Tuesday, March 19, 2013
And the Lord looked out over his creation and said, "What has Nikon never built?". The answer came back from the People; "A super-high resolution DX body." So the Lord touched the sensor engineers and the executives and the marketing people and said "Let it be so." And it was. And all was good, briefly. Then he People said, "But Lord, why are the outer AF points back-focusing?" And the good Lord replied, "Focusing system is off? Even I can't help Nikon with that." So, the moral of this story is that the D7100 is, at this point, a terrific high-res body with some cool new features... and only 9 AF points in the center you can trust with your work or hobby photos. I'm sure they'll be able to fix this with a proper calibration, but we're just a few days into the launch, so a properly calibrated set of AF setting for repair centers is going to be a month or so down the road. Meanwhile, get out there and use those center points, folks! Focus then recompose, just like our D600 brethren! I'll be back with more later as I investigate the camera over the next few days but for the moment, rest assured that image quality is of no concern at all. It's excellent!
Friday, March 15, 2013
Okay, so anyone who has ever read my blog knows that I'm a bit of a pixel-peeper. With just 12 megapixels available from my D300, I have to be. I'm competing in a print world against fellows with 20 and 21mp Canon bodies, or 16mp Nikon D4s and 36mp D800s. With the ability to "throw away pixels" and gain sharpness through image resizing/resampling to a slightly smaller final product, these guys (and gals) can shoot with softer f1.4 lenses and still creat tack sharp images with excellent bokeh. When I send in a folder to an editor, probably the first thing they do in the evaluation stages is to pick through all of the photos to find the compositions they like. Then they move on to chosing the best based on light and sharpness, and send those on to a layout team. My lowly 12mp images have to be spot-on even to compete with those from the Canon 7D or older Sony models. Technology moved on and Nikon, instead of simply upgrading the sensor in the D300/D300S models to the latest and greates, instead chose to revise the good-selling D7000. This camera actually remains in the lineup for a while longer, which I think is a smart move by Nikon. Not everyone needs what the D7100 has to offer... but I do! 24 un-aliased megapixels! Yowza! High speed crop mode which makes my 70-200mm f2.8 image-stabilized Sigma lens into a monster 140-400mm f2.8! And in this 7fps cropped mode, it will STILL have 15 megapixels! Bravo! That's a nice feature a pro like me will put to good use at the track. Weather-sealing? On par with the D800. I'll take it. 51 AF points and D4 focus-point processing? Sure, as that's one area where the D300 wasn't terrific. There are too many random colors on race cars for a D300 to be very good at picking one point of the 51 available and sticking with it. I've never found that the "magic AF mode" which allows the camera to determine the subject has ever worked well with the D300. In fact, the times I've used it, it always seems to miss the single best child's expression, or never-to-occur-again track-side collision. If I shoot in Focus Priority, sometimes it won't allow the shutter to be released at all. If I shoot in Shutter Priority, I get shots, but they may or may not be in focus where I want them to be. Such is the life of a D300 user. I will say this; it has performed far better after being reset to factory specifications by CRIS Camera in Tempe, Arizona. It's better, but by no means perfect. I'm not suggesting that the D7100 will be perfect. Like many, I have concerns about the shallow buffer for RAW files, although I don't shoot RAW files at the track, and the robustness of the plastic internal body and front plate. I would have preferred that the metal lens mount be attached to a metal mirror box/internal frame assembly, but perhaps Nikon has their reasons for the switch. In my discussions with Thom Hogan, but he and I feel that there will be a D400 forthcoming later this year. I think it will come in around $1,700, and I think he believes it will cost a little less. The point being, both of us see a market for a high-speed, durable body DX "pro" camera, and think that Nikon will see it that way too. Meanwhile, I will be happily shooting my D7100!. I've had two D300s and haven't had one of those 150k-cycle shutters fail yet so I harbor no trepidation about the one in the D7100. Personally, I've never been concerned about shutter life because, by the time I get to that number, another camera will have arrived with further sensor improvements. Don't kid yourselves either; this D7100 appears to have a monster sensor. Sample photos I've seen indicate it can shoot at ISO 1600 with little to no grain "noise" which afflicts my D300. I did try a D7000 briefly as a stop-gap measure, and while the sensor does some great things, the AF didn't. Hence my refusal to buy a D600 with that inept AF system. The "focus and recompose" approach doesn't work with high-speed cars on the track. The wider 51-point setup of the D300 has points where they are most needed, and the D7100 follows its lead whether in DX or super-crop mode. In fact, the super-crop mode may offer the best possible world; being able to shoot an 85mm f1.8 or f1.4 lens as a 170mm f1.8 or f1.8! Super bokeh, baby! Something else I liked about the D7000 and was happy to see on the D7100; dual SD card slots. SDXC cards are the fastest things I've for the least amount of money. Cranking 45 mb/second onto a 16mb Lexar or SanDisk SDXC card, at a cost of less than $20 per card is a Godsend for my business. I have one of the fast SanDisk Ultra cards, and I suppose I'll buy two more (or the Lexar equivalent) just for good measure. The 16gb cards test out as "faster" than the cards with more space, and with the buffer size limited, I'll take the fastest card I can get! I'm hoping I'll never need that sort of write speed, but if I do, I plan to have it. Boy Scout's motto: Be Prepared! I know it will be difficult for my one regular reader to wait patiently for an update, but I promise I'll get to one somewhere after the 19th of March, hopefully with photos too!