Thursday, 22 September 2011

The real significance of Nikon V1 and J1

The Nikon V1 and J1 cameras indicate where Nikon is heading with regards to digital video and mirror-less solutions. These cameras are harbingers of what is to come in the DSLR world. I think the most significant  technologies showcased by these cameras are:

  • Phase detect autofocus at the sensor image plane - this is the holy grail for focus tracking of moving subjects. Until this technology is perfected, I do not think DSLRs can be supplanted in the professional world. I am hoping that Nikon will soon introduce this capability in the DSLRs.
  • Combined video and still photography - the ability to take full resolution snaps during video means that the user can shoot video and take snaps at the same time.
  • Full resolution high speed sequence photography - it seems that with the technology Nikon now have, it may be possible to take 30 frames per second even at a resolution of 20 megapixels. It would interesting to see if the Nikon D4 ends up with this kind of capability.
I think Nikon has succeeded in putting in enough unique features in the V1/J1 range that many people who originally thought it wasn't worth investing in this range, might be tempted to do so. 

It seems to me that the J1 and V1 cameras are Nikon's attempt to learn from Apple. Both models focus on simplicity of design and aesthetic beauty. They seem to also reflect Apple's view that if the product is good enough, people will be happy to pay a premium. Nikon needs to ensure that like Apple, their products not only look good, but also outperform other cameras in the same category.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Choices in compact cameras

I currently own the Ricoh GR Digital III as my sole compact camera. I have watched with interest the developments in compact cameras, including the so called mirrorless system cameras. No single brand or camera fulfills all that I want from a compact camera yet.

In the first category we have enthusiast compact cameras such as the Ricoh GR Digital III, the Lumix LX-5, the Canon G12 and the Nikon P7100. While all of these cameras are capable, the image quality offered by the small sensor is a limiting factor. In my experience, decent quality images are rarely possible above ISO 200.  The advantage of these cameras is that they are the only ones that are truly compact - I carry my GR Digital III with me all the time.

The next category is the micro-four-third. This category doesn't excite me very much due to several reasons. Firstly it seems that there is not much of a size advantage between this and the larger APS C sensor models. Secondly, the image quality isn't on the same level as of the APS C models.  The only model that is interesting is the Panasonic GH2 because of its video capabilities - however, the pricing of the GH2, and in general the micro-four-third models, is the third issue. There is no cost advantage to buying a micro-four-third as compared to the APS C models. 

The third category is the APS C sensor compact cameras such as the Sony NEX and Ricoh GXR M Mount. Between this category and the micro-four-thirds, I prefer this as it has the advantage of a larger sensor, better image quality, and also smaller magnification factor when using full frame lenses. A similar camera with a full frame sensor would have been even more interesting.

In the end though, if you are choosing between a DSLR and a compact system camera, you have to consider what it is that you are looking for. From a price performance ratio, DSLRs still have a big advantage. Just compare the price of a 50mm F1.4 lens and equivalent lens for micro-four-thirds or the APS C compact cameras - the DSLR world has higher quality lenses at cheaper prices. The compact system cameras have two advantages over DSLRs. The size advantage is there if you choose the right lens. The ability to use lenses from other mount systems - for instance Leica M - is an important feature for anyone who already owns these lenses.

Personally, I have decided to try the Sony NEX 5N model. I chose this over the Ricoh GXR model due to its better video capability and lower price. I think Ricoh could have just made a custom model with M-mount rather than their fancy interchangeable mount system - the cost might have been lower.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Perfect Camera does not exist

My perfect camera is one that is small, fast, but has a full frame sensor, excellent low light shooting and high dynamic range, and supports interchangeable lenses. Is there such a camera? No.

After spending some time reviewing choices between compact cameras, micro-four-third cameras, APS-C SLRs, and full-frame SLRs, I have decided to stick with APS-C SLR for the time being as the best compromise between size and performance. The only drawback is lack of good affordable wide angle primes.