Too Many Cameras, Too Fast!

For nearly every camera, of any brand—released in the last few years—there have been a spate of complaints about the camera. Spots, lines, AF issues, all sorts of things. The reputation of some wonderful cameras, like the Nikon D600 and D800, were damaged by these complaints.

We are living in a highly technical and quite imperfect world. Demand is for the next big thing. A camera is basically obsolete when it’s released, like a computer, smart phone, or tablet. If a camera maker could take the time to work out the bugs and sell a particular camera for ten years (like in days of old, 15 years ago), things would be different. I bought a Nikon F4 in the late 1980’s, and an F5 in the mid 1990’s. In 2002 I went digital with a Nikon D100 and never looked back at film. However, those film cameras I used lasted me for years and years. They were much simpler in design and did the job for many thousands of  transparencies.

However with one and two year camera lifecycles for new enthusiast digital cameras, there is simply no time to properly design, test, and deliver a perfect product. Such is life in today’s society. We demand more, more, more, faster, faster, faster. Are we surprised then when camera companies can’t keep up?

Even the pro model Nikons are designed for only about a three or four year lifecycle. It is still hard for me to pay US$6,000 for a camera body, when I used to pay US$2,000 for one that lasted at least twice as long, before obsolescence. Therefore, I have mostly bought one-step-down-from-pro camera bodies since digital arrived, such as the D700 and D800 (if you can consider the D800 a step down from anything).  I paid about US$5800 for my Nikon D2X in 2004, and while still a great camera, it is obsolete for anything except ISO 100–400 pictures. Because I’m a nature photographer and do not need blazing speed, such as the D4 provides, I have never considered that camera for purchase. However, a D4X with 40+ MP FX sensor might just open my wallet.

I am merely ruminating this morning. I sit here, in between Mastering Your Nikon books, awaiting Nikon’s next release so the excitement can build and new camera babies can be delivered—with imperfections and forum complaints, of course. Where is my D400? Do I really need a D610 when my D600 works great. How can they improve on the D7100? More features are coming, we can be sure of that. My first Mastering the Nikon book (D300) was about 250 pages long. My latest (D800, D600, and D7100) are all pushing 600 pages. Where does it stop? When will we have cameras that require 1000 page books to understand—next year?

I’m not complaining, I like technology and I love writing books for my readers. However, I do miss the intimate familiarity I had with my Nikon F4 and F5 after many years of usage. Nikon, if you are going to give us new cameras on such short lifecycles (as we evidently demand), at least make the controls work the same. Stop adding so many menu items. Simplify!

What are your thoughts on this issue? Please tell me!

Keep on capturing time…

Darrell Young

Dancing clouds on Blue Ridge Parkway

Darrell Young is an active member of the Nikonians User Community, Nikon Professional Services (NPS), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), and the author of 12 photography books from NikoniansPress through Rocky Nook, including Beyond Point-and-ShootMastering the Nikon D600Mastering the Nikon D800Mastering the Nikon D7000, and now Mastering the Nikon D7100, to name a few. He’s been an avid photographer since 1968 when his mother gave him a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

His website, www.PictureAndPen.com, was created to support the readers of his educational books, photography students, and clients. Visitors to his website “will find articles and reviews designed to inform, teach, and help you enjoy your photographic journey.”

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6 Comments

  1. ” Where is my D400?”

    I have long thought that the D400 may not appear and here we are now into favourite month for announcement territory and nothing! I honestly believe Nikon are preparing something special, maybe mirror less. After all there seems to be a link between Sony and Nikon sensor wise, so why not via mirror less. I may be wrong, but unless Canon launces a 7D MkII I see a conventional DX semi pro body unlikely.

    Just my take on it.

    Richard

  2. I agree with you completely Darrell, it’s kind of like when people buy a new cell phone every year, always want the latest model … My cell phone is now 4 years old, but will do well anyway, I have it just only for making calls. I dont really need the internet when it comes to the phone.

    My Nikon D300 is even older, but are good enough yet, a workhorse. But in the future I will do a proper upgrade, a Nikon D5 or D6 if and when they come out 😉

  3. Cameras are tested before release. Noted photographers certainly had D800/D800e bodies before the introduction. The problems with the D800 and D600 are not design problems that would be caught by pre release testing, they are production problems. The pre-release testing was probably done with hand built models than didn’t have the D800 AF problems or the D600 oil on the sensor problems. That’s because both these are probably the result of assembly line QC problems..

  4. It would be nice if they did slow down. I understand that competition requires innovation, but enough! My D200 is still a solid workhorse backing up the D7000, yes I would like a FX but will do with what I have. On the other side of this coin is the demand for more of your epic reviews and entertaining instructional books. ;~) Keep up the good work. BTW, I don’t think that there will be a D400, IMHO.
    ODNT

  5. correction of vocabulary and added thoughts to “my previous comment as per requested by Darrell”.

    As Darrell has clearly stated in his blog entry for today: Too Many Cameras, Too Fast, it is clear that we are entering a stage of camera manufacture that seems to emphasize marginal upgrades on the previous model with the attitude that “if you make it, they will buy it” – that we are being led into the mindset of “Let’s see what the latest and greatest will bring?” Yes, it has led to a overabundance of camera models to choose from. But are they really giving us what we need? For those of us wildlife photographers waiting on a D400, we were looking at what the D7100 offered us, which didn’t come close to being what we needed. The D300s offered 6fps without grip, with an optional 1-2 fps with the MB-D10 battery grip given the right type of battery – I believe you had to have an EN-EL4a battery installed to get the extra 1 to 2 fps.

    For wildlife photography, you do need frames-per-second and you needed buffer. If you are shooting flying or rapidly-moving subjects, you need to have the frame rate – preferably in the neighborhood of 7-8fps if not 10 or 11, because somewhere in that pile of photos you’ve just shot, may be the keeper. Certainly, I’ve known people who could do it in one or two frames. I could probably get that shot with my D50 which has a rather laughable 3 fps at its maximum. But it’s not a matter of flag-waving on who can do it better, but whether or not you have that certain pose that the magazine editors are looking for, the certain wing-position and posture of the subject that brings out the image and catches the viewer’s attention. It’s not so much the simple fact that you have the ability to get the shot that you want inside of 5fps or not, it’s that given 5fps, it’s a crap-shoot whether you get the image you’re looking for on a one-time beautiful pass. When you have more fps to work with you have more chances that you will get the shot you’re looking for – Will you have a better chance of getting THAT shot in with 8 shots to choose from rather than 5? Your chances have probably gone up.

    Judging from multiple reviews, the D7100’s buffer rate stank – this is what allows us to do Continuous High Speed Shutter – the rate in which the camera sensor sends data to the memory card allows us to “click-shutter” without backlog of data being written. “Continuous raw performance was much shorter-lived, starting at 4.9fps and slowing to 1.4fps after just five frames (the D7000 lasted for ten). ” – Expert Reviews.co.uk’s Review on the D7100. From this I take that the buffer of the D7100 is considerably less than the buffer on the D7000 let alone the venerable D300s. This is an unacceptable result for anybody wishing to capture fast moving objects with the D7100 and that pretty much makes it a deal-breaker in my books when it comes to utilizing it for the kind of wildlife photography that bird photographers deal with on an everyday basis. Certainly some people will find it acceptable, but I don’t. And I plan to hold on to my D300s as long as I possibly can. When I’m sherpa’ing my Nikon AF-S II 600mm f/4 D IF-ED in the field, that is a 16-20 lb weight including tripod so I want to maximize my chances for the effort. And to me, having 6 chances and a miserably low buffer rate to get one shot versus 7 or 8 chances with my old D300s doesn’t make it worth my while to hump that beast (and trust me, I’ve wielded that thing handheld which wasn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made) attached to a D7100 over rough treacherous terrain.

    Has Nikon given us what we (as wildlife photographers) want in the D7100 (DX) or D800 (FX)? No, I don’t believe so. The fps is a slow 5fps at top for the D800 versus 6fps for the D7100 (with an idiot dial versus the more intuitive dial for the D300s – my WB, ISO and QUAL features are right there within easy reach, whereas I would have to go nuts trying to find it in the menu system with the idiot dial). Essentially to me, that’s a downgrade, no matter what the added megapixels are. I don’t have time when I’m out in the field to be monkeying around in my menu system. I’m looking for functionality at my fingertips with everything I need to execute being manually accessible. 5 fps is fine for the studio, but when you want every aspect of a bird’s trajectory, no.

    Will I “upgrade” to the D7100? Emphatically, NO! I will more than likely save my simolians and upgrade to a Nikon D4 or whatever replaces it. Am I satisfied with what Nikon has produced in the past two years with regards to a replacement camera for my D300s? No…if they were going to replace my D300s they would have upgraded the fps rate to 7fps, given us a buffer to at least get 25 shots in without slowing down and they would have retained the pro-dial features of the D300s in the D7000, but they chose to go with the less intuitive “idiot dial”. No, Nikon isn’t going to give us the ultimate bird photography camera because how else will they make money, then? If they give us everything we want – then what reason would we have to upgrade? Can we work with the limitations? We’re going to have to. But the complaints are there, because we shouldn’t have to; not because we can’t.

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