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I Don’t Need a New Camera

September 19th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I don’t need a new camera.

A new camera would be nice.

But I don’t really need a new camera.

But man, I sure could use a camera that can take shots in lower light.

No. My D80 is fine. I take plenty of good shots. It’s served me well and faithfully for three years now, and isn’t showing any signs of slowing.

But a new camera could take more good shots. And having video would be nice. And being able to meter with those really cool (and really nice old manual-focus lenses would be awesome)…

I don’t need a new camera.

But I really want one.

And gosh darn it, Nikon just made it really hard not to buy a new camera.

I’m talking, of course, about the new D7000, announced this past week in the run up to the semi-annual Photokina show in Germany. Take a look at the specs. If you aren’t drooling yet, you should be. This is one heck of a camera, for not a whole lot of dough (relatively speaking, of course :-)).

I’m not even sure what I like best about the specs. There is literally nothing not to like. Some personal highlights:

Fantastic ISO range: With a new Nikon-branded sensor that covers a whopping 100-6400 sensitivity range, this camera can cover a huge amount of lighting conditions. Oh, and it can also go two stops above the high end to 25600 ISO. (That’s “H2” in Nikon-speak, meaning “6400 ISO pushed two stops in software”. Think digital zoom for ISO.) I wouldn’t count on getting a lot of good shots in the extended range, but if it’s anything like the D80 then there’s a lot of potential for nice B&W shots there.

But there’s an interesting bit here that I expect a lot of people will overlook: The range starts at 100. So what, right? But talk to D700 owners (who have a base ISO of 200), and you’ll hear some grumbling about not being able to open up their fancy lenses all the way because the shutter speed starts to get too high. They have to pop on an ND grad filter to reduce the amount of light hitting the lens. One stop on the low end isn’t a huge deal-breaker by any means, but there are definitely cases where you want a low ISO to allow for longer exposure times.

Non-CPU lens metering: This one will definitely not affect everybody, but for me it’s an absolutely killer feature, and honestly the main thing that had me eyeballing an upgrade this season. Nikon’s been making fantastic lenses for fifty years now (give or take), and amazingly they’ve managed to keep the same basic lens mount the whole time. That’s right: a lens that sold with 1960’s Nikon F can still happily mount on today’s high-end digital cameras. Sure, optical glass and coatings have improved since then. But not that much. A professional lens of the 60’s or 70’s will still perform fantastically. And you can find them at garage sales for dirt cheap if you keep your eyes open. Seriously: I have an absolutely fantastic Nikkor 135 f/2 AI-S that I picked up with a battered F3 and another lens for $20.

Until now, though, I’ve had to settle for fully-manual operation on my D80 with guess-and-check metering, because the D80 can only figure out the aperture setting of lenses that contain a CPU that communicates with the camera. Higher-end Nikon cameras (like the D300s, D700, and D3x) have been able to meter with non-CPU lenses for a while, but were out of my price range and, frankly, are too big and heavy for me to comfortably lug around all the time.

Six frames per second continuous shooting: My D80 tops out at a measly 3 FPS, which just isn’t fast enough to really catch an action sequence. Getting shots twice as fast will be great.

Dual SD card slots: This is just a cool feature that Nikon have brought down from their top professional cameras. There are a bunch of different ways to configure the camera to use the two slots, but the most interesting to me is the ability to have the camera simultaneously write duplicate data to both cards. Boom… instant data backup. I’ve never had an SD card go bad on me in the field, but I’ve been lucky so far. I’d rather never have that happen.

Upgraded AF Sensor: A newer autofocus system that is more reminiscent of the D300s than the D90 should result in faster autofocus and a better overall focusing experience. The only thing I’ll miss from the bigger cameras is the three-segment manual focus meter (which helps in quickly getting perfect manual focus). I haven’t seen info either way, but I expect the D7000 will have the same single dot focus indicator from the D80/D90.

Full 1080/24p Video: I don’t currently do a lot of video work, but having top-of-the-line video features — including an input for an external stereo microphone — will definitely be nice if I do decide to get more involved in video.

Magnesium alloy body and weather sealing: More features brought down from the more expensive cameras that, while not terribly useful on a day-to-day basis will help keep the camera plugging along for a long time. Plus, with the tougher skeleton, the D7000 gets real strap lugs instead of those horrible metal tabs. Those have always bugged me on my D80 for some reason.

16 Million Pixels: More pixels doesn’t mean better quality unless you are making huge prints. But it does mean more cropping power, which can be quite useful. On the down side, however, more pixels means more storage space and longer processing. I’ll have to see how I feel about 8 MB JPEGs.

Priced to sell: Possibly the most attractive feature of the new D7000 is its price. It’s available for pre-order at several Internet vendors (Adorama, Amazon, etc.) for only $1199 (body only). Now, I’m sure that sounds like a lot for a camera, and it is. But with as many well thought out and best-of-its-class features as Nikon has packed into this camera, I’m very impressed that they’ve managed to introduce it for only $200 more than the D80 and D90 debuted at.  That’s pretty much on par with inflation over the same period.

There are probably a few other features I’ve missed, and probably a few features of the D300s that are decidedly better, but that’s always going to be the case. Overall I’m extremely impressed with what Nikon has brought to the table. For me, at least, this is almost exactly what I would put in a camera if I could have any (realistic) feature set, and the fact that it is at such a good price point make this a no brainer: I’ve already put in my pre-order. I can’t wait until the postman drops this baby into my hot little hands. I’m not sure what I’m going to do until then. Probably try to get as many last pictures through my D80 as possible. We’ve had a lot of good times together, but I doubt the little guy is going to be around long once its grand-child makes its way here.

So yeah, I don’t need a new camera. But sometimes it’s not what you need that really counts. Sometimes you get what you want.

  1. September 20th, 2010 at 13:49 | #1

    The D7000 looks quite nice, but the dual card slots and ISO 100 setting, and 100% viewfinder coverage are the only features that I see as an improvement over the D700 for me. And none of them are worth giving up the FX sensor or the larger size (I have large hands that make the D80-series cameras uncomfortable). Wake me when I can buy the D3x for $2k (^_^)

  2. September 20th, 2010 at 14:16 | #2

    I grant you the D700 is an altogether better camera than the D7000. But it’s also twice the price, which is a big pill to swallow. I was actually drooling over the D700 prior to this announcement, and might have made the plunge if the D7000 didn’t fit my requirements so perfectly.

    I also played around with a D200 recently (which isn’t even as big as the D700) and decided that it’s just a bit too chunky for me to want to lug around all the time. Sure, having that extra heft is nice when balanced against a big lens, but for my hands the controls are just a little too far to reach, and my hands tend to get tired really fast. Plus my camera bags don’t fit a bigger camera nicely. Gotta consider accessory reuse. 🙂

  3. Tanner
    September 20th, 2010 at 21:43 | #3

    Hey i think i may have seen a review for this one. Is it the new nikon that can auto-focus with even the giant telescopic lenses? If it is that’s a sweet camera, and you should buy it no question. You can wait another 6 months to go to New Zealand right?

  4. September 21st, 2010 at 09:42 | #4

    I’m not sure, but this guy should be able to handle with (pretty much) any lens Nikon has ever made. Not that I could ever afford those massive lenses, anyway. Not to mention the full-time sherpa you need to haul them around. 🙂

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