How much is that camera in the window?

Nikon D600
I've been taking a break from writing through the month of September, an extended vacation to make up for all the posting I was doing while on the Big Road Trip the first two weeks in September. I even stopped thinking about camera gear (or as much as someone like me can ever stop thinking about it), trying to get some time between the events of Photokina and now to build up a bit of perspective. There's nothing worse for me than to be hit with exciting equipment introduction (as, for example, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 earlier this year), to get me all excited and in the process making a fool out of myself by professing how, right then and there, I'm going to get a copy of my very own.

So I gave it all a rest and just let it percolate in the back of my mind.

Today, as I was working through my infinite to-do list, I began to put together a series of price lists of basic camera gear, consisting of a body and one lens from Olympus (what I had before it was stolen), Nikon, and Canon. For me that one lens is a "normal" lens, either prime or zoom. A prime lens is usually one where the focal length equals the sensor diagonal (22mm for 4:3rds, 43mm for 35mm film). A "normal" zoom is one that zooms around the prime normal's focal length, such as 14-42mm for 4:3rds or 24-85mm for 35mm film/sensor. I usually opt for the zoom solution as it covers the prime focal lengths I'm interested in and usually work with: 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. The tables that follow are the simple short lists of the three camera systems.

Camera System Pricing - Base - Olympus
E-5, body only$1,699.00
Zuiko 12-60mm f/2.8-4 zoom$999.00

Camera System Pricing - Base - Nikon
D600, body only$2,100.00
Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR AF-S zoom$599.00
Total$2,699.00 ($2,596.95 introductory price)

Camera System Pricing - Base - Canon
6D, body only$2,100.00
EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM$999.00
Total$3,099.00 ($2,899 introductory price)

All prices are from Amazon.

I'm well aware of the optical quality of the Zuiko 12-60mm. I owned it for 3 1/2 years before it was stolen. It is indeed a superb zoom lens and one primary reason I kept my 4:3rds system for so long. The other two reasons were the Zuiko 50-200mm zoom and Zuiko 50mm macro. With the E-3 and two zooms gone I'm no longer "bound" as it were to Olympus, 4:3rds or µ4:3rds.

What's interesting is the pricing. Nikon is currently the low-cost leader in this simple comparison, especially if you consider the introductory pricing. The Canon system is a good $300 higher (or more if not at the introductory price). I'm sure somebody will comment that the Canon zoom is superior to the new Nikkor, but don't bother. I don't care all that much, and I have a feeling that unless the Nikkor is grossly inferior I won't be able to tell the difference between any of the three unless I pixel peep, and that's not why I take photographs.

What I'm after now is a move away from the smaller sensors back to 35mm photography. I want to be able to use a focal length of say, 50mm, and know that it really is 50mm, not 75mm equivalent on APS-C or 100mm equivalent on 4:3ds. And I want to go back to using primes, specifically Zeiss primes. I can buy the same Zeiss primes for either mount (and for Sony too, for that matter), but in the end I feel the Nikon body is the better deal. I'm willing to wait for a decent 6D review or two before I finally pull the trigger, but unless there's something hugely better with the Canon I'm not aware of, it looks like I'm headed back to Nikon.


  1. Adding in Zeiss ZE/ZF primes makes for an interesting twist.

    Being manual-focus (and frighteningly expensive) the main point that I'd look for in a Nikon or Canon camera is a replaceable focusing screen. Swapping out the stock screen for a split prism will make manual focus much easier and give you better value from your lenses. But choosing the lenses themselves becomes easy: buy the ZF.2 Nikon-fit lenses with aperture rings, and you can fit them to a Canon camera with the addition of an adapter. Since the lenses are such an investment it would be nice to be able to move between the big two camera brands with ease.

    The Zeiss-for-Sony are slightly different beasts, though – very good, but their autofocus ties them to the one brand.

    1. I really keep trying to like Sony. I really do. But when I go and hold one, or look at their funky lens catalog, I'm reminded of Olympus all over again. And that's not a good thing. And Sony owning 11.5% of Olympus doesn't help matters any.

  2. I did pretty much the same here lately, and as soon as you add some lenses, Nikon wins. Yes I'd want one. Can hardly wait to read about your opinions and experiences with that camera. Tho I kind of had the same thing already: the guy who sold me that 50mm Olympus macro went to a D700...

    1. Well, first I have to purchase the thing. Right now I'm tied up with travel and a project crunch, so making a purchase won't happen until the end of October. But I am actually looking forward to this.

  3. Bill, I agree about the Sony/Olympus parallel – in fact, when I read "I really keep trying to like Sony" I had to check to make sure it wasn't something I had written. Olympus is at least committed to photography, if not a specific system; with Sony I don't even feel that connection. Interesting cameras, innovative technology, but I'd hesitate to make it my primary photographic system.

    Wolfgang, people are like that sometimes.


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