The ever-raging Canon vs Nikon debate might have you believing users of those particular systems are the most loyal to their brands. From what I’ve seen, though, neither Canon nor Nikon shooters have anything on those who shoot Pentax and swear by it. It’s a very niche system, that. No other DSLR manufacturer has such an array of competitive products priced so aggressively, that are also so compact and, when it comes to high-end models, so brilliantly rugged. No other DSLR manufacturer has such a great lineup of tiny, high quality autofocus prime lenses. And no other DSLR manufacturer has had so much trouble trying to find its identity. For a while now, Pentax has been experimenting with the narrowest of niches, launching boldly styled cameras, or boldly tiny interchangeable lens cameras with even smaller sensors. And yet those loyal to the brand always stuck by it. How happy they must be now that those who always ridiculed the brand will have their most valuable argument brushed away – “Pentax has no FF camera”. It’s true, there is no full-frame Pentax camera. But there will be, and rather soon. And for those who would rather avoid the pointless which-system-is-better debates, it means a new alternative to the best DSLR cameras on the market is soon to present itself.
When Canon announced the 7D Mark II in September of 2014, I got quite intrigued by the camera and really wanted to try it out. Like many others, I have been getting pretty tired of waiting for Nikon’s “Pro DX” refresh to replace the D300S, which came out back in 2009 (almost 6 years ago!), so I wanted to see whether such a tool would still make sense for Nikon to release based on specifications, performance and price. Sporting a high-end autofocus system with 65 cross-type focus points, insanely fast 10 fps continuous shooting speed, dual image processors, -3 EV light sensitivity, magnesium alloy construction and weather sealing, the Canon 7D Mark II is specifically tailored at sports and wildlife photographers. And with its price tag of $1799 MSRP, the 7D Mark II sounds much more appealing to budget-conscious photographers who do not want to pay close to 4x more for the much heavier and bulkier EOS-1D X.
DSLR customers have had a nagging sense that manufacturers were far more interested in having them upgrade their cameras than providing additional capabilities to the customers that already purchased DSLRs. Back in the days of mechanical film cameras, it would have been a challenge for OEMs to deliver upgraded capabilities to existing customers. Customers would have had to bring their equipment into a local shop or send it to the camera manufacturer to be retrofitted with new capabilities – a prospect not very practical or financially attractive for manufacturers or customers. In a digital world, however, enhancing just about any product has become a simple software download and installation process. Thus the idea that any digital product (particularly a sophisticated and expensive one) should remain relatively static over its lifetime has become obsolete. It appears that Nikon may be ready to acknowledge and address this growing concern.
In September of 2014, my wife and I had the great fortune to take the trip of a lifetime to South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. The trip was more than a year in the planning which gave me the chance to think about what camera equipment I wanted to take along. Our itinerary was not one of the ones designed specifically for photographers however I had no doubt we would have plenty of opportunity to take pictures!
Along with the exciting Nikkor 300mm f/4E PF ED VR, Nikon also announced a boring entry-level camera. After skipping the D5400 for no reason (Nikon marketing at its best), the D5500 was revealed at the CES with very similar specs as the D5300, except it gains a touchscreen and drops the GPS module. Same resolution, same processor, same fps, WiFi, same menu and features for the most part, except for slightly different design that resulted in a smaller and lighter camera. It seems like Nikon has no clue what else to add to the D5x00 line to make it more interesting and this release is one of those “announce to announce” series, yet another camera to add to the camera pollution just to keep the line fresh. Instead of doing something innovative (mirrorless design, EVF, focus peaking, electronic shutter, etc), Nikon adds a pointless touchscreen feature and gets rid of the far more important GPS component. With all this, Nikon increases the price of the D5500 by $100, pushing it towards $900 MSRP.
One of our readers, who is a very busy professional wedding photographer, asked me if proactive maintenance with the manufacturer is worth the money or not. After a busy wedding season, she sent one of her Canon 5D Mark III cameras to Canon service center for cleaning. Shortly after the service center received the camera, she was told that her 5D Mark III had over 200,000 images, which was way above the shutter life of the camera, which is rated at 150,000. For a $600 fee, the Canon service center suggested to replace the shutter mechanism with a brand new one, promising that the camera would keep on clicking. Since $600 sounded better than paying $3K for a replacement camera, the reader asked advice from me, to see if it was indeed worth paying for the shutter replacement as proactive maintenance. I recommended not to do it for the following reason: shutter mechanism failures are completely random and it is best to replace the shutter when it actually fails.
It reminds me of Goldoni’s “Servant of Two Masters“; only masters are now more than two and quite often they are not only capricious but they do not know what they want. First, any comparison is open to critics because even in a well-equipped lab it is impossible to repeat the shooting conditions from a year ago, or even from a day before while shooting to compare a newer model to an older one; the criteria for necessary accuracy is not set, or not made public, or not recognized by the community. Second, one single body in the testing opens the door for sample variation questions; and once again tolerances are not brought to the light. Third, using different lenses for different mounts does not help leveling the field. Using lens adapters to shoot with the same lens is often suggested, but it opens another can of worms: adapter alignment problems and different amounts of internal flare added by different adapters skew the results.
The subject of sensor crop factors and equivalence has become rather controversial between photographers, sparking heated debates on photography sites and forums. So much has been posted on this topic, that it almost feels redundant to write about it again. Sadly, with all the great and not-so-great information out there on equivalence, many photographers are only left more puzzled and confused. Thanks to so many different formats available today, including 1″/CX, Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, 35mm/Full Frame, Medium Format (in different sizes), photographers are comparing these systems by calculating their equivalent focal lengths, apertures, depth of field, camera to subject distances, hyperfocal distances and other technical jargon, to prove the inferiority or the superiority of one system over another. In this article, I want to bring up some of these points and express my subjective opinion on the matter. Recognizing that this topic is one of the never-ending debates with strong arguments from all sides, I do realize that some of our readers may disagree with my statements and arguments. So if you do disagree with what I say, please provide your opinion in a civilized manner in the comments section below.
Exactly after two years since the Nikon D4 announcement, Nikon made the D4s public at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on January 6, 2014. Although the camera was not ready for a full announcement, Nikon wanted to have something to show at the CES, so it only hinted about the development of the camera and its intentions to preview it. The camera was officially announced at the end of February and the first units started to ship shortly after in March. The Nikon D4s is a modest upgrade over the D4, with very slight ergonomic changes, expanded ISO range, faster image processor, faster wired / Ethernet speed, improved battery capacity and a bunch of new firmware options. As an incremental update, the Nikon D4s basically solidified the already superb D4 and made it even better.
It has been close to three years since Nikon announced the D4 and our readers might be wondering why I am only now reviewing the camera, especially given the fact that it has already been replaced by the Nikon D4s. While working on the D4s review, I thought that it would be a good idea to revisit the older D4 – better late than never! Since the camera came out, I have used it on several occasions for both personal and business needs, and a number of our team members have owned or still own the D4. Hence, the information and images that I gathered for this review represent a collective effort between our team at Photography Life.