As I think about the new Nikon mirrorless cameras I find myself looking back at work done on a wide range of Nikon cameras. From the D100 through the D850, and lots of stops in between.

from a rehearsal of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" circa 2006.

If you want to figure out what kind of camera (and what brand of camera) you really like to shoot with it may be instructional for you to go back and look at which cameras (and brands) have cycled through your hands with the greatest frequency. What did you like about them and what led you to change into other systems. 

One of the system I seem to gravitate toward most often is Nikon. Specifically, traditional Nikon DSLR cameras. I can generally pick up any of the cameras they've made in the past two decades and figure them out in minutes. They feel good. And, with hindsight being better than presbyopia, I can see that even the older models were, in fact, good performers. By that I mean the images you could create with them were excellent. Some I would rate as excellent in their time but some were just flat out excellent, even when compared to today's cameras. 

I looking through the files I came across a set of images that I shot for the theater production of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Some were done with with one of my least favorite cameras, the D200 and some were taken with one of my favorite Nikon cameras, the D2X (see image at the top of the article). 

There is an undercurrent of thought, becoming more prevalent among photographers, which posits that the camera industries much touted advancements in the last ten years have been less spectacular than marketing and industry reporting would have us believe. As I look through various files I've come across material we shot with a 2002 Kodak DCS 760 which our clients used as 4x6 foot point of purchase displays; and marveled at how good it looks. Ditto for the much underrated (image quality wise) Kodak DCS SLR/n. We shot a series of images that became large wall graphics using the low ISO settings on that camera and the files seemed better than some of the images I've pulled off much more recent and higher res cameras. (The SLR/n had an ISO 25 setting that worked by making multiple exposures into one file while reducing noise via anomaly cancellation processing. The end result was files of incredible detail and sharpness with no discernible noise. The trade off was the need to shoot with continuous light and the long shooting a processing times...). 

Even the files from the early D100 were good. The sensor in that camera was a 6 megapixel one in an APS-C size. That camera's biggest fault was a tiny raw buffer. You got four shots and then the camera went dormant for while in order to process them....

I have several favorites from the middle years of Nikon digital cameras, including: The D2XS. It was prone to noise at any ISO setting above 640 but the files in the sweet range (200-400) were/are competitive with anything on the market today, when comparing like sizes. It was a rock solid camera that nailed focus without much fuss and yielded great color without much sweat in post. 

The D700 deserves to be considered as one of the legendary cameras of the digital age. And the next big step up was the D800/D800e. It's six years on since the D800e and yet, when I compare files with a D810 at ISO 100 I'm sure not seeing six years of quality increase or magic. A bit more dynamic range for people destined to shoot outside in the sun but for most people either camera is so capable of delivering amazing files that the recurrent limitation will be that of most people's technical skills or the quality of their lens collection.

I sold my mid-term Nikons and jumped to Canon at a time when Nikon didn't have any full frame cameras with a resolution over 12 megapixels. Canon had come out with the 5D2 and it was a pretty amazing camera in it's time. I was personally happy with the D700 but I had a few clients who were clearly mesmerized by the marketing hype of high resolution and I felt like I needed to keep up with the Joneses. We weren't nearly as smart back then. I bought the technical enticements hook, line and sinker.

When Nikon launched the D3X and I looked at the price tag I felt entirely vindicated for choosing the Canon and it took a while for Nikon to step up and match. The Canons were great cameras but after Nikon got up to speed with the D750 I switched back again (and there were "sub-systems" in between). 

Now I am actually waiting with a bit of excitement to see what Nikon presents us at tomorrow's launch. I can get all lofty and say that I don't need anything beyond what I have today but I'll just repeat a quote from the character of Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons" when Lisa Simpson asks him (paraphrasing here): 'You are one of the richest men in the world why keep chasing stuff?' and he responds that while he is quite rich  ----- "I would gladly trade it all for just a little more!"

I'm by no means rich but, where cameras are concerned I often have the feeling that I too would, "Gladly trade them all for some just a little newer..."

Currently working through the obvious logic dysfunction I've describe here....

Looking back I am amazed at how much I disliked the D200 and how much I enjoyed making photographs with the D2xs. Perhaps one of the new mirrorless models will raise the bar in some noticeable way which will make it easier for me to rationalize yet another unnecessary expense. 


Rufus said...

If the new mirrorless Nikon is as fun to use as my FujiX-T2 while also having the "rightness" of my D700, while working well with my Nikon lenses, then count me in.

David said...

Well if memory serves me right now, you have used the Nikon 1, the odd Pentax yellow mirrorless, Samsung, Sony, and both Olympus and Panasonic micro four thirds cameras. So the only mirrorless missing are the Fuji, which you actually said you didn't like and Canon M mount. Sigma may also qualify, that you haven't played with yet.
Fuji may have been tried but not purchased, due to dopler adjustment.
Ok so you need to test out 2 cameras then before the Nikon to give us a rounded out background, start with the Sigma :)

Kirk Decker said...

Yeah, the D200 was my least favorite camera. A couple of camera generations down the road when it became clear that I didn't need it as a backup and I didn't enjoy using it, I had it converted to B&W infrared. It actually does pretty well in that capacity and running it at high ISO gives the files a grainy Kodak High Speed Infrared film feel.