Monday, March 25, 2013

Nikon D7100 Review

It must have been something of a sinking feeling for those waiting for a successor to the Nikon D300s to see the arrival of the very well spec’d D7100.  Though some may argue against, I hold that the D7000 was indeed the commercial successor to the D300s whether or not Nikon admitted to it, and that the D7100 is now the second camera to carry the line forward. Product-wise, it doesn't have the build quality or performance to qualify it as the mythical D400, but it's certainly 90% of the way there. Theoretically, there is room in the Nikon line-up for a professional quality DX camera, but I’m not sure that it will ever be built. With the exception of the D600, “professional” now means FX; I don’t think that we will return to the days of the semi-pro DX workhorse era of the D200/D300. It's not that a D400 wouldn't be a great camera, it's just that it would be hard to compete professionally when the competition are serving clients with 5DmIII's and D800's.

Spot the differences. The D7000 and D7100 side by side.
A pro-quality DX camera is something of an anachronism in today's market. Nikon Professional Services won't enlist you if you don't shoot full time with a qualifying camera which must be you primary camera, and which must be pro spec. In other words, Nikon isn't interested in taking on new NPS shooters who use a DX camera as their primary machine. Not at the moment anyway.

Professional aspirations aside, the goalposts have once again moved for DX. For the same entry price as the D7000, we once again moving to a new level of performance and features. Nikon might be disappointing some with their handling of 2012's quality issues, and others with their mysterious reluctance to properly fill out the DX lineup, but when it comes to the core product model that is the serious-enthusiast dSLR line, they haven’t let users down, not in each successive generation since the D70.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Nikon D7100 High ISO Review

Stores in Canada started receiving Nikon D7100 units last Thursday, and by now units will be in the hands of early adopters all around the world. I had a brief amount of time with the new camera the night that it became available, and have been busy working on the full review since. Do I like it? It is a new Nikon after all.... But until then, here's a sample of what the image quality looks like as you rise through the ISO range:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nikon D7100: More on the Lack of the Anti-Aliasing Filter

D7100 units are trickling out slowly this week across the world. For all the pestering that I've been doing with my local retailers, it doesn't seem as though we'll be getting units on the ground until later this week.

I just wanted to touch briefly on the topic of the removal of the anti-aliasing filter, of which I will go into greater detail when I get a production unit in my hands. However, if you scan through the early impressions, you can find a few people who are puzzled that the removal of the optical low-pass filter doesn't seem to give as big of a sharpness kick as expected. Part of the reason is that some of the early samples showing up on the web have not been as rigorously setup as they need to be, but the other reason is because the photographic community has been passing along tall tales about filterless cameras. Don't belief the hype? Well, I wouldn't go so far, but consider this:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nikon D7100 vs Fujifilm X-E1 and X-Pro1

Although the analogy is not completely congruent, the optical low pass filter on a modern imaging sensor is a bit like the brakes on your car. The engine of the camera, the sensor bed itself, is where the performance derives from, but the optical low-pass filter (also known as the anti-aliasing filter) is what slows down the camera to keep you out of trouble (moiré). Removal of the low-pass filter has been a favourite topic of people wanting to squeeze an extra bit of sharpness out of their cameras, but it's not without it's consequences.

The Nikon D7100 does away with it, theoretically giving it sharper-looking images than other 24mp APS-C cameras. On paper, with all else being equal, the images from a Nikon D7100 ought to have better acuity and contrast than those from a D5200, D3200 or Sony NEX-7.  However, in real life situations, I think most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference, unless the images were placed side by side. If you were given a 36mp image without any context and with the EXIF data removed, I think most people would be hard pressed to tell if the image came from a Nikon D800 or D800e (assuming that the moirĂ© had not been triggered). If you place images from both side by side it would then becomes obvious which image came from which camera, but real life viewing situations don't work like that.

There is another (more or less) mainstream camera system out there without the anti-aliasing filter, and that is the Fufjifilm X series. The pseudo-random colour filtration pattern of the X-Trans sensor was designed to reduce false colour detail patterns that can be triggered during de-moasicing of Bayer pattern sensors; because of this, it can do away with the optical low pass filter entirely. For the most part, X-Trans images look more contrasty than conventional sensors and hold onto detail better as the ISO settings increase. The trade-off is that the X-Trans sensor requires more computational horsepower to process its RAW sensor data, which has consequences as we will get into. However, now that the Nikon D7100 has done away with its low-pass filter, one wonders if this is the unique selling proposition that it once was for Fujifilm. It's almost like history repeating itself; Fuji's Super CCD SR sensor in the S3Pro an S5Pro cameras gave the masses unprecedented dynamic range, but the technology was outflanked by the migration of the pro market to full frame sensors and the increasing quantum efficiency of all sensors in general. In other words, it was an effective technical solution for its time, but it did not having an enduring market relevance as the landscape shifted.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nikon D5200 vs D7000 vs D7100 (Updated to Include D5300)

At the high end of the enthusiast camera market, Nikon has now given an interesting choice for dedicated “pro-sumers” between the DX D7100 and the FX D600. Both are capable cameras, and even though both are not professionally-oriented, the D7100 and the D600 will put pro cameras from a generation ago to shame. Such is the progress of technology; all things keep getting better. However, going down the Nikon product ladder, we still have a set of very capable cameras, especially with the D5200 and the remaining stocks of D5100’s and D7000’s. This poses an interesting choice for many people who want a  mid-level consumer dSLR, but who might be tempted into moving up into a more capable camera.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Nikon Coolpix A: First Impressions

And now for some thing completely different. (For Nikon, that is). New Nikon APS-C fixed lens compact camera, the Coolpix A.

  • 16.2mp
  • 28mm equivalent  f/2.8 lens
  • 14 bit NEF 
  • 1080p video at 30 fps