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.




  1. I'm a long time lurker, and came to you back in the days via the VSL. I would be very surprised if they put a 100% viewfinder on the D600. I really doubt you will find a similar replacement for the Olympus 4:3s lenses if you want weather sealing, the regular 4:3s lenses were and are very special. Aptina also is reputed to have built the 24mp sensor in the d3200 and this lacks sensor PDAF so from my point of view a sensor based PDAF is unlikely. I see the D400 as a method to push the D4 metering and AF system into a aps-c body, which will be useful as a backup, and it may be quite expensive as a result. The D600, seems to be a way to compete with the 5DmkII that is still in production and really as a way to convert all the people who bought AF nikons and have been waiting for a 'real camera' to use their lenses on. Its something I've heard from a lot of people, 'I'll buy a dslr when full frame sensors get cheap' and the aptina sensors appear to be cheap. (aside: isn't aptina the spinoff from the micron image sensor group that was trying to build sensors on basically the same process used for RAM?)

    As for replacing the stolen goods, :-/ it seems like you are in the walking to a different beat class (linux, android rooting, olympus pro bodies) and I really wonder if you would be happy with a CanNikon, lens wise they are pretty similar (excluding the TS lenses which seem to really be better with Canon), the biggest differences seem to be the design ethos in the bodies. The tough bit is that the only alternatives become Samsung, Pentax, and Sony, as really there isn't much µ4:3s that is proish. Pentax has some neat primes but they are pretty much using sony sensors. Samsung has nice lenses but they are much like µ4:3. Sony has some really neat current glass but as you mentioned the 70-400mm has gotten EXPENSIVE and the really neat Minolta glass is getting hard to come by. I'm with Sony because I enjoy pre-chimping and think they have some neat tech. I forgot Sigma! Sigma, is definitely weird but the sensors are unique and have a very cool look, the SD1m should be getting reasonable now and the higher end lenses are probably as difficult to find as the high grade olympus 4:3s lenses so as long as you have a local dealer that will let you test and return it could be an interesting option.

    I have a hard time buying CanNikon, I've almost bought a Nikon full frame a few times but the Canons were completely blah for me until I used the TS lenses. I'm still in the mode where I wouldn't buy a canon unless I had a line on killer deal on the 17mmTS and the 200mmf2.0 but shopping and researching is part of the fun.

    My Camera History:
    Pentax ist* (donated)
    Sigma SD14 (stolen)
    Olympus e420 (sold)
    Mamiya RB67 (donated)
    Sony A900 (sold)
    Sony nex3 (current)
    Leica M8 (sold)
    Sony nex7 (current) x2

    I keep toying with the idea of getting an A99 or A65 and buying the complete samyang kit +ZS135f1.8 +Sony 50mm macro but I like the adaptability of the nex system.

    1. Aptina's history is a little more complicated than being a Micron spinoff. Their history via Wikipedia:

      2011 – Aptina APS-C format 16MP MT9H004 image sensor named “Innovation of the Year” finalist in the 2010 EDN Innovation awards
      2010 – Aptina MT9M033 HD image sensor named Design News Golden Mousetrap finalist
      2010 – Aptina MT9M033 HD image sensor named “Innovation of the Year” finalist in the 2009 EDN Innovation awards
      2009 - Aptina spins out as an independent privately held company
      2008 - Micron launches Aptina: a CMOS image sensor division
      2008 - 1 billionth sensor shipped
      2006 - Micron creates world's first 1.4 μm CMOS pixel
      2005 - Micron creates world's first 1.75 μm CMOS pixel
      2002 - First Micron image sensor products launched
      2001 - Micron acquires Photobit
      1995 - Photobit established to commercialize CMOS active pixel sensor technology
      1992-1995 - JPL team invented CMOS active pixel sensor technology


    2. I will never own Canon. This goes back to my film years. I owned and used Mimiya, Monolta, Olympus, Pentax, Nikon, and Yashica, but I could never move myself to use Canon. I avoid them to this day.

      I'm using these "Photographic Future" postings as an informal subject matter review. I'm not casting too wide a net because I already have a general idea what I want. To be honest if Leica weren't so fiendishly expensive I'd buy an M8 or M9, a few lenses, and be done with it. But Leica is beyond my means financially and probably beyond me artistically and talent-wise. I guess second-rate photographers should be thankful for whatever they have, because whatever they have will always be better than what they are.

    3. Cool, I look forward to the next installment.

    4. Also I didn't mean to berate Aptina, from what I've seen they are doing some very good work. I was however under the impression that they have a very different process than Canon, Sony, and Samsung. One of their past claims was high performance at low cost (I tried to find the post on dpreview and it could have been another company but the search wasn't working)

  2. The problem is the lenses. These days there's nobody who makes sealed lenses the way Olympus did for 4/3rds – including Olympus. Most brands seem to seal their most expensive ones – somewhat less than half of Canon's "L" lenses aren't sealed – but almost nothing in anyone's mid-range is certified as safe to use when it's wet out.

    I have used my newer AF-S lenses in drizzle, with no ill effects, but I would happily stick my Olympus cameras under running water. Nikon certainly doesn't give me that level of confidence, which is one reason why I always expect to own my E-1 and 50/2 lens.

    And $300 in 1974 – my personal baseline year – would have the buying power of about $1400 now. :)

  3. The problem certainly is lenses. Not just the lack of sealing but the cost of anything above kit level. I have a full Pentax DSLR kit as well as my micro four-thirds kit. But I'm not adding much new Pentax glass these days: I already am pretty much set but I refuse to spend $1000 or more on any lens. But that's what it costs for any decent longer glass, which is what I need most these days.

    Thank God for micro four thirds. I haven't spent more than $500 on any lens for that kit, and all were purchased new. Most were in the $300-$350 range.

    Bill, you said you would consider Leica if you could afford it. How about a Fuji XPro-1? I know Kirk says he experienced autofocus issues with it. From what I have read, the problem goes away if one enables the parallex adjust focus frames.

    Either way, time is on your side. You still have some photo gear. Take your time and allow your photo future to come to you.

    1. How about a Fuji XPro-1?

      The Fuji X-Pro 1 is a frustrating camera for me to use. In the very limited time I was allowed to hold it I was very annoyed with its handling, especially it's inability to consistently focus. It looks beautiful, is great to hold, but really poor in operation. The few photos I took that came out weren't any more impressive than what I can get with the E-PL2 and Panasonic Leica 25mm. If I were going to buy a Leica-like camera I'd tend more towards the Sony Nex 7, and the Nex 7 I'm not too sure about either. But I definitely prefer it over the Fuji. Any of the Fujis.

  4. Ah, the joy of preparing to shop without having the urgent need to do so....
    So much choice, almost too much.
    My money would be on an OM-D plus whether-sealed Panasonic 12-35, combining the very best of two companies.
    Have fun while choosing carefully!


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