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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is It Too Many Cameras Too Fast (or Is Nikon Not Really Giving Us What We Want)?

As Darrell has clearly stated in his blog entry for today: Too Many Cameras, Too Fast, it is clear that we are entering a stage of camera manufacture that seems to emphasize marginal upgrades on the previous model with the attitude that "if you make it, they will buy it" - that we are being led into the mindset of "Let's see what the latest and greatest will bring?" Yes, it has led to a overabundance of camera models to choose from. But are they really giving us what we need? For those of us wildlife photographers waiting on a D400, we were looking at what the D7100 offered us, which didn't come close to being what we needed. The D300s offered 6fps without grip, with an optional 1-2 fps with the MB-D10 battery grip given the right type of battery - I believe you had to have an EN-EL4a battery installed to get the extra 1 to 2 fps.

For wildlife photography, you do need frames-per-second and you needed buffer. If you are shooting flying or rapidly-moving subjects, you need to have the frame rate - preferably in the neighbourhood of 7-8fps if not 10 or 11, because somewhere in that pile of photos you've just shot, may be the keeper. Certainly, I've known people who could do it in one or two frames. I could probably get that shot with my D50 which has a rather laughable 3 fps at its maximum. But it's not a matter of flag-waving on who can do it better, but whether or not you have that certain pose that the magazine editors are looking for, the certain wing-position and posture of the subject that brings out the image and catches the viewer's attention. It's not so much the simple fact that you have the ability to get the shot that you want inside of 5fps or not, it's that given 5fps, it's a crap-shoot whether you get the image you're looking for on a one-time beautiful pass. When you have more fps to work with you have more chances that you will get the shot you're looking for - Will you have a better chance of getting THAT shot in with 8 shots to choose from rather than 5? Your chances have probably gone up.

Judging from multiple reviews, the D7100's buffer rate stank - this is what allows us to do Continuous High Speed Shutter - the rate in which the camera sensor sends data to the memory card allows us to "click-shutter" without backlog of data being written. "Continuous raw performance was much shorter-lived, starting at 4.9fps and slowing to 1.4fps after just five frames (the D7000 lasted for ten). " - Expert's Review on the D7100. From this I take that the buffer of the D7100 is considerably less than the buffer on the D7000 let alone the venerable D300s. This is an unacceptable result for anybody wishing to capture fast moving objects with the D7100 and that pretty much makes it a deal-breaker in my books when it comes to utilizing it for the kind of wildlife photography that bird photographers deal with on an everyday basis. Certainly some people will find it acceptable, but I don't. And I plan to hold on to my D300s as long as I possibly can. When I'm sherpa'ing my Nikon AF-S II 600mm f/4 D IF-ED in the field, that is a 16-20 lb weight including tripod so I want to maximize my chances for the effort. And to me, having 6 chances and a miserably low buffer rate to get one shot versus 7 or 8 chances with my old D300s doesn't make it worth my while to hump that beast attached to a D7100 over rough treacherous terrain.

Has Nikon given us what we (as wildlife photographers) want in the D7100 (DX) or D800 (FX)? No, I don't believe so. The fps is a slow 5fps at top for the D800 versus 6fps for the D7100 (with an idiot dial versus the more intuitive dial for the D300s - my WB, ISO and QUAL features are right there within easy reach, whereas I would have to go nuts trying to find it in the menu system with the idiot dial). Essentially to me, that's a downgrade, no matter what the added megapixels are. I don't have time when I'm out in the field to be monkeying around in my menu system. I'm looking for functionality at my fingertips with everything I need to execute being manually accessible. 5 fps is fine for the studio, but when you want every aspect of a bird's trajectory, no.

Will I "upgrade" to the D7100? Emphatically, NO! I will more than likely save my simolians and upgrade to a Nikon D4 or whatever replaces it. Am I satisfied with what Nikon has produced in the past two years with regards to a replacement camera for my D300s? No...if they were going to replace my D300s they would have upgraded the fps rate to 7fps, given us a buffer to at least get 25 shots in without slowing down and they would have retained the pro-dial features of the D300s in the D7000, but they chose to go with the less intuitive "idiot dial". No, Nikon isn't going to give us the ultimate bird photography camera because how else will they make money, then? If they give us everything we want - then what reason would we have to upgrade? Can we work with the limitations? We're going to have to. But the complaints are there, because we shouldn't have to; not because we can't.

1 comment:

  1. I'd love to have a D7100, it's the closest thing to what I had in my Canon 7D.
    If you really want frame rate, why not go for the D3s or the D4? Doesnt that do like 10 fps? Or at least it did when I played with my buddies D3s(es).

    My D5100 only does 4fps, so even 7fps on a D7100 is an improvement. Perhaps the buffer is not as good as its predecessor, but then I don't have to rely on my framerate to make sure I get the shot I want either. I'd love to see how a D7100 can out perform my D5100 with my 70-200mm f2.8 lens.

    Though I'm more looking into the 51 focal points vs the 9 I currently have. The speed of the camera when auto-focusing also would be a great thing for me.

    Also if you got 7-8 of the essentially same photo, what's the point of that? Sounds like the "Spray and Pray" method of photography to me.

    But yea, it would be nice to have a D4 lol