Andrew’s biased me. I’m a Canon fan. I own a Canon body, and now, two Canon-mount lenses. And this brings in switching costs: the lenses would be useless to me if I had a Canon. And, while I think it’s mostly irrational, I’ve come to love everything about Canon cameras and see any difference as a flaw in Nikons.
But I’m still excited about the Nikon D3. And it turns out that I’m far from the only one. The D3 has a ton of people anticipating its release. And even at 5 grand, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re sold out at first. I don’t have that much to spend on a camera, but if I were a serious photographer, I’d have pre-ordered mine already. Why?
- Higher ISOs mean you can get shots that you otherwise couldn’t. Or that you can buy cheaper (and lighter) lenses and still get good shots. Everything in photography is a trade-off: to increase shutter speed, you need to either raise the ISO (which raises grain), or use a wider aperture (which usually hits hard limits: your lens is only so good, and you pay through the nose for faster ones). Increases in usable ISO, though, come “free”–if you can suddenly take clean shots at ISO6400, as you apparently can with the D3, you can get shots that, frankly, were impossible on other cameras.
- Higher ISOs can mean increased savings. To get really good shots when I can’t shoot above ISO1600 (or ISO800 if I want clean shots), I pretty much have to buy a faster lens. Pros have tens of thousands in high-end lenses for just this reason. They can get the shots I can’t. Suddenly, at ISO6400, I’d be on par with them.
- A lot of cameras are using “cropped” sensors… The sensor is smaller than 35mm film, so only the center of the image coming through the lens falls on the sensor, effectively cropping the image. This is beneficial if you’re using telephoto lenses, as it’s essentially a “bonus” zoom. (A 200mm lens on my camera is equivalent to a 320mm lens on a full-frame camera.) But for people who shoot at the wide end, it’s a major pain. The crop gave rise to things like Sigma’s 10-20mm lens, which is ridiculously wide. The reason is that, on a 1.6x crop sensor, it’s 16mm equivalent at the wide end: right on par with existing lenses. A lot of lenses are being built just for these cropped sensors, which permits them to be lighter and cheaper. But people still prefer the full-frame sensors, so now there are two types of lenses floating out there. Nikon nailed it here: their camera will work with both. If you mount a lens for ‘cropped’ cameras, it’ll only use part of the sensor. If you mount a full-frame lens, it uses the whole frame.
- They built a longer-life shutter. Bravo. (Actually, Canon did too…)
- They improved the LCD to over 900,000 pixels. One thing that drives me nuts on the 10D is that the image is tiny and low-resolution. You have to spend time zooming in to see if it came out alright. And when you’re shooting live action, this means missing a ton of shots. So you shoot blindly, and then realize that the whole thing came out unusable.
- They have a built-in guide, so you don’t have to carry the manual around. Again, brilliant! The menu also looks a little bit less like it was made in 1982.
- When I talk about high ISOs, 6400 is just their ‘normal’ upper. As with most cameras, you can enable “Expanded ISO” mode, which gives you some more settings, with the catch that they’re somewhat noisy. But you can shoot at ISO25,600. This is just obscene, and I’m fairly certain that, until Nikon came out with this, no one had ever even thought about a camera being this fast.
- They kept up a high shutter speed… Between 9 and 11 frames per second, in fact.
Something tells me that the folks at Canon are scrambling to develop a sensor this good.. I hope they are. Because I hate those stupid circular viewfinders on Nikon cameras.
Aside: I really hope the folks at Canon are also scrambling to develop a camera that ditches the shutter… I’m still at a loss to explain why it’s even in a digital camera.
Aside: Maybe they can steal my ideas and include a useful integrated WiFi chip… Or a built-in intervalometer. That’d be trivial to implement?