Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nikon D7200 Launch Review: First Impressions

Nikon D7200 with AF-S 18-140mm lens

The Nikon D7200 is the inevitable successor to the D7100. Despite all of the attention that Nikon hopes that you will pay to their FX lineup, the truth of the matter is that a larger proportion of their consumers are DX users. Since this is an unavoidable fact, Nikon has finally turned their own attention to serious-DX again. The headline specs are:

  • 24MP APS-C sensor
  • Larger expanded ISO range (to ISO 102,400)
  • Body is similar (same as?) to D7100 
  • 6 fps burst, larger buffer (Huzzah!)
  • 51-point MultiCAM 3500DX2 autofocus system
  • Group Area AF Mode (like D4s and D750)
  • Improved low light focusing to -3EV, one stop better than D7100
  • 2,016 pixel RGB sensor exposure sensor (like D610, unlike D750)
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
  • ME-W1 wireless microphone option
  • Upgraded video (like D810 and D750), including Flat Picture Control
  • Battery life up from 950 to 1110 shots per charge
  • Body only price: $1,199.95 USD (Unchanged from D7100)

It goes without saying that owners of the D7100 will get better value by holding off an upgrade until the next generation... or biting the bullet to jump to full frame. This is just common camera sense, and has applied since the beginning of the DSLR boom. However, on its on merits, the D7200 is a feature laden camera that can perform in multiple roles. Despite the fact that full frame is "better" and that mirrorless is "the future", the D7100 (and cameras like it) was one of the best all-around cameras available. It wasn't as big, expensive and heavy as full frame, had much better focusing and metering than most mirrorless cameras, and had competitive image quality. What it wasn't, though, was the flavour of the day. The serious-enthusiast portion of the DSLR market is still probably the biggest segment in terms of market value, but its been a long time since the heyday of the D200 and D300, so it isn't as talked about. Nonetheless, the D7200 inherits its predecessor's virtues, so it will likely again be a value-packed "serious" camera. In the (probable) words of Ken Rockwell, it's "The World's Best Camera to Date (asterisk)". Actually, that would probably be mostly true...

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Selfie Stick Through the Ages

Credit: Alan Cleaver, via The BBC

There is no arguing that the selfie-stick is a silly idea, yet that doesn't stop millions of people who apparently lack in terms of self-consciousness. There is a rational economic reason for their popularity given how expense a stolen smartphone is to replace. However, the unlikely acceptance(?) of selfie-sticks can't be explained by our love of smartphones, as the first such devices predate the iPhone... let alone digital cameras as the above example shows. It was taken of (and by) the grandparents of freelance reporter Alan Cleaver in 1925 in central England. It's not that this was the first self-portrait using a camera, but it's deliciously reminiscent of the countless selfies taken today. The intrusive inclusion of the stick poking out of the photo is just icing on the cake.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nikon D5500 Review

With each passing year comes new camera updates, some updates being more often than others. The Nikon D5500 and it's predecessors fall into the "more often" category.On paper the differences are minor and iterative:

  • Touch screen LCD
  • Flat picture control
  • Re-profiled body
  • No more built-in GPS.

Admittedly,  it's not a particularly blood-stirring update. That's sort of the point with cameras in this segment, though... the D5500 is not exciting at the moment but give it time and it will age into a value-packed mid-tier product. However, to get a true gist of this camera, you have to look past the specs and to see it in person; it's more of a change from the D5300 than the D5300 was to the D5200.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R Launch Review

In time for the 2015 CP+ Japanese tradeshow, Canon announced the 50mp EOS 5DS and the 5DS R variant. The internet is naturally abuzz, proving that "big number" product marketing isn't dead in the camera industry. What has changed since the 5D Mark III:

  • New 50.2MP Canon-designed sensor 
  • 150k pixels exposure meter (RGB+IR, like 7DmII
  • Reinforced tripod mount
  • Electronic first curtain shutter option in Live View
  • Dual Digic 6 processors
  • Artificial light flicker reduction (like 7D Mark II)
  • New mirror mechanism (like 7D Mark II)

What hasn't changed:

  • 61-point AF module, 41 cross-type, 5 double-cross type
  • 1080/30p video (7DmII can do 60p)

What's worse:

  • No headhone jack
  • No clean HDMI output
  • Battery life slightly worse

The end result is a mixture of ultra-high resolution feature set combined with features that seem curiously...crippled. The exposure meter is upgraded from the 5D Mark III, which is synergistic with the increased resolution. Though the 5D Mark III autofocus system is good, a (theoretically) better unit now exists in the 7D Mark II. The fact that video hasn't changed at all and is arguably worse than the 5DmIII indicates that Canon is being more single-minded about the EOS 5DS' mission than it was with the general-purpose predecessors.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Fujifilm XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR

Fujifilm XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR

One thing that doesn't seem to translate well between full frame and crop-frame shooting is the use of the classic 70-200mm f/2.8 workhorse zoom. This is a versatile focal length that does well for portraiture and event photography, but the equivalent crop-frame focal length of 50-140mm has never quite caught on. Crop users tend to be more casual in how they use their gear; as a collective group they tend to prefer longer focal lengths over mid-range quality. You often see DSLR users mounting those 70-200 f/2.8 onto crop-frame cameras, but that gives the effective field of view of 100-300mm on full-frame, which is somewhat awkward to use if you are moving in and out of a crowd during a social function. This comes back to the idea of the field of view for a classic working-zoom; it isn't so much about dealing with distance as it is with creating compression and isolation. To that end, the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 50-140 mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR fits the bill.