Sunday, October 01, 2006

Is The F-mount Now For Soccer Moms? Nikon's New Ads

So, I'm watching a college football game on TV yesterday,and I see the occasional athlete going out of bounds shots,where the photographers covering the game have to scurry out of the way as the athletes,often two in number,stumble out of bounds. NCAA rules state that photographers must position themselves NO CLOSER than six feet from the playing surface in football stadiums. As these going out of bounds/photographers scurrying shots are beaming into my TV set, I notice that not too many people covering NCAA college football are still shooting Nikon cameras and lenses. Sports photography has come to be dominated by Canon d-slr's, and I think we all know that. Yet still Nikon has a lot of people using its cameras and lenses. I'm invested enough that I can't justify a full-blown move away from Nikon and toward the Canon body and lens system. I can however, manage a small amount of Canon gear, which currently is one EOS 20D body, and a Canon 50/1.8,a Canon 100/2.8 macro, an 18-125mm Sigma, and a Lensbaby in EF mount. Plus, and this is a big plus, I can use ALMOST all of my Nikkor lenses on my Canon d-slr with a lens adapter I own. So, even though I might be shooting a Canon digital body, I'm still using F-mount lenses.

Canon is the best alternative to Nikon cameras and lenses,I believe. But now Pentax,Sony,Olympus,and Leica are marketing professionally oriented cameras and lenses, or are trying to create a belief that they are companies with professionally oriented aspirations and ideas. Pentax for example, has stepped up to the plate and created a series of three professionally oriented zoom lenses designed SPECIFICALLY to address the problems of using a 1.5x FOV sensored digital SLR. Pentax's creation of a 60-250mm f/4 with ED glass and ultrasonic motor autofocusing pleases me greatly; while not the 50-250mm lens I called for Nikon to make, a constant aperture 60-250mm f/4 with low dispersion glass and_switch-free_ full time manual focusing override is a HUGE,HUGE step toward addressing the real-world concerns of people who shoot with a 1.5x camera. Pentax arrived VERY,very late to the digital slr business, and Pentax digital users are somewhat few in number. I have however seen MORE Pentax d-slr's in actual field use than any of the other "off brands". Pentax's commitment to the development of NEW lens types, such as an ultra-wide fisheye zoom lens (10-17mm fisheye),its prestiege "Limited" series of autofocusing,metal-barreled prime lenses, and its new three-lens line of pro optics,shows a commitment to the new film-free camera paradigm. The Pentax Limited series of prime lenses include the high-speed 31mm f/1.8 wide-angle, the 43mm f/1.9 "true" normal lens, and the 77mm f/1.8 telephoto.

Olympus has some beautifully made lenses in the 4/3 mount. Olympus has some fine engineers and some nice ergonomics,and its 4/3 aspect ratio E-1 has a small following. Old-time Oly 35mm lenses CAN be adapted to the new 4/3 lens mount,and used on Oly d-slr cameras, but not many people are aware of that,and not many people I suspect actually have an adapter. But Olympus digital users are, by my perception,very rare people. I have not seen very many new Olypus d-slrs in field use...two that I can actually recall.

So...who is still using the F-mount? I would say hundreds of thousands of serious amateurs,as well as several million snapshooters with their first d-slr model D50,D70,D80,or D200. There are also tens of thousands of professional photographers across many disciplines of photography,all having their needs met by F-mount d-slrs. Most F-mount users are Nikon users, a small number are Fuji d-slr users,and an even samller number are those using the last few Kodak d-slr models DCS 760,14n,and SLR/n. The F-mount is still VERY,very much alive and kicking. Nikon and FujiFilm continue to make F-mount d-slrs.

Ever since Nippon Kogaku (aka Japan Camera, aka Nikon) made the first non-pro Nikormat and Nikomat models, and especially since Nippon Kogaku dropped the amateur-oriented naming convention of Nikomat or Nikormat for amateur-oriented models and changed ALL its cameras to simply "Nikon"in the late 1970's, the cameras from Nippon Kogaku have become more and more oriented toward amateur users and amateur buyers. The "dumbing down" of the Nikon brand that was embodied in the Nikon EM back in my younger days was the first step toward a Nikon-branded camera which was to be aimed at the newbie buyer. Today we have the Nikon D50,aimed at the beginning d-slr photographer,and we have the D2Xs,aimed at the most serious of d-slr photographers. And in between, Nikon has the D80 and D200 and D2Hs models. Nikon has cameras for every photographer. Including the Nikon F6,which is the latest film 35mm SLR Nikon has made, and the Nikon FM-10,which is manufactured by Cosina for Nikon. Nikon has cameras for every photographer, but how is Nikon doing on LENSES for every photographer?

Interestingly, I noticed yesterday that Nikon bought three pages of advertising beginning on Page 149 of the November 2006 issue of Parents magazine. A cute campaign,its introductory page shows two rows of four self portraits on the top of the page, then in the middle of the page is a very short piece of ad copy that says, "We gave them the new Nikon D80. What they gave back was stunning." Then below that are two more rows of four self-portraits. Sixteen moms and dads,I assume.Moms and dads,each with the Nikon D80 that Nikon says, "we gave them." And guess what? TURN THE PAGE of the magazine and you're greeted with two more pages,facing each other, with Nikon hyping the web site that was created to show off the photography of these allegedly regular,everyday people. Nice-looking people in their late 20's and early to mid-30's for the most part,with a couple of early 40-somethings thrown in. The women,seven in all,are all nice-looking I'd say. The men are a bit less-attractive lot,but look pretty real to me. It's all very slick. Turn the page,and the ad copy gets a lot smaller, but it features web addresses where we can see the work of these newly-minted Nikon D80 shooters. Here are some of the URL's. and as well as and rounding out the four highlighted web addresses is . Well, maybe the ad copy has it right on Page 151 of Parents magazine,where it is written, "They shoot for photo sites like Flickr. They shoot for family photo albums. They shoot because they're passionate about taking pictures. What did they capture with the new 10.2 megapixel Nikon D80? See more of the jaw-dropping highlights at "

But that's not all. Turn the page one more time, and on Page 153 of Parents magazine, November 2006, there's a whole bunch of Nikon ad copy about the new D80 model. Nikon gets in such tidbits as: 10.2 Megapixel, DX format sensor,high-resolution image processing engine, and, "Up to 2,700 images per battery charge." They also get in some additional specs, like 0.18 second startup time, and "a fast 80ms shutter response". They're pitching the D80 in the ad with the new ,"18-135mm 7.5x Zoom AF-Nikkor lens for just $1299.95." This makes me wonder--is Nikon now actively going after the soccer mom and football dad market? Nikon's recent lens development efforts have centered around slowish consumer zoom lenses,as more and more people take the entry-level plunge into d-slr-dom. Let's face it--consumer photography now has got damned little to do with film. 35mm film SLR's are dead at the volume sales level. Dead. Now it's time for the camera companies to really get out there and to start selling NEW cameras. It seems that the most money is at the bottom of the market, and over the last 18 months, Nikon's been focusing the MOST lens atention on lower-end,or maybe I should say "kit" or "travel" lenses, as well as socccer mom lenses like the 55-200 and the new 70-300 with VR. Nikon's been really hitting it hard to try and make some new LOW-cost zooms for low-cost bodies. Now Nikon's pitching d-slr's in Parents magazine? Yup! And the same,exact ad is running in the November issue of Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. Along with the Pop Photo's official production camera D80 review. The big news? Fantastic in-camera editing features (new files are created,so originals are not destoyed),and one can trim imageses in-camera, apply D-lighting in-camera,and one can reduce redeye in-camera too. Fantastic resolution off the new 10.2 MP sensor--over 2200 lines! Over 1700 lines of resolution at ISO 3200! The best ISO 1600 performance of any Nikon d-slr, according to Pop Photo's editors. The D80 marks a big step forward for Nikon's control over sensor noise. Pretty neat stuff,coming from a $999 camera. I'm sure that the Nikon F-mount will have many,many,many entirely new converts before New year's Eve 2007.

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