New Cameras and Lenses From Nikon

On August 23rd, Nikon released a number of new products. They added/replaced a number of thier professional lenses and released two new camera bodies. They replaced their current flagship cameras, the D2Xs and the D2Hs with the D3. The specs look great on paper and I can’t wait to see some reviews when they come out in November. In the mean time all of my drooling has been directed to Ken Rockwell’s preliminay look at the device. He seems pretty excited about it. For me, it’s falls in the ‘too expensive’ category. If you are a professional though this camera looks like it’s going to be a no brainer.

What really caught my interest though was the D300. This is a camera that I can get excited about. It’s much smaller, and much cheaper then the D3 and has a very similar feature set. It’s a camera that adheres to the ‘90%’ policy I use for most things technological. It’s basically the belief that you pay 90% of you money getting that last 10% of benefit from what you buy. So I buy the step below. I’d rather pay 10% of my money for 90% of the benefit. Nothing in life is quite that cut and dry but you catch my drift.

Before you read this further let me again direct you to Ken Rockwell’s site for his preliminary run down of the feature set. He knows this stuff much better and seems to have much better access to data then I do.

Did you read it? Did you at least glaze over it? I’m only going to hit on a few points here, the ones that really matter to me. Sure the 3″ 640×480 screen that is built in is nice but not a major selling point for me, nor is something like Active D-Lighting.

What does impress me though is the ‘Live View’ that this camera supports. Talk about a reversal of technology! They have taken the way people use their point-and-shoot camera and added it to their prosumer and professional cameras. For the first time on a Nikon you can use the LCD screen to see what the image will look like before you press the shutter. I know, I know some of the less popular DSLR makers implemented something like this about a year ago and Canon announced it on a few of their new cameras three days earlier, but not like Nikon. Canon setup some kind of jerry rigged system where the camera will display what is coming onto the sensor but in order to focus you have to switch the feature off, focus, and then bring it back. Nikon has two modes, one is the usual mode you would expect from a P&S, see the image on the LCD and the camera will focus and everything else in real time. The other mode will allow you to use the LCD and tell the camera where to focus, regardless of if it falls on an ‘Auto Focus Point’. I can see this as being a very fun creative tool. When I’m working with my camera and trying to do a ‘macro’ type shot. I have to get everything setup, then switch the camera into manual focus and focus by hand on a specific part of an image. For instance you have a branch with some berries. Who cares what the branch looks like I want the third berry from the front in sharp focus. I can use the Nikon to do that for me while I worry about other more important things like lighting.

I often get very frustrated when trying to take simple ‘macro style’ images. I get everything setup with the tripod and the subject and then I have to start tweaking my image. Just putting my fat head against the viewfinder moves the camera a little so I have to stay back from the viewfinder and squint through while trying to manually focus… what a pain. Then, once I get it close I have to take a picture and see if it’s what I want or not. Now, switch on the LCD, tell the camera where the exact spot I want is focus is and stop worrying about it. I can see my final image on the LCD in real time so I know when it’s right. A great feature and something I would get a lot of mileage out of.

Something else I’m looking forward to is the self cleaning sensor technology. This is a feature only on the D300, not the professional D3. Is that because the pro’s know better then to change a lens in a dirty place (Is it me or do these pro non-studio photographers seem to just carry a camera for each lens…) or is it because it’s first generation technology that isn’t 100% there yet? I don’t know. What I do know is I change lenses in bad places far too often. The camera is a tool for me, not a device to be worshiped. It’s going to work for me, not the other way around. I’m shooting on average about 1000 images a month and until I find a lens that goes from 18mm-300mm+ with VR that has good low light performance, is light weight, small, cheap and made by Nikon that isn’t going to change. I shoot in a lot of very varied places and the more the camera can do to make that easier for me the better.

Down sides? So far I can see a few. The camera only accepts CF cards, I only have SD cards, not so good. It’s heavier and larger then my tine D40, not so good. It’s list price is $1800 dollars… Ouch! Ritz camera is already offering them at that price… Can I say Ouch one more time?

I’m not going to be running out to scoop it up on day one, that is for sure, but I’ll have my eye on it. I’ve been pondering from afar having a second camera and in another 12 months the D300 might be that device. We’ll have to wait and see if my interest in photography stays strong or not. A very attractive device though, I must say.


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