|September 12, 2004 (special edition)|
Extra, Extra, Read All About It!
Newsletter News & Sundry Business, the Nifty Nikon D70, and Photokina 2004
Good morning! As I originally promised there would be from time to time, this is an unscheduled "extra" edition of the now-monthly SMP column. I'm amazed to report that last Sunday's September SMP column drew more than 50 new newsletter subscriptions, and more than 150 e-mail responses (and counting). Honestly, I thought that a description of my hospital experiences, however humorous, would basically just serve to explain why there was no there there this month. I misunderestimated my abilities as a humorist, evidently, or else the description of my travails in the hospital struck a deep sympathetic chord in others. Maybe both.
Based on the e-mails I've been getting, though, it's obvious that I left out of last month's column some crucial information that people are looking for from me. To wit:
The Nifty Nikon
I had a chance to use the Nikon D70 last week, and wanted to convey some of my impressions. Understand that two of the sites that publish this column in English (The Luminous Landscape and Steve's Digicams) are digital sites, and the third, Photo.net, has reviewed the D70 and offers good participant content about it. Michael of L-L, Steve of Steve's, and Bob and his authors at Photo.net have more and better things to say about digital equipment than I do, so I don't typically strive to cover DSLRs in any detail.
Despite this, one of the things I find really striking about debate and discussion in the U.S. right now is a lack of reasoned, two-steps-back-and-take-a-deep-breath perspective. (Nowhere is this more true than it is of the back-and-forth regarding the two presidential candidates' military service, but, as I say, we're not going there.) Even on good digital sites, this remains true of participants' comments and disputes, by and large. My comments about the Nikon D70 and Canon Digital Rebel have mainly to do with perspective. It's true that on the one hand, we can look at any cameras with the "shopper's mentality" or with critical nitpicking uppermost in mind, and no camera is perfect. Pick up a Nikon D2h or Canon 1D Mk. II and the shortcomings of the consumer DSLRs are obvious. However, what can't be denied from a more holistic viewpoint is what an exciting and vibrant time this is to be a fan of color photography. It was barely more than a handful of years ago that the best digital SLRs cost $25,000 and were purchased only by newsrooms (and only the larger newsrooms at that). Regularly, a reason given by veteran photographers for not going digital back then was the perceived need for a pixel count that seemed almost absurdly out of reach for anything approaching a reasonable price. Certain pundits had crunched some numbers and determined that the number of millions of pixels necessary for digital to equal the quality of 35mm film was a then-awe-inspiring six.
The film-vs.-digital debate has largely ended, and several more new uber-cameras will arrive on the scene later this month that will further nail the coffin shut on it. But for whatever reason, I think it's useful to remember how recently it was that "six megapixels" was widely and routinely touted as a sort of holy grail.
The future is here in that respect. Handling the truly nifty Nikon D70, I was struck hard by the extent to which it offers almost exactly what we all were saying we wanted six or eight years ago. That's a short time for those of us of a certain age (I had weekends in college that seemed longer than whole seasons do now). Not being one to find any delight in lists of features and specifications, I would say that my overriding, if simplistic, conclusion about the D70 is this: it's a good camera. It's ergonomically a pleasing thing, with a size, weight, shape, and "density" that seem, in Phil Askey's apt phrase, "perfectly sorted." The cost-quality compromise has somehow been tilted towards quality; the camera feels, balances, and looks like a real camera (that 's a "shot" the significantly less expensive Digital Rebel doesn't really deserve, however). I was surprised, especially, how nice the kit lens feels on the camera. As a card-carrying "zoom-hater," I was not expecting anything nearly so nice in terms of a feeling of balance.
The D70's AF doesn't approach that of an F5, but my feeling is that it's at least as good as that of an N80, and most likely better. Ditto shutter lag response time. This is a perfectly usable camera for most purposes in terms of responsiveness. In fact, if the D70 were a film camera, it would fall pretty comfortably between the N80 and F100. Considering that more or less the same can be said for its price, it is a holy grail found.
Click to see our D70 sample pictures.
Now, the traditional "ultimate kicker" in a print-magazine camera
review is when the reviewer says, "I like it so much, I bought the
review sample." And it's true I personally haven't bitten on a DSLR
yet. But you just shouldn't let that stop you. You need to remember, I
like stick shifts, hardback books, tube amps, Spotmatics, sailboats
(especially wooden ones), and '50s jazz; I don't own a cell phone and I
do own a turntable (that was a device for your home stereo, er, home
entertainment system, you youngsters, that played albums, or rather,
recordings, which were big black round things made of...oh, never
mind). I've read the Constitution a dozen times if I've read it once,
and I'd rather go to Scotland than lie on the beach at Cancun. You've
heard the expression "take it with a grain of salt"? Well, ever seen a
A Rilly, Rilly Big Shew
It's worthwhile mentioning, I think, since fresh new converts are coming into the fold all the time thanks to digital, that the end of this month is when Photokina comes around. Held every two years in vast and numerous convention halls in Cologne, Germany, Photokina is the World's largest imaging show, open to the profession, the press, and the public. A number of new products are traditionally introduced in that week, or just before. Although I'm a "journalist without portfolio" now, unattached, unfettered, and free, and thus not bound by non-disclosure agreements, I choose to abide by them anyway.
This is not October's column. That will be along on the first Sunday in October.
And please, if you haven't yet, SUBSCRIBE to the newsletter! It's just been dawning on me that I can use the e-mail database to send extras along to subscribers, and you'll want to be on board for everything that's in the pipeline — there's a lot.
With best regards,
He was East Coast Editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine from 1988 to 1994 and Editor-in-Chief of PHOTO Techniques magazine from 1994-2000, where his editorial column "The 37th Frame" was a popular feature and where he presented, among other things, a set of three articles on "bokeh" by John Kennerdell, Oren Grad, and Harold Merklinger that were subsequently widely discussed among photographers.
His critical and technical writings have appeared in various publications
and newsletters such as The Washington Review and D-Max. A number of his
articles written under the pseudonym "L. T. Gray" (el Tigre) appeared in the
English magazine Darkroom User.
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