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Short comments on new products


Nikon D5 and D500 - a déjà vu?

January 8, 2016

In November 2007 Nikon introduced the D3 and the DX D300. This week the D5 and the DX D500 were announced. Déjà vu? Not completely: Shortly after the D3/D300, in July 2008, Nikon announced the D700.

@Nikon:
Please complete the déjà vu and give us a D900 with the D5's sensor in September 2016 :))

No, I guess Nikon's marketing department will forbid that :( Instead I expect the D900 to be the successor of the D810 with a couple of additional pixels... If you want a fast fullframe camera you have to buy the real thing named D5.

The D5 is an evolutionary step forward from the D4/D4s: 25% more pixels, a new AF system with a bit larger coverage area, higher ISO sensity, a little bit faster frame rate, more buffer capacity, automatic AF fine tuning, better battery performance and - of course - a bit of a higher price. I am a bit annoyed about the two versions of the D5 (CF/XQD). An interchangable card reader unit would have been a better solution in my eyes. Maybe, the unit is interchangable by the Nikon service.

A surprise is the DX comeback. The D500 is a great camera, the fastest and most professional Nikon DX body ever! If you want a DX camera, you can't go wrong with it.

But over the last years Nikon's model policy suggested us serious photography would mean full-frame. Therefore, today's lens lineups of many photographers - including me - are tailor-made for FX.

Between 1972 and 2004 I used FX, from 2004 to 2008 DX and since 2008 FX again. Sorry Nikon, but I don't plan to go back to DX again.

If I earned my money with wildlife or sports photography I would consider about buying a D500 as an additional body, because I would get a bit more reach with a DX body and because the D500 is a really fast one with a solid buffer capacity.

But 2300 euros is a lot of money for an amateur photographer. The D7200 is also a fine camera and it costs currently only around 880 euros in Germany, but its buffer capacity is small. Buffer means memory and memory costs nearly nothing today. It's just marketing :(




AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6 E VR

August 9, 2015

This week Nikon announced three new FX lenses: the 24mm f/1.8G, the 24-70mm f/2.8E VR and the 200-500mm f/5.6E VR.

Every time Nikon introduces a new telephoto lens I look a bit closer. I am using the older AF-S 300mm f/4, often combined with the TC-14EII. A similar optical quality with VR would be great. My expectations were high when Nikon released the 300mm f/4E PF in January. But after some reviews I am a bit disillusioned. Maybe the biggest drawback for nature photographers: bright light sources can destroy the image. I decided to hold my non-VR 300mm.

The 200-500mm is my next candidate on the horizon. It looks a bit like Nikon's response to the popular 200-500mm or 150-600mm lenses from Tamron or Sigma. It is said to cost around 1600 euros, which is surprisingly cheap!

The new lens has two important advantages over my 300mm/TC-14 combo: it's a zoom and it has got VR. But a closer look to the specs also shows serious disadvantages:

I will wait for the first reviews and measurements. But at first sight the new zoom lens seems to be no danger for the AF-S 300mm f/4 plus TC-14EII in my bag.




CES news:
AF-S Nikkor 300mm f/4 E PF ED VR

January 11, 2015

This is the long-awaited successor of the old AF-S 300mm f/4 which was introduced 15 years ago. The old lens is one of my most important lenses. Optically, it is a great performer. Sometimes I miss VR and the bokeh in the transition zone could be a bit less busy.

First of all: thanks to the fresnel lens element ("PF") the physical data of the new lens sound fantastic: 30% shorter than the old lens and just half the weight (only 755g!).

Moreover, Nikon has thrown in a lot of their modern goodies: Nano Crystal Coat, fluorine coating on the front element, electromagnetic diaphragm ("E") for safe operation at high frame rates and a VR system of the newest generation.

According to the MTF curves shown on nikonusa.com the optical performance has been improved. Furthermore, Nikon says the lens would produce a beautiful bokeh.

Of course, the new 300mm also has some drawbacks. But in my opinion that are only minor ones:

The old lens currently costs about 1300 euros in Germany, the new one will start at about 2000 euros. From my point of view - considering the above-mentioned improvements - the price is ok.




Photokina news:
Samyang 12mm FX fisheye, Nikkor 20mm f/1.8, Nikon D750

September 14, 2014

From my point of view the most interesting new product announced for Photokina is the new Samyang full-frame 12mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. I love my Samyang 8mm f/3.5 DX fisheye, see my review. It is unique, because of its stereographic mapping. In the description of the new lens I have not found any information about the mapping yet. But the sample images published on samyang.co.uk show a stereographic mapping in my eyes. That's great! Moreover the lens is a bit faster than the DX lens and they put in a lot of special glass and nano-crystal coating. Thus, I expect a very good performance.

Another interesting lens is the new fast AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8. Like the other f/1.8 primes in Nikon's lineup it is a relatively lightweight lens. With two ED elements, two aspherical elements and nano-crystal coating I expect top-notch performance from this lens, too. Especially of interest is the minimum focus distance of only 0.2m.

Nikon released a new full-frame DSLR, the D750. It seems to be the successor of the D610. The major improvement over the D610 is the 51-point AF-System we know from the professional bodies. Some more improvements, like e. g. the tilting screen and the built-in WiFi, are nice to have. Bad news: the grip of the D610 is not usable, you must buy the new MB-D16. Overall a real nice camera with only one minor problem: it has a numbering mismatch.

The proper name would have been D620. I guess the '750' is marketing humbug. They try to suggest it would be a late successor of the D700. Of course, that's wrong. The D750 is not a (semi-)professional body: slower shutter (1/4000), no remote control port, no option for usage of D4 batteries, and so on. A real D700 successor would be a D810 with the D4 sensor and with more than 6.5fps. But the number of the new camera signals us: stop waiting, there won't be a real fast semi-professional body. I've already stopped waiting and bought a used D4 a few months ago...




Nikon Capture NX-D 1.0.1: good news for Windows users

August 02, 2014

Two weeks ago Nikon released the final version of their RAW-conversion freeware "Capture NX-D". I installed it on two computers (32-bit Vista and 64-bit Windows 7). There are improvements over the beta version (see older comment below) in many details. To my eyes it seems to be a well-made piece of software. Try it!

I compared the RAW conversion of NX2 and NX-D by converting the same D4 14-bit RAW file to a JPG file. Good news: the two resulting JPGs look very much alike and they have the same size. Bad news: I measured 9 seconds for the raw conversion with NX-D (64 bit), NX-2 needs only 1.5! Let's hope Nikon will fix that in one of the future releases!

If NX-D detects the existence of NX2 on your computer, it automatically creates an "open-with" link. That works fine (except for the slow conversion): NX-D creates a 16-bit TIFF file and opens it with NX2. You can also register another image-processing software for "open-with", see also below.

We Windows users are relatively happy: in contrast to the beta version that required Windows 7 or 8 the final Capture NX-D runs under Vista as well. Moreover, because Capture NX2 even runs under Windows 8 it should be possible to run NX2 until 2023 (when Microsoft will stop the support for Windows 8). Thus, I will continue to use NX2. Some day, if I buy a newer camera that is not supported by NX2 (like the brand new D810), I'll switch to the combination of NX-D plus NX2.

Mac users will have a problem to keep Capture NX2 alive, because NX2 is reported to have problems with the upcoming "Yosemite" OS. In my eyes Adobe PSE in conjunction with Google's Nik Collection (U-point technology) is a good alternative to NX2.




Nikon D810

July 04, 2014

The new Nikon D810 is two cameras in one:

But the D810 doesn't have the FX speed option I expected when I heard of Nikons new S-RAW format for the first time. Half a year after the introduction of the D4s we know S-RAW is a simplified RAW (12 bit colour depth, some sources say internally it would be only 11 bit). The size of the 9MP S-RAW files from the D810 should be 27.9MB (source: this D810 brochure). In contrast, a 16MP 14-bit loslessly compressed RAW from my D4 has a file size of about 21 MB. The brochure says the buffer can hold only 18 S-RAW images. I guess that is a misprint and the correct number is 68*. Thus, S-RAW offers 9MP, 5fps and 68 images in buffer. For comparison: with 12-bit compressed full-size RAWs we have 36MP, 5 fps and a buffer capacity of 58 images. In my opinion the S-RAW format is useless and just a marketing gag ("Accelerate your workflow with Nikonís RAW Size S file format").
* Update July 16, 2014: the user manuals for the D810 are out now. There, too, the number of only 18 S-RAW images the buffer can hold is mentioned (I checked both the English and the German manual).

Overall the D810 is a nice improvement over the D800/D800E. On the other hand I expect a price drop for both new and used D800 cameras over the next weeks.




Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 E and TC-14EIII

June 15, 2014

Nikon has released their second 'E' lens. Not a real surprise. Maybe, the 300mm f/4 VR - I am waiting for - will be an 'E' lens, too. That would be ok, but please: don't make it a breather!

The second part of the announcement is a bit confusing. When I heard the name TC-14EIII for the first time I expected it to be an update of the TC-14EII, similar to the TC-20EIII. But Nikon changed the interface. In contrast to the other TC-E converters the TC-14EIII doesn't have an AI coupling. As far as I understand that means AF-S or AF-I lenses with an aperture ring cannot be used in conjunction with this converter. A bit strange in my eyes.




Upcoming Nikon Capture NX-D:
Adobe will capture new customers, but not me!

March 30, 2014
updated April 21, 2014

For many years now I have been using Nikon Capture NX(2) as my main tool for postprocessing my images. I still throw in all my RAW files for managing light and colour. Capture NX2 is clearly better than its reputation. Especially the UPoint technology - developed by Nik Software - is amazing. I'm happy and really productive with it!

Because the current version of Capture NX2 is more than four years old I was not surprised to hear of a new version a few weeks ago. I've downloaded the beta trial version of the new Capture NX-D. The software comes in a new and very different look (I'm happy Nikon is much more conservative with the ergonomics of their camera bodies!). It is not possible to open a single image - NX-D only works folder-based as a mix of a viewer and a processing application. The viewer part is too slow for using it as a tool for a first assorting phase. Irfanview - my favourite viewer - does that job much faster. In the processing section I miss the UPoints! Nik Software was acquired by Google. Obviously, Nikon and Google did not reach agreement. I guess this is the main reason why Capture NX-D is freeware.

In my eyes Nikon Capture NX is no longer a serious image processing application but NX-D is a counterpart to Adobe Camera Raw. When it comes to camera-specific things I expect advantages of NX-D over Camera Raw. On the other hand NX-D has serious drawbacks for usage as a RAW converter: firstly, it is not available as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom. Secondly, the only possible output file formats are TIFF and JPEG. While a 14-bit RAW file from my D700 has a size of about 15 megabytes a 16-bit TIFF has 70! DNG as a third option would be a good idea!

In general, Capture NX2 users have another problem concerning processed images stored with NX2 in RAW format. NX2 really changes the RAW file and in parallel it records the processing steps within the file. Adobe Camera Raw opens these files, but the colours are distorted which makes the image unusable. In contrast, Capture NX-D reads these files properly, but in their original state, without the changes made in NX2. However, NX-D enables a future use of such images! I was wrong here, the combination Adobe Photoshop Elements plus Camera Raw 6.5 has a general problem with the RAW images from my D700! The combination PSE 10 plus Camera Raw 6.7 opens the raw files from NX2 properly, but also just in their original state.

I am planning a switch to Adobe Lightroom 5 in conjunction with the Nik Collection that Google currently sells for 149$. As a preceding RAW converter I would prefer NX-D, but that depends on the usability of the final version (as mentioned above: plugin, DNG output). I have changed my plans:

In the past three weeks I have tested the following software components:


Result: for me the best workflow without Capture NX2 is about this:

1.) Using Capture NX-D for correcting camera settings like exposure compensation, white balance and so on. For me, NX-D is better here than any of the the Adobe raw converting software components.

2.) It is possible to configure an "open with" software in NX-D. That makes it possible for me to open an image with PSE with just a click from Capture NX-D. It takes a moment, because NX-D makes the raw conversion and saves the image in 16-bit TIFF format first and then calls PSE to open it. The folder where NX-D saves these temporary files is configurable and I use a folder on my SSD for it, so it is just a short moment.

3.) The first thing I do with the image in PSE is to call the "Viveza 2" plugin from the Nik Collection. In this plugin I can control colour and light including the usage of colour control points. It works like I know it from Capture NX2, but the ergonomics of the Nik plugins leave much space for improvements!

4.) The last step is to switch the mode to 8 bit per colour channel and finalising the image (downpixelling, unsharp masking and so on).


Nevertheless, I still clearly prefer a workflow with Capture NX2 - it is faster and overall it provides better ergonomics. Therefore my current plan is using Nikon Capture NX2 further on while observing the market.
Don't panic! Nikon just released a new update for Capture NX2. As long as your camera is supported by NX2 you can use it without restrictions. If you buy a new camera that is not supported, you have a second option: Use NX-D for the raw conversion and open NX2 with a TIFF file as described for PSE in step 2 of the above described workflow. Windows users will have no problems to keep NX2 alive, because NX2 runs under Vista, 7 and 8. Microsoft will support Windows 8 until January 2023...

It was my first contact with Lightroom. Although this software has a very good reputation I don't like it, because I don't need a tool that permamently tries to organise my files! Moreover the raw conversion is not as good as it is in NX-D (and NX2). And I understand now why NX-D looks like it does: they tried to copy the look of Lightroom...

The combination PSE 10 plus Camera Raw 6.7 works properly with the raw files from my D700, but PSE 9 plus Camera Raw 6.5 does not!? I don't understand that from a technical point of view, why is Camera Raw 6.7 not usable under PSE 9? Maybe, it is only marketing.
And please note: the options for raw converting Camera Raw offers are poor compared to NX-D.

Now let's wait for the final NX-D version...




Hope for the D900: Nikon D4s

February 28, 2014

The D4s seems to be a well-made improvement of the D4. It is amazingly fast in every aspect. I'd like to have one! My only problem with this camera is its price...

In about one or two years I expect the release of a new semipro DSLR from Nikon. I guess the name will be D900. Let's assume it will have the same pixel density like the current 24MP DX models. Thus the D900 will be a 54MP camera. That's fine for 3% of my images, but for 97% it is only data rubbish I have to carry along on the way from the camera to the downpixelling in PS some steps later. It would slow down my post-processing and I would need bigger memory cards and probably also more powerful computers. This problem is well known since the release of the 36MP D800. But a little detail of the D4s gives me hope here!

The D4s offers a 4 MP "RAW S" mode (a pity: only 12Bit). On a low level squares of four pixels are merged together into one resulting pixel. That's new, the other models allow downpixelling only for jpgs.

So my hope is the D900 will have such a pixel count vs speed switch that leaves us the choice between a slow full resolution mode and a fast 13.5MP mode (14Bit please!).




Nikon Df

November 6, 2013

Nikon's ad agency has done a great job. The pre-published 'pure photography' teasers have generated a real hype on the Web. Correctly! We all know the problem shown in teaser #3: the tent is already put up, the bonfire is just burning fine. But what should you do now? Here the new Df comes into focus: it is the ideal camera for us outdoorsmen to clean and play with on such evenings...

Joking aside, let's take a look at the facts behind the 'pure photography' baloney:


Sensor: Thumbs up!
Inside works the 16 MP sensor from the D4. Known quality, reasonable pixelcount.

Compatibility: best among the DSLRs yet!
The support of non-AI lenses is a nice idea. That makes us Nikon fans feel warm all over. On the other hand: I guess, pre-AI lenses that are important for a photographer are already modified.
A pity, AI-S lenses are still not fully supported. With an AI-S checkbox and an entry for the greatest aperture value in the non-CPU lens data menu, the camera could even support S and P mode with AI-S lenses. And it would be possible to set the aperture with the command dial. Thus, a swap from an 'G' lens to an AI-S lens wouldn't be a cut in terms of handling.

Ergonomics & design: silly!
An electronic camera doesn't need a dedicated shutter-speed dial. It only allows to set the shutter speed in full steps. That was still a problem in the FM2 - for fine tuning the exposure you had to use the aperture ring. With the modern designs based on a command dial that problem has gone. Today it is usual that we can adjust the shutter speed in 1/3 steps.
But the Df doesn't leave you out in the rain: just set the shutter speed dial to the 1/3-step position! That activates the well known command dial. Then you can dismount the shutter speed dial in order to save weight ;).
To cut a long story short: Nikon's conventional DSLR design clearly is better and less confusing.

Viewfinder: good.
Optically it seems to be very good. But I miss an eyepiece shutter. Good news here: the display in the finder looks like the one of other Nikon DSLRs. I was afraid that it would come also in a FM2-style retro design, with the shutter speed on the left, the aperture above and three red LEDs on the right side of the finder image ;)

AF system: Disappointing!
The Df has not inherited the AF system of the D4, D800 and D7100. It has got the simpler 39-point system from the D600/D610. For me this is the main drawback!

Speed: More on the slow side.
5.5 frames per second, a shortest shutter speed of 1/4000sec.

Flash: None!
An external flash is better than an internal one. But an internal one is better than none. The Df doesn't have an internal flash.

Weight and dimensions: 10 points.
Smallest and lightest FX DSLR ever, great for travelling! Nevertheless I miss an optional battery grip.

Build quality: Very good (expected)
I expect a very good build quality on the level of my D700.

Price: Too high!
Overall the Df is a retro designed D600/D610, but it costs about 1000$ more.


My recommendation: Buy a D610 and a used FM. With the D610 you can photograph all the anglers along your way through the woods. In the evenings you take the FM out of the glove compartment of your SUV to play with it while sitting at the bonfire...




Nikon D610

October 13, 2013

I'm sure the new Nikon D610 is a great camera. But it employs the same AF module like its predecessor. Thus, it does not solve my problem with Nikon's current DSLR lineup. Each model has a serious drawback for me:

Long live my D700! It has an FX sensor, a 51-point AF module and it can shoot with 8 fps. On the other hand, I would like to benefit from the improvements in sensor technology ...




Nikon 1 AW1

September 29, 2013

Although the Nikon 1 AW1 is not an F-Mount camera it is a very interesting tool! From my point of view the most important question is whether Nikon will introduce dedicated underwater lenses for this camera (or for further Nikon 1 underwater cameras).

I guess, the new AW 10mm f/2.8 is a great all-weather lens. But the front glass of this lens seems to be flat. Thus, you will have the typical aquarium effect (see links section) when using it under water.

How about a dedicated underwater version (meaning with an integrated dome port) of the 6.7-13mm zoom?




Samyang 24mm f/3.5 T&S

May 5, 2013. Updated: May 19, 2013

Last year Samyang announced their new 24mm tilt and shift lens. It will become available around now. Detailed information about this lens is rare, some things I can only conclude from product images.

It is too soon to say anything about the optical and mechanical quality of this lens. But let us assume it would equal the PC-E Nikkor 24mm f/3.5. For the Samyang you only have to pay half the price of the Nikkor. Moreover, the Samyang is more flexible because the orientation of the tilt and the shift movements can be set independent from each other. Thus, for the Nikon photographer the Samyang is the clear champion? No, I would go for the Nikkor!

If you plan to use your 24mm T&S on a tripod, the Samyang could be your choice. Things change if you want to use this lens hand-held like I do it most of the time with my PC-E 85mm. After all I currently know the Samyang has drawbacks in terms of handling, that makes hand-held usage in the field a pain. I know that, because I used older PC-Nikkors for many years.

Like the former PC-Nikkors, the Samyang doesn't have a CPU interface. When tilting, the most critical thing is the positioning of the focus plane. You must do that with the aperture wide open. For the Samyang that means you have to set the aperture ring to F3.5. Then - after focussing - you must stop down the lens to the desired F-stop value by turning the aperture ring again (on the product photos I did not see a stop-down button or an aperture-preset mechanism!). That is a big risk for unwanted moving of the focus plane. In contrast, the PC-E Nikkors have an electrically controlled aperture. They behave like your other lenses (except for AF, of course). The PC-E Nikkor 24mm is therefore very well usable as a general wide angle lens. The Samyang is a special lens, normal photography with it is a pain, thus you have to carry along another lens.

There is no lens hood in delivery. Maybe, the lens correction in terms of flare and ghosting is superior and a hood is not needed optically. But in rainy weather even a short hood is better than none.




AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G VR

March 10, 2013

At first sight this lens could be an attractive alternative to my good old AF-S 300mm f/4: VR of the newest generation, according to the MTF curves a very good optical performance and a closest focus of 1.5m.

But a closer look to the technical specifications reveals a feature I absolutely dislike: focus breathing. This lens has a closest focus of 1.5m and the max. magnification (in manual focus mode) at the long end is 1:5.1. The predecessor has 2.3m and 1:4.8! The "trick" of the new lens is that it shortens the focal length as you focus closer. At infinity you have 400mm, but at closer distances the focal length is significantly shorter.

For photographing small animals I need a telephoto lens that does not breathe. My AF-S 300mm is such a lens. In conjunction with the TC-14EII it is a 420mm f/5.6 lens. The closest focus is 1.45m and the maximum magnification is 1:2.5. The optical performance is top notch, too. But I would really like to have VR!

Focus breathing is a common issue in many modern lenses. Even Nikon's professional 70-200mm VRII is a heavy breather, see the review of Thom Hogan.



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