Oct 242013
 

When baby boomers like myself gather together and talk photography, we often lament the demise of SLR cameras in terms of their size and weight. As we get older, the appeal of lugging a DSLR and the lenses to cover all photographic eventualities becomes less and less; some of us can no longer cope with such a weight of photographic equipment because of health concerns.

When Olympus announced the retro OM-D EM-5 last year, it caused considerable interest among us oldies, many of whom cut their photographic teeth with the original Olympus OM-1. But the OM-D is a micro four-thirds camera and we want what we had in the past, namely full-frame capability but without the accompanying bulk.

I have long failed to understand why camera manufacturers seemed reluctant to offer a full-frame DSLR based on the design of the old SLR cameras.

If rumor is to be believed, it appears Nikon are about to step up to the plate and offer a DSLR based on the classic Nikon FM2 design.

New Nikon camera rumored to be based on the Nikon FM2

Return of a classic? Picture courtesy of Nikon Rumors

I can imagine many older Nikon shooters are salivating at the prospect.

I have never shot with a Nikon but started my journalism career when the press camera of choice was always a Nikon. When I had to replace my gear following a burglary, I toyed with the idea of going with Nikon but the Minolta XD-7 offered more bangs for the buck and also felt better in my hands. I had been shooting with a Minolta SRT 303 for several years previously. If only Minolta were still in business. I am sure they would have already delivered what a great many photographers want in a camera.

According to Nikon Rumors, the new Nikon will feature:

 Nikon FM2 design

16.2MP 36 x 23.9 full-frame sensor, the same as the D4

2016-pixel RGB image sensor

Expeed 3 processor

Native ISO range: 100-12,800 (incl. ISO 50 and ISO 108,200)

9-cell framing grid display

3D color matrix metering II

Standard F mount

3.2″ LCD screen

Pentaprism viewfinder

5.5 fps for up to 100 shots

SD memory card

Battery: EN-EL14

Weight: 765g

Dimensions: 143.5 x 110 x 66.5mm

It will come with a new AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens

NO video capability

The last point is particularly pleasing. A great many older photographers could happily live without the video capability that is seen as a vital ingredient of DSLR cameras these days.

Mark Dubovoy writing for Luminous Landscape states:

Many photographers who are not interested in video (present company included) are beginning to get quite annoyed at the concept of convergence because it burdens them with additional complexity in their cameras with a series of functions and buttons that are completely unnecessary for still photography.

“To make matters worse, often times the video functions spell disaster in terms of accidental activation and battery consumption, as well as compromises that result in bad ergonomics for still photography. It can also make the cameras and lenses more expensive because of additional design work; buttons, dials and electronics; additional software; more expensive focusing or zoom motors for lenses; etc.”

I am glad to see that I am not alone in wanting a camera that does not include video capability. If that view makes me a photography dinosaur then so be it.

It would appear the message expressed by many older photographers has finally gotten through to at least one major camera manufacturer and here is me thinking only Ricoh designed cameras with photographers in mind.

An announcement about the new Nikon is expected in the first week of November, with November 6 being touted as a possible date.

Will Nikon go where others have feared to tread? It looks to be that way.

Jan 062012
 

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest camera of them all?”

If the various photography fora and photography pundits are to be believed then it is the mirrorless Sony NEX camera, either the NEX-5 or NEX-7 versions.

But wait, Fujifilm is believed to be about to announce a follow up to its retro-styled X100 with the X1 Pro that features interchangeable lenses to give the 35 mm equivalent of 28mm, 52.5mm and 90mm. Already it is being compared to the Contax G2 film rangefinder but without Zeiss lenses.

One thing is clear even after just a few days into the New Year, 2012 seems likely to be an interesting year in terms of new cameras.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The year 2012 may also mark a sea change. I know of two photography enthusiasts who are contemplating ditching their high-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs for the Sony NEX. I too have been giving serious thought to making the Ricoh GXR with the A12 M-mount my main camera.

The main sticking point for me is the electronic viewfinder (EVF). They may well be the viewfinder of choice in cameras to come but I am an optical viewfinder (OVF) person. To me a camera isn’t really a camera unless it has an OVF. I know I am living in the past and fearful of embracing the brave new world of EVF mirrorless cameras.

If EVFs are the way of the future, why have Canon and Nikon announced new flagship cameras, the 1DX and D4 respectively, featuring OVFs? Do professional photographers have different demands than those of photography enthusiasts?

I tend to regard the equipment used by press photographers as a yardstick for the kind of camera I would want to use. I worked in newspaper journalism for 14 years, including a spell as a sports/news photographer, and that probably influences my judgment with regard to cameras and lenses.

Back in November, Reuters posted its 100 top pictures of 2011. Each picture was accompanied by a statement by the photographer including the camera and lens used for the shot, as well as the exposure.

Earlier this week, I went through all 100 photographs, noting down the camera and lens used. The list I compiled contained quite a surprise.

Back in my journalism days, the press photographer’s camera of choice was always a Nikon – F3, F4 and F5. Imagine my surprise when Nikon cameras accounted for only eight of the Reuters Top 100 photographs.

Canon DSLR cameras accounted for 84 of the photographs, with the Canon 5D Mk II used in 38 of the shots; the Canon 1D Mk IV accounting for another 16 and the Canon 1D Mk III a further nine, the same number as the Canon 5D. So these four Canon cameras accounted for 72 of the photographs.

For all the talk of the advantages of Micro Four-Thirds and Mirrorless cameras, these types of cameras did not feature, save for the one shot taken with a Leica M9.

I think the camera market is likely to divide into three distinct sectors – professionals, enthusiasts and consumers. The former will continue with the high-end DSLRS, as will many of the enthusiasts but the consumer may well give up on DSLRS in favour of the more compact and convenient mirrorless cameras.

The DSLR has a tremendous hold over me and I will likely wait and see what Canon offers in the shape of its replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II. Rumour has it that the Canon 5D Mark III will be announced in March. However, I recall a similar forecast being made this time last year and nothing materialized.

If I am considered a technological dinosaur then so be it. For me photography is all about lining up a shot by gazing through an OVF. It is what I have been used to for more than 30 years and I am reaching the age where I like my comfort zone.

But at the end of the day, the type of camera matters little in the great scheme of photography. It is what lies behind the camera that is the most important factor in creating photographs of merit and impact.

I can never understand why some people get terribly upset when their camera of choice is criticized – Leica users are notorious for going on the defensive in this regard. And the battle of supremacy between Canon and Nikon will rage for eternity among some of their respective users just as long as photographic fora exist on the Internet. What would these people do if Canon and Nikon ever merged as companies or one took over the other? Methinks lots of tears before bedtime.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

 

Dec 162011
 

The Sony NEX-7 received its review from Digital Photography Review, the place where loud obnoxious people like to pretend they are professional photographers, without offering a shred of evidence to support their claim, and pour scorn on the images submitted by enthusiasts, particularly those owning Leica M9 cameras. I doubt a true professional photographer, certainly not the ones I have known, would conduct themselves in such a manner.

This week, dpreview gave the Sony NEX-7, the latest offering in the new breed of mirrorless cameras, a huge thumbs up. The reviews by dpreview provide a useful yardstick in assessing a camera, although the fan-boys of various camera manufactures regard its words as gospel.

The review by dpreview is a good source of reference and an instant port of call for anyone wishing to know the specifications of the 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor Sony NEX-7.

I found an article by working professional photographer Peter Sills far greater benefit along with the hands-on experience of esteemed photographer and photoblogger, Michael Reichmann at his Luminous Landscape Web site.

Sills took his copy of the NEX-7 with him on a trip to Cuba. He also took along his trusty workhorse, the Canon 5D Mk II. Sills shot with both cameras but increasingly favoured the smaller Sony over the Canon.

The Sony came into its own for taking candid photographs in situations where the larger Canon would become too noticeable and kill the moment.

Sills concludes:

I am now totally convinced that the future of digital photography will incorporate high-quality EVF in almost all cameras. This is just the beginning of this technology. Also, the need for the large SLR may also be starting to end. Given the capabilities of the new mirror less cameras, I see no reason for overly large bodies (except that they can currently support much larger batteries).

I am already planning my return trip to Cuba. The country is a photographer’s dream. My Canon gear will be staying at home.

Over at Luminous Landscape, Reichmann has just concluded a rolling review of the Sony NEX-7, even to the extent of comparing its resolution with the Leica M9.

Reichmann concludes:

The NEX-7 is the most exciting camera that I’ve had the pleasure of using in the past five years.

Praise indeed and Reichmann then goes on to list the NEX-7 features that impressed him the most.

I have to admit the NEX-7 has aroused my interest, partly because of its size but more importantly because of the link between Sony and Carl Zeiss lenses. Zeiss has already produced one E-mount lens for the NEX range of cameras, a 24mm/f/1.8, which is the equivalent of the 36mm lens in 35 mm format because of the Sony’s 1.5 crop factor. I expect other Zeiss lenses will follow. The NEX-7/Zeiss 24mm lens combination will set you back $2199.98 and is not expected to be readily available until January.

Interestingly enough, B&H has the Canon EOS 5D Mk II body on offer for $1995.99. The price also includes a 16GB Sandisk Extremem Pro CF card, Lowepro Adventura 170 Shoulder Bag & Red Giant B&H Video Production Software Bundle ($719.85 Total Value) .

Until the NEX-7, the only mirrorless camera that appealed to me was the Ricoh GXR, mainly because I am familiar with Ricoh cameras and also Ricoh boasts the one of the best UIF for photographers.

The NEX-7, however, has one distinct advantage over Ricoh’s GXR, the in-built EVF. I find the thought of having to attach an electronic viewfinder to the hot-shoe of the GXR offputting and, besides, the NEX viewfinder far surpasses the Ricoh one in terms of image quality.

My great hope is that Ricoh responds to the NEX by producing a GXR II with a comparable in-built EVF. I would much prefer a Ricoh offering and the A12 m-mount affords the opportunity to mount manual Zeiss lenses. Ricoh also trumps the Sony camera when it comes to the customization of camera settings. The NEX at present allows no customized settings.

At the moment it is all academic to me but I like to keep my eye on future camera options.

I am not sure I would agree with Sills’ assertion that the DSLR is about to become extinct. I can see how people who own a DSLR for family snaps may find the compact and lighter mirrorless cameras more to their liking. I can see professional photographers whose genre is street photography favouring something like the NEX-7 but in terms of press, sports and fashion photography, a high-end DSLR will always reign supreme.

Reports of the death of the DSLR are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for an item.

 

Jul 122011
 

At the weekend, every time I brought out my Canon 40D it rained or so it seemed.

On Saturday I planned to take a photograph of a roadside sign that I saw last week when driving back from Camp Milton.

The day started off sunny but the forecast was for rain later, so I faced a balancing act of not going too early in the harsh light but not leaving it too late until the rain came.

At 3:30 pm, the sun was still shining and the fleecy clouds look far from menacing. However that was the view from the back of the house. When I came to set out, the view from the front of the house was a lot different. The sky was slate grey but the clouds were still fairly high. I reckoned the rain could well hold off for half-an hour.

I drove to the location, a journey of 15 minutes, and parked up about 50 yards away. I got out and had only taken two steps when I felt the first spot of rain. I pressed on thinking that if I was quick I could get the shot before the heavens truly opened. I was right but the light was dreadful. I bumped up the ISO on the Canon 40D to ISO 400 and got a shutter speed of 1/6 sec at f/5.6. It was pointless taking a shot. I didn’t want a high ISO or a narrow depth of field.

I could have tried a shot with the Ricoh GRD III but those raindrops were getting more frequent.

On Sunday afternoon, I planned to set off to a different location to reprise a shot I took last Monday. I locked the front door, turned to walk to the car and noticed raindrops hitting the front path. Thwarted again.

The rain eventually eased off and a couple of hours later I was able to get out and take the shot I had in mind but ended up shooting it with the Ricoh GRD III.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I did use the Canon for a second take on this shot. Last week, it was taken in bright sunshine.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

On Sunday, the light was flatter and I lost the heavy shadows.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

The B&W conversions were made with Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop CS3.

The trouble with digital cameras is that they are not as robust as the film cameras of old, with the exception of the top end DSLRs, which are weather-sealed.

When I worked on newspapers in Britain, I recall photographing a football match at Gigg Lane, the home of Bury FC, one winter’s evening when the rain poured down for several hours. I was situated behind the goal for shots of the goalmouth action, if not a goal. When play was down the other end of the field, I cradled my Minolta XD7 and 70 – 210mm zoom inside my Barbour waxed-cotton jacket. A lens hood fitted permanently to the zoom kept raindrops off the lens.

I got well and truly drenched that night. Unloading the film at home, I noticed water in the back of the camera, enough water that it actually poured out. I left the camera, with the back open, in a warm room. By next morning, it was dry and functioned like it had done before.

In similar circumstances, I fear my Canon 40D, like a great many DSLRs, would have simply packed in and probably been damaged beyond repair.

Let’s face it, cameras these days are really computers with lenses attached and no one would set up their PC outdoors, exposed to the elements.

Please help support this site by clicking on the Amazon link on this page if you are shopping for something.