TALKING IMAGES 46 – THOUGHTS ABOUT GETTING A NEW CAMERA – AND IS THIS THE END OF THE DSLR?

 

Although not exactly drowning in cash(!), I’m thinking about getting another camera, and various thoughts/issues arise, which may be worth passing on.  But, amongst all the marketing hype and the genuinely astonishing technology, the one thing I’m certain of is that whatever camera I buy (if I do take the plunge and buy one), it won’t be a DSLR.  (All links in this post will open in separate windows)

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WHICH CAMERAS DO I ALREADY OWN?

So first, if I’m thinking of buying another one, which cameras do I already have?  Well, an old Canon G11 PowerShot, which only goes up to a (grainy!) 3200 ISO and which rarely gets used now, but which is compact, and sports an unbelievably useful and adaptable, fully articulated screen – which is absolutely wonderful in awkward or tight spots eg on buses, in town, etc etc.  It also has a very useful 24-140 zoom range, something which I’ll return to below.

Then two Nikon full frame DSLRs, the D700 and D800, which are heavy and bulky, but which have wonderful autofocus and big AF-ON buttons (back button focus really is the thing), very good layout of controls and, well – they just deliver the goods, excellently, time after time after time.

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The much bulkier, full frame Nikon D800 DSLR beside the APS-C format Fujifilm X-T1 mirrorless camera.  Note the difference between the wonderfully sited and large AE-L/AF-L and AF-ON buttons, to the right of the Nikon’s viewfinder – really ideal positioning and usability – and the smaller, not so well placed AE-L and AF-L buttons on the X-T1.

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Another shot of the mirrorless APS-C format X-T1 and the bulkier full frame format D800 DSLR, with telephoto lenses giving equivalent telephoto magnifications (roughly 70mm-300mm).

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And, more recent acquisitions, Fujifilm X-T1 and X-T2 APS-C format, mirrorless cameras, which are excellent, more compact than the Nikons, and with really excellent Electronic Viewfinders – and which deliver wonderful images with colours to die for.  The X-T1 is somewhat pedestrian in comparison to the X-T2, but still good enough for my wide angle zoom.  The X-T2 is simply wonderful – but in terms of autofocus just doesn’t quite match the Nikons.  And while both of these Fuji cameras have (just about) well sited AE-L and AF-L buttons, these buttons are significantly smaller and more fiddly than those on the Nikons – and far more difficult to use in the cold and/or dark.

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And while I’m talking about DSLRs and mirrorless  cameras, the following.  I subscribe to Amateur Photographer (AP) which is an excellent weekly photographic magazine that is managing to do quite well in these internet and screen-dominated times.  Why do I like AP?  Well, it has an excellent production team that put out really interesting and relevant material (including really in depth product reviews) week after week, which is simply an incredible achievement – and I enjoy having a real magazine in my hands, I enjoy the tactile, real feel of the thing, I scribble notes all over it in red pen, keep pages that teach me things >>> and, quite simply, AP has taught me vast amounts about photography over the years.  And, like many others, I do not for one single moment miss reading it on some device’s illuminated screen!

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THE END OF THE DSLR??? – Anyway, a recent AP article thinks that the rise of full frame mirrorless cameras that we are now seeing spells the end for DSLRs with their optical viewfinders and (somewhat) larger size and, looking at how technology is howling forwards, I can’t see any reason to disagree.  Certainly Electronic Viewfinders (EVF) provide more, highly relevant information to the photographer – as well as eliminating the guesswork/skill involved when overriding the camera’s setting or using the camera manually.  Ah but, you say, such skills are something of value, something to cherish and preserve.  Well, yes they are, but personally I’d rather let the camera do as much of the work as possible so that my mind is as free as possible to concentrate on equally vital factors that the camera does not give information on like viewpoint, composition and pre-capture cropping.  When I look through a (good) EVF, I’m shown the image exactly as it is going to appear – and I can’t ask for more than that!

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Another shot of the less satisfactory AE-L and AF-L buttons, to the right of the viewfinder on the back of the X-T1.

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The Olympus TG-5 (Photo credit: TrustedReviews)

And finally the Olympus TG-5 TOUGH, which is a diminutive speciality camera, and which I’m using on my Outer Suburbs project.

Here are links to this (ongoing) project’s images.  The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 53a 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 .  Each will open in a separate window.

 

SO, WHAT ARE MY BASIC REQUIREMENTS IN A NEW CAMERA???

  1. Fast, accurate autofocus, via a (preferably large) AF-ON button (and hopefully for something adjacent and similar to lock exposure – see the D800 in the first of the images here).

  2. An excellent electronic viewfinder (EVF): having used the excellent EVFs in the X-T1 and X-T2, I can see that, for my requirements at least, optical viewfinders (like those in the D700 and D800) are a thing of the past.  The EVFs on the two Fuji cameras are so big, useful and crammed with relevant information that I’m completely persuaded.  The trick is getting a really good EVF on a camera that ALSO has blistering autofocus via AF-ON.

  3. RAW capture; nothing else cuts the mustard if you’re contemplating anything like extensive post-capture processing.

  4. Not too bulky or heavy (I’m not as young as I was!).

  5. Easily accessible controls, so no delving into deep menus for routine requirements – the two Fujifilm cameras in particular are good in this respect.

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WHICH CAMERAS DO I HAVE SPECIFICALLY IN MIND?

Fujifilm X-T3

Nikon Z6

None at all!!!!!!!!!!!

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THE FUJIFILM X-T3

This camera sounds very promising.  Its body is virtually identical to the light and compact X-T2, but it has a new sensor and processor that (apparently!) deliver far better autofocus than the X-T2. The downside is the smaller APS-C sensor but, mostly, I’ve found this sensor size generally fine in the X-T2 – there just isn’t quite the latitude for cropping that full frame sensors give – the X-T3 has rather more pixels than the X-T2, 26MP as against 24MP, so this helps a little – and I’ve found that around 25MP suits my needs just fine.

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Furthermore, Fuji are going to produce a 24-120 (equivalent) zoom lens, which like the Canon 24-140 mentioned above, is to me a very useful and versatile zoom range, covering as it does everything from wide angle up to medium telephoto.  To me, this is the sort of multi purpose lens to take along when the types of images expected during a shoot or day out are uncertain.

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In a nutshell: something externally almost identical to an X-T2, and which works even better than an X-T2 >>> well, that can’t be bad!

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And while I’m talking about mirrorless cameras (and this applies to the Nikon Z6 too), they are heavy on battery use, far heavier than DSLRs.  But to me this is peripheral – when out and about with the X-T2 and/or X-T1, I just take along a spare (Fujifilm) battery or two.  This is certainly not a reason to eschew mirrorless cameras.

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THE NIKON Z6

This is one of two recent models that are Nikon’s initial (and highly impressive) foray into the full frame, mirrorless camera market.  Relevant points are: a huge and excellent EVF; full frame capture; less bulky than Nikon’s DSLRs; fast autofocus; an adaptor (£100) that will enable me to use the Nikon lenses I already have – full frame Nikkors – with full autofocus etc.

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But … yes, there’s always a caveat.  I photograph in three broad settings:

  1. There’s the Outer Suburbs project, walking in south Bristol; and for this the light and diminutive Olympus TG-5 TOUGH camera is ideal – it lacks a viewfinder but shoots RAW, and it sits easily and completely out of sight in my trouser pocket.  And should I get soaked in a storm or whatever, it really is tough, for a start being completely waterproof.

  2. Then I walk in the city centre, with larger cameras, for example with the Going to Work project, and here the relatively light and compact X-T1 and X-T2 cameras have been superb, in fact they really got Going to Work off the ground in the first place.  I have used the Nikons in this environment too and, although heavier, they are superb.

  3. Lastly, I photograph out in the country, most frequently on the Somerset Levels, and, since I’m never too far from the car, camera size becomes less relevant – but for fast moving subjects like birds, I really do need the excellent autofocus and back button (AF-ON) focus activation that the D700 and D800 provide.

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So, the Nikon Z6 sounds good – full frame and fast autofocus in a more compact package – but examining its weight difference from the heavy D800 may suggest otherwise.  The D800 + battery weighs 1,000gm, while the Z6 + battery + lens adaptor weighs around 800gm, so only 200gm difference, which is not a huge amount.  But, OK, the Z6 is more compact than the D800.

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Nikon’s lenses are the other factor.  I’d be using my existing Nikkors, so that there would be no weight difference there.  But, with its new Nikon lens mount, a new series of Nikkors are being developed for these new Z cameras.  These new lenses do not need the adapter, which saves 88gm in weight, BUT in the three new Z lenses looked at so far, they are in fact heavier than their existing Nikkor equivalents!!!  And they are expensive too.  So the Z6 loses some of its charm, and I must think long and deep.

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NONE AT ALL!!!

The third option is not, for the moment at least, to get a new camera, but rather to go using those I already have – especially the X-T2, the D800 (using it more than I do now) and the TG-5.  And to wait and see what new technology and new models the future will bring – and with technology accelerating forward as it is, the wait may not be for too long.

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I hope these points are useful. 🙂

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

13 Responses to TALKING IMAGES 46 – THOUGHTS ABOUT GETTING A NEW CAMERA – AND IS THIS THE END OF THE DSLR?

  1. bluebrightly says:

    It’s fun to see the process set forth in all its glory, Adrian. 😉 My two cents is, wait! Patience. Who knows what’s around the bend, and you have such a good variety of choices right now. Feel free to hate me.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Of course I feel free to hate you, Lynn – I mean, I’m hardly going to pay for the privilege, am I??? 🙂

      But you’re right about there being such a good variety of choices now. And, with technology howling onwards as it is, its almost guaranteed that anything I buy will start playing second fiddle to something else quite quickly – not that I’m bothered by that, as long as I have something really useful – and maybe exciting too – in my grubby mits. Plus there’s the point that awaiting miracles could be endless – and I’m not getting younger or any more mobile!

      So I thinking hard. Belgian beer usually provides a certain decision … that tends to become far less certain with the resumption of Dear Old Reality. 😉

      Like

  2. underswansea says:

    Very informative post. I use a D700 and will have to replace it some day. Many photographers I know who hike have switched to mirror less cameras. Thanks for your insight.

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Thank you >>> I’m very glad that you find this post useful – to me, that’s its main purpose. I’ve been lucky in choosing to switch to the excellent Fuji X-T cameras >>> but their autofocus is not quite to to that on your D700! But one thing of course is the type of pictures you take – if they don’t include fast action, then the X-T2 is good – and the new X-T3 (apparently) has even better autofocus. But I do think mirrorless the way forward – some electronic viewfinders are now superb and (for me at least) its a question of (1) is the autofocus good enough? and (2) is the refresh rate of the electronic viewfinder good enough? Adrian

      Like

  3. Good article, thanks. I am in the same struggle and leaning towards the ‘none at all’. Excellent points on the AF/ON button, the EVF good and bad. As you know we do have the Sony a6500. In theory one of the best EVF cameras.

    For fast moving subjects none can come close to a good Canon or Nikon DSLR. Perhaps the new Olympus, advertised for this purpose, may fill the void.

    The Elephant in the room of course is the lens options…and cost. Even selectively replacing ours would mean a minimum of 8 new ones.

    I will follow your trip here with great interest, you go first…

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, I’m going first, Ted! >>> or, at least, I may be …. 😀 !!! For sure, I’m thinking hard.

      And you’re so right about the lenses – but a £100 adapter will allow me to use my current Nikkors on the Z6. And I agree with you about Nikon DSLRs capturing movement so well.

      I’m not so sure about the new Olympus, solely because of its small sensor size. The X-T2 is APS-C and the TOUGH TG-5 >>>FAR<<< smaller, but I think I'm looking at APS-C or larger for a main camera. Adrian

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are starting an adventure 😀. BTW, I mentioned the Olympus since I have seen some great work done on the small sensor.

        Like

        • Adrian Lewis says:

          Ted, yes, an adventure, and I am starting to think adventurously – but more on that another time … 😉 …

          Re sensor size, I’m not an expert, but think I’m right in saying that smaller sensors produce deeper depths of field, thus making selective focusing more difficult (even with large aperture lenses), and that they collect less light, and thus do not have such large dynamic ranges as larger sensors; also, of course, they provide less latitude for cropping.

          This said, I’m using the TG-5, which has a very small sensor, and I’ve been impressed by its capabilities – and in most cases its deep depths of field are what I want for the Outer Suburbs project. The X-T2 is APS-C and really very good. Also, I may be guilty of a degree of snobbery here but, aside from the TG-5, I think I’m looking for APS-C or above (but not medium format). Adrian

          Liked by 1 person

  4. and expensive. So I went for the X-E3, which is also working pretty well for street photography, albeit less discreet than the X100F (myne is silver, so not so discreet…) Your Fujinon lenses would also work on the X-E3. Note: I’m not working for Fuji! Maybe it’s worth waiting anyway, as it often is in such cases. Photographers have to be patient sometimes…

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  5. I’ve been using a Fujiflm X100F for more than a year, mainly for street photography. More than enough to convince myself to stick to this brand (it took about 20 minutes). However, with a trip to Nepal approaching, I felt the fixed focal length of the X100F would be to restrictive. The recently issued X-T3 could have been the best choice, but I found it too bulky

    Like

    • Adrian Lewis says:

      David, thank you for your thoughts; I like your blog. Fuji are certainly getting a lot of things right these days – and in the past too, as their colour transparency films were great favourites of mine. We photographers are all different, and so if I were going to Nepal and wanted a non-bulky camera to accompany me, I would at least ensure that the camera(s) + lens(es)I took with me offered me a variety of focal lengths >>> which translates into a variety of photographic options. An example of this would be the Outer Suburbs project I am currently on, where I’m using a very compact Olympus TG-5, which offers the full frame equivalent of 25-100mm. I’m not suggesting you buy this camera, but I am saying that even this (relatively) restricted zoom range offers me many options. Good luck with your Nepal visit! Adrian 🙂

      Like

  6. paula graham says:

    Excellent and informative post, straight from the mouth of one who knows his facts.

    Like

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