ LCD screen with 921,000 dot resolution
  • Pentaprism optical viewfinder with 100% coverage and approximately 0.7x magnification
  • SD card slot
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed up to 5.5 frames per second
  • Measures in at 143.5 x 110 x 66.5mm
  • Weighs 760g with battery and memory card
  • $2749 body-only, $2999 with the new Special Edition AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens

(specs from here)

Nikon-Df-top

 

I think that in the wake of some of the major mirrorless camera announcements recently (I’m thinking especially of Sony’s AR7 and Olympus’s OM-D E-M1) people were expecting that this might also be a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder.  So when the official announcement came out revealing it was a “traditional” DSLR with no EVF and no video capabilities, some people were outraged.

You think “outrage” is too strong a word for a reaction to a press release? Don’t forget how passionate some people get about gear. Like this guy:

Time to get off the fence I think. I absolutely hate it and wouldn’t be seen dead carrying one …

Well, fortunately, there are no Gear Police forcing you to buy and use gear you don’t want.

Nikon-Df-back

 

I think a lot of people have forgotten about Nikon’s D700. It’s only out of production a couple of years, but when it was first released, people went nuts for it. Why? Because they took the sensor and guts out of the expensive D3 camera and essentially shoved them into a D300 body and sold it for not quite half the price of the D3.

When the D4 came out, everyone thought Nikon would do something to follow up on the D700, but that never happened. The D800 and D600 (and now D610) were clearly not that camera. So one might say that the Df is.  Because it’s got the same sensor as the D4 at not quite half the price in a body that may not be small or light but is definitely smaller and lighter than the D4.

Here’s the other thing for me. The reason I loved shooting with the Fuji X-series cameras was the beauty of the control layout. I like dials. I don’t like digging through menus. It made me feel very connected to the camera and the whole shooting process. The Nikon Df will shoot G series lenses, which have no aperture ring, but every other key function has a dedicated dial (and presumably aperture is adjusted via the unlabelled wheel top right rear).

An EVF, perhaps a hybrid viewfinder such as one finds on some of the Fuji X cameras, would have been exceptionally nice, especially given that Nikon’s LiveView is problematic. Video? Not an issue for me; I think in the year and a half that I’ve owned my d800, I’ve shot under 5 minutes of video.  Not pocket-sized? Not meant to be.

Reports are that initial pre-orders are low. I have no way of knowing how many Df’s Nikon was expecting to sell.  I have no way of knowing if Nikon is expecting this to be a best-seller or a niche product, which is really what it is.

Will I buy one? No. But that’s because US$3,000 for a second camera is totally beyond my budget.  Would I like to own this camera? I think the answer is yes. I think that if they didn’t goof up the insides, then the D4 sensor, smaller body, extensive controls and smaller price should add up to a device capable of creating some great images.

 

 

 

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Nikon’s Mirrorless Cameras – Dying?

Nikon released financial results recently that were way down, mostly due to lack of sales of their mirrorless cameras – the Nikon 1 series.  Following the announcement, the stock took a beating.  A few random thoughts on all of this.

First off – camera manufacturers were behind the curve in figuring out that smartphones were going to rapidly disrupt the lower end of their market.  Why spend a couple or a few hundred bucks for a pocket-sized point and shoot camera when your iPhone or Galaxy already has a serviceable point and shoot camera?  Not to mention what for some people is the most important feature – you can edit and upload a photo directly from your iPhone to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Very very few dedicated cameras have this sort of feature built in.

At this point, they’ve all realized that to continue to thrive in the market, they have to adjust their strategies by differentiating their products. On the upper end of the market we find DSLRs, which for the most point seem relatively immune from all of this. Everyone understands the differences and most hobbyists want one.

On the lower end of the market, we have a variety of pocket-sized and almost pocket-sized cameras with larger sensors inside, such as the Sony RX100. The average Joe or Josephine doesn’t understand the difference in sensor size and doesn’t care. But hobbyists seeking a second camera, advanced amateurs and so on do understand. I don’t know what the sales figures are for the RX100, the latest Ricohs, or similar cameras but I suspect they’re respectable enough.

But then you get to the middle range – the mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. Everyone’s got one now – Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic – you name it.  I don’t know sales figures so I’m making assumptions based on coverage I read around the net.  Fuji, Sony, Olympus and maybe Panasonic are doing okay here – Nikon and Canon aren’t.

I’ve already written about why I’ve turned away from this format.  It comes down to several factors for me, primarily size and price. Once you stick anything other than a pancake lens on one of these, it may still be smaller and lighter than a DSLR but it’s still big enough to require a bag of some sort – and I’ve decided that if I’m gonna take a camera in a bag, it might as well be my D800. Also, having a DSLR and a range of lenses for that, I don’t want to start buying a second range of lenses for a second body. I’d get more mileage from buying a smaller Nikon that would allow me to use the same lenses and accessories. And let’s face it – most of these interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras cost the same as lower end DSLRs, but their performance is no better and often worse (not to say they’re not good, just not as good).

First I had the Sony NEX-7. A great camera. I loved it.  Sometimes I wish I still had it. But when I did actually have it, I was frustrated with the lens selection, with just a couple of lenses capable of properly working with that 24 MP sensor. So I gave up waiting and sold it. Then I had the Fuji X-Pro1. Loved it. This camera had better ergonomics and controls than anything else in its class. But the lenses were too damned expensive, costing as much as DSLR lenses. And at the time Lightroom did a miserable job of processing the RAW files. So I gave up and sold it. Finally I went with the Olympus OMD. Also a lovely piece of kit. But with any decent lens it was huge – and yet offered a smaller sensor and poorer low light/high ISO performance than the Sony or the Fuji. I didn’t have the lenses I wanted for it and couldn’t afford them. So I sold it. (Luckily Hong Kong has such a huge secondary market that one can sell used cameras for respectable prices fairly easily.)  I took the money I got from selling the Olympus, bought the pocket-sized Sony RX100 (which does outperform my iPhone) and had a lot of money left over to bank.

I think Nikon really stumbled badly with the Nikon 1. A crappy looking camera, a smaller sensor, and not compatible with my other Nikon stuff right out of the box. (I understand the science behind this. Doesn’t change my feeling, even if you find that vaguely irrational.)  But Nikon has rarely built successful cameras that weren’t DSLRs. They’ve never dominated the field the way you’d think they could. Instead of being #1 or #2, they’re probably a distant 5th or 8th.  All I had to do was see this chart to know I would never even consider a Nikon 1:

sensor-sizes-comparison

 

(Chart from here.)  For all the night time shooting I do, for the importance I place on low light/high ISO performance, this was a total turn-off.  Yes, my Sony RX100’s sensor is about the same size, but at least it fits in my pocket.

With this in mind, I’d like to share two recent excerpts from two other bloggers – one of whom gets it and one who obviously does not.

Let’s start with the guy who doesn’t. Steve Huff.

People were expecting more from the 1 system at launch. Namely, a larger sensor. Those who never owned or tried one trashed it and sadly, it got a bad rep for no reason. By the time real reviews came out with real samples and showing what the Nikon 1 system could do, it was too late. V1′s were being cleared out and sold dirt cheap, and THEN they sold in mass amounts.  I LOVE my V system and it gives me better out of camera colors than any camera I own as well as the fastest performance.

And now the guy who gets it, Thom Hogan.

I’ve been scratching my head lately trying to reconcile Nikon’s decisions in the Nikon 1 line. Let’s see:

  • Make lower end products (e.g. S1, 11-27.5mm), but keep DSLR-level prices.
  • Reduce parts count by an order of magnitude, but charge same price as DSLRs.
  • Make high end lenses (18.5mm f/1.8, 32mm f/1.2).
  • Make a high end camera that costs almost as much as a D7100, but leave off high end features.
  • Talk about marketing to women, but not really doing it.
  • Improve the FT1 autofocus but don’t really market it (e.g. just update the Web site downloads and hope people notice).
  • Fire sale price zips the cameras out of the store (well, maybe not the J1), but regular price has them sitting on shelves.

From a marketing and positioning standpoint, the Nikon 1 is a complete failure. First, the camera pricing was ridiculous. Taking needed shooting controls out of the high-end model, also ridiculous. No real sharing of accessories with the main Nikon lineup, again ridiculous. Mostly expensive, high-specification lenses for a line that’s had four out of six cameras entry level, strange.

The J1 is still around and selling for US$400 for the two-lens kit, brand new. That has to be the best <US$500 compact camera available (though the fire sale on EOS M gives it a run for the money). Got a compact camera budget but a DSLR-like quality fetish? Get a J1 while they’re still available. Have we heard Nikon say that? Of course not. Because Nikon sells 24 different compact cameras and 12 different DSLRs right now. If you’ve got a compact budget, Nikon wants to sell you a compact. If you have a DSLR quality fetish, they want to sell you a DSLR. Strangely enough, Nikon has done everything they can to not sell you a Nikon 1 and now are perplexed as to why you won’t buy one.

Really, I’m as die hard a Nikon fan as you’ll find and I spend far more time looking (and lusting) at Fuji’s X series.  I’d buy a Fuji X100s if I could afford it. And I wonder what their X-Pro2, whenever it comes, will do. And sometimes I wonder what Sony has coming next in their NEX series. I’d almost consider buying that Leica X Vario camera, if it wasn’t priced so high.

I love my Nikon D800. It is the best camera I’ve ever owned. I’ve had it over a year and feel no desire to part with it. (For that matter, I didn’t want to part with my D700 either, but I needed to sell it to have the money for the D800.)  I’d like to feel that same love for a smaller, every-day-walking-around camera as well.  But the technology just isn’t there yet.

 

 

 

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Stuff I’m Selling

I’ve just posted ads over on DC Fever for a few items but if you see something listed here that’s of interest, feel free to contact me directly.  I’m only selling these in Hong Kong and not willing to ship them – especially not to your son who’s a medical student in Nigeria.

  • Olympus OM-D E-M5 Micro Four Thirds camera with M.Zuiko 12-50mm  f3.5-6.3 kit lens
  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 ASPH lens for Micro Four Thirds
  • Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens
  • Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens
  • Nikon AF-S VF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED lens
  • Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens

Out of all of these, it pains me the most to sell off the Nikon 14-24mm.  It’s part of what some refer to as the “holy trinity” of Nikon’s f/2.8 professional zooms. It’s an amazing lens but I don’t use it that often and need the cash more right now.

I’m also rather sad to part with the 105mm lens though truth be told, I’m hard-pressed to recall the last time I used it.  Selling it will leave me without a macro lens but I don’t seem to shoot macro.

And that Panasonic Leica. As others have noted, the lens is so good that it almost justifies getting into M4/3 just to be able to use this lens. Except I’ve found the Olympus to be too large for my purposes and I am not in a financial position to start investing in a whole series of M4/3 lenses so that’s pretty much that.

As I said, please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in any of this gear or share with your friends if you think you know someone who might want some of this.

 

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Great Editorial About Nikon

As followers of this site are aware, I’m no longer really posting photo news or links to other sites.  But now and then I come across something so good that I have to bring it to your attention. Here’s one of them, an editorial written by Nasim Mansurov over at Photography Life about Nikon – about great products, bizarre product decisions and bad quality assurance.  The article makes several key points and I’m going to post some excerpts here but you should really read the whole thing.  The first bit is about some of the features on the D7100 vs. the D600.

By using the 51 point autofocus system on the D7100, Nikon demonstrated that it costs nothing to use a high-end autofocus system on any camera. So using the lower-end AF system on the D600 was intentional, similar to the 1/4000 shutter speed or the 1/200 sync speed limits. Nikon clearly did not want the D600 to compete with the D800, so it crippled the camera by stripping off important features. Did you really think it was a move to keep the cost of the D600 low? You would be very naive if you thought so. Even if there is a cost difference, it is very minor. Not in the hundreds or thousands of dollars that Nikon wants you to think.

The small buffer limitation of the D7100 is also equally intentional. When the D7100 was announced, I made a hasty statement that it possibly marked the death of a high-end DX line. After I discovered the buffer limit on the D7100, however, I reconsidered my thoughts. Why would Nikon intentionally cripple the D7100′s buffer capacity? Another ingenious game by Nikon’s marketing – get plenty of attention to the D7100 so that a lot of people buy it, but cripple it enough for sports and wildlife photographers to either have them switch to the expensive D4, or wait until a D400 comes out (if it comes out). Do you really think that extra buffer memory is going to cost a lot of money? Of course it doesn’t.

But I think the part that really grabbed my attention and made me want to share this post is further down, his “lessons learned.”  They include:

  • Stop pre-ordering gear
  • Use your camera until it dies
  • Don’t pay attention to new product announcements

 

and a couple of other bits as well.

Me, I’m trying to get off the whole consumer merry-go-round thing.  I look back at some of the insane moves I did – things I bought too quick or sold too quick to buy other things – and I’m trying to change my ways. I admit that in no small part this is enforced by my budget, which means thinking more and trying to act less impulsively.  Stay tuned, we’ll see how it turns out.

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Quick Note – Tonight Nikon D800 File Sizes are Killing Me

I shot around 2500 photos across two performances of LiveVibe Hong Kong.   You shoot something like this, you’re shooting burst mode, or at least pressing that shutter button about as often as you can, especially when dancers are doing leaps, spins and other amazing moves.

#1 – Burst mode is useless when you’re shooing RAW.  Even using Lexar 1000x CF cards, the buffer would fill up so soon, writing time to the cards took so long, after doing an initial burst of about 5 photos in a second or two, I was reduced to one picture per second for the next 5 to 10 seconds.  I didn’t want to switch to JPG because the crappy lighting design for the show means I’m gonna need the RAW files to get things to look the way I want.

#2 – Back home, let’s do some math.  2500 RAW files at an average size of 75 meg each = 187.5 gigabytes.  My MacBrook Pro’s SSD is 250 gig and has about 80 gig of free space.  The only external USB drive I’ve got that’s formatted for the Mac at the moment is a 120 gig drive.  I need to hunt down a larger external drive to offload the files from the memory cards.  And if I wasn’t so tired, I would have realized that before I imported half the stuff over, only to find out that I don’t have enough space to import it all.

I know, old news.  Still …

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