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Author Topic: Nikkors through the crystal ball  (Read 4705 times)

Rob C

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Nikkors through the crystal ball
« on: July 30, 2007, 11:33:47 am »

I was looking at the Nikon website today in search of information about bellows and alternatives when curiosity drove me to look at the lenses.

Am I in shock, or did I really deduce that they have given up on manual focus completely except for specialist lenses?

They seem to have deserted the shift lenses too - I used to have a 35mm one which was excellent - and on going over to the digital list, I was amazed to see that they only have a single zoom, the 17-55/2.8 G that has the max. aperture all the way through the changes of focal length.

There is a long list of other lenses which do not hang on to a single top max. aperture; can this mean either of these two things: that they are going to look upon the current cropped format as an amateur one and not bother with faster lenses;  that they are doing so because there is a full-frame digital baby on the way and will thus provide a platform for higher spec. optics?

Kind of makes you think about keeping your wallet in mothballs.

Ciao - Rob C

Hank

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« Reply #1 on: July 30, 2007, 11:57:47 am »

I've been letting my mind wander along similar pathways for some time.  I've talked to a large number of Nikon reps at various trade shows, and the answer is universally what might be called a smug little "take it or leave it."

Performance of their DX series lenses is okay for many of our commercial applications, but in circumstances that require critical sharpness or management of DOF, they are too soft at wide apertures and aperture shifts with zooms are problematic.

We're hanging on to our collection of older zooms, and we use those for critical shooting.  They're heavier and suffer the usual crop from smaller sensors, but they're standouts in image quality and ease of use in critical situations.  

DX has its advantages, but unless Nkon starts turning out pro versions, I'm afraid our tenure with the line is limited.  We're shooting D2X and D2Xs bodies now, but when the time comes to upgrade or replace them, we'll dump the whole Nikon line if there isn't a spectrum of new pro lenses to go with our new bodies.  I shot Canon before, but dumped them over the D60 fiasco and some other issues, so I've already demonstrated that brand loyalty is far down my list behind performance.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2007, 11:58:48 am by Hank »
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julian_love

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Nikkors through the crystal ball
« Reply #2 on: August 02, 2007, 07:35:18 am »

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I shot Canon before, but dumped them over the D60 fiasco
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Hank - what was the D60 fiasco? I'm a long time Canon shooter but only began to experiment with digital when the 10D came along. Just curious.

Cheers

Julian
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Hank

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« Reply #3 on: August 02, 2007, 10:40:40 am »

It was basically a case of never making them available.  Though they were announced and anyone who would print a review could get one, commoners like us had a dickens of a time getting them for months after the release.  We spent months on waiting lists and only were offered bodies after the next model was announced.


I probably should have phrased my post in reverse order, because the "other issues" were more prominent and the D60 was the frosting on the cake.  We got caught up in Canon's rebate scam and did many circles through their mine field without satisfaction.  We bought two D30's and seven lenses simultaneously for our studio, filled out all the forms for rebates totalling well over $1000.  Included them all along with original receipts in the same envelope, waited five months and got a $50 rebate check.  After lots of whooping and hollering, we finally moved high up the Canon chain of command to be told we should have mailed each of them separately.  Did that with photocopies of the original receipts and eight months later got back eight form letters telling us that they wouldn't honor the rebates cuzz we didn't submit original receipts, and oh by the way, the rebate program had expired.  Then we had a lens disappear into their warranty repair system, never to be seen again.

Never determined whether it was general incompetence or worse, but when we couldn't get the D60's after those experiences we used Canon's name in vain and switched back to Nikon.  If we leave Nikon, Olympus or someone else is going to be thoroughly invetigated before we even open a Canon brochure.
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Amfoto1

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Nikkors through the crystal ball
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2007, 02:00:38 pm »

Hi,

Hey, this is all pure speculation, but I suspect Nikon is at least trying to put together a full frame digital. Competitively it makes sense. Plus, why else would they continue to develop and produce lenses that are quite clearly oriented toward FF?

The recent introduction of the 135mm DC Nikkor is an excellent example.

While it certainly has some other uses, by design a de-focus lens like this is primarily intended as a portrait tool. Yet the focal length of this new lens is pretty darned long for most portraitists... when mounted on 1.5X crop cameras like all of Nikon's currently available D-SLRs.

On those cameras, the older 105mm DC Nikkor is more widely useful for portraits. If Nikon were completely committed to 1.5X sensors as their only future standard in D-SLRs, a new 55 to 75mm DC lens would have made more sense.

I have to conclude that they continue to design and build lenses for full frame cameras in anticipation of offering a digital one in the future, despite not having any at present. They ain't stupid and surely know that they are no longer designing lenses for use on film SLRs.

Perhaps Nikon is having trouble getting into a full frame D-SLR. Maybe they haven't been able to find a quality FF sensor to use. So large a sensor is far, far more expensive to make (for an explanation, see Canon's white paper on the subject of full frame sensors, it's on their website).

I'm not sure if Kodak is still making full frame sensors.  Or, if they ever actually did. It would have been more in character for Kodak to buy them from someone else, which I think they did when the full frame DCS cameras (also based on a Nikon body) were being offered in both Nikon and Canon-compatible mounts.

It's simply possible no one is offering large sensors to other manufacturers right now. Or that what is being offered is somehow incompatible with the rest of the hardware and software architecture Nikon is using.

When it comes to acquiring a steady supply of large, specialized sensors like these, there are all sorts of politics and pre-existing partnerships to consider, among a relatively small group of players.

Canon was pretty smart taking the tack of developing and manufacturing their own CMOS sensors, so they could fully control the supply line to best match their camera production needs.

It's a big initial investment to start up production of chips like that. But, as a corporation Canon is so much larger and less specialized than Nikon (and all other camera manufacturers... with the exception of Sony now). What was possible and made good business/strategic sense for Canon may be out of reach of others.

Let's hope Canon doesn't let it go to their heads, the way it sounds they might have done in Hank's response. Seems to me their products have gotten a bit behind in a few respects in the current marketplace, perhaps they are resting on their successes and laurels.

On the other hand, they could radically change that very quickly with a few key product upgrades, which are no doubt in the works and have been speculated upon by Canon users, ad nauseum.

OTOH, haven't we all complained about the ultra-short life cycle of digital cameras over the past 10 years?

Hank, as a Canon user myself I gotta ask, were you and/or your studio enrolled in CPS at the time you had so much trouble with Canon?

Cheers!

Alan
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Rob C

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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2007, 11:39:17 am »

I would love to be able to assume the hopeful mode and believe that Nikon is thinking FF digital. However, if they are being serious about staying in the pro field, why have they stopped doing the 35mm and 28mm shifts?

Schneider seems to be the only supplier left with its 28 PC in a variety of mounts; but there the problem is that unless a Nikon FF appears, why risk buying it since film seems to be hanging on in there by screeching fingernails and few Nikon bodies for film are still on the market...

If Nikon did decide to produce wideangle PCs for digital as is, then that would be a serious signal that they do NOT intend to go FF; it would also help if they considered doing primes for digital instead of just millions of zooms which are, in the end, more am than pro in intent. Reverting back to the PCs, Iīd have thought that the huge number of estate agents in business would have provided a very easy market for such lenses: so many of those guys do their own īsnapsīand to be able to do them with a better result not a million miles beyond their ability to use or pay seems a reasonable market aspiration.

But I DO think that these big companies fall asleep at the wheel. There are so many layers of authority, so many people whose feathers are beyond the ruffling, so much positioning to consider that internal politics must consume more attention than company business. Perhaps thatīs what company business really is: internal politics.

Ciao - Rob C

Hank

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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2007, 01:20:10 pm »

Hey Alan,

Joining was going to be "the next step" for us, but we never got that far.  I have to ask myself why membership would be needed for good service.
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Ray

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Nikkors through the crystal ball
« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2007, 09:10:22 pm »

Quote
I would love to be able to assume the hopeful mode and believe that Nikon is thinking FF digital. However, if they are being serious about staying in the pro field, why have they stopped doing the 35mm and 28mm shifts?

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Rob,
If I recall correctly, that 35mm shift lens did not have tilt, did it? A few years ago when I decided to switch from Minolta to Canon, I considered the Nikon option. As I recall, Nikon had just one (or maybe 2) shift lenses on offer. Canon had 3 tilt & shift lenses, as well as a number of lenses with image stabilisation. Nikon had its first 3mp DSLR, but it was far too expensive for me, for what it was. There were rumours that Canon would soon release their first DSLR. I have no regrets switching to Canon.

It seems to me that the uses for tilt & shift lenses are slowing diminishing as software capabilities increase. We now have perspective correction in Photoshop as well as warp and distort. CS3 does an excellent job of correcting for parallax errors when stitching with Photomerge, so using these lenses for stitching purposes is no longer the advantage it used to be.

Likewise for tilt. Auto-align and stacking modes in CS3E can be used to seamlessly merge images with different focussing points to increase DoF.

I sense that Nikon has a huge problem in taking on Canon in the full frame market. Their D2X was hugely popular because it provided an attractive alternative to Canon's 1Ds. It had at least equal resolution, and often better resolution at the edges and corners because of the crop factor, and was cheaper and lighter.

The 1Ds2 has only marginally greater resolution yet is still significantly heavier and more expensive than the D2X. The undoubted superior performance of the 1Ds2 at high ISOs is not as significant as one might think after factoring in the DoF advantage of the D2X. Ie., for equal FoV, same shutter speed and DoF, you can use one stop lower ISO with the D2X.

There were good reason for someone to switch from Canon to Nikon because of the D2X, or for those who were not already locked into a system, to buy a D2X in preference to a 1Ds2.

If/when Nikon do produce their first full frame DSLR, it will be an event heralded and trumpeted with much fanfare. For such a camera from Nikon to be profitable, as the D2X was, it would have to offer some advantages over the current Canon FF models.

It's difficult to see how they could achieve this, but I'm going to offer some free advice   . It's widely tipped that the 1Ds3, expected later this year, will be a 22mp model. If Nikon can release a 28mp (or higher) FF model around the same time which actually has less noise at high ISO than the 1Ds3 because it employs the new Kodak sensor with panchromatic pixels, then I'm sure it will be a winner   .
« Last Edit: August 03, 2007, 09:13:46 pm by Ray »
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Rob C

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« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2007, 11:58:59 am »

Ray - the old Nikon 35 and 28 PC lenses did NOT have tilt, just up and down shift or, if you rotated the lens, sideways movement.

I remember when Canon introduced their trio of 24, 45 and 90 tilt/shifters and I envied them the products! Trouble was, it meant a totally new system and I was already far too heavily into Nikonīs world.

I take your remark about Photoshop allowing one to make alternative arrangements in place of lens movements, but I cannot get my head into that mode at all: either you do it quickly and properly on the single exposure or you are just making-do, not how a pro should behave. I understand you have a different departure point on that, but I see no advantage in creating even more bloody computer time! Of course, others might actually find that the point of the exercise; I just resent every damn moment I have to spend in Photoshop. This does not mean that the opposite opinion is wrong! Itīs just my feeling on the matter.

Getting back to Canonīs 24 Tilter - I have heard that it is in need of serious reconfiguration in the new digital world.

Perhaps Rollei got it right on 120 when they had the Schneider optic that allowed movement...

Ciao - Rob C

Ray

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Nikkors through the crystal ball
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2007, 10:58:02 pm »

Quote
I take your remark about Photoshop allowing one to make alternative arrangements in place of lens movements, but I cannot get my head into that mode at all: either you do it quickly and properly on the single exposure or you are just making-do, not how a pro should behave. I understand you have a different departure point on that, but I see no advantage in creating even more bloody computer time!

Rob,
I guess that's one of the differences between a pro and an amateur. For me, the lure of a TS-E 90 was the possibility of getting 6x4.5 quality with a 35mm format. It was much cheaper than buying a 6x4.5 system. But a pro would just buy the best tool for the job rather than stuff around.

When I later switched to the cropped format D60, the TSE-90 became too long for many purposes so I bought the TS-E 24. However, now that I mostly shoot with a 5D the TS-E 24 seems less useful. One can't use the full shift without getting soft edges and vignetting, and I'm doubtful that there's any advantage for stitching purposes, but I'll have to do more experimenting with programs such as Autopano before I can be certain about that.

The following shot is a 3 image stitch taken with the 6mp D60 and TS-E 24 in 2004. The file size, in 16 bit, is 90MB, about the size one would get from a 16MB digital back. With stitching programs of the day, there's no way I could have got seamless joins in that foreground, without using the TS-E lens. Now I'm not so sure.

[attachment=2921:attachment]

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I just resent every damn moment I have to spend in Photoshop. This does not mean that the opposite opinion is wrong! Itīs just my feeling on the matter.

I know how you feel. I'm always searching for effective but simple ways of getting results. I find it very tedious having to learn complex routines that might or might not produce the desired effect. I'd rather be out taking photos. But the fact is, Adobe is addressing these issues. In the first edition of CS they gave us the Shadow/Highlight tool which is a great time-saver.

In their latest version, CS3 Extended they have more new features which save more time, such as now usable Brightness/Contrast sliders which have automatic protection of highlights and shadows. The auto-alignment capability with similar images is just amazing. You can now take hand-held bracketed shots for blending purposes to increase dynamic range, or simply rapid fire a number of shots with the same exposure and reduce noise through stacking. The auto-align feature now really works. In CS2 it didn't seem to do much.

I've yet to explore the effects of increased DoF by auto-aligning similar images with differing focus points, but this appears to be another exciting option of CS3E.

Quote
Getting back to Canonīs 24 Tilter - I have heard that it is in need of serious reconfiguration in the new digital world.

I'm sure it is, but I've heard no rumours. My copy of the TS-E 24 is not particularly sharp, so that's one issue they will have to address.

Ciao!
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julian_love

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« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2007, 05:56:28 am »

I use my 24mm TSE on a 1DsII frequently when shooting buildings. I find it is very sharp except at the edges on full shift. However mine is quite new (1.5 years old) and some others have commented that the newer ones are much sharper than the older ones.

As for using PS as a substitute, yes this is often possible but 1) I get back from a shoot with 1000s of photos and do not have time to go to PS with all the keepers 2) i find the quality is superior to the smearing from correcting distortion in PS.

Cheers,
Julian
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Rob C

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« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2007, 07:09:15 am »

Quote
I use my 24mm TSE on a 1DsII frequently when shooting buildings. I find it is very sharp except at the edges on full shift. However mine is quite new (1.5 years old) and some others have commented that the newer ones are much sharper than the older ones.

As for using PS as a substitute, yes this is often possible but 1) I get back from a shoot with 1000s of photos and do not have time to go to PS with all the keepers 2) i find the quality is superior to the smearing from correcting distortion in PS.

Cheers,
Julian
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=131572\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Just looked at your site: another photographer with a damn good eye.

Lovely material - congratulations!

Ciao - Rob C

Ray

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« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2007, 11:38:59 am »

Quote
I use my 24mm TSE on a 1DsII frequently when shooting buildings. I find it is very sharp except at the edges on full shift. However mine is quite new (1.5 years old) and some others have commented that the newer ones are much sharper than the older ones.

As for using PS as a substitute, yes this is often possible but 1) I get back from a shoot with 1000s of photos and do not have time to go to PS with all the keepers 2) i find the quality is superior to the smearing from correcting distortion in PS.

Cheers,
Julian
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Yes, indeed. You have some spectacular shots in your portfolio, Julian.

If you have a sharp TSE 24 then that in itself is a good reason to use it, even without the features of tilt and shift. I'm afraid mine is hardly sharper than my Sigma 15-30 zoom. In fact sometimes it seems less sharp.

The problem I have with these TSE lenses is that they are really too heavy to travel with. They are limited because of their fixed focal length, as all primes are, and the lack of autofocus can sometimes make things difficult or at least slow.

I know what you mean about lack of time to process thousands of shots after returning from a trip. That's why I'm very much in favour of automated procedures that really work. A program like Autopano Pro seems to be able to handle both automatic stitching and blending of bracketed shots all in one go, and CS3E can merge 3 hand-held shots to HDR more quickly than I can set up a tripod, if I'm carrying one. Such procedures are inevitably going to get better, quicker and more automated.
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