Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Things Have Become So Bad I Am Simply Disgusted

Things on the dPreview pro-oriented Nikon forum,as well as the FujiFilm SLR Talk have become SO BAD this week that I am totally,totally disgusted. Formerly decent posters on the Nikon board have succumbed to the long-standing pestering from the Canon trolls, as well as to the long,slow slip in Nikon product performance relative to Canon performance,and angry F-mount users are lashing out in record numbers. On the FujiFilm SLR Talk board, some of the formerly nice,polite,and thoughtful posters have become really nasty and abrasive, and some have even taken to making ad hominem attacks on posters who are no longer in the forum. Truly, some amazing cheap-shots have been thrown out on both those boards over the past four days especially, and it's absolutely disgusting to me.

The problem in a nutshell is the way new-age digital shooters seem to be suffering from ridiculous,almost juvenile brand loyalty. Along with BRAND loyalty, there is an almost tragic level of camera model loyalty,as well as the stupidest thing of all, "lens loyalty". The web's various forums are now filled with folks who are sooooooo anxious to defend their choices in brand,camera model,and lens model that the forums in many cases have become nothing more than argument after argument after argument. Loads of newbies arguing with experienced shooters with decades of experience. Loads of newbies writing posts and essays about how their newest object of lust and affection is "the best". It's pathetic. The degree of ridiculous brand,camera,and lens loyalty now displayed on some of the major web forums is just simply p-a-t-h-e-t-i-c. The sharing of information that we used to have has been replaced by petty squabbling,as well as days long vitriolic flame wars. Shape up you people!

There is a thread today in the "Nikon D1-D2-D100-D200 Banding Forum" that shows that even some of the best-informed Nikon shooters have lost their objectivity,and are now refusing to acknowledge that the tens of millions of dollars Canon has spent on R&D has given Canon a fairly commanding lead in several areas of D-SLR performance and design,as well as in lens design and in overall,total market leadership.

Those who dare to bring up Canon's leadership,or Canon's strong suits, or Canon's advantages over Nikon or Fuji or other F-mount bodies, are having their reputations sullied, their names insulted, and are being told things like, "Go play in the middle of the street like a good little retard." That last one is an actual quote from a guy that USED to be a pretty decent Nikon forum poster, but who has recently become an incredibly nasty troll-caller and a staunch defender of all things Nikon.
Those who do not bow down and kiss the ring of the Nikon D2-series, or the Fuji S3, or the Nikon D200 are being insulted, harangued,hassled, and spam-bombed. It has come to the point where the signal-to-noise ratio is simply unbearable in the dPreview forums dedicated to Nikon and Fuji-branded d-slrs . There's almost NO SIGNAL, but merely static,hissing,and booing. Not that the Canon forums are much better--the disappointment over the fantastically featured, affordable Canon EOS 30D is to me, almost unfathomable. The newly-announced EOS 30D,to be priced at $1399 at intro in mid-March 2006 looks like it will be an incredibly full-featured,well-designed refinement of the EOS 10D and EOS 20D models which came before it. BUT, according to probably half of the folks on the Canon D60/10D/20D/30D forum, the 30D does not offer "enough". And by "enough" I think they mean the 30D does not offer 'enough' to clearly trump Nikon's new D200. It seems as if Canon users expect that Canon could and would leapfrog Nikon's offerings,as Canon has done in the past, with the introduction of the EOS 30D. Got news for ya' people---the 30D is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and it looks to be a truly fine,fine camera for under $1399. The fact that it takes the same batteries and BG-2 accessory grip and EF and EF-S lenses of the 20D is a GOOD thing!

In the Nikon Banding Forum as I have taken to calling it lately, the vast majority of the static and hissing and booing is because Nikonophiles are pissed off that a small but very significant number of Nikon D200 bodies sold to people all over the world seem to be plagued by banding AND that buyers of those cameras have the nerve to COMPLAIN about the defective cameras they've payed $1700 for.A Nikonophile is a Nikon Sycophant, or a One Brand Zealot; a Nikonophile is not to be confused with a guy who used or owns Nikon equipment and who generally likes Nikon equipment. A Nikonophile will NEVER buy a Sigma,Tokina,or a Tamron lens,and he will never even consider that there is any better equipment made than that which bears the Nikon brand. So, how bad is this D200 banding that regular Nikon users are complaining about? The problem is so significant that Nikon itself has issued a statement about D200 banding, and has in fact classified banding as being of types 1,2,or 3. Good Christ, there are THREE types of banding which can affect the D200,according to Nikon's official statement!!! Okay. The owners of the bad D200 bodies are voicing their complaints on the web,and are alerting people to the fact that Nikon has released a camera model with a problem in some units,and the One Brand Zealots are irritated that a serious Nikon issue is being brought to light.Of course the owners of the defective D200's are bringing their plight out into the open,since the problem is so bad and so widespread that Nikon itself has issued NOTICES,on its own web sites,commenting on the problem; this is a change in tactics for Nikon,which has refused to offer public acknowledgement of several equipment failures and flaws over the past few years, like the 70-200VR "dead syndrome", the D2h dead meter syndrome, and the D70 drop-dead problem. In the case of the 70-200VR, D2h,and D70 drop-dead syndrome, Nikon never said there was a problem,but instead tried to keep the problem swept under the rug. It was only after LARGE numbers of buyers of these affected products complained on web boards worldwide that Nikon even acknowledged that there were,indeed, actual,real,and very significant problems with the D2h,and the D70. To my knowledge, the 70-200 VR's problem was never relly acknowledged by Nikon, but was handled as a warranty repair with no real statement from Nikon ever made about that widespread problem.

My fairly new 70-200 in fact,went down with a total failure of the lens diaphragm and the autofocusing and VR systems. The lens would not respond to any f/stop input on several Nikon bodies, and it would not focus. On dPreview, there was a lengthy,long-running thread about 70-200VR lens failures,which is how I learned about the problem and thought, "Hey,wow, am I lucky or what--I got the first 70-200VR in town,just by accident,and MINE works GREAT!" Then one day, diaphragm, no focusing, no VR. Had I not been a regular dPreview reader, I would have never known that this was happening all over the world with the early release models of the 70-200VR.

D2h owners bought the $3,499 bodies, and had sudden,unexpeced light meter failures. The first people who dared to bring the problem to the attention of the dPreview community were ridiculed and crucified and described as "whiners" and "moaners." Turns out, Nikon made and sold Lord knows how many D2h bodies with a bad component and apparently a bad solder joint or something,and the D2h meter failure syndrome turned out to be, surprise, a REAL,ACTUAL,widespread PROBLEM. Only after significant public outcry on web boards, did Nikon actually acknowledge and identify the D2h dead meter syndrome. Same with the D70.....a fairly significant number of D70 models just crapped out. Same story,with Nikon just going along and refusing to acknowledge any problems until the cat was out of the bag. Is that any way to run a company? In two and a half years, to have three SERIOUS, and I mean really SERIOUS quality control/design/manufacturing flaws on thousands of high-priced Nikon products? And to stonewall and to refuse to admit any problems until overwhelming evidence made it literally,impossible to keep the user community in the dark? I think that is NOT a good way to run a company, but then Nikon is a Japanese company,and losing face is a big deal there. But,according to my way of thinking, hiding one's mistakes and not admitting them is much,much more of a loss of face than admitting and owning up to one's mistakes.

Now, as to this nasty,disgusting attitude that's creeping into web-based forums where a lot of F-mount users congregate,is that, after months of Nikon users and owners fending off Canon trolls who gloated about the 8.2 MP EOS 1D Mark II's trumping of the 4.1 MP, defect-prone D2h, Nikonophiles got pissed off at those who dared to say ANYTHING bad about Nikon the company or about Nikon products. The gloating from the Canon folks was largely due to the fact that before Nikon had actually introduced the D2h to the world, Nikon said that their new sports/event/PJ camera would have really,really,really low noise performance,even at elevated ISO settings; Nikon's pre D2h chatter promised users that the next big thing from Nikon would benefit from a revolutionary "new sensor". What happened was that within a month of the D2h hitting the market, Canon trumped Nikon with the EOS 1D Mark II. Double the megapixels, a better sensor, lower noise, and higher-than-expected ISO sensitivities all favored the new Canon. The D2h had a huge problem with noise, and also a signifcant problem with many synthetic fabrics and with many types of objects with near-infrared wavelengths. The D2h rendered a LOT of black athletic uniforms as purple-ish or dark,dark purple-black. What our eyes saw as black, many times the D2h would render as a purple-ish or "sort of black". The solution? How about a $175 77mm hot mirror filter over every pro Nikon lens mounted to the D2h? Great solution,huh? Even Thom Hogan described the D2h as being a great camera with a sensor that was, to paraphrase, what held the D2h back from being considered a great camera.

In the last week, the Fuji D-SLR camp has been plagued with S4 or no Fuji S4? threads, a game which has become quite pathetic. Jumbuck and his detractors have gotten into some incredibly nasty posts regarding Fuji's future in the D-SLR market, as well as Jumbuck's many anti Canon 5D rants. The normally level-headed Classic Man and Padey have traded some hurtful,hurtful insults on the FujiFilm SLR Talk board, and the derisive threads involving fsmith of Germany have been absolutely disgusting. Several of the early Fuji S3 Pro fanatics,who raved and ranted about how fantastic the S3 pro was in the early days, have since bought Nikon D2x cameras, and most of them have increasingly come to prefer the output and the use of the Nikon over the Fuji S3 pro which they radically and vociferously defended in the first few months of release of the S3.

All in all, what has happened to the dPreview forum communities recently is simply disgusting to me. And to other people. I am not the only person to have noticed what has been happening. A month ago, I thought it would have blown over by now, but instead the situation is going to hell in a handbasket. It is incredibly sad what is happening at dPreview's forums, but the same type of thing is going on at other website forums, particularly those catering specifically to Nikon owners and users. Nikon's own lack of leadership,and its lack of owning up to the defective products it has released, has taken its toll over the past two years. It's really,really,really sad. No wonder so many people have thrown in the towel on the F-mount and simply bought Canon systems.

What annoys me a lot in the various forums today is the number of recent converts to digital SLRs who think that,since they've studied some brochures, and bought a piece of equipment based on some skimpy research or some magazine or web article, is that they have somehow found "the perfect tool". And that of course, THEIR choice is the BEST choice, or that they own a piece of equipment that is without fault, or that is somehow worthy of being idolized,flaunted,vaunted, or even worshipped. In fact, I had an incident last week when a prominent newbie Nikon user took umbrage at my disdain for the Nikkor 28-70 AF-S when used on the crop-sensor bodies Nikon which are the only type of D-SLRs that Nikon makes. He's the same fellow who,to the best of my knowledge,coined the term "Lens Lust",and who popularized that terminology by repeatedly making posts about his newest object of desire, and then finally buying it,but only after a suitable number of encouraging posts and adequate prodding from other newbies and from owners of the object of desire. After he had finally taken the plunge and bought a new object of desire, he'd trash the prior-owned lens in that category,and would then wax eloquently on how fantastic and wonderful and awesome the new toy was. At one time it was the 60mm Micro-Nikkor. Then it was the 28-70. After those first two lenses were talked up to the point of God-like divinity, I stopped reading his posts, but he had successfully indoctrinated hundreds of newbies into the idea that one ought to subscribe to a thing that he called Lens Lust. When I openly challenged the utility of the 28-70 on cropped-sensor cameras in a post directed to a wealthy high school junior, this self-styled opinion leader,with something like three years' woth of photography experience, took the opportunity to step in and publicly defame me and my character. His misplaced indignation came as a surprise to me,and he acted as if the post I had made to this high school boy were somehow directed at him,the coiner of the term Lens Lust! I was a bit torqued off.

The Lens Lust phrase coiner let me know that "to many of us,the 28-70 is 'the crown jewel' in many of our collections". So be it....he likes it..he hyped the 28-70 up for MONTHS on end,and encouraged many,many unsuspecting users to plunk down for "The Beast",which was the pet name he coined for his beloved 48-ounce 28-70 AF-S Nikkor. I'd never heard the term Lens Lust, and I had never heard the term "The Beast" until this One Brand Zealot got on the web,and I've been shooting Nikon consistently since 1982, and occasionally from 1977 to 1981. Never had I heard either of those terms. And yet, some newbie went and trashed me and my point of view simply because I had the balls to say that the crop-sensored D-SLR models Nikon offers us have RUINED the UTILITY of the 28-70,and also that the 28-70 is a huge,fat,heavy,and obnoxiously-sized lens which is,in many social photography situations, a huge detriment. Of course, all of these opinions were lost on this fellow,and his accolytes. They have after all, been shooting SLR cameras,well, since the D70 came out! They don't seem to undertsand that the 28-70 AF-S was designed for FULL-FRAME cameras,and they don't seem to think that a coffe can-sized lens that weights about 48 ounces is in any way,inappropriate in,apparently, ANY type of situation.

Wow....such experience,such insight these fellows have, that they think pointing a big,fat,obnoxiously oversized lens into the faces of total strangers, party-goers,and wedding guests is a perfetly acceptable way to conduct one's self. Their inexperience and tactlessness is really showing,but then these are the real boosters, the fellows who absolutely LOVE to hype up the few AF-S wide zooms that Nikon makes as being useful in all situations for all people. These are the same people who seem to ignore the fact that Nikon has made a REPLACEMENT LENS for their cropped-sensor SLR's,and that replacement lens is called the 17-55 DX. It has no cute nickname, it's just called the 17-55 DX. Similar angles of view, similar size, close in price, similar in performance to what the 28-70 yeilded on full-frame film, but DESIGNED FOR DIGITAL SLR's with CROPPED sensors. Still....look at the 17-55 Dx in terms of size and weight and optical performance, and then compare the Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX lens at $499. The Sigma brings with it 95 percent of the performance of the two herking Nikkors, but is SMALLER and lighter and very much a low-profile,discreet zoom lens that's not guaranteed to draw screams of "Pervert!" when you point it around at people who happen to be busy enjoying their lives at the local park or beach or street fair.

Sigma has made an ultra-compact 18-50mm f/2.8 constant aperture zoom that is SMALL,light,and designed for digital, and is under $500,and which offers the useful range of focal lengths most people used to get from the 28-70, back when the F5 was the best game in town. My recomendation to the high school kid was that he NOT SELL off his 17-35 AF-S to buy a 28-70,and to then latr re-purchase the 17-35. But,sicne I didn;t profess love,or lust for a beast, I had my reputation trashed by the coiner of the phrases "Lens Lust" and "The Beast." Amazing thing, this world wide web,sine it is a place where a guy whose first real Nikon was the D70, the camera my mother in law shoots, has been able to come in an in a few months establish himself as some sort of self-style guru,leading newbies through their periods of lust for more equipment than they can afford,and where high school boys act like smart asses and take the time to mouth of to people who actually understand CARE about the reputation of photography and of photographers by reccomending smaller,lighter,more-discrete lens choices in social photograpahy situations. But,the problem is, there are tons of people who do not even understand what the term "social photography" means. But I guess they know that The Beast is the right lens for it!

Comment: I thought the "DX" lens series was supposed to bring us smaller,and lighter lenses. What the fuck happened with the 17-55 DX? How come the Sigma 18-50 2.8 EX is so small and compact, but the 17-55 DX is so damned huge? Where's the smallness and the lightness we were promised with the DX lenses? Well, the answer is that, above about 135mm, there is NO ADVANTAGE IN SIZE,or weight, to Dx lenses. There will be no DX telephotos from Nikon. Look at the Olympus E-series and its 300mm f/2.8 "DX" is positively HUGE!!! Bigger than a full-frame 300/2.8 for Nikon or Canon,heavier, and a couple THOUSAND dollars more expensive than it ought to be. Nope....this whole Dx thing is just a marketing ruse, a stop-gap measure that was designed to freeze people from migrating out of the Nikon system to Canon. Dx lenses have in some cases been no smaller,and doggone little lighter than full-circle lenses they were ostensibly designed to replace. AND there have been NO DX TELE PRIMES, and only ONE DX wide angle prime from Nikon.Nikon curently has a HANDFUL of Dx-specified lenses. 95% of the Nikkor lens line covers full-frame 35mm. 95% of the Nikkor lens line was designed with film capture in mind.And pretty soon, Nikon will be offering full-frame digital SLR bodies for sale. They simply have to, because Canon is kicking their asses sales-wise and performance wise.

The larger sensors of full-frame cameras put lower demands on lenses, due to larger pixel size, and also due to lower pixel densities. The small, Dx-sized sensor of the D2x is an example of exceptionally small pixels, in a very,very high-density array,with the upshot being that MANY fine older Nikkor telephoto lenses are showing degraded imaging performance on the D2x's sensor, and also causing a LOT of lenses to show their optical weaknesses. Under the old rules, with 2.7 MP and 4.1 MP and 5.2 MP cameras, and 6.1 MP cameras (D1-D1h-D100-D2h-D2Hs-D1x-D70-D50) using small, Dx-sized sensors, pixel density and pixel size was not a problem,and even modest consumer-grade lenses as well as some of the more modest,semi-pro orinted Nikkor lenses there was no problem with optical quality on MOST ALL Nikon D-SLR bodies. At 6.1 or fewer megapixels on DX sized sensors,lens quality of MOST Nikkor lenses was adequate to good. With the same sized sensor now stuffed with twice as many much SMALLER,more tightly-packed pixels, the D2x has become a marvelous tool for showing us that Nikon's lenses need to be either re-designed for digital,finally, or that Nikon has finally hit the end of the road with the DX-sized sensor. Frankly, considering how much good,older glass is out there, and considering how LONG people hold onto good lenses, I think Nikon absolutely MUST, they absolutely MUST move to a larger-than-DX sensor in their next generation of cameras in orser to 1)take the pressure off of their exisitng lenses and their performance limitations and 2) to finally solve the noise problems that Nikon has had in so many of its cameras.

So, what has all this got to do with being disgusted? I find it absolutely appalling to see the number of Nikon boosters who actually take the time to write dPreview posts about why Full-Frme Digital is "a bad idea" or is "not needed", and that full frame digital is a "marketing gimmick propagated by Canon",and all that same other bullshit. These are people,mostly shooting entry-level and consumer-grade D-SLR's,who really have no clue about what full-frame means in terms of using lenses designed for film, and no clue about the way the current Nikkor lens lineup is really sort of in limbo,waiting for Full Frame to arrive to bring some much-needed performance boosts to Nikon shooters. Most of these Full Frame is Bad people have never shot a 35mm SLR! I swear, they have not! They own two,or three,maybe four,or maybe even (gasp!) five lenses,with one or two of them being Dx lenses. They just don't "get" the fact that the cropped-sensor D-SLR's have fucked us owners of the 300 and 400 prime lenses out of two of our most-useful sports/nature lenses by making them in effect, too narrow-angle. These are the same people that seem to think a 70-200 is all that's needed for "sports", and who do not understand why Sigma is cleaning house with their 120-300 f/2.8 EX-HSM zoom lens; these are the same types of people who do not understand how,or why Sigma has been able to jack the price of the 120-300 up by several hundred dollars ($500 actually) in the last year....and the answer is not inflation. The answer is that there is a huge,huge need for a 120-300 lens with 2.8 aperture, and that neither Canon nor Nikon are offering this lens "type".

How does a 3rd party zoom languish on the market for almost five years at $1799,and then overnight, see its price rise to $2299,in one move? Answer? Utility,usefulness,unique selling proposition,versatility,and market demand! What has Nikon been busy designing in the five years since the 120-300 Sigma has been around? How about a $5,300 200-400mm f/4 AF-S G VR lens. Nice for birders and outdoor photographers who have five thou to drop on an f/4 200mm and a f/4 300mm and an f/4 400mm. What a joke! Is Nikon REALLY that out of touch with its users? It seems so. They've clearly abandoned the sports market,since they've had their asses kicked so,so badly by Canon, so now they appear to be targeting rich bird shooters and outdoor photographers who are willing to pay over five thousdand dollars for a slow 200 and slow 300 and a slow 400mm lens, for whom the 2x zoom ratio and lengthy,awkward lens barrel is of no concern. Mind you, I would LOVE to own a 200-400 VR Nikkor, but being stuck with a 200mm f/4 lens? And a 300mm f/4 lens? Fuck that shit, I've had 200mm f/4 covered since 1981, and with much SMALLER and LIGHTER lenses. And 300mm f/4,even with VR? For five thou? Again, not much aperture speed, almost no teleconverter potential except in the very-brightest light,and a long,awkward tube for a 300mm f/4.

Do you see the pattern here? Nikon needs to pull its head out of its ass,and see that Sigma's formerly languishing 120-300mm 2.8 lens has become a sort of cult lens simply because Nikon has not had the capability to make a full frame D-SLR, or even a 1.28x one like Canon has done with the 1D sports models (three models in total in the 1D series).Make no mistake-I LIKE NIKON cameras and Nikkor lenses. But I am not one to sit by and defend this company,or its products any more than they deserve. And frankly, if nobody complains about the products Nikon has made, or about the LACK of products Nikon is suffering from, then what incentive will Nikon ever have to improve the products, or to change the products it is offering? I have a lot invested in Nikon and Nikkors, in all senses of the word. I have almost a quarter century of using Nikon as my main 35-mm style camera or D-SLR camera. Nikon used to make incredibly good products, back in the 70's and 80's, but their leadership in design and in R&D has simply slipped, and Nikon is currently marketing some products that are, quite frankly, sub-par for the 21st century. Like what you ask? How about the fact that Nikon has ONE sub-300mm prime lens that has AF-S focusing. ONE lens, the $3995 200mm f/2 AF-S VR-G lens. Sure, they have announced a second lens, the 105mm f/2.8 AF-S G VR macro, but that lens is not on the market yet,and nobody in he world has shot one outside of a Nikon test facility. So, unless you have four grand to spend, Nikon has NO PRIME LENSES under 300mm that has ADF-S focusing. Instead, they ahev a series of 1980's designed,screwdriver focusing prime lenses. Canon has what? A couple dozen or so,more or less. And the prices....are the Nikkor clunky-focus primes several hundred dollars lower priced than the Ultrasonic Motor focusing Canon lenses? NO.

So, to those who sit around and idolize Nikon cameras, and Nikon lenses, and the Nikon company itself, and who spend their days trashing the reputations of those who have spent years and years within the Nikon system, let me say that your defenses of the Nikon company are pretty disgusting. Your my-dick-is-bigger-than-your-dick bleatings are simply sickening. This crowd of shouting web-based digital snappers,all obsessing about lenses they lust after,and about how great the F-mount camp is,and about how Canon makes "plastic images" and about how "full frame cameras are bad and DX sensored cameras are all anybody needs," well, I wish you'd just get off the web boards and maybe do a little rewading with your eyes open and your minds open to the idea that there might JUST be a better way out there.

The web used to be a place where we could meet to discuss equipment; then digital SLR's came along,and things went along okay,and then the low-priced D-SLR's came onto the market, and then Canon built a significant,apparent lead over Nikon, and after 18 months or so, almost the entire web discussion community is full of idiotic Fanboi brand boosters, or as I have decided to call them, the One Brand Zealots. Some root for Nikon, significantly more root for Canon, and a select few root for FujiFilm D-SLR models. The problem is that these One Brand Zealots seem to have almost nothing on their agendas except to prove that "their choices" are the "right ones", and that everybody who disagrees is an idiot,a troll, or simply unworthy of respect. Those who own and use multiple cameras, like let's say Walter Matthews, or myself, are often seen as suspect; when we try and make honest commentaries,or when we criticise certain products,we make enemies. What has happened over the last six months has been a simply disgusting downward spiral. And so, to those of you who are still reading along, I offer this challenge: the next time you make a post on a web discussion board, state your opinion,back it up with facts or experiences, and leave open the possibility that "you might not _truly_ know what the fuck you're talking about unless you have TRIED the COMPETITION'S offering in the same,exact category.


Partial said...

Sorry. My bad. Previous comment entered at wrong blog entry re: classic man... but don't stand up for such an idiot.

Partial again said...

And one more thing: You should publish people's comments. Your blog is too one-sided.

Carl English (UK) said...

Hi Derrel, as usual my comments are very brief. Sadly I must agree with all your comments regarding downward spiral of etiquette,manners and willingness to participate in promoting photographic knowledge on DPreview.
I used to visit site 2/3 times a day but now I pop in about 3 times a week.
All the best to you and family.
Carl English

Puddin' Tame said...


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