I have been photographing since the age of 8, and using Nikons since the age of 19, so, after some 35 odd years, you can imagine the amount of useful and useless Nikon stuff I have accumulated, and can talk about. Although my Nikon film cameras (FE, FM) are still fully operational, they have been collecting dust for the best part of the last decade.
The good news is, of course, that I can still use my seventies AI, AI-S lenses on most of the modern Nikon DSLR bodies; they meter in manual and aperture priority, indicate focus, register aperture in EXIF and do everything else you may expect of a lens, except – of course – auto-focus.
Especially the 50 mm's appear to be back in vogue, mostly because of their outstanding wide open performance (@ f/1.4, 1.8 and 2.0) and their remarkable bokeh. The DX crop factor of 1,5 turns them into very apt 75 mm. portrait lenses.
As I understand, Canon have gone through as many as 5 – not always backward compatible – mount changes since the late fifties. Glad I have invested in F-Mount.
Can you imagine dumping your glass every 10-15 years, because your lenses will NOT mount on the next generation bodies of your favorite camera brand?
I got my first digital P&S camera in 1999, and with the benefits they bring to my advertising work flow, they have become more and more dominant over the last decade.
Today I sell much of my advertising work through comprehensive, photographic mock-ups. My first “serious” digital camera was the Nikon D1X, which I picked over the D100 because I had – what I considered – a large investment in un-chipped MF (manual focus) glass at the time, lenses that could not be used with the D100. First mistake, but I’ll come to that in another post.
Next came the Nikon D200, which I still use most of the time, after which I bought a Nikon Coolpix 8700 (for sale).
My latest acquisition – the Nikon D40 – arrived a little over a year ago, and has become, combined with the (very good) 18-55 kit lens or the 18-200 mm. Sigma, my favorite light-weight-carry-around-everywhere-pretty-clean-up-to-800-ISO, serious point & shoot in a DSLR body.
Hence, the sale of the CP 8700...
Except for the latter, all these cameras have passed the 20.000-click mark a while ago, and although these are hardly numbers that impress wedding or press professionals, for anybody else, this is the impressive equivalent of well over 1.500 rolls of film.
I am willing to bet my life that very few among us have ever shot that amount of film in under 6 years, or even in their lifetime. I know I haven't...
At the moment I am evaluating my next Nikon cameras, either the Nikon D300 or D700.
It's not that I'm evaluating *whether* I'm going to buy them, but rather when and which one first.
Since the camera, a.k.a. microchip product life cycle is more or less 24 months, I'm expecting Nikon to announce “something” during 2009. Apparently they have learned from the D700 introduction nightmare, and are keeping the lid tightly on any upcoming releases. Good for them.
Why is this important to me?
If I have learned anything about Nikon over the past ten years, is that they are never first to market.
They are not state-of-the-art in the popular sense of the word. They take the whining of their fans for granted, don’t even blink at the desertions, and just go their own way.
I’m not saying that they are right, but what I AM saying is that they appear to be operating as if Canon (and other, minor, brands) do simply not exist, and that – on a biased – objective level, they appear to be doing the right thing: When a new product cycle is due, and even when the competition (once Canon, now also Sony) have long introduced their respective next gen products, Nikon come to market with a truly revolutionary body.
The D1, D1x, D2, D200, D3, D700 were all revolutionary introductions at their time, and had the competition running for their money, while sweating blood & tears to catch up.
Just read past time reviews to confirm this. Thus, during this year 2009, I am again expecting a revolutionary mayor new launch, or maybe some. The rumor sites can’t seem to agree on weather this will be the next gen D300, D700 (D400, D700X) or both, but I really can’t give a rats *ss.
Why? Because basically the D300 and D700 have everything anybody (including Pros) could want from a DSLR, except – maybe – sweet spot resolution (15-18 Mp.)
If you want/need more, shell out 25+ K and go Phase One, Hasselblad, Mamiya, etc... Of course, if Nikon *were* to come up with some amazing, unthought of, useful and revolutionary features, I'd be the first one to be persuaded...
What makes the D300 (D3, D3X), D700 outstanding, do you ask? Let me lay it on you.
1 - The cleanest high ISO performance in the business, bar none. The D700 and, to a lesser extent, the D300 are virtually noise and artifact free up to 1.600 ISO; ISO 3.200 and 6.400 are quite usable, and 12.800 or even 25.600 generate acceptable results when in a pinch. Try that with film (or a Canon, Sony)...
2 - Auto focus takes a “small step for a man - giant step for mankind” leap forward with 51-point selective, RGB - 3D - auto-focus tracking. It works, if I may believe the reviewers.
3 - Goodies: Active D-Lighting. This is basically an in-camera implementation of the D-Lighting feature of Nikon Capture, equivalent to the Photoshop Shadow/Highlight tool.
4 - Active CA correction. For JPG files, chromatic aberration can be corrected automatically to a point where it is virtually imperceptible. Unfortunately, this feature does not work on RAW files, except if you are willing to shell out for Nikon Capture, which is an amount of cash equivalent to your next (CS4) Adobe Photoshop upgrade. Need I say more?...
5 - Auto Focus fine tuning. Since cameras and lenses come off a production line, they may have minor spec differences from one sample to another. Add to this that sensors are approaching the point where they theoretically out-resolve lenses, and you may understand why this might be an good idea.
Both the D300 and D700 allow the user to fine-tune auto focus for up to 12 presets, to get the best performance out of every lens available today. If you think this is “too much”, check this out: http://www.photomatter.com/Reviews/NikonD300b.html
It remains to be seen whether users fiddling – rather unscientifically – with this feature adds to the quality of their images; however, it would be nice if Nikon were able to implement this as an automatic calibration feature in their future cameras.
6 - Large viewfinder. D300 100%, 0.94x magnification, D700 95%, 72%x. If you want to remind yourself of what that means, pick up an old film camera and look through the finder. Then, pick up your chin.
7 - More In my very humble opinion, (and according to what I'm reading) Canon have hit the DSLR sweet spot of 15-18 Mp. with the 50D. True, if you are a true aficionado with cash to spare, a semi-pro or pro, you probably crave the 20+ Mp. resolution of the D3x, Canon 1Ds Mk. III, 5D Mk. II, or Sony Alpha 900.
However, remember: your lenses better be top notch. If not, these here cameras will possibly out-resolve them. Meaning: forget about film being better than digital. How about worrying about your 20+ Mp. camera being better than your glass?.
Where was I?
The problem of writing long blog posts is that I get “lost in translation”. I started out writing about my gear, and, as I wrote, it became a kind of state-of-the-art analysis. If you're not worried about this, neither am I.
I owe you a write-up on my legacy and state-of-the-art-glass and other gear: flashes, tripods, umbrellas, continuous lights, GPS, filters, software, etc., and – furthermore – a post on typical buying blunders you might want to avoid.
Hope you'll visit again, as I expand this blog, originated on March 13, 2009.
If there are words or terms in this article you do not understand, I'd suggest you take a peek at the "Digital Dictionary"
Can I use Nikkor AI and AI-S manual focus lenses on my Nikon DSLR? Yes, you can!
Nikon's greatest hits, 1999-2009.
My Nikon wish list. Some of it I can afford, some not (yet).
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