8.23.2018

It's already started. The Nikon Z's won't ship till the end of September (earliest) and already the YouTube reviewers have found a "major" point of contention.

Chrysta does a furniture ad.

Here it is: Tony Northrup will be recommending that professional photographers NOT purchase the Z6 or Z7 because......wait for it......the camera does not feature dual card slots. This is his position having not yet used either camera and I will be interested to see if his position changes once he is delivered to New York City, feted and entertained by Nikon's PR agency who will, no doubt, provide a rational and defensible argument as to why, going forward, it's okay for their two cameras to only have one card slot...and a QXD at that. That happens, I think, this weekend so I'm sure we'll know more after checking  Tony's YouTube channel on Monday. 

I'm neutral on the whole "dual card slot imbroglio." I understand the only good rationale and that is to have a duplicate copy of important, once in a life time, photographs from non-repeating events or imaging opportunities. Got it. If a card goes bad you've still got one in the second slot with which to save your bacon. But I have to say that I have either been incredibly lucky over the years or the incidence of card failures (among authentic cards from well known makers) is wildly over-reported. 

It's been a while since I experienced any sort of photographic equipment failure other than just wearing out lenses or something occurring from drop damage. But I do get the point; a second card slot is a relatively cheap and easy way to get a redundant back-up. 

This is, of course, why every photographer worth his government issued, official professional photographer licensing card here in the U.S.A. (not a real thing) carries back-up equipment for everything. When I go on location to shoot a non-repeatable corporate executive head shot I always take along duplicates of all mission critical equipment: A camera and a back up camera. A range of lenses and an exact duplicate of the first range of lenses. Back up batteries for each camera. A back up camera strap for each in case my strap frays or unexpectedly snaps into pieces from overuse. A set of studio flashes, and a second set of back up studio flashes. Enough memory cards to back up the back up cards in the main and back up cameras. I generally bring along a second set of prescription glasses and a second set of prescription sunglasses. 

But that's just the core gear. I bring an assistant, and also a back up assistant in case the first assistant eats some bad mayonnaise at lunch and becomes incapacitated. I bring along a second set of clothes for myself and also for my assistants in case we fall in mud or some fiber eating microbes begin to disintegrate our original clothes. I pack a lunch, and then a second lunch in case the first lunch is lost or destroyed. I bring along empty Pelican cases just in case our primary cases are somehow destroyed during the shoot. 

I carry plenty of back up tripods because you never know when one will short circuit or become humidity damaged. We bring duplicate light stands just in case someone runs over our primary collection of light stands with a forklift or other warehouse vehicle. And soft boxes! Dozens and dozens in all sizes. Many duplicates in case the fiber glass rods snap...

Finally, we bring along a second car in case the first car breaks down, either on the way to or the way from, our client's chosen location. All of this duplication is cost intensive but I don't see how else one could call oneself a "professional photographer" unless you are willing to dive onto the top of a live grenade of equipment spending and required portage costs in order to give your client unmatched service and piece of mind. The cheap bastards deserve nothing less... 

At times though I look at this endless imagined need for back up and duplication in different ways. I've never acquired a back up spouse and so far I've experienced no job stopping corruption, or total spouse failure. I only have the one house and that's been working well since about 1995. And I've actually flown in planes with single engines and if there was ever a perceived need for redundant back up that would be it.

I would be interested to know if you've recently experienced any card failures from modern (post 2010) memory cards. If you routinely save money by buying the Russian surplus or Chinese counterfeit cards from the Amazing "marketplace" you are on your own. But if you are using current "big brand" cards that came from a trusted source I would be most interested in being proven wrong and saying a big mea culpa to Tony Northrup (whose videos I actually very much enjoy --- even when I don't always agree). 

Let me know if the single card slot on the Nikon Z's is really the big "deal killer" for you. And why. 
Thanks. KT



Can we have a quick discussion about the Nikon announcement?


I had a chance to read all the promotional stuff from Nikon this morning, as well as the mindless chatter of articles on DPReview. My take is that Nikon produced a very nice first try of a mirrorless camera. They got some stuff right and then swung and missed on some other stuff. If I was a Nikon shooter I'd think about adding one of the two bodies to my inventory for things like those times when you really do need a silent shutter or when you really need to have autofocus that works well in video. I think their choice of sensors is perfect; one for ultimate image quality and one for great overall quality and speed (24 and 45 megapixels). 

I haven't handled one but it looks like they got the grip right. I'm pretty sure the lens mount will end up being a good decision down the road although I hate the idea of having to buy new lenses when the old Nikon F lenses still work so well. An interesting possible benefit to the people who aren't thinking of making the switch from Nikon F to Nikon Z any time in the near future might be that with other people switching the used market will be flooded with excellent F glass (and bodies) at ever lowering prices. I'm still looking for that perfect D810 but at a $1200 price point. It will happen, it might just take a bit more time.

I'm also happy with the overall styling of the camera but time will tell if it's too small to handle well or if it is too light to provide a solid and vibration resistant platform. By popular demand (and marketing necessity) the cameras feature five axis image stabilization with the Z lenses and three axis stabilization with older AFS lenses. People will love that the AF points in the flagship camera occupy the majority of the frame. 

Videographers will scratch their collective heads, wondering why some video features were not improved vis-a-vis the D850 but most will take a wait and see position pending actually shooting some files and looking at them. Nikon seems to view suppliers like Atomos as a natural ally and feature supplimenter for video in that high quality codecs (the sort of which can be handled in camera by GH5 cameras) are only available when using an external video recorder. If you want anything more than 100 Mbs 8 bit files you'll need to use the HDMI port to export into a digital recorder to unlock the good stuff. In a certain way it makes sense but when a two year old camera can suck up faster bit rate files with much more information and then write them in camera you have to wonder how serious Nikon is about the video market....

So, good feature sets, nice new lens mount, in body image stabilization, some backward compatibility with F lenses, a pretty body design, and full frame UHD video are all really nice and useful. We like to think about having these things. But where has the ball been dropped? Where was there potential that remains unrealized? Let's see.

I'll start with the battery. It's a variant of the EL-EN 15 and it's only rated at 330 shots. I know that the camera has continuous live view and those faster processors suck up juice like crazy but I also know that if the marketing team hadn't badgered the designers to try and get close to Sony's dwarfish camera body size they could have made the camera a bit bigger, easier to handle, a more stable platform for handholding, and a home for a bigger and more enduring battery. I think a battery grip will help but one will still get about half the battery mileage one gets with an off the shelf, traditionally mirrored DSLR.

The video specs are nothing to write home about. The 8 bit, 4:2:0 in-camera codec seems underpowered when Panasonic GH5 and GH5s cameras can write up to 400 Mbs in camera and offer a wide variety of 10 bit, 422 files that can be recorded in-camera onto a standard V90 SD card. The GH5S can also offer codecs that allow you to shoot 4K at 60p while the Nikon is restricted to 30p in 4K. According to pundits, who may or may not have actually shot any real video with the new Nikons, the rolling shutter at the full frame, 4K setting is nothing to write home about. 

Finally, even though Panasonic showed the way into the hearts and minds of serious filmmakers with in camera tools such as a vector scope and a wave form monitor Nikon chose to stick to the hobbyist route and leave these valuable features out. If you are a serious video shooter and you are using an Atomos Ninja Something or Other you'll be able to take advantage of those advanced features and also "false color" in spite of these features not being offered on the camera. 

From what I'm reading they did get the EVF just about right. Very high res and very nice eyepiece optics but they wimped out in the engineering a bit and stuck with a 60 fps refresh rate instead of pushing the envelope and implementing a 120 fps lens rate as debuted in the Panasonic GH5S.

To sum up: I think Nikon put some good thought and design skills into making a better body design than Fuji or Sony have been able to do. Unlike some naysayers I think the bigger lens mount will lead to more interesting and higher performances lenses (if Nikon rises to the challenge). For most social media and web-based video, corporate or otherwise, I think the video specs are quite usable and you could consider this a true, hybrid video camera (thought not as well provisioned as at least two of the less expensive cameras from Panasonic). 

People will bitch and whine, mostly for no good reason, about things like the single card slot for memory cards, or the fact that the camera just takes QXD cards. People will always bitch about price. But the majority of camera buyers will be satisfied that these will be  great work and play cameras; especially for people who have long used Nikon and are bored with their current cameras and ready to see just how good photography can be with a well designed mirrorless camera with a nice EVF. 

It really doesn't matter who was first to market. Panasonic rolled out a full on mirrorless concept ten years ago and the innovation alone certainly didn't rocket them to the top of the market. In many ways I think Nikon was smart to let everyone else grapple with the complexity of innovation and to come along and leverage all the engineering work and the heavy lifting of marketing ground work, done by others, in making mirrorless a successful concept on the eyes of consumers. Nikon was able to continue to sell millions of more traditional cameras while Olympus, Panasonic, Sony and Fuji worked hard at selling the "concept" of a new kind of camera to somewhat wary consumers. Now that the concept has been driven home the vast majority of the worldwide market now feel comfortable in making the transition and Nikon has swooped in with no legacy baggage in the space and should be able to grab a great R.O.I. because both they and Canon still own most of the mindshare among photographers who spend and upgrade. A nice strategy. The Zune was one of the first MPEG portable music players but it is now buried in a shallow grave in the tech history grave yard while late arrival, Apple, cleaned up in the space and then used their iPod product as the technical launching pad for the insanely successful iPhone. 

Will I buy one of these new cameras? Sure. I'll make construct a rationalization around the idea of just getting the 24 meg version and the 50mm lens and becoming a "one camera and one lens" purist. But you know me. By the end of the year I'll have most of the inventory squirreled away in my bag. 

At this point though I'm finding a lot more to like about the GH5S. It's not just a video camera. But more on that later.

What are your thoughts on Nikon's announcement? Will they be able to deliver in bulk? Will they kick Sony's butt? Are still cameras just a dead end? Comment?