I have been enjoying shooting with DSLRs for quite some time now and while I am very happy with the cameras and lenses I use, I just think that we have not been seeing major breakthroughs in new DSLR cameras. New cameras pack more resolution, faster frames per second, better video features and other bells and whistles, but nothing innovative and revolutionary that changes the way we shoot. With Sony entering the DSLR market rather late in 2006 (after acquiring Konica Minolta), it was tough to compete against the long-established Canon and Nikon cameras. Sony introduced a few DSLRs with great features at a competitive price and secured itself the #3 market share spot in DSLR sales globally, mostly with lower-end DSLR camera bodies. With a rather slow adoption rate and a limited choice of lenses and accessories available, the company quickly realized that its only way to challenge the big two was to innovate. In August of 2010, Sony announced its first “Single-Lens Translucent” (SLT) cameras – the Sony A33 and A55. While the concept of a translucent mirror is not new (in fact, Sony calls it “translucent” for marketing purposes, because it is actually supposed to be “pellicle mirror”), Sony was the first to design it to work with an electronic viewfinder. Its first SLT cameras were a success, so Sony decided to embrace the technology and take it a step further with the new Sony A77 and A65 cameras. Going forward, we will most likely not be seeing any more DSLR cameras from Sony, since its management already expressed commitment to this new breed of cameras. We should be seeing more cameras from Sony with translucent mirrors, including high-end, full-frame models.
I clearly remember the day I ordered the D3s. For a while we were quite happy with our two cameras – the Nikon D700 and the D300. I would normally shoot with the D700 and Lola was doing most of her work, including food photography, with the D300. As Lola started to shoot more weddings and events, I was often left with the D300. After a short while, neither Lola nor I wanted the D300 anymore. Yup, we both got spoiled by the full-frame sensor. Realizing that we would eventually fully move to full-frame, I got rid of all DX lenses by then and using lenses like the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G or the standard Nikon 50mm f/1.4G on DX just did not feel right. By then, Lola was already in love with the Nikon D700 + 50mm f/1.4 combo and she would simply refuse to use the D300 with the 50mm lens. With her wedding work and my passion for nature photography, it was clear that we did not need another DX camera. That’s when Nikon announced the D3s. After seeing image samples and camera specifications, it did not take long before both of us realized that we needed it for our work.
Update: A full and detailed Nikon 1 V1 Review has been posted.
Before I take off to another trip to continue testing the Nikon 1 V1 / J1 and other cameras, I decided to post a quick mini-review of the Nikon 1 V1 camera, along with some image samples + a short bonus time lapse video. I have had the camera for about two weeks now and I have a few things to report about. Let me start off with some general impressions and notes.
First of all, the Nikon 1 system is not as bad as I thought it would be. When compared to the competition, and I am simultaneously shooting with the Sony NEX-5n and Olympus E-PL3 (Samsung NX200 is on the way), the Nikon 1 cameras actually perform really well in many ways. The first major advantage I want to point out is Autofocus – it is very fast and accurate. I am reviewing over 2 thousand images from my past trip to Utah and I have not yet seen a single image with bad/incorrect focus. Granted I have been primarily shooting at apertures between f/5.6 and f/11 and many of the shots are focused at infinity, it is still pretty darn impressive. Took some images of the kiddos at largest apertures and close distances and all images came out tack sharp. Nothing like the problems I had with the Fuji X100 before.
Another huge plus is the menu system that Nikon has incorporated into the V1/J1 firmware. It is simplistic, intuitive, elegant, slick and puts all current Nikon DSLR menu systems to shame. It is really that different and that much more better! As you switch from one mode to another, the firmware presents different options, making it super easy to use the camera. Just put the battery in, set the date/time and timezone and you are ready to go. I specifically did not touch any of the mirrorless camera manuals. I wanted to see which camera is the easiest to use and whether I need to invest time in learning the cameras before I use them. So far, the Nikon V1/J1 cameras are the easiest ones to use and operate, followed by the Sony NEX-5n and lastly by the horrendous Olympus E-PL3.
This is a follow-up to my Nikon D7000 Review that I posted earlier this year. Ever since I published the review, I have been getting a ton of feedback on this camera. While most of the feedback is great, some photographers complain about focusing and other issues on the D7000. Some end up returning the camera back to Nikon, while others send it to Nikon for repair. I have been carefully tracking most of the complaints and I have some interesting data to share. Since February of this year, I have tried 4 different copies of D7000 and the last one I tested was with me for two straight months.
Before I talk about my discoveries, let me tell you what I think about the camera. Nikon D7000 is a phenomenal camera. It is the best DX camera Nikon has produced to date. I was convinced of this when I first tested the camera and got reassured after my two month love affair with it (with the approval of my wife, of course). I have used a number of lenses from Nikon, Sigma and Samyang and all of them worked as expected on the D7000. A couple of lenses had focus issues and had to be adjusted using AF Fine Tune, but other than that, I did not see any front/back focus issues on the camera itself.
As you might have already seen on “Our Gear” page, I call the Nikon D700 “the best camera in the world”. Now before rotten tomatoes start flying my way from Canon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, Mamiya and other brand fans out there, let me state that this is my opinion that is solely based on my needs. Let me explain. Yes, there are superb Nikon cameras with many more pixels and speed, and there are $40K cameras out there that can shoot 200 Megapixel frames. But when I look at a camera, I weigh in what is important for me first, then pay close attention to the overall price to performance ratio, instead of focusing on a particular feature. The Nikon D700 does not have many megapixels, or high speed, or high dynamic range or movie recording capabilities. In fact, if you look at its bare specs and compare it to all other cameras on the market today, it would probably fall into the “average” category.
Click here to download the above photograph in a large wallpaper format (2560×1600).
To be honest, I was not planning on writing a review of the Fuji X100 camera. First, because the camera was sent to me in error. As I was preparing to send it back, I was asked if I wanted to try it out, so I agreed to check it out and ended up shooting with it for a week. Second, I did not have a chance to do a thorough analysis and comparison, because I was busy testing 35mm lenses. That’s why this is a “mini” review – I will just lay down my thoughts about the Fujifilm X100 and show you some image samples from the camera.
When I asked about the X100, I was told that “it was a hot, almost revolutionary camera”. I guess that’s why I decided to give it a try and see what it is capable of. Once I unboxed the camera, I immediately put the battery into it and started playing with it at home. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out the basics and once I put it in Aperture Priority mode and took some pictures, I was actually pleasantly surprised by what I was seeing.
- The first thing that struck me was the optical/digital viewfinder/rangefinder that not only provides all the camera information, but also displays captured images. Now that is one cool thing I wish all DSLR cameras had! Being able to look at captured images in an enclosed space is great. With DSLRs, you either have to block the light hitting the rear LCD or you have to use third party tools such as Hoodman Loupe to be able to look at pictures in daylight. And the X100 does it in a smart way too – if you put your eye close to the viewfinder/rangerfinder, the image is shown there. Once you move the camera away from your eyes, the image gets transferred to the rear LCD.
- The second surprise was after I transferred the first images to my computer and started looking at them at 100% – the image quality was outstanding. Indoor images were shot at ISO 800 and above and the amount of noise present in the images was very low, at least when compared to APS-C sensors. Sharpness, colors and contrast looked good right out of the camera (first shots were taken as JPEGs).
- Third, the camera felt great in my hands and for the first time I felt like I could take this little camera with me everywhere I go. No matter how good images from my iPhone might look, I just do not like taking pictures with it. Sure, iPhone images might look great for the web, but you can’t print them large or use them in your portfolio. Lugging around a large DSLR is not an option either; I forget it at home most of the time anyway. It felt great when I was able to put the X100 into my jacket pocket before I left the house.
- Fourth, because of the 4 leaf shutter on the X100, the flash sync speed can be super fast (see the 1/2000s shot below).
- And lastly, people did not look intimidated by the camera when I took pictures of them. They seemed to think that it was just a point and shoot (which it kind of is), so it felt like this camera would get super popular among street photographers.