Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Photographic Future, Part 3 - Nikon Futures

Hypothetical Nikon D600
In part 1 of this series Wolfgang Lonien asked if perhaps the mythical Nikon D600 might be the camera I would eventually get. The Nikon D600 looks to be another one of those worst kept secrets, what with all the leaks and alleged photos of the beast all over the Internets. The photo at the top of this post may, or may not, be a photo of the D600. Wolfgang's question started me googling for the D600, which also swept up leaks and speculation about the D400. The D400 is allegedly the replacement for the Nikon D300/D300s APS-C DX pro-class camera. The D300 series has a weather sealed all-magnesium body with grips and similar goodies like the higher end FX series of cameras have. So while I was looking at the rumors, I built myself a little table (below) to kind of rank up a few of the body features of these unreleased and heavily rumored Nikon cameras.

Mythical Nikon D400 and D600 Comparison
Price$1,800$1,500 or $2,400[1]
Sensor size23.2 x 15.4mm24 x 36mm
Sensor resolution24.2MP24.7MP
Sensor makerAptina[3]Aptina[3]
Dust reductionYesYes
Native ISO range100-6400100-6400
Weather sealedYesYes
Body buildMagnesiumUnknown
Shutter range1/8000 to 30sec1/8000 to 30sec
Shutter durability200,000 cycles100,000 cycles
Viewfinder typeOVF PentaprismOVF Pentaprism
Viewfinder coverage100%100% or 97%[1]
Viewfinder magnification0.94x0.72x
Built-in flashYesYes
VideoFull 1080p HD @30 fps maxFull 1080p HD @30 fps max
Live viewYesYes
Rear screen3.2 inch diag 921K PX3.2 inch diag 921K PX
BatteryEN-EL-15 Li-IonEN-EL-15 Li-Ion
The chart is by no means complete, but it touches all the features I care about. I have no idea if the features are correct; we are after all talking about rumored, not officially released cameras. Except for the sensor sizes the cameras look to be pretty much identical. In fact, if I didn't know any better I'd say they are the same camera, with wishful thinkers changing or adding features to support their particular FX/DX fantasy.

What really stands out is the pricing. I have heard that Nikon will release the D600 at around $1,500/€1,500, except for Ken Rockwell[1], who's write up says it will come in at $2,400 (see footnotes below for links). I don't know about you, but calling a $2,400 camera an entry level camera, which is what everybody is calling the D600, boggles my mind. Even calling a $1,500 camera an entry level camera boggles my mind, but not as much. Entry level is usually inexpensive. And inexpensive to me means, oh, around $300, which includes a body and a lens. That's what entry level used to really mean back in the days of film, when you could get a real 35mm entry level camera from Canon, Konica, Mamiya, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax. I know, I bought a number of those cameras and used to sell them too when I worked at J.C. Penney, back when J.C. Penney sold cameras in their camera department (1970s). I don't care how much inflation has hit us, calling a $1,500 (and up) camera "entry level" is utter bollocks.

The other interesting issue concerning pricing is the price of the D400. If the D600 is really $2,400, then the D400 pricing of $1,800 makes sense. If the D600 is instead $1,500, then the D400 pricing makes no sense at all. I would have though the D600 might come in at $2,200, or (before I heard of the D400), $1,800. If the D600 comes in at $2,200 then it replaces the D700, which is what it's currently selling for. Now let's price the D400 at $1,500. That's a $700 gap between those two cameras, and a $500 gap between the D400 and D7000. Now Nikon has well-specified cameras at conventional price points all the way from the D3200 up to the D4.

If, and of course this is a big if, there is a D400 at $1,500 or even $1,800, this will pretty much hammer the Olympus E-5 into the ground, driving the stake of irrelevance deeply and lethally into regular 4:3rds barely beating heart.

Another feature the two cameras seem to share is the the sensor manufacturer. Nikon has been a heavy Sony user, at least for its high-end cameras, but it turned to Aptina Imaging for the Nikon 1 series. It's not doing this for pricing (the Nikon 1 was originally released at a ridiculously high price), but because that sensor has PDAF elements directly on the sensor surface. That means that those cameras can have full autofocus with the mirror up in video mode. I have yet to hear if the Nikon D800 and D4 can do this, but for the money Nikon asks for those cameras you'd think so.

I'm interested, but certainly not waiting with baited breath for either of these cameras to appear. You need lenses to go with those bodies, and I'd have to really sit and think about what two lenses Nikon sells that are equivalent to the Olympus 12-60mm and 50-200mm 4:3rds lenses. That means something weather sealed and cost effective. If these cameras are coming they they'll be officially announced at least by Photokina. I won't loose any sleep waiting.