Even More Reader Thoughts and Questions

"Nikon is now all-in and developing all their development to mirrorless. What's that mean for DSLRs?"

Unfortunately we have to currently take Nikon's statements mostly at face value. They claim that they will continue to develop DSLRs as well as mirrorless. The implication in their statements so far is that they consider the two types of cameras equally important to their future. 

We all know this to be some form of exaggeration. How much exaggeration is the question. There are just too many advantages to Nikon to get people to convert from DSLR to mirrorless, so Nikon's public statements are a bit disingenuous. But it's also probably true that they don't know for sure themselves. 

I'm currently predicting that overall mirrorless sales equal DSLR sales (in volume) sometime in 2021. That could happen slightly faster if Canon and Nikon de-emphasize DSLRs and emphasize mirrorless. It could happen slightly slower if Canon and Nikon actually did full DSLR/mirrorless development in tandem. 

The proof will really be in the pudding. Nikon currently has five DSLRs that are "out of cycle" in terms of iteration based upon past turns (D5600, D610, D500, D750, and D5). Nikon's FX lens releases were down to three last year, and DX down to one. This year, it appears like it will be two FX and no DX lenses. The Z lens road map suggests to me that new FX/DX lens introductions will continue to be sparse in the next few years.

So I have some further very critical questions whose answers will determine the real answer to your question:

  • Do we get a DSLR D6 for the 2020 Olympics? If we do, does that camera really move DSLRs forward?
  • Will the D850 iterate again in 2020 as the current D8xx cycles predict? If not, why not?
  • What will the next 300mm f/2.8 be? Will it be a 300mm f/2.8E FL ala the other other FX mount iterations, or will it be a 300mm f/2.8 S for mirrorless? Ditto the 200mm f/2. 
  • Particularly critical: where's the D750 update (that camera is now four years old)? And will that be another lukewarm (e.g. D3500, D7500) update or a real one?
  • What the heck will happen with crop sensor DSLRs? Totally mailed in updates and no DX lens line fill mean that DX is considered dead by Nikon. We're nearly at that point now (e.g. D3500, D7500, 10-20mm AF-P being the only lens in a year-and-a-half, and it really is a lower-cost replacement, not something new). (And by the way, if DX dies, that would be two lens mounts that Nikon didn't carry forward without much warning, CX being the other one. To those of you in Tokyo HQ: that does not send the right signal about legacy support, which used to be Nikon's strength.)

If I had to guess, Nikon will just milk DX by price moves and very little iteration while they figure out which of the crop-sensor mirrorless plans they're moving forward with.  But I'd also guess that Nikon needs a D760, D860, and D6 in their future DSLR plans, and perhaps a couple of lenses. If not, then they're taking a huge risk with their established customer base.

So watch for those last things (D760, D860, D6, new FX lenses) for hints. The longer the quiet period and the fewer of those things we get, the more you can tell that Nikon didn't mean it when they said they'd develop DSLR and mirrorless simultaneously. 

"I thought I’d add to your arsenal of why people are abandoning Nikon with my little (and probably very typical) story and what I would really like from Nikon now.

I started out a long time ago with the coolpix 990, an absolutely amazing and revolutionary camera for it’s time. I had extra lenses and various accessories and despite being ‘coolpix’, it was what I expected from a camera “system" from Nikon.

Then it was time to get my first DSLR, the D200. Again, another solid and amazing performer, it felt just as good to hold as the 990 and, although I’m just an amateur photographer, it made me feel special, it had that certain je ne sais quoi! I even did a wedding shoot for a friend with that and another D200 I borrowed, rock solid. I was then asked to do another wedding for that friends friend a few years later and I thought it was time to upgrade. I had been patiently waiting for the D400 but as that did seem to be appearing I went for the newly announced D800. This was way more camera than I really wanted, but I got a stupidly good deal and picked up a 24-70 f2.8 really cheap and thought I’d go for it.

It never really felt as good as the D200 in the hand. I can’t say why, it just didn’t. It was heavier, bulkier more expensive to buy lenses for but it did give me some awesome images, so I persevered. Also, it was (I thought) pretty much the last camera I might want to buy given more mp than I really needed and an investment in lenses.

So time rolls by, I get a little older and I watch Nikon slowly shoot itself in the foot, not once but numerous times. I start to wonder what will happen if I wanted to replace my D800, after all it probably won’t keep going forever, will I be able to afford something of that quality, with a professional feel to it?

Then I go on a holiday and end up doing more walking than I expected. I vowed, after my return, that I needed to downsize my kit and get something smaller and lighter. By this time the D500 had come out, but it was hardly smaller or lighter than the D800, maybe a little but not enough to justify the loss of pixels and the cost of the move. No if I was going to change it had to be a serious move to a system I could rely on and felt good in the hand, like my old D200.

So I did something I never thought I would, I jumped ship. Within a week I went m4/3. Specifically Olympus OMD-D EM-5ii. Why that? Well I had to trade the D800 and the 24-70 and that didn’t stretch to the EM-1ii which I lusted after but couldn’t justify the cost of. However, I knew that at some point there’ll be a 5iii or the EM-1s would drop in cost, so I saw a future. With Nikon I just saw a huge black hole eating my money in lenses and maybe, eventually a camera, or maybe even worse a dead end if they fold, which frankly expect them to.

I now have a fully fledged holy trinity plus macro lens system from Olympus (a brand I always coveted when I was younger and still doing film) and I can see a future, an upgrade path. If I want a D200 style camera I even have the choice of the Panasonic G9 (I do miss the top display). Yes, I only have 16mp, but guess what? I’m putting up prints against my D200 and D800 and they’re just as good as each other. The loss of pixels was a worry and a gamble, but for me, it has paid off. With the extra grip I have something that feels solid and gorgeous, in a size and weight that I can have with me all the time, even with a 24-80 (equiv) f2.8 pro glass lens attached!"

Your email actually brings up a good point that some people are missing. You are mostly comparing a newer 16mp m4/3 mirrorless against your older 8mp DSLR. Because of the constant sensor improvements, the newer m4/3 camera will come off looking quite positive against the older DSLR. Meanwhile, the size/weight look positive against your newer D800+24-70mm. You're sort of conflating those two things together to be totally positive about your switch, but I understand that. Nikon does not seem to understand that.

That said, be careful. It does not currently appear Olympus will have an E-M5m3. Certainly no time soon. Olympus is going through much of the same soul-searching as Nikon is as to what models to produce and why. They really can't afford to keep making five significant variations on the same basic design given their low (and not growing) volume. If I had to guess, I'd bet that Olympus will try something very different: reduce the m4/3 model line and introduce a full frame model.

Thing is, I can find problems at all the camera companies as they try to rationalize their offerings into what looks like a tough future. The bad news (for Nikon) is exactly your experience: people are voting with their dollars, and that means leaving Nikon for some easily justifiable reason. The good news is that these migrations across mounts are not likely permanent. 

"I've been tinkering a bit with video (yes, I'm sort of learning to be a videot) but I'm still a fan of the dslr, so I went for a Canon 5D4 to make use of the DPAF and the nice looking 1080p video files. The thing is—I can't help it—I prefer using Nikon for stills: nice ergonomics for me, I prefer most of the equivalent lenses in terms of weight distribution and feel. Try as I might, I just don't enjoy using Canon for stills. So I'm thinking of picking up a D750 again, but I can't keep both Canon and Nikon systems. I might, be able to swing a Sony A73 or similar with a couple of primes just for video.

Which got me thinking. What would you recommend as a relatively cheap but useful video set up to go with a Nikon for stills? I'm not talking full on feature films, just some short video clips to either make into longer segments to share on my website or perhaps cut into a slideshow type film of when I've been away to somewhere like Kenya. Again, I'm not talking full on documentary, but the ability to use a decent length telephoto would be nice and decent video af has proved useful."

Would you believe your smartphone? Seriously. 

1080P is a very low bar. The smartphones get above it just fine. Now that we have smartphones with multiple lenses (e.g. iPhone X) you've already got a wide and normal prime available. The one thing I'd also do is get a low-cost gimbal (decent ones start at about US$100 now). For telephoto, just use the D750 (make sure you have the 70-300mm AF-P lens for that).

But, that said, the upcoming Nikon Z6 must appeal to you a lot. I think it answers all your needs in one product. Nikon made big strides in autofocus in video.

"I am planning to purchase a 70-200 Lens. But I am confused by the Nikon Line up: (1) 70-200mm VR II F/2.8G; (2) 70-200mm f/4G; and (3)  70-200mm f/2.8E FL. Please Advise."

The 70-200mm f/2.8 has gone through three revisions, of which you list two (#1 and #3 in your list). For DSLR FX shooters the choice is very clear: get the 70-200mm f/2.8E FL if you need the faster aperture. It doesn't focal length breath as you focus (at least not much, unlike the 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, which has massive breathing and becomes something more like a 135mm lens at close in focus distances). But that new E FL version also is the sharpest 70/80-200mm I've seen from any maker. If you're a DX shooter, the original 70-200mm f/2.8 (not the VR II) is the f/2.8 version you probably want. At DX crop, it's really good; most of its optical issues are seen only on FX bodies. 

That leaves the f/4 lens. It's a compromise. Fixed aperture to keep you from having the dreaded f/5.6 aperture at the long end, as you often get with kit and lower cost telephoto zooms. But f/4 to keep the lens smaller, lighter, and also less expensive. It is not optically as good as #3 in your list, but I'd argue it's better than #1 on FX bodies. You buy this lens if you don't need f/2.8. Your other choice would be the excellent 70-300mm f/4-5.6E AF-P, but it's a variable aperture lens, and some people don't like that. 

"Why don't you put the place name in the photos you publish? I really liked <name-a-photo-here> and would like to go there."

Back when I was editor of Backpacker magazine we had an ongoing debate about when we should or shouldn't disclose place names. We could actually measure how much the crowds increased on a trail or at a location after we published an article that ID'd it, and often got feedback from the National Park Service or other venue shepherds about that increase in visitation.  

Personally, I'm not an advocate of "copying," and that is often the reason stated when someone asks me for a photograph's location. They want that same image for their own personal files. We have far too much of that going on, even in the pro ranks. I believe photography is both a craft and an art, and while copying might help you with the first of those (craft), it is actually a detriment to the latter one (art).

Amazingly, the reach of my Web site is actually far greater than it was for that well-known national publication I worked for. The impact of putting place names on everything could thus be intolerably large in terms of impact if I'm not careful. I have no problem identifying place when it is a tightly regulated one, such as the workshop locations I use in the Galapagos or Botswana. But when it comes to the unregulated spaces and off-trail locations, I'm reluctant to ID places (and I don't use or embed GPS in my images for that reason; I know where I was ;~). 

I advocate that you find your own unique photographic experience, which means wandering in search of interesting places and things to photograph. Use others' imagery as inspiration, not for mimicry. 

All that said, when someone takes the time to email me and ask about location, I generally will reply with a place name if it is in a trail-accessible point within public lands. 

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