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Between A Photogenic Rock & A Hard Place

Posted in Advice, Blog | 4 comments

(For this post it may help if you think of me as a British guy from “Masterpiece Theatre” who sits in the chair with a pipe and a brandy next to the fire in a fancy red robe…It should be mentioned that I have never actually seen “Masterpiece Theatre”, I’ve only seen it parodied hundreds of times)

Hello dear readers. I know that I usually try to bring you informative and helpful posts, but this is just a rant. There will be very little fact involved and it will get fairly convoluted, but I don’t care. You have been warned.

I need a new camera. My little D60 has served me well over the years and produced some shots that have amazed photographers with MUCH better cameras than mine. After all, it’s about the skill and not the gear. But that’s not always true, skill will only take you so far. I made the decision that I needed a new camera a few weeks ago after I was hired to photograph a book-signing event at Myers. The event was in the make up counter area of Myers and I’ve had to shoot there before, so I knew it was going to be a lighting nightmare. There are hundreds of different lights of all different kinds and somehow it’s still fairly dark. Illamasqua likes to keep their area particularly dark because black is their color. This makes getting a correct white balance a pain in the butt and my little camera, even with my white card, wouldn’t let me manually white balance. So that not great, but I can fix all the shots individually later in post. It’s so dark that I only have two options:

Option 1 – slow shutter speeds and deal with blurry people

Option 2 – high ISO and deal with grainy people.

It should be mentioned that Illamasqua hires me because they like that I can shoot events without a flash. I took 400+ shots at this thing in the space of 1 and a half hours. If you have a flash popping off that much when someone’s trying to do interviews it gets old real fast.

I’ve tried option 1 once and it doesn’t work, you look like an idiot who can’t use their camera, so I went with option 2. I have to use an ISO of 800 or above to get anything good and I pray to god I can clean up the noise later. I more or less can except for of course the three really important shots that are just sooo grainy it’s practically un-usable. (cheap photographers trick – If a shot comes out REALLY grainy but you still want to use it, make it black and white. Then it stops being “grainy” and becomes “artstic”).

I also shot it in RAW so that I had complete control over the end pictures. The D60 can shoot 3.5 RAW files in a second and then it takes about 7 seconds to process them. During this time your camera can do nothing, not even look at the ones that have been processed. This is super irritating but not really a problem unless your client likes to look at the pictures on your tiny screen right after they were shot to make sure they look good. 7 seconds with a client waiting to see what they look like feels like 7 YEARS. It’s like an uncomfortable elevator ride with a stranger only worse because the stranger is paying you to be there.

The last straw? The dreaded tzz-tzzzzz of death. The sound of your cameras autofocus failing to do it’s job because for some reason the company thought that 3 focus points is enough. IT’S NOT!!!! I hate this noise and because of it I have missed some amazing shots. Even when what I am trying to focus on is in these focus points it occasionally fails because it’s “too dark”. “Too dark” for this camera is ambient mood lighting or lower.

So there you have it, skill will only take you so far and if I’m being paid to work I only want to hand over shots that I am proud to call mine, so I started looking at getting a better camera.

 

This concludes Act 1: My Stupid Camera That I Love

~Intermission~

Act 2: Between A Photogenic Rock and A Hard Place

 

Since half way through 2009 there have been three options for beginner Nikon users looking to upgrade to better cameras.

D90 – the advanced entry level camera

D300/D300s – the professional camera that is still on the DX format

D700 – the professional full frame camera

These were good choices and it was simple. If you want to get a better camera but don’t have a huge budget, you’d get a D90. If you have a bigger budget but didn’t need to go full frame, you’d grab the D300s. If you did need the full frame sensor and had a decent budget, you’d go the D700.

THEN Nikon brought out the D7000 (insert bright lights and choir of angels here). The D7000 was SUPPOSED to replace the D90 but with the fancy EXPEED 2 processor a lot of Nikon users actually think it’s more suited to replace the D300s. So at this point it looked like my choice was between the D7000 or the D700. DX vs full frame. Video vs no video. And if status actually matters to you (it doesn’t to me) then “prosumer” vs “professional”. Funnily enough I always said “putting video capabilities in a DSLR is the dumbest feature ever and all it does is add to the cost of the camera”, but my girlfriend has decided to start doing video blogging as well and now it’s on my list of scale tipping features.

Then that terrible earthquake/tsunami hit Japan and damaged the Nikon plant. Many people don’t know this, but only 3 of Nikons cameras are actually made in Japan (D700, D3s, D3x), the rest are made in Thailand. I always do weeks upon weeks of research before I buy pretty much anything over $50 and during that research I learnt two things the D700 is now around $300 more expensive AND it’s no longer in production. Ok, that second one is pretty much a rumour. I read a LOT of forums and have heard that it’s been discontinued in quite a few places, but as far as I know it hasn’t been officially announced anywhere. Another rumour; the D700 is being replaced with a D800. ooOOoooo, that sounds interesting. It makes sense too since it was originally released half way through 2008, making it one of the longest running DSLR’s Nikon has ever made.

So that now makes the choice between the D7000, D700 or the mysterious D800. The D800 will obviously have a full frame sensor AND video capabilities. Plus the D700 pretty much leads the industry in low light performance, so the D800 has got to have that down too. Sounds pretty good to me! But wait!!! There’s more!!! While watching a video comparing the D7000 to the D300s I learnt that there is a rumour of a D400!! The D400 is supposed to replace the D300s and this is where it gets tricky. If people are already saying the D7000 replaced the D300s, how awesome is the D400 going to be? Well some of the rumours/predictions is that the D400 could have a 24mp sensor which is really pushing the limits of the DX sensor in terms of quality and that it would be released in 2011, some time after august. That’s the same time that the D800 was rumoured to come out and it would be really out of the ordinary/kind of stupid to release both these cameras in the same half of the year. Apparently Nikon Canada is/was all out of D700’s which makes you think that they are keeping their stocks low because a new one is coming out to replace it. I also heard that in Germany a lot of stores are selling off their D300s floor models, usually a sign of replacing them. So if only one can come out this year, which do you think it’s going to be?

Here’s my prediction: The D700 is one of the models being made in Japan and even though the plant was up and running faster than most of the other damaged plants, it still put a kink in production, that’s why the D700 ran out in Canada. If there is a D400 in production, it would be getting made in Thailand which so far is natural disaster free. So it would make more sense to bring out the D400 this year because it’s production would still be on track.

The problem with this prediction is that the D400 is replacing the D300s, which came out a year AFTER the D700, so you’d think that the D700 deserves and upgrade sooner than the D300s. Also, with all the D3100’s, D5100’s and D7000’s being released into the “consumer” category in the last year or so, you’d think Nikon would want to remind people that they make professional cameras too.

So where does this leave me and my quest for a new camera?

Well now I’m tossing up between:

D7000 – I know it’s a great camera and it might come down in price even more once the d400 is out, possibly even bringing the body only price down just below the $1,000 mark since I’ve already seen the body only prices at $1,250.

D300s – while some people are saying the D7000 is a better camera, Nikon reckons this is a more professional camera than the D7000. It does have a better fPS rate, weather-sealed body, and some say AF system and noise control. The price is also going to plummet once the D400 comes out.

D400 – It’s rumored to have a higher FPS rate in both image shooting and video than the D7000, more Mega Pixels, a weather-sealed body. Really it’s just an even better, more professional D7000. But this could be the model coming out in 2012, which seems like a really long wait.

D700 – Still after all these years leading the way in low light/low noise images. It’s got everything I want except HD film capabilities and even then, violet’s camera can do video, just with less control over what it looks like. I don’t know If I like the idea of the file sizes of full frame images though. I tend to shoot a LOT of images when on location, so I’ll probably have to change my shooting style or spend more money on hard drives.

D800 – A full frame camera WITH video recording? I would LOVE that! But how much is it going to cost me? Quite a bit I imagine. Plus I might have to wait till 2012 to get it. On the other hand, if I start saving now I might be able to afford it. And then on the other side of that hand, can I do professional jobs without a better camera for that long? Not really…

End rant.

What have you guys heard about these cameras? Got any predictions? Any suggestions for what camera I should get?

4 Comments

  1. Now here’s someone who perfectly echoes my own sentiments…

    Same problem: Need more fps, larger RAW buffer and better low light performance. Almost always shooting HDRs, panoramas (and HDR panoramas)or indoor concerts for my univ. Same crazy lighting issue. Got a D3000 which has seen a lot of punishment but has never let me down… But I need an upgrade 🙁

    Let me know what you’re getting!

    Cheers

  2. I bought a DSLR to get into HDR photography (as well as bands)…and I bought one that doesn’t bracket photos. Seriously, I did MONTHS of research leading up to buying and ALL the cameras I looked at could bracket exposures, so I just assumed it was a standard feature. I felt like the biggest idiot ever, but at least I cant still do it the slow way! How is the D3000? I’ve heard good things, but it sounds like it’s time for an upgrade for both of us! I’ll let you know when I know. I heard there might be a release of something in August, so here’s hoping it’s the D800 and that it’s under $3000! (my god that sounds like a lot of money) Thanks for reading!

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