Nikon Wish List
This article was originally written in early 2003. It's amazing how few things I had to modify when I decided to update it in 2007. As in almost none. Nikon did abandon D-TTL and give us a macro flash and a 200mm f/2. But the majority of my wish list remains intact.
I'd like to see from Nikon
Not that Nikon listens to me,
but if they did, here's what I'd tell them I want:
- Minimize the new batteries and chargers. I have collected what's becoming
a small museum's worth of Nikon gear. I can count six proprietary battery
types and as many AC chargers and adapters in my collection, and I have
this ugly feeling that the next Coolpix and next digital SLR will increase
that by two more. Please, stop this nonsense! There's no reason to have
more than two different proprietary battery types.
more proprietary connectors. This
is partially related to the first wish, as all those AC adapters have different
tips on them so that they don't get plugged into the wrong equipment
accidentally. By making proprietary (or at least difficult to come by)
connectors the norm, it stunts third-party and hobbyist support. Now,
I'm sure that's exactly what Nikon wants to do (and not because they
want to sell 100% of the accessories, but because they are so friggin'
afraid of damaged cameras needing repair). Ever hear of user-replaceable
documentation on the interfaces and file formats. NEF files are
our "negatives." Except that Nikon keeps changing the NEF
format for each new camera and doesn't really document the format to
third parties. Thus, we're stuck with Nikon's software and what can
be reverse-engineered by third parties. Wanna bet if any of that will
run on Windows XPLICIOUS 2020? Mac users have already experienced direct
suffering: Capture didn't have the performance
on Macs it did on PCs, for instance, and some features, such as tethered operation
took more than six months to appear for Mac users who owned D100's.
While Nikon's software has gotten better with time, it matures slower
than any of us would like it to, compatibility with third party products
is going backwards, and each new camera seems to require
substantive new releases rather than plug-in support. Meanwhile, there are things in the EXIF data that need documentation, too. Overall, Nikon risks being just enough proprietary that it'll see yet another mass migration of pros if Canon ever wises up and releases this kind of information.
- A real lens
plan. With the exception of the 18-x consumer zooms, Nikon's lens introductions over the past five years seem almost
random in nature. Nikon needs to reassure those of us that bought the
previous 30 million plus lenses in the following ways:
lenses will be G-type. (Yes, I know that doesn't "reassure"
all you manual focus afficionados, but it does make it clear that
now is the time to buy lenses with aperture rings if you need them, and that future products won't use aperture rings.)
long lenses (zooms and fixed telephotos) will have VR.
This is needed even more now that some companies feature shake mitigation at the sensor. Nikon users need to know that they are not going to be passed by technology-wise.
future professional lenses will be AF-S (unless it simply isn't
practical for a particular design, such as Perspective Control lenses).
lenses (for the 1.5x field of view change) will be made for fill-in-the-blank
years. Even if Nikon does eventually produce only full-frame
digital SLRs, this statement is important to the now considerable
used market for Nikon digital SLRs.
lenses will be designed to a fill-in-the-blank standard. Digital
SLR bodies are going to eclipse film resolution soon (at least the
resolvable resolution the lens is capable of). We need to know what
Nikon's target is for future designs. Are we talking 100 lppm? 200
for lenses will be available for fill-in-the-blank years after discontinuance.
(I believe Nikon did state that once, but it needs to be restated.)
This is again important to the used marketplace.
and 77mm really mean something to us. No more 67mm or even 72mm
filter rings! I have two filter sets I use, and bringing along extra
step-up rings just gives me one more thing to keep track of. Alternatively, tell us that 62mm is no longer the standard and that 67mm is the new "small" filter standard and try to keep to it.
the standard interface. No more button swapping! If the current
command dial and button interface is going to continue to rule the roost,
then it needs to be the same on every camera. No moving the exposure
compensation button around (N80), no moving the flash exposure compensation
button around (D100), no some-cameras-get-mode-dials-some-don't changes.
Lock it down, it isn't broken! Yes, you may need some additional buttons
for new features, but that should be part of your design today, not
tomorrow (i.e., you figure out where and why now, not when you suddenly
discover you need another button). The only area that needs a bit of
a rethink is the digital-side button clutter (for example, the current D40/D80 usage is better than the D100/D200 usage). First, Nikon is overloading
buttons (making buttons do more than one thing depending upon what "mode"
the camera is in), second, there are simply too many buttons. LCD On/Off,
Okay, Cancel, and the sensor pad are actually all that are necessary,
safe software practices! Losing
frames in a buffer because the user turns the camera OFF prior to everything
being saved onto permanent storage is just bad, bad, bad. Lock the slot until writing is completed.
us a feedback point. You don't have to do what we ask, since we're
many millions of users all with differing opinions, but it would be
nice if you asked us what we want and listened. Give us a Suggestion
Box email address. Who knows, the feature that makes Nikons better than
Canons might actually come from someone who uses the product!
an ombudsman. Nikon Japan should hire Asian, US, and European ombudsmen.
Each should have a modest budget and/or inventory at their disposal
to resolve disputes and unusual claims. The ombudsman contact info should
be part of every communication from Nikon to the user. Note to users:
just because there's an ombudsman doesn't mean you'd be able to get
the Nikon you threw across the room fixed for free overnight. It does
mean that when something about the way Nikon has handled customer service
goes bad (in your opinion), that there is a clear point-of-contact to
see about possibly rectifying the problem, one that will look at the
issue from your viewpoint first, then Nikon's.
back the PCs. Anyone
else miss having wide angle perspective control lenses? I do. Nikon
proved that they could do a modern implementation with the 85mm Micro-Nikkor
PC, so why don't we have a 24mm PC that can meter with new bodies? And
while we're on lens wish lists:
build me these. I'd
like: a fixed aperture telephoto zoom that went to 300mm, preferably
with VR; an autofocus 400mm or 500mm f/5.6; an AF-S 85mm f/1.4 (or f/1.8
as a second choice); a wide angle lens with depth of field markings;
a better 18mm f/2.8 than the current design; an AF 75-150mm f/3.5 (but
keep this Series E reincarnation as small and light as possible).
autofocus. Yes, I know that Nikon's autofocus system is still state-of-the
art after half a decade in use, but better is well within the realm
of possible. First, move the sensors on the CAM900 cameras. Instead
of a +, we want an X array, with the points of the X at the one-third
marks (the CAM1000 didn't get this right, by the way, so it still applies). And those outlying sensors need to be angled, even if only slightly.
On the CAM1300 cameras, I'd argue to make all current sensors cross-hatched
and add the four missing ones at the one-third points, giving us nine
sensors overall (update note: Nikon did just that with the D2 series and the CAM2000 sensors!). In low light, use only the cross-hatched sensors. (Why
does CAM900 get an X while CAM1300 retains the + plus adds the X? It
has to do with the nature of the individual sensors. On CAM900 cameras--N65,
N80, D100, S2, 14n--only the central sensor has low light and multi-direction
capabilities. Moving the outlying sensors aren't going to change the
autofocus performance, but will put those sensors in more useful positions.
The CAM1300 cameras--F100, F5, D1 models--need the horizontal/vertical
orientations for fast-moving objects, but have gaps in places where
we pros often put our subject, thus the extra sensors. The CAM1000 cameras (D80, D200) didn't fix these things. The CAM2000 cameras (D2 series) did. Think more like the D2 and less like the D200 in the future, please.
However, it's not just the sensor arrangement that could use some updating. I'm seeing more and more factory alignment issues, which doesn't bode well. Many of us subject our cameras to a large amount of vibration, too. The AF system needs to be either more robust or more user adjustable, or both. Finally, long-range accuracy with the exotic telephotos seems to be a little hit or miss, as does really wide angle use. Someone needs to reinvestigate what's happening in those situations.
The original version of this article also had these two items:
has proven that you can read reflections off the Bayer array, so there's
no real need for the crippled D-TTL system any more. I'd rather have
the Fuji's high ISO limitations than D-TTL's wireless and exposure limitations.
And if for some reason D-TTL needs to live on, then see my earlier comment
about documenting interfaces: Metz, et.al., should have full knowledge
of how D-TTL works so that they can produce flashes with it.
And if you have to stick with D-TTL:
many beautiful close up lenses. Please let me use them fully with my
Nikon did abandon D-TTL and gave us a much better i-TTL and a macro flash option (R1C1 instead of the SB-29DX I requested). However now my request is simply Document the flash system. The i-TTL system is underdocumented and has an enormous number of gotchas and caveats. It'd be nice to know them in advance rather than having to unearth them through experimentation.
that none of the things on my list is a full-frame digital SLR or a specific
megapixel requirement. I'll be satisifed if Nikon simply continues to
provide increased resolving power, essentially matching or exceeding the
competition. I really don't care how they get there as long as I can use
my current lenses and accessories and the other things hold true.
As for forward-looking
features, here's a few to consider:
USB drive support. Let
me plug my Storix USB 2.0 portable hard drive directly into the camera.
Save to the card first, save to the drive as backup (or give me a button
that lets me dump from card to drive).
Let me plug an 802.11 card into the CompactFlash slot instead
of a storage card for untethered studio shooting. (A CompactFlash card
with wireless capability was announced at CES in January 2003. And Nikon did introduce the WT-1, 2, and 3 with the D2h, D2x, and D200, respectively. Still, the integration is shaky and I don't want bulk added to my camera to get connectivity.)
Histogram. Uh, there's a 1005-element CCD in the viewfinder of my
D1x, why no way to see what it sees? And while we're previewing that,
why not tell us what the camera thinks is the color temperature in the
scene and give us the ability to override it (assuming we're in Auto)? And give me the ability to look at channels this way, too.
out EXIF. Okay, so you don't want to change from the DCIM folder
and file name standards. Let me enter two values into two EXIF manufacturer-defined
(comment) fields: Folder Name and File Name. Then, when
Nikon PictureProject transfers my files, it looks at the EXIF data and uses what
it finds there to control the transfer from camera/card to computer.
Thus, when I might enter a File Name of WASHDC1-15-03- (which on my
computer would give me numbered files, such as WASHDC1-15-03-0001, WASHDC1-15-03-0002,
etc.) and a folder name of ZOO in the morning while I was at the National
Zoo, then LINCOLN when I went to the Lincoln Monument that evening.
Heck of a lot better than where we are right now, folks...
camera crop. Select Crop from the Shooting Menu. The viewfinder
first shows horizontal and vertical crop lines, which you move with
the sensor pad (left/right=horizontal control, up/down=vertical control).
The Crop stays until I cancel it, and all images are saved at that cropped
size on the card instead of wasting extra space. Why do I want this?
Well, I've got a 300mm lens when I need a 400mm. I can crop once in
the field or I can crop every image when I get back to the office. Which
do you think I'd rather do? [Interesting: I wrote this in 2003 and two years later Nikon announced a camera with a Hi-Speed Crop ability. Not quite what I was asking for, but it does fulfill the situation I described.]
here's an out-there idea. At a fast shutter speed, why couldn't you
take two frames with the CCD slightly offset? (Heck, for my type of
photography, it would work for most shutter speeds unless it's windy
out.) In one possibility, the two frames would be offset by exactly
one photosite, meaning that every pixel point except the outermost columns
would have two values already present (i.e., only one needs to be calculated).
But I was thinking of putting the second image between photosites,
essentially doubling resolution.
I press the regular shutter release, it's a horizontal picture. If I
press the other shutter release (on a D1 model), it's a vertical picture.
Save 'em that way! For the bodies that don't have two releases, either
put in a detection switch that senses the body's physical position,
or give me a small switch next to the shutter release that I can move
to the correct rotation position. [Nikon did this; but I left it here for historical purposes.]
spot meter. Here's a thought: for each digital camera calculate
the available dynamic range then give us a "zone spot meter."
With this function active, you press the AE-L button (after configuring
it via Custom Settings to Zone Spot) and then meter an object and use
the Rear Command dial to place it on a zone (the zone number is shown
in the viewfinder and top LCD). For example, the D1 and D100 models
have about a 7 stop useful range, thus middle gray is zone 3.5 (actually,
18% gray is probably more like 4), last useful highlight detail is zone
7, and last useful shadow detail is zone 0. I meter on a dark tree trunk
at zone 2. Press the AE-L button again to lock that exposure.
got other ideas, send me an email and I'll add the best ones to this list,
just in case someone from Nikon ever bothers to enter "Nikon suggestions"
in their Google toolbar.
Jeff Amidon). Nikon actually made four versions of this manual focus
wonder, but never created an AF version. Those of us who shoot indoor
sports want one, preferably with AF-S. [Well Jeff, they listened to you. Perhaps you'd like to make some other suggestions?]
holders for Speedlights. (suggester:
Jeff Hogan, no relation). Quickly changing AA batteries in a Speedlight
without having at least one fall on the floor is a future Olympic event.
I'd argue that any of the Nikon professional products that use AA batteries
really ought to have battery trays/holders that can be preloaded and
range multiple exposures. (suggester:
Scott Robertson). This mode takes two bracketed, sequential images,
then combines them into a single image to increase dynamic range. [Might
work with completely static subjects, but poses a problem with any movement
in the scene.]