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.

Feb 072012
 

Nikon yesterday announced its replacement for the D700 and the rumours and speculation about the specifications of the D800 came to an end.

The new D800 features a massive 36.3 MP on a full frame sensor. Given the size of files such a huge amount of megapixels will create, I should imagine hard drive manufacturers are rubbing their hands with glee. I just hope they can start making hard drives readily available again and at the prices they were before the flooding in Thailand hit production. Something tells me the prices will be kept high in an attempt to recoup losses.

Canon 40D and Zeiss Planar T* ZE 1,4/50. ©Calvin Palmer 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Nikon announced two versions of the camera — the D800 and the D800E. The latter strips away the anti-aliasing filter, a feature of the Leica M9 and Ricoh GXR A12 M-mount cameras — to increase resolution even further. Actually, the anti-aliasing filter is not physically removed from the D800E but its effects are cancelled. A potential buyer of the D800E will pay $300 more than the D800 for this option.  More details of the D800s can be found at Nikon USA.

B&H is taking pre-orders for the D800 and D800E, expected to be available in March and April respectively. Perhaps B&H might give me a hefty discount for that shameless plug.

But I am a Canon user and likely to remain one for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see how Canon responds to its arch-rival when it   releases details of the long-waited Canon 5D Mark III. Canon users keep waiting and waiting and waiting for details of this camera to be released. Perhaps the announcement of the Nikon D800 will spur Canon into a timely response.

The Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700 were always viewed as head-to-head rivals. When it came to megapixels, the 5D Mark II trounced the D700, offering 21 MP to the latter’s 12.1 MP but Nikon had the edge in terms of low-light ability.

Will Canon surrender to Nikon in the megapixel race or will it respond with an even higher megapixel count in the 5D Mark III to take the wind out of Nikon’s sails?

The greater amount of megapixels is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, 36.3 MP will provide greater detail in photographs and make cropping easier. On the other hand, it will test the resolving attributes of the lenses used and many lenses will fall short of delivering the goods.

One lens manufacturer likely to be able to take advantage of the increased number of megapixesl in the D800s is Zeiss. I would be interested to learn what provision the D800 makes to aid focusing for those photographers choosing to shoot with Zeiss MF lenses.

The D800 will no doubt have many photographers salivating at the prospect of adding it to their photographic gear. Me, I just wish camera manufacturers would get back to basics and provide the digital equivalent of the Nikon F2, Nikon FM, Canon AE-1, Minolta XD7, Olympus OM film cameras.

The video capabilities of the Nikon D800, as with the Canon 5D Mark II, are wasted on me. I am not a videographer and have no desire to use a DSLR as a video camera. It would be most unlikely that the producers of the TV series House would ask me to film an episode with a DSLR, if indeed I had one that boasted video capability.

To me a photograph packs far more impact, and a lasting impact, than any moving video footage. The image of the naked girl running down a road in Vietnam after a napalm attack still lingers in my cerebral cortex, whereas the various graphic newsreels of that war no longer register and have disappeared without trace from my memory.

Perhaps that is where Leica with its uncomplicated M9 camera scores so highly with photographers — it keeps things simple. It is just a pity about the exorbitant price.

Since originally writing this piece, a rumour has surfaced that the replacement for the Canon 5D Mark II will be announced on February 28 and it will be known as the Canon EOS-5D X. Speculation has it that the camera will be available in April in order to deflect attention and potential purchasers from the Nikon D800.

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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.

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