Monday, February 25, 2013

Nikon D7100

Nikon's announcement of the successor to the D7000, the D7100, contained some surprises, namely the lack of a low pass filter, and the 1.3x crop mode. Overall, the D7000 has been my favourite and most heavily used DSLR out of all the Nikon F-Mount cameras I own or have owned, the others being Fuji S2, Nikons D80, D200, D300, D2x, D3, D3x (I still own the latter).

The D7000 scores highly in my book for image quality, ruggedness, value and compactness. of course there are other cameras in that list that surely score higher in at least one of these categories, but the D7000 strikes a great balance.

The absence of the low pass filter in the D7100 is intriguing, not least because it screams 'enthusiast' about this camera. Sure, a lot of people who buy this camera will neither know (nor care) about this, and will probably buy it with the inadequate 18-105mm 'kit' lens, which probably offsets any advantage in acuity gained by removing the filter. Oh well.

But, the fact that Nikon is also shipping the D7100 with the 18-105 is further proof of Nikon's confused approach to DX. Here we have an advanced camera (possibly the only camera you'll ever need!), yet pitched at people who can't rationalise a lens choice, and are perhaps instead striving for the bragging rights of 24 over 16 megapixels. I'd warrant that most people would be better served by a D7000 and the Nikon 35/1.8 lens, which together are something of a bargain at the moment.

Pitched so close to the full frame D600 in price, it will be interesting to see how the D7100 image quality compares under critical reviews. Is Nikon really hoping that it's apparent reluctance to iterate the DX lens line, especially at the wide end, is really enough to drive consumers to a 50% more expensive FX model, if the reviews are more favourable to the D7100?

The 1.3x (1.3x1.5=1.95x) crop mode harks back to the 2x crop mode of the D2x, except with a 15 megapixel resolution rather than just under 6 for the older camera. This is great news for those with telephoto needs. I will be delighted to gain 600mm/2.8, ~800mm/4 and ~1000mm/4.5 from my 300mm f/2.8 with 1.4x & 1.7x TC's, more than enough for anyone's needs I would have thought!

The use of the EN-EL15 batteries continues, which is great news for those like me that already own spare batteries and chargers. It's a shame though that yet again Nikon see's fit to iterate the camera base plate and require users to purchase a new MB-D15. Seeing as, yet again, the new grip brings no new features, this seems like a cynical approach to extract yet more cash from it's customers without any value-add.

But, the only other downside I can see is I like my D7000 too much to part with it. That doesn't mean that I haven't already got a part-exchange quote though ;-)

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Customisable Cameras

I can't claim to be the originator of this, apart from anyone else, Thom Hogan has been banging on about this for years.

Consider your smartphone or tablet, which is a batch of fairly complex hardware (GPS, camera, phone, Bluetooth, WiFi, 2/3/4G radio, touch screen, proximity detector) all interconnected by the devices Operating System, typically Android or Apple iOS.

The device comes with a standard set of software, plus the ability to install additional software that does what the standard software does, but better, or lets you use all that interconnected hardware in some new or special way.

We've seen a couple of cameras recently that are architected in a similar way to your smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy camera and the Nikon S800c, both using the Android OS. The main driver behind these is their ability to easily share images using social media using the devices net capability i.e. WiFi or mobile broadband.

But what if someone produced a Compact System Camera or DSLR with the ability to adapt the functionality to your particular photographic needs or tastes? Potentially, you would need only 3 hardware sets in your line up: consumer; prosumer; professional. Much of the internals could be shared, but the functionality limited by software.

So for example, all 3 bodies might share the same AF system, but the consumer version software has less features and is slower. The professional model would have fully featured AF, and the prosumer sits somewhere in the middle. Now suppose I buy the consumer model but I later decide that I need faster AF (aka 'the sports pack'). Well, I can buy and download the software to do this, priced perhaps in a way that draws me to the next camera in the range.

By offering a range of such packs (portrait, landscape, black and white?), potentially the user could buy the cheapest hardware and then upgrade it's performance to that of the most expensive model (I'm ignoring here build, weatherproofing, battery life etc. - the sort of hardware features pro models tend to offer). Of course, in this instance, you'd price this in such as way as to make the professional model more attractive from the start.

This dramatically reduces your manufacturing costs, is less confusing for the buyer and gives the manufacturer the opportunity to sell the customer 'value-added' features, at high margin and low distribution costs, as they would be software 'packs'. You could also offer micro packs, for example film types or effects filters.

Mirroring even more closely the smartphone 'eco-systems', you could license 3rd parties to produce software, licensed by the manufacturer and only available through the manufacturers portal, with commission going to the hardware manufacturer.

You could of course sell the hardware including an optional pack, so that your single consumer hardware could come with, say, a sports pack, or portrait pack (priced at a slight discount compared to adding the pack after) depending on the customers requirements.

Will it happen? Well, if it did I don't see any of the established camera makers driving this forward, it would need a more radical and disruptive player to enter the market, and they'd need buckets of cash to get it off the ground.

iCamera anyone? Sign me up for the pro body with the 'manual-only film-era' option please.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Paramo gear - 2 year update

I've used my Paramo Halcon jacket almost daily for the past 2 years, and it shows almost no signs of wear, despite being snagged on thorns, sat on and generally abused. The design of hood, pockets etc., now tested over time, has proved to be as good as I first thought. The Torres gilet, which has not had as much use has some slight 'bobbling' of the tape that runs around the hem, and the Cascada trousers have shrugged off numerous snags and abrasions without a mark.

All in, I think this is excellent gear and well worth the investment - you just need to get used to wearing less underneath, in order to let the fabrics breath as they were designed to do!