Does anyone else want a small "pro-level" DSLR?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by oskar_ojala, Nov 24, 2007.

  1. Recently I've often found myself thinking that it would be nice to have a small
    DSLR to act as a backup and carry-anywhere camera. My D70 is not too large, but
    I'm thinking back to the Olympus OM series and their compactness.

    The first thought would be to point at the D40(x), but it has a few issues for
    me. I need a larger, better viewfinder for MF (a full-frame sensor would be nice
    too, but that might be pushing things), metering with AI lenses and if possible
    smaller size and support for screwdriver-AF, though I would sacrifice the latter
    if everything else works well. I bit more ruggedness to last longer would also
    be nice. I could sacrifice the pop-up flash, the TV-out (even the USB) and I
    wouldn't need fast frame rates or many AF points. Just a basic camera that's
    very compact and has the latest electronic gadgetry along with support for MF as
    an extra.

    Your thoughts? Would you be ready to buy for a reasonable price? Nikon has
    traditionally made bulky SLRs, so those needing smaller ones have opted for the
    cheap, basic models as their second bodies. P&S cameras are really small
    nowadays, but the problems with dynamic range make them undesirable for me.
  2. FM3d - I'm ready!
  3. You'll have to clarify 'reasonable price'. This topic has been raised at least a few times as a digital FM3a or whatnot. Would they sell? Very well I bet. I could even do without AF provided the v'finder is sufficiently large / bright but doubt most, esp Nikon Inc., would concur as AF has become de rigueur. Regardless, I'd take one today...make that two.
  4. Buy the current D40x or the new Ricoh GR-D II (lots of useful features!).

    "Professional" is what comes out of the cam and not the price or the size.
  5. i would certainly like to see that segment of the market explored more buy a few of the BIG builders. an fm3 digital would be really interesting!!!!!!!!
    i really consider a camera's size when shopping and currently use an r-d1s and an m8 with their general size and interface being the deciding factors for me.
  6. I would like very much to have a camera with the characteristics of the D300 but the size and weight of the D50 or smaller. The D40, with its inability to autofocus with some of the Nikon's best lenses, won't cut it. I would gladly give up weather sealing and a certain measure of toughness. If the three-inch diagonal LCD display will fit (the way three-inch screens fit on some small point-and-shoot cameras) that would be wonderful.

    The power supply is a huge consideration for camera size. As batteries continue to improve so as to carry more juice per unit area, camera size may go down. We may also see improvements at Nikon with the increasing use of CMOS sensors like those in the D3 and D300. CMOS needs less power than CCD (ceteris paribus). Also, if we can all accept storage on SD cards, even cameras with dual storage units can become smaller.
  7. Why why why won't they just install the new FX sensor into the F6 chassis??? I'd buy two, and
    wouldn't have to buy another camera the rest of my life!

    Uh, I guess maybe that's why they won't...

  8. David, I don't think they can do that because the digital stuff takes too much space.

    Oskar, I recommend you take a look at the Olympus E3. Not Nikon of course, but the 4/3 system does have compact pro level bodies.
  9. Ilkka,

    A Nikon F6 is the same size as a Canon 5D. I don't care how the nerds rearrange the
    guts...just provide the machine!

    By the way, no offense to my fellow nerds.
  10. Yeah... once upon a time 35mm cameras were "miniature cameras" with a premium on compactness that survived beyond the heydey of the rangefinders. There has certainly been, um, growth... I'd trace it back in terms of Nikon to the F4s, at least. Up to the F3 the pro (F) models were bigger than the parallel line of models marketed as compact (Nikkormats, FE, etc.), but not big by today's standards (smaller than a D200, much less the D2/D3 series'). And of course Olympus models (especially, and others) were prized by some for how compact they were compared to the relatively rather big Nikon SLRs.

    (I learned on, and still have, a Pentax ME Super, so I "grew up" thinking that the old mechanical Nikons were kind of huge)

    Some picture I saw on someone's page recently had a Nikon F next to their brand new D300. The F (it was with the non-metered finder rather than the big Photomic one, but still) looked rather strikingly *small*

    I have to imagine that part of the large size of even the "small sensor" DSLRs has to do with constraints of the digital technology - higher power requirements than even electronic film cameras, image-processing electronics of whatever sort, etc.

    But part of this has to be that a lot of people want these cameras to pair up with big honking fast zoom lenses now, not with the fairly compact primes of the past.

    Maybe the "small camera" shooter doesn't actually need all that much more functionality than a D40 or D40X, but could use a 'compact' model like that designed for someone who knows what they are doing (e.g. the finder from the D80, a focus motor for AF-but-non-AFS-lenses, no need for scene modes, two control dials if possible, etc). The actual changes required of the D40 platform might be fairly minimal. Although I guess the more caveats I keep thinking of the more this sounds a little bit like the "digital FM series" that people keep talking about.

    But maybe 4/3rds is the solution for those who really want compactness... interesting brand history in Olympus leading that.
  11. Yup. I like my D2H but it's bulky and sometimes the weight, along with a good quality zoom, hurts my neck.

    Doing without a true "motor drive" in favor of an autowinder would reduce size and weight considerably. Since I've stripped the motor drives from my FM2N and F3HP, I could manage with a 1-2 fps winder.

    I'm not sure how much effect ditching some features would have on size but I'd sacrifice all those complex menus and buried sub-sub-menus in favor of a simpler interface. For one thing, RAW and maximum quality/size JPEG is enough. I don't even see the purpose of the smaller, lesser quality JPEGs since they still aren't quite right for straight-to-web use. So, ditch the features buried in menus and go back to single purpose controls.

    *True Mirror Lockup*! C'mon, Nikon, what's up with this quasi MLU on the D2H? It's impossible to properly utilize without an electronic remote like the Pocket Wizard. Even the FM2N had a better MLU system, with the self-timer locking up the mirror seconds before tripping the shutter. The D2H can't even do that! And unlike the F3, the D2H mirror can't be locked up without also tripping the shutter, so there's no way to fit those exotic wide angles that would interfere with the mirror. As it is, I rarely use the D2H MLU because the camera already vibrates relatively little compared with my F3 and FM2N, and it's a PITA to utilize without a remote.


    DX sensor would be fine, especially if it keeps the cost, size and weight down. No need for expensive lens redesigns.

    It must retain adequate seals against dust and humidity (I'm not sure there's any such thing as "weatherproof" other than with a Nikonos or similar camera). I don't want to hear any excuses from Nikon that we "abused" our supposedly pro level camera by, horrors!, using it on a hot, humid day to photograph a baseball game or wildlife at a wetlands.

    I'd settle for a small, power efficient LCD for minimal use if it kept the battery size small and reduced the need for toting spares.

    OTOH, I'm not sure I'd want this is an SLR package. I might prefer a rangefinder, tho' it's doubtful that Nikon would want to conspire with Cosina/Voigtlander to produce appropriate lenses.
  12. This is exactly why I went with the D80. It packs a lot of performance in a compact package.

    Kent in SD
  13. I put pro-level in quotation marks since it's never clear cut what it means. For me, it should be a good viewfinder and ability to last weekly use for several years without falling apart. The D40(x) may handle the latter, but certainly not the former.

    The discussions I've seen have been about a "FM3D" and I don't want that! I say keep the AF-S and even put in the screwdriver-AF if possible. But the D40(x) lacks a decent viewfinder, metering on AI lenses and screwdriver AF, so that's too many compromises. Especially when features like the popup-flash and Av-out are for a camera like this useless for me.

    I work for a major electronics comapny and it's amazing how rapidly the electronics can be miniaturized. My cellphone today packs far more CPU power than my PC back in 1999. But things like connectors and memoery cards get made smaller also, that's why it doesn't make sense to keep archaic connectors like analog TV-out around. The D40 has SD cards and a smaller battery, which are good choices.

    In the light of this, it makes me wonder why it wouldn't be possible to make something roughly the size of an Olympus OM, with a similar good viewfinder, packed with the latest electronics. if it had full-frame, then 2500 euros would be a bargain.

    The Olympus DSLRs are interesting, but their small sensor size has implications for the viewfinder's size too. And they don't use Nikkor lenses, so I would need an adapter and I don't know how convenient that would be.

    But I did think that the mention of "a small camera" and "Olympus OM" would attract Lex ;-)
  14. David, the 5D isn't a pro level body in terms of construction. Nikon doesn't make the D3 big and heavy because they have an innate need to make pros suffer. A digital body of comparable build and recording area is always considerably larger and heavier than a film body.
  15. Yeh, I'm still an OMer at heart (technically, it's Zuikophile) even tho' I sold my OM gear earlier this year. But I couldn't justify two systems. (Heck, a few years ago I had four systems - Canon, Minolta, OM and Nikon. And that's not counting the medium format stuff.)

    But the FM-series is pretty close. Reasonably small and lightweight yet sturdy.

    I pulled the N6006 out of the bag last night. I'm not sure it's practical to make a pro quality dSLR much smaller. For one thing, the battery has to go somewhere, and a palm swell grip housing seems the best compromise. The viewfinder is decent, probably comparable to the FM-series.

    I could do without a built in flash (tho' I don't have strong feelings either way), but a built-in AF assist lamp would be nice. A red grid pattern that can be switched off as desired, please.
  16. Ilkka,

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. The Nikon F5 and the D2x/D3 are all comparable
    sizes, and the reason they are the size and form they are is because in the 90's
    photojournalists all wanted vertical grips and power winders which ate batteries. Take the
    power winder away and *poof*, an F6-sized pro body in terms of everything, not just
    construction, is available.

    A D3 isn't almost two inches taller than a D300 because they put shock absorbers is the same form as the F5/D2 because pro shooters still want a vertical grip,
    release, and multiple batteries for extended shooting. There is no reason that an F6-
    sized, pro body can't have an FX sensor.

    All Canon had to do with the 5D is build it of rubberized Magnesium and Aluminum and
    seal all the outside entry points (buttons, knobs, ports). Kevlar shutter curtains take the
    same amount of space as any other material. This is all just more expensive, and casual
    shooters just don't need it. But pros demand the reliability.

    I'm not saying that the F6 is as compact as, say, a D40, but it is certainly more compact
    than other available full-sized pro bodies. The F6's form factor is the holy grail for a
    certain segment of pros who travel extensively or where space/storage is at a premium
    (think about how many NGS shooters preferred the F100 over the F5).

    Again, I'm drawing parallels between the film-based F5 and the digitally based D2/D3. My
    point is that Nikon didn't have to enlarge the F5 because digital needed more room, they
    simply rearranged what they had...taking an F6 and making it digital is certainly do-able.
    Weather-sealing a D300 to it's brethren's level is all that would be required, and the F6 is
    about the same size and super weather-sealed (though you pay for it in weight, again a
    by-product of weather sealing).

    Blah blah blah...I wish Nikon would make a digital F6. That is THIS pro's dream!
  17. A magnesium or similar shell could definitely keep the weight down without compromising strength. But I suspect it would also be expensive.

    When I bought my Olympus C-3040Z, which uses quite a bit of magnesium, especially for the palm grip/battery compartment, it was fairly expensive, even when on the verge of being discontinued (around $550, approximately 7 years ago). Later Olympus used less magnesium on the C-xxxx series, in part, I suspect, due to cost concerns.

    But that magnesium shell with a sorta pebbled surface has held up better over the years than the rubbery grippy panels on my D2H, which is less than half that age. Surprisingly, the magnesium doesn't feel particularly cold or warm in response to ambient temperature and it's very easy to grip. It'd be worth a little extra money for a better shell on a pro quality Nikon dSLR. Besides, it just looks damned good compared with those rubbery panels.

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