I am hoping this is a good idea. My thinking is that this will be a handy place to share some of my photography knowledge, document processes I may wish to revisit in the future and to be able to go back in time and see what I was thinking. This seems like a good time to start, as my retirement is pending, and I'll be starting a new chapter in my life. I will have quite a bit more time to devote to photography and to update this blog.
Given this is the first blog I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the current status of the DSLR camera equipment market and some thoughts on where it might be going. The professional level cameras from Nikon and Canon tend to iterate on about a four year cycle. The D3x is about 2.5 years into its cycle and replacements for the D700, D300s and D3s are all pending. This could be delayed due to the terrible tsunami that struck Sendai, Japan earlier this year. Sendai is where Nikon manufactures the D700 and D3 professional bodies. Also, most of the professional level lenses are manufactured in this area. Power is limited, with rotating brownouts, and many of the small suppliers of small yet critical items have been decimated. As the shortages mount I expect the prices for items remaining in inventory will climb, and the used market for cameras and lenses should be good for sellers. The longer lenses, 300mm upward, will be most impacted, as they were already in short supply. For Canadians this will be partially offset by a strong canadian dollar, currently trading at $1.04 US.
The design of the current DSLRs has not changed fundamentally in the last ten years since the Nikon D1 was introduced. The sensor, LCD, battery, memory cards and CPU have all dramatically improved. I suppose that being able to record in video mode is a fundamental change, but it is not one that I want or use. So, what else would constitute a fundamental change? Elimination of the mirror, modular design or a programmable SDK would do it for me. On the other hand, I am pretty happy with the existing design, which reflects the refinement of sixty years of refinement.
What is missing in the Nikon lineup right now for me is a high quality DX format camera body. For birding I am currently shooting with the D700 + TC17 + 600VR = 1000mm at f/6.7. This works for statics and the D700 files show very little degradation until one exceeds ISO 800, and is pretty good through ISO 2000, which is pretty near a requirement on the BC coast in the winter, when light is at a premium. However, f/6.7 is too slow for rapid focus acquisition and tracking birds in flight. A better option would be a 1.5x crop body with the 600VR and a TC14 when necessary. The D300s and D7000 are the current options. I find the quality of the D300s files over ISO 400 to be inadequate, and the D7000 files lack the acuity and micro-contrast I have come to expect from the D700 and the D2X before that. Also, the buffer on the D7000 is insufficient for wildlife shooting. The next generation Nikon DX needs to have excellent files to ISO 800 and the same build quality and characteristics of the D700, or ideally, in the D3 style body.
Canon, on the other hand, has been better at filling the niche requirements for wildlife photographers with the 1DMK4 and the 800/5.6 lens, which is lighter than the 600/4. The 1DMK4, at 16MP and a 1.3X crop, with excellent ISO performance at ISO 800, is situated in the wildlife photographer's sweet spot. I guess I am at a cross roads, waiting to see what Nikon will produce in its next generation compared to the Canon offerings. I can see myself using the two systems: Canon at the long end and Nikon for the rest. One system would be better, of course, so we shall see.
For the rest of my photography, the D700 meets most of my needs. The only improvement I can see would be a D3X, which still occupies the pinnacle of 35mm DSLR quality, but the $7400 price tag is still too much. When the D4 comes out perhaps the price of a used D3X will drop significantly - one can hope.
Since this is a photography blog it would be remiss to end this blog without an image, so here is a recent one:
I am quite pleased with this image, which is a 30 second exposure. I could not see the path, but was able to bring it up in the file quite easily. The cataclysmic event on the left is the Harmac pulp mill, which is well lit at night, highlighting the plume of steam. Orion's belt is visible on the right. I'm not sure that the tree is a positive feature in this image.