News/Views

News and commentary about the Nikon DSLR world and photography in general. This page automatically updates with links for each new news/views story and is a good place to bookmark if you want to see the traditional bythom "front page" type of story. 

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The Latest Ask Thom Q&A

From time to time I try to answer questions I'm getting multiples of in my In Box with a quick post here on dslrbodies.com. While I continue to try to answer individual questions I get, sometimes broadcasting an answer is the better way to go.


I really want to get to 1000mm. How well does the TC-20E work on lenses like the 500mm f/5.6 PF?

I'm not a fan of the pursuit of this. You're simply not close enough to the action, whatever it might be. Not being close enough is going to cause all kinds of other issues. Ambient air temp may be varying between you and the subject, and if so it won't matter if you can focus well or fast enough when that happens, you'll get odd or poor results. You'll have a terrible time keeping 1000mm aligned and on target with proper support. You're stealing light from the focus system. You're adding glass—and in particular air/glass transitions—to an already complex formula, and you never get "equal" let alone "better" optical performance when you do so. Veiling flare will increase. You'll be tempted to turn on VR to solve the support issue, and that, too, may start stealing acuity from your result. 

A couple of sub-questions come out your question, so I should probably answer them. I don't own a TC-20E any more—which should tell you something—but I do have the TC-14E. My experience with three different 500mm PFs and three different TC-14E's is that this combo works better than expected. With a caveat. It works better than expected on the Z6 and Z7, which can autofocus at f/8 just fine in reasonable light. On a D5, D500, or D850 the problem is that the lack of light getting to the focus sensors is a real issue. You'll lose some focus capability even in good light, as IIRC you only have five cross sensors and a maximum of 15 available sensors being used (out of 153).

But optically, the 500mm (and 300mm) PF with a TC-14E seems to work respectably well. And focus performance stays good on the Z6/Z7 until you're in low light.

One reason why amateurs always want to find the magic "more reach" combination has to do with their approach. To get close with wildlife takes an investment of time, energy, and good guiding. Yes, there are times when I can't get to where the animals are doing something interesting. That's why I spend a month at a time in Africa and keep going back (or Alaska, or any other place I shoot wildlife). It's not "go once for a short period on a budget tour and get the shot of a lifetime." Oh, that happens by chance sometimes, but it really is by chance, not by the equipment someone is carrying. 

Realistically, you have to go to somewhere where the likelihood that you can get close is higher (e.g. not the Serengeti, but maybe the South African private preserves instead), you need to spend more time in the right positions and not chase after the shot, plus you need to understand and anticipate animal behavior. You may need to create a bird-friendly area within your yard and/or build/use a blind. You need to find where the lions are hunting, understand how they'll hunt, position yourself properly, and sit. 

1000mm to me indicates an impatient photographer. Personally, I'm very patient and perfectly happy with 400mm ;~), as in the following shot: 

bythom INT Africa Bots ChobeSavuti 7-2017 D500 28579


Or 70-200mm ;~)

bythom INT BOTS Savuti 2019 Z6 74383a


You get images like these not by buying more expensive equipment and then adding TCs to it, but by spending more time where such images can occur, being patient, and learning what the animals are likely to do and how to properly approach them doing it.

Nikon needs a 60mp camera. When will they introduce one?

I'm not sure you need a 60mp camera ;~). Having now spent some time with one (and a 100mp medium format one), for most people we're well into the declining improvement range with 60mp.

This question is sort of related to the first question: some people want 60mp to have way more cropping flexibility. They could get the same pixel density from a 24mp APS-C camera if they're looking at 60mp for "more reach", though. 

One of the things I wanted to look at with 60mp was just how much benefit that really produced in landscape photography. (Caveat: landscape photographers will always claim they can never have "enough". Of anything. Pixels, dynamic range, you name it. That's why we used to have folk wandering around with 8x10" film cameras and larger. ;~) 

My current favorite landscape lens is the Nikkor 19mm PC-E, not just because it's sharp, but also because it is flexible. Pano stitching is simple with that lens, and the plane of focus and perspective point can be controlled, too.

So what does the 60mp Sony A7Rm4 and 16-35mm f/2.8 give me over my D850 with the 19mm? Basically, a more impromptu, less workflow intensive capability with some very modest enlargement capability. Even that latter is a bit tricky, as I find Sony ARW files a little more difficult to fully optimize processing for than Nikon NEF files. 

But let's start with the premise that you're looking at making large prints. I've updated the table in my How Big Can You Print? article to now include 60mp and 100mp. Using the criteria I established over ten years ago after a lot of deep testing and examination, 60mp gets you to "good+" compared to "good" for a 45mp camera when you print at 36" maximum width. It takes a 100mp camera to get you to "excellent" at 36" print size.

Coincidentally as I was writing this response, a new question popped up in my In Box from someone asking if they should sell their 36mp D810 now before it lost any more value. Uh, why?  The D810 is a remarkably capable camera even today. Was this person planning on printing beyond what the desktop inkjet printers are capable of? No. Then they don't need to sell their D810 and wait for a 60mp Nikon.

I think I've been clear about this for a long time, maybe even the entirety of this century: I personally will always take more pixels because it gives me more sampling of the subject. However, the pragmatic benefits of more sampling is going down with each generation of sensor. And we're not tending to output large sized images as much as we used to. That combination means that pixels alone is no longer a huge motivating factor for someone to upgrade. 

I haven't released my Sony A7Rm4 review yet because I'm still working on it. But personally I had to make a decision: upgrade from my Mark III model? My answer was yes, but it was not even remotely influenced by pixel count. The real decision came because of handling changes to the body design and some EVF, focus, and write performance benefits. Sony fixed or improved a number of things that frustrated me with the previous model. The extra pixels was a side benefit of upgrading.

I suspect that a lot of Nikon shooters are going to fall into that same category when Nikon upgrades the D850 and/or Z7 models to 60mp. It won't be the pixel count that is the compelling upgrade feature, it will be other things.

Why do we need yet another card type (CFexpress)? SD cards work fine.
Why do we need yet another connector (USB-C)? What we have works fine.

I've grouped (and rephrased) these questions together because they derive from the same notion (status quo is okay). I could probably add a whole bunch of other similar questions (e.g. why do we need 4K or 8K?), but I'm going to concentrate on these two.

One thing I've noticed more and more about others in the Baby Boomer generation—which is the group most of the serious photo enthusiasts belong to—is this notion of "enough is enough, stop all the improvements" is now in full bloom. You'll note that all of the questions today revolve about trying to do more, which is the opposite.

So let's start with that last word in the quote, improvements. Yes, CFexpress is an improvement. Indeed, CFexpress Type B is an improvement over XQD, and the smaller CFexpress Type A (not yet available) is an improvement over SD (Secure Digital). 

What most don't realize is that cards have been mimicking ongoing internal personal computer engineering improvements for quite some time. CFexpress brings cards up to the PCIe 3.0 level, which means they can be quite fast, as fast as what's happening inside the bus of your PC. 

299MBps (Sony SD Tough UHS-II card) seems like it should be fast. It is, at least compared to where we started with SD. However, I've noted two things about SD versus XQD (and eventually CFexpress) that don't get talked about a lot. First, that 299MBps generally doesn't hold up under sustained writes. Fill the buffer, and you're in sustained write mode. This is one reason why SD isn't necessarily the right choice as we move to faster cameras with more pixels. 

The other has to do with getting those images off the card. The fastest current SD cards tend to be 300MBps read speed, and you can buy readers that can get that from the card in sustained reads to your PC (but not with USB 1.x, and often not with USB 2.x ;~). Current XQD cards tend to be 440MBps read speed, and CFexpress can double that (two-lane PCI instead of one). That means that you'll get those big 60mp images from your camera transferred faster to your computer. Those of us that shoot large quantities of images appreciate higher transfer speeds.

Which brings us to the USB side of things. Let's be clear, USB is a confusing mess. Some standards committees work decently to make clear the progression of tech and what will work with what. Others don't. USB is one of the better examples of total consumer confusion. 

We have USB 1.x, 2.x, 3.x, and yes, 4.x (not yet available). We have multiple "gens" (generations) with USB 3, which have different capabilities. We have naming conventions that were rendered meaningless ("Full Speed" is not at all what most people would call "full" these days, nor is "High Speed" actually all that "high"). We have Thunderbolt overlaid on top of USB. And we have a whopping 10 different USB connectors (plus some additional proprietary ones!). There's even two different power delivery options that can get in your way. None of this is clearly labeled, nor is it well understood by customers. Plus all this messiness happened in a bit over 20 years.

One of the goals of USB was to "simplify the interface between computers and peripherals." Yeah, didn't happen. 

Nevertheless, the need for what's happening in the underlying tech behind USB was indeed necessary. You may know about Moore's Law—the idea that the number of transistors doubles every two years—but there's been a similar trend in storage, often referred to as Kryder's Law. Our computers have been getting faster and beefier on predictable paths. Moreover, there's been a huge cost reduction curve, too. My original 5MB hard drive was the very first made by Seagate, literally, as in serial number 00001, and cost US$1500—$4600 adjusted for inflation—while today I can find 5TB drives that cost US$100.

While I was in the 0.01% with my desktop computer in 1980 (2MB RAM, 5MB drive), my needs grew exponentially as I did more with writing, photography, graphics, video, and publishing. Considering that a typewriter was considered state-of-the-art and had limited household penetration when I was in high school, the march of tech has been relentless in moving that bar upwards. 

The files that run my Web sites are nearing 20GB. And that's using small, compressed JPEGs. Put another way, I couldn't have fit these sites in 1980 onto my personal computer even if the Internet had existed then. 

Personally, I'm glad tech keeps moving the bar. It's allowed me to do more things, do it at higher quality, and in less time. I don't see that changing any time in the future. So I'm going to do what I've always done, and stay near the forefront of what's possible. If you want more beyond what you've got today with your cameras, you need to embrace this constantly moving progression of cards and cables, too.

If status quo is okay for you, then you're probably on Last Camera Syndrome. I'd advise you to purchase extra accessories and disposables now (such as batteries and storage cards), before you need them in the future and new ones are more difficult to find. Maximize what you get out of your current gear and be happy with it. No need to complain to others about standards moving on. You got off at a station and have decided to only explore its surroundings. 

Realize, however, that things change. In tech, they change pretty dramatically, fairly quickly. Once cameras started embracing electronic technology with auto metering and focusing in the 60's and 70's, it was inevitable that they'd have to be on the fast track to keep up with the rest of the world. As it turns out, the cameras companies are now running a slow train on a fast track, so are actually falling behind other competing and complimentary technologies. Some of us pros are struggling to keep up with our clients because of that. 


Aside: Note I wrote "[tech allowed] me to more things, do it at higher quality, and in less time." Let's apply that to recent cameras. More things? Uh, it seems that the imagination of the camera engineers is dwindling. Sure, we got focus stacking and pixel shifts recently, but it feels like these are not-quite-polished capabilities and we should be getting more of them, and more fully fleshed out. Higher quality? Yes, that's probably been the thing that the camera makers have done the best job on, though for the mass market there's the question of how high a quality is enough? We're above that bar. Which is one reason why MP3's ate CD's and now smartphones are eating dedicated cameras. Finally: in less time. The camera makers are failing big time on this. Menus sprawl. Communication standards lag our computers and mobile devices. Image processing workflow is still stuck in the one-hour processing lab. Even camera customization sucks big time. Why can't I store multiple "camera settings" on my smartphone and blast one over to the camera to instantly change the way the camera works?


Are Customers Asking for Too Much?

I've long held to a simple design philosophy: customers are terrible product designers. 

If you ask a customer what to change on or add to a product, you'll get answers. Those answers may not make for a better product. 

Right now I'm seeing a lot of this kind of request from users:

  • Give me more dynamic range
  • Give me 4K/120P
  • Give me 20 fps

Simple specification constructs like that are easy outs. If we've got 11 stops dynamic range, give me 12. If we've got 45mp, give me 60mp. If we've got 4K/30P, give me 4K/60P and then 4K/120P. If we've got 12 fps, give me 20 fps.

Here's the thing: how many real world user problems would such changes actually solve? I'll bet that the answer is near zero. 

In the automotive world we've had the same thing: more cylinders, more horsepower, more torque, more acceleration. In a world—at least here in the US—where we travel longish distances in our vehicles but not often at speeds above 55 mph. Frankly, we'd be better served by smaller engines that are well tuned to the way we use our cars, uh, I mean SUVs. 

The reason why the automated driving aspects that have come into play recently attract lots of attention is that they do solve real user problems. Blind spot warnings and collision avoidance braking, for instance, are easy to understand in that context. But automating the complex process of driving to make it safer and more enjoyable means you can pay more attention to what the kids are doing in the back seat.  

What camera designers need to be asking is whether or not they're solving real user problems any more or not. I'd argue that they mostly aren't. Sure, autofocus systems have gotten more sophisticated and capable, and that does further solve a user problem, particularly if that sophistication comes in the all-automatic modes. But more pixels? No, not really. 

Here's the real user problem facing camera users now: "I've taken a photo, now what?" 

While I was checking out the new features of iOS 13 (and iPadOS), I finally looked a little closer at Shortcuts, an app that I had overlooked before (and probably rightly so, as it wasn't quite yet ready for everything that could be done). Here's an idea for you: connect your iPhone to your camera via USB cable and say "Hey Siri, Message Photos." What? Say What?

IMG 0916

Yeah, it works (after you've built the Shortcut). I'm still fiddling with it, though. Basically you create a Shortcut called Message Photos that consists of (1) Photos/Import; (2) Photos/Select Last Import; (3) Messages/Send To. And voila, all my photos go to my recipient (assuming that they can read Apple Messages). You can do this via email, as well. Yes, you can post to Facebook or Tweet using Shortcuts. You can even use variables like "Ask Each Time", which would allow you to put a comment/text with the image, though batch sending like I've suggested here starts to become a problem if you get too complex.

Here's the problem: SnapBridge doesn't support Shortcuts. There are no actions you can do with SnapBridge. Shortcuts doesn't have an action to apply hashtags to a batch. The ability to build a loop (as in "For Each Photo in Import Do...") isn't there. So there's a limit to what we can do with Shortcuts at the moment with our cameras.

Still, Apple discovered a user problem—stringing together multiple apps to create a one-step process—and is trying to solve it. Are the camera companies doing the same? Doesn't seem like it. 

So for now I can only dream about the camera that lets me load some variables into the EXIF data of an image (hashtags, caption, destination, resize choice, priority) while shooting, pushes that over to my phone via something like SnapBridge, and then because that phone app supports Shortcuts, allows me to say "Hey Siri, Output Images with Priority 1." Plus, when I get home be able to say to my computer "Hey Siri, Archive all Images." 

So, to answer the headline's question: no, customers aren't asking for too much, they're asking for the wrong thing.

Coming Next

Curiously, it appears that we're going to have a number of new camera introductions between now and the end of October. One or two might spill into November. 

Moreover, we're getting a lot of development announcements all of the sudden. The Nikon D6 has already been teased by Nikon, but now we have a new "flagship" APS-C DSLR teased by Pentax, plus the odd addition or another rear LCD in the development announcement of the Fujifilm X-Pro3. 

bythom pentax dev

The as-yet-named new Pentax APS-C DSLR

Other cameras that are strongly rumored to be coming soon are the Canon M200 and Ra, the Leica SL2, something from Nikon with the 60mp sensor, the Olympus E-M5m3, the actual appearance of the Sigma fp, and the Sony A9m2. A bit further out (say start of the year) and you could add a Canon 1DXm3 to those. Meanwhile Nikon has a total of seven cameras that have been registered at worldwide radio licensing agencies, and that leaves six that aren't the D6, and those can't all be Coolpix. 

It seems that we're in for a spurt of new cameras, and both DSLR and mirrorless will be in that mix. The question is whether the market can handle that much iteration. How many of those models will be "sticky" and get some traction?

Depends upon how you define "traction." 

A Canon 1DXm3 and Nikon D6 will have traction, but in a small subset of the user base, mostly sports shooters; perhaps with a shrinking pickup of photo journalists. Photo journalists are better served by 24mp mirrorless cameras that shoot silently, I'd say, so the beasts at the top of the DSLR mountain are going to see a bit less traction this time around.

Likewise, an APS-C DSLR flagship from a company with less than 5% of the fast declining DSLR market isn't going to be very sticky, either. Oh, it very well could entice the few lingering Pentax aficionados to upgrade. The photos released by Pentax with the development announcement show a pretty full-featured camera (see above). But even catching up with the Nikon D500—which isn't selling well—wouldn't be a big enough step forward to move anyone to Pentax. The new camera's traction will remain within the small Pentax crowd that's still buying.

The recently released Canon 90D DSLR, also APS-C, is turning out to be a bit better camera than I would have guessed, but I don't see anyone burning down doors to buy one. It was and remains "in stock" everywhere immediately following its release, which is not a good sign. We'll see if its mirrorless companion, the EOS M6m2, does better when that's released to dealers this week. Indeed, sales differences between those models would tell us something about the market. Same basic performance, half the size/weight at a lower price (okay, equal if you buy the EVF). I know which way I'd lean.

It shouldn't surprise you, though, that the three remaining DSLR makers are going to be putting out more DSLRs. Many of the enthusiasts that make up the top end of the DSLR buying market are looking for some excellent and compelling iteration, not a complete disruption of their system by moving to a different type of camera (e.g. mirrorless). 

Looking at the DSLR lineups, the cameras I see that are most likely to get another iteration would be: 

  • Canon: absolutely 1DX, maybe the 5D, probably the Rebel T7i. The first because it's overdue and would be accepted by a good portion of the 1DX shooters. The second if the right sensor can be found to stick in it. Enough 5D users out there haven't chosen to switch to mirrorless that you don't want to lose them to something else. The latter to pick up some remaining price-sensitive consumer DSLR customers with that 32mp sensor. If I were Canon: I'd do more or I'd accelerate the move to mirrorless. By more, I mean an SL4 with the 32mp sensor to capture the bottom end, and a 7Dm3 to capture the top end of APS-C.
  • Nikon: absolutely D5, probably D850, probably D7500, maybe D750. The first because it's already been announced (as well as the same reasons I cited for the 1DX). The second because this has been one of Nikon's most successful platforms and a 60mp sensor certainly would be tempting for the next iteration. The enthusiast D7500 because the jump from 20mp to 26mp would look good, and this was Nikon's most successful APS-C platform for enthusiasts who would still be in the market (started with the D70). Finally, I can see Nikon finally getting around to updating the aging D750 if they can slot it against the mirrorless offerings correctly. Full frame is Nikon's weapon of choice now, so having a three-camera DSLR line that's full frame and current seems like the right thing to do. If I were Nikon: 24mp D6 optimized for speed/low-light; 36mp D760 optimized for generalized shooting; 60mp D860 pushing that product a bit more as the quality/studio camera. I'd drop all the APS-C cameras and start over in mirrorless.
  • Pentax: I had to go to Pentax's Web site to see exactly what they think is current: K1 (both iterations), KP, K-70. Yikes. Given Pentax's very low sales volume, they have sensor issues. To get sensor pricing down to levels where you can hold a reasonable gross profit margin on the result, you commit to a specific volume for each sensor with Sony Semiconductor. This is one reason why the K1's are still using the 36mp sensor and the APS-C models are using the 24mp sensor. My guess is that whatever that new flagship APS-C camera is, it's still at 24mp. If so, then it would be difficult to predict anything other than minor iteration for any other Pentax model, and that would be using the current sensor. If somehow they move to the 26mp sensor, then the other two APS-C models need it, stat. If I were Pentax: I'd say it's past time to make a choice. (1) do an aggressive iteration of all the DSLR models bringing them much more up to current standards; (2) dump DSLR development entirely and go all in on a mirrorless system; or (3) give up the ILC business. I probably would have also given up the traditional selling model and gone 100% direct-to-customer, too. With an active base that small you need to be really close to the customer and you need the extra margin. 

Update: article was updated to clarify a few sentences.

Are Camera Shows Dead?

Here we are with one of the larger camera shows in the US just ahead—PhotoPlus Expo in New York City in October—yet Photokina 2020 this past week sent a press release that indicated that they've lost appearances by three key camera companies (Leica, Nikon, and Olympus). Sony doesn't appear to be exhibiting at PhotoPlus. Also, Fujifilm has indicated that they'll now regard Photokina as a "local show", meaning that any decision to exhibit will be made and paid for by the local distribution company in the future.

I've been attending big tech trade and consumer shows since the late 70's, including ones that are still around (NAB) and ones that aren't (West Coast Computer Faire, COMDEX, etc.). 

bythom wccfa-edit

Let's start with the difference between a trade show and a consumer show. 

Originally, a trade show was solely for the trade: distributors, dealers, partners, and so on. A trade show was a way to show upcoming product to those that were going to sell it in the future and to secure purchase orders from that distribution network. A trade show was totally business-to-business. 

Consumer shows, meanwhile, were solely for meeting with and trying to promote and sell product to potential customers. Often, these events sold product from the show floor, though for awhile in some venues that was difficult or impossible to do (originally because of sales tax collection by out-of-state entities, but for other reasons, as well). 

To keep the big event and expo companies making money, we eventually started seeing the two types of shows mixed in order to keep overall attendance rates up. For instance, today both trade and consumers can attend NAB, so it still mostly fills the huge Las Vegas convention center.

Thing is, in a growing market—and rapidly growing markets in particular—big expos, conferences, and shows serve a purpose: they concentrate a huge volume of useful information and product into one place, which makes it easy (easier) to learn and get a sense of where the market is. They also make it easier to build a network. When personal computers first took off in the late 70's, the computer store I managed in the Midwest used to make yearly treks to the West Coast to the big shows in Silicon Valley and later Vegas because it was the only place you could see what was happening in the market all at once. It gave us intros to people who didn't know we existed. When we came home from these shows, we served as "pollinators" to our customers.

When Apple decided to stop participating in the consumer show MacWorld Expo, it wasn't so much that there weren't a lot of customers attending—though attendance was down towards the end—it was that Apple didn't want an externally-controlled show dictating their product release schedules. (Ironically, Apple now uses predictable "events" to launch products, such as the Apple Developer's Conference in June or the now annual iPhone kickoff typically in September.)

In a declining market, unless a big show can actually make the vendors clear dollars in some way, things don't work so well. That's because it can easily be a million dollar proposition to exhibit at those big shows if you want to have any reasonable sized booth and staff presence. More and more, you find the companies fighting contraction wondering what they get for all that money they're spending and deciding it isn't worth the expense.

That's not to say that camera companies shouldn't be doing trade or consumer shows. It's that they really need to be thinking completely different and clearly. It's probably a bigger bang for their buck to just have a dealer-only event here in the US than a trade show presence (and probably in Europe and Asia, too). And it's also probably a bigger bang for the camera maker's buck to sponsor local dealer events for consumers, or perhaps mimic what Sony is doing with Kando. A million dollars goes a long way in both those cases.

When Photokina first proposed having two shows in less than a year (in order to re-arrange their event scheduling from fall to spring) and then further doubling the number of events (every year instead of every other year), that was suicide on their part. Basically they were telling a camera company that might be spending a million dollars every two years to spend two million dollars this year and a million every subsequent year. This came at a time when the camera companies were all asking themselves: "with continued declining sales, what's the best way to spend the marketing/promotion money we still have budgeted?" And remember, that budgeted amount would likely be less each year as sales volumes and profits declined, not the more that Photokina was suddenly demanding.

One thing that I've noted in previous tech markets is this: when the big trade or consumer show goes "boom" and implodes, a lot of the other big shows in that market die, too. That's because once you start a group of companies closely evaluating what they're getting for their marketing costs, they often find lots of other places where they should be cutting. 

So there's an interesting question that comes up as we see less trade/consumer show participation by the camera vendors: how the heck do you inspire/inform current customers (to upgrade/extend) and how do you attract new customers? 

Most of the camera companies have now given in to influencer-driven YouTubing and Instagramming. That introduces another party, and one who isn't necessarily loyal. We've already seen some "switch ships" because they saw more money promoting something different (including software or accessories instead of cameras). 

I get queries about what is essentially selling-out-influence-for-money all the time. Some are subtle, some are blatant. In several cases it takes the form "we'll give you a free product and kickback money if you promote it as we launch it," particularly with Kickstarter campaigns. One reason why you hear so much about pending betas and discounts for future software launches has to do with hidden money to the sites promoting it.

We're going to see more of that in the future as the camera companies move their budgets from big, not-effective trade shows and conventions, to more nimble, influencer-driven promotions. But I'm not convinced that's the way to do it. 

I keep coming back to Kando. Sony does quite a few things right with that annual event. But the real thing that I like about Kando is that it feels like Sony is reaching out to its user base and trying to get closer. Embrace your customer, don't market to them. If anything, I think Sony needs to add mini-Kandos scattered across the country (and world) throughout the year. The more customers you reach out to and develop close bonds with, the more likely you can weather the continued camera market contraction. 


Is it Time to Replace Your Camera?

I've had advice on when to upgrade your Nikon DSLR (and to what model) for some time now. I'm going to have to start revisiting that again soon with more advice on whether an upgrade should be a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. But I came across an article in another field the other day that had me having an Aha! moment of simplification. 

This is the straw man proposal resulting from my Aha! moment:

  • If your current camera is 12mp or less: You should upgrade your camera. Period. Many things changed dramatically since you bought your camera. Images from new gear will look better than yours. But here's the awkward caveat for the camera companies: if you don't need more than 12mp and aren't a lens junkie, then you should probably upgrade your camera to something like the iPhone 11 Pro. Yeah, I just wrote that. I'll have more to say about the iPhone 11 Pro soon, but basically for sharing images electronically, you don't need more than 12mp and the new Apple smartphone is a pretty phenomenal 13-50mm camera, even in low light. It's only going to be the crowd that needs more than 50mm or shoots action in low light that will find the iPhone 11 Pro wanting (true for the equivalent smartphone competitors, too). 
  • If your current camera is 16-24mp: Maybe you should upgrade your camera, maybe not. This is where my Nikon DSLR upgrade advice comes most into play. Some of those 16-24mp cameras would have better choices available today. I think, for example, about the Nikon D7000. That was a camera that just doesn't hold up against the current model (D7500), and for a lot of reasons, including focus performance. Meanwhile perhaps the Nikon Df was exactly what you wanted, plus there's no real upgrade available in Nikon's lineup, anyway, so you don't upgrade. This category of cameras can go either way. If you're in it, this is where you need to pay some attention. And yes, there's one other aspect that comes into play here: 16mp on a m4/3 sensor is a lot different than 24mp on today's full frame sensors. 
  • If your camera is 26mp or more: Nope, you don't need to upgrade. I'm pretty sure of that. All the Nikon DSLRs that fit this bill shoot pretty fine images if you've taken the time to learn your camera. That includes the D800, D810, D850, and the mirrorless Z7. So do virtually all of the other 26mp+ cameras I can think of from other camera makers. And if you haven't taken time to learn your camera, why the heck would you want to buy a new one that you'll need to take the time to learn? ;~) 

That's it. Anything outside what I just wrote means that you're upgrading solely because you want to. Nothing wrong with that. However, once something becomes purely "want", then rational choice flies out the window. It's like love: you either want it (them) or you don't, and only you can figure that out. 

Do We Need a 120-300mm f/2.8?

No sooner had Nikon pre-announced the new 120-300mm f/2.8 lens I started getting the questions about whether we need this lens or not. 

Of course, part of that is driven by the fact that we already have such a lens, from Sigma. But several of the questioners were seriously questioning the "tweener" focal range.

Lens focal length is not really a good way to judge lens differences. What you really want to look at is the angle of view and the capture rectangle at the distances you'd use the lens. So let's do that. First, the angle of view:

  • 70-200mm = 29 to 10°
  • 120-300mm = 17 to 7°
  • 180-400mm = 11 to 5°

Those degrees are all the horizontal FX frame coverage. 

More to the point, though, the question is about what you can capture when you are position constrained, which you often are in sports photography. Sports users being one of the primary buyers of the longer than 200mm lenses.

Let's consider that I'm in the end zone and the line of scrimmage is the 10 yard line. I'm 60'+ away from the quarterback, I'm 30' away from the successful play's finish (goal line). What do I get at the long end of each lens at each of those distances?

  • 200mm and 60': 7' high, 10.75' wide (rounded numbers)
  • 300mm and 60': 4.75' high, 7' wide 
  • 400mm and 60': 3.5' high, 5.5' wide
  • 70mm and 30': 10.25' high, 15.5' wide
  • 120mm and 30': 6' high, 9' wide
  • 180mm and 30': 4' high, 6' wide
bythom sports CU vs WSU Nov10 2018 Z726536

Above is what you get when a player is at the 10-yard line with the right lens. And the following is what happens immediately after that player scores and comes right in your face (which is why we have multiple cameras with multiple zooms hanging from our necks):

bythom sports CU vs WSU Nov10 2018 Z726553

Even if I turn the camera vertically as I did above, 180mm is too much lens on a score, while the 70-200mm and 120-300mm give me different ranges to consider (the 70-200mm is better if I'm concentrating on the score, the 120-300mm better if I'm concentrating on the start of the play).

Thing is, every shooting position for every sport has a different set of calculations. I'm all for having more flexibility in lens choice, because it opens up additional shooting possibilities. 

Indeed, there's at least one missing lens even with the new 120-300mm in the mix! We sports photographers probably all would like to see a 35-135mm f/2 (or f/2.8), as well. That's doubly true if you shoot with a D500 or other DX crop camera. Since you're probably wondering, here's the comparable stats on such a lens:

  • 35-135mm: 54 to 15°
  • 135mm and 60': 10.75' high by 16' wide
  • 35mm and 30': 20.5' high by 30.75' wide

Note how the narrow angle about doubles from the 180-400mm versus 70-200mm, and does the same thing for the 120-300mm versus 35-135mm. The wide side does more than double with each of those pairings. That's about right, in my book.

Personally, I'm glad to see Nikon doing "zoom overlap". Of course, now I want it in the Z mount, too ;~).

Do We Need a D6?

Now that Nikon has officially acknowledged that the D6 is coming, and likely well in time for the 2020 Olympics, the question is simple: do we need it?

D6 24 70VR front

My answer might surprise you: maybe. Probably not if it's filled with new tech. 

I really find nothing particularly problematic with my D5 for event, sports, and some wildlife use. Sure, it's a DSLR so its focus sensors don't extend all the way across the image area, but I don't think a D6 is going to change that (though note my comment below). 

To explain my answer, let's start at the sensor. The D1h, D2h, D3, D4, and D5 all had one thing in common: they produced fewer pixels than the more common cameras of their time. While this got a little out of hand with the D2h when it was only 4mp versus the Canon 1D's 8mp, good reasons exist as to why the pro PJ/sports camera have tended to be underpixeled: (1) they perform better in low light; and (2) photographers on assignment have low resolution bars coupled with very short deadlines. 

That first reason is going away a bit now that we have BSI sensors and the overall base level of sensor tech has stalled and sensors are evening out in ability. At most of the ISO levels I tend to use, the 24mp, 36mp, and 45mp sensors all look about the same these days when output at the same size newspapers, magazines, and Web sites are demanding. That said, when you push insanely high with the ISO, there's nothing better in Nikon/Sony realm than the D5. 

The second reason has everything to do with time management and image transfer. I've written this before, but most of us shooting sports and events have really tight deadlines. Really tight. If you're scrambling to get your picture used by the wire services, you'd better be the first to upload. That means putting at least some images out not long after a sporting event starts, and certainly getting solid, evocative images out by the end of half-time (or the first quarter/period interval). 

When I shot the NCAA Lacrosse Championship earlier this year, my images of the post game celebration literally went onto the winning school's site within moments of me uploading them, and it was all I could do to try to turn that around within minutes after I finished shooting the celebration. There were several other photographers still in the press room trying to finish their uploads as I was leaving. I think they were using higher megapixel cameras ;~). In fact, I know two of them were.

So when time and transfer come into play, megapixels are not your friend. The next day after the championships, I pushed another 1GB of JPEGs up to my client. Very few of those images got used for anything, because they simply weren't timely enough. (There is usefulness in being complete and having all your shot images in the client/agency archive, because you never know when an image you took previously will become useful for some reason. But that usefulness is not why they hired you in the first place. ;~)

Shooting JPEG helps with the size issues, but it's still a game of bytes. A JPEG Fine Large from a D5 is about 10.5MBs. From a D850 that expands to 22MBs, or basically double. If I shoot 1000 images in the first half of a football game, the difference between ingesting those D5 images and D850 images can be measured in minutes (and is worse if you use Lightroom ;~). Likewise, when you push your selected, annotated, and cropped images back out to your client, you don't want double the upload time, either. Even shooting a D5 it's rare that I make it out of half-time in the press box back to the field in time for the 3rd quarter kickoff.

So what's my expectation for the D6? I'd be happy with 24mp, actually. Give me BSI and all the other newer sensor technologies tuned the same way the previous D# cameras have been tuned, and I'd be more than happy. A few more pixels gives me a little more cropping flexibility without chewing up card space and ingest/upload time.

Unfortunately, the expectations—particularly among the Sony A9m2 prognosticators—is that we'll get 36mp in the next high-speed pro camera generation. The leaked Sony Semiconductor IMX435 sensor details seem to suggest that a useful high-speed camera with a 36mp sensor is possible today, and some rumor sites also point to the 48mp IMX311 as a possibility. But I'm not at all sure that I want all those pixels to deal with in my PJ/sports camera.

What I want more than pixels is speed. No, not higher frame rates. I stopped using the 20 fps frame rate on the Sony A9 for the same reason I don't want more pixels: if I shoot 2x the images I normally do, it takes more than 2x the time to ingest, select, and output my images. Why "more than 2x"? Because you'll spend more time looking at a sequence of images to figure out which one is the one you're going to send, or you'll send more images and let someone else deal with figuring out which one to use.

No, speed is now defined by something different: how fast can I crop, annotate, and upload an image?

Technically, I can do all those things from my D5. These issues make the speed of doing that problematic, though: (1) cropping means I create even more images in the DCIM folder, and also means I have to remember which one is which since I don't have the ability to usefully rename them, either. Adding a star rating helps a bit, but only a bit. Why can't I crop in camera, give the image a meaningful name, and SAVE it to a SELECTS folder? (2) annotating is done with the touch screen right now, and while the D5's is quite good for that compared to anything else that exists today, the implementation for doing that for an already shot image is awkward at best. What I wouldn't give for a Siri-like capability "Hey Nikon, add the caption "Max Borghi scores go-ahead touchdown from quarterback Anthony Gordon in first quarter of the WSU versus Northern Colorado game at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA." (3) uploading directly from the camera doesn't generally work well unless I've got a wired Ethernet connection to my ftp server. Not all stadia, and certainly not all shooting positions, have such capabilities, though the D5 has the ability to make that connection if it's present.

So far what you're seeing from my list—24mp, speed features oriented to client upload—would only come from talking closely to the prospective users of said camera, and savvy users, at that. A lot of the D5 ranks are filled with photographers who just took what they got from Nikon, and then grumble under their breath that they don't understand something or vaguely want "more," but can't enumerate that.

One area that will come up with any camera in this range is focus performance. 

I'm on record as saying that I believe that the D5 has the most consistent and usable focus system of any PJ/sports camera currently (and yes, the Sony A9 is getting close, but I find it tends to drift a bit from absolute focus). That's not to say that the D5 is perfect or that it can't be improved. I wonder, for instance, if putting phase detect also on the viewfinder sensor* wouldn't allow the D5 to track a subject outside the dedicated focus area. The camera already has an uncanny ability to track a subject outside the dedicated focus area and back via the color information produced by that sensor: perhaps this can be improved to build an even more functional focus ability.

*Technically, it might have to be on the focus screen. But yes, there's a patent for that ;~).

What was most useful on the D5 (compared to the D4) when it came to focus though was the addition of AF-ON+AF Area combinations for various programmable buttons. While it was a bit difficult to get used to at first (just as using AF-ON for back button focus is in the first place) this became second nature with a bit of practice. Note that such a feature is just another example of doing something useful to solve a user problem, not adding tech or pixels or absolute speed. 

So that's sort of my answer to the question I pose in the headline. If Nikon focuses on the tech side in creating a D6, they missed the point and I don't need one. We don't need more pixels (at least not many), we don't need higher frame rates, we don't even really need any more dynamic range. What we need are things that improve the user experience and let us get our jobs done faster. If Nikon continues to give us that, then maybe the D6 is what we need.

Sony's 3.7 micron Sensors

bythom sony 60mp

Jim Kasson, someone I correspond with from time to time behind the scenes, was the first one I know of to post this, but it's something I had noted earlier and wondered whether or not it was worth speculating on: Sony Semiconductor now has four different sensor sizes with much the same pixel structure and technology.

That would be:

  • APS-C 28mp
  • Full Frame 61mp
  • Small Medium Format 100mp
  • Large Medium Format 150mp

These all appear to be the same basic BSI pixel design at about 3.7 microns, with Exmor dual gain capability, and using copper wiring to do the heavy bandwidth lifting. The next step is likely 3 micron pixels, with perhaps some additional new technologies added in. 

Nikon, for some reason, has been dabbling with sensors right around 4.3 microns (20mp APS-C and 45mp full frame), but not exactly the same pixel size. It's unclear why Nikon picked those odd sizes, but the basic photo diode can be easily scaled, so there must have been a benefit Nikon saw to going slightly off Sony Semi's standard releases.

But there's a bigger picture thing to see here: it used to be that we got distinctly different moves in pixel size and technology at different dedicated camera sensor sizes, but now the same basic structure has rolled into basically all the Sony Semiconductor sensors, so we're seeing more technology parity across the sizes. One aspect of this is that it tends to make the oft-stated rule of thumb about sensor size more accurate (e.g. full frame is about a stop better than APS-C, all else equal; well, now most everything else is equal).

Unfortunately, a not-so-much-discussed aspect is now also being revealed: when companies like Sony Semi basically release the same tech across their entire lineup in a very short time period, that is often the hallmark of nearing the end-of-the-line in an iterative-type technology progression. Much as Moore's Law has slowed in CPUs, whatever improvement line we were following with image pixels has also slowed. To the point where it is simply being replicated upward through the sensor sizes.

What we need next is a new disruptive image sensor technology. 

The one that everyone has tried to perfect is what I call rollover saturation: in other words, break the saturation limit on an individual photosite without breaking anything else. I'm aware of at least four different basic approaches that have been attempted, so far not particularly successfully. Something else tends to break, unfortunately. Still, there's a lot of potential here if you can get past the issues. The whole notion of limited dynamic range would completely disappear if you could get past the saturation point. (The other end is the noise floor, and we're now in a situation where we fairly accurately record the randomness of photons, so we're not likely to improve the floor much; it's the saturation ceiling we need to break through.)

What Sony Semi says they're actually working on next is something completely different, though: Artificial Intelligence (AI) on (or with) the sensor. Some logical candidates exist for how to focus that AI: noise reduction, object/edge recognition, and color integrity (or manipulation) come to mind as clear possibilities. Other ideas get slightly into the "crazy" realm, but I'm all for crazy, as that is often where true innovation is found. 

I'm still a little leery about AI, though, as it suggests that we're moving away from collecting more accurate real data to creating faux data that mimics reality.

The real problem for dedicated cameras isn't really the image sensor, though. We've got plenty of good data to work with from pretty much any modern camera with a decent lens out front. The real problem is the fact that the data from an image sensor is two dimensional. 

You're probably thinking I'm about to talk about curved image sensors. Nope. True, a curved image sensor solves one optical problem when done correctly in conjunction with lens design, but it's still basically a two-dimensional approach.

Where the smartphones have been going for some time is in building depth data. You can do that using multiple cameras or by using Time of Flight type devices (a sensor looking at projected laser light reflections). You can also do it using some other techniques, but the two I mention are the ones that have the most work behind them at this point. 

As we throw more AI and computational photography at the underlying data, having three dimensional data sets is much more useful than two dimensional data sets. To me, this is the thing that the dedicated camera makers are going to have the most issues with in keeping the smartphones from continuing to erode the bottom end of the camera market. Already there are things that you can do with some smartphones—such as remap lighting—that are tough to do with dedicated cameras. This problem is only going to get worse as long as we're stuck in the 2D world. 

Thing is, though, as long as the higher end of the camera enthusiasts keep reacting positively to "more pixels" and "more dynamic range" and the basic, simple, iterative things that are going on with large image sensors, the more the camera makers are going to find themselves going down the wrong rabbit hole. 

At this stage, I'm still welcoming "more" because we haven't quite hit the limits where small gains on pixels and dynamic range just aren't visually useful in any way. But we're getting close. Plus each iteration is generating another group of Last Camera Syndrome users, where they fail to see the gain they get for the price they pay, and thus just happily stay with what they own.

Simply put: we're still in the rough patch for dedicated camera makers. The pool is getting smaller, but we still have large sharks trying to eat. Basic sensor iteration isn't changing that. Indeed, it's aggravating it and making the pool (number of customers) smaller. 

The "More is Better" Problem

I've long been on record as writing (and saying) that more sampling is always better. Put in a camera context, more pixels are better, all else equal. 

Recently I've gotten some pushback on that from engineers who are at the forefront of semiconductors. I need to adjust my statement ever so slightly, I believe: we're currently still in the more sampling is always better phase

Let's talk about full frame for a moment. In recent times we've gone from 24 to 35 to 42/45, and now to 60mp. The constraint in the "more sampling" is that the actual linear increase in resolution is getting smaller and smaller with each step, while the recorded diffraction impacts get clearer and clearer and nibble at lens capability at lower apertures. 

In conjunction with a computational imaging talk I was putting together just after the turn of the century, I took the time to run the complex math that starts to get involved. I actually needed help from a couple of friends whose math skills are better than mine to complete the analysis. Sensors were Bayer APS-C at the time, so that's the type and size we worked with. 

The results were that past about 24mp, while there would be recorded data differences, you ran into almost a wall in terms of getting something useful out of those differences. If you keep an AA filter over the sensor, the antialiasing and diffraction impacts simply get in your way. If you take the AA filter off, the faux data that gets generated beyond the Nyquist frequency is chaotic and doesn't reliably net you anything real. Add in the Fourier transforms used by JPEGs, the Bayer demosaic artifacts, and more, and 24mp sure seemed like a logical stopping point for APS-C. That's what I wrote in 2003, and that's basically what I still believe today.

As you probably noted, that didn't stop Sony Semiconductor from going to 26mp, Samsung to 28mp, and now Canon to 32.5mp with APS-C sensors. At 60mp, the full frame sensors are now hitting that same level of pixel density and thus expose the same issues as >24mp APS-C.

Of course, during that same period just after the turn of the century I also remember a respected camera engineer telling me we'd never have 1 micron photosites ;~). Because they wouldn't render anything useful. Obviously wrong. But why? 

Basically, when engineers hit a ceiling, they start getting creative. 

The most common creative approach at the moment is to apply AI-type analysis to the data structure you have and create a "better" or "fuller" structure. The pixels are no longer "real," but they look just fine. Both Topaz Labs and Skylum seem to be deep into doing this post mortem with post processing software, but we're going to see more companies try to move this into the hardware (and Sony Semiconductor has basically announced this as a goal, too). 

What could possible be driving the need for more pixels in cameras (and smartphones)? After all, the number of folk that ever print larger than 8x10" or display photos on more than an HD device (2mp) is incredibly small. 

Well, it has been small, but it's almost certainly going to get larger. 

That's driven by displays. HD was 2mp, 4K is 8mp, 8K is going to be 32mp. At the point where your Living Room wall is no longer painted gypsum but rather a large flat display, we will be talking needing far higher pixel counts in order to put excellent images on them. It's clear that's where we're headed. The only question is when we'll get there.

One of the things I started experimenting with a few years ago is taking low pixel count images and using them on large displays. They look bad. I apparently wasn't the only one that thought of that and came to that conclusion. Just as we got line doublers back in the last days of the original NTSC, I'm now seeing plenty of data interpolation capabilities appearing everywhere, some of which use AI to try to identify the objects to be resized. The 4K television I bought had a rudimentary form of data interpolation—US cable TV was 1080P at best at the time—but what I'm seeing now are much more complex algorithmic, and yes, AI approaches. 

A couple of years ago I would have said you couldn't probably do reasonable upsizing on existing consumer hardware in anything approaching a reasonable time frame. Today, I acquiesce. I'm still not sure you can do it for real time video, but processing a lower pixel count still image to something that looks good—or maybe I should say looks better than it should—on a big screen is starting to take very little time on a high end workstation.

Pretty much any trend eventually ends (or at least plateaus). But with a 5K display on my desk and likely an 8K and larger screen coming to my Living Room some day, I don't think we're near the end of this. We simply are going to find we like images with more pixels better than ones with fewer pixels.

So do I want to explore the Sony A7Rm4 (60mp) and the Fujifilm GFX100 (100mp)? You bet. I like living on the front edge of tech. It's where I grew up (Silicon Valley; Cupertino to be exact), it's where I spent most of my business life, and I am still fascinated by the game of trying to extract "more" from what basically starts as sand. 

Here's the thing, though: the camera makers are forgetting the primary user problems while pursuing problems we don't really have yet. 100mp is not yet solving a user problem. Sharing images would be. While I'm happy that some engineers are chasing down the pixel rabbit hole, that's not the rabbit hole that will pay their current salary.

So I find myself on the same soap box today as I've been on: yes, I'll take more pixels, and please figure out to make cameras share images more easily.

Nikon Pre-announces the D6

bythom nikon d6

Someone's getting a little antsy in Tokyo. 

Announcing the development of the D6 by press release seems like another of those Nikon "we need to announce something" announcements. The marketing department has always seemed a bit paranoid that if they're not constantly making some sort of noise, they'll be forgotten. It doesn't help, of course, that Sony discovered the "announce every month" tactic as is using it aggressively, even when the actual product timing doesn't quite work out to match the announcement timing. 

Still, it seems that there's a bit of self esteem lacking in Nikon's Tokyo headquarters and that they worry that Nikon pro (and prosumer) faithful take any quiet time as an indication that London Bridge has fallen and it's time to think about a new destination (e.g. camera brand). Unfortunately, a short, five-paragraph press release in which there are no details doesn't exactly say much. 

Moreover, it appears that Nikon finally got around to recognizing that this was not only the 60th anniversary of the F-mount, but the 20th anniversary of the game-changing D1 (a fact that it seems only I had pointed out prior; Nikon missed the actual anniversary by two months).

Nikon's real problem isn't at the top end of their lineup. As I write this, the D5 is still the best action/sports camera you can get (the Sony A9 being a close second, though). As I write this, the D850 is still the best all-around camera that you can buy (the Z7 and Sony A7Rm3 being a close second; I haven't evaluated the A7Rm4 yet). The Z6 holds its own against the third generation of the Sony A7 and against Canon's two mirrorless full frame cameras. The D500 is still probably the best APS-C camera you can buy, despite being hobbled with an incomplete lens set. Heck, the D750 is still holding up well despite being five years old, something that's remarkable in the digital camera realm.

No, it isn't in the high end that Nikon needs more strength, though none of us high-end Nikon users are going to turn down better gear. Moreover, cameras like the D6 (e.g. D3, D4, D5, etc.) don't sell in large quantities. They might have a few months of sales in the 5K unit range before settling down into numbers that sometimes are measured in three digits. Nikon's bottom line won't get any real punch from the D6, though their reputation might.

Which brings us back to point.

Clearly, the Z9 isn't ready yet and Nikon is worried about the Sony A9 or A9 Mark II stealing away some of the long-time Nikon DSLR users. The D6 is basically a statement that Nikon won't stand by for that, though it's a lousy statement with absolutely no details of how that will happen. Whether or not the D6 will hold the fort until the Z9 is ready is a story for a different day, a day after we've had some real experience with a D6 in battle. A day which none of us knows when will happen.

Nikon's real problem is at the bottom of their lineup. Again. 

This is not the first time that Nikon has struggled to hold onto "consumer market" sales. We had at least three episodes of that in the film era, plus some minor lapses in the DSLR era (I'm looking at you D80). 

What Nikon doesn't have at present is a smaller sensor, affordable entry point product line (e.g. DX or APS-C, or something else). On top of that, dedicated prosumer compacts are gone (though Canon and Sony still sell such things), action cameras are gone, and all that's left at the very bottom of the camera line are some reheated leftovers. The Coolpix-with-the-long-lens trick has pretty much played out. I can't off the top of my head tell you the difference between a D3300, D3400, and D3500 (ditto the D5xxx line), which says something about how poor the product iteration in that line was. 

In my article on recent APS-C mirrorless cameras over on sansmirror.com I wrote APS-C is for the masses, who don't want to spend a lot, carry a lot, or set a lot. To that I'd add: and who want to share images easily instantly. That all pretty much defines the cameras that are missing from Nikon at the moment. Call them the Z30 and Z50 (please don't drop everything to all single digit numbers, Nikon!). Something that has all the positive attributes of the Z6/Z7, but doesn't cost as much, is yet smaller and lighter, and gets automation and sharing right without compromising anything else.

That's not a simple task. No one's mastered it yet, though Canon and Sony are nibbling at the edges in different ways. 

Thing is, without establishing a healthy entry base, there's probably not enough upper market (pro/prosumer) to maintain the number of camera brands we have. If the camera market collapses all the way back to the 5m units/year level it was pre-D1, there's simply not enough money left on the table for everyone to keep playing full hands. 

What Nikon's marketing department needs to be antsy about is not whether people know that a  D6 is coming, but whether Nikon has an answer for what happens beneath the Z6 point. 

Aside: Sony didn't really answer that question for themselves with the recent A6100 and A6600 announcements, in my opinion. Despite all the hype, the A6600 is really just a recombination of things already existent in the Sony APS-C line (IBIS from A6500, focus from A6400) coupled with an A7 battery and as high a price as anyone is likely to get from an APS-C camera now. The A6100 is a de-contented A6400, so not exactly exciting, either. The A6xxx lineup seems confused, gadgety, and unimaginative now. 

Meanwhile, the interesting part of Nikon's five-paragraph announcement was a lens. Specifically, that a 120-300mm f/2.8E FL SR VR lens is in development. We never got an updated version of the 300mm f/2.8. It looks like this lens will be what we get instead. If it's as good as the 180-400mm f/4E is, then we've got another winner, though I'd expect this lens to be priced higher than the current 300mm f/2.8. (And no, I don't know what the "SR" stands for, either.)

Frankly, I find "development announcements" to be non-useful. As I've described before they're a form of FUD marketing; an attempt to get you to stall buying decisions when considering alternatives because something "better" might be coming down the line. I've not seen any evidence that Nikon's previous development announcements changed sales any, but apparently the folk in Tokyo have nothing else to do with their time while they wait for new product to come out of the development side.

What Nikon should have done is this: in July on the 20th anniversary of the D1 they should have had a big compendium of how the D# series changed photographers' lives, pointing out all the things that Nikon pioneered in those cameras, and showing off the best photos that were obtained from them. As part of that, then you add "and coming later this year we'll do it again when we introduce the D6." 

MBA students that aren't getting A's in their marketing classes can write better press releases than Nikon did for the D6 announcement. Fortunately, the development team still has top practitioners in it, but they must be wondering why they're paying the salaries of all those non wordsmiths...

Oh, and bonus points for this: the nikonimaging.com Web site is no longer. All those links are now broken and need repointing. We now only have nikon.com (corporate/global) and the individual subsidiary sites, though we do still have nikonimglib.com for some reason. Looks like a make-work project to me, but it wasn't announced that I know of.


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