Cameras from the early dawn of digital. How could we have ever shot with such primitive tools?

I've been reading stuff across the web lately about the "eminent downfall of Canon" because the sensor in the 7D2 isn't exactly what DXO specializes in testing. I had to laugh. I owned the original 7D for a spell and found it to be one of the best all around cameras I've worked with. The tipping point that pushed me into the Sony system at the time was my idea that I needed to be doing video and, as it happened, the new Sony a77 looked really good (on paper) and seemed to have all the video gadgets for which I could ask. Looking in my very accurate past tense crystal ball it was very much a lateral move. For straight ahead still work the 7D was just as good as the Sony in most regards, had a much better infrastructure of lenses available and probably nailed focus better. But, as with all victims of ever gnawing equipment lust, it's only in retrospect that I understand how vaguely lateral the move between systems was.

I've played with the new Canon 7Dmk2 and while it's a great camera with an aging sensor it's one I won't be buying. At least not right now. But it's not because of the sensor. It's because I'm knee deep in two systems that I'm really enjoying and I don't really have the bandwidth or desire to spread by camera attention any thinner.

If I were a Canon user I might pick on up. I don't seem to fear the "cropped" sensor cameras the way others do and I think you can put together a killer APS-C system around this body. But you can do the same thing with the Nikon D7100 and, at this juncture, for about half the price (body comparison). The Nikon has a better sensor (by a little) and the same compromises on DX prime lens availability but once you've made your choice you tend to just nestle in and go with the inventory flow.

I'm into Nikon stuff lately. Which is just the third or fourth rotation of a series of circles dating back to my initial awe at the Nikon F2. The thing that keeps me coming back is the damn lens mount and a nostalgic memory about lenses.

There are some classics that Nikon made and which I love that are available these days for laughably low prices. And with some of even the latest Nikon digital bodies you can mount the lenses and even have them key in the focal length and max aperture. Which means you can meter in "A" and manual without having to stop down.

In the last few months I've bought a wonderful 55mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor, a 50mm 1.4 aid, and a pristine aid 105mm f2.5 ( which is my absolute favorite portrait lens around. Especially on a full frame camera... but even on a cropper).  Today I added to my little antiquated collection. I found a 25-50mm f4 zoom that's universally considered to be one of those lenses that makes images look 3D and which keeps on yielding better and better performance as digital sensors get better. In other words, up to 24 megapixels the lens is not running out of resolution gas. The price? a miserly $160. I put it on the front of a D800 and gushed a little bit about the perfection of the range and the correction of the geometry. I also picked up a more recent lens, the 60mm Micro f2.8D lens, again for well under $200. In perfect shape.

It's also a stunning performer. I bought it as a paean to the focal length I used to love when shooting portraits on full frame Leicas. Back then my favorite lens was always the 90mm. Sometimes a Summicron with its sloppy but glamorous f2 and sometimes on an Elmarit with its needle sharp f2.8. The 60mm on the cropped Nikons should get me into the ballpark.

Which brings up my next observation. People who shoot Nikon full frame cameras are crazy! Why do I say this? Because last year the Nikon D800 was largely considered the ultimate 35mm style digital SLR camera on the market. When I hit the doors at my local merchant, Precision Camera I counted fully eight good condition D800's on the used shelf. Nearly all of them are marked at $1899. But my sales person directed my attention to a sign in the middle of the used Nikon area which offered an additional 10% the purchase price of any used Nikon in the store. And that included used Nikon lenses! That put the price of a low mileage, technician checked, Nikon D800 at right around $1700. Or nearly $600 under the price of a new D750. Insane. But then again there are eight of them right there for the grabbing.

Now, I know the D810 is supposed to be a bit better but is the new model really, really worth twice the price? Especially when one can quickly toss a 24-50mm or an old but reliable 105mm 2.5 on the camera and have a primo shooting package for a nudge over $2,000? I love it. The camera market is weirdly falling apart and we are the beneficiaries.

If you are interested in one of the D800's call Ian at Precision Camera. 512-467-7676 and he'll take care of you. Mention the blog and nothing special will happen. Sorry.

And, in the full spirit of disclosure, I am not in any way affiliated with Precision Camera and will receive no kickbacks, payments, extra courtesies or even more free ballpoint pens for sending you in their direction. I'm just trying to match up people who want half priced, used Nikon D800s at what I think is a great value from a known, good supplier. Hope you're staying warm and having fun. I'm heading out to shoot in the rain with the 25-50mm on a D7100. Let's see which one fails first.....

Just to circle back to the original subject matter, the Canon 7D was a great camera and one I would still use today if I were in the system. I do think we've reached the point where all the cameras that yield 16 megapixels and up (DSLRs and mirror less) are equally competitive for nearly every use. Now the real issue is learning how to appreciate their capabilities through the work.


Anonymous said...

Sure, but seems we are all seduced by the newest, pristine out of the box stuff. Lucky you- having a good camera store within short driving distance.Even then you wound up with a defective 7000 which should have been checked before being put in the used section. Suppose you bought on line as most of us are forced to (closest "real" camera store a 2 hour drive one way for me) and had to return that camera. Its a pita. So new is often the easiest way to go.

Anonymous said...

Kirk you should have tried the new Sony a77m2! It's so much better than the A77!

Anonymous said...

Kirk you should have looked at the much improved Sony 77m2! I have no trouble shooting fast paced subjects
at 6400 iso and locking the focus! http://www.darrylreynoldsphotography.com/p351539633/h1d9001e2#h1d9001e2

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey anonymous, does this mean that if I've not tried the A77m2 by now I will never get the chance to? Could I not do it tomorrow or the next day? I'm just curious when you say, "...you should have tried...."

Kirk Tuck said...

jb, we buy stuff from Amazon and other online shops used and when we have an issue we stuff it back in the box and return it. Done. Refund. Boom. Precision has a good rep and while some things occasionally fall through the cracks they are quick to make it right. They do it locally and they can do it long distance as well.

What happened to your camera stores? Did the photo community not support them?

Anonymous said...

Our local, good, camera store closed a few years ago. The older gentleman who owned it retired after many years in the same location. A loss to the local photography community.But time marches on and waits for no one.
Buying on line is a crap shoot.One mans excellent condition is another's scrap.
Ya take your chances buying used on line from private parties.

bpr said...

I agree about the D800 sell off. It's bizarre seeing so many in dealership widows over the last couple of months. Whatever the improvements the D810 offers anyone not making work to be proud of with a D800 probably needs to upgrade something other than the camera!

Anonymous said...

Kirk my previous post about you trying the A77m2 was in regards
to your statement about the A77 not focusing as good as the Canon 7d. I was just hoping you would take a look at one since Sony has made a lot of upgrades to the camera on the
focusing, noise handling,video and buffer that's all! I actually think you would like the new model a lot if you tried one and it's still EVF!

neopavlik said...

You say the 105mm/2.5 is your favorite portrait lens around...but I don't remember you posting a photo from/for it !

On the other hand I can remember multiple portraits that you've posted from the 105 F2 DC.

Precision Camera deal : The 10% extra deal may only be in-store, I don't see it on the website. I'm hoping to get one < $1500 potentially with financing to break it up over time.

The falling prices are great. I'm excited at the idea my brother can get a D300,D7100, or 7D at their current used prices to shoot action when his kids start participating in sports.

Jeff said...

I wonder how many D800's were traded for M4/3 or DX size and not just upgraded to D750 or D810.

Anonymous said...

I just got a d800 at a great price from a local store. There were half a dozen to choose from. I selected the one with 700 shutter clicks on it and the protective plastic film still on the LCD cover. (I'm proud to say I've already scratched the hell out of that pristine LCD cover.)

I asked the salesman how this was even possible, and he said there were a large group of hobbyists with money who always had to have the latest and greatest gear. Unbelievable.

I plan on using this sad example of last-generation technology until it falls apart.

Anonymous said...

Tucson use to have well over 5full featured fully stocked Camera stores plus a bunch more smaller stores. I got all my camera gear locally (new and used) in the 80s. Local camera store scene started to implode in the late 90s. We are now down to about 1 1/2 small stores and no where as well stocked as yours

4 main things caused the local stores to close:
1. walmart (and costco ...)
2. online (amazon, ebay, B&H ...)
3. cell phone cameras
4. going digital: no more need for film developing.

Michael R

Anonymous said...

Using google maps to compare, your local store looks to be at least 4 times larger than the better store we have locally here in Tucson.

when it comes to good used gear, you're in a much, much better market than many of us. (sad and envious)

Michael R

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Michael, I'm sorry to hear about the decline of camera stores in Tucson. We have all the same market pressures you listed, from Cellphones to Walmart but Precision Camera continues to prosper and even grow. Why? A fiercely loyal core group of customers, a super high quality education program at the store, run by real, smart photographers and the full on support by the owners of photography as an "art" in Austin. Seriously, show me another camera store that builds in a 2500 square foot, twenty foot ceiling classroom, dedicated to education programs and workshops? Find one of those and you will find a good store.

By the way, a good percentage of Precision's sales are via the web.

I love them because they take really good care of me and my business and they do so while coming close enough to NY prices that the difference, at most, is usually the price of a small cup of bad coffee...

We buy local because then we get to enjoy the privileges of having an amazing local resource to enjoy all the time.

Unknown said...

I totally agree on the sweetness of the Nikon D800. I picked up a mint conditioned used one myself for $1600 a couple of months ago. All I can say is wow, this is one camera that lives up to its hype for once. The D800 is a steal at the current prices they are going for!