Nov 082013
 
Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Nikon has finally jumped on the bandwagon going retro. When the new Nikon Df will be available for buyers near the end of November,  it will offer a warm-up of well-proven features seen in previous Nikon full-framers – all freshly packaged in a newly designed body reminiscent of the good old seventies.

The “latest” old fashioned looks will not appeal to everyone though, especially considering the back side still remains quite modern looking. In fact there is not much difference to other D-versions here whereas the front and top of the cam sure will look retro enough for many Nikon fans. Personally, I quite like the black version – maybe because this little flaw in design is less conspicuous in black.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Nice are the added control functions. Exposure compensation and ISO can be set with solid metal dials on the top plate. But the latter can not be set to Auto-ISO which is a bit of a shame. But you can have this setting after diving into the menu of course.  The Nikon Df incorporates the same sensor that can be found in the professional Nikon D4 at a much higher price and offers a package that will appeal to professionals and advanced enthusiasts.

The key specs of the Nikon DF:

  • 16 MP full-frame CMOS sensor (first seen in the Nikon D4)
  • 39-point AF system (just like Nikon D610)
  • ISO range from 100-25.600
  • 3.2 ” LCD (921k-dot)
  • single SD card slot
  • Optical viewfinder with 0.70x magnification and 100% coverage (just like Nikon D800)
  • EN-EL14a battery (also compatible with Nikon D 3100, D 3200, D5200, D5200, D5300 and some Coolpix cameras

 

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

Buyers of this retro beast will have to keep one thing in mind. Not all features that can be found in other full-framers from Nikon have found their way into the new Df body. Several things have been omitted on purpose. The most obvious: there is no video function. This is quite a surprise and may put off some potential buyers. In my view this is a huge mistake. Technically it would have been no problem to incorporate this little feature, but it seems to be the Nikon philosophy to keep this camera as pure as possible for the “serious” photographer. But there are also some other features that may be dearly missed by some users:

  • no video function
  • no built-in flash
  • no AF-assist light
  • no preset buttons for U1,U2, U3 (as seen on Nikon D610, D7100)
  • no interchangeable focus screen
  • no EVF
  • no built-in Wi-fi
  • no GPS

The Nikon Df may be an ideal tool for retro fans and does look kind of smug and can probably be handled quite well. Also, decades-old non-Ai lenses are supported, making this camera a dream come true for photography oldtimers with boat loads of ancient glass. But will this be enough to make this a big seller? The price may be lower than a comparable Nikon D4 – but $2749.95 still is quite a big bang. There are other Nikon options to consider for full-frame – the Nikon D610 and Nikon D800 will certainly still be attractive for Nikon fans when comparing prices. And other manufacturers keep pumping out interesting alternatives. The Sony A7/A7R might be just the right recipe to draw away the key customers.

Nikon only recently published their latest financial results which did not sound too exuberant for the future of high-end cameras. A “dramatic fall in demand among photography hobbyists…” usually does not leave much room for positive statements. And accordingly the forecasts for sales and operating income were lowered by ¥30 billion and ¥6 billion, respectively. See the full Nikon statement here.

In my opinion, the Nikon Df is a very nice camera – but only for a very limited number of enthusiasts. The design will probably not appeal to the masses and pros will probably prefer the Nikon D800/D800e for studio work and e.g. the Nikon D6100/D610 for full-frame back-ups to their Nikon D4 or Nikon D3s.

So, this will not help a great deal considering the lack in demand. The Nikon Df is still too large and old-style with mirror box and large lenses nobody really likes to drag around all the time. The Nikon 1 is not doing too well in respect to demand either. It has a nice size and form factor but simply disappoints in sensor dimension. That is the main problem for Nikon in my view. There are no real game changing products for the photo hobbyist any more. No Nikon mirrorless system with APS-C sensors – let alone full-frame solutions with electronic or hybrid viewfinders. Nikon simply does not want to jeopardize their  DSLR sales. This may be a fatal mistake. Mirrorless solutions in smaller and lighter camera bodies are in high demand and will in all probability shape the future of digital photography while leaving DSLRs in the dust. Nikon and Canon respectively will have to adept and deliver some goodies real fast or they may be swept away by Sony and the Micro Four Thirds alliance.

See my relating article “The DLSR is dead, long live mirrorless!”

Oct 102013
 

The Nikon D610 is available for pre-order now at retailers worldwide and will probably be available in late October. But is it worth it? Has it improved much compared to the previous Nikon D600 – or is it just another minor update?

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

 

Nikon states, the new Nikon D610 features a slightly faster shutter with 6 frames per second compared to the 5.5 that can be achieved with the Nikon D600. The improved shutter mechanism also allows for a new quiet shutter mode. This might indeed come in handy for some users, but it is limited to 3 frames per second. White balance seems to have been improved also. Comparing the two camera versions, I couldn`t find any other relevant changes.

Of course Nikon does not mention whether or not the new shutter mechanism solves the problem some users seem to have faced with the “old” Nikon D600 concerning dust and oil spots on the sensor. But in all probability the soiled sensors are now a thing of the past. So, is this just a discreet replacement for the earlier model without attracting too much attention to a previously faulty design? I will let you be the judge of that.

In any case, the Nikon D600 had to suffer an enormous price decline within only a year of its existence. Today you can buy the cam for about € 1.450,- (Germany) and retailers probably won`t be all too happy about that. Their margins must now be very small – some may already be selling at a loss, just to rid themselves of unwanted inventory. The secondary market might be off even worse when it comes to replacing the older version.

 

Image: Nikon Corp.

Image: Nikon Corp.

 

Let´s look at the bright side: The new Nikon D610 is a very capable camera offered at a price point that (at least for now) is quite acceptable. It can be pre-ordered for around € 1.949 / $ 1.999 and can probably be had for a lot less once readily available in shops. The proven 24 MP CMOS full-frame sensor is more than enough for most applications and the nice controls, 100 % finder coverage,  great AF and dual card slots (just to mention a few of the gimmicks) satisfy most photography needs.

No doubt this is a great camera – and in my view probably the best Nikon camera in the line-up. I might even get one for myself now I do not have to fear having to clean the sensor every few weeks.

Of course there may be users that prefer more compact full-framers in future and in general photographers may soon prefer mirrorless solutions altogether.

See my article on the demise of the DSLR here.

That scenario still remains to be seen, but for those of you who want to stop carrying huge backpacks full of DSLR equipment, keep an eye out for coming announcements. There might indeed be some surprises in store for us soon. Even for those that are no Sony aficionados this might well prove to be beneficial because it will most likely put some more pressure on DSLR pricing. All the better for consumers of all brands involved.

Below are some more product images. Check out the Nikon site for more detailed infos on the new Nikon D610.

 

Lupico_120217_D610_28_300_front

 

 

Lupico_120217_D610_24_85_top

 

 

Image: Nikon Corp.

Images: Nikon Corp.

 

Sep 252013
 
Image: Leica Camera AG

Image: Leica Camera AG

The new Leica C (Typ 112) was unveiled a short time ago. It will be available in October and be priced around € 600,-. It might well be a sufficiently nice compact camera, but since I cannot see much of a difference to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1, I do not feel a great urge to go into any detail about this Leica offspring. If I decide to do a full review at all, I will write about the Panasonic later. I always prefer the original.

By the way – the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 can be had for around € 450,-. Of course there are differences (e.g. Leica adding a free Lightroom license) – but all in all this Leica compact does not thrill me much. IMO this is another Leica product that simply does not quite hit the mark. But there may be enough amateur photographers that are willing to pay the premium and simply love that shiny red Leica logo. Leica is a luxury brand after all and of course it is quite legit to try and scoop up some of the dough folks wish to depart with.

So the Leica C is not the real Leica “Mini M” I was anticipating but IMHO rather what I feared “…might turn out to be just another point and shoot Panasonic clone.” You can read my wish list for a new Leica “Mini M” here. So it did not turn out to be the camera some Leica fans (myself included) hoped for. Neither did the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) which was promoted as Leica “Mini M” and initially raised quite false hopes (see my article on that here). I am sure both camera models will be sought after and guarantee good returns for Leica nonetheless.

But as it goes, I have now given up waiting for a new Leica Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) with AF and some other features that are clearly missing in previous versions of M-mount cameras. Sony will probably deliver the goods for those that think likewise. Maybe those Leica Lenses can be put to good use on one of the future full-frame Sony NEX cameras that are rumored to be shown off in the next month or so. That might be worth writing about…

 

 

May 082013
 

Nikon Coolpix A (photo: Nikon Corp.)


I have been looking for a nice little cam to serve as backup when I am out and about carrying my DSLR equipment or my Leica M gear. I usually do not have much space in my bag, so I am in need of a very compact solution. Of course sometimes I do not want to carry anything big at all (let alone a camera bag) and only wish for a reliable and capable small cam to slip into my back pocket. Well, could this be it, the Nikon Coolpix A?

The specs sound impressive for such a small package:

  • 16.2 MP CMOS sensor (DX-format)
  • 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.8 retractable lens with manual focus ring
  • 3.0“ (7.5 cm) 921k-dot LCD monitor
  • aluminum alloy body (top surface covered by magnesium alloy)
  • mode dial for manual exposure control (PASM) and U1/U2 personalized settings
  • RAW shooting mode
  • approx. 4 frames per second continuous shooting
  • optional optical viewfinder and wireless mobile adapter
  • 1920 x 1080/30p Full HD video recording
  • current price around € 950 / $ 1.100

The new fixed lens compact camera Nikon Coolpix A shows that Nikon is capable of putting an APS-C size sensor into a very compact camera body. Especially in black it looks quite sleek and straight forward and comes with nearly all the bells and whistles serious shooters demand. Previous Nikon users will feel right at home with the GUI i.e. the menu settings, which look much like the ones on Nikon DSLRs. The mode dial makes selecting your favorite settings easy, even incorporating the special user settings U1/U2, which come in handy when you do not want to fumble with controls all day and just want to reset to your own preferences.

Nikon Coolpix A mode dial (photo: Nikon Corp.)

Nikon Coolpix A screen (photo: Nikon Corp.)

Image quality is also much like what you would achieve with the latest 16 MP Nikon DSLRs. But of course being a compact, it is using a fixed 18,5mm lens (which is the equivalent of 28mm). This focal length is quite demanding and may not be suited for everyone. A 35mm lens would have been more mainstream.

Some of the photo blogging luminaries have begun putting the „A“ through its paces and have written extensive reviews. You can have a look at some of the mostly favorable opinions following my link pick to Ming Thein and Steve Huff.

So, this little Nikon should not be a bad camera at all. In fact it would be quite terrific for my use – if it had an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and interchangeable lenses to go with it. But of course it has not. Instead Nikon is trying to enthuse with a very compact camera featuring a comparably large sized sensor. But it is not the only fish in the pond. The recently announced Ricoh GR will have almost the same features, same size sensor and be priced a little lower (about € 200 / $ 300 less). Of course there are numerous others to consider. If I wanted to spend a lot of money (around €/$ 2.800), I would go for the Sony RX1. It not only has a nice and bright f/2.0 Zeiss 35mm lens but also packs a whopping 24 MP full frame sensor. Then again, this would not be quite as compact anymore.

These cameras all have one thing in common. They are trying to lure customers with compact dimensions, good optics and big sensors, aiming at enthusiasts and pros that do not want to carry heavy equipment all the time. They are all very capable when it comes to image quality but it seems like all camera makers are desperately trying to avoid competing with DSLRs.

All except Fuji. They never looked back when they quit the DSLR business a couple of years ago and they are now putting all their efforts into products that really appeal to customers. Next to the X-Pro 1 and the XE-1 the popular Fuji X100/X100s really nailed it IMHO. While still keeping to compact dimensions, the Fuji features the EVF most of us are desperate for and also offers a superb APS-C size sensor with great color output and low-light performance. They are selling like hot cakes – and rightly so.

The XE-1 is my go-to camera at the moment and I am quite happy using it as a backup to my DSLR or Leica M. But when it comes to choosing a pocketable alternative, I am still undecided. If the Nikon A had that darned EVF instead of a clumsy optional add-on thingy, I would buy one in a heartbeat. But as it goes, I am still on the fence.

Nikon Coolpix A with optical viewfinder (photo: Nikon Corp.)

 

If Nikon were to introduce such a camera and maybe even throw in some interchangeable lenses, they would probably have to build another factory to meet demand.

So, what is Nikon waiting for? Are they only testing the water with the new Nikon Coolpix A? Will there be a „serious“ compact ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) soon?

We shall see … 🙂

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