Current hardware

Larry Bolch

Member
As a working shooter for quite a number of decades, I was quite well equipped with both 35mm and medium-format equipment. I have sold a bit of it, but not much. I have not officially abandoned, film but probably have done so de facto.

I bought the classic Nikon Coolpix 990 after seeing it named "Machine of the Year" by Time Magazine just over a decade back. Even so, I had low expectations for it. I knew that digital was coming, and thought it would be wise to get a head start, even though a 3.34MP camera was no where near my scans in resolution. It was about learning - not about actually using the little thing for photography.

WOW, was I wrong. It was a most impressive camera, and some of the shots are still among my favorites. However, it was at the stage of early adolescence in the growth of photography with lots of rough edges. The Coolpix 5000 brought RAW format and that was followed by the even more sophisticated Coolpix 8400. These were all $1,000Cdn cameras and state of the art. I loved the articulated monitors - superb for street shooting. However, noise was a significant factor above ISO200, and I have always been an available darkness shooter. After the 8400, Nikon and every other company abandoned the high-end compact.

Several years passed and eventually I bit the bullet and got a D200. Now I could shoot at ISO800 with quality and even get decent quality at ISO1600 as long as there was no under-exposure. There was still a feeling of adolescence about it, and I missed the articulated monitor. It was replaced with the D300, and I finally got a camera that felt "finished". From the specification sheet, the D300 did not look like a huge step upward, but everything just worked better by a bunch. Both the D200 and D300 allowed me to use my considerable arsenal of old AI-S lenses.

I envied the image quality of the D3, and its ability to work in minimal light, but hated its size and its price. When I heard the rumour of the D700, I went to the neighborhood Nikon store and ordered it. My salesgal said "There is no such thing..." but took my order anyway. When I picked it up a few weeks later, she said I got the first one in Canada. All my AI-S lenses work fine and I have added a few zooms. Quality matches or beats my medium format scans in good light, and it in a class of its own in available darkness.

Available Darkness

What is so extraordinary about these pictures is that they looks so ordinary, so normal, yet they are all miracles to even exist. I shoot RAW exclusively, and recently upgraded to Photoshop CS2 Extended. I know Photoshop very well, having turned down the chance to write books about it twice. In my workflow, camera and Photoshop are totally integrated, including HDR, stacking and stitching.

Throughout my career, I always did personal photography as well as photography for the job. I was hooked on stereo photography as a kid with ViewMaster reels. I shot with a Stereo Realist, but now have the first full blown digital stereo camera, the Fujifilm FinePix REAL 3D, and it is magnificent. I also have the Fuji viewer for glasses-free 3D viewing, but also make cards for my 19th century Holmes Stereoscope, and anaglyphs for prints, Internet viewing and slide-shows on a friend's big HDTV. An amazing camera, and compact enough to be a carry-anywhere camera.

At the moment, I am completely satisfied with my kit and my shopping list is empty as far as cameras. As winter arrives, I plan on getting a medium-sized printer such as the Epson 3880 or 4880.
 
Larry, great journey!

I feel that the resolution race is done, and the future battleground for digital is around low light performance/ISO.

It's taking photography into areas where it just wasn't possible in the past, I think it's going to be an interesting ride :p
 
Absolutely. I have no desire for more pixels, since stitching is such a no-brainer now. Being able to produce acceptable images in the ISO6400-25,600 range has opened a whole new world to photography.
 
Seeing the evolution of the current line-up, one could bet with certainty on full 1080p video. Expect an upgraded focus-engine, capable of follow-focus in LiveView or video mode. Expect a new state-of-the-art processing engine with much faster saving of images - really only of interest to sports shooters.

Nikon has really hit the sweet spot with it D3s sensor, so don't expect a bunch more megapixels. From industry-aware people, speculation is that beyond 16MP, ISO will need to drop in order for the images to remain as clean with 2011 technology. If they feel they need more resolution, they can follow Canon's lead and use full time noise reduction, however that defeats the purpose to a certain extent. Only a guess, but entirely possible, would be full 16-bit per channel RAW. I would not be surprised, but I also would not bet on it. Again, I feel no sense of urgency. My 14-bit per channel RAW files have the feel of working with medium format negatives scanned at 16-bit.

It may not be in the D4, but in some of the DX cameras - in-camera stitching, focus-bracketing and image stacking for near infinite DOF, built-in GPS, built-in Wi-Fi. These have been available in one way or another for years now and some are being integrated into high-end P&S cameras. On the other hand, I do have a GP1 mounted on the D700 and it is completely unobtrusive and will even give me location data indoors almost all the time. It certainly beats carrying a tracking device.
 
On the whole topic of the D4, I know for me that the 12mp that my D3/D700 current offers is enough. Obviously the D3s has a slight advantage in really low light which is tempting if I'm honest. However, if the D4 comes out and is only as good as the D3s only with more megapixels - that'll be the first pro body replacement I don't want or need! It's got to the stage now where for the work I do, a D3 or D3s is perfect.
If the D4 comes out with more megapixels AND is better than a D3s in low light... well that's another story all together!!!
 
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