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Each has its merits. CMOS is generally more difficult to manufacture and may run hotter. All else being equal, it may produce somewhat nicer gradients and possibly lower noise at a given size. CCDs are much more common, and can produce superb results as well. I expect in time that CMOS probably will be the common sensor in medium to high-end cameras, and will gradually move down the line.
It is not something to become obsessed over. Compared to the design and handling of the camera, lens quality - if built-in, features and ease of operation, how well the camera meets your specific needs, it is just one factor.
Larry, Thanks for your quick answer on the sensors. Now with the introduction of the D200 and canon's 5D, it still seems Nikon is lagging behind. Is the Nikon quality enough to make up the difference in pixels? Also, for an intermediate to advanced amatuer, does the D70s or D200 make more sense. I can swing a D200 but would be locked into my AF Nikon Lenses. Any one else with any helpful info?
Comparing a vastly different $3,300US 5D to a $1,700US D200 camera is rather difficult. If I were paying twice the price for a camera, I would expect it to have more than a slight edge over the camera half its value. The Canon 5D has only 25% more pixels - not really enough to be noticable in a print.
Canon 5D - 4368 x 2912 - 14.5" x 9.7" @300dpi Nikon D200 - 3872 x 2592 - 12.9" x 8.64" @300dpi
Considering the cost of the 5D is double that of the D200, the difference is insignificant. What counts more is how sharp and clean the result may be. Both could be blown to enormous size and given comparable lenses would produce outstanding results.
The 5D sits between the D200 and D2X in price, and there is not really anything in the Nikon lineup to compare it to. The D2H is a sports/journalism camera and very specialized. It sits opposite the Canon 1D and neither have the least bit in common with either the 5D or the D2X.
The Nikon D200 seems more in the class of the 20D, and seems to come off favorably. The 20D has been on the shelves now for more than a year, and has dropped significantly in price to about $100US less than the D200. Since we seem to be counting pixels, it is 8.2MP 3504 x 2336 - 11.68" x 7.8" @300dpi - slightly less. I expect it will be replaced shortly. While Nikon has kept the D100 in production since shortly after it was announced in February 2002, Canon seems to croak their models much quicker.
The real test will be of the D200 vs whatever Canon comes up with next in that specific range. The D50 and D70 as well as the Canon Rebel models, are clearly entry-level cameras. The D200 and 20D are clearly prosumer, while the FujiFilm S3 and 5D are entry-level pro cameras. Early reports on the D200 with preproduction s&les indicate that it has much more in common with the D2X than with the D70.
Realize that these are digital devices with added lenses, and Moore's Law impacts them. The FujiFilm S3 was announced at PMA in February 2004, and while it was a topnotch camera then, the D2000 likely will surpass it when it ships. The Fuji is priced opposite the 5D and uses all of Nikon's DX lenses. Most of the lenses for the 5D were designed for film.
Who knows what is best for you? One can read specs until your eyes pop out, without really learning much. What really counts is how the camera meets your needs. Does it feel right in your hands? Does the operating system controls and menus help you or hinder you? Do your present lenses work with it? Does the cropping factor nullify their purpose? If you have to replace your present lenses, are there lenses designed for use with sensors that fit your way of working? Are there features that will advance your photography, or is the camera really designed for someone else? Do you have the skills to get the most out of it? Would you be better off with a 21st century mirrorless design, rather than a mid-20th century SLR design with a sensor and digital electronics grafted in?
Only when you can get your hands on the actual cameras, can you really begin to judge. S&les from pre-production cameras on review web-sites, may tell more about the reviewer than the camera. I would not think of advising in this case, not having shot with the 5D and with the D200 perhaps months away from being on the shelves.
What other cameras will exist when it ships? There are two still-secret models about to surface from Nikon that I have caught my intense interest for ex&le, but by the time they hit the shelves, there may well be competitive models from at least two or three other companies. Even though they sound like they would deal with the only complaint I have with my current kit, I would still want to see what the competitors are bringing to market. They should be announced sometime between now and PMA in February. I have used a lot of Nikon equipment over the years, but many other brands as well. What counts is how the device improves my images - not who makes it. I am in no hurry.
I don't like to be a beta tester on my own dollar. Here in Western Canada, it is said you could tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs. Testing by company technicians in a camera R&D lab is vastly different from a photographer shooting in the field. I am very happy that all the companies do offer firmware upgrades, but I would rather buy with the first one installed. I have an aversion to version 1.0 of anything.
As a horrid ex&le, when Kodak finally brought their 14n to market a couple of years back, there were firmware upgrades every week or so, and they never did properly finish it. Eventually, they brought out a new model and made a trade-in offer that pretty much amounted to buying the old clunkers back.
The pioneers - early adopters who put their deposits down ages before the camera eventually shipped - found an unfinished camera that eventually only worked well within a highly specific set of conditions and worked very badly with many fine Nikon lenses designed for film photography. Since it was a full-frame sensor, Nikon's excellent DX lenses did not have the coverage to work with it. Buyers were stuck with film-designed lenses. Even worse were Contax owners with deposits, waiting for the 7D with their pricey Zeiss glass. Years passed, and the shipping date was perpetually delayed. I understand a few were finally sold in Europe, but the whole thing was a disaster. Such a disaster, that Kyocera has disbanded Contax in retailation.
I also would not venture an opinion, since it would be the wrong camera for me. After shooting hundreds of thousands of exposures with SLRs, and finally reaching the point where once again I can shoot for me - and not The Man, My Nikon F3 system and Bronica ETR system have not captured a single image this century. When I shoot film, it tends to be with medium-format rangefinder cameras, and all my digital work is with mirrorless contemporary designs. If someone made me an offer I could not refuse, I would again shoot with the ancient SLR designs, but only if the money made the trade-offs worthwhile. I may never shoot another image with an SLR during the rest of my life.
8MP is at least the limit - if not over the limit - for pixels in a 2/3" sensor. Much of my current work is equal portions of "decisive moment" and "available darkness". Sony has told of the next generation of sensor - with their own camera being the first announced. It has an APS-sized sensor that will allow ISO800 with similar noise to ISO50 to ISO100 with my current rig. It looks like ISO3200 will be still useable in situations where I am now pretty much restricted to ISO400.
It is designed for mirrorless cameras and is 10.2MP. The resolution is marginally greater than my 8MP camera, but resolution is actually a fairly minor factor other than in marketing digital cameras. As long as people buy by numbers rather than defining their own photographic needs, more pixels and longer zooms will attract the naive.
All my life, I have worked in "available darkness" situations, and I am not allergic to noise or grain. Sometimes it is a defining element, but I would like that to be my choice. I can always add speckles in Photoshop or PSP, if I want the effect, just as I could shoot Kodak SO2475 if I wanted grain with film.
The new Sony sensor is only marginally higher in resolution, but after a decade and a half of digital darkroom experience, I know this is not a deciding factor. Having usable sensitivity beyond ISO800 is. Certainly there are work-arounds. Using Best Shot Selector off a monopod, I was able to shoot some pretty fine interior shots at ISO50 and street stuff at night at ISO400. Given my "druthers", I would have druther have shot the interiors at ISO800 and the street stuff at ISO3200.
At least I was shooting with an f-2.6 ED lens rather than so many SLR lenses that start at f-3.5 to f-5.6. The results can look quite effortless, and that is what one is after. The effort that it took to get this level of quality was anything BUT trivial.
The Sony CMOS sensor is designed for mirrorless cameras, so the lens can be almost in contact with the sensor, letting the rays strike the sensor at as close to 90Â° as practical, eliminating light and sharpness fall-off in the corners of the image, as well as minimizing chromatic abberation.
From the shooter's perspective, it means a bright view in dark environments. The era of the beloved f-1.0 Leitz Noctilux or Nikon Noct seems to be over, and the view of the dSLR ground glass with most zoom lenses is very dark. Of course, this is of no relevance for the fat tourist lining up the ugly family in front of the national wonder with the sunlight pouring over the right shoulder for the traditional memory shot. For someone who is trying to reveal to the viewers that which they can not otherwise see, the prospect of low-noise/high sensitivity/bright LED is very exciting.
My industry source tells me that the SLR was the profit-leader for the traditional camera makers. The production lines were paid for in the '80s and '90s by the 35mm SLRs built on them, and the technicians had years of experience, requiring little training to build digital SLRs. It was natural to put all the major goodies into them, since the margin of profit was MUCH higher. They could promote the old design as "professional" and charge a premium price, in spite of the inherent problems with SLR shooting. There was also an additional profit centre in the sale of lenses.
As I - and many others have discovered - mirrorless designs open new vistas that move us far ahead of the limits of SLRs, and even though the large sensors may provide better technical quality, the camera design lends itself to better content creation. My source said that the Sony was the breakthrough and from here on in, the 20the century SLR will be allowed to diminish while the mirrorless 21st century camera will catch up and surpass the old design rather quickly.
There is no reason that a mirrorless design should be less technically capable than a SLR, other than the profit has been in building cheap cameras on old production lines - and being able to charge premium prices for them. Economic rather than technical.
The revolution has begun. If you have doubts see what the restricted technology allowed me to shoot - see the URLs above. Most of these shots simply would have been impossible or greatly weakened had I been restricted to the SLR design. The downside has been having to use small sensors, with inherent high noise and low ISO ratings.
The highside has been the ability to see in near darkness and to capture people being people without imposing upon them. It is very easy to relax and ignore a mirrorless camera when it is out of the sightline, while a bit SLR with huge zoom lens pointing at you evokes the ultimate in camera shyness. See also
As always Larry, your posts are very helpful and constructive.
I fancy the idea of the all in one cameras with their new features and built in lenses which avoid the dust problem but so far one has not come along which will cause me to part with my pounds.
I had high hopes for the new Sony but it is far too big and would intimidate anyone. Consequently I am still waiting and using my beloved film cameras with a film scanner. I am sure that THE camera will come along soon now as this new technolgy is developing quickly.
Thanks again Larry,
> There is no reason that a mirrorless design should be less technically > capable than a SLR, other than the profit has been in building cheap > cameras on old production lines - and being able to charge premium > prices for them. Economic rather than technical.
Larry, while I concur with much of what you state, the one area where
I believe SLR design has an advantage is regarding review of focus and, more specifically, DOF. Photons passing through glass and reflecting off mirrors still have higher resolution than any LCD screen I've seen (not that I've ever seen military hi-res models, if such exist). So when I press the DOF preview button, or am using a bellows, I can be fairly certain with an SLR as to what will and won't be in sharp focus. Is that possible using an electronic viewfinder? >
[Larry, thanks are due once again for your insightful thoughts. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to help a "somewhat" advanced photo buff as myself. I presently have a Nikon 8008s, an Olympus 3030 and the new Nikon 7900. My only real complaints about the 7900 are the lack of lens range, wide to tele and the fact that some photos require more retouching in picture project than the Olympus standard shot. Of course this could be related to the greater pixel count and resolution of the 7900. Again the D200 will not be on shelves for a while yet, but with your comparisons of resolution and the extreme price difference between it and the 5D, I am going to go with the D200. Again per your comments I will wait a bit to ensure the bugs are worked out a bit from first production models. Thank you again for all your help.]
> I had high hopes for the new Sony but it is far too big and would > intimidate anyone.
Oddly enough, it is not the size of the camera that intimidates people. Some of the greatest portraits of all times have been shot with large format sheet-film cameras, and the huge Mamiya RB/RZ-67s are pretty much the standard for studio portraiture. In this case, size does not matter. What does matter is the technique the camera imposes upon the shooter.
People - other than a handful of supermodels - are intimidated by being stared at. This seems to be hard-wired. Probably goes back to primitive times. When a sabre-toothed cat stared at gr&aw a few thousand generations back, his name changed to "Lunch". There is something about an intense stare that triggers the "fight or flight" instinct. Most folks are also somewhat camera shy. A hand-held SLR with a big lens hanging off the front combines the worst of these two factors when placed in the hands of a contemplative shooter.
The key is to get away from the camera. Hundreds of my SLR portraits have been published, and the key to success has been to put the camera on a tripod, frame and focus as quickly as possible, and then move away from it. Trip it at arm's length or with a remote cord. ANYTHING but staring through it while photographing a person.
This works fine for formal portraits in the studio or environmental portraits on location. Where it does NOT work is for spontaneous "decisive moment" work. Working in a major tourist destination city for more than a dozen years, I saw father after father lining up the family in front of this attraction or that, elbow bobbing up and down as he framed, focused and zoomed, while the tension-meter on the family blew past the top of the scale.
I even felt it myself a couple of years back when two of my friends bought digital cameras - one a dSLR and the other a top-end compact. The guy with the dSLR asked to shoot a picture of me. Even though it was with an autofocus lens, he took substantial time in zooming and framing, and I found myself having to consciously try to remain relaxed as his elbows bobbed up and down. I was greatly relieved when it was over. A few days later, I was having dinner with a group of friends in a pub, and well into the meal the guy with the compact passed it across the table to me. I was astounded to find that he had been shooting pictures of me all this time. I had not noticed!
With the swing and swivel monitor of my camera, I can shoot from my lap, from the table top, from the arm of a chair - wherever - with no need to be staring at my subject. Even with the camera out of the line of sight, I can tell at a glance if the subject is slipping out of the frame, so corrections can be made instantly with no bobbing of elbows and cranking of lenses.
I work very close - inside the personal space of my subjects - with superwide lenses, but don't intrude. This provides exceedingly intimate pictures of the people and a rich sense of their environment, without killing one bit of the freshness and spontaneity of the moment.
For ex&les, see the mother and child photographed across the aisle of a bus. We were so close that my knees were in quite a number of the shots, and I was using the equivalent to a 24mm lens with only minimal cropping. The camera was in full view, and was completely ignored. I got more than two dozen shots and culling down to the ones on the page was extremely difficult. Had I raised a SLR to my eye, the moment would have been killed. One can not use a tripod and remote on a bus.
There is also the results of an evening of shooting at the launch of a new web-magazine "Circle of Confusion". To make matters worse, I photographing photographers, who are notoriously camera shy. This page was for their benefit, since most photographers have few pictures of themselves. It is not a page I have made public, but since it is still up, it will vividly illustrate my point. Every shot is a superwide, and shot in a dim room, with a maximum shutter speed of 1/5th of a second and most considerably longer.
Lest you are under the impression that this is a tiny shirt-pocket compact, see a comparison shot with my motorized Nikon F3 and a truly compact Olympus PenFT. I doubt that the Sony is any larger, and if it is the difference would be of no relevance when used properly. It too has a swing and swivel monitor. Before going with the Sony, I do want to see what Nikon does with this sensor. I understand that there is a camera much like the CP8400 with it. My contact who saw it, was under a non-disclosure agreement, so could not give me much beyond confirming the fact that it exists. With the battery pack and 18mm equivalent lens, "compact" is not a word I would use for the CP8400. Still it never intrudes.
Shooting with a large format view-camera, there is simply no way to be looking through the camera at the time of exposure. The film-holder blocks the only viewing system. Once set up, even a huge studio camera does not need to be fiddled with. It is on a stand and the focus distance does not change between every shot. If you go from a tight head shot to a torso, it only takes a moment to reframe and refocus, and you are back to conversing with the subjects, keeping them comfortable and relaxed. Really, size does not matter. It is all about the skill and techniques of the photographer.
I have no problem manually focusing my cameras, but my Coolpix does have the feature of focus confirmation - it works much like the microgrid screen on my Nikon F. The problem is exacerbated with the wide lenses that I use. With long lenses, there is a clearer differentiation between what is - and is not - in focus.
However, focus is never a problem. Whatever camera type or format, learning whatever is the technique required get accurate focus is simply basic to using the camera. What works for a Leica does not work for a Deardorf. What works for a Nikon F3 does not work for a CP8400.
Understanding technique is fundmental to working with many kinds of cameras, and lack of technique infringes - obviously - on the goal of getting good images. Upon adopting a new camera type or format, the necessary hours of practice and testing will precede its actual use on a shoot. Only when I have the fluency to be able to concentrate upon my subject matter rather than the camera, does a piece of equipment actually go into use.
Larry, It's more about the photographer than the camera I think. I use a Fuji S3 with a Tamron 24-135 as my carry-anywhere-in-the-street-to-make-casual-shots-camera. It's certainly no t small, and weighs in at three pounds. But I carry it around as it was a small compact, and as long as I smile and relax, other people do too. The hardly notice the camera until the photo has been taken. Except children, but they ask me to take their photo anyway. Like these:
Thanks for the very interesting and informative reply Larry. Your splendid photographs illustrate your points very well and the work you have put into the reply is much appreciated.
I think however that I would still have problems with an electronic viewfinder as yet but no doubt they will improve and I will buying a similar camera before too long.
I also like small cameras whenever possible simply because they are to me much more pleasant to use.
I think that a good quality compact digital camera with a good size fold out screen and a proper wide angle fast lens would be very useful especially if it also had a useful zoom range and a simple menus system. I don't like menu systems at all but it would probably be necessary on my as yet imaginary camera as sadly there would be little room for dials and aperture rings.
Lovely picture. In the UK there is almost public hysteria about photographing children at the moment. A photographer, however innocent, has to be very careful to avoid being suspected of nefarious activities. It is a real shame.