Tag Archives: Nikon

Nikon is launching a full frame mirrorless

14 Jul

Nikon confirmed they are working on a mirrorless camera. While sometimes news have been blown out of proportion in the photo industry in the past, it seems likely in this case that they really mean they’re working on a new camera system. Nikon is not a company to throw up clickbait.

So how do I know the camera they’re working on is full frame? They said the camera would be Nikon-rashii, or Nikonish. Nikon has never made a medium format camera, so we can safely exclude that. Nikon is now best remembered for the F series, which dominated journalism for a decade or two.

But this is not about reliving the past. This is about competing in the current market. How many mirrorless systems are competing for the APS-C space? Mainly three – Fujifilm, Sony, and old rival Canon. How many are competing for full frame? Really only one – Sony. Nikon knows that there are things it can do better than Sony, ways to compete with Sony. When push comes to shove, maybe Sony won’t give them the sensors they want – maybe they’ll have to turn to Toshiba or Renesas. But for a company with Nikon’s heritage and customer relations, it would be way better to start in the full frame category and gain a following among professional photographers before Sony can fully convince them, than to try to mud-sling it out with Canon in the well-scoured APS-C swamp.

$700 less: Nikon D7500 is specced-down D500

12 Apr

For 700 Dollars less than a D500, Nikon has introduced the D7500 without the advanced autofocus module and additional card slot. However, microfocus adjustment using Live View is available. The maximum continuous shooting rate is 8 frames per second, and buffer depth is a reported 50 raw files, with no information on RAW+ buffer depth or buffer clearing times. (A fast-clearing buffer is better than a deep one!)

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The Nikon D7500 (Nikon promotional image)

At 20 megapixels, the D7500’s resolution is down from the D7200’s 24 megapixels, and instead matches the D500. Nikon claims that weather sealing has been improved. The body is also a little less beefy than the D500, and very similar in size to the D7200, although small design changes have been made:

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Size comparison with related models

To get an impression of the image quality to be expected, take a look at my previous articles:

Pentax KP vs. Nikon D500: white balance

16 Mar

Continuing my series on the Pentax KP, and possibly starting a sub-series comparing the Nikon D500 against it, today my attention was drawn to ephotozine’s Pentax KP sample photos, particularly the colour section:

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Pentax KP (top) vs. Nikon D500 – ISO 200 (left) to ISO 819,200.

Particularly the ISO 819,200 sample from Nikon seems to be soaked in yellow, although the ISO 409,600 sample also seems affected. Here’s the 819,200 comparison, with two attempts to fix the Nikon’s white balance in post:

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Pentax KP (left) vs. Nikon D500 OOC, Nikon D500 with my own special WB procedure, and finally Nikon D500 after “color->auto->white balance” from Gimp

If “fluorescent” white balance is used in the Pentax, it gets even further ahead of the Nikon – an unfair comparison perhaps, but it’s only a single step of configuration and straight out of camera:

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With even more prodding, I eventually got the Nikon image to behave. I managed to keep noise levels on par, but keep in mind that it’s a fair amount of work, and you really have to know what you’re doing in Photoshop or Gimp to get this kind of result – remember the one button fix is the image on the far right, and it improves things, but doesn’t really “fix” the problem. Cutting to the chase, here’s that final result:

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Even using the Pentax’ default white balance, it does impressively well, keeping in mind we had to massage the Nikon image for several minutes to get it into decent shape:

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The bottom line is that in terms of colour, the Pentax produces reasonable JPEG output even at very high ISO, while the Nikon D500 takes considerable time in post-processing to achieve a competitive result. The Nikon is not usable as a JPEG camera at this high ISO and I would instead recommend, if using the D500 at all, to shoot raw and use a raw converter, in which case it’s the raw converter’s job to give you a reasonable-looking image (this will be the next part in this series, if time allows).

Nikon cancels DL series

13 Feb

Nikon officially dropped the bombshell that it has pulled the plug on three upcoming premium compact camera models that were announced in the first half of 2016 and initially expected to ship in June 2016. This cancellation therefore comes after months of delays as well as rumours of an imminent shipping date.

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Nikon DL24-500

Nikon cited electronics hardware problems and low projected profitability in the decision. The cancelled models would have had equivalent focal ranges of 18-50mm, 24-85mm and 24-500mm, making the middle model a direct competitor to Sony’s RX100 line, while the first model covers the focal range of two of Sigma’s DP models (which use prime lenses).

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Nikon DL24-85 in silver

Among other things, the cameras would have featured 20fps continuous shooting with autofocus, and in-camera perspective adjustment for architectural photography.

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Nikon DL18-50

This is the next major cancellation after Samsung’s withdrawal from the dedicated camera market. Nikon has also announced a voluntary retirement program to lay off 1000 workers.

Pentax K-70 vs. Nikon D500: high ISO raw IQ

7 Feb

In trying to get a glimpse of how the Pentax KP might compete with the D500, I looked at test scene samples on DPReview. Keep in mind that the D500 retails at about three times the cost of the K-70, or a difference of 1300 to 1350 Eurodollars. That is, choosing the K-70, for the same budget, you could get at least four nice lenses, two great lenses, or one truly stellar lens in addition to the camera – or three bodies instead of one. Or two bodies and two nice lenses.

So is that price difference reflected in the raw output? Are images from the D500 three times as good? Let’s take a look:

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The K-70 has slightly higher resolution – 24 megapixels rather than 20. Differences in pixel dimensions are difficult to compensate for in image quality comparisons. However, I think we can see that at sensitivities of ISO 51200 and 102400, chroma noise is very similar. It seems finer grained and less luminous in the Pentax, but the D500 looks like it has had more sharpening and contrast applied to it – hard to say if this was in-camera and, if not, owed to the default settings of Adobe Camera Raw, which DPR use to generate the above “raw” views.

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Time and again, I found the image quality to be very similar, and I could not decide which camera I would prefer on that basis. Having said that, a camera is more than its image quality, and the D500’s buffer depth, to name just one aspect, far exceeds that of the K-70, but this is useful in a narrow range of shooting situations, primarily in wildlife and sports. Both cameras may be outdated in two years, and there’s no obvious reason to expect the depreciation on the D500 to be less than three times that experienced in choosing the K-70. So to continue our budget thinking, you could pick up a K-70 and two nice lenses now, and save the rest for an upgrade to the next mid-level camera from Pentax in 2019, all for the price of one D500 and a kit lens. If you’re anything but a pro who absolutely needs the capabilities of the D500 for sports or wildlife, or a wealthy amateur, that reasoning is hard to argue with.

By the way, if you’re worried about the disk space raw images will take, the 24 megapixel image from the K-70 was the same size at ISO 104200 as the D500 (20 megapixels), and slightly smaller at ISO 51,200, in spite of having the same bit depth (14 bits). At lower ISOs, the K-70 files are consistently about 20-25% smaller. So if you prefer resolution over other considerations, the K-70 has a slight edge without obvious disadvantages.

For an additional test, I passed both images through DxO’s PRIME noise reduction engine (click through for 1:1 view):

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As before, the Nikon image has more contrast and looks more graded; in terms of noise and detail, after DxO PRIME treatment, both images have edge artefacts at this ISO. It is no surprise that the Pentax retains more detail in black and white areas. In textured areas, the winner is less obvious, and the Pentax image has grainier noise and shows the DxO artefacts more strongly.

Finally, comparing a pixel shift Pentax image with a normal Nikon capture, controlled for total exposure, shows no clear advantage, either:

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The pixel shift image shows more detail as expected, but having, in the interest of a fair comparison, controlled for total exposure and thus compared Pentax at ISO 102400 to Nikon at 25600, the Nikon shows less noise.

In conclusion, at a technical level we can say that the Nikon D500’s slightly greater resistance to noise justifies its slightly lower resolving power, at 20 megapixels rather than the now ubiquitous 24 megapixels. However, justifying the price differential is an entirely different exercise, and the Pentax K-70 looks an extremely strong challenger. The Pentax KP is expected to build on the low light capabilities of the K-70 and exceed it, and at little over half the price of the Nikon, adds another strong option for the budget-conscious.

Strikingly, having compared the K-70 to Nikon’s other recent APS-C releases, it is obvious that the D500 is currently the only Nikon APS-C camera that’s still competitive with Pentax on image quality, other Nikons having been left in the dust.

And the successor of the Pentax K-3 II is only months away, with an announcement date around September, and will challenge the D500 on a broader set of features, including buffer depth.

Update: I added a comparison of the Pentax KP and K-70 at high ISO.

Sigma brings back the moiré

3 Feb

I believe I’ve written on this subject before. DPReview just exclusively announced the results of DxOMark testing of the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 “Art” lens, announcing it to have achieved a perfect 36 “perceptual megapixels” on the Nikon D810’s 36 megapixel sensor. It therefore sort-of-ties with the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 macro lens, which achieved 42 perceptual megapixels on a 42 megapixel sensor.

Discussion immediately broke out on whether the Zeiss Otus 85/1.4 or Nikon 105/1.4 provided nicer bokeh and whether this was, in fact, more important than sharpness. The Zeiss, in particular, is almost tied with the Sigma for sharpness, and like it excels in many other technically measurable characteristics. The Nikon may be half a step behind, and in fact has a focal length of 94.8mm vs. the Sigma’s 79.9mm, so is more comparable than it sounds at first.

But back to my original point, which is the following:

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Excerpt from DPReview sample image no. 30, of the Sigma 85mm samples.

That’s right, moiré. It is a physical certainty that if the sensor has no anti-aliasing filter on it, and the lens outresolves the sensor, you will see moiré on certain subjects (you can find technical details of moiré and aliasing on the Wikipedia pages, moiré pattern and Nyquist frequency). Many manufacturers have dropped the anti-aliasing filter to squeeze more resolution out of their images and as a small cost-saving, or installed a second filter that cancels the first (slight cost increase). Wisely, Canon added the 5Ds without the R to their line-up, which cuts back on moiré much better than the 5Ds R.

In Nikonland, it seems the highest resolving lenses and highest resolving sensors do not make a good pair. That being so, should we buy high resolution cameras at all, and what other choices do we have? Both the Nikon D600 and D610 have weak AA filters (link in Polish) – a bad idea for a lower-resovling camera as the range of lenses that outresolve it will be greater.

Pentax now releases its cameras with an AA filter that works up to shutter speeds of 1/1000s – presumably adequate for most portrait work, and hopeful that anything you’ll want to shoot above that shutter speed will be moving so fast that aliasing is not likely.

In spite of this, Pentax remains, as of this writing, a stalwart of compact lenses that value bokeh over resolution – partly, perhaps, owing to the fact that some of its lenses have been available for quite some time.

It’s well known that Tamron and Pentax have been sitting in a tree lately, and so it is fitting that Tamron somewhat recently launched a line of f/1.8 primes – more compact than the competition’s f/1.4 standard. DxOMark allows comparing Tamron’s 85mm lens with Zeiss’ Otus and Milvus, for instance, and there’s hardly a hair between them. Most surprising perhaps is the performance of the Milvus at less than half the price of the Otus.

Incidentally, while the three aforementioned lenses max out the D800E’s sensor at 36 perceptual megapixels, Sony’s new Gold Master 85mm lens reaches no more than the same value – 36 P-Mpix on an AA-filterless 42 megapixel sensor.

It’s worth asking therefore whether the trend for the second half of this decade is going to continue with lenses increasing in size, resolving power, and price, as exemplified by the Art and Otus, or a reconsideration of traditional values.* If the former, I hope consumers will be asking for strong anti-aliasing filters, and that camera makers, in spite of mobile phone cameras nipping at their heels, will grant that gift.

*An opportunity, perhaps, for Chinese lens makers trying to push into the market.

Update 7 February 2017: For differences between the Art and Otus, check out Roger Cicala’s blog post.

Nikon D500 finally announced

5 Jan

After hopes and rumours, Nikon finally lifted the covers on the D500, successor to the D300S. Resolution will be 20.9 megapixels, buffer depth 200 RAW images – that’s 20 seconds’ worth at the 10fps maximum burst rate. Ruggedness is said to be comparable to the D810.

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Presumed to be Nikon promotional image.

This may be the model that firmly establishes XQD memory cards as beyond niche, although an SD card slot is also provided. So rather than dual anything slots, the camera has one for XQD and one for SD, with no word yet on whether they can be jointly configured so that the SD card gets the JPEGs and the XQD the RAWs, say.

153 autofocus points and 4k video round off the primary feature list. In terms of operability, Nikon offers a tilting screen, built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and continuous Bluetooth tethering with a smart phone.

I would speculate that the sensor is an in-house development and manufactured by Renesas, as is the usual case when Nikon doesn’t want to walk the mainstream road of stock sensors from a third party like Sony or Toshiba. There is also discussion that the Bluetooth feature was pilfered from Samsung, whom we’re expecting, as per rumours, to shortly give a clearer idea of the business relationship they may have entered with Nikon.

With a price tag of US$2000 at launch, it might be a while before the Pentax K-3 stops being nicknamed the “Nikon D400”. Or before you’ll stop trawling eBay for a used D800 with its similar and competitive crop mode, or new D750 with ambitions to similarly be an action compatible camera (but needing bigger lenses).

As a personal comment, the large buffer really makes me feel that someone out there is listening, and fulfils my prediction from 16 months ago. Combined with the very fast write performance suggested by the inclusion of an XQD card slot, the buffer performance alone may justify the launch price, particularly for sports and wildlife shooters.