И.Ч.С.Х.> В наш продмаг завезли D600. Однако, впечатлился, да. Такой видоискатель - хочется, не скрою. Разориться, что ли?На тебе ещё соли для моих ран [показать]
Now That the Shock Has Worn Off
Oct 23, 2012 (commentary)--Yesterday I wrote that I'm FX and m4/3 these days, and I put strikethrough on my DX Kit (right column, bottom) to emphasize that. Some people are reading this incorrectly and believing that I am saying DX is doomed and people should avoid it.
The article was titled "Where I Stand" not "Where Everyone Stands." Just to be clear (again), DX is not dead. But one point that became clear in preparing for this month and starting to craft the articles and points I wanted to make was this: Nikon has hurt themselves by not filling out the DX line. Some of us are finding that DX doesn't do what we're looking for. The good news for Nikon is that some of those find what they want in FX, which brings them more dollars. The bad news is that others find what they want in mirrorless or another system, which brings them less dollars. As I termed it earlier this month: that latter group is "leakage," and if you're trying to be #1 in the market, you don't want leakage.
I have one advantage Nikon doesn't: I can write about "optimal strategy" versus "practical strategy." Short of some management changes and personnel/resource shuffling, Nikon is going to continue to do what it's been doing. Since DX has proven to be succesful and growing for them, the current management and organization just points to that and says "we should just continue to do what we're doing." That's "practical strategy."
Great organizations don't just sit on their accomplishments (something I personally need to take heart, because great individuals don't, either; but that's another story for another day, and we'll get there, too). They mold, tweak, and optimize. What I see in Nikon is the same thing I saw in a lot of "successful" personal computer companies in the early 90's: the bean counters are more in charge than the idealists. What I fear is that Nikon will eventually meet similar fates to those "successful" companies if they don't fix their many product gaps, their quality control, and customer issues.
But that, too, is something for another article.
Today I want to talk about you. DX is indeed the right system for some of you. You may remember earlier in the month when I wrote that DX was a "value system." It's not the highest end, it's not the lowest end. DX lives in a place that most people can afford, and it has very good bang for the buck. Performance that's "good enough" for the majority of photographers. Price that's "affordable" for the majority of photographers. At the low end, more orientation on price than features, at the high end more features and better performance.
A third group of people exist besides those that are moving to FX and those who are leaving Nikon: those that are sticking with DX.
In terms of image quality, DX very nicely matches the largest prints you can get out of a desktop inkjet printer (even at ISO 1600 or 3200). Even on a 30" display images need to be scaled down to be seen in total. Realistically, how many of you need more than that?
DX also gives better continuous shooting performance than m4/3, which many of you need. It offers an optical viewfinder, which is still better than the best EVF, in my opinion, though the gap is narrowing. At the long end, there are many more lens options (because of the FX lenses).
So there are three choices: stay DX, go FX, or leave Nikon.
You have to make the right decision for you, not just take my decision and apply it to you. Remember, I have FX gear to bring home the bacon when the m4/3 gear doesn't cut it. Many of you can't afford to have multiple systems, which is why you and others keep coming back to DX: it's the value proposition, and it's why you stay DX.
Not as much "value" as it would be with a full set of lenses, but nevertheless, still practical enough. The DX kit that I struck through over there on the right is a very competent kit. Supplement it with a couple of the right primes for your needs and it's capable of some remarkable imagery. And look at what the price of that kit would be: US$4400, and you could chop US$1300 off of that by substituting the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 OS for the expensive FX Nikkor at the telephoto end, so US$3100 for a full three-lens kit that performs quite well. (Nikon also has another option for you to be announced later tonight, the 70-200mm f/4G AF-S ED VR, but it's more expensive than the Sigma.)
But notice what happened with this kit. We used a Nikon body and no Nikon lenses. Doesn't Nikon think that's a problem? Apparently not, as I see no signs that they intend to fix the DX lens lineup any time soon.
That's why I keep coming back to the "incomplete" label for DX, and why I personally ultimately got hampered by it and had to go another way.
The good news is that Nikon will almost certainly continue iterating the bodies. As much as the updates are late, they are inevitable. We're talking about millions of Nikon's key sales units; there's no way Nikon is going to give up that volume, and there's nothing they can replace it with in the short term. Even in Japan the D3200 tends to outsell all mirrorless cameras, so there's no need to stop making DX DSLR bodies in the foreseeable future. The priorities in terms of boost to Nikon's current sales go: #1 D5200, #2 D400, #3 D7200, though we may see them in a different order. It's easiest to iterate in this order: D5200, D7200, D400, due to the sensor output needs the D400 will enforce (8 fps at 24mp is a lot of data moving through the system).
So why is Nikon iterating FX lenses but not DX? One possibility is this: Nikon sells 1.5x lenses for every body. Let's consider one of the hypothetical folk reading this site: they bought a D70 (which came with an 18-70mm kit lens). A few years later they upgraded to a D90 (which came with an 18-105mm VR lens). Their third lens? Likely a 70-300mm. I'm going to round up here (this site's readers are slightly more invested in lenses than the average), so I'm also going to give this person a 35mm f/1.8G (and they sold the 18-70mm). Three lens DX kit with one FX lens.
Now you're starting to see the sneaky part of Nikon's thinking. That user is currently thinking about another body upgrade. There haven't been two generations of DX bodies yet at their level, so the D7000 doesn't look all that intriguing compared to the D90, but the D600 does. This user already has one FX lens, so they buy the D600 with the 24-85mm VR and they're down to a two-lens kit (and they've bought 5 lenses and 3 bodies, just a bit more than the average; I told you we were going to round up).
Thus, Nikon themselves is encouraging the migration up to FX. Okay, I have no problem with that. But what about the other two groups? You know, the one that's sticking with DX and the one that's leaving Nikon entirely? What's Nikon's plan for those people?
Well, the "sticking with DX" group will get another round of bodies, as I've already noted. They'll get another mid-range zoom option that's a little better than the previous generation. And they'll get a weak wide angle prime. Doesn't seem like enough, does it?
The "leaving Nikon" group gets a few things too: the ability to complain about customer service, a perceived lowering of quality control, and the Nikon 1 to laugh at as they pick something other than the 90-pound weakling in mirrorless.
Where I Stand
Oct 22, 2012 (commentary)--As one of the first pros shooting Nikon digital, I was obviously all DX in the beginning. The question is this: where do I stand today?
Before answering that, let me restate what kind of photography I perform: I'm primarily a nature photographer. That means landscapes, macro work, and wildlife. I sometimes still do sports and event photography, but not nearly as much of that as nature.
So let's break it out.
Landscapes: With no usable PC-E and only zooms to give me wide angle coverage, I have little choice in DX, lots of it in FX. For that reason, FX is my choice here. But of course, 36mp versus 16mp is another factor.
Macro: Both DX and FX have lots of choices, though at the long end Nikon has never given us outdoor macro shooters quite what we wanted for a long time (no updated 200mm, no 70-180mm replacement).
Wildlife: It used to be that DX had 1.5x more reach potential (pixel density) than FX. With the D800 that is no longer true. While some stick to the 8 fps of the D300, I've never been a fast frame rate shooter, so there's been no reason for me to stick with the D300.
Sports: Low-light and high speed (little mirror blackout, etc.) are the name of the game here. The D300s doesn't do both well, nor does the rest of the DX lineup. It's the D4 for me here.
Events: Low-light and flexibility are what I seek. Hard to beat the f/2.8 lens and f/1.4 lens trilogies on FX.
I think you know where I'm going here. FX began changing the game for me (and many other pros) with the D3 in 2007, and I was using a D3s/D3x combo for most of my work starting in 2009. Here in 2012 the lineup is even more compelling to just go FX. Which, for my most serious work, is exactly where I'm at. At the moment, my D800E replaces my D7000 for wildlife work, plus it does the landscape and macro chores just fine. The D4 fills in the sports and events needs, and supplements the D800E on other things.
Of course, big FX DSLRs and lenses add up fast in size and weight. There's no way I want to carry 30 pounds of gear on a 12-mile hike now that I'm over 60 years of age. Excess weight reduces my performance and recovery. So the question I've had to answer is: what's my small/light kit? Since 2010 I've been experimenting with the D7000 and m4/3 for that. With the appearance of the OM-D and lots of interesting m4/3 lenses, I'd have to say that the scale has tipped strongly away from DX. Indeed, when I look at the NEX, NX, and XF (Fujifilm) offerings in mirrorless, I see that I have lots of more and more interesting choices for a solid small/light kit. Just as this is DX week, I'm in the midst of a two-week field testing phase on mirrorless that will produce a great deal of reviews on my mirrorless site, sansmirror.com, in the near future.
So if I go m4/3 (or NEX, NX, or XF), what do I lose? Lots of weight and size, even over DX. I lose good continuous autofocus, which has some impact on wildlife and sports, maybe on event photography (not really true with my style of event photography). I lose some macro flexibility, at least at the moment. I might lose almost a stop of high ISO capability with m4/3 (none with NEX, NX, or XF).
What do I gain? With m4/3 (and increasingly with NEX) a lot of interesting, small, highly competent lenses, for one. Many exactly what I want (still no tilt/shift, though ;~). A kit that I can easily carry on the longest hikes in the toughest terrain that I can contemplate. Strangely, more precise focus, obtained more easily (though not always as fast as my DSLRs). Real-time histograms, in the viewfinder, plus lots of other small things.
So consider the following kits:
m4/3: OM-D bodies, 7-14mm, 12mm, 12-50mm, 45mm, 100-300mm lenses.
DX: D7000 bodies, 10-24mm, no 24mm equivalent, 16-85mm, 85mm, 70-300mm lenses.
FX: D4/D800E bodies, 14-24mm, 24mm f/1.4, 24-120mm, 85mm f/1.4, 200-400mm lenses.
The FX kit clearly delivers a lot, but at a big price, and at a very large size and weight. The question is whether going all the way down to the m4/3 kit loses me much over the DX option. As I write this today: no. If anything, the DX lens choices hamper me. While the D7000 body delivers perhaps a stop difference in image quality (DxOmark says more like two-thirds of a stop), my lens choices sometimes grab that back. On DX the best I can shoot at 24mm equivalent is f/2.8 (and with the Tokina 11-16mm); on m4/3 at f/2, for example.
This is one of the reasons why so much about DX Month has been about (the lack of) lens choices. Nikon (and Canon, too, with their APS line) has not defended their territory well. Even with the third-party lenses added in, we still don't really get the gaps filled in well. For lots of good lens choice, I can go to FX or m4/3. Which is exactly what I've done.
The casual or entry DSLR user hasn't noticed. The D3200 sells because of the appearance of features (24mp!) at a good price point. m4/3 doesn't match that. Heck, at US$650 (the D3200+kit lens price at the moment), the best I can do in m4/3 at the moment is probably the GX1 with lens, so we're talking 16mp versus 24mp, DSLR versus compact style, better known name brand versus lesser (sorry Panasonic users, but that's how it rolls in cameras at the moment), strong US presence versus almost none, and so on. So of course the D3200 continues to sell well here. To the casual purchaser, it looks like the better bargain.
Serious users look deeper, though. And that's where Nikon's DX comes up wanting. Compare the OM-D versus the D7000 and the things change. Same US$1000 body price, both 16mp, both DSLR style, but one has more lens choice and is smaller/lighter, the other has to dip into FX lenses to contemplate a complete system and is bigger/heavier. And again, less than a stop difference. That starts to be one trade-off (stop difference) against another (lens choice + small size/weight).
All of which brings us to a natural segue: what's next for DX?
The Likely DX Future
Oct 22, 2012 (commentary)--If we go solely by known information, we can come up with the likely Nikon DX future. What do I mean by "known information"? Well, there are two primary sources we can extrapolate from.
First, there's history. Nikon has been incrementing the low-end consumer DX body on (mostly) one-year intervals, the next higher body on 18-month intervals, the next higher on two-year intervals, and the highest DX body still extant (no pro integrated vertical grip since the D2x; only the D300) on two to four year intervals, depending upon how you look at it.
Even adjusting for the quake and floods, that means that the D5100, D7000, and D300s are all due for updates soon. It's easy enough to see the D5100 update gets the D3200's sensor and an otherwise minor update. The question is what sensor goes in the D7000 and D300s replacements? The last time Nikon had all the consumer DX models on the same sensor was the D50/D70s/D100 era. We also had a 10/12mp lineup (though it was three different sensors) in the D60/D5000/D90/D300s era.
Is it possible that we'll get four 24mp DX DSLRs? Yes, it is. There are multiple logical reasons for that: parts consolidation, diffraction, and more. But there are also arguments against it: it makes the down sell more easily than the up sell ("you can get the same megapixel count at a lower price" versus "the higher priced model offers some additional features"). I suspect, therefore, that one of the reasons why the D400 seems so late to the game is that it will stretch some more at the sensor. If it's 24mp, the sensor will be faster at off-loading data (8 fps+). Or it may just be more than 24mp. Both things are pushing current state of the art (remember, the more pixels you want to off-load at 8 fps, the faster the rest of the internal bandwidth has to be: faster memory, faster ASIC, etc.).
The second piece of known information is patents. Rarely have we ever seen something out of Nikon where we haven't also seen patents pointing to it. The lack of DX lens patents is a bit disconcerting, as it predicts the future will be like the past. In terms of DX lens patents, we only have a few: 16-85mm f/4, 18mm f/2.8, and 24mm f/2 or f/2.8. That does little to fill the the holes in the DX lens lineup (though all would be welcome additions). But it also doesn't point to much attempt to build higher quality lenses that can cope well with more megapixels in resolution.
The other disturbing patent trend is that Nikon has begun patenting what looks like a DX mirrorless system (akin to Canon's EOS M from what we've seen so far). This is where things get really tricky. First, such a system needs yet another set of lenses (that would make four in CX, DX, DX M, and FX, and only FX could be said to be reasonably complete). Second, such a system essentially offers the same image quality (sensor) in a different package, which would tend to cannibalize DX itself. Now, I'm all for cannibalizing your own product before someone else does it, but I'm also for completing what you start.
So my first take on DX future is this: we'll continue to see DSLR body updates roll for this generation as most expect, but there's a strong chance that in the generations after that we will begin a transition to DX mirrorless (e.g. the D3200 replacement or the replacement to its replacement).
This makes Nikon's neglect of DX lenses even more reckless, in my opinion. On the one hand, you might argue from Nikon's view that "why invest in more DX lenses when we know we'll start transitioning away from that?" But that's Nikon's view. The user's view is different: you didn't provide a full DX lens set in 13 years, so why will DX mirrorless be any different? That last bit is really dangerous when you consider a key competitor (m4/3) is near filling out a full lineup of lenses.
The Nikon apologists will retort: but Nikon's smaller than the other companies and has fewer resources, so how could they fill out multiple product lines? Nonsense. That's the old Mythical Man Month argument in a different form. Resources do not equal capability. Lean, limber, efficient, focused, and smart more often than not beats out "more resources." I can't say that Nikon is any of those things at the moment in product management (they are efficient in manufacturing and smart in parts management, however).
So, to put it all together: within the next nine months we'll get D5200, D7200, and D400 DX bodies, the straight mostly-sensor upgrades to existing cameras. All will likely have wireless options ala the D3200, and the top two will as usual have vertical grip options. We will not get any additional DX bodies (the line will remain at four choices, from US$700 to US$1500). We should get an upscale replacement for the current 16-85mm soon, and we'll also likely get a moderate wide angle DX lens that's not particularly fast in aperture. I suspect that the kit lenses will get another iteration, as well, probably partly to drive costs out, but hopefully also to drive performance up to better match expectations out of 24mp sensors.
With that out of the way, we can next turn to whether that's enough to keep DX users happy and whether you stick with DX or not. Stay tuned.