April 25, 2009

the Best Camera in the World ..

.. will be the one where the camera manufacturers allow me some input into the matter.  If only Nikon and Canon (and Pentax and Fuji and everyone else) would just gather around a table and listen to me.  If only …

When I get to handle a new camera, I often wonder why the manufacturers designed a camera the specific way they did.  It might be the strange placement of a button or control; or the omission of a feature, or even the deliberate hampering of features in the non-pro bodies.  Sometimes I just wish they would bring in a feature that I love on another camera.

Here are the gear-head musings on what I would insist the Best Camera in the World would be like, if I had any say in it.  (Sorry, but that means this posting will have a lot of words and no images this time around.)

Firstly, the Best Camera in the World would have to be a modern full-frame digital SLR camera (D-SLR)  for the combination of accessibility, versatility and image quality.

I recently moved from using Canon 1D mkIII bodies to using Nikon D3 bodies.  Personally, I think the Nikon D3 is the best camera that has ever been made to date.   But there are a number of pros and cons, and not everything falls in favor of the Nikon D3.  Therefore most of this post is a comparison between these two cameras, and which things from either camera I would want to see in the Best Camera in the World.

But before we even get there, I have to touch on something - Exposure Modes.  Both these cameras fall down sorely when it comes to how the exposure modes are accessed.  Pentax’s ingenuity here towers over them in this regard.

Exposure modes:  Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual

When Pentax brought out the Pentax Z-1 / PZ-1 in the early 90′s, they had re-thought the way a camera’s exposure modes should to be implemented, in a most inspired way.  They had the usual range of exposures modes we all know, such as Shutter Priority (Tv) and Aperture Priority (Av).   But Program mode became Hyper-Program; and Manual mode became Hyper-Manual.  Sure this sounded gimmicky, until you handled the camera and realized what they achieved.

Hyper-Program worked like Program mode, except that if you dialed the shutter button, it would immediately change to Shutter Priority (Tv), as you change to specific shutter speeds.  Similarly, if you dialed the Aperture dial, then the camera instantly changed to Aperture Priority mode (Av), as you set the aperture.  No need to switch mode dials on the top of the camera.  You just turned either the aperture dial or shutter speed dial to change between the modes at will. And if you wanted to return to the usual Program mode, you just hit the * (star) button.   Intuitive and simple.   (And no, this is completely different than Program Shift.)

Hyper-Manual worked a similar elegant magic in how you controlled the camera’s manual exposure mode.  Let’s say you rely on your built-in meter in this scenario.  If you use any other camera in manual exposure mode, you have to dial the shutter button and aperture button to get to the correct combination for proper exposure.  With Hyper-Manual, you just hit the * button, and the camera entered a combination of settings for you, depending on where you pointed your camera.  This combination of settings could be according to a Program-mode line, or according to the shutter speed your camera happened to be at; or the aperture your camera happened to be at.  (This was set deeper in the menu according to your preference.)

Let’s say you knew you’d be working at f2.8 .. then you’d just hit the * button and the appropriate shutter speed was entered for you.  Perfect for working with the camera’s spot-meter.  If you’ve ever tried to spot-meter with a long lens on your camera while hand-holding it, AND looking at your metering display .. then you know how tough it is.  But with Hyper-Manual mode, you just hit the * button while looking precisely where your spot-meter is aiming.  Much faster.  You just hit one button with your thumb, and you’re set.

Now, should you decide you have the correct exposure, but want to change your shutter speed or aperture, then you hit the Exposure Lock button, and change either the aperture or shutter speed .. and the other setting will follow in relation to the metering value that was entered.

With any other camera, let’s say you have 1/500th @ f2.8 but you want 1/200th @ f4.5 .. then you’d have to turn both dials by the same amount of clicks.  But with Hyper-Manual mode, you lock the exposure combination, and just change the one dial. Either one.  Doesn’t matter.

The way these two modes work is such an incredible stroke of genius, that any camera that doesn’t have those two modes, is severely hampered already.  The Best Camera in the World needs to have Pentax’s Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual modes.

Now for the rest of the handling, features, buttons and dials …

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The Best Camera in the World also needs …

As mentioned earlier, I’ve used the Canon 1D mk3 bodies extensively, and have now moved to using Nikon D3 bodies.  As wonderful as the Nikon D3 is (and I certainly have strong reasons for the move), the D3 could be improved upon further:

Things that the 1D mk3 has, but are (sadly) lacking on the D3:

  • flash exposure compensation on the body.
  • flash exposure compensation read-out in the viewfinder.  Another big plus for the Canon.
  • being able to select which card I am writing to, and looking at.  You can’t do that with the D3. This is far better thought-out and implemented on the 1D mk3.
  • the way you can speedily flick through images with the rear dial. I loved that.
  • I preferred the more sensible layout of the AF sensors in the viewfinder of the 1D mk3. (Nikon fans are going to kill me for even saying this.)
  • the mk3 has a mode where the shutter noise is quieter. Not quite silent, but definitely quieter.
  • the 1D mk3 sensor is self-cleaning .. and it works!  The D3 has nothing. :-/

Things that are better on the D3 …

  • AF speed and accuracy, especially in low light.  Seriously, the Nikon D3 is better here.
  • high-ISO noise is better with the D3 than the 1D mk3. It’s not a huge jump, but higher ISOs look cleaner on the D3.
  • I can select flash OFF with a simple touch of a button on the front of the D3.
  • I can program the DoF button for other functions, such as changing to spot-metering momentarily.
  • custom function d7 allows the LCDs to light up any time I touch any button.   This is a big deal for me. I hated how the LCD light button was implemented on the 1D mk3 and Canon 5D.
  • the feel of the Nikon D3.   It just wants to be gripped in your hands.

Things I hate about the D3 ..

  • the positioning of the lever on the front of the camera where you select between Single / Continuous / Manual focusing.  It can easily be knocked out of position.  The way Canon implements this is much better.
  • the image type button (raw/jpg) is riiiiight next to the ISO button and WB button.  It’s just begging for you to switch to small JPG instead of RAW during some important point during a shoot.  This is a huge oversight in the controls of the D3.  There should be massive separation between controls which are often adjusted such as ISO and WB … and settings that are crucial, but not adjusted that often, such as selecting the image type and quality (raw/jpg).

Things I loooove about the D3 ..

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That about covers it as a comparison between these two cameras here.  Some pros and cons to both these top-of-the-line bodies.  From these lists of things I love and hate about either of those two cameras, you can immediately see what I would like to be included for the Best Camera in the World.  I want a hybrid between these two cameras … with Pentax’s Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual modes.

Ideally, all the camera manufacturer would come together and ask my input on designing their next camera.  So if any of the designing engineers at Canon and Nikon are reading this .. give me a call.  I’m waiting.

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{ 48 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Ben Drucker April 25, 2009 at 6:48 am

I know the D300 has a setting in the custom settings menu that allows you to use the command dials to scroll through images in addtion to the directional pad. I’d assume the D3 would have the same setting, but maybe it doesn’t.

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2 Erik Schimmel April 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

In your car the throttle is “riiiiight next to the” brake, does that give you the same concerns?
In any exposure mode the D3 can be adjusted by just using the rear control dial.

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3 Sean Phillips April 25, 2009 at 9:55 am

I think most of your concerns will be taken care of when Canon and Nikon provide an API that would allow us to program the camera how we want. I want to to be able to program my buttons to do what I want them to. I want to be able to access all my custom functions from an intuitive web interface. I want to be able to set the defaults for all my program modes and to have 10 different custom functions instead of the 2 or 3 they grudgingly provide. I want to be able to shoot a 7 image bracket in 1.5 stop increments. And I want to take each image 1.97 seconds after the previous one.

This may sound a little bit ridiculous (somewhat intentional), but seriously, how hard would it be? The iPhone is the shining example of what might be possible. Give me the control to set up my camera how I want it set up!

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4 Neil April 25, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Erik .. the analogy doesn’t quite work. Much larger pedals which are usually offset to different heights.

As for the exposure mode being adjusted by the rear control dial ? Is that in relation to my comments about how the Pentax hyper-Program and hyper-Manual modes work? If so … it’s not even nearly the same.

Neil vN

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5 Luis DuLac April 25, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I have been with Nikon almost all my life. Prior to the launching of the D3 I was just about to buy a Canon 5D. I knew the sensor quality was outstanding and that its price was right. There was a moment I was convinced I was going to change to Canon cameras until I handled one. I think the ergonomics leave a lot to be desired when compared to the Nikons. Maybe it is my problem only but everything in that 5d felt weird and misplaced. I am sure that this was not only due to me being used to Nikons for so many years!

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6 Neil April 25, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Luis, the Canon 5D is a modern classic. It’s a camera that changed photography, in my opinion. It was the first affordable D-SLR that offered the very best in image quality.

It’s such a great camera (in terms of the sensor), that right now, more than 3 years since it was released, it is still a camera that still stands up to anything else out on the market currently. And that isn’t something you can say about many other D-SLRs in this fast-expanding market.

However, the ergonomics of the 5D is dreadful, in my opinion. Most of the work is done by the right fore-finger, making it a slow camera to shoot and change settings frequently.

But that sensor! The 5D vignettes slightly, and when used with the 85mm f1.2 II at a wide aperture where the lens also adds its own vignetting, the image has a look to it that I haven’t seen in any other camera and lens combination. Just beautiful.

Neil vN

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7 Bryan April 26, 2009 at 5:49 am

I am a repeat offender of bumping the focus selector switch. So much so that I’ve thought about taping it. I also agree with moving the quality button. It’s just not an option that gets used that often to need a dedicated button.

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8 Billings Van Harris April 27, 2009 at 2:06 am

Funny you should mention Pentax. I was in love with my K10D, until I sold it, and am still in love with my istDL, but, I had to buy a Nikon D700 for real performance. Pentax could make fantastic cameras if they built better a real pro spec one.

The best thing about the Pentax is the ‘preview’ button is bottom left, right by your thumb, and you can zoom in/out with the rear dial, how cool is that? You can review photos by barely moving your fingers!

If Pentax got their ISO noise, autofocus, and lenses right, they’d be a close third easily. Lenses? I had a 50-135mm SDM, why not a 70-200mm like everyone else Pentax? Anyway, I chose Nikon for the next level, it suits me perfectly. I drove a Saab, and use a mac, and a Nikon is like the trifecta. The ergonomics, and design, and menus are superb. The Canon design and menu layout felt like ‘windows’ to me – Lol – ;)

Your basic premise is enlightening. I find, especially on the Canon side, it seems like my Canon friends bought it because it’s ‘number 1′ not because they personally like it. The ‘you see all the white lenses at the football game’ statement is telltale of not thoroughly thinking through your choices. These same people ‘love’ their PC too, no matter how many times they have to reformat it. I’m glad your impartial. I even used to like Olympus. I had an E-20 with live view in 2002
(and piss slow buffer) – needless to say, all that they learned – they undid. Most Olys since were baby steps forwards. The real reason all these camera companies stumble I think is: incompetent management, not really testing their products, and amateur night.

With the prevalence of point-and-shoots, and amateurs not really learning photography to properly use a SLR, the companies aren’t as pressured to produce results. Most buyers of $1500 or less cameras will probably use ‘scene modes’ or ‘program’, so it’s difficult to invest in higher end technology to manufacture better cameras, and see a ROI.

I am extremely happy with the value that is put into the D700, Nikon leapfrogged every other company with it. Apparently there was a coup in the Nikon boardroom (honestly) and the more progressive executives rallied for a touchdown. Canon, Pentax, and Olympus are resting on their laurels and need to take heed. (am i writing a book here or what?) lol

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9 Neil April 27, 2009 at 2:13 am

I still have a Pentax Super-A here on my shelf. I loved that little camera!

Anyway, I guess all this is my take on the eternal Canon vs Nikon debate … I want even better!

Neil vN

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10 Steven Seelig April 27, 2009 at 9:35 am

Neil,
If they call you, can up put a word in about the focus points. I shoot the D700 and generally I am very happy with it except for two things. First the 51 focus points are all clustered toward the center of the sensor. I would prefer to have them fill the sensor space or nearly fill it. My second wish is the outside focus points (that is those that are not the middle nine) had the same focus capabilities as the middle nine. The outside focus points only look at one of the cross-hair lines while the middle ones look at both. Thanks! Steven

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11 Neil April 27, 2009 at 10:56 am

Steven .. it’s the same problem that I have with the layout of the focusing points for the D3. So I’ll definitely put the word in for you when they call.

Neil vN

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12 Robert Woudenberg April 27, 2009 at 11:38 am

After having switched to canon to get the older 5D on the cheap I miss the feel of my nikons but the biggest advantage for me of using canon is the ease of operation of the Canon DPP to process raw files. There is an edit view that allows fast processing just like LR Capture 1 forces you to process at the time you paste settings! So I do a shoot and make awesome JPGs in DPP in a very short time and then do the final adjustments to the JPGs or tiffs in LR. I can process 1000 raw images for WB and exposure in about two hours with DPP as well as do optical correction. I have a big issue with adobe conversion of raw files. Check out my detailed comments here.
I frankly would prefer shooting nikon if the image quality and software worked like DPP.

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13 Neil April 27, 2009 at 11:58 am

Robert .. I couldn’t agree more about DPP. I had my fastest workflow when I was using DPP to edit my files for exposure, WB and contrast. Super-fast in how you work on the thumbnails and not previews generated from the RAW files themselves.

I see Canon just updated DPP, so I hope the next step would be for them to get working on creating a DPP for Nikons RAW files. ;)

Neil vN

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14 robin April 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm

You know that the Pentax K20D has those hyper-program modes you want and more? Like Tav mode which will auto-change ISO for you once you set shutter speed and aperture? And the green button is the same as the star button of yore. It’s also really incredible with old manual-everything lenses… the camera finds the right exposure for you.

Billings Van Harris: “Pentax could make fantastic cameras if they built better a real pro spec one.”

For some of us, Pentax does build a pro spec camera, and for cheaper than anyone else. Weather-sealed, great ergonomics, amazing lens compatibility, first-class sensor, uncompromising IQ, first-class glass (as good as Zeiss and Leica)… these are the things that spell professional to me.

What about the ISO noise is not right for you I wonder? Pentax chooses not to smear detail, instead leaving noise correction to the photographer. Me, I like it that way. And the low light ability is streets ahead of film days – no complaints here!

As for autofocus, I don’t get it. My camera focuses well except in extremely challenging situations. It is likely not as fast as a camera that costs three times as much (or more) but it is just as accurate. Maybe it’s because I mostly manually focus that I don’t find any lack here.

“I had a 50-135mm SDM, why not a 70-200mm like everyone else Pentax?”.

Because it’s not a full-frame camera. The Pentax philosophy is to release FOV equivalent lenses. So we have a 50-135mm that is equivalent to FF 75-200mm, a fast 55mm portrait lens that is equivalent to the famed 85mm, a 35mm macro to match the old 50mm macro, and so on. Makes sense to me.

You did miss out on the Pentax weakness in FPS, which cripples machine-gun shooters but, again, doesn’t get in my way at all. I prefer to compose and shoot with my brain not my trigger finger.

Courses for horses and all that.

P.S. Macs cripple my ability to get work done. I prefer Windows, XP that is. Or LINUX on a server. Just like with my cameras, I prefer to control the machine and not have the machine control me. Oh and cars? I prefer a bike.

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15 Thomas B April 27, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Neil,

Very well written I think.

Aside from the AF sensor layout where I would have to politely disagree :)

One thing I think deserves to be mentioned is the dual CF card slot on the D3, being able to use only one format of memory cards is definitely an advantage IMO.

The green button and hyper manual modes are wonderful things that I really like about pentax.

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16 flamby April 27, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Interesting reading IMO. I must add than Pentax have TAv mode or real auto iso feature. Although nikon have it, it’s not as well implemented (had a D300 before a K20D). Canon sucks badly here. This feature is so great I can’t imagine buying a camera which doesn’ have it. Pentax ergonomics is great, thoses camera are very intuitive, the D300 in comparaison is just the opposite…

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17 Packrat April 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm

To start with it should have a square sensor the benifits of which are many.

Packrat

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18 Brian Daly April 28, 2009 at 5:32 pm

“and I certainly have strong reasons for the move …”

So, Neil, what are the strong reasons for leaving behind the convenience of DPP and the all the other benefits you listed that the MkIII offers?

Ergonomics, flash system, lenses, sponsorship deal???

Thanks,
Brian

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19 Nate April 28, 2009 at 6:21 pm

-”Ergonomics, flash system, lenses, sponsorship deal???”

Flash system is what has me second guessing my Canon. Also I like that Nikon has focused on IQ and high-noise performance in an affordable full frame (D700) instead of an unnecessarily high (for me) megapixel count (5Dmkii–not to say it doesnt also have exceptional IQ and noise performance).

But those L’s are just so sweet… :)

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20 Neil April 28, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Here’s the answer why I moved from Canon to Nikon.

Neil vN

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21 Brian Daly April 29, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Neil,

Thanks for the honest reply.
I can see why you wouldn’t want to start a Canon vs. Nikon flame war.
So far, I’ve had one poorly calibrated body and my 24-70L consistently backfocuses at the wider focal lengths, but focuses perfectly at focal lengths longer than 50mm. I’m now wondering if I should risk sending it in for calibration in case it comes back worse than when sent in (not to mention the cost).

Brian

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22 Neil May 1, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Hyper-Program vs Program Shift

I’ve seen some links to this post on various forums .. yes, I do check my webstats ;) .. and one of the questions that pop up every so often from various people, is whether program shift isn’t the same as Hyper-Program.

No, it isn’t.

With program shift, your aperture and shutter speed is changed as you shift it. ie, with program shift, a combination of 1/125th @ f5.6 will become:
1/100th @ f6.3
1/80th @ f7.1

or, the other way around, become
1/160th @ f5
1/200th @ 4.5

As you can see, the shutter speed and aperture vary simultaneously. This might be implemented differently for different camera makes and models, but this is how Program Shift is generally done.

With Hyper-Program, when you touch the shutter speed dial, the shutter speed is fixed at whatever you dial it to. In other words, it becomes Shutter Priority / Tv.

When you touch the aperture dial, the aperture is fixed at whatever you dial it to.
In other words, it becomes Aperture Priority / Av.

And back .. you can flip between Tv / Av and Pgm at will like that.

So … very different from Program Shift.
And I can already hear the internal dialogue with some people going .. naaaah, it’s nearly the same. You know what? It’s not the same. Hyper-Program is not the same as Program Shift.

capisci?

Neil vN

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23 Patrick May 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Hyper-Program is so fantastic, I wonder at times why Pentax just doesn’t just remove the Av and Tv modes altogether. It is rather amusing to watch Canikon friends change the dial to Av after they borrow my K10. If Pentax could engineer a less noisy sensor, I wouldn’t need any modes except Hyper-Program, TAv, and bulb.

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24 Neil May 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm

I wouldn’t need anything else but Hyper-Program and Hyper-Manual, and B on my camera.
The others are superfluous.

btw .. I’m still waiting for Nikon and Canon’s engineering and design teams to call me.

Neil vN

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25 Dawei May 6, 2009 at 11:17 am

The Hyper-Manual Feature would be a god send, I can’t believe Pentax has it, and Canon doesn’t. Nor can I believe there is not more demand for this feature.

My biggest aversion to photographing in Manual is that if I want to change the DOF of an image, but maintain the same exposure I have to change 2 dials, which is very time consuming in critical moments especially if I’m trying to photograph the same scene at both f/1.2 and stopped down to f/5.6 or something. This would require something like 13 clicks of the top dial and 13 clicks of the bottom dial – a NIGHTMARE

Canon does have a partial Hyper-Manual like feature where you can hold down the AE Lock button in AV mode and change through the Aperture values and the camera will switch the SS for you, however this is not workable in practice because you would have to keep the AE Lock held down indefinitely to retain the exposure lock – another nightmare

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26 Trevor May 7, 2009 at 11:58 am

Dawei,

I’m not sure if Canon has this or not, but you may want to look through your manual in custom functions. Nikon has a custom function setting that allows you to press and release the AE lock and it will hold that exposure until the shutter is released or the camera is turned off. I would imagine Canon offers the same funtionality through a custom setting.

Cheers!
Trevor

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27 Ian May 11, 2009 at 8:30 am

I am hoping that the manufacturers of Nikon could read this and cooperate with you Neil so that Nikon would represent the Best Camera in the World.

I am being biased. :)

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28 Ben June 7, 2009 at 6:28 am

Hyper Manual is SO useful, it’s almost the only exposure mode you ever need. I never owned a Z-1p but I used one once and it was a highly underrated camera.

Actually, Pentax have a bit of a history of these innovations because they think about what the photographer wants rather than just making things bigger and faster. The K10D introduced Sv (ISO-priority) and TAv (the opposite of Sv). Funny thing is, I rarely use either because Hyper-Manual is just so good!

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29 Trevor Mark June 7, 2009 at 7:58 pm

I think Sony’s Alpha a900 is the ONE….And dont forget about Hasselblad’s 3Dll….Say no more….

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30 Fred July 4, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Hi Ben,

I like the idea of Sv (ISO priority), but only because my camera is soo piss-poor above ISO 100 (Canon SX1 IS). If Pentax fixed their ISO issues I’d be on board in a moment.

The SX1 was a test to see if I liked photography… seems I do. At US$340 new here in Hong Kong, it was a cheap test.

Now I want to upgrade to a larger sensor, my main motivation is having shallow focus control and bokeh, AND clean higher ISO images.

Being a bit of a contrarian, I looked at micro 4/3. The G1/GH1/E620/E-P1 all interest me, as does the K7… but I’m not convinced I can shoot at 3200 cleanly with any of them.

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31 Kiwi Mac July 11, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I have one D3 and one D2Xs.

I love them – they do whatever I want and have so many functions that, honestly, I rarely even remember half the things it can do!

Lots of people diss Program mode: I am a fan. I am a professional photographer and I find Program very useful in situations where I am covering events for picture agencies that happen really fast. Combined with auto ISO and there is hardly a circumstance in which I cannot shoot say 500 frames in 30 minutes and get 490 useable images.

Of course, you need to understand the choices the camera is making and override them if they won’t deliver what your client needs, but that does not mean that it is a bad thing.

I would agree that a wider spread of AF sensors would be great. I also think that there is too much choice with the AF functionality. Is it, for example, beneficial to most people to be able to choose between 51 points and 51 (3D) and do most of us truly know the difference anyway?

Unfortunately, here in New Zealand Nikon are 35% more expensive than Canon and offer no Nikon Professional Services backup at all. We also only get a 12 month warranty (5 years in US & Canada – why not us?!) and I absolutely HATE the fact that DSLR’s are only reparable under warranty in their country of purchase.

This is – IMHO – a disgrace and totally at odds for any working pro who may be working overseas. Fair enough for a $300 P&S, but any $10,000 pro DSLR should have a 3 year worldwide no questions asked warranty in my view.

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32 Jay July 16, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Neil,

I grew up on Nikons, starting the F1, but once Nikon came out with the N90s I had problems with front focusing and after three trips to NPS w/ no success, I dumped the Nikons for the eos-1. I absolutely loved the rear thumb wheel and the ability to auto focus with my thumb on the rear of the camera instead of the shutter release. I started out my dslr cameras with the Canon 10D, then 20D, and then the 5D. I am used to the functionality of these cameras which are mostly the same. My problem is that I have struggled with out of focus photos. It has driven me crazy. I manually focus almost everything now. Even then I have unexplainable misses. I am considering a switch to Nikon because I have heard good things about their auto focus. Can you fill me in on your experience with both systems’ auto focus? I would hate to take the $$ hit but I have done it before. I am also done with the wide canon zoom lenses. I have the original 16-35. It is soft and just worked with the 24-70 2.8 and had problems with edge sharpness at 24mm, even at 5.6.

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33 Neil July 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Jay … your problems with a soft Canon 16-35mm f2.8 II is exactly what I experienced. The Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 is far far superior to that lens.

Similarly, if you have problems with the Canon 24-70mm f2.8 going soft as you zoom towards 24mm .. then it is similar to what drove me to distraction. Every time I zoomed towards the 24mm region, and focused close to infinity, the lens would be unusably soft.

The Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S runs circles around the Canon optic. It is sharp!

As for the AF problems … keep in mind that Canon recently announced the THIRD fix for auto-focus problems for the 1D mkIII. That should say it all.

The Nikon D3 isn’t perfect. There’s a number of things I would prefer to be different, but the Nikon zooms are just incredible, and I honestly feel they help me deliver my best.

Neil vN

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34 Jay July 21, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Neil,

the 24-70 was focused at or near infinity when I had the problems. Interesting that you say that. Wish I wasn’t too poor to drop and trade systems. Maybe one day.

On another issue. Lightroom 2 is unbelievably slow for me to edit with. The delay in looking at the large images pales compared to what I used to get with Iview. What are you using for editing processing, and if LR2, is there a way to see the large image faster that you know of. I notice someone said they go through DPP first. I have had trouble even finding the new DPP for download on the Canon sight. But how would it be faster to do it that way?

thanks,

Jay

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35 NIc October 17, 2009 at 9:13 pm

“I like the idea of Sv (ISO priority), but only because my camera is soo piss-poor above ISO 100 (Canon SX1 IS). If Pentax fixed their ISO issues I’d be on board in a moment.”

I think your post has been answered. Pentax K-x appears to have excellent high ISO performance… K-x is a lower tier model. Now, if they were to use the same sensor in a K-7 body… :-)

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36 frank d October 18, 2009 at 12:23 am

Another innovative factor is the Auto Manual lenses. Pentax always thinking ahead of thier time.

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37 Aung April 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Hi Neil,

I just noticed your following comment!

I’ve never tried D3 but tried D300 before. I could control flash exposure by pressing on the flash button & turning the dial wheels. Forgot which dial 1will switch from flash mode like red eye, slow sync etc & the other will let you change flash exposure compensation. Hope they are the same and it helps…

Things that the 1D mk3 has, but are (sadly) lacking on the D3:

•flash exposure compensation on the body.

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38 Neil vN April 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Yup .. the D300 has it, the D700 has it, and the D200 has it, amongst other Nikon bodies.

It’s the pro-series bodies like the D2x and D3 that doesn’t have that essential button.

Neil vN

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39 Jim May 12, 2010 at 5:54 am

Hi Neil,

I’m a long-time Canon user considering the switch to Nikon. I recently picked up a D700 and some lenses to give it a whirl. Like some things about them, but after 20 years with the Canons so many controls on the Nikon just seem awkward, especially the location of the control wheel by the shutter release. I keep reaching for the big control wheel on the back – and it’s not there…

Could you describe how you typically set up your Nikons for AF, exposure, function buttons, etc? The setup options are rather daunting. Do you utilize the many AF focus points, or are you a focus/recompose kinda guy? If you do manually select your AF point, how do you do it in portrait mode on the D3/D3s? At least the D700 grip has another joystick on it to select AF points. On the bigger bodies, one needs a six-inch long thumb in portrait orientation.

I do mostly music performance photography these days, no weddings. With the 1D MkIII I’m able to put a specific AF point on the face of my subject most of the time. Don’t know yet how well the D700 will do under the same circumstances, since the outer AF points on the Nikon are not cross-type. I much prefer the 1D3 AF to that of the 5D2. I want to be able to use the outer focus points for better composition.

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40 Neil vN August 4, 2010 at 5:00 am

Jim, I most often just shoot in AF-S mode, and use the central AF point. But I do change it up as needed. Here is a more thorough explanation of the Nikon focusing modes.

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Neil vN

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41 William Krusche August 4, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I didn’t know that about the lack of an FEC button on the D3. I’m sure Nikon could make a firmware update to assign the other dial to control the FEC when the top ‘Flash’ button is pressed… (or at least to provide this in future models)

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42 George September 27, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Neil

As a Pentaxian for the past 30 yrs, I agree with your take on the Pentax’s Modes have a few friends who are Professional Photographers who don’t appreciate the simplicity and thoughtfulness of the way Pentax does things ( easy for the Photographer). Now if Pentax would only listen to you and incorporate some of the outstanding features of Nikon /Canon into it’s camera they would be a force to be reckoned with.

George

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43 Matthias August 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I agree, that the Pentax cameras offer some very useful features for photographers, however, since it has not been mentioned so far, I’d like to add that functions like Hyper Program and Hyper Manual can also be found on various Minolta, Konica Minolta and Sony Alpha A-mount (D)SLRs:

What Pentax named Hyper Program is called Pa/Ps Create Program Control on the Minoltas, and it is available when setting the exposure mode to “P”. It was introduced with the Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha-7xi in 1991.
On some cameras it is possible to “reset” the program shift by pressing a particular button, for example the flash pop-up botton, or, with more “dramatic” consequences, the “[P]” panic button. On the Dynax 7, for example, you can switch the camera back to normal P mode by press the lock button on top of the exposure mode selector, on others it helps to manually flip up and down the built-in flash for a moment. Finally, the camera will switch back to normal by itself after a while without pressing the shutter button.
The various models differ in their exact shifting behaviour when you try to change either the shutter speed or aperture and the other parameter would thereby hit its limit (f.e. trying to choose a shorter shutter speed, while the maximum aperture of the attached lens has already been reached). On the high-end models (for example the Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha-9), the camera will assume the photographer knows what s/he’s doing and allow this, simply indicating this condition, which may result in under- or over-exposure, by a blinking value in the viewfinder. On the mid-range models (for example the 7 or 7D), the photographer would not be allowed to shift a parameter beyond the opposite parameter’s limits.
There’s another slight difference between models: Some models will put absolute priority on the dialed-in value whereas other models with try to maintain a good exposure and start to override the photographer’s setting, if the camera is not in AEL mode and illumination of the scenery changes in a way that the “free” parameter thereby hits one of its limits. Some cameras will just indicate under- or over-exposure in this situation, whereas others will override the setting by starting to de-shift the “non-free” parameter as much as is needed to maintain a good exposure. I wished this behaviour would be configurable in a custom-function, but it is not.

The 9xi in 1992 also introduced a feature named Manual Shift in M-mode. This appears to be very similar to the Hyper Manual mode found on the Pentax models. If you press and hold the AEL button while rotating the front or rear dial for shutter speed or aperture setting, the camera will lock the exposure and counter-shift the other parameter correspondingly. On later models, the AEL button can be configured between press-and-hold or toggle behaviour, making it even easier to work with Manual Shift.

AEL also has another function named Slow Sync; if you press it while using a flash, the camera will allow for longer shutter speeds also in P mode so that the available ambient light will get more weight in the resulting picture.

These functions can still be found on the newer models, including the Sony Alpha cameras, although they are typically only available with the “higher” models.

There’s one useful property of Pentax’s Hyper Manual implementation, which is not available on A-mount cameras, however. While you are in Manual mode, if you press the green button, the Pentax will choose a useful starting combination for shutter speed and aperture, as if you were working in Program mode. The exact behaviour is even configurable.
This is really a nice way to quickly reset to working default parameters for unforeseen snapshots, when the illuminiation has changed completely, or when you just have dialed in extreme parameters.
I would really like to see this and Pentax’s TAv and Sv modes be implemented in other manufacturers’ cameras as well.

BTW. The method described by Eric Schwab in the other thread also works on the Minolta, Konica Minolta and Sony range of cameras, you just have to configure the dials in the custom functions, so that one dial is used for exposure compensation in A, S or P mode.

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44 Matthias August 9, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I forgot one more little known feature of the AEL button in the A-mount range of cmaeras:

If you are in manual mode and want to carry out some auto exposure bracketing (AEB), the camera will by default alter the shutter speed (it will alter the shutter speed in aperture priority and Pa and the aperture in shutter priority and Ps, and both in normal P program mode). However, if you press the AEL button while releasing the shutter, the camera will instead alter the aperture, not the shutter speed.
This feature is also useful in conjunction with non-dedicated flashes, where the flash output cannot be changed in a flash bracket series. Pressing AEL in manual mode, the camera will alter the aperture, and thereby it is also possible to shoot flash brackets with studio flash equipment connected via the PC socket for example.

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45 Guido August 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Well, first, I just want to thank you a ton for your information. I just started reading your articles and will spread the knowledge. My question is rather basic since I’m starting out. How do I know if my Canon 7D and specifically my lens is working up to par?

Thanks so much

Guido

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46 Elisabeth September 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Neil,
Thanks so much for your very informative website! I have gotten a lot out of it! And your work is truly wonderful!

I have been a Canon user for years (5D Mark II) but with the new cameras that Nikon has been coming out with, the D800 specifically as well as the superior lenses (to my taste anyway) I am seriously considering switching to Nikon. However, recently I have been shooting more and my thumbs have become injured from the weight (for me its quite a handful) of the camera. I have tried shooting with and without the extra battery grip, but that doesn’t seem to matter much. I’m wondering if you have any experience with this sort of thing. It saddens me to think of giving up all those megapixels and the full frame to go with something smaller and lighter like the D3200. Not having any experience with Nikon cameras and not having a local store to check any out in I’m wondering if there is any chance that Nikon cameras are any more ergonomic than the 5D. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

Elisabeth

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47 Neil vN September 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm

Changing systems is a huge undertaking. I would suggest renting the D800 first and see whether you like the feel for it. There are numerous companies that rent out gear and ship it out to you. Try Borrow Lenses.

Neil vN

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48 shawn October 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

Uhm. I am pretty sure that this is just how Sony and Possibly Minolta works, no “hyper-anything” mode.

AEL in manual mode will always link aperture and shutter. Program mode is a little bit different, on my a700 and I’d imagine on any Sony with two wheels, one wheel will translate the exposure according to the program, while the other adjusts aperture to compensate the exposure. To compensate with shutter speed, you press the EC button and turn either dial. If you use one EC method and undo with the other, the meter scale naturally returns to zero.

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