I'm happy to report that the work done by C.R.I.S Camera in Phoenix, AZ appears to be holding. They cleaned the camera and the AF system, and reset it to factory AF specs. This involves a very specific, computerized operation with a very expensive 50mm lens made by Nikon especially for this purpose. All of my lenses now focus on the intended point, most of the time. The camera still has occasional misses under less-than-optimal contrast conditions, and this is still something of a mystery to me, but there's little I can do about that. Nikon has not yet announced the D400 though Nikonrumors.com did report a list of expected features back in July which has me interested in it if it is based on the D3200 sensor and Sony's EXMOR-R backlit technology. The pixel sizes are truely going to be dinky so I wonder how well it will resolve in low light. I've also wondered if the camera stock destroyed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan might have been D400 bodies. If the D3200 launched with 24mp and there's still no D400 announcement forthcoming, this is entirely out of character for Nikon, who typically demonstrates a "trickle-down" approach. Where did the D400 go? The D300/D300S is completely outclassed in today's market.
It looks like Nikon's planning a coming-out party in Dubai on September 13th, and everyone's thinking it'll be the D600. While I've argued for a "Digital FX Rebel" for years from one of the makers, I figured it would go better with a 12mp sensor. If Nikon throws a 24mp sensor in it for the $1600 ballpark, that should generate insane sales. But... it only has a 1/4000th second shutter? Not exactly something which will make pros happy. What is Nikon doing? No true D700 replacement, no D400 replacement, new DX G lenses released but no new DX pro-level body? Baffling...
Seeing as how I need to survive a bit longer with my D300 body, I went ahead and bought a 17-50mm f2.8 lens. It's only a Promaster-labeled version of the reknown Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 lens, with a screw-drive internal focus system, but it should be enough for me. I can't shoot detail shots with my kit lens, a Nikon 18-55mm AF-S. It makes the background too sharp, and when the photos are reduced in size for print, everything looks like a snapshot. I've been using my Nikon 35mm F1.8G lens quite a bit because it is so sharp and has excellent bokeh, which allows me to place the focus point of the viewer exactly where I want it. Hopefully, this new (to me) Promaster will do the same.
The longer I shoot, the more my photography comes down to controlled color, sharpness, and contrast. I find myself continually lusting for exotic f1.4 optics which will work on my APS-C sensor. Unfortunately, said optics also come with exotic prices, which is why FX shooters have all the fun. They can cozy up to f1.8 lenses and still have creamy, dreamy backgrounds, even when their photos have been reduced for print or web display. The reputation of the Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 is that it can be shot at f2.8 and it is sharp there. Now I merely have to wait for delivery... and of course, the all important first few test photos!