Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Canon EOS D30 versus Nikon D200 comparison

Well, the title is based on the opinions of somebody who has shot the EOS 20D (that's twenty-D) side-by-side along with the Nikon D200,over several weekends, on ambient light basketball. Since the EOS 30D has not yet hit the market, and so at this date there really is no way to fairly compare the 30D and the D200 head-to-head.In fact, in some ways, it's simply not fair to compare the 30D to the D200,yet, in terms of release dates, the Nikon D200 and the EOS 30D are of the SAME generation. D200's are still not available at most retail,walk-in locations except in restricted quantities; the demand for the D200 is keeping the D200 out of the hands of many Nikon users. I cannot buy a D200 at walk-in retail from my large pro house photo dealer's store, and they have zero information on availability of new stock from Nikon. So, if the 30D actually becomes available mid-March 2006 (i.e. in three weeks' time) one really must consider the D200 and the 30D to be of the SAME generation. On the market, in the stores,available for comparison head-to-head, the 30D will probably last at least two years in production,as will the D200. So,comparisons of the 30D and D200 are very natural. Price-wise, the new Canon is set to retail at $1399, while the D200 is $1699. Expect prices on both cameras to fall as the months go by.
Well, what about the comparison? I have not shot the D200 or the 30D. But Rob Galbraith has shot both the D200 and his offices have briefly had a 30D for inspection. The closest comparison that can be made right now is the one Galbraith makes when he compares the 20D (twenty-D) to the D200 at this URL in his article entitled "Canon unveils successor to the EOS 20D".
On Page 2 of the above-referenced Article, Galbraith offers the following observations:
---begin quoted passage---
"The ability to configure and fire multiple Nikon Speedlights is one of the niftiest capabilities of the Nikon D200. In fact, given the likelihood that prospective purchasers of a midrange digital SLR, at least those not locked into a system already, will be directly comparing Nikon's latest digital SLR to the 30D, we wonder if Canon has done enough in refreshing the 20D to counter the siren call of the D200.

Don't take this as a recommendation of the D200 over the 30D. For one, we've only used a preproduction 30D, and then only briefly. More importantly, we've shot the D200 and 20D side-by-side for available light basketball over several weekends this winter, and the 20D is by far the better camera for this purpose. Not only were the ISO 800 through ISO 3200 frames massively cleaner and more usable, the percentage of in-focus frames was signficantly higher. In fact, we've ruled out using the D200 for this sort of assigment again. So, we don't think Nikon has in the D200 a camera that's a clear winner over the upcoming 30D by any means.

But, the D200's higher pixel count, greater burst depth, way-cool wireless flash system support, large viewfinder image, more expansive configuration options, reasonably smooth shutter and really quite nice feel in the hand may make it a more compelling offering to those comparing the two at their local camera store, despite the fact the Nikon will be a few hundred dollars more. For much of what we shoot, the 20D is a better choice than the D200, so it's likely the 30D will be as well. But for many shooters, those who can stick to lower ISO settings and don't shoot much action, the D200 may seem like the more appealing option."
-----end of quoted passage-----

Wow! That's really an interesting passage Mr. Galbraith has written. I admire his simple,effective style of writing. His article gives a good, two-page overview of what the EOS 30D is all about. By my count,Canon has made three very significant improvements over the 20D,as well as more than 18 small improvements, and I have no doubt that the 30D will be a nice Canon body. Heck, I'd love to own a 30D.
So, what about the comparison of the 30D to the D200?? Well as explained above, the title's a bit of a red herring. Right now, nobody in the world can fairly compare these two bodies, but there are some potentially shocking differences that Galbraith has found between the 20D (the twenty-D) and the Nikon D200, and the comparison is highly in favor of the Canon.I think the _most_ important comment Galbraith makes in the entire EOS 30D review comes in this small segment of his article:

"ISO is incremented in 1/3 stops From ISO 100-1600, intervals are now in 1/3 stops. ISO 3200 is also selectable (when C.Fn-8-1 is set), but it's a full stop jump from ISO 1600, there are no increments in-between. Of all the Canon and Nikon digital SLRs we've ever used, the 20D produces the cleanest, most printable RAW and JPEG files at the upper ISO settings. Being able to choose settings such as ISO 1000 or 1250 when shooting at certain indoor venues only sweetens the deal, though ISO 2000 and 2500 would have been equally useful."

So, what exactly is the _most_ important comment Galbraith makes in this article? Simply his statement that ,"
Of all the Canon and Nikon digital SLRs we've ever used, the 20D produces the cleanest, most printable RAW and JPEG files at the upper ISO settings."
That statement by Rob galbraith himself sort of makes me feel good, because my own shooting has made me pretty damned disappointed in my $5k Nikon D2x's High-ISO performance, and has made me very appreciative of my EOS 20D. So, to those of you who have been flicking me shit about my disillusionment about Nikon products, there you have the opinion of one of the MOST-respected digital photography writers in the world confirming what most of us know from our own experiences--namely,that Canon has the clear, clear lead in HIGH-ISO performance. And not just the lead by "class" or by "market segment". No, what Galbraith has written is that the EOS 20D (twenty-D) makes the cleanest and the most-printable RAW and JPEG files at the upper ISO settings. Take careful note: of ALL the Canon and Nikon D-SLR's galbraith and his staff have used, the EOS 20D creates the 1)cleanest 2)most-printable 3)RAW files and 4) the best JPEG files. Once again, to reiterate, of all the Canon and Nikon D-SLRs used by Rob Galbraith and his staff, the EOS 20D has made the cleanest,most-printable Raw, and the cleanest and most-printable JPEGs, at high ISOs. Please take note that Galbraith and his staff have used all of the pro Canons, and the pro Nikons, as well as some mid-range D-SLR models.
How, and why is it that the EOS 20D is such a stellar performer at high ISO when it began its retail life as a $1599 consumer body, and the Nikon D2x began its retail life as a $4995 professional body? Does anybody see the problem here?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

So, where are we headed NOW?

It's now mid-February 2006, and a lot of people are wondering, "Where are we headed NOW?" We are less than two months into the year and already 2006 can be seen as shaping up as perhaps _the_ most tumultuous year in recent photographic industry history. Nikon announced that it is discontinuing the 35mm film camera/large format lens/enlarging lens businesses. Except for the F6 and the Cosina-made FM 10, Nikon is OUT of the film camera making business entirely. Is it any wonder that Nikon is abandoning the film camera/large format lens/enlarging lens fields in an era when shooting any type of 35mm film seems ever more like driving a horse and buggy to work? It's no surprise that Nikon wants out of the enlarger lens and 4x5 and 8x10 view camera lens markets; those two markets are basically DEAD-END,niche markets which can easily be satisfied by other manufacturers or the used equipment market.Used enlarger lenses are almost worthless now that hobby darkrooms all across the developed world are relegated to boxes in garages, and only THE most-serious photographers are using wet darkroom processes.
Minolta teamed up with Konica in 2005,and formed Konica-Minolta; then in January of 2006 Konica-Minolta announced it too was bailing out of the film camera and the digital camera businesses, as well as the photofinishing machine/photo paper/photo chemical businesses that it had. Konica-Minolta announced a few days ago that its entire camera business would be transferred to Sony! Kodak just announced that last year, digital accounted for 54% of its sales. Pentax is now working in cooperation with electronics giant Samsung.The first 45 days of 2006 have seen the announcements of some MAJOR,major changes in the photography and imaging fields.
In addition to the above-noted changes, there are other changes in the wind. Downward price pressures and a maturing and perhaps a saturated market for D-SLRs have brought the prices on the 21 D-SLR models currently on the market lower than ever before and we can expect lower prices as 2006 wears on. Apple Computer has begun shipping its new Aperture software application, in an attempt to extricate $500 from serious Mac-using photographers who are in need of a workflow solution that's not from Adobe or Camera Bits. Adobe has countered with beta versions of Lightroom, a slick-looking and nifty application that will probably find its way into fairly wide use (see for a nice write-up on Lightroom).PMA 2006 is just days away, and some new cameras and other photography products are expected to be announced there. One of _THE_ most highly-anticipated PMA announcements is a Fuji S3 Pro digital SLR follow-up camera, perhaps to be named the FinePix S4 Pro. But will there be another FujiFilm-branded D-SLR announced in 2006? I sure hope so! Although it does not "look like" FujiFilm Professional will announce the S4 Pro at PMA 2006, there is still a tiny glimmer of hope for such an announcement. And if not at PMA, perhaps at Photokina in the fall we'll hear about a new S4 Pro model.
The year 2006 marks the end of full-frame D-SLR options for F-mount shooters.There are handful of Kodak SLR/n bodies left as new stock ,and so for all intents and purposes the full frame D-SLR market now is owned by Canon, with the EOS 1Ds Mark II at $7999,and the economically-priced EOS 5D at roughly $3200 street. So, if we're interested in a full-frame D-SLR camera the only game in town is "Canon". But it is not just the full frame capture of the new Canon FF models that is enticing serious shooters--it is also overall image quality, value,image crop-abilit,y and a decent,workable viewfinder image,and the advantage of having a full-frame camera body in a world that is full of full frame lens choices.And it's not just current Canon shooters who are thinking about a move to the Canon system in 2006, but a good number of Nikon shooters as well. And what about those Konica-Minolta users who are unsure of where their camera system is headed? And how about the Pentax users? And what about the film-shooting diehards who have resisted all the crop-frame D-SLRs from all manufacturers--but who have seen and heard what Canon is now able to offer them for $3,200?
I was shooting an important girls high school basketball game a few days back,and a photographer for the state's major daily newspaper was there (think Seattle Times, or Dallas Morning News, or Kansas City Star), as well as a staff photographer for a competing newspaper from the next town over, and me,representing two local-area newspapers, plus two youngsters from the home team's school newspaper. Every single one of us Nikon users was using electronic flash! The guy from the large metro daily was shooting with a D2Hs and an 80-200 AF-S an SB-800 right in the hotshoe; the staff photographer from the smaller regional paper was shooting with an 80-200 AF-S,a Nikon branded shoe-mount flash on a 13-foot lightstand up in the bleachers, and a Nikon SB-28DX mounted across the gym on a mini-mini tripod,all triggerered with Pocket Wizards, while I was using a single 285HV and a Quantum Battery 1 on a 13-foot light stand up in the bleachers and tripped by Pocket Wizard so I could shoot one end of the court with direct flash. The funny thing was, when talking to the big metro daily guy, his first comment was, "Why don't they bother to put brighter lights in these brand-new gyms?" Good question. The staff photog from the smaller newspaper and I got to talking after the game,and his main question was, "Have you seen what kind of pictures the 5D is able to make? I'm thinking about switching to Canon just for that awesome High-ISO." Wow....about 18 years + 15 years experience between two full-time, staff-level photographers, both of whom are dismayed about Nikon's inability to produce a camera that can shoot indoor sports in a new, multi-million-dollar gymnasium, unless ELECTRONIC FLASH is used. Nikon used to be _THE_ camera for photojournalism use. What the heck has happened? Frankly, I think all three of us,longtime Nikon shooters all, are a bit concerned that Canon seems to have the ability to produce D-SLR cameras that can deliver the BEST HIGH-ISO results in the entire industry. We all want our photos to be the best that they can be, and we want the technical advantages of the modern-age gear. After all, we payed $3500 to $5000 for our "pro" Nikon cameras, but we continually see Canon producing better images, right off the CF card, with less work, for fewer dollars. Since a D-SLR is both one's camera AND one's film, this is distressing.
I'd like to take a moment here to counter the arguments I've read on the web from some pretty experienced nature and outdoor photographers who want to suggest that Nikon is doing a great job with noise control and overall,total image quality in its current round of profesionally-oriented cameras. While I respect the opinions of these fellows with regard to shooting outdoor, nature scenes,and landscapes, the fact of the matter is that Nikon is clearly in second place behind Canon in terms of effective ISO speeds, and noise control,and overall total image quality under indoor lighting conditions at HIGH-ISO. And by HIGH-ISO I mean those settings ABOVE 800. Indoor, available-light shooting with a Nikon D2x is,for example, an exercise in noise avoidance and post-processing noise removal on each and every frame. A lot of P's and Q's must be minded with the D2x for example whenever the lighting becomes ever remotely sketchy; a working professional photographer I know wholeheartedly recommended me to buy and use the Fuji S3 Pro for "anything above ISO 640". I know what he means! I have a D2x, and for me, the images it produces are just too noisy when shot above ISO 640 to allow the image quality to go by without commenting on.At SIO 500, I feel that Nikon D2x files demand that in-camera noise reduction be set to OFF, and post-processing noise reduction applied to all NEF files for the best image quality, and frankly I think my $5,000 D2x yields about the same image quality as the EOS 20D does, when shot indoors under continuous artifical lighting,or outdoors in poorer light.The D2x at higher ISO levels and shot in RAW mode produces about the same FINAL result as the $1399 EOS 20D does when shot under the same conditions. 12.4 noisy effective MP versus 8.2 MP with fantastic in-camera noise reduction, the expensive Nikon and the affordable prosumer Canon 20D deliver about the SAME image quality under these conditions. That is irksome to me,and I feel like Nikon is giving us the shaft. Make no mistake about it,the D2x focuses fast and well, and really handles like a dream, but the images it makes when operating at the margins (you know, ISO 640 to 800, or in Hi-1 or apprx. ISO 1600 mode) of real-world conditions, with the lens wide-open and the shutter speeds down below 1/200 second....well, for those of use trying to shoot for 4-color newspaper publication or better, well, we're ALL USING FLASH to help our D2Hs or D2x bodies out. Not the best scenario. Nikon has a problem,and really is behind. I don't dispute the high praise the D2x garners from nature/landscape people who can shoot off a tripod, stopped down to f/10,at 2 second exposure times at ISO 160...that is the EASY stuff, and for such shooting the D2x is a superb camera at ISO 160.The D2x is almost a lifetime-good camera when shot under 800 to 2400 watt-seconds of studio flash--the D2x resolves a TON of detail when shot with high power flash units at low ISOs with a great lens.
The place where the Nikon cameras are second-place is wide-open, indoors, under artificial light, at real-world shutter speeds which can BARELY stop motion and which frequently show some motion blur.At lower Exposure Value levels indoors, I think Nikon has sucky "look" to its images under most of the conditions I have encountered. With a Nikon when things are even a bit sketchy, you've got no other choice--you've got to bring in supplementary flash since the indoor light is so dim and also so (typically) weak in Blue channel light that even with a great Custom WB, the image is just, well, noisy.
What kind of irritates me about this above-mentioned situation is that over the years we have seen Nikon camera models go from being THE preeminent D-SLR for PJ work (the Nikon D1) to a clear second-, or perhaps down to as low as third-place in terms of absolute image quality at the higher ISOs. I say 'perhaps as low as third-place' because there are two Canon models which can best anything Nikon has to offer in its two professional models.We've now got authoritative sources testing the EOS 5D and finding that its 1600 ISO setting is delivering image quality that rivals the ISO 400 performance of ALL the other D-SLR manufacturers, and to make matters more interesting, Canon is doing it with a FULL-FRAME camera that costs less than Nikon's D2Hs crop-frame,low-megapixel D2Hs camera. Nikon is currently selling the D2Hs for around $3,495 and it has 4.1 megapixels and a nice body with a slightly greater than 1.55x FOV factor, while Canon is selling a slightly lower-grade of body that has about 13 megapixels for $3295. In side-by-side image quality comparison tests, the EOS 5D yields image quality that's very,very close to Canon's flagship model, but which is clearly MUCH higher-resolution than Nikon's piddly little 4.1 megapixel D2Hs has and which gives Nikon's vaunted D2x a real run for the money in many ways. And,lower-noise. All in all, Canon has trumped Nikon's image quality for around a thousand dollars (or more!) less than the Nikon D2x. And so, the answer to the question, "Where are we headed NOW?" can and will be answered quite frequently in the year 2006 with the answer, "We're headed over to join the Canon camp!"
Here's a post that has the opinions of how the D2Hs stacks up to the little Nikon D50. It's shocking to think that a beginner's camera like the D50 offers _HIGHER IMAGE QUALITY_ than a professionally-targeted camera like the D2Hs.
As to the weather-sealing arguments of the D2 series versus the 5D and 20D models--I think the weather-sealing aerguments in favor of Nikons are a bunch of baloney. In 2004 I covered an outdoor track meet in a steady rain for a few the end of the event, the D1h was reduced to a nearly shorted out MESS of a camera. The 4-way controller and the LCD refview buttons when pressed yielded nothing but sequences of the AF point going around in circles, and already-shot images being cycled from start to finish. The camera was able to shoot, but if any control buttons on the back were touched,the camera went into spastic mode. So much for weather sealing,eh? Three hours outdoors in light May rain, and the camera was rendered useless. Some weather sealing.
We've now got very experienced, working photojournalists,some of the best in their entire region, bitching and moaning about their Nikon camera equipment's capabilities--not in terms of what the equipment can do for THEM, but in terms of how poorly Nikon's pro-body offerings stack up to those of the OTHER brand! And the odd thing is, this has all happened before! Nikon's once apparently insurmountable lead over Canon began to slip in the mid-1980's back when I was a college daily newspaper shooter, when Canon announced first the T90 and then shortly thereafter, the EOS line, as meanwhile Nikon tried to develop autofocus technology with the Nikon F3 AF (stillborn,had two AF lenses, and which sold maybe 3,000 units and which for all intents was really an engineering product and not a real,shipping,in-use product) and the incredibly crappy little toy-like Nikon SLR named the N20/20. Back in the 1980's, Canon ditched the FD lens mount, and introduced an entirely NEW lens mount called the EF mount, which they use to this day approximately 20 years later. Canon also introduced a series of progressively better and better new EOS bodies, for the different levels of camera performance demanded by the market. Nikon on the other hand, had the N20/20 and a lame telecoverter called the TC16-something which sort of converted the Ai and AiS manual focusing lenses to autofocus. Nikon stuck with the F-mount, which was both a good thing,and a bad thing.
So, while Nikon stood there with the 2-lens F3-AF body and the incredibly cheap and toy-like N20/20 which symbolized "normal vision", the Canon company was busy exercising better-than-normal or extraordinary vision with the EOS system's introduction. Within a few short years, Nikon's position as _the_ preeminent SLR system had been lost to the Canon EOS system. By the time Nikon got its very first truly workable autoficus SLR,the F4, onto the market, Canon had introduced ever better telephoto lenses with ultrasonic motor focusing. By the time Nikon got away from the screwdriver focusing system with the first lens-integral motors in a couple of big telephoto lenses, Canon had introduced superteles with built in lens integral USM motors AND image stabilization systems. The decline of Nikon's dominance is written in the history of Canon's EOS system and its EF lens line.
Canon make a big,big,big decision to ditch something very valuable in order to gain something even more valuable. Canon is now in many areas, the clear technological and performance leader, and the number one seller. Nikon is clearly lagging behind in many areas of technological and performance meterics and is the #2 D-SLR seller, with Olympus in third place in terms of D-SLR sales.
If Nikon had a clue, they would as quickly as possible consider using a FUJIFILM-designed sensor in one of their professionally-oriented D-SLR bodies. There is a need for a camera with good autofocus,good flash performance, wireless multi-flash capabilities,fast-handling,and a truly FIRST-RATE image capture sensor. I've payed good money for the D1, D1h,D70,and D2x Nikons. Of all those cameras, the D1h was perhaps the most-forgiving and most-capable camera in total, for its era. Perhaps some recall that Ron Reznick abandoned the Nikon D1x in favor of the lower-MP D1h camera, which he felt was overall a superior imager. I never bought the D1x, having instead settled on the Fuji S2 Pro, but I did own a D1h and was very,very happy with its performance and its price/performance ratio. I am not happy with the D2x and its price/performance ratio; while the D2x is a superb imager at low ISO and with a lot of electronic flash power or high ambient light levels, at lowe light levels indoors,or at elevated ISO's, the D2x's $4,995 price tag is a bitter pill to swallow. What is especially ironic is that,according to tests performed by Arizona's Steve Bingham, the Nikon D50 has lower noise than the Nikon D2x. Yeah, a cheap,entry-level, bottom-of-the-Nikon-ladder D50 has lower noise than the D2x. That's depressing. Of course, the D50 also has a very poor viewfinder. But then again, it's a $799 Digital Rebel competitor,and a single-wheel camera and uses the funky SDF media cards. But still....
So,again, where are we headed NOW? Well, things are uncertain. Canon users are headed for a 20D replacement very,very soon. I suspect that before the end of 2006, there will be EOS 5D's available for under $2700 and that will put full frame digital within reach of more enthusiasts than ever before. I expect NO full frame digital from Nikon in 2006. I expect that the name SONY will be splashed across the 7D and 5D SLR's formerly sold as Konica-Minolta models. I expect that the majority of old-line Minolta users will ditch their systems and switch to Canon,Nikon,and Olympus in that order. I expect that Pentax will actually get their 645 AF model digitally-outfitted in late 2006 and I expect that Pentax will continue offering its cameras under both its own name and the Samsung name in the consumer electronics stores like Fry's, Best Buy, and Circuit City, which is where I expect the SONY D-SLR models will also be sold. I expect the Mamiya ZD to die before the end of 2006 due to low sales numbers. I expect that prices will continue to fall,at least at the low- and mid-priced D-SLR points, but that the top-tier bodies from Canon and Nikon will continue to command stiff price premiums. I expect also in 2006 that the Nikon D200 will become one of THE all-time sales leaders for Nikon, outselling even the D70, which has been the #1 All-Time SLR seller for Nikon (film or digital!); if the D200 does not out-sell the D70 it will be because Nikon has saturated the market with D70 and D70s models! I believe that we are headed toward better software products from the camera makers Canon and Nikon. I beleive that Sigma will finally cease production of its D-SLR line,thus selling more Canon and Nikon and Oly D-SLRs in the future.
No matter what new products hit the market in 2006, it is certain that the D-SLR market will continue to attract the few remaining film-only shooters, who will buy either a low-level entry model,a mid-priced and very capable model, or what they feel is a top-tier D-SLR suitable for professional use. The final film-only professional shooters will make their entry into digital capture in the year 2006 I predict,lured by better cameras at better prices than ever before,and also by increasing competition from already seasoned digital shooters.
For the serious enthusiasts, I think 2006 will be the year that the camera makers really target value-for-dollar spent; the Nikon D200 can simply NOT go unchallenged by Canon,and I predict that Canon will release its 20D follow-up as a direct D200 competitor at the same,or a lower price than the D200's $1699. And I predict that Canon will widen the gulf between it and Nikon in terms of sales and also market share. I hate to seem like I am bitching and moaning about the capabilities of my camera equipment, becasue it is the BEST gear I have ever owned. But then again, Nikon is very far behind Canon in stabilized lenses and in ultrasonic motor prime lenses and in terms of cutting-edge imaging performance; when you pay five thiousand dollars for a camera, it has to be damned good. When a camera that costs roughly two thousand dollars less can make images as good,or better than your five thousand dollar camera, it does not take a genius to see the folly of continuing to saddle your wagon to a horse that just does not "quite understand" the nuances of the duration or the importance of the race he's involved in.
As we move into 2006, we'll start seeing the increased presence of digital-capable photofininishing equipment in the major drug and variety stores and superstores and even in grocery stores; my local safeway just last month installed on-site Kodak photofinishing equipment where customers can slip in their digital camera's memory card, or a CD-ROM disc of photos,and fulfill their own photofinishing orders. While larger drug and superstores like Rite Aid,Walgreens,and WalMart and Costco have all had digital-capable photofinishing equipment for two years or so, the movement of this type of equipment into grocery stores like my local Safeway shows the increased deployment of digital cameras at the consumer level. Prices are falling for prints, with what used to cost 29 cents per 4x6 print now being sold for around 19 or 20 cents per print.
I think that now, in 2006, we're headed toward the new digital revolution with the goal of better,less-expensive,and easier-to-use equipment making it ever-easier to get the kind of pictures,and print-outs, that we've wanted for so long. The new Epson 4800 printer for example, is incredibly more efficient and lower cost to operate than the 4000 model before it. I think HP will finally try and make more of a real play for the photography printing-out business which Epson has had such a grip on,at the enthusiast and professional levels, and we might see some lower priced,large format printers and supplies in 2006. While many people think that Epson is the "1970's Nikon" of printing,and thus untouchable in its position as leader, I think HP might try and "pull a Canon" in 2006 and knock the leader on its keister. We shall see.
The history of D-SLR cameras has had some notable failures, such as the EOS D60, the 10D's immediate predecessor, and the Contax full frame attempt, but on balance the other D-SLR models which have been offered by the major and minor players have ALL, each and every one of them, offered at least one thing that they did exceedingly well, and virtually ALL of the pre-2006 D-SLR models has been a workable,useful camera in one area or another. The problem none of the manufacturers has been able, or willing, to solve is how to make a single D-SLR model that has no significant weaknesses or drawbacks. Each pre-2006 D-SLR model has had at least ONE area that really dinged it; case in point the EOS D60--focusing system was not up to snuff, and the marketplace hated it and it did not last long at ALL,but was discontinued before the waiting lists orders were fulfilled and replaced with the 10D in what seemed like months. Oh,wait, it was mere months! The Kodak 14n....full frame,Nikon F-mount, $4995,and useable ISO topped out BELOW 160 on the ISO scale,or in other words the absolute WORST camera for even moderate ISO use,and basically unsable image quality at ISO 400. The 14n had to be replaced by the SLR/n in very short order to get rid of the Italian Flag Effect and to allow the introduction of the Lens Optimization system.The Pentax *IST was named such a ridiculous,utterly idiotic name that nobody wants to buy one; who wants to buy a camera that has as the first character of its name, an asterisk. Nobody knows how to pronounce * Ist, do they? And what about the *ist-D. Wow,give Pentax the blue ribbon for the most idiotic and destructive name since Cherolet tried to market the Nova in Spanish-speaking countries. Nova is basically the phrase "no va" or "No go". Credit the folks at Pentax with their ability to kill commerical success with idiotic names for sveral *Ist models! Konica-Minolta's Maxxum 7D was/is a wonderfully designed,engineered,and built camera and I wish I owned one; its problems lie in the proprietary Minolta flash foot(talk about corporate idiocy),the unpopularity of Minolta lenses,and being yet another 6.1 megapixel D-SLR.Fuji's S2 Pro made nice-looking images, but suffered from large file sizes,some artifacts, and the habit of conking out if all SIX batteries in two types, witrh its need for four-AA cells and its need for two CR-123A Lithiums, the S2 would stop shooting as soon as one set of batteries dropped below a certain level. Usually the lithium batteries would die as lithiums do, that is to say with about a 4-shot warning, and then they would need replacing and then that would allow another 1,000 or more frames to be shot off of the new lithiums. The four AA cells were good for as few as 400 to as many as 738 frames in my own experience, provided that there were lithiums in the camera; a set of four AA's could power the S2 for as few as 80 frames when there were NO lithium batteries in the camera. Dead lithiums still in the S2's battery compartment would render the S2 DEAD in the water,and so this entire battery issue was a major annoyance of the S2 Pro. I've never had so doggone many shutdowns of a camera due to juice problems than I had with the S2 Pro,and the lack of a SINGLE,removeable,powerful battery was a major S2 Pro weakness and annoyance. The Nikon D1 series had big batteries which needed a lot of maintaining and were in no way as reliable as the little Nikon D70's amazing battery, or the EOS 20D's excellent battery. Suffice it to say, there really has not been a D-SLR model introduced yet that has almost every base covered to the point that ONE MODEL can be considered a totally stand-alone camera. For prices in the $4995 range, the Kodaks and the Nikon D1x and D2x have had,I think,some serious gaps in performance capabilities, such as ISO 400 and up performance. Too damned much noise at moderate to elevated ISO settings on those cameras, especially considering the price,I think a lot of people expected "more" and "better" from their Kodak 14n or SLR/n or D1x or D2x.
I spent so much time detailing flaws and weaknesses in the above models simply to show that there's always "something" that can be improved, and not to fault otherwise wonderful, very capable machines. A lot of people accuse me of negativity, and well, I like to think of it as being coldly realistic and unflinching and as playing no favorites. I call it as I see it, and when I see areas that a particular camera has problems with, I highlight those areas. The thing is, the world wide web is full of One Brand Zealots who really,really,really want to defend their favorite things, and who want to get some sort of ego-glorifcation,some sort of pat-on-the-back justification,some validation for THEIR purchase decisions. You know, those little weenies who want to feel like their Canon or Nikon or Fuji or Kodak camera hasn't got a doggone thing wrong with it, that it has NO FLAWS, and NO WEAKNESSES, and that their camera is,well,flawless. Perfect. Beyond reproach. Beyond even observation, above any and all criticism, and basically, that their camera is such a good thing that anybody who owns the same model of camera is "in" and very smart, and that people who have soething other are in the "out group", and so on. What these One Brand Zealots seem to have is a sycophant-like devotion that borders on the ridiculous,or the pathetic; these are the same types of people who cannot understand a fair and a balanced reporting of opions or of tested results. For example, a lot of people cannot seem to wrap their brand zealotry-filled brains around even small,but significant criticsims of their pet camera model,and they scream like little babies when people bring up any and all weaknesses "their pet" actually has. Like the Fuji users who cannot seem to admit that the S2 and S3 have significant image artifacting problems. Or those who cannot seem to admit that the S3's smallest-of-all buffer capacity could present a real,significant deal-breaker problem. Or the Nikon-is-My-Religion guys who shoot their D2x's off tripods,frequently at moderate- to high-EV level lighting conditions and see it staggering quality at ISO 100-250, but who then cannot understand why the ISO 640 and up performance of the D2x is so,so disappointing.The answer is those N-i-MR guys have never shot the Fuji S2 or the EOS 20D at 400 or 800 ISO and had such nice pictures at lower-EV lighting levels.
The fact of the matter is, that ALL D-SLR models introduced in 2005 or earlier have at least ONE to maybe as many as FIVE areas of deficiency; my honest hope is that there will be a 2006 D-SLR model which will be the best-designed,best made,best-performing D-SLR yet introduced.With the degree of competition now exisiting, I really hope one of the manufacturers finally compes up with a design that is almost without flaw, and which will function exceedingly well as a One Camera Solution. I am sick and tired of needing more than one D-SLR body to do the few things that I actually need a D-SLR to do. Some of the flaws in the past, like the D1-series battery issues, or the Kodak 14n Italian Flag Effect problems,were just terrible,terrible problems which were simply inexcusably bad in a cameras which sold for right around five thousand dollars at introduction.So, to those who accuse me of negativity, I just wanna ask: why don't you loudmouths point me to the camera that is without fault,and which has absolutely NOTHING in the way of foibles or weaknesses or operational quirks that I need to worry about? Yeah, just tell me which camera has nothing worth talking about, which is so perfect as to be beyond criticism or evaluation or need for measurement, and then I'll buy myself two to use,and one as a spare to tide me over for the next 15 years. That's what I did with the Nikon models FM, FE-2 and F3-HP.
For those still reading along, I do not think that there has been ONE,single D-SLR model that has even come close to the perfection to be found the Nikon FE-2, which was my main squeeze for about 15 years,along with the F3-HP. Nikon has been making 35mm FILM cameras since about 1948. By my calculations, Nikon's first "real" D-SLR, the D1, was made about 51 years after its first 35mm film camera was made,and the D1 was premiered in late 1999,and so right now we stand at a realistic span of six years' worth of use and deployment of the various Nikon's DX-sensored D-SLR cameras It's still very early in the D-SLR game and truly mature D-SLR models are still around the corner. We're getting closer and closer to "good enough for good", but right now, there is still PLENTY to discuss and to criticise with the current D-SLR models. Unlike the Nikon F3 or F4 or F5, which are all "lifetime" cameras, the current crop of D-SLR models are throwaway models which,after a year or 18 months, are vastly,vastly improved upon by newer models. So, if you think there is "nothing to complain about" with the current D-SLR cameras from Fuji,or Canon,or Nikon, then I hope you're happy with what you have. But for me, my pictures appear in the newspaper in tens of thousands of homes and businesses in several small cities,with my name on them. I want my equipment to make me look good. I want my pictures to be as good as they can be. If you're happy with second-rate cameras and lenses, then good for you.
What Nikon is seriously,seriously,seriously lacking in is NOISE CONTROL AT ELEVATED ISO's. There is an argument that Nikon offers users a "choice" of applying Noise Reduction in-camera, or later,at the computer,and that Canon "forces" users into accepting images which have noise reduction applied in the camera. Apparently, it's a really nice thing to have the "choice" to use the built-in detail-killing noise reduction Nikon has in the D2x; that turns the 12.4 MP D2x into the equivalent of the EOS 20D. And apparently it's a good thing to have the "choice" to have to process a few hundred NEF files in Nikon Capture to get them to look about as good as EOS 20D files. The funny thing is, even when applying the best or High Quality noise reduction in Nikon Capture, the $5,000 D2x turns in files that look comparable, if as good, as EOS 20D files. Aparently it's a great thing to pay 5k for a camera that is about the equal of a $1400 mid-line Canon D-SLR when the chips are down. What this tells me is that Nikon has a noise problem,and Canon has found a way to reduce or to prevent noise, so that LOWER MP counts produce end-result files which Nikon charges you $5k to get, and which you need to laboriously batch process with the slow-speed Nikon Capture software. If you can keep your ISOspeeds low, like 100,125,160,200,250,or 320 or maybe 400, Nikon is the professional camera for you in the D2x. if you need higher ISO's, you need to drop $3,499 for the new,improved D2Hs camera (the one that has the dead meter syndrome fixed,and the lousy sensor adjusted so it's close to what a pro camera ought to be.) So, with the D2Hs, you get half the megapixels of the EOS 1D Mark II or EOS 1D Mark II-N, and a bit lower image quality than the Canon sports/action/PJ camera. Nikon is still in that late-1980's 20/20 versus EOS battle in the sports/action/PJ field. Nikon is still poking along with its traditional we-know-best attitude, while Canon is actually listening to the buyers and their wants and desires,and Canon appears to be responding extremely well to the marketplace and the demands of working photographers and serious enthusiasts. Canon is increasing image quality, boosting MP counts,and designing new cameras to fullfill a broad range of needs: 1.6x for consumers, 1.3x for working sports/action/PJ shooters, and two levels of Full-Frame cameras for the serious photographers and the BEST overall,total D-SLR camera with the EOS 1Ds Mark II.
The F-mount on the other hand has NO full-frame option.NONE. Apparently, nobody wants full frame in F-mount. The F-mount has its professional sports/action/PJ camera with half the MP count of the Canon model. The EOS 5D has set new standards for image quality at the $3k price point, as well as ushered in a new level of overall image quality that is decidedly more-affordable than the D2x. The Nikon D200 is a step in the right direction for Nikon, and is a much more Canon-like value proposition,and is the first sign I have seen that Nikon is REALLY,REALLY listening to its installed user base; Ai-AiS metering,a good control layout, a solid and sealed camera body, a pop-up flash, a PC socket on the camera,and 'somewhat better' image quality and a better in-camera JPEG engine than prior Nikons. The fact that the lowly D50 and the D200 have the best in-camera JPEG engines in the Nikon lineup is,well, embarassing to Nikon I am sure. The fact of the matter is that Kodak has already withdrawn from the F-mount D-SLR game, and it appears as if FujiFilm also might be withdrawing from the F-mount D-SLR game. Where we are headed in 2006 appears to be to a market where Canon is #1 with a bullet, Nikon is in second place, Olympus is in third place, and every other camera brand is in danger of losing out entirely. I think the marketplace will fairly quickly narrow down t o only the very-strongest competitors,and those who are responsive to their installed user base. When a company has a camera that has a lot of issues, like the EOS D60 had, or the Kodak 14n had, or like the Fuji S3 had, commercial success is elusive and while a small niche of people really loved the D60 and the 14n models,they were ultimately killed off because they could not satisfy the demands of the market. Kodak took the 14n and spun it into the SLR/n for Nikon users and that camera DIED. Kodak took a Sigma 35mm SLR and spun that into the SLR/c for a Canon full-frame offering priced in the general area where they thought it might compete against the EOS cameras, but that camera also DIED a very quick death.
The current climate is one of more-demanding customers, increasing technological capabilities at the highest levels of camera engineering, and ever-decreasing prices. Competing successfully in a market like the one we have now, in early 2006, means that the weakest camera offerings are doomed.And the weakest companies too. I hate reading the obituaries. I much prefer reading the birth announements. I hope every day that Nikon will smarten up,and realize that it has a potential ally in FujiFilm, and the sensor ideas that FujiFilm has developed. I hope that SONY assuming the D-SLR and the camera business of Konica-Minolta will change the sensor supplier relationship t hat Sony has had with Nikon,and that Nikon starts looking at FujiFilm's sensor design concepts as being what it will take to stop Canon's total domination of the D-SLR market. We are currently headed down a road where Nikon's had (at least)THREE out of FOUR new D-SLR releases marred by sub-par sensor performance. Just for giggles, I'll run through the D100 versus Fuji S2 sensor matchup. Loser? Nikon. Then the Nikon D70 versus EOS 20D sensor matchup. Loser? Nikon. The the Nikon D2h with its LBCAST Nikon-developed sensor against the 8.2 MP EOS 1D Mark II....uhhhhhh....loser?Everybody who bought the D2h or had their D2h meter die undexpectedly. The D2x's sensor is,well, truly fantastic at the lower ISO ranges. I mean that, the D2x sensor is truly FAN-TASTIC at the lowest ISO settings. The D2Hs,which was an effort to correct the problems of the D2h model is,I hate to say it, has been one of Nikon's least-successful cameras sales-wise; the dumping of the last of the D2h models at $1995 hurt the $3499 D2Hs model, and the EOS 1D Mark II and the newest EOS 1D Mark II-N,with the 2.5 inch LCD screen and double the megapixels of the Nikon have been really solid,solid "winners" for Canon. The Nikon D200 seems like a fantastic camera in most ways, and I'd like to own one I think, but the sensor problems of the D200, namely the infamous banding issue, have been huge sales killers for Nikon. First it was the D2h,which was supposed to have the LOWEST NOISE EVER from a Nikon--and that camera was an absolutely disastrous letdown in the marketplace. Then the D200 introductory debacle. It is difficult to convince today's consumers to vote with their dollars when a camera that costs $1700 or $2499 or $3,499 or $4995 performs only as a "niche product", or that it is a POOR all-around tool. And that is what we have had in the F-mount arena for the past several years.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Here's a Little Side-by-Side To Open Your Eyes

Here's a link with some side-by-side,real-world comparisons of one of the most-overrated lenses with one of the newer, better, designed-specifically-FOR-DIGITAL lenses.
The side-by-side comparison photos show the Nikkor 28-70 AF-S compared with the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 Di. The Di stands for Digitally Integrated.
If one can live with a non-AF-S and a non-Nikkor lens, one can have another thousand dollars to spend on something truly useful, like some studio flash units and light stands and umbrellas.

Friday, February 10, 2006

I Finally Feel Like I Have Been Vindicated

I finally feel like I have been vindicated. My tremendous disappointment over the N80 body limitations of the Fuji S3,and the S3's overall,total slug-like performance was no secret when I was an active member of Fuji SLR Talk on dPreview. In this thread referenced below, one of the S3's BIGGEST Fanboi cheerleaders throughout the camera's early-release phase NOW has reversed his 100 percent positive opinion and now openly states that the S3 has serious,real-world performance issues! Whoa! What a turnabout! With more time behind the eyepiece of the S3,the initial euphoria has worn off. Mr. Bernie Ess, who continually harassed me and flicked me crap about my alleged need for a "machine gun" camera (Bernie's pejorative characterization of the Nikon D2x was always "machine gun" back in his S3 Fanboi days). But now that some time has passed,and many shots have been missed,and many focus opportunities have been blown, even Bernie has begun to admit on the web,OPENLY, that his formerly beloved S3 is, in reality, not a very good camera for many types of shooting. Bernie himself wrote that when shooting action, the S3 cannot come up with many keepers.

And, although Bernie used to flick people shit for needing a machine gun, and he even adopted a signature file that states and I quote in its entirety, " I am an S3 RAW shooter
Yes, it is sl...o....o...o..... ... . . .. ..... ww. ... w w. Made my photography better to slow down. ",

it's clear that Bernie's actual use of the S3 over a long enough period has shown that it is,and was, a sub-par camera body. That despite its fantastic 6 megapixel imaging chip,the S3 Pro is still much like a 1963 VW Beetle struggling mightily to compete against the newest Vipers and Corvettes and Turbo Carreras. A great imager in a $329 beginner's camera body....that's the story of the S2 Pro and the S3 Pro models. The 1999-released S1 Pro was a good imager in a $259 toy-like Nikon body, with only ONE AF point, NO AF-S focusing, No VR lens capability, a minimum ISO of 320,and a number of other simply infuriating cheap-o body 'features' like three types of batteries needed, and only ONE control wheel!

What I find ironic about Bernie's former S3 Glory Days and his continual put-downs of people who wanted a "machine gun" (Bernie's own,ofte-repeated phrase was "machine gun"), is something General George Patton said about why the United States was able to defeat both Germany and Japan in World War II: Patton credited the United States' general issue infantryman's rifle,the M-1 Garand as being THE DIFFERENCE. The Garand was a 30/06 , gas-operated autoloader which used an eight round,detachable magazine. It shot faster, better,and reloaded faster and more-easily than the pre-World War I design of the 1898 Mauser bolt-action rifle the Germans used in BOTH WW I and in WW II, and was also leagues better than the Arisaka bolt-action rifles the Japanese used. A gas-operated autoloader (a semi-automatic rifle in common parlance) like the M1 Garand can fire more shots per minute, can be reloaded faster,and easier, and is basically a "modern,rapid-fire" rifle design.The Garand was the ultimate infantry rifle of WWII, the D2x of its day if you will. The Germans, and Japanese,and the Italians were all saddled with slow-fire,old-technology bolt action rifle designs which were basically at least 30 years out of date by the time WW II occured.

General Patton understood that a better-made,more-modern,faster-handling,faster-reloading tool was a huge advantage. The slow,clunky,1898 Mauser action design is a landmark design among bolt action rifles,and even as recently as the 1980's many fine custom rifles costing many thousands of dollars were built around the venerable '98 Mauser action. The 1898 Mauser is a wonderful bolt action design, but its speed of operation as a RIFLE,not just an action, in actual wartime conditions made every German infantryman equipped with a Mauser basically a sitting duck when opposing troops had a rifle design that was 35 years newer, faster,more powerful, AND had lower recoil due to the gas-operated design. Same for Japanese and Italian troops outfitted with slow,crappy, oldmoded bolt-action rifles.

Apparently, there is a historical prejudice toward slow,deliberate shooting that runs through German military thought and thinking. But it really does come back to what General Patton said: the semi-automatic M-1 Garand rifle was THE DIFFERENCE in winning World War II. Germany lost the war it started. The Japanese lost the war they started; it was up to the United States to help Russia and England defeat the Axis powers. Not too surprisingly, the United States had the fastest-firing and the MOST-modern infantry rifle,and the US was the only country with a general-issue semi-automatic infantry rifle issued to 90% + of its front-line troops. While the Germans had superior machine gun technology, machine gunners were few and far between,and individual infantrymen made up the vast majority of WW II combatants. Better tools shoot better, shoot faster, and win the day. Is it surprising that a German might cling to the idea that slower and more deliberate shooting is better than fast shooting? It's one point to consider, but the other losing sides also used the slow, outmoded technology of prior wars, and got their asses kicked.

Check out what a couple of S3 owners have to say about the S3's inability to handle moving subject matters with any degree of surety and consistent success.

As somebody who began his digital camera experience with the Nikon D1 in 2001, I myself have felt that EVERY Fuji D-SLR has been and is deficient in body performance compared to competing cameras from other makers, in numerous areas. But, it's good to see that now, the same people who basically trashed my reputation and who helped to run me out of the Fuji SLR Talk forum have FINALLY been able to see,and to admit in public, that I was right, all along. There's nothing quite as disappointing as a $2499 digital SLR built around a $329 Nikon N80 body, is there?

Bernie's newfound lust for the Canon EOS 5D is amusing to me, and satisfying as well. While he spent the last year or more suffering through a slow,crippled D-SLR camera, I've been busy enjoying my shooting with the Nikon D2x and the EOS 20D. But, then again, the Fanboi culture is very, very well-developed in Fuji-dom. It's sad and pathetic to see that the landmark S1 Pro and S2 Pro cameras have been Fuji's best and its most successful cameras to date, but as Phil Askey himself says, the D-SLR market has moved on, expectations are higher, and prices have plummeted and the S3 comes up short against the competition. Nobody appears to have told Fuji that time is marching on. Fuji has not responded to user suggestions,and has layed a major sales turd with the S3. Nikon and Canon have 6.1,8.0,8.2,10.2,12.4,and 12.8 and 16.7 megapixel cameras out now, with good focusing systems, good flash systems, and white balance systems that work, metering systems that work in Matrix mode, and state of the art flash technologies. Meanwhile, there is a very small group of S3 owners limping along with a film-based N80 with a cropped down finder, half-stop or whole-stop exposure adjustments, slow flash synch, slow writes, slow reviews, poor AUTO White Balance performance, immature and slow software from FujiFilm, the smallest and slowest buffer in the industry,and an excessively inflated price point.

Like I said, the Fanboi's who used to dominate Fuji SLR Talk are now,finally, admitting openly the S3's deficiencies. The deficiencies I was dismayed by all along. The Fanboi's have finally admitted that I was right,all along. I feel vindicated.
Read what another long-time Fuji S2 owner,who like myself has not yet been convinced of the S3's value proposition, has to say about the S3 Pro camera by clicking through to this post:

The interesting and also the sad thing is how very many former S2 Pro users have skipped the S3 body,and instead decided to switch to the Canon EOS 20D or EOS 1D Mark II, or to the Nikon D70,or to the Nikon D2h or D2Hs models, or even to the Nikon D2x. According to me,and to most people whose photographic experience and opinions I respect, a well-rounded camera is far better choice than a camera which excels at one thing and one thing only. Again,to recap, the opinions of S3 Pro owners who have gone through the honeymoon period and spent some significant time with the S3 Pro have made me feel truly vindicated.

The fact that Fuji totally FAILED sales-wise with the S3 is a sad thing, but it just goes to show that the market has matured, and time does not stand still. Trying to sell an under-spec'd camera to professional photographers and to serious enthusiasts only works when the PRICE of the camera is reflective of the overall and TOTAL performance of the camera. The sad fact is that,except for a few diehards, FujiFilm has almost totally lost the professional and serious amateur niche market that they enjoyed with the S1 Pro and the S2 Pro. Canon makes vastly better cameras than Fuji does, for far less money. Nikon makes vastly better,more-versatile cameras than Fuji does, for less money. I notice that MOST of the early-going S3 Fanbois have moved on to other cameras,s o it looks like they have learned from their own experiences. The fact that the S3 is no longer good enough for its early adopters speaks volumes.

ADDENDUM march 21,2006: Some people have commented that they do not understand the bolt-action rifle versus gas-operated,semi-automatic rifle analogy as it pertains to cameras and photography, so I'll explain it: A rifle "shoots". A rifle is a "tool" for an infantryman. A better "tool" SHOOTS BETTER, easier,and faster,and with fewer problems and limitations than an inferior tool. General Patton stated that the M-1 Garand rifle was the deciding factor in the USA's triumph in World War II because he realized that the abilities of German,Japanese,and Italian soliders were probably about the SAME as for American soldiers. Does anybody think that there was much difference in courage and skill and inelligence between American,German,Japanese,and Italian infantrymen in WW II? The answer is are men are men, all pretty much equal.

But when you have a BETTER TOOL, you triumph more often. Simple. Got it now? Equal men on all sides, but the side which had the most-modern and the BEST TOOLS in the hands of actual shooters was the winner. Simple. The M-1 Garand was STATE-OF-THE-ART in its era, a thoroughly modern design from the ground up....everybody else had equipment designed decades earlier, and by 1942, the entire rifle paradigm had changed and had bypassed the armies using 1890's designs in the 1940's. It's the equivalent of going to a baskeball game with a 1950's Kodak Medalist 120 rollfilm camera, or showing up with a 2003 EOS 1D mark II N camera body. See the analogy now? Better tools, better results, in thousands and thousands and thousands of contests over a wide range of situations over several years. The difference was NOT IN THE MEN or their courage, but in the superior EQUIPMENT of the United States troops.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Canon EOS 5D versus Nikon D200 FF vs DX

One of the first decent comparisons of two of the most popular mid-priced D-SLR models can be found on the dPreview website at this URL:

This comparison was done over about a week's time by Raxel,and it has a number of observations and some good posts by contributors other than the OP. The OP is a Nikon D200 owner who borrowed a colleague's 5D,and so there might be a few familiarity issues handicapping the 5D's performance, but then again, the way the test shooting was done in RAW mode and Capture 1 and Nikon Capture being used as the raw conversion software means that the D200 and the 5D were both shot in raw mode and the files used for comparison purposes were made using top-quality,professionally-capable software applications.

The conclusions are pretty obvious and not at all surprising to me: the 5D is clearly a better HIGH-ISO camera than the Nikon is, by around 1.5 stops I would say, and perhaps as much as 2 stops,depending on how one looks at things. But clearly, and I mean CLEARLY, the Canon is resolving small details AND showing less noise than the D200 is at the higher ISO's of 1600 and 3200. Even if noise reduction were to be run on HIGH-ISO D200 files, I do not think there is ANY way the D200 files could be noise-reduced and still maintain the same amount of fine detail and shadow detail as the Canon 5D can produce. Larger pixels, with a coarser pixel pitch are also LESS-demanding of lens optical performance than very small pixels are. Larger pixel sensors, like the full-frame sensor in the 5D, are also probably a bit more forgiving of diffraction than are small,tightly-packed sensors like the sensor in say, the Nikon D2x,so for those who want or need to shoot at smallish f/stops, the 5D is probably a pretty good choice as far as a higher-rez D-SLR option is concerned. Being forcefully limited to using small f/stops is a frequent fact of life in synchro-sunlight outdoor fill-flash type work. And by small f/stops I mean stops like f/11 to f/16.

The MOST obvious and probably the most important difference is the increased angular view of a full-frame Canon sensor as opposed to the narrow-angle 1.6x EOS 20D or the 1.5 (think closer to 1.55x or higher!) Nikon and FujiFilm D-SLR sensors. Full-frame versus APS-C sensor size arguments are many, but the fact remains that cropped-sensor cameras dramatically CHANGE the way the vast majority of 35mm lenses actually function.And the FACT is that the smallish, APS-C type sensors limit shallow depth of field photography options where one wants to really throw the backdrop well and truly out of focus with many of today's lenses. Let's face it--topday's TOP LENSES are typically lenses with a maximum aperture value of f/2.8. Or physically smaller, like f/4 for example. There is about a 1.5 f/stop depth of field penalty with crop-sensor cameras like a D2x or 20D whenever one wishes to LIMIT depth of field by using wider aperture settings.A lot of today's newbies are unaware of how radically the 1.5x to 1.6x FOV factor affects their photography,since many of them never shot 35mm film,and most of them have never shot 120 rollfilm or 4x5 sheet film.

In actual practice, getting shallow depth of field can be achieved by going to a lens with a very wide maximum aperture,such as going from an f/2.8 lens to an f/1.8 model and shooting wide-open or nearly wide-open, or by going to an f/2 lens or an f/1.4 lens,if and when such focal length lenses are possible to buy.Dramatically increasing focal length is another way to get shallow depth of field when using a crop-sensor camera. The fact is however, that the vast majority of TODAY'S Nikon lenses top out at f/2.8 on pro-grade lenses, and much,much smaller like f/4.5 to a dismal f/5.6 on many consumer-level zoom lenses. A 55-200mm consumer zoom that maxes out at f/5.6 at the long end is NOT a recipe for shallow depth of field looks,or for achieving really outstanding foreground/background separation and "Pop!".

The Nikon DX lens marketing campaign's idea of providing Nikon users with a small handful of Dx or cropped-sensor-optimized lenses has been far from adequate if what one wishes to do is to capture pictures with sharp foreground subjects and maximally blurred background renderings.The "smaller and lighter" line of BS about the DX lenses from Nikon is a hilarious no-show--the Dx zooms are large,and heavy. The tremendous impact of a 1.5x or a 1.55x or a 1.6x FOV narrowing cannot be underestimated in terms of its impact on how we now must use our lenses. The 1.5 to 1.6x sensor cameras forcefully impact the way each and every single lens "sees" the world; the 1.5-1.6x FOV narrowing changes the way prime lenses work, and especially the 200,300,and 400 prime lenses, and also the 35,50,and 85 and 105 and 135mm primes. Zoom lenses are not immune either, with the 70-200 2.8 lenses being nice and all, but also TOO LONG at the short end in many outdoor situations. Formerly extremely useful lenses like the 28-70 and 35-70 2.8 models have been made, well, a lot LESS useful for coverage in the sense of "angular field of view".

Speaking of "angular field of view" and lens lengths, I am now going to introduce a point here most modern shooters are
entirely,entirely unfamiliar with, and that is the discussion of "what IS 'normal', anyhow?"According to what I have learned over the past 30+ years,on full-frame 35mm ameras like the Leica and Contax rangefinders of the 1930's and later,the 28mm focal length is the TRUE "normal lens", while a 50mm lens is considered as functioning as a "short telephoto" lens. Re-read that if you need to. And let's not forget the huge field of view difference between a 28mm and a 35mm lens when capturing on 24mm x 36mm media. Going back to the olden days of 35mm photography, the 28mm was considered the TRUE "normal lens"--not the later idea that a "normal lens is roughly as long as the diagonal measurement of the film negative" concept. NO, under the earlier 35mm paradigm, the "normal lens" was considered to be a focal length which produced an approximation of the way normal human vision "sees" the world.

And so,again,to recap,if a 28mm lens is the true "normal lens" of 24x36 format, then the 50mm is actually a "short telephoto" lens, and a lens of 70 to 75mm is actually a "moderate telephoto" while the 135mm is a true "telephoto" lens. If you've shot enough 35mm film using the 28mm,35mm,and 50mm lens lengths, you know what a 28-70mm lens on full-frame means. On a 1.5x or 1.6x crop-sensor camera a 28-70mm lens is an entirely different animal.

Now, the most-important and the most difficult thing to get one's head around is the idea that a 28mm lens is the "normal" lens, the lens length that works much like human vision does, and that the 35mm length lens is more selective or narrower-angled than human vision, and that a 50mm lens is a lens length that actually functions as a short telephoto, and that a 75mm lens or an 85mm is actually a fairly long-ish and a decidedly telephoto lens length. At actual close-range shooting,that is at distances of under 20 feet or less, a 28mm is the NORMAL view lens, a 35mm lens is more-selective, and a 50mm lens is in fact a tele-angle of view lens which encompasses a very narrow angle of view.

Consider that in many situations the shooting distance is less than 20 feet, and so when a 50mm lens is mounted on the camera, the resulting pictures will be somewhat selective, and the pictures sure as HELL will not cover a "wide angle of view" in any sense of the word. If fact, as distances of 5 feet, a 50mm lens is a frickin' telephoto lens. A 50mm lens is _selective_ when shot at very short distances, such as under 10 feet. At a distance of 5 feet, you damned sure will be glad you have a 28mm lens on a 35mm-sized capture camera if you hope to convey a feeling of setting,or a feeling of "place"in the scenes you are capturing.

On 24x36mm capture media, a 35mm focal length lens encompasses an angle of view about one foot wide for each foot of camera-to-subject distance. IE, at 10 feet back, a 35mm lens has a left-to-right frame width of,roughly, 10 feet. SO, WHEN WE LOOK AT THE REAL WORLD and taking photographs using a 24x36mm capture camera, a 50mm lens offers the user a selective angle of view.

The idea of a "normal lens" being a 58 to 50mm lens may result from the focal lengths needed to provide 1:1 finder eye/off-eye vision on early 35mm SLR cameras. If one has a 35mm camera with a viewfinder image magification which allows the shooter to look through the camera and through his "off eye" with a feeling of 1:1 magnification through the camera's finder and through the "off-eye, the benefit is the ability( honable with practice) to look and to SEE through the camera with BOTH EYES OPEN ! Herbert Keppler did a column on this subject years ago,and as I recollect, it was the pairing of the 58mm Nikkor and the early Nikon F magnifcation which was 1:1 optimized only when a 58mm lens was mounted on the body. Later cameras had viewfinder magnification levels that were a smidge higher, and a 50mm lens became considered "normal". Perhaps the earliest optimization of a single lens length to a particular camera was with the Exaktas and their 58mm lenses,coupled with fairly LOW-magnifcation viewfinder systems, and the 50mm-as-Normal came later, well after Exakta's heydey and around the period when Nikon became THE preeminent 35mm SLR maker in the period of 1959 to 1962. Anyway, the notion of a lens length approximately the diagonal of the film format means the 35mm film format would need around a 43mm length for its normal lens. And so if that is true, then why would a 50mm lens be considered "normal"? In the sense of the angle of view used for normal,everyday scene photography, a 50mm lens is a selective-angle-of-view tool which is longer than the diagonal of the format by a noticeable margin; again, the concept of the 50mm lens as the "normal" lens length is a somewhat "new" concept in 35mm photography--the early masters of 35mm or "miniature camera" photography would tell you that their #1 lens was the 28mm lens.

You've simply GOT to understand that in the context of taking photographs at distances of under 20 feet on 24x36mm film, a 28mm lens does not capture an_especially_ wide angle of view,nor an especially selective angle of view, but ratheron full-frame 35mm a 28mm lens sees with an angle of view that can be said to be approximately what your brian THINKS your eye SEES. That is the best way I can describe how the 28mm lens functions of 24x36mm capture media. 28mm is NORMAL. To go wider-than-normal you go to the 24mm, and then to go wider still, you go to 20mm,and then you go to 17mm for TRUE wide-angle. That is my world view of 24x36mm photography.

Interestingly, leafing through a Canon full-system lens brouchure a couple years ago, I noticed that Canon includes its 50mm lenses in the "telephoto" category. Seriously. Now that many of us are shooting to 1.5x or 1.6x or crop-sensor D-SLR's, the idea that a 50mm lens is a telephoto lens makes sense. A 50mm on 1.5x or 1.6x has a nice,semi-selective angle of view at close shooting distances. A 50mm lens, like an AF 1.8 model makes a nice lens for portrait-range photos of people,and does great work at recording sports,news,or wedding scenes at indoor distances,either with or without electronic flash assistance. Focusing is usually quite good with a 50mm lens. Viewfinder magnification and focal length combine to usually make the viewfinder image through a 50mm a crisp,clear,bright,excellent experience with "most" 1.5x to 1.6x D-SLR camera bodies. In simple terms, on a crop-sensor D-SLR like a D70 or a 20D or an S3 or a D2x, a 50mm lens is,in many ways, a short,telephoto lens. Not a normal lens, but really, a narow-angle lens, a lens which constricts the picture's area quite a bit when shooting at 20 feet or closer. The closer one gets with a 50mm lens, the more-restricted is the area of the picture,and the shallower the DOF band at any given aperture. Set to a three-foot focusing distance and stopped down to f/8, a 50mm lens does not have overly deep depth of field,and the background will be rendered OUT-of focus, as a telephoto lens will do. The entire area of the in-focus image will be small.Ergo, a 50mm lens on 1.5-1.6x is a telephoto.

The good,and the bad, of these 1.5x sensor cameras comes when the reality of f/2.8 maximum aperture is paired with the smaller-than-35mm sensors. The shallowest depth of field always goes to the closest focusing distance, the widest aperture value,the longest focal length,and the largest film format size with "typical,real-world lenses". In comparing the shallow depth of field type of photography that many people like, the smaller-sensor cameras give inherently deeper (greater) depth of field. More distance appears to be in acceptably sharp focus as film format size goes down in relation to lens lengths. The inclusion of the full-frame Canon EOS 5D and the APS-C-sensored Nikon D200 in the title of this piece has apractical iumplication that many advanced amateurs and hobbyists can relate to. Namely, for many amateurs, their longest and their BEST lens is a 300mm f/4 telephoto. Using a 300mm f/4 telephoto lens wide-open ,backgrounds will appear to be MORE IN-FOCUS with the cropped-sensor camera than with a 24x36mm camera. In searching for the shallowest depth of field, with a 300mm f/4 lens, the larger-format capture device will show LESS depth of field than the smaller-format capture device.

When Kodak wanted to invent the perfect snapshot camera, their engineers realized that what they needed to do was to make the film format REALLY,REALLY small! And thus was born the Disc format, with absolutely TINY negatives, much smaller than even 110 format negatives! By approaching the problem from the back end, Kodak engineers realized that by making a camera that used a really,REALLY tiny negative, they could create an entire film format that brought with it almost INFINITE depth of field with a fixed-focus lens. The Disc format allowed you to shoot from about a foot away,to the moon, with no need to focus a lens. Ever! This is similar to the extensive DOF that small-senor consumer digicams have; using a teeny-tiny sensor makes consumer digicams exceptional, AMAZING macro-range tools; it is very easy to make macro-range photographs that are IMPOSSIBLE (literally,impossible) to make in single-shot capture mode with ANYTHING other than a small-sensor camera. Fact. If you do not understand why that is so, well, the answer is out there on the world wide web.

With crop-sensor D-SLR cameras using the 35mm lenses we all have, there's a sort of plus/minus that happens from the marriage of a new,smaller capture format with the lenses we've had for many years. When trying to throw backgrounds really out of focus, the 300mm f/4 lens can not really do that task all that well at longer,outdoor ranges of say, 100 to 150 feet. At typical outdoor sports ranges, a 300mm focal length lens set wide-open to f/4 will show a background that is still QUITE in-focus,and in many cases, quite distracting.Even at f/2.8 at outdoor ranges, a 200mm zoom set to 2.8 on a 1.5-1.6x camera will show a lot of the background in-focus enough that the background will be clearly rendered enough to draw a lot of emphasis away from a foreground subject that's at 150 feet. On crop-sensor cameras, deliberately out of focus backgrounds demand fairly long focal lengths, like 300 to 400mm, and wide apertures.Getting really wildly, totally "blown out" backgrounds on crop-sensor cameras is more difficult than on larger-capture cameras or on 35mm full-frame SLR cameras.

One of the most-distressing areas with the crop-sensor D-SLRs is that today's longer lenses are very slow,in terms of maximum aperture. Like the 50-500mm Sigma, with its pokey f/6.3 maximum aperture at 500mm. or the Nikkor 80400 VR,with its pokey f/5.6 maximum aperture. The consumer 70-300mm lenses from Nikon and Canon offer very slow, f/5.6 max apertures. Nikon makes a 400/2.8, but nothing else in 400mm except for what can be had with a zoom lens or a zoom+ teleconverter lashup.When shooting sports or natural-world scenes,under many situations very long focal length lenses and wide apertures are BOTH needed to create the shallow depth of field that brings with it the feeling of foreground/background "Pop!" or separation,especially at outdoor field sports distances,using the lenses that MOST of us own. if a person owns a 100-400 Canon or a 80-400 Nikon lens, his telephoto lens tops out at f/5.6 at 400mm. When using a smaller-format consumer digicams like a Nikon CoolPix or a Sony 828, the large aperture opening of f/4 brings with it very DEEP depth of field; like with the Disc format cameras, consumer digicams offer basically NO shallow depth of field options. Using a crop-frame D-SLR, a wide-angle lens set to f/8 provides nice,relatively deep depth of field, but NOT even CLOSE to as much will be in focus as when a small-sensored $500 Sony or Canon pocket digicam is used to focus at one foot. The smaller the sensor, the MORE is in focus at real-world f/stops. The larger the sensor, the less will be in focus with real-world lenses at real-world f/stops. With the consumer-speed lenses that are so plentiful today, shallow depth of field photography on crop-sensor digital SLR is very difficult to pull off many times.

At times, I actually kind of LIKE the increased depth of field that a DX-sized camera provides me. To me, having the DOF benefit of 1.5 stops on the DX-format cameras means I get that extra little bit of safety margin, that extra bit of foreground and background focus zone depth, which can cover for all sorts of screw-ups,both human and mechanical. I myself prefer to use longer lenses than many people do,and so to me, shrinking my sensor down means that, at f/4, I get MORE in focus. More room for error, more depth of field band to encompass people and their bodies, shoulders, heads, and so on. Oftentimes I enjoy the depth of field benefits of a crop-sensor camera.

But there are times when I would like to be able to create shallower depth of field images, images where the camera and lens combination offers me the LEAST in focus, at the real-world apertures most lenses offer me.Considering that I own a set of Nikon AF lenses, I really,really wish I had a full-frame Nikon F-mount camera available to me. A body that would use my established Nikon lens kit, in the same manner in which Nikon designed almost its entire lens lineup to be used. Where an 85mm is an 85mm lens. Where a 300mm offers pretty shallow DOF at the normal f/stops of f/4 and f/5.6. When trying for foregound/background isolation or "pop!", the fact of the matter is that in outdoor sports shooting,the vast majority of today's zoom lenses are so slow that depth of field at 200 and even 300mm is gonna be fairly DEEP. With the 70-300 Nikkor consumer lenses offering f/5.6 maximum up to 300mm in most lenses, long focal length photography with truly well blown out backgrounds demands a 300mm f/2.8 lens,or a LONGER lens than 300mm.Both which spell pain in the ass. If the depth of field advantage/disadvantage is 1.5 stops, consider that for shallow depth of field effects, a 300mm f/4 telephoto prime lens on a full-frame D-SLR will give you MORE "separation" than a 300mm f/2.8 lens will on a 1.5-1.6x camera.

Another big PITA is that 300mm lenses,typically the most-expensive lenses most people own, and some of the finest-quality lenses made, have angles of view on crop-sensor bodies that make them simply too damned narrow-angled for many shooting situations. And there really is NO OTHER LENS available to take the place of a 300mm lens. The 400mm lens has on 1.5-1.6x become a very,very narow angfle of view lens, so narrow-angle that it is very difficult to use in many situations.ANd,as with the 300mm prime lens length, the 400mm prime lens legnth has basically NO OTHER offering that comes close to what a 400 is or what it "does".While the DX-designed Nikkor zoom lenses like the 12-24 DX and the 17-55 DX are being made, there has ben basically NO MOVEMENT by Nikon to rectify the fucked-up mess that the 70-200 and 80-200 and 300 and 400 lengths have become under 1.55x. The wide-angle DX area has been conquered quite nicely by Nikon, and the 10.5mm fisheye's low price and surprisingly high optical quality and beauty of image are commendable. But in the telphoto end of the lens game, Nikon's really got its thumb up its ass. The failure is to design a NEW LENS that incorporates the idea of what a danged small-sensor camera brings; we need a NEW zoom lens with a FASTER-aperture than f/2.8, like f/2, and with a shorter bottom end than 70 or 80mm. A 40mm to 50mm short end, at f/2 or faster, and a top end of 250mm-300mm with an f/2.8 ,or FASTER, maximum aperture would be wonderful. Hell, even a 50-135mm f/2 AFS lens with AF-S focusing would be a godsend.

Nikon has NOT really addressed the problem of what their tele-length zoom lenses have,in effect, become when shooting to 1.55x sensors. The wide-to-tele zooms have become useless lenses under 1.55x sensor cameras. 28-70? What an albatross. The 17-55 is a substitute, but not REALLY anywhere near the same thing as 28-70 on full-frame.The 70-200,while nice and all on 1.55x, is still too LONG on the 70mm end when the action is close, and the depth of field at the 200mm setting is still noticeably deeper at the lens's optimal aperture than if it were used on a full-frame camera. The 85mm 1.4 lens suffers a lot on a crop-sensor camera, and its character "changes" quite a bit on the small-sensor cameras.

Let's face lenses and the way the actually "work" differs a great deal depending on whether a full-frame or a cropped-frame body is being used. Where we have to stand in relation to our subjects, how much apparent magnification our lenses give, and how shallow we can go on the depth of field,all these things change,markedly, when the camera and the lens follow the 35mm SLR-type model as closely as it was developed. Right now, only the wide-angle lens area of the cropped-frame issue has been acceptably solved. And, no matter what, there are always some physical/optical constraints which are applied to our photogreaphy based upon the size of our film format, and the available lenses. Full-frame 35mm-type cameras behave differently than cropped-frame models do, with the REAL lenses available to us,at the real-world f/stops we are forced to shoot at.

If you can grasp the idea of the 1930's and 40's that the 28mm lens is the TRUE "normal view" lens for a 24x36mm format camera, then you can understand why I am so torqued off with what the 35-70 and 28-70 Nikkor lenses have become under this Dx-only party line that Nikon has been pushing.And why I am so annoyed at Nikon's failures to really well and truly address the mid- to tele focal length zoom lenses for professional use. Nikon has some real "missing lengths" in its lens lineup. In situations where the 28-70 would be considered a no-brainer, a super-useful tool, on 1.5x that lens is now a PITA. Same with the 70-200, which is now frequrently on assignment found to be too long at
70mm, and ironically NOT long enough at 200mm to provide foregound/background separation at apertures like f/4.5 to 5.6. On the small-sensored cameras, one really needs 300mm of focal length to get a large degree of foregound/background out of focus relationship at apertures like f/5.6.

For many types of sports photography, subduing backgrounds that are 200-500 feet away on subjects which are 100-150 feet distant requires, absolutely, at the VERY least a 300mm focal length, or better yet a 400mm lens with a WIDE aperture.The problem with this is that there are damned few lens choices between 200 and 300mm and between 300mm and 400mm in length.The 300mm f/2.8 lens has had its actual utility dramatically cut back on 1.5x-1.6x sensor bodies. The 300 has become too narrow-angle for a prime lens on 1.55x. It's as simple as that. Nikon desperately needs a 100-300mm f/4 or f/3.5 or f/2.8 zoom lens,and it'd be a a HELL of a lot better if it were a 60mm-300 of the same range of maximum apertures. But,as I see it, Nikon will soon be offering some type of full frame offering which will once again, restore the superb Nikon prime lenses to their former utility in the field and in the studio.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

D-SLR Choices 2006:New Choices and Old Ones Too

Well, it's 2006 and this year will see some new brand names displayed across the front of D-SLR cameras. Maybe soon we'll see the former Konica-Minolta 5D and 7D bodies re-badged as the Sony 5D and 7D models,still with the same body integral anti-shake systems that K-M pioneered. The entire camera biz is in a huge state of flux. The flux has hit the fan,so to speak.Nikon quit the film camera business, except for the F6 and FM10,and Nikon dropped the large format lens-making business and the enlarger lens business. K-M has shifted its camera biz over to the Sony company,and K-M is abandoning the photo business (minilab equipment and paper,Konica film,and so on.)
Olympus has just announced what many people have said they wanted to see manufactured:namely, an SLR with normal SLR-type reflex viewing AND an EVF or video-feed viewfinder image option! Not that I've ever wanted such a feature from my single lens reflex camera, but there are zillions of digital photographers who really "dig" the EVF type of viewfinding system. Having shot a few EVF digicams, I am familiar with the pluses and the minuses of EVF camera design.
The FujiFilm Professional Division is slowly gearing up for retail sale of S3 Pro bodies with 128 MB of additional onboard memory which will double the buffer of the S3 Pro and bring it to 256 MB. Once again, Fuji shooters are awaiting the announcement of a next-generation body;hopefully for those who dwell in the land of FujiFilm, it is my sincere hope that the mythical FujiFilm FinePix S4 Pro is announced very soon. A pre-PMA announcement might be considered disrespectful to Nikon, and so I expect that any S4 Pro will be announced at PMA,in due time, at an appropriate time for such an announcement.
FujiFilm should realize that buyers from time to time actually decide to BUY cameras,and that once a buy has been made, additional camera sales opportunities are often limited during a product's duty cycle. Fuji's customers are potential Nikon customers,for the most part,with existing lens inventories and Nikon system accessories. A lot of FujiFilm customers have in the past been quality-conscious shooters who like the Fuji "look". But what's amusing to me,and actually pleasing as well, is that so,so SO many of the Fuji SLR users who flicked me sooooo much shit are now firmly in the Nikon camp. Or in the Canon camp. Mark Abraham for example, and early and vociferous Fuji S3 booster and certified Dynamic Ranger (a phrase I cointed, by the way, Dynamic Ranger) has recently written on dPReview that he's more enamored of the Nikon D2x and its greater pixel count and resolution than he is of the Fuji S3. Germany's own Bernie E, another Fuji S3 booster who mercilessly and repeatedly taunted me, as well as Roger Monroe, by alleging that we liked to "machine gun" shoot--well, good old Bernie is now very enamored of the Canon EOS 5D,and has suddenly gone back and re-visted his S2 captures and Bernie has now had a self-described S2 epiphany.So, Bernie himself has recently admitted that he's gone back and has somehow discovered that the S2 was actually a great camera. Funny how so many S2 users like myself already KNEW the S2 was a good camera, and were not swayed by the S3's slightly increased DR. Peter Leynaar, a small-time Canadian professional photographer was once a VERY big S3 proponent, is now considering a much faster-handling camera and has had some problems with the S3's slowness in actual use. And on and on and on--so MANY of the early S3 Pro boosters, the Dynamic Rangers who loved to get mad at me and to vent their anger at me, well, those people have almost to a man, finally realized that the choice of a FujiFilm D-SLR is still an "old choice". The "old choice" involves deciding how much is it worth to have a good sensor in a crappy,underperforming body with a beginner-level AF system and an outdated flash system,and a butchered and unreliable light metering system. The choice for Fuji D-SLR users has always been just how MUCH is one willing to sacrifice for good image quality? Missed focus, or inability to focus--how much is blown focus worth in light of slightly better image quality? The smallest buffer in the industry,with the most-bloated RAW files and no in-camera file compression. The slowest data transfer rates in the industry, but the widest dynamic range, yet with a cheezy histogram and coarse half-stop and whole-stop exposure jumps that make it harder than it ought to be to absolutely NAIL exposures which could maximize the DR advantage the sensor has. Right now, there's a whole boatload of Fuji S2 and S3 users anxiously awaiting an S4 announcement from the FujiFilm Professional Division. And, there's a good and ever-growing number of FujiFilm and Nikon D-SLR users who are considering the Canon system. Even Mark Abraham has finally seen the light, and has mentioned recently that he's considering "taking a dip" into the Canon system with a "good Canon body" and a "good Canon lens" (Mark's words). And so it goes, with numerous other F-mount users looking toward the Canon EOS system as a posibility worth examinining.
I can understand Konica-Minolta owners who feel 'torqued off' as one former K-M user put it, now that Sony has assumed much of K-M's camera business. I can understand K-M lens owners and their uncertainty about where their lenses might be "headed"--it's a very uncertain time right now. Will K-M lenses be headed for a long future of use, or will these be the last lenses for a discontinued or dead-end line of D-LR cameras? Kodak D-SLR users who payed almost five thousand dollars for a Kodak-branded full-frame D-SLR camera might feel similarly,now that Kodak has pulled out of the D-SLR business. Now that Nikon only has remaining the manufacturing capacity to make F6,D50,D70s,and the D2-series bodies (according to Thom Hogan) and has dismantled the production facilities and lines for other cameras, where does that leave FujiFilm which has been using Nikon N80 film bodies for the S2 and S3 cameras? With the Nikon N80 film camera now passed into history, what will FujiFilm do for its possible S4 body? The answer is exceedingly unclear. And so,right now a goodly number of formerly zealous S3 Dynamic Rangers are eyeing Canon cameras,or Nikon cameras, and hoping and praying for a modern,decent,competent S4 Pro design to be announced.
Canon shooters have a lot more to be thankful for than FujiFilm D-SLR users. Canon's new EOS 5D was awarded the Camera Of The year 2005 award by Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. According to the editors at Pop Photo, the EOS 20D WAS GOING TO BE awarded the Camera Of The year 2005 title, but at the last minute, Canon was able to get a second potentially award-winning D-SLR onto the market, thus ,making Canon offerings the top two MOST-influential cameras of 2005, at least according to Pop Photo magazine. Canon is on a roll, there is simply no doubt about that. Canon was able to basically produce a full-frame D-SLR body that retails for $3,299 or LESS. Not $8k like the EOS 1Ds and 1Ds-II models, and not $4,995 or $4,500 like the Kodak full-frame models for Nikon F-mount, but $3,299 at full-priced retail. I've read of EOS 5D's being purchased from Dell Computers with a 10 percent-off coupon bringing the sales price down to around $2,900. Quite impressive. And also impressive is the image quality from the new low-priced Canon full-frame model. Stellar noise handling and noise-elimination,even at elevated ISO settings are making those who NEED to shoot at elevated ISO's like 1600 or 3200 seriously consider the 5D as their salvation. And, as an added bonus, the EOS 5D's autofocusing system is garnering accolades for its performance in lower-light conditions where the CAM 900 cameras simply are not very reliable focusers.
Among Nikon users, the current situation is D50,D70s,D200,D2Hs,and D2x. Five cameras, with no Full Frame option in the F-mount camp now that Kodak has quit the business. Nikon cameras are always improving,and yet it's my honest feeling that Nikon really has been bested in the PJ/event/sports camera field by the EOS 1D Mark II and the newest EOS 1D Mark II-N model. The D2h and the D2Hs that replaced it have both been fitted with a 4.1 megapixel image sensor,while Canon has had double the megapixels on both of its models. With CF card peformance being what it is now, and CF prices having come down, I see a clear advantage to the Canon camera. High-ISO noise.....well, Canon images look cleaner than Nikon images,right off the CF card. Oh sure, I hear the Nikon lovers talk about Noise Ninja and Neat Image and about how Nikon users have the "option" to reduce the noise from the noisy images the D2Hs and the D2x both create at elevated ISO's. But that is in fact "spin". Eliminating noise right on the chip is the better solution, especially when there are double the megapixels in the 1D Mark II-N files compared to the D2Hs files. 8.2 megapixels's worth of smooth,sharp,and almost noise-free image at HIGHER-than-specified ISO performance from Canon,as opposed to 4.1 megapixels's worth noisier and lower-resolution image with STATED-ISO performance. Kind of a no-brainer to give the edge to Canon in the PJ/event/sports camera segment. Is it any wonder than Canon has the majority of professional and serious shooters in this category? No, not really.
Today,in early 2006, there are over 20 new D-SLR models for sale. Last year,according to authoritative sources Canon and Nikon acounted for over 90 percent of all D-SLR sales, with Olympus in third place,which is a situation that leaves almost diddly squat in terms of sales numbers left over for companies like FujiFilm, Sony,Pentax-Samsung to scrap for. Canon and Nikon are the big kids on the block,Olympus is a very,very,very,very distant third, and all the rest are mere off-ramp beggars. And so, while there will be some new choices in 2006, we're really right back to almost where we were in 2001, with Canon and Nikon as the MAJOR players and verybody else in the sorta-there category. Kind of sad,really.