Looking back on Nikon DSLRs--and trying to look into the future. . .

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Landrum Kelly, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. I might be off, but I am seriously wondering why nobody tries to bridge the gap with a more hybrid solution.
    The crummiest MILCs had just a rear display. - DSLRs are there too by now. - Nikon offer articulate screens Canon an almost acceptable MILC style live view AF. But none of them cared yet to provide an interface to attach or include a decent EVF; 1080p HDMI out isn't enough to run something as in Leica SL.
    OK selling mirrorbox attachments like the old Visoflex didn't make the Leica M system entirely competitive with SLRs but still: I guess people would stick happier with their systems if they provided easier access to mirrorless benefits. - An EVF near the OVF could speed up chimping and should make manual focusing of heritage lenses easier.
    Upon MILCs & mounts: Sigma released MILCs in their SLR mount. I am not sure if the flange distance really matters a lot. The days when shutter curtains almost scratched the rear elements of RF lenses are over. - Nothing digital takes my Jupiter 12, Zeiss' 21mm f4 shines brighter on film and their best 50mm is a retrofocus lens, just like all SLR wides.
    Nikon started as a 3rd party lens maker. - Right now they have a reputation to build the better endless zooms? Whatever they'll do to get into mirrorless market will be a huge compromise or a loss for some folks. I can see them going for pure consumer market share like Canon did with their EOS M line and they did before with the Nikon 1 system. I can also imagine a hybrid DSLR with (optional) EVF catering static subject photographers.
    I don't see a big challenge for Nikon themselves to make an extension tube that operates SLR lenses as well as a mirrorless camera can, but we shouldn't expect miracles from it since the various AF sensors seem to demand different AF motor concepts.
    Anyhow: SLRs aren't entirely dead yet. There seems room for improvement. Including IBIS (like Pentax did) could make Nikons more attractive and urge people to upgrade what they have.
  2. I don't agree, unless the primary measure is compactness. For me the D5 and D810 are actually about the right size of camera, sufficient to have enough controls spaced apart so that they're easy to use without looking. This isn't the case with many small cameras where the buttons are so small they're hard to use.

    If Nikon can make the AF work well using existing DSLR lenses on a mirrorless camera then it would make sense to make a MILC using the F mount simply because it would have a broader range of native lenses and there would be no disconnect for existing users if they want to gain some of the benefits (silent shooting, EVF for video use etc.). However it is likely the AF for still photography wouldn't work as well with the existing lenses on the mirrorless camera as they do in the best DSLRs. If competitive AF requires CDAF at least some of the time then it means basically stepper motors and a new line of lenses for mirrorless. In that case it would probably be best to make a clean break and start with a new mount with a shorter flange distance. In this case Nikon would have the disadvantage that they have no such system to start with. I think it is naive to think that people would widely use adapted lenses in their day to day work in the long term - the adapter gets in the way of optimal handling, and probably not all features will be supported by adapters, so it is a pain basically.

    Ultimately it would be best to let the customers decide what they want to use. Which of course is happening already.

    I have to wonder why we can not accept that diversity of technologies available is a good thing, so people can choose what they prefer.
    Landrum Kelly likes this.
  3. Not sure about adapted lenses. I'd appreciate a MILC with high res EVF that also handles the auto stop down features of manual SLR glass cobbled onto it. - But yes that is a nieche market's mindset. OTOH "adaptomania" was even seen in the Leica M 240 realm.
    The other issue: How much money do people really have? - I guess a working pro determined to switch to mirrorless will eat rice and beans till the kit is complete optimized and reliable (AKA backed up). - Others might behave differently. Tossing good money after bad investments seems quite popular too... Pseudo compatibility has been exploited as a sales argument for ages.
    Choosing what you prefer demands having both options at hand.
  4. Re Eds comment about head up displays and aircraft. Head up displays are optical view finders where you look directly at the scene with information projected onto it. The Link trainers you are thinking of were used to practise flying on instruments only so are not really comparable to either form of viewfinder. The nearest comparable flying experience to an EVF would be flying a drone.
  5. In reference to the original post. I have never thought of Nikon as an innovator. All they have to do is make it better. Aside from the advent of the 36 MP D800/800e cameras that forced everyone to make better lenses the reason I have stayed with Nikon is because the gear wears well. If they can do that then they will stay alive. I am looking forward to Nikon's first F mount mirrorless camera that will produce the quality of their current full frame cameras. For those who have watched Nikons evolution over the last 17 or so years its wasn't until the 2008 Olympics and all the long black stabilized lenses I saw that I realized that I had once again miss judged Nikon. They always seem to figure it out but not always on everyones schedule.
    Landrum Kelly likes this.
  6. Choosing what you prefer demands having both options at hand.

    Yes, of course; what exactly is missing from the market today? There are numerous different interchangeable lens camera systems based on various technologies available today. Who the manufacturer is shouldn't matter to the photographer, in my opinion, unless you are also an investor looking to fund the development of technology. When each company specializes on their own technological solution to, they can devote all of their resources on making that technology the best it can be, instead of splitting resources on products that compete with each other in the company. There is unlikely to be any "soft transition" from one technology to another for either users or manufacturers since both lenses and bodies need to be optimized for each other for best results. Adapters work for some technical applications such as macro, but in general photography I want a shooting experience where each part of the system fits well to each other and form a tool which is ergonomically pleasing to use.

    I have never thought of Nikon as an innovator.

    In practice few innovations form in a vacuum or inside one person's head; what really happens is people who design new products are influenced by everything that existed before and people whom they know and talk to and they merge their knowledge into something that is new or a little better than what was put together before. Some like to try to rewrite history to emphasize their role in it, but usually if one digs deeper one can find earlier works which are similar or lead the way.
  7. So what do you see out the windshield at night?
    The manufacturer makes a lot of difference when you are building a system. You trust the manufacturer to provide high quality, reliable equipment you can't always test yourself before the purchase. Reviews help, but say nothing useful about mechanical quality nor consistency. The manufacturer and partners must offer a complete system of cameras, lenses and accessories to meet your present and future needs. Last but not least, you depend on the manufacturer to stay in business and offer service for what they sell. "Go Fund Me" startups may be good investments, but are not where you want to go for gear you must rely on.

    I have an adapter which lets me use Nikon lenses on a Sony A7. It adds about an inch to the length to make up for the depth of the mirror box. There are some adapters which facilitate autofocus with AF-S lenses, but I don't have one of those. Nikon manual lenses are about the same size as the Sony mount, and are comfortable to use even with the extra length. I don't use them any more because they don't deliver the image quality I've come to expect from the Sony. I wouldn't expect that to change if Nikon were to offer an MILC which depends on legacy lenses. They're 12 MP quality in a world which is rapidly approaching 50+ MP.
  8. Bob Flood wrote - "An optical viewfinder, by definition, updates at the speed of light;..."

    - But a photographer's eye and brain don't!
    It's reckoned we live about 1/10th of a second behind real-time. That being about the average human reaction time. Certainly nobody seems to complain too loudly at the delay of that order between pre-flash and main flash when using i-TTL metering.

    Among the advantages of mirrorless viewing is the ability of the camera to store images before the shutter is pressed. Making its response time not zero, but actually negative! I freely admit that I could have made use of such a facility in the past.

    The longer Nikon waits for the "time and economic climate to be right" before entering the mirrorless arena, the less likely they are to be successful at it.

    The time was right last year, or the year before, or the year before that. Consulting the runes and navel-gazing is now pointless in the extreme.
    Ed_Ingold likes this.
  9. which means lenses shorter than 90 mm or so can be either simpler and less expensive, or more highly corrected than anything for an SLR.

    Commonly stated, but is it true? Where is the evidence? There was some degree of evidence of this in the early days of the 21mm Super-Angulons and the 38mm Biogons (better correction), but, I don't think this is the case today. They can be smaller (<50mm) on a mirrorless, but I would say the evidence of less expensive or more highly corrected is not overwhelming. Pricing follows a pricing convention for these companies and I think bears only a weak relationship to manufacturing costs. There's also little point comparing predigital lenses manufactured 10-15 years ago with new lenses either. Maybe it will change.
  10. Digital sensors require the light to enter the microlenses almost parallel to the normal of the sensor plane, and lenses which take advantage of the shorter flange distance of mirrorless cameras are likely to violate this which could lead to additional vignetting and possible color fringing or uneven colour. I owned a 6x7 rangefinder camera and lenses once upon a time and there was a huge amount of vignetting in the wide angle, basically it was usable at f/8 and I stopped it down to f/11 or f/16 to get acceptably even lighting in the frame. It did have the advantage of negligible distortion (0.03%). Today I wouldn't want to deal with such lenses; I want to be able to shoot my wide angles wide open and expect only a small amount of vignetting. Yes vignetting can be corrected in software to an extent but my experience is that heavy vignetting leads to increased noise in the outer areas of the frame and uneven colour. A DSLR style wide angle such as the Nikon 14-24 is much closer to what I want from a wide angle as it has very little variation in luminosity or colour from center to corner. I nowadays use the 20/1.8 Nikkor which by the way is extremely high optical quality and yet very lightweight, but the zoom has some special characteristics. The main reason I went for the prime is that I don't like the aesthetics of <17mm shots and 20mm was close enough to the focal lengths I'm actually likely to use, and much lighter weight. But anyway, these very high quality wide angles are DSLR lenses. I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that Zeiss's mirrorless wide angles outperformed their Milvus or Otus series DSLR lenses as a general rule, are there such test results? Comparison within the same brand would allow more equal footing.

    I do think that Fujifilm has some advantage in their relatively affordable, fast, APS-C wide angle primes for their X series mirrorless cameras. They are nice enough to provide optical viewfinders in some models as well which I find an appealing feature. For a DX DSLR, fast wide angle primes would be relatively large and zooms too. But for FX I don't find there to be much shortage of good lenses in the DSLR systems.

    Anyway if Sony shows up with lenses for their FE system which are both better and more compact than DSLR lenses of the same apertures, and offers them for lower price than equivalent DSLR lenses, I'm sure they will get the deserved attention to their system in terms of sales. For me the compactness alone is not sufficient incentive to buy. Silent shutter - yes, possibly, that is interesting to me, but I'd still want the OVF.

    There is a subtle delay (longer in entry level cameras than in mid or high end models) but the problem is easily solved: don't use flash, or if you do, use manual flash. i-TTL certainly does its metering faster than I can meter or iterate my flash exposures using trial or error, and it has its place, but I don't use it in my normal flash based photography, mainly because of the risk for increased frequency of eye closures in shots. Flash certainly interrupts photography of moments in worse ways than the delay: the subject is alerted to the photography which then changes the expressions for the next shots, not good. Anyway, for studio and location portraits I normally use manual flash because the results are more reproducible and there is less eye closure. Just because people don't talk about it doesn't mean they don't notice: it is simply that there are other ways to get shots than i-TTL if you are particular about what you're doing.

    Sure. But I would have to look at that nausea-inducing electronic viewfinder which would mean I'd quit photography before I would get to the moment which I want to capture.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  11. Perhaps Nikon, Canon know what the sales threshold will be on the low when they pull the serious trigger on Mirrorless.
  12. I think Nikon will time the launch of full frame mirrorless when the mirrorless ILC market exceeds the size of the DSLR market. After that, there is possibility of greater gains (in mirrorless sales) than the losses (in DSLR sales), at least in theory, if Nikon do really well.

    However, Canon has been able to increase DSLR sales as well, so it's hard to say what will happen. I think their dual pixel AF is one of the reasons they are doing so well (fluid and easy to use AF during video recording), another is that they have managed to catch up in base ISO dynamic range, also of course they have a broad lens line. Since in 2016 the Kumamoto Earthquake affected Sony sensor manufacturing but not Canon, this gave Canon some advantage in terms of being able to supply. It will be interesting to see how the market evolves in 2017 and 2018.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  13. "Sure. But I would have to look at that nausea-inducing electronic viewfinder..."

    Hmmm! So how do you view your pictures after they're taken; if not through an oversized electronic viewfinder? Does that make you feel nauseous too?

    LCD (TFT) displays no longer exhibit the visible flickering of CRTs, which was irritating or nauseating to some people - an effect that became pretty uncommon with higher refresh rates IME. So I suspect your "nausea" is psychosomatic in origin and could be easily overcome.

    "There is a subtle delay (longer in entry level cameras than in mid or high end models..."

    - If you call 100milliseconds "subtle". The delay is part of the i-TTL timing protocol and does not change between camera models.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  14. The nausea is induced when I turn my head (to follow a moving subject or simply to look around the scene) and the image that I see through my eyes is not following the head turn precisely in sync. This happens with the electronic viewfinder and it seems to be worse when the viewfinder image is large. When the monitor sits on a desk, even if I turn my head the eyes know how to stay on a stationary subject without problems. (The brain has a system for compensating head turns with corresponding eye movements automatically.) I know other people who report fatigue after extended use of an EVF. Fluorescent light doesn't seem to make things any better. And please don't tell me it's psychosomatic - I know when something is unpleasant for me and I'm not going to engage in such activities voluntarily thank you very much.

    For me apart from the nausea, the largest problem with the EVF is the moving jaggies around high contrast edges. I want to pay attention to subject emotional cues and how they develop so I can time my shots for the right moment based on anticipating the behavior. (No, I would not just spray at 20fps and pray that I got something simply because then I'd have to spend all eternity sorting out the frames in post; I already shoot too much and want to reduce the number of frames that need to be reviewed in editing, not increase them.). The EVF artifacts prevent me from seeing the emotional cues naturally as eyes tend to turn towards areas where there is high contrast change, in this case the rolling jaggies would divert my attention from small changes in facial expression and muscle tension. The artifacts get worse when panning to follow a moving subject. I find this incredibly annoying. While some of these problems might be overcome as years go by, I'm not willing to pay money for something that is clearly worse than what I currently use, for what I do with it.
  15. With regard to parallelism of exit rays in lens design - technically called "telecentricity".

    One of the most telecentric designs ever made was the f/2 Ernostar for the Ermanox, a non-reflex camera. However, this design had a huge rear element and would require a correspondingly huge diameter mount in an interchangeable lens camera.

    If you look at the Ermanox, you can see that it's more of a lens with a camera attached than vice-versa.

    Any telecentric, or near-telecentric lens design needs a large rear element. So the main restriction on telecentricity isn't the flange distance but the flange diameter, and this doesn't make for a very compact camera.

    Also, a large rear element adds cost and weight to the lens. Meaning we can pretty much forget about cheap, compact and high-performing lenses unless sensor design changes quite radically.

    Illka, it seems to me that what you want is a simple direct vision or frame-finder. As fitted to the Ermanox in fact! And one of those could be stuck in the hotshoe of almost any camera.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  16. For me Nikon already made the best camera for me as much as they could. While they certainly can make a better camera for me but I am afraid only I want it so it's not possible.
  17. it seems to me that what you want is a simple direct vision or frame-finder.

    That wouldn't work with a longer lens. Optical viewfinders like Fuji has implemented in their X-Pro and X100 series or a rangefinder like Leica M series would work for me for situations that require a quieter, smaller camera, but the downside is that the optical viewfinder area is then quite small for longer lenses (the provided or accessory EVF could be used by those users who prefer that option) and the Leica M10 is expensive. I've used a rangefinder in the past and it has some advantages but I didn't like the heavy vignetting on the wide angle at wide apertures.

    I'm happy with DSLRs and am not planning to buy a different type of camera in the near future. I'm looking forward to the D810's successor (to get radio AWL and Multi-CAM 20k) and hoping for some new F mount lenses such as an AF-S 135mm prime, and a fluorite version of the 300/2.8.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2017
  18. In spectroscopic terms, the micro lenses are "blazed" (the angle varied) to compensate for parallax toward the corners of the sensor. Otherwise vignetting and color shifts would make the image unusable. There is still a cosine effect, because light is spread over a wider area toward the edges, and the exit pupil becomes elliptical.
  19. I'm not getting the quibble over EVFs. Using the XT-2 there's no issues with nausea or anything like that after a full day and multiple batteries. The only issue I'm having currently with the XT-2s viewfinder is whether to use Auto brightness, or manual and in what conditions and the Diopter dial gets moved once in a while.
  20. Don, different individuals have different eyes, vision and brain. Our experiences differ which shouldn't be surprising really. For example I experience really strong discomfort and dizziness when in high places.

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