I have been waiting for nikon to build my next camera for about two and a half years now. They released the D3 about 18 months ago and followed it up with the more compact but equally capable D700. These are both superb 'full-frame' bodies, and they set new benchmarks in terms of noise performance , making ISO 3200 (and even 6400) a viable option in low light conditions. However, at 12MP they didn't address my primary requirement for an upgrade - more (and better) pixels than my venerable D2X.
If we were still shooting commercial work every week I would have been all over the D700, as its' performance for my University work and Sarah's available-light fashion photography would have made it outstanding value for money at $5400 (when released).
The D3/D700's High ISO performance makes it perfect for this type work.
For the majority of our commercial work 12 MP is the perfect file size - you don't require a Kray Supercomputer to keep the post production pipeline efficient and very few clients actually print larger than A4. Having said that we have seen our D2X studio shots printed beautifully as billboards.
12MP is more than enough resolution for most clients - if only they knew that!
However, the sisson fresh new zealand imagery range is a different beast altogether. For the past two years we have been shooting primarily landscape and nature and despite NZ being located on the edge of a tectonic plate it seems that our mountains don't move very much.
Hence, 90% of our work is done off a tripod at ISO 100 and we often find ourselves trying to slow exposures down, rather than speed them up via a higher ISO setting. Add to this the aggressive anti-aliasing filters on the D3 sensor and there is not a marked quality discrepancy between the D2X and the D3/D700 at base ISO settings.
Why the need for more pixels? Call it future proofing. As our business is developing we are discovering more demand for bigger and bigger prints. As each landscape shot is unique and unrepeatable, it makes sense to be capturing at the current 'state of the art' for your chosen format to allow for future use - who knows, Tourism NZ may yet come knocking for a billboard campaign ;-)
we've had enough of shooting beautiful models - maybe next time it'll be a mountain range...
So, for about a year I had been glued to the excellent nikonrumors.com seeking clues as to what Nikon's response to canon's DSLR offerings would be. Rumours flared up and died with each trade fair or pending media event. During this time Nikon released wierdy beardy 'multimedia headsets' for Japan only, more crappy software (please leave that to adobe), spent vast amounts on advertising 'Something Big' which turned out to be a washed up blues band playing at a wedding photographers convention (shudder), and to complete this cocktail of woe, they made the highest resolution camera in their range a coolpix (not cool nikon, not cool at all).
And then in late 2008 my spirits were lifted by three huge announcements. Firstly, Axl Rose finally set a release date for the, 14 years in the making, GN'R album Chinese Democracy (yes I am a proud Nelson bogan), Canon announced the 21MP 5dMKii with a $4,950 list price and (finally) Nikon announced the D3X*.
The D3X specs were impressive - 24 million beautifully executed pixels and excellent noise performance in a bomb-proof body (it has since been deemed the finest DSLR in the market by many photographers that I respect) - perfect! .....
Except for one minor detail. The price - an amex blistering $17,200 (I believe it was over $21,000 for about 3 days, until 'market considerations' forced a re-think).
Yep, $17k for a camera that will have a resale of $1,500 in 3 years time. $17K for a camera equivalent to Canon's 21MP 5dMKii at $4,950 and Sony's 25MP A900 at $7,500. Most importantly, $17K for a camera body during the most grueling economic climate I can remember. That's just not happening round here....
Axl Rose: the only thing crazier than the D3X list price?
So, we had a business decision to make about six weeks ago. Since the kids have been born, it has been only one of us shooting at any given time, so one main kit has been workable. With both of us now shooting together we need two complete rigs (extensive field testing has shown gear sharing to be detrimental to the health of our relationship).
So we bought a 5Dii. Yep, we snagged a pre-price rise body, a mint 2nd hand 17-40 f4, 24-105 f4, and a 70-200 f4 all for well under $10K from P&V. I can't be bothered doing the sums, but, considering that we would have been purchasing a similar suite of lenses for our notional D3X we must be looking at a first division powerball type saving on this deal.
Sure, I have some problems with the 5d and these will be detailed in my next post, but these are not $12,000 issues - maybe $783.96 worth at best - but it cannot be bettered for return on investment.
So the bottom line? I love my Nikon gear, I prefer using it to the Canon system, but we run a business. Nikon have about 6 months left during which to release a competitively priced, compact, high resolution body. Failing this, there will some well worn nikon gear appearing in the cabinets at P&V**. So come on Nikon give me my D700x or preferably a D700T (you know what the T stands for :-)
* I have never even touched a D3X - simply out of fear that somehow I will concoct a rationale for purchasing one.
** I expect emergency board meetings are being scheduled at nikon HQ as you read this :)