At This Point, It’s All Used

By , June 21, 2014 12:33 pm
This is the vertical release on one of my D2H digital SLR cameras. As you can see, it is well-worn. This illustrates two important things I demand from my work cameras: a vertical release, and a body that can take this kind of wear and tear year after year.

This is the vertical release on one of my D2H digital SLR cameras. As you can see, it is well-worn. This illustrates two important things I demand from my work cameras: a vertical release, and a body that can take this kind of wear and tear year after year.

I have never hesitated to recommend buying used photography equipment. All the cameras I currently use for my work as a photojournalist were bought used.

I looked at the camera lineup at nikonusa.com today and decided … Nikon, are you listening? … that I will be buying used cameras for the foreseeable future. Basically, Nikon has split their models into two camps: small-sensor (15x24mm) cameras for hobbyists, and large-sensor (24x36mm) for rich amateurs and pros, and then into three sub-categories.

I, and those like me in the news business, am none of those.

Here is today’s lineup from nikonusa.com

“Entry-level” DSLRs, the D3100 through the D5300. Price range: $450-$750.

“Enthusiast-level” DSLRs, the D7000 and D7100, the Df, and the D610. Price range: $1000 to $2800.

“Professional” DSLRs, the D800 and D800e, and the D4, D4s, and D3x. Price range: $3200 to $8000.

You can have a lot of fun with a camera like this, my wife Abby's Nikon D3000, but it won't be as fun when it's in the shop five times a year due to its lightweight, plastic build.

You can have a lot of fun with a camera like this, my wife Abby’s Nikon D3000, but it won’t be as fun when it’s in the shop five times a year due to its lightweight, plastic build.

Nikon’s small-sensor cameras are like cheap toys in my hands, while their large-sensor cameras are too expensive, by a lot.

What I need:

  • A tough body with responsive autofocus
  • A fairly high frame rate with a big buffer
  • A biggish camera body with an integrated vertical grip
  • Decent high-ISO files
  • Fairly good HD video

What I don’t need:

  • So-called full-frame (Nikon calls it FX, the same size as the obsolete 35mm film frame)
  • More than about 10 megapixels
  • Astronomical ISO performance
  • Stupid features like social media integration, WiFi, or GPS

So, Nikon, make this happen for Richard the photojournalist…

  • A camera body like the Nikon D2h, with
  • About 10 megapixels and
  • A maximum ISO of 12,800, and make it clean
  • A frame rate of about eight frames per second, with a big buffer
  • A price of about $1000

In summary, I need a tough body with good performance, and I don’t care about pixel count, sensor size, or trendy features, and I need a good price.

Nikon’s D300S had all this, but Nikon no longer lists it. I have a D7100 at home for my fine art, commercial and travel photography, but for news, sports, and magazine work, I have absolutely no use for it’s small buffer, intermediate build quality, and 24 megapixels.

In some ways, the bottom end of Nikon’s line, like the D5300, which has some respectable specifications, would be suitable, but in comes in a plasticky, consumer body.

Much of this is fallout from the lingering, pointless megapixel craze. More is better, especially in the West, especially in the eyes of egomaniacal and/or insecure photographers. If someone handed me a 36 megapixel Nikon D800 to use today, I would immediately dial it down to 9 megapixel, even for magazine shooting.

On photo forums like Photo.net, participants often speak of having a “backup” camera, sometimes one of lesser quality than their main camera, but this is a tipoff that they aren’t real photographers, since almost all decent professional photographers shooting events use two or even three cameras at once, and they all need to be of the same ilk. Of course, I would love to have three new Nikon D4S cameras, but who are we kidding? $6000 apiece? I don’t know who is buying these, but it isn’t me or any of the news photographers I know.

My solution to the conundrum of what to do if you shoot news and sports is, as it has been for some time, to tell the big camera companies that their products have shifted away from real photographers like us and toward the measurbators, and that we will be cruising eBay for the foreseeable future, looking for cameras like the D2X, the D300S.

The core camera in my photographic stable is the Nikon D2H. Naysayers who claim that 4.1 megapixels isn't enough or that the camera's high-ISO files are unusable probably don't shoot RAW files and probably aren't particularly good with Adobe's Camera RAW software. In the right hands, this camera can deliver.

The core camera in my photographic stable is the Nikon D2H. Naysayers who claim that 4.1 megapixels isn’t enough or that the camera’s high-ISO files are unusable probably don’t shoot RAW files and probably aren’t particularly good with Adobe’s Camera RAW software. In the right hands, this camera can deliver.

2 Responses to “At This Point, It’s All Used”

  1. Xavier says:

    Well said.

    I bemoan whatever the change in tools and applications.
    A for profit organization is often at odds with it’s consumers.

    What solutions are there?

  2. Wil C. Fry says:

    They (and Canon too) already know I’m not the typical consumer. I find a product that I like and I use it until it’s unusable. I don’t buy the next best thing just because it was released.

    Unfortunately, it’s not buyers like me that drive the market. It’s the buyers who DO buy the next release that drive the market. They will always be catered to. A for-profit company just about *has* to cater to them, since stockholders are clamoring for short-term profits.

    Like you, I find many of the bells and whistles unnecessary, and they generally go unused in my cameras.

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