Future 'Pro' Nikon Z Body ?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mike_halliwell, Jan 27, 2021.

  1. PS. If anyone's curious there's Bird's Eye AF too...:cool:

    ... and claims to be 'Black-Out' free in Continuous Shooting.
  2. That seems a technically trivial thing to do.

    If an LCD screen can be refreshed at 60 or 120 frames a second, where's the challenge in keeping one still frame on screen until it's ready to be swapped with another?

    But for the nearly 7 grand UK pre-order price, you'd expect a bit of cutting-edge tech.
  3. I looked over the specs, and while impressive, there is only one thing I am drooling over: The 9.44 million-dot OLED Quad-XGA EVF.
  4. So Nikon didn't bother doing it with the Z6ii or Z7ii? Seems odd if it's that simple!

    Unless it was a marketing choice so that the Z9 (or whatever) can be a 'major upgrade'...:)

    That smacks of Nikon deliberately crippling something! ;)
  5. While I don't dislike high-resolution cameras (I use the D850 for landscape and other static and slowly moving subjects and somewhat lower-resolution cameras for moving subjects as I've grown weary of editing large numbers of high-resolution images), to me the alpha 1 seems a bit excessive in specifications to record high-resolution images at high speed when at the same time people have moved from viewing images in print (e.g. magazines, books) to viewing them mostly on very small mobile phone screens so the high resolution may not be commonly needed in practice. I get that high-resolution high-fps capture has its uses (e.g. if you photograph birds flying in bright light), but there is also an associated burden in terms of bandwidth, storage and post-processing and the resolution may not be realized from noise when using high ISO.

    Fast sensor read time, however, can be used for silent photography indoors in available light without banding which is something I would like to have access to. I wouldn't necessarily want to pay 7599€ (local price for the alpha 1) for a 35mm format digital camera today, given that I wouldn't be shooting at 30 fps 50 MP stills or 8K video, it's just overspecified for what I would want to do. However, I would like to see such fast sensor read times in lower-priced camera models just to be able to shoot silently without fear of rolling shutter or banding. I hope Nikon can develop or access this technology in a reasonable time frame (say, 3 years). For me the silent photography would be the singularly most useful feature of these cameras. To be honest I don't even truly need that (quiet is sufficient), but it would be at times beneficial.

    For really high-resolution imaging, I think medium format has better potential to realize it in a robust way, but current medium-format sensors have very slow read times, so they're not suitable for the same subjects and situations as something like the alpha 1.
  6. Indeed! I might even go and try and find one to look through, just so i know how good it could be...:D
  7. For high refresh rates, the camera designers may need to compromise on the quality of the displayed image; traditionally Sony have been displaying a lower-resolution LV image in the EVF whereas the full resolution of the viewfinder is utilized only in playback. Nikon have been displaying a full-resolution live view image in the EVF but there is a bit more lag. To get this high refresh rates, the sensor read time has to be very fast and the sensors Nikon currently use have slower read times. Nikon's concern was in the quality of the EVF image (stable, natural-looking, detailed) and not speed; if they make a high-speed camera then the focus in the EVF design would no doubt be different. However, Nikon's EVF design is from 2018 and other manufacturers have produced higher-resolution EVFs since. I have not been able to test the newest EVFs as because of the pandemic, I am not terribly keen on handling cameras in stores where hundreds of people could have handled them just before. ;-)

    No, they just haven't made a Z camera designed for high speed yet; they've focused on the enthusiast/semi-pro models so far, probably because of higher sales potential than the high-end models. To my understanding, Nikon need to develop a new processor (or otherwise get access to it via their partners) to be able to compete with the high-speed flagship mirrorless cameras.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
  8. I wonder what the A1's 200MP Pixel Shift images will look like compared to MF output?

    Only for very static subjects of course!
  9. Good Point!

    Maybe later in the Summer (when I still couldn't afford one!) it will be safer?
  10. For truly static subjects, pixel-shifted images can look great, however, I almost never have such subjects; even in the landscapes, there is always a bit of movement that can cause problems, and I'd rather have the confidence that artifacts do not occur. However, for product shoots in controlled light, I believe it can work. Some MF cameras have pixel-shift technology too.

    I was just requested higher-resolution images of a portrait shoot for the university web site; the original images had been all verticals as that was required for the article that they were originally intended for, but now the new request was for horizontals and suddenly there is a need to do a lot of cropping to avoid distractions because the images were not intended to be used in horizontal format. It's not possible to shoot new images because of the current safety rules. Anyway, in this situation having high resolution is beneficial but even more important would be to shoot a variety of compositions while thinking about different layouts. It seems quite common now that very elongated horizontals are requested for the web sites, and I don't always remember to pay attention to that.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
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  11. That's not new - already available in the A9 and A9II.
    And no one else would do it either? When I checked out the A9 when it came out, the black-out free EVF was indeed impressive - one could rattle off a burst at 20fps silently (electronic shutter) and the only indication in the EVF that one was actually taking shots was the image count changing and the frame indicating the AF area flickering. There must be a short lag between the real scene and the one displayed in the EVF - but at 20fps does that really matter? Refreshing the EVF with some JPEG at 60 or 120Hz isn't the same as updating the EVF with a new image every 1/20 of a second (or 1/30s in case of the A1) with as little lag as possible. I am actually not quite sure what the EVF refresh rate actually refers to - as in many cameras, there is a very noticeable lag between what's on the screen vs what's happening in front of the camera. To the point that one cannot pan with anything moving as it is never where the EVF says it is - despite the EVF being updated at 60 or 120Hz. Even if those images are likely low resolution - all what counts is the ability to follow a moving subject while having a clear view of it on the EVF. The fastest I can do this is at 10 fps with the D500 - here the blackouts are already sufficiently short to go almost unnoticed. On a mirrorless where a mechanical shutter is used - how can the EVF be blackout free when there isn't a continuous feed from the sensor possible (without the trick the Rodeo_Joe mentioned)? AFAIK, only the stacked sensor architecture used in the A9/A9II and now in the A1 has readout speeds sufficiently fast to allow a "real-time" blackout free EVF. I doubt they are black-out free when the mechanical shutter is in play.

    I had the exact same thought when I read the 30fps spec - that's like taking a video of the scene. Sometimes I manage to get some 30 or 40 images of a bird flying by (at 10fps with the D500) - I can't imagine having to go through 90 to 120 of them.

    It's being stated that Canon and Nikon will respond in kind to the A1 within 2021. I personally have my doubts with Nikon in particular - while I have no doubt that Nikon can design the (stacked?) sensor, it all seems to depend on whether they can actually have someone (Sony?) produce it for them (Canon produces their own).

    The A1 costs exactly the same as the Nikon D6 or the Canon 1DX Mark IIII - and by comparison, those two DSLRs don't fare all that well. I certainly wish Sony had opted to integrate the battery grip and use a larger battery - moving 50MP at 30fps must put some drain on the small battery Sony is using now.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
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  12. The R5 also is "blackout-free" when in 20 fps electronic shutter mode, but there is some rolling shutter.

    Fortunately you can choose some lower speeds in the A1 (10, 20 I believe). However, I'm not sure how the live view looks like at 10 fps, is it still showing high refresh rates and no blackouts?

    I am sure that Sony and Nikon can collaborate on such a sensor design and fabrication, as they have many times before. My understanding reading between the lines in Nikon's interviews is that it's the (fast enough) processor that they don't have that could allow them to keep up with the subject recognition, tracking and focusing that Sony and Canon have taken the lead in. I am sure that they're working on it, but when it might be ready is anyone's guess. The timing of the 400mm and 600mm launch is probably in 2022 (as the -2021 roadmap did not have these lenses and the -2022 roadmap does) and I would expect them to have the appropriate camera body ready by then. The lenses and cameras for high-performance applications are kind of coupled, as one can't achieve the performance without both components.

    I've noticed that when trying out Sony cameras (haven't tried the latest), in many cases there are slight delays in the action following button presses, and sometimes the delay is quite significant. Nikons, by contrast, respond very quickly to button presses. I see a similar phenomenon (but greatly worse) in my Sony TV: the remote control key presses can take a long time to lead into action on the TV itself. But the TV almost never has problems in streaming content. I believe they prioritise the core performance of the product (i.e. image capture and autofocus in cameras, content playback in the TV) over user interface responsivity whereas Nikon are very particular about how the cameras respond to user commands. It could be that even if Sony were willing to sell Nikon the sensor and processor, Nikon might want to still do their own thing instead to achieve the kind of responsivity that they've had before, even though the Sony sensor and processor are clearly very high-performing.

    Well, the A1 is a newer camera by one year so higher performance is expected. I have the D6 and I got it because I want to photograph using optical viewfinders and prioritise autofocus. It also has ergonomics advantages and a great deal of attention to user controls e.g. the touch screen works with gloves really well. I don't really need super high fps capability as I dislike having to go through large numbers of similar images in post-processing but it has some other features that I like. For me the connection between photographer and subject is important and I want to make decisions on when to take the shot based on what I see and predict happening next, subject micro-expressions etc. rather than rely on a high-speed burst capturing all following moments. This is partly because I enjoy the development of skills to time shots, but also to minimize superfluous shots that I have to go through afterwards. For me the specifications are not so important as how it feels to use and what interacting with and observing the subject feels like. Now, silent photography is obviously not available with viewfinder photography in a DSLR, and it is possible that I may get a mirrorless camera to get around such situations. However, for now the sensor read time of Nikon Z cameras is not completely satisfactory to give guaranteed artifact-free images in artificial light, thus I've not made a Z purchase. I won't be buying the A1 either even though it has the silent shutter capabilities that I would like to have, but given it's a Sony design it probably has similar issues with a too narrow gap between thicker lenses and the grip (I can't even get my fingers around the grip with a 85/1.8 mounted when wearing gloves), and the way the EVF looks in LV (it's possible they've made improvements, but I will have to see those in person). Further, it's just an expensive camera that does a lot that I don't personally need beyond the features that I would like to have, so the designers' priorities have been in a different place than mine. It's very subjective and I am sure the camera will be very popular within certain groups of users.

    I don't believe the battery will be a major issue in the A1, as in a mirrorless, silent shutter camera, the battery drain is likely mainly dependent on how long the camera is on and showing the live view feed rather than how many shots are taken. Probably ten thousand images can be taken with one charge if using the high-speed burst capabilities but the battery may need to be replaced once or twice during a long shooting day due to the "on" time.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
  13. It appears that the Z6/Z7 have modes that allow for blackout-free shooting, as does the Fuji X-T3 (and presumably the X-T4) and the Canon R5 (R6 too?). I wish there was more technical information available from the manufacturers instead of mere marketing speak. Compared to DSLRs where there was a lag between pressing the shutter button and the image being recorded due to the mirror moving out of the way and the mechanical shutter actually starting, things are much more complex regarding the various timings in mirrorless cameras (EVF lag, processing times, mechanical vs electronic shutter). An OVF is lag free - can the EVF lag be short enough to not matter (or is it already?). Even with an OVF: if you see it, you missed it. Even more so with an EVF? How close can an EVF get to real-time viewing?
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  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Earlier this month, Thom Hogan had an article that future sports mirrorless cameras will be ~45MP at a high frame rate, mainly due to demand of 8K video:
    Did Something Change? | Sans Mirror | Thom Hogan

    The Sony Alpha 1 is the first with that kind of specs. According to Hogan, he expects similar bodies from Canon and Nikon this year.

    Personally, I think 50MP for a sports camera is an overkill. The Sony A1 can shoot 30 fps only with lossy compressed RAW, but that is a reasonable compromise. I have shot lossy compressed a few times and the loss is hard to detect. However, I would rather have 30MP than 50. I can easily use 30 fps for my bird photography, and I am sure sports photographers can take advantage of that also. One player can block another briefly or a hand could be covering the subject's face for a moment. For action photography, having from frames and options to choose from is always a plus. Disk space is cheap and it is easily to massively delete the images one doesn't need to keep; it is normal that maybe 1% of the images are keepers. Nobody else needs to see the others.

    I am surprised that the A1 does not have a built-in grip to house a high-capacity battery and dual CFx Type B cards. Type A cards are physically too small and are easy to lose. Type A also only has one PCIe lane so that it is much slower than Type B, which can have more lanes, up to 8, in the future.

    Personally I prefer larger bodies. IMO the Z6/Z7 are too small. The thing is that any future Nikon sports mirrorless body may make the $6500 Sonly A1 and Nikon D6 look cheap. :eek:
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2021
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  15. Yes, it's very complex and in different modes, there can be different delays. With the optical viewfinder, following movement is relatively easy as whenever you see the viewfinder image, it shows the subject at that moment, whereas with EVF one is always seeing the subject a moment earlier in time, so if the subject changes direction or speed, it becomes slightly harder to follow. When there is a "slideshow" effect, one may need to leave a lot of space around the subject to ensure that one can keep it in the frame, and automatic subject tracking may be needed because the subject may not be any more where you see it in the viewfinder.

    Sony use a different type of lossy compression from what Nikon use and some artifacts have been reported, e.g., in high-contrast night images, though their significance can be debated.

    Compressed vs Uncompressed vs Lossless Compressed RAW Options

    With Nikon the compressed NEF is "visually lossless" and it's very hard to detect any difference to uncompressed or lossless compressed NEFs. As far as I remember they reduce the number of tones in the highlights (which have a lot of tones) by a slight amount. The lossless compressed NEF format is really good and the amount of space saved by Nikon's lossy ("visually lossless") compress is minor.

    Well, to me this is an issue, I can shoot about 4000 images in a 3-day figure skating competition shooting mostly single shots but some occasional bursts. I think 30 fps would easily multiply the number of images I get (to something like 10000) and I find it very time-consuming to select which image is best and consider this from different perspectives. When shooting burst, I usually select a value around 8 fps instead of the maximum (14) that I have available because the differences between consecutive shots are not that large. For bird in flight photography I would agree that more frames can be helpful as the wing positions can change quite quickly. Perhaps the A1 was especially designed for bird photographers. But for figure skating I really don't need that many shots. When shooting single shots, only 50% of my skating photos are immediate rejects, whereas the reject rate multiples when using bursts. Different sports, of course, can have different paces of movement. However, there are limits to how fast the human body can move. I am always running out of hard drive space even though I have quite a lot. So I tend to move towards more single shot photography to keep control on it.

    Possibly. ;-) But I don't think they can charge more than 20% above competitors' offerings in the same class of body. Of course the integrated vertical grip has to be factored in the price.
  16. Ah, OK.

    I was conflating Blackout with Lag.
  17. I think 8K sports video is quite some time away, and it would probably need to be 60 fps or 120 fps to show fluid movement. Broadcast channels in Finland are not even 4K, the only 4K available is via Ultra HD blu-ray discs and streaming (apart from if one produces the material oneself). I would be very surprised if 8K televisions became common in the next 10 years. But then maybe I'm a luddite resisting new technologies. ;-) :D
  18. Does Eye or Face-Detect work for such events?
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Ilkka, when I shoot hummingbirds, I can easily use 100 fps since those wings move so fast. But coming from 12 fps with the D5, 30 fps will make a difference. What I need from LightRoom is a layout so that I can select a few keepers, and LightRoom will automatically delete the rest. It won't take much time but I'll need more computer power.

    Concerning video, I think 4K is plenty. We don't even have a 4K TV at home. o_O Our eyes are not getting better. At some point it'll be diminishing return.

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