What Can We Do Better Now?

(commentary)

Here's a question you probably don't ask yourself: what Nikon DSLR-related equipment appeared in 2013 that allows us now to do something we weren't able to do the year before? It's one of the those questions that, when answered, tells you a lot about the gear that was introduced during the year. 

This past year, it's a pretty short list:

  • Really push the D800E at 50mm. Well, 55mm to be exact. The Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens really does push us out into new heights in terms of LPPM capture on the D800E. It has to be the sharpest lens we've seen yet, and if "normal" perspective is your thing, you now have some additional ability you didn't have before. Downside: it's expensive.
  • Really push the 24mp DX DSLRs at 28-52mm equivalent. We have the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 to thank for this. Like the Otus on FX, the Sigma is notching up better numbers on DX bodies than we've seen before, plus it's a faster zoom in a critical focal length range than anything else we've had before, by a full stop (which, in theory, should bring a DX body in line with an FX body using an f/2.8 lens). Downside: it's big and heavy.
  • Mount pre-AI lenses on a camera and not lose anything. You can mount a pre-AI lens on the D3xxx and D5xxx bodies, but you won't be metering with them. The Df basically brings the pre-AI lenses back to where they were when we left them back in 1979. Downside: you're still in stop-down shooting mode, and the viewfinder isn't a lot of help in focusing.
  • Look at dials when we're shooting. Yes, that's a bit snarky, but it's true. The Nikon Df differs from all our previous DSLRs in that, in theory, it offers at-a-glance settings confirmation from dials. Some people like that because that's what they learned with. Personally, I don't find it a gain, especially since I'd have to really tilt the camera to see the aperture ring and shooting method settings. I live in back of the camera, not on top of it. Downside: I really don't think the dials were "optimized." They could have been better thought through, and that would have helped everyone, including me. 
  • Shoot from our shirt pockets. Not exactly a DSLR, but the Coolpix A gives us better than D7000 results in something that fits in our shirt pockets, and provides that missing DX wide angle lens, too ;~). Downside: Nikon priced it far too high. Buy the Ricoh GR instead. 
  • Invade someone's (or something's) privacy. The 800mm f/5.6 with its included 1.25x converter is about as much "reach" as we're going to get in a manageable package. By all reports a fantastic lens, it's just too big a package for me to be trying to carry around the world. Downside: size, weight, and cost. 


Some might say things like "we can now afford the 16mp sensor" or "we no longer have to clean our sensors every five minutes" or "we can now chose between 453 normal lenses for FX,"  but I'm only allowed one snarky comment a day, so I've excluded those. I was tempted to throw the 80-400mm remake into the list, but I'm not 100% convinced that it really allows us to do something we couldn't do before. It does, however, allow us to achieve things that the previous 80-400mm didn't.

We go through periods in photography gear where things get clearly advanced in many and big ways, we go through periods where we get some more modest advances. 2013 for DSLRs was more on the modest side. (For the mirrorless version of this article, see sansmirror.com.)

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