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Wednesday, 12 September 2007


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The Leica M8 or the future Leica R10 are the cameras for you (and me)!

Having learned the D40 and the D40X 'follow up' that follows after that, I can smell D3X will come out when the D3 sales reach its asymptote.

1) Twelve megs is ‘mediocre’. Canon released that ’size’ ages ago.
2) It’s only US$5000. Only slightly more expensive than D2X/s when it was newly released and far below Canon latest FF body. It is obvious that Nikon cannot / would not challenge Canon’s.
3) No way Nikon will leave Canon unrivalled with their 20-something megapixels full frame. Nikon wants a portion of that cake, too !

D3 or D3X is a camera to be dreamt about. But since three years ago I always dream about FM3D (digital FM3A, manual focus of course).


Yes, put the D3 sensor in an FM3A body and I (and Mike, I think) will be very happy!

Very interesting article,great blog,Thanks

I think my D-80 is just fine, but I'd really like a camera just like it but with a full frame sensor up around 15 mp or so.

The online Photographer its great,thanks.

I find myself in a bit of a pickle and conumdrament. I certainly did not relish your metaphorical comparison of Nikon and Canon to mustard and catsup or ketchup. More appropriate by far would have been an icy comparison of these camera brands to vanilla or chocolate as being the cream of the crop. Perhaps even black and white could have been used as a comparison by an author making use of her gray matter.

Certainly this should serve to give you food for thought if your brain not dessert you.

When I saw the Nikon announcement of the D3 and the D300 I was attracted to the latter, particularly because, among other things, of LiveView: having used the Ricoh GR-D for a year I like shooting by framing with the LCD because it leads me to a "looser," more fluid shooting style. Contradictorily, I also like the D300's announced 100% viewfinder. I was interested in using a couple of my old Nikkor lenses manually on the D300.

Consequently, a fortnight ago, when I was in Tokyo — a city where there are still large camera stores with knowledgeable sales staff — I went to Yodoshi to look at the D200, which has virtually the same size and share as the forthcoming D300. I thought that I could handle the weight because it's only 50-80 grams heavier than the M6 that I used to shoot with before I got the GR-D. But what I found is that the right-hand grip of the D200 is huge: even though I have long hands I found the grip uncomfortable — what do people with small hands do with these cameras?

Looks like I'll continue using small-sensor cameras: while at Yodobashi Camera I found that the new Ricoh GX100 was on sale until August 31 for about $100 off, and bought one. It's a brilliant camera, with a "stepped" zoom lens, which allows you to step from 24 to 28, 35, 50 and 72mm EFOV by using a rocker switch; and the cameras starts up with whatever focal length you last used.

The reason I've been using small-sensor cameras, in addition to their small size,is that they can "draw" in a way similar to 35mm films like Tri-X and HP5 — and I like the 35mm aesthetic — rather than the large sensor cameras, like the Canon 5D and the Leica M8, which draw more like medium-format scanned film. And the huge depth of field of small sensor cameras is good for street photography, as in my series of 18 pictures from Tokyo below — the Tsukiji fish market pictures were taken with the GR-D and the rest with the new GX100:



Bravo! A nice breath of fresh air on the pixel & camera features race.


I'm with you on both of your requests. I too would love a D3-light and I see why Nikon will have to produce a higher pixeled (is this a word?) one.

The question is though, for how will I be able to restrain myself from buying a D3 if the picture quality proves to be anything like the posted samples?

Yes. I would buy one tomorrow.
A D3 the size of an F3 or evem the D300.

With weathersealing, please.
(are you listening Nikon?)

I'm thinking they'll go a while before they cannibalize their sales with an "FX lite." Doubtless a megapixel monster version is on the way, but that's a tiny niche market, even compared to the market for a D3, which is itself a niche. 35mm is never going to be optimal format for those who crave resolution above all else.

Mike, you hit the nail on the head. For me this is all specualtive since I can't afford any new camera - but I'd really love a full frame camera that's no bigger or heavier than Canon's 5D (but has a built in flash).

Interesting thought experiment: I'm considering selling my KM 7D to buy the new Alpha 700, but I notice that the Canon 40D is actually $100 cheaper. So I thought, what if I sold all my Minolta gear (7D, flash, 11-18, 24-105 and 100-300) and started from scratch?

Well, Sony no longer offer a mid range long zoom - it's either >$1000 or the cheapo $200 lens. Take that out of the equation and buying a 40D, flash, 10-22, and 28-105 IS) is actually a few bucks cheaper than the Sony equivalent. Of course, I'd lose the Sony Anti-Shake which I really like but I'd no longer suffer Canon envy (the D300 is $500 more, so out of the question).

But it's hard to imagine that I wuldn't have more than enough image quality and features in the A700. After all I'm not shooting for Sports Illustrated - just for myself. Sure I want to feel like a pro - but really do I need any of this stuff? When I bought the Dimage A1 I thought it would be all the camera I'd ever need. Then I had to have the 7D (and 3 lenses). Now I covet the high ISO, low-noise, DRO of the A700 and even more the professional cachet of the Canon or Nikon badge. Oh, and also a Canon G9 as an always with me, walking around camera. It's getting harder and harder to explain these "needs" to my long-suffering wife!...

"Let's just say they each take turns playing ketchup."

Oh, that's a clever one, Mike! :-)

Great post, as always. I always enjoy your writing, even when I don't agree with you -- and that rarely enough.

Weeeeeeee! This kind of stuff is you at your best Mike. Well for me anyway, and that does not mean your other writing isn't great. It's just that when you talk about new cameras you write like a human being that likes to take pictures with cameras you like. What a contrary style to most of the (....) I unfortunately spend time reading.

The world, and certainly the web could use more of you.

PS I won't be guying a NIkon D3 any time soon or maybe ever but the high ISO capabilities it posseses is unreal. I hope the new Olympus is even half that good. That and the fact that it will be less than half the price.

The future looks bright for everyone taking digital snaps.

Uh, D300X or maybe the D400 for a small FX?

Mitch (in Bangkok),

Loved your Ricoh shots of Tokyo. Reminds me of a story I read about ballerinas. One ballerina described the hours of practice and the intense foot pain that followed. "But it's a good pain," she added.

Yeah, the Ricoh's are noisy. But it's a good noise.

I used to be a megapixel freak, and high resolution is a big plus, but the reality is that 12 megapixels of "resolution" is *plenty* for all sorts of things.

Yes, I'd like a 20 megapixel D3x, but the *quality* of those pixels is just not going to be as good as a 12 megapixel camera, at least not for several years. Having used the D1, D1X, D70, D2X, D2H, D200, EOS 1Ds Mark II, 5D, 1D Mark III, I'm convinced that what matters most is pixel *quality*. That means dynamic range, color accuracy, noise, bit depth (14-bit is a huge improvement over 12-bit), etc. The 14-bit Canon EOS 1D Mark III produces the most pleasing printed images I've yet seen and it's "only" 10.1 megapixels.

So be careful what you wish for. I suspect that by most subjective judgments the 12 megapixel D3 will look as good or better than Canon's 21 megapixel EOS 1Ds Mark III, and that the added resolution (which requires technical excellence to exploit) will have little bearing on print quality at sizes up to 24 X 16. Big pixels matter, and the D3 has pixels as large or larger than many medium format digital backs (see my reviews at diglloyd.com).

All of this is dependent on quality execution (design and manufacturing), but assuming Nikon has "nailed it", the D3 is likely to produce stunning results that won't make apologies for anything.

The Ricoh's used by Mitch (above) are "pricy" as pocket cams. But many of us would use a high percentage of the thoughtful features they provide during most shooting forays.

Using this "fuzzy math" (perhaps "grainy math" is more appropriate), many or most of us would find our photography better served by packing a Ricoh and investing the money saved elsewhere, in something solid. Like real estate. Or the stock market. (Humor alert, previous two sentences only.)

Very well, as always. For my carry-around camera, I could perhaps shoot an F6 but never an F5 - a D300 but never a D3. The weight and bulk would just be too much. I recently saw a picture of a sports photographer, forehead dripping with sweat, wearing three Canon 1D cameras at the same time, all three with serious glass mounted - my neck and shoulders immediately tensed up. I'm interested to see how well the D300 does in real-life tests with high-ISO pictures. I'd be happy to lose resolution (6MP is fine) to gain low-light, high-ISO detail and dynamic range.

Finally, an honest article about new camera lust. I wish I was as good at visualization as you are! Unfortunately, I am not so my D300 remains on order. As an aside, that 6400 shot is amazing. I hope the 300 will be as good.

About the frame speed of the new Nikons and Canons. It has occurred to me that they might be too fast -- that it might be useful for something (wildlife? dance? political coverage) if you could set the frame rate to x many photos over x number of seconds, instead of just ripping away. If you could do that, you'd avoid filling the buffer so quickly, and could shoot, even at a moderately high rate of speed, for longer. Do the new cameras allow you to set a frame-rate speed, or are they just super-fast or nothing? I'd like to say that if they don't do it, I couldn't possibly work with them, but that wouldn't be true...

On another forum, somebody said that if you simply projected the pixel size of the D2x to a FF sensor, you'd come up with something like 27mp. So a 21mp FF Nikon might have very good pixels indeed -- notably bigger and better than the D2x, which is really pretty good. Since I'm one of the people who likes to take a photo only when I push the button, and never more than one at a time, I'd be a candidate for a 21mp Nikon...I'd like a great ISO 100-200, an excellent 400-800, a good 1200 and after that I'm home in bed, asleep.


The D3 is as PJ camera, pure and simple. Nikon however, missed the boat in three major areas. First, it should be styled as is the F6, with a removable drive assembly. Second, it's criminal there's no "dust buster," come on, it's a PJ camera! Number three, PRIMES, why the hell did Nikon dump the 28/1.4. They need a line of fast (shorter) primes to go with it!

I'd love to buy back into the Nikon system but the Canon 5d's already doing the 12mp, high ISO "dusty sensor" mambo very well. Canon have that sweet glass too (85/1.2 & 35/1.4), this thing just begs for those two!


I predict Canon will come out with a medium format DSLR system within 2-4 years. The EOS system is great, but for the past couple of years, the 35mm format has been straining the laws of physics. You can cram more than 20 megapixels onto a 36x24mm area, but two things happen: noise increases and lenses can't keep up. You can fight the noise problem, but there are more serious limits to 35mm SLR lens design.

It'll take a few years for Canon to bite the bullet, but eventually they will be forced to make larger sensors. They'll reach a hard limit for megapixels in 35mm format (25? 30?). Perhaps more importantly, the price for MF digital will continue to fall, and companies like Hasselblad and Mamiya will be poaching even more of Canon's pro users than they are now. Canon will have no choice if they want to keep them.

It's starting already: $10k buys you either a Mamiya 645ZD with one lens, or a Canon 1Ds-MkIII with one or (maybe) two lenses. If I was pro, with $10k to blow, I'd be running not walking away from Canon right now. But give it a couple years, and I'd be absolutely shocked if Canon didn't have a MF DSLR for $5k or even less (they'll have to be agressive to catch up), along with a brand new set of really beautiful lenses.

When all this goes down, Nikon will be playing catch-up. Canon has the facilities to play around with new sensors, but Nikon is just barely getting started with sensors.

If, against all odds, Canon DOESN'T intro a MF DSLR, they'll lose the vast majority of the pros they worked so hard to get. It'll be like the 1980s again -- 35mm Canon and Nikon for consumers and PJs, Medium Format for studio, fine art and advanced amateurs.

I have no inside info, but anyone can see where this is all going...

I'm glad someone mentioned the weight issue. I looked at the D2X before I settled on the D200; not only saving money, but saving my arthritis-prone hands from having to wield the extra weight.
Also, although I still have all my full-frame optics, I doubt that they would stand up and be counted next to the more recent introductions.
I'm more than happy with the quality of the D200 - and indeed the D80 that I also use (even lighter!), but may well move to the D300 for the CMOS chip and the 'self-cleaning sensor' if nothing else.

''Yes, put the D3 sensor in an FM3A body and I (and Mike, I think) will be very happy!''
One more vote for daydreaming ...

I hope Canon and Nikon (mostly Canon) come to their senses and get out of the megasquiggle measuring contest.

Honestly, how many people really need a 22MP or even higher resolution camera?

How many people make prints the size of movie posters or even larger?

People shoot like crazy with digital. How many people have a 20 terabyte disk server in the basement to store all of the data? Who's got enough time and money to back that amount of data up?

I hope everyone comes to their senses and once we hit 22 or 25MP (the theoretical resolution limit of the 135 format), call it a day.

I hope that long before that they concentrate on more useful things.

Like expanding dynamic range to a solid 12-14 stops of useable information.

True color chips that no longer use a Bayer pattern to fake color.

16bit or even 36bit color.

Making a high-performance Pro DSLR that isn't the size of a Speed Graphic.

Maybe for a change Canon can design a prime lens that isn't the size of a coffee can. Maybe Nikon can update their primes. It's been about 20 years or longer.

When will Leica make a digital M that doesn't cost as much as a small car and has reasonably accurate framelines?

Why do I even care about any of this? I'm still shooting Tri-X in a 50 year old camera...


Reading the comments above I started thinking why I've still kept all my Leica-M lenses, although I'm about to sell my Noctilux and Summilux-75. I've heard a rumour that there soon will be a Zeiss M-mount digital camera that might interest me, for having recently held the Leica M-8 in the Tokyo Leica Salon in Ginza, which must be the most elegant Leica sales and service point in the world, I didn't like its gestalt, and had the same reaction as Mike had in an article here some time ago.

But if I get a Zeiss M-mount camera, what will I do then? Work hard in LightZone and Photoshop to destroy the fine image quality of the larger sensor to get the kind of grainy 35mm film look that I'm now getting from my small-sensor Ricoh cameras?

Perhaps I won't always want to remain a gritmeister producing grainy, Tri-X-like prints—that's pushed, contrasty Tri-X, mind you, not the slow, long midtone stuff. Or maybe I'll like the new, rumoured Ricoh GR-D2 so much that I'll finally sell all my Leica lenses.

And, yeah, I still have my two Leica M6 bodies with which I have not shot a frame for 14 months. Actually, I've decided to sell the silver one but can't get myself to think about selling the black one mainly because of a romantic idea that I'll one day go on a 2-3 week trek in New Guinea...


But Mike, even if it hits the market, you wouldn't like it because:
a) it will be still be large.
b) it will not have in-body IS.
So, save time and go buy the Pentax you're wishing, with the pancakes and all.

Mike I agree with your comments, what is needed is a D3 lite. A smaller D3 with less speed and features but excellent high ISO image quality. Something like a D300 but full-frame and 12M pixels which is plenty.

Regards ........... Aubrey

I hope that Nikon offers the simpler camera you describe before too long. In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my Ricoh GRD. Keep up the good work!

Amazing performance in those sample images. I can't wait to see what happens when it gets into the hands of real photographers.

I don´t understand why you, in your age, with all your experience in life, literature, art, politics, etc.. waste your time, and the time of your readers, with this kind of gear head speculations. When the Canon 5D was released, a couple of years ago, you had certain high profile opinions about a certain "magic bullet" (remember that?), and now you ask Nikon to produce the same kind of bullet, a kind of Nikon 5D, whatever they may call it--- as an answer to Canons magic bullet or...?
Hello Goodbye?
I did not understand, at that time, why you used the Canon 5D (of all the cameras available at that time) as an example, addressed to all those who thought that a certain camera (Full Frame etc,) would take the great pictures they dreamt of, and not the person behind that camera.
And I don´t understand, don`t even want to understand, why you now ask Nikon to make the same camera you branded as "the magic bullet" when Canon made it.
You are among those very few writers who are able to present really interesting perspectives on photography and art, and the world connected to photography. And now you continue to write trivia about Nikon versus Canon and the industry etc etc? This is not different from the rest of the w.w.w bla bla distributed whenever a new camera is announced.

Ok, it´s your blog, anyway. But you could really come up with something better than this.

Heck. One only lives once. And like I heard recently, "There are no pockets in shrouds." I don't need a D3 but I can afford one. I pre-ordered today ... along with a 24-70 lens. Yeah, I will bitch about the weight. But then that's why God made cars and motorcycles. Walking is fine for short hops. Will I use 8 frames per second? Don't know but I plan to have fun finding out.

Mike, the D3 is more camera than you need, in your mind. You might not feel that way if you actually had one and started using it. It might even inspire you to try different types of shooting. Heck, you can still take one picture at-a-time, but you'd have the bases covered if you ever got the urge to branch-out and try something different.

As an aside, I've never understood why you're not a Nikon guy. It seems like a good fit to me, in my mind. Oh yeah, the lenses, and no in-camera VR. Phooey!


Just sold MkIIN and went to D3 queue. i still have my wife's 400D and all glass to get pictures while waiting new Nikon.

In my opinion D3 is a perfect match of speed, sensor size and resolution. All other features come on top of that. It's a winner for sure!

Thanks for the laugh, Mike. I feel the same way.

The 3200/6400 iso samples look less grainy than my canon 5d samples. Kudos for Nikon for finally releasing a full-frame slr. I will stick with canon though since they are about 1 year ahead of nikon.

Posted by Scott Fleming:
"There are no pockets in shrouds."

I think I may have that new business idea I've been looking for.

Reading some of these postings it amazes that, while people were willing "to put up" with the large grain of fast B&W films like Tri-X, now everything has to have a medium-format look. I realise that most photographers shoot colour, but even high-speed grainy colour can look good. It looks like digital will put an end to the "35-mm aesthetic" that I like so much and everything will have a medium-format look, but does everyone really like the "exquisite" look?

For certain type of expressive photographs, like my Tokyo series mentioned above, the 35-mm aesthetic works better than this ezquisite look. Are we heading to a narrowing of aesthetic choices?


Personally I always liked the Daguerreotype look. I miss it. ;^)

Oh man, I want a D3 Lite that doesn't have all that stuff I don't need—and maybe it won't break as often. But what Nikon needs at least as much is some fast, killer prime lenses. How about updating that 35mm 1.4 that hasn't seen a major update optically since what? 1964? If Zeiss beats them to it, I'll buy it in a second!

i'm just delirious at the idea of being able to shoot ballet at those high ISO's and get that kind of smooth look...it might turn a job that's one of pure photoshop hell into one of pure unadulterated joy! Nikon? Bring it on! Great article, Mike, really enjoyed it..

I'm with you on the D3 lust, but there are downsides to the leading/bleeding edge, in this case, money and weight. Sounds like the D80 is more your/my speed. The lesson here is that leading edge tech does trickle down -- eventually -- to less ambitious, lighter, slower, and more moderately priced cameras. The D80 has most of the significant functionality (aside from speed) of the D200, which had most of the functionality of the D2s, but each stage of the trickle down process was punctuated by some years or months of waiting. So for those of us who can't wait and who want the latest and greatest now, there it is in the D3, at a price.

But the other angle here is not just which camera to buy, it's which manufacturer or system to go with. Right now I'm with Canon, but I'm not too deeply committed yet -- just one camera and one lens. But I've got to look at new and promised products and ask myself, which system will best serve my needs in the long run? And that's why these new Nikon products are particularly significant, because they're showing real signs of technological leadership, and that's what it's all about.

Now, does that mean I'm going to buy a D80 instead of a discounted 30d as my next camera purchase? Well, if the future is FX, maybe there's not a lot of point in spending more money on DX bodies or lenses. Maybe the D3 is a better buy than it looks, because it sure won't be obsolete anytime soon.

For me ...'latest and greatest' has nothing to do with it. Absolutely nada. I've dabbled in digital for five years. Dabbled because there was no way I was gong to spend $8k on a camera that would be outdated in a couple years. I made do with a 10D and a couple of digicams and mostly shot 4 x 5 for my sales. For the last year I have done almost nothing photographically. Just got tired of reading and waiting. The time off was very valuable.

Coming back in my timing turns out to be fortuitous. I sold all my cams but for the 4x5 and now I think I'll sell it (Toyo VX 125). I'm going whole-hog-digital and the D3 is the camera to do it with. 12m big fat megapixels is enough. I'm risking that the engine is everything its cracked up to be but I don't think it is a very big risk. I think were in one of those periods in which Hertz trying harder has got them out in front.

It's still way too much money for a camera but I've waited long enough. I think I'll be fine with the D3 for at least three years.

We'll see about the image quality from Nikon since I really bored to do postprocessing with current model of Nikon D-SLR.

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