Monday, February 25, 2013

Get Ready To Wait A Little Bit Longer

High end crop sensor camera users, specifically a number of D300/D300s users have looked at the last year and half of camera releases and wondered if they will ever see a model that effectively replaces what they have now. For those still hanging onto 4-6 year old D300/D300s bodies this is becoming an important issue. Many D300 series users simply would like to move to a body with newer technology, some wonder if there will be something to replace their cameras with when and if they break down, while others have worn their cameras out and don't want to put money into repairing or buying a new copy of an aging camera. Some users have moved onto full frame bodies or the D7000, while others are holding out for something to directly replace what they have now.

Nikon may have released the D3100, D3200, D5100, D5200, D7000, D7100, D4, D800(E) and D600 since the D300s was released in 2009, but for many those cameras are not what they are looking for. Each user has various reasons why the listed cameras do not suite them, but the fact remains that they are hoping that Nikon will release a true successor to their beloved D300/D300s.

These are some of the questions I ask myself, when looking at the aging D300 in my bag, with over 104,000 shutter actions, and I know others are asking them as well. As many regular reads know, I also shoot with a D700, but I am still hoping to see a "D400" camera, for wildlife and sports. The D700 and FX bodies are great cameras, but I still like DX for action shooting. Below are the reasons I think Nikon should, and will release a D300s replacement, whether it will be called a D400 or D9000, I don't care, just as long as it is a true successor.

The question is why are none of those nine cameras listed earlier fitting the needs of those D300/D300s users? An even bigger question that has arisen in the Nikon community has been, is there still room for a professional grade DX camera in the lineup? Has Nikon forgot this group of users all together? Are they trying to force them up market (D800/D4) by not making a "D400"? I cannot touch on all of these questions, but I will address why I think many D300(s) users would want a "D400" rather than a D7100.

Fully Magnesium Alloy D300/D300s Frame

Why Some Users Want A D400 and Not A D7100

1.Build Quality:
While the D7000 (and D7100) are well made consumer cameras, there are a few aspects of those cameras that are troubling to me. Primarily the issue I have with these bodies is that the lens mount is into plastic. That's all well and good if you are using kit lenses or an 18-200mm VR, but once you start mounting heavier glass (16-35mm VR, 24-70mm F2.8G, 105mm F2.8 macro and super telephoto lenses) that is a little less reassuring. My gear gets used, and takes a beating, but that does not mean I'm dropping my gear on a regular basis (I've dropped a camera a total of two times in the last 6 years).

I don't mind the weight of the D300 body, so why should I have to accept a camera with a half plastic internal frame? To be honest, if the front plate of the D7100 was metal, rather than the back, I'd be fine with it. Why? Every time I've seen someone drop a DSLR, guess where it fell? You guessed it, front first. That means the lens hits the ground, then the body. So what part of the camera body takes the most impact? The lens mount! What happens when a metal frame (The F Mount Itself) gets that much pressure between itself and plastic? What part is going to give? The F Mount, or the plastic frame? When you answer that question, tell me again how the D7000, D600 and D7100 frames don't have a less than ideal design. If the back of the camera falls the screen will likely crack anyway, thus forcing a repair, so what difference does it make if the frame around it is metal? So again, build quality is a reason I have not moved to a D7000 and will still stay away from the D7100.

2.Image Buffer:
This has to be one of the biggest areas where the D7000 and D7100 lag behind the D300/D300s. Many arguing against a D400 have said, "If the buffer of the D7000/D7100 are too small, stop machine gunning with your camera and learn to shoot." Seriously? There is a big difference between mashing the shutter, wildly hoping to get something good, and needing a decent buffer to keep shooting a long sequence of images. Don't even start with the argument of shooting jpegs for action if buffer space is needed, I wont even go there.

3.Professional Grade Controls
Control layout is one of the other reasons that some might want the "D400" over a D7000 or D7100. While the D7100 has very good controls for a consumer level camera, for someone like myself who is used to shooting with the D300 and D700, stepping down to a system that requires more menu digging and button mashing is just a hindrance. Wanting professional style controls is not a superiority complex, it's just having the ability to change settings on the fly, with mussel memory rather than having to actively think about what you are doing. With the D300 and D700 I can switch bodies during a shoot and not even notice the difference, crop factor aside. If I replaced the D300 with a D7100, I wouldn't be able to do that, because I'd have to actively think about the different controls. For general purpose shooting that is fine, but when you are on a job at a sporting event or something of that nature, you don't have time to say "Hey hold on, I need to think about my settings!!!"

There are other reasons why users would like the more professional bodies like the D300s, over the D7100, but I think the issues of build quality, the buffer and controls are the ones that come up the most. My guess is that if there is going to be a D400 we'll see it come in late July or August, giving Nikon time to meet the initial demand for the D7100, and time to build up stock for the release.

If you are a D300/D300s user, why or are you holding out for a D400? If you are moving to the D7100 or a full frame camera, why? I'm looking forward to your comments on and thoughts on this matter.