Nikon DSLR and other non-mirrorless High-End Gear
This page documents products that were long-rumored or leaked with enough detail that the announcement actually comes as a bit anticlimactic. (For mirrorless camera true rumors, see sansmirror.com)
Page last updated 9/24/12 at 10am EST (latest items on top):
- Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4, 35mm f/1.4, and 120-300mm f/2.8 updates. All are HSM lenses, the two zooms have optical stabilization. Up first is the DX 17-70mm, which has a 1:2.9 macro ability in addition to its other attributes. 16 elements in 14 groups, 7 circular aperture blades, 72mm filters, 470g weight. The 35mm f/1.4 is an FX lens with 13 elements in 11 groups, 9 circular aperture blades, 67mm filters, and should be priced significantly lower than Nikon's 35mm f/1.4. It's a handful of a lens, though, so don't expect petite. It may not seem that the 120-300mm needed any updating, but Sigma worked to lower the price with this new version; 23 elements in 18 groups, 9 circular aperture blades, 105mm filters. More unusually, Sigma apparently thinks they need some different marketing directions with lenses, and broke out new categorizations: art, contemporary, and sports. As it turns out these three new lenses are one each from each category (35mm = art, 17-70mm = contemporary, and 120-300mm = sports). Not sure what wildlife shooters will use, or that landscape and portrait shooters will immediately identify themselves as art users. It seems a little too arbitrary and reeks a bit of what Nikon did with the Coolpix lineup (L=lifestyle, S=style, P=professional). As usual, Sigma's USA site seems oblivious to all the new information presented at Photokina. Thus, if you want more info on this lens lineup rethink, see Sigma Japan's English site. One other point I managed to miss at the announcement: they actually leaked the 300mm f/2.8 OS lens. It was on a chart they presented at the conference, but things were moving fast enough that many of us missed it the first time around. But this, too, would also be a True Rumor: Sigma will roll OS through their long lens line, and needed to do that sooner rather than later. The leak indicates it's happening slowly (no 500mm f/4 OS yet).
- Leica S2--One nice thing to see is that Leica seems to be getting all its ducks in a row from bottom to top. They continue their rebranding relationship with Panasonic at the low end, have completely refreshed the M lineup, and put a lot of love into the S system, too. The details here are a little sketchier, as they just talk about refreshing the sensor, whatever that means. It's still a CCD. The real news, I think, is the lens lineup expansion. We're now up to eight lenses for the system: 24mm f/3.5, 30mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2.5, 70mm f/2.5, 120mm f/2.5, 120mm f/5.6 tilt-shift, 180mm f/3.5, and the 30-90mm f/3.5-5.6. The additional lenses are starting to make this a realistic system, and take you from 19mm equivalent (24mm) to 142mm equivalent (180mm). For a studio camera, that's a good working set, especially with the addition of the tilt/shift lens. As you might expect from a large sensor camera, the lenses do get a little on the big side, but this was the first time I've had any extensive time handling the S, and it's really not a lot different than using the big DSLRs (e.g. D4) with big glass. What strikes me is that Leica is paying attention to details, and details that photographers will appreciate. Coupled with the M changes, Leica has got their mojo back, and I wish them a lot of success with their new products.
- Canon 6D--It's raining FX cameras. Canon's going a slightly different route than Nikon, with their version of the entry full frame camera a bit more internally techno (built in WiFi and GPS) and a bit less pixels and focus sensor. At only 20.3mp and with only 11 AF sensors, some Nikon fans will be lording it over their under-numbered Canon friends, but I'm not sure that makes a heck of a lot of difference when all is said and done. Like the D600, the 6D (do these companies collude on numbers as well as similar product launches?) is a pretty decent looking full frame entry camera. It's a new sensor, so we don't yet know what performance to expect. Frankly, Canon's building in the WiFi and GPS makes a lot of sense to me. Here's the thing: the price rumors on the 6D were consistently around the US$2300-2400 mark right up until the D600 was announced at US$2100. Guess what the price of the 6D will be? Yep, US$2100. This isn't the first time this has happened. Back in the D100 days there was a near simultaneously Photokina launch where once one vendor saw the other's price, prices changed. In fact, it was a three-way pricing love fest with Fujifilm as the the trois. Here's the thing, though, when you get competitive companies pricing the same like this, it's actually a sign of weakness. They believe that price is the first and foremost factor the user decides upon, and then the user looks at the other factors. Canon will say "built-in WiFi and GPS the D600 doesn't have," and Nikon will say "more pixels, a better autofocus system, better video capability, 100% viewfinder, faster frame rate, etc." This also tells you that the two companies are more worried about new DSLR users than existing ones. A US$100 to US$300 price differential isn't going to make anyone switch mounts to get one camera over the other. But that big a price differential might make new-to-DSLR users pick one camera over the other. That's how nuanced the marketing decisions are these days, and that tells you a lot about how worried the Big Two are about where they're going to get their next DSLR user from. Oh, one more thing: the D600 is available this week, the Canon 6D won't be available until December. So Canon is playing a "me too" game here, only they're not quite to the reality of a product yet.
- Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility--the iOS version of this program, which is needed to communicate with the D3200 (via WU-1a) and D600 (via WU-1b) is now available free at the App Store. The Android version has been available for awhile, but has been updated for the D600. Features: camera clock syncronization with mobile device, downloads from camera to mobile device, preview of camera image (Live View) on mobile device, and basic remote control of the camera (e.g. shutter release from the mobile device). What WMAU (what a name, way to go Nikon) doesn't do: match up mobile device GPS, make camera settings, record videos (it can download them, though), or automatically link to sharing sites. The iOS version works on iPhone 4 and later, iPod Touch 3 and later, and all iPads running iOS 5.1 or later (though we're about to have iOS 6 and the usual Nikon support delay, I think; this delay in supporting new OS versions is going to hurt Nikon if they really are going to do mobile apps). The Android version works on 2.x, 3.x, and 4.x devices.
- Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro and 70-200mm f/2.8--Tamron adds their vibration control system to key redesigned lenses, as expected. Unfortunately, no details about pricing or ship dates yet, so these are really pre-announcements confirming rumors. One thing I note about the macro is that it has not only grown in size, but it also has lost its recessed front element, which acted a bit like a free lens hood. It does gain more choices on focus range control, though. Specs on the 70-200mm: 77mm filters, 1.3m focus, 52 ounces (1470g). Specs on the 90mm macro: 58mm filters, 5.5" (139mm) working distance at 1:1, 19.4 ounces (550g). Both have 9-blade rounded aperture diaphragms, and both use internal focus motors that'll work with all Nikon DSLRs. While the Tamron VC system works quite well in my experience, the thing I'll be looking at closely on these lenses is the focus speed. I'll have more to say when I get to handle the lenses.
- Nikon D600. I've put expanded remarks on the front page of the site. (Note to Nikon: whoever is doing your press images is putting in a color cast and the wrong contrast curve ;~).
- Sony A99--Sony returns to full frame with a very different approach. Four years ago we got the very staid A900 (and eventually the slightly de-featured A850). These two cameras seemed a bit like relics from the film past that happened to get digital sensors. There was little of Sony's progressive technology push in them; they were conventional looking, conventionally configured, and very old Minolta pro-like.
The A99 basically takes the Sony crop sensor thrust of late and delivers what Sony hopes will be a well-received modern take on DSLRs: no flipping mirror (fixed pellicle mirror instead), a 2.4m dot EVF instead of an optical finder, 6 fps, sensor-stabilized, feature packed camera in a rounded, non-traditional body. Technology is the seller for this camera, and it's got tons of it, including focus options (and hopefully performance) you haven't seen before. And yes, the LCD flips out, too. Just trying to get through all the features in this US$2800 camera would take me most of Photokina to document. This is Sony's flagship (for the time being).
I'm a little surprised we don't see WiFi and Picture Memories apps built in, though. If you're going to try to get users off the traditional Canon/Nikon DSLR approaches, you need to throw in everything you've got, and leave no option uncovered. Plus you need to crank up the lens options, as well. I can't help feeling that, no matter how good the A99 is, it hasn't moved the bar far enough from conventional DSLRs to win significant share from Canon and Nikon.
Nikon is about to bracket the A99: you can get a conventional Nikon D600 with the same sensor for less money, or you can up the sensor to 36mp for a bit more money than the A99. That puts enormous pressure on the technology bits to win the day, and I'm not sure they will. Canon will likely bracket Sony, as well, as they can't afford to let Nikon occupy the low price point for FX alone.
For me, the A99 announcement was indeed anticlimatictic. The 24mp sensor was a given. The pellicle mirror and continuous autofocus was a given. The video specs were a given. The OLED XGA EVF was a given. What else did we get? Indeed, what did we get that we didn't in the A77? Not much, and the GPS got left out. So for US$1500 more, you get a full frame sensor and uncompressed HDMI out. Ouch. That puts all the pressure on how well the full frame sensor performs versus the crop sensor. Given how good the crop sensors are these days, that's a lot of pressure.
Bottom line: nice camera, nice features, but it's not disruptive enough to have more success than the A850/A900 did, I think.
- Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZA SSM--This Alpha mount autofocus lens has been rumored for some time. The sad thing is that it is still not much more than a confirmed rumor: "scheduled for release in Spring 2013." Meanwhile, we're still stuck with manual focus Zeiss lenses in the F-mount, so we can only drool.