Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New cameras and my thoughts

Nikon D80 with 300mm F4 AF-S

Upgraded and or new cameras from all the major players, Nikon, Canon and Sony, give photographers looking to upgrade to the semi professional or professional camera bodies a lot of think about!

First came the D300s about a month ago, which has just started to hit the shelves around the world. The D300s is good news for me, because I'm thinking that in the next year or so I would upgrade to a D300 type body and keep my D90 as a backup to that for when I don't want to carry the weight. In many ways I'm glad Nikon kept the 12MP sensor, the improved one first introduced with the D90 last year. The noise at ISO 1600 or even 2000 is very acceptable, while some of the competitions cameras are struggling at high ISO levels, meaning over ISO 1600. Although I do not care about the video mode, I've used the movie mode on my D90 a few times, but not for anything serious, the D300s still has some nice features. I think having AF while in movie mode is nice to have, although it seems a little loud on the D300s, which could be overcome via an external microphone or other recording device to be synced later.

A lot of talk came about as a result of last weeks release of the Sony A850 full frame 24MP DSLR, and its lower price point around $2000 US dollars, making it the most affordable full frame camera on the market. The A850 looks to be aimed at advanced armatures and pros who don't need high shooting speeds, only 3FPS continuous shooting, due to the feature list. In many ways the A850 is a competitor with Nikon and Canon's low cost full frame cameras, both of which are more expensive, but also more feature rich. I don't find the A850 attractive because it would mean switching systems and I find the continuous shooting speed too slow, as I wouldn't want anything slower than 4.5FPS for bird photography, which was one of the major reasons I upgraded to the D90 from the D80.

Now Canon has released the EOS 7D, a APS-C sized sensor with 18MP, which has a continuous shooting speed of 8FPS, making it on par with the D300 (6FPS body only) /D300s (7FPS body only) with the MB-10 battery grip, which allows them to shoot at 8FPS. In fact in many ways the 7D is the first time Canon has directly gone head to head with the D300/D300s. The xxD line has always been somewhere between the D70, D80, D90 and D200, D300 line from Nikon, so its been hard to directly compare the cameras, until now that is. If I was a Canon DSLR user I would consider the 7D if I was moving up from an XS/XSi or 40D. I didn't say the 50D or T1i (500D), because it is unlikely anyone with the 50D or T1i (500D) will want to upgrade this soon, unless they need the faster continuous shooting speed. From the perspective of a Nikon user I see the 7D as a good thing as well, direct competition will only push Nikon to make the D300s's successor that much better. It also means there will be more of a price war between the DX Dxxx line and the 7D line from Canon.

The one think that bugs me about the 7D is the amount of megapixels. Can a APS-C sensor really have good results with that high a pixel density? Just when we thought the MP race might end with the release of the Canon G11, which went with a 10MP sensor vs the 14MP of the G10. Low ISO samples look very crisp mind you, but how well will it perform in the ISO 1600+ range, where we started to see a lot of noise on the 50D, which one can imagine will only be worse on a more pixel dense sensor. Of course only time will tell if any of this matters. With cameras like the A850 coming along, how long will semi-professional and advanced amatures be using APS-C sensor cameras anyway? It looks like Sony wants to force APS-C sensors down into the consumer range only.