Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Worst time to buy camera gear in the UK?

I was comparing prices of some of the Nikon gear and found that on average list prices have gone up by 30% since Dec 2008. This is based on comparisons of certain items in the official Nikon UK price list.
Actual street prices have also gone up by around 20% on average.

This trend is not just true for Nikon, all camera gear prices show similar trends. The reason is of course the weak pound, which in turn reflects the state of the UK economy.

It seems that unless the pound gets stronger, the prices of lenses are not going to get much better. Camera prices do tend to drop immediately after a replacement model is announced; so if you want to buy the D700 nearer the £1535 price mark as in Dec 2008 (as opposed to its current price of £1740) - then perhaps you should wait until the replacement is announced, and buy it as soon as the price drops.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Nikon P7000

I am glad that Nikon decided to create the P7000. This indicates that Nikon is not entirely happy to give up the serious compact top slot to Canon and Panasonic. From the way P7000 is designed, you can tell that Nikon considers Canon to be the more serious competitor.

I personally like the P7000 design. Would have liked a faster lens, but if the performance of the sensor and the lens are good enough, then I am happy with the compromise, i.e., longer zoom ratio as opposed to faster lens. The P7000 seems to be aimed at photographers who want to use it as a candid street camera. The long zoom range will be very useful I suspect in getting close to people without intruding. The optical viewfinder seems to be very desired by such photographers, and given that add-on optical finders are so expensive, I am happy to settle for the one in the camera.

All in all, it seems that the P7000 is a great camera; it seems to be a reasonable compromise between price and features; only its performance remains to be seen, and ultimately this will matter more than mere specification. I have no reason to think that Nikon hasn't aimed for high performance, and the samples posted by DPreview look promising.

I hope to acquire one soon and then I will compare it to the Ricoh GR Digital III, which is my current compact camera.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Digital versus film photography

We all know the convenience of digital photography. It is hard to be a bad photographer with a medium that lets you immediately check whether the picture was good, and retry if necessary; and any flaws in the image can be tweaked subsequently very easily so that the final image is visually appealing and perfect.

Compared with this film photography is slow, and requires skill to get things right, because you can't check the results immediately. Even with good scanners, such as the Nikon Coolscan V, the quality of the scanned image is not a match for digital photographs from the latest generation of cameras.

So is film photography dead? Many of us hope that it isn't but will an ever diminishing market support an industry that is probably no longer profitable? Maybe we shall end up with a handful of film types, mainly B&W and color transparency, and a few labs that provide processing at a high cost. It is a prospect that is depressing but the world inexorably follows Darwinian evolution of the fittest, and the writing on the wall is clear even from a distance.

The digital revolution is a boon for the vendors, as it ensures that they can keep making us buy a new camera every year or two years, by tempting us with new capabilities. It is good that the technology is evolving rapidly, but the worst aspect of this is the continuous churn. The sensible amongst us will renew their equipment only when necessary, and not because they must get the latest and the greatest. But for those of us want to own the best, the best is an ever moving target.

Nikon D3100 Observations

There has been some talk on the internet about the new 14megapixel sensor used in D3100, as it does not resemble past Sony sensors used in cameras like D90, D300, D3X, etc. Here are some images of the sensors used in recent Nikon cameras:
D90 Sensor

D300 Sensor
D3X Sensor
D3S Sensor
D3100 Sensor
It seems that the D3100 sensor has some similarities with the D3S sensor, whereas the D90, D300 and D3X sensors all have some family resemblance. This is very interesting as it may imply that Nikon has decided to use a different supplier for the D3100 sensor, probably the same supplier that makes the D3S sensor. If this is true, then it could mean a lot of things.

The rumored D90 replacement may turn out to be a 14mp camera after all, if it uses the same sensor as the D3100, or else it may use a Sony 16mp sensor. I can't quite believe that Nikon would have another APS size sensor with a higher resolution ready.

If Nikon is now taking more control of the sensor design in the cheaper models (previously they only designed the sensors in the professional models, starting from D1 to D3 series); then it means that some of the performance features of the professional sensors may trickle down to the cheaper models.

The other interesting aspect of the D3100 is that for the first time a model at this level is actually using the EXPEED processor. The D3000 model does not appear to use the EXPEED processor, although it may use the same software. Perhaps the new EXPEED processor is necessary to support full HD video, and therefore Nikon had to use it in the D3100. The good thing is that the with larger volume of sales, it should provide greater economies of scale and reduce cost.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Boring choices

None of the current crop of cameras excites me. Each has some feature that I like, but none has the combination of features that would make me think that this is it - the perfect camera. Here is a quick run down of cameras and my likes/dislikes:
  • Nikon D3s - great camera but too expensive and not really suitable for amateur use. I would be terribly self conscious carrying around a D3s.
  • Nikon D700 - Lacks video, and prices are still too high in UK. 
  • Leica X1 - way too expensive for what it is.
  • Leica M9 - the much cheaper D700 is a better buy, and will make you a better photographer. The Leica is something to lust for, but the D700 is I suspect for real photographers.
  • Ricoh GR Digital III - image quality is not as great as expected, otherwise great camera. Limited as it only offers a fixed length lens.
  • Panasonic LX5 - great but performance will be limited by the small sensor format. 
  • Panasonic GF1 - Only makes sense with a limited pancake lens; costly compared to DSLRs and not much smaller if you use anything other than a pancake lens.
  • Panasonic GH1 - attractive for video but too expensive otherwise, and only has one proper video lens.
  • Nikon D300s - video isn't exciting enough; why not pay more for the D700.
  • Canon EOD 7D - nice but expensive, and I am not a Canon user.
  • Canon 5D Mark II - also nice, but expensive, and again, not good enough to switch to Canon.
  • Olympus PEN E-P2 - nice on paper, but too slow and like the GF1, the size advantages start to disappear as you use zoom lenses, etc.
Will the photokina bring cameras that have substantial new features? I hope so. My dream camera is one that is as fast as the D3, with as good a sensor, but much smaller in size, with equally small lenses. 

Monday, 1 March 2010

CameraGossip website migration

I have migrated the Camera Gossip website from a Wordpress hosting provider to Google Sites. I was happy with Wordpress per se, but not so happy with the hosting provider. Google Sites is not as configurable, but it is fairly easy to set up and has improved significantly from the older Google Pages implementation. It also supports SSL for registered users, which is good for security.

One problem with Google Sites is that it doesn't allow the naked web url to be redirected, therefore the url takes a visitor to the domain name provider's web page. I am trying to find a solution to this problem. If the site is accessed via, you will land up in the right place. If anyone knows how to fix this problem, please let me know.

There may have been, and probably will be some more, outages of the site as I complete the migration and iron out any issues. Apologies for that.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Thoughts on the new 24mm F1.4 AFS Nikkor

Four years after the 28mm F1.4 AF-D Nikkor was discontinued, Nikon has introduced a replacement, this time a 24mm F1.4. How much have the optics changed? Below is a comparison of the MTFs as published by Nikon of the two lenses. The first MTF is that of the older 28mm lens, followed by the MTF of the latest nikkor.

It is obvious from the MTF curves that the new lens will outperform the older lens. But performance numbers via MTF are often deceptive; I imagine that in the real world, the new lens will show less color aberration, and better transmission of light, both of which will improve the performance even further.

The older lens was expensive, which is why it did not sell very well. I had hoped that the new lens would be cheaper, but it seems that it will be the most expensive non-telephoto Nikkor lens, more expensive than the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, or the AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G IF-ED.

The price differential indicates that Nikon thinks this is a professional grade lens that will set a benchmark in this focal length. Back in the old days of manual focus lenses, every Nikon lens was considered professional grade; Nikon proudly claimed that they did not have first grade and second grade lenses like Canon. However, in the modern age, Nikon has learned something from Canon, and you can tell from the price of the lens, even if it is not marked 'L', that a particular lens is amateur whereas another is professional. I wish that Nikon would create cheaper high quality lenses,  even revive the old classic AIS 28mm Nikkor is an AF mount. But the indications are that Nikon is firmly following on the footsteps of Canon, abandoning users of manual cameras, and depriving all but professionals and the rich amateurs of their best productions.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Will Nikon do a compact interchangeable lens camera?

This is not a rumor site, but I can't help but notice an interesting post in DPreview about a potential new Nikon compact type camera with electronic viewfinder and interchangeable lenses:
14x10mm sensor
16mm flang
36.8mm mount
107 x 65.8 x 32mm
collapsible lens (like the EP1 14-42)
Prime lens ~15% smaller than m4/3
with in the 1st year 5 lens 2 of them pancake primes. 
And this is followed by another post:
well there is talk that a few pixels will be used for focus. this would alow for extreamly fast AF and those few pixels would just need to be interpulated. 
Now this is extremely interesting because a number of Nikon patents of recent (see below) have been on the subject of implementing phase detection auto focus by utilizing some of the pixels in the imaging sensor to double up as focus sensors. 

SLRs use phase detection based passive auto focusing; compacts typically use contrast detection method. The former is faster because the subject distance can be calculated directly, whereas in the latter method, you have to focus from shortest to longest distance while looking for the best contrast. For more details of these methods, please look at the wikipedia article on autofocus.

As of today, all compact digital cameras use contrast detection method for auto focusing. This makes the AF slow comparatively. Implementing phase detection based AF must be hard otherwise we would have seen it by now. If Nikon does come out with a new camera that has this technology, in my view that will be a big breakthrough, and provided that image quality is not compromised, it is not hard to predict that this will eventually spell the end of SLRs.

Here are the patent applications I was referring to:

PUB. APP. NO.Title
1 20090295964 Image sensor and image-capturing device
3 20090256952 Correlation calculation method, correlation calculation device, focus detection device and image-capturing apparatus
4 20090219423 Solid-state imaging device, electronic camera
5 20090213255 Solid-state imaging device and electronic camera
6 20090167927 Image sensor, focus detection device, focus adjustment device and image-capturing apparatus
7 20090140122 Solid-state imaging device, electronic camera
9 20090135289 Image sensor and imaging apparatus
10 20090135273 Image sensor and image-capturing device
11 20090128671 Imaging apparatus
12 20090122171 Solid-state image sensor and image-capturing device
13 20090096886 Image-capturing device, camera, method for constructing image-capturing device and image-capturing method
16 20080258039 Focus detection device, focus detection method and imaging apparatus
17 20080240701 Focus Detection Device, Focusing State Detection Method And Imaging Apparatus
18 20080143858 Image sensor, focus detection device and imaging device
19 20080112643 Correlation operation method, correlation operation device, focus detection device and imaging device
20 20080084483 Image-capturing device
22 20080074534 Image sensor and image-capturing device
23 20070269127 Correlation operation method, correlation operation device, focus detection device and imaging device
24 20070154200 Image sensor and image capturing device