Some thoughts on Nikon latest cameras (revisited?)

I have been monitoring the new Nikon cameras that entered the market this (and the past) year, mainly the D800 and D600. As I have mentioned in other posts here, I currently own two Nikon digital bodies (the D700 and the D300), which were selected very carefully to match my needs.

I have to say, right up front, that I am perfectly satisfied with my existing cameras, so my discussion here, is mostly academic, I do not plan to buy a new camera, but being a Nikon aficionado for years, I do like to keep myself informed about their new offerings. After all, you never know when you’ll win the jackpot (sure thing!!). And what I read makes me both happy and frustrated.

Why I am happy:

It appears that Nikon has a winner with their D800 and D800e cameras. The initial problems with the left-side focusing sensors seems to be resolved and the strange hue on the images shown on the rear LCD appears again to be a resolved issue. So for those looking for a very high resolution, full-frame dSLR, the D800 is the natural choice.

Why I am unhappy?

Well, the reason I am unhappy, is the other full-frame dSLR that Nikon announced lately, the D600. It’s not that this camera is a bad camera, per se. What bothers me, is the way Nikon handles its D600 customers. Ever since the first D600 reached the hands of photographers, a problem was discovered. The camera sensor got quickly covered with “dust spots” at the top left corner, which do not get removed by the sensor cleaning mechanism the camera has. The owner has to either clean the sensor himself or take it to a Nikon service center to have it cleaned. Now, this is a wide-spread issue, but Nikon has failed to (a) recognize it and (b) offer a decent resolution to D600 owners. What usually happens is that Nikon will not charge you for the first time you take the camera to them for a clean-up, but they want to charge you, if the problem persists and appears again. That is totally unacceptable.

Nikon, you know you have an issue with that model. Fix it and stop asking customers to pay for your mistakes. We pay you enough money for those cameras, to expect them to be trouble-free for at least their warranty period. The “dust spots” are not due to us using the cameras in a sand storm, they are generated by the camera itself, so stop treating them as our mistake, it is NOT, it is your mistake and you should fix it without charging the camera owners.

Hear that Nikon?

Some ideas about Nikon new cameras

Being a die-hard Nikon user, I always monitor any new announcement from that Japanese camera company. During the last few months, Nikon has announced four new cameras, the D4, the D800/D800E and the D600.

Now, clearly the D4 and the D800/D800E are professional level cameras, the first one characterized by the word “speed”, while the second one characterized by its huge resolution (36 Mpixels).  The question is: who’s the target market of the D600?

Let’s see what bothers me with the D600.

Spec-wise, the camera appears to be perfect. Nikon raised the sensor resolution to 24 Mpixels, i.e. double that of the D700 I currently own. Actually, 24 Mpixels is the maximum resolution I would be willing to upgrade (if I was looking to upgrade my D700), anything higher for me, is a waste. I do not print bill-board size prints, and even if I was, there is no reason to go any higher than what the D600 offers. It features twin SD card slots, which is a great safety feature if you are interested in backing up your pictures as soon as you shoot them. It also has two dedicated “shooting adjustment banks”, U1 and U2, which is great (why not U3 and U4?!? I would need at least two more setup banks for my kind of shooting). It also has several other interesting (read: wanted) features, but there are things that Nikon left out. What are these?

First, and for me that’s an important omission, there is no AF-On button, at the rear of the camera. Yes, the camera allows you to set up the AE-L/AF-L button as an AF-On button, but then you can’t lock exposure, per wish. Those of us who are used to using the AE-L and AF-On buttons at the rear of the camera, this is a serious handicap.

Second, all AF sensors in this camera, are gathered in the center of the viewfinder. It appears as if Nikon took the D7000 AF system (the D7000 is a DX camera) and incorporated it into the D600, which is a full-frame camera. This arrangement limits the camera capabilities to track your subject movement, if it moves outside the central viewfinder area. Not good!

Third, the camera doesn’t have a PC flash connector. For some of us, this is important. Why did Nikon left this out, is anyone’s guess.

Fourth, and this is a major one. On previous generation cameras, the AF selector at the front, allowed you to select between Manual focus, AF-S and AF-C. On the newer cameras, the selection is only between AF and MF, but in order to select between AF-S and AF-C you have to go into the menus! That’s a huge step backwards for me.

Fifth, the shutter and its flash sync speed. Not very important for me, but for some people, the difference between 1/250th of a second and 1/200 of a second is very significant. See Strobist article on this issue at .

Sixth, while Nikon gives us the twin SD cards slots with this camera, one has to question the type of card used. Typically, a pro (or an advanced amateur) user of previous Nikon cameras, has a large collection of CF cards. Why didn’t Nikon stick with that standard and decided to go with SD cards?

Finally, and while I understand that Nikon had to play catch-up with Canon, the video mode. Why did Nikon included a video mode in this camera?

Well, the answer to all of the above is simple: the D600 is NOT targeted to the professional market or the advanced amateur market. It is targeted to those people who own a DX Nikon camera and want to upgrade to something full-frame. It is clear that the issues mentioned above, affect mainly professional or advanced amateur photographers, but not the consumers, not those who were very happy with their D90 or even the D7000 but want to upgrade to something more … serious. For these folks, the D600 is the perfect camera. They already have the SD cards for it, the D7000 owners even have batteries for the D600, they do not care of the flash sync speed, nor do they use PC-connected flashes, and most probably they never shoot fast moving subjects, so the AF issues mentioned above do not affect them. And of course, consumers love video, hence its inclusion in the D600 features list.

And now the obvious question is: a D700 owner, what does he upgrade to? And the answer to this, is the D800. Nikon wants people to upgrade to the D800/D800e. And for some people (pros mainly), this is the right path to upgrade to. Pros have the top Nikon lenses, which can do justice to the D800 resolution, and most of them would welcome the increased Megapixels. But what about advanced amateurs?

I for example, can not find any camera in Nikon’s new line, that would make me switch from my three years old D700. I do not need the additional megapixels, I only print up to A3 size, so the additional resolution means nothing to me. Add the fact that with such huge picture files, I’ll need a new, faster computer to process them, with more disk space than my current one, which makes the upgrade an expensive proposition.

So thanks Nikon, I am sticking with my D700, which I personally consider the camera with the best features/price ratio and which still covers my needs perfectly.


Cameras, or another nugging post

Being an amateur photographer, I consider it my duty to use my cameras to record instances of our life (our: meaning me, my wife and our twins and pets). Over the years, I’ve collected several nice cameras and lenses, which I try to use as often as possible. My latest endeavor are my son’s football matches. The kiddo is 10 years old, and it appears that he is indeed a talent, marking 2-3 goals in every match. So taking pictures of him is expected both from him and his proud mother.

Now having a Nikon D700 with the battery pack and a 70-300mm Nikon lens, I believed that I was well-equipped to handle these matches. I guess I may be OK equipment-wise, but I am not very well prepared technique-wise. Or maybe, my equipment is faulty? My 70-300mm lens had an accident in July, which resulted in repair being needed. Nikon replaced the mount of the focusing motor (I think) and send it back to me. Now the lens works OK when focusing on stationary items, but when I am using it on moving targets, like my son, the results are less than stellar.

The way I have the camera set up, is to use AF-C (Continuous Focus), with 51-AF Points and Auto Tracking. What I notice is that as soon as I press the AF-On button to initiate focus, the focus point jumps all over the place, in other adjacent focus points, instead of sticking with my target and following it as it moves. Yes, it does stick with my son some times, but not always. I wish someone could explain that to me.

Is it the lens that has a problem? Is it the camera? Is it me?!?!