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Friday, September 28, 2007

Switching from Canon to Nikon

There has been a lot of talk on the internet from folks considering the switch from Canon to Nikon. Some of them are ex-Nikon shooters looking to come home, and some are Canon shooters intrigued by everything the new Nikon D3 has to offer.

Considering I used to shoot Nikon (switched to Canon in the Spring of 2006), obviously these new Nikons hold an appeal for me. I like my Canon's, and although I've never had any problems with them (touch wood), I don't have the same confidence in Canon QC and reliability as I did with my Nikons.

Case in point: the 30D vs the D200. Image quality aside, when you pick them both up, the 30D feels like a toy in comparison. The D200 is much better built and is much better stacked feature and ergonomic-wise.

That said, there is something missing in Nikon's lens line-up that may stop me from buying a D3 or a D300 (I wouldn’t switch back, but would shoot “bi” if I bought a new Nikon). They have no standard zoom with VR. Big problem! I was really surprised when they announced the 24-70 with no VR. What were they thinking? This would've been a huge thing for Canon and Nikon shooters alike.

Image stabilization (or VR or OS or whatever you want to call it) is something that should be pretty standard now. I like the idea of a body based system like the Pentax K10D or the new Sony A700, but so far these haven't panned out. The K10D doesn't even have pro lenses available yet, and the AF speed is an issue (maybe not once we can get a hold of the new Pentax lenses). The Sony A700 looks good on paper, but it's IS better be better than it's A100 little brother because the A100 wasn't all that. Also, A700 images I’ve seen so far look pretty bad at high ISO.

Then there’s the price. While this isn’t a consideration for some, it is for me. I like to get maximum value and a great bargain. As much as the D3 appeals to me on many levels, it's price tag does not. The D300 is more my speed. I'm not saying the D3's price isn't justified, just that it doesn't fit into my business model. So, the big question is how the D300 will do on image quality.

And of course, Nikon has yet to introduce a standard zoom with VR. Will they? This is something many will want to think about before considering a switch. With Canon you’ve got the Canon 17-55 f2.8 IS and the Canon 24-105 f4L IS to choose from. With Nikon, you’ve got nothing in a PRO caliber.

And what if Pentax brings out a successor to the K10D that uses the new 12MP CMOS sensor that the D300 and A700 use? The K10D is one FULLY FEATURED camera! If the new lenses deliver good AF speed, I think I'll be adding a Pentax... not a Nikon.

Ahhh... so much to consider!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nikon D3 and D300… Big News from Nikon! (Cont’d)

Picking up where I left off from looking at the new Nikon D3, the new Nikon D300 is almost impressive as the D3 for different reasons. The D300 is basically an up-dated D2Xs at a third of the D2Xs’ original price! I think D2Xs owners will really want to consider up-grading to the D300. That’s right, I said up-grading!

Consider that the D300 has the following (and the D2Xs doesn’t):

- the new CAM 3500 51 point auto-focus system that is in the D3 flagship

- a new 12 Mega Pixel sensor which is better than the D2Xs’ and the D200’s from all initial reports

- the same new 920,000 pixel 3” LCD that the D3 flagship has

- LiveView

- Nikon’s new Scene Recognition System (SRS)

- Nikon’s new Dynamic Dust Reduction System

Now, what would you buy? A D2Xs or a D300? For me, the answer is pretty obvious… the D300 wins. I’d love to hear the argument for buying the D2Xs over the D300 if there’s anyone that disagrees. Frankly, I’d be surprised if someone could make a valid argument for the D2Xs over the D300. Obviously if you already own a D2Xs, the situation is a little different. What to buy once the D300 is on store shelves shortly is a no-brainer for me, but I think current D2Xs owners may want to consider the D300 as well, either as an addition or as an up-grade.

Frankly, I’m impressed that Nikon has set another benchmark for DSLR excellence. They’ve put their top of the line AF system in their $2000 range entry. The D200 had a dummed-down AF system in comparison to the D2Xs. Now, the D300 shares the best of Nikon’s auto focus with its D3 big brother. Impressive! Not only is this excellent news for soon-to-be D300 owners, its great news for the industry in general. This puts pressure on Canon and the other players in the DSLR arena to offer more in their lower end as well, which is good for us, the consumers!

The big question for me is the sensor. Nikon has been playing second-fiddle to Canon in this area for a while now. The D200 and the D2Xs had poor high iso noise qualities, and many a low-light shooter has migrated to Canon as a result (case in point… me). With this new 12MP sensor in the D300, I hope Nikon has leveled the playing field, but I have my concerns. The Mk3 is phenomenal at high iso, and while I am reasonably certain the D3 will be it’s equal (if not its better), I’m not sure about the D300 with its 12MP crop sensor. I would’ve been happier if Nikon had kept the D300 at 10MP and improved the high iso. I am hopeful though. If they can at least hit 30D high iso quality, I think most folks will be happy. If they hit Mk3 / 40D high iso quality with the D300, I’ll be both impressed and blown away!

The rest of the new features are a great addition. The new LCD looks like another area that Nikon will be making the competition pull up their socks. LiveView sounds really cool, and I can’t wait to try it out. I can think of lots of times when it will come in handy, most specifically when I’m shooting weddings. SRS doesn’t really shake my tree like the other new features, but who knows… maybe I’ll change my mind once I’ve seen what it can do. Same with the Dust Reduction System… it’s a welcome addition, but so far, nobody but Olympus seems to have done it right. Come on Nikon! Blow me away with this one too.

Sony A700

Things are changing fast in the DSLR world again. The recent announcement by Sony of the new A700 DSLR brings with it many implications, not just for Sony, but for other manufacturers.

There are several major points of interest with the new A700. The A700's new 12MP CMOS sensor would seem to be the same one used in the new Nikon D300, or at least very similar. This can only bode well for Sony as its new flagship will be on the top of the pile sensor -wise. It will be interesting to see which camera makes the best use of this sensor, the Sony A700 or the Nikon D300. Sony has the advantage of being the manufacturer, so you would think they would be able to get the most out of their own product, but on the other hand, Nikon has more experience in the DSLR realm and tweaking DSLR's to get maximum output from the sensors. It'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

The new A700 is quite an up-date to the Konica Minolta 7D and is basically a semi-pro featured camera. The A700 features an all new auto focus system with 11 wide area cross focus sensors, "including a center dual cross sensor comprised of two horizontal and two vertical line sensors for exceptional AF precision. An F2.8 line sensor leverages the brightness of fast aperture lenses for even greater precision." Sony claims "that extraordinary focusing speed has been realized through improved algorithms and a high-torque focusing drive motor." I can't wait to see some initial tests and user reports in the field to see how this new AF system fairs. On paper, it sounds good. Let's hope it holds up in real-world shooting!

The all new image stabilization in the new A700 is claiming to deliver up to four stops. If this pans out, it could be the best body-based IS system yet, which can only help sales. Testing and user reports of the A100 suggested that its IS system didn't quite live up to it's claims so hopefully Sony has made some improvements here.

The A700 also seems to share a new 3" 922,000 pixel LCD with the Nikon D300. The raves of how good it is on the D300 make this a welcome feature on the A700, not to mention futher adding to it's saleability (is that a word?). Dual storage formats (memory stick duo and compact flash) are another high-end feature that can only help the A700's sales. Additionally, claims of faster focussing, a new high speed shutter, an optical pentaprism in the viewfinder, an aluminum chasis and magnesium body, and enviromental sealing all add up to a very impressively featured DSLR.

Overall, the A700 looks great on paper. It's 7D predeccessor had a few bugs, but it would appear Sony has done a thorough over-haul with the A700. The only thing that appears to be missing is LiveView, which has debatable usefulness anyways. Regardless, the A700 can only make Canon, Nikon, and Pentax sit up and take note. The feature set on the A700 continues the on-going pressure on manufactureres to bring more to the table in their DSLR's, which can only be better for the consumer.

P.S. One caveat of note... after looking at the list prices on the Sony lenses, they appear to be a little over-priced. Here in Canada for example, Henry's currently lists the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR at $2049.99. The Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS is currently listed at $2199.99 (although that may be a sale as the listing claims you save $400). The Sony 70-200 f2.8 is currently listed at $2599.99. Not only is the Sony significantly more expensive than the Canon or Nikon equivalents of this lens, it has no reason to be. The Canon and Nikon lenses feature IS and VR in the lens, thus contributing to their high price tag. The Sony obviously does not, as the IS is based in the body, so why is it so high priced? One would think the advantage of the Sony system would be high quality lenses at a better price due to the fact that the added cost of IS isn't a factor. I think Sony needs to look at it's pricing if it wants to be competitive here as I see no reason why this lens should be so high priced.