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Tuesday April 14 2009

I really want my next camera to be my last, apart from later, sneaky, very cheap, very small ones that we all buy when all photography they can see you doing becomes illegal outside your own living room.  And so far, the best looking option was the Olympus E-620.

But the trouble is, I really want a good camera, for taking things like dazzlingly detailed views of London where every tiny detail comes out perfect, and everywhere I go I hear the same story: Canon, Nikon.  Canon, Nikon.  Canon Canon Canon.  Nikon Nikon Nikon.  All the rest are pale substitutes.  Canon and Nikon are brilliant cameras, and have an infinite range of superb lenses.  The others: not.

So, the news that Nikon are producing, well, a Nikon, with a twiddly and see the picture beforehand screen, is, for me, stunning news.  Finally, the makers of serious cameras are getting that these twiddly screens are (a) no problem to add, (b) no problem if you don’t want to use them, and (c) really great for all those who think they’re great and do want to use them.  Like me.  Basically, the rumour is that it is a twiddly-screened D90, which makes it very good.

It’s the small hours of this morning now, and as of now, this is only a rather strong rumour.  The rumour looks like it will be confirmed in the bigger hours of this morning.

Do these thoughts make sense?  Am I right that a Nikon is sure to be better than an Olympus?  At the very least, this gives me a choice.  And surely Canon will follow suit some time rather soon, yes?


Here it is

Posted by David Farrer on 14 April 2009

“Canon, Nikon.  Canon, Nikon.  Canon Canon Canon.  Nikon Nikon Nikon.  All the rest are pale substitutes.  Canon and Nikon are brilliant cameras, and have an infinite range of superb lenses.  The others: not. ”

You certainly wouldn’t hear that from me, even though I’m a long time Nikon user. If I were starting from scratch buying a serious SLR outfit now, Sony would be very near the top of my shortlist. Pentax and Olympus still make some great cameras too.

The interesting question in the camera market [launches into hopefully not completely irrelevant long Jennings-esque digression] isn’t so much who makes great cameras and lenses now - quite a few companies still do. The question is more, who has the financial depth to still be around and continuing to do so in a few years time? Canon almost certainly - they are big enough and have lots of cashflow from non-camera business, in addition to being current top dog in the pro camera market. Sony, also, probably. They aren’t the icon they were a decade or two ago, sure, but they are still a big company and - having bought Minolta - certainly have the camera expertise to do well.

Canon and Sony are both also very strong in the video camera market which - if the pernicious and irrelevant creep of video features into real cameras continues as it most probably will despite the misgivings of crusty old Luddites like me - positions them very well.

Nikon - much more questionable than the other two. They are smaller, unable to fund their own hardware R&D;(*), and in danger of becoming an expensive niche player like Hasselblad or Leica. They still have a strong position in the pro / serious photographer market, but that isn’t as safe a niche as it might look. Serious-but-not-rich amateurs like me might regard an existing lens collection as a reason to stay with a brand; pros are much less sentimental about trading in already depreciated tools if somebody else has something better on offer. But for the time being at least Nikon are still making wonderful kit.

The others? Olympus seem to have realised they are out of the running the the big pro camera market and are trying to go their own way with the Micro 4/3 concept. It’s interesting and I wish them luck; I’m still happy with my little Olympus that I bought last year as a second camera. Pentax? Future very questionable I would say. But so what? Their current cameras are very good and will continue to be so for as long as they still work, regardless of what else might come into the market in the meantime.

So ...

Am I right that a Nikon is sure to be better than an Olympus?

Nope. Not unless you were really seriously planning to spend lots of money on obscure specialised lenses.

(*) Canon and Sony make their own sensor chips. Nikon’s current flagship camera has a Sony sensor, although Nikon put their own - according to the reviews considerably superior - software behind it. The camera costs three times as much as the same-physical-sensor Sony though.

Posted by Alan Little on 14 April 2009

David: thanks for the link.  I would have spotted this in due course anyway, but not so quickly.

Alan: many many thanks.  Most informative.

I’ve just been reading one of those MSM rants about how bloggers are nerds in pyjamas who do nothing but yell at each other in under 200 unspellchecked words (more is forbidden apparently) and never get anything right or ever say anything worth saying.

And I have also been reading one of those equally common blog postings where this posting is ripped apart.  The blogger made the point in particular that some comments are quite often more worth reading than the postings themselves.

Links to both the above here.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 14 April 2009

I like the 200 word criticism, which is another of those cases of getting it precisely the wrong way round. Newspaper articles often suffer from having to be shoehorned into a precise number of words or to fit into a certain space on the page. Blog postings can be as long as they need to be. Which certainly when I am writing allows me to be more accurate. Or more precise, at least.

And I have said this many times before, but the main reason why I don’t care that newspapers are dying is because of their general shoddiness they have in their respect for facts and accuracy.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 14 April 2009

      Am I right that a Nikon is sure to be better than an Olympus?

Nope. Not unless you were really seriously planning to spend lots of money on obscure specialised lenses.

And now I come to think of it, even Olympus would happily take large amounts of money from you for professional grade lenses. Very good professional grade lenses by all accounts, but even more expensive than Canon’s or Nikon’s due to much smaller production runs. That - plus availability of hire kit and servicing in every major city in the developed world - is a big edge that Canon and Nikon have *for professionals*, but not for the likes of you or me.

Posted by Alan Little on 14 April 2009

I must say, I am homing in on the notion that what I want to do is wait for the Canon version of the twiddly screened entry level DSLR, which surely can’t be far away.  Even if you are not a pro, and I am absolutely not a pro, there is still an advantage in having the market leader, in the form of general familiarity with it, out there in the world generally.  See also IBM compatility, Word for Windows, SD cards, English, etc.  Goddaughter 1 and Elena the Struggling Actress both have Canons, which is just symptomatic of the general state of things.

Also, I don’t like how the screen twiddles on the Nikon. Up and down rather than sticking out sideways.  No doubt they have their reasons, but what are they?  I prefer what Canon already does on my camera now, and wil presumably do on any DSLR thus appendaged.

Does anyone have good reason to think that a Canon would not be a good idea?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 14 April 2009

I think Canon is a very good idea. I would probably recommend Canon to most people, and would probably go with Canon myself if I was just starting out. I would mainly do this because they are the market leader and a strong company, and their equipment is as good as anyone’s.

However, I use Pentax myself. Pentax’s present equipment is excellent and they have made some lovely lenses over the years. (Their present cameras are compatible with every lens they have ever made, which is not true with Canon, although this probably matters little as there are a huge number of lenses that are compatible with current Canon bodies) I have a certain brand loyalty, and see no reason to change while their equipment remains in the same league as the others in quality, and for the moment it certainly does.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 14 April 2009

I’m not big on articulated screens, myself, and happily use a Pentax for my DSLR.

(The big draws there being AA batteries and vibration reduction in the camera body, making it work with even 50 year old lenses, rather than having to buy expensive VR lenses to get the benefit.)

Honestly, you’ll be well served as a non-pro photographer with pretty much any of them.

Posted by Sigivald on 17 April 2009

I agree with Sigvald. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the major camera makers at the moment.

So if there’s a particular feature you especially want - twiddly screen - it’s probably ok to just go for whoever has the best twiddly screen, on the fairly safe assumption that there’s unlikely to be anything drastically wrong with the rest of the camera.

Mike Johnston - for my money the ‘net’s most sensible camera reviewer at the moment - has a good and timely roundup of entry-level DSLRs

Posted by Alan Little on 18 April 2009

What Sigvald said about those two pro-Pentax features. The advantage of standard AA’s are that you will always be able to buy new batteries, you use a standard, off the shelf charger that can be replaced anywhere, you can carry lots of spares, and in the worst case scenario when you forget to charge, you can buy a set of non-chargeable batteries from almost any shop in the world that will get you through the immediate photo opportunity. And the in body shake reduction is also nice (this is why you also got the K100 rather than the K110 Sig?), although my Canon partisan friends say that you get an extra half stop to a stop using their in lens system

Posted by Michael Jennings on 18 April 2009

The best thing about Nikon is you get to use this lens:

It has a very wide zoom range, and has image stabilisation, and is very very good and you never need to swap lenses.  Perfect for getting snaps of billion monkeys.

I ordered a Nikon D90 (to replace my old D50) just yesterday and now I read about a new D5000.  Hmm…

Posted by Rob Fisher on 20 April 2009

I am using Pentax, not the latest model, and it works well. Autofocus isn’t the best but one learns workarounds for every deficit. If I did it again I would probably buy Nikon or Canon, not because they are better but because they and their lenses and other accessories are ubiquitous. (I hesitate to buy additional Pentax lenses, because if/when Pentax folds I may have to buy an entire new set of lenses for my next camera, which will probably be Nikon or Canon.) My suggestions: Handle the cameras and make your decision based on feel and ease of use. Unless you already have a preference, use the “kit” lens for a while before you buy other lenses. (I prefer small, fast prime lenses in the 28-35mm length that make the camera easy to carry and work well in darker conditions, but chacun a son gout.)

Posted by Jonathan on 21 April 2009

Here you go Brian, lots of info on the D5000:

By the way, you can use AA batteries in a Nikon with an adaptor.

It still seems to me with Canon you end up spending silly money to get good lenses.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 21 April 2009
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