Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Nikon Case-in-Point: New D3300

Well, Nikon's latest announcement at the CES show just confirms the point I made the other day. They have no interest in producing "pro-sumer" bodies, or even doing much in the way of new Pro-DX bodies at all. The D3300 has all of the same features of the D7100, at a lower price. Simpler menu and controls, and much simpler AF system, with an 18-55mm VRII lens for $650. Why would most people buy the D7100 any longer? They're just aiming for bragging points at the Best Buy sales counter, that's all. Filling an already-saturated market with more consumer fluff at the cheapest price possible is not a winning strategy. Still no replacement for the D300… No up-armored, faster D7100 yet… But, you CAN glimpse the new D4S at the CES show, and its $6500 price tag.

Monday, January 6, 2014

D600 Follow-Up

So, I've had this thing for four and a half months now… The answer to the question no one has asked me ("So, how do you like it?") is this; I like it, but having it isn't critical to my core business. Yes, there are things a full-frame sensor can do very well. BUT… and this is important to note, Most of Nikon's current products are consumer-driven offerings, not photographer-driven. In short, their main cameras are NOT professional-grade equipment. Not even close. You can buy a D4, or a D800, and that's it if you're a pro. Your choices are limited to FX sensor, slow but incredible resolution or fast but lower resolution. And don't get me started on the build of their lenses. The D600 is a ground-breaking consumer device, no doubt. It has great resolution, but comes with a kit camera which isn't good enough to challenge the sensor. Old D-series lenses are better by a fraction. Nikon offers great lenses, sure, but for people like me who live in a challenging market and cannot cost-adjust for the extra expense, these $1k+ lenses remain out of reach financially. Do I need them? Hell, yes. Can I justify the cost when pixel peeping? Hell, no. Are Canon's basic lenses better? I don't know but I'm almost curious enough to buy a used 7D and borrow some lenses to find out. I cringe when I think of all of the money I've spent changing systems in the last ten years. I started with Canon and switched horses to Konica-Minolta. Then when KM was tripped up by Sony and offered nothing competitive for nearly three years, I switched to Nikon and bought a very capable D300. I still occasionally use my D300 today; with a sharp lens it is still a monster camera for track use. The viability of the D300 has kept me from trying a Canon 7D… until now. While my old KM 7D bodies weren't the fastest focusing bodies on the market, when they locked focus it was damn sure always on the subject. No false locks. They nailed it, or they didn't focus at all. No in between. That's my main complaint with Nikon's CAM system. I can never tell what it is doing. Focusing on different types of materials, or focusing on different surface angles produces different AF lock results. Sometimes forward of the subject, sometimes aft of the subject, but 100% frustrating. I thought that using an all-Nikon lens system might improve things, coupled with the latest D600 body, but sadly, it appears I was wrong. I just don't feel like I can always trust the Nikon AF system available in my price range. I'm left wondering what to do next. Canon's 7D is practically ancient technology in AF and sensor quality. The 6D is rumored to not be as good as the D600 I currently have, and Canon's next-up model is the 6D Mark III, something clearly out of my price range. MFGs, if you keep producing mediocre mid-level products, you WILL go out of business. Honda and their long-running Civic comes to mind. Great car, decent price, keeps customers coming back when they want a bigger or better model later in life. Does my recent issues with the AF in the D7100 or the D600 make me want to jump up to Nikon's more expensive cameras. Not really. Until Nikon figures out how to train their assembly techs better so that the AF crosses line up exactly under the boxes, and how to make their AF system work without as much Artificial Intelligence doing thinking for me, I don't see that their cameras will do what I need to the degree I want it done. And that's a fact I find deeply troubling, especially in light of the reviews which think the new Df focuses no more accurately than the D600 I currently own. Only Sony offers something in the A99 which might be an acceptable substitute. Not too sure on that price or battery life though. Would have liked to return to the CES show this week and try them out at the Sony booth but I suppose I can always try to just rent one someday if I'm really curious. Honestly, I can't see how, with the same sensor as the D600, it could be any worse.