PRO GRADE DIGITAL CAMS VS PRO GRADE DSLR
You know, Industry is Industry. It needs money. And considering that the « old » generation of photographers have skills, knowledge, tastes and habits, and have seen all monkey tricks the industry used till today, time was up for the big ones to leave them alone and get their claws on the new generation.
That’s a political statement, yes. Everything eco, digital, connected today is a teaser to get the millenials and gen-z rookies on the market, knowing that the old ones won’t follow so easily, or won’t follow at all. Don’t teach an old monkey … What’s more, and that’s the eco-political aspect, the new connected wave is coming (cams included) and is the worst possible to carbon print.
So, back to photography : Digital cam, who needs that ? Most photo blog (and pros) will tell you, being in the trend is important, that it’s the next big thing. Not even talking about stunning video capabilities. But we’re talking sport “stills” here. Sure, the DSLR are very expensive. That’s a long term investment, but once done, you’re good for … should I say at least a decade or more ? Digital are not cheap too (so far), and are based only on promises. Time will tell.
Before entering the fat of the subject, just a reminder that, in parallel of the photo business, smartphone business is still trying to create its own photographic reality with MB pixels loaded smartphones, 3 or 4 cams (the size of a pin head) supposed to beat the real cams. Sure. You’re welcome.You know me, I’m grumpy (but fun) and these phone cams are still shit outside social networks use.
First, we’re in an era where we mostly look at pictures on minuscule 7 inches ultra sharp oled screens. Take a look at these pic on big screens, and you leave your seat after the second pic. It’s just ugly. What’s more, try to print them bigger than the approx size of a standard letter, and you waste a sheet of your beautiful print paper.
So, what’s my problem with the new Digital Marvel ?
None. I own the three generations of best sport cams ever built (by Nikon, who else ?), which survived far more tough and rough surroundings than the Nikon Ambassador’s even tried, and therefore, I’m not worried about digital competition (even the Nikon Z one) at this point.
First, loading a cam with a ton of MPx is pure commercial bullshit, except for one point, we’ll see later. My old D3s is a nyctalope. It carried a poor 12 Mpx If I’m right, and because these megapixels were only a few, they had all the necessary room for them to catch a maximum of light in the dark. How happy they were during night races LOL …
FIRST, LET’S START WITH A FEW ACCESSORIES …
Batteries and cards … batteries .. well, let’s be honest, digital photography just starts and we can forgive « 900 pics capacity with one battery !!» in a supposed pro sport digital box. They need to tease the new photographers where 900 pics is an great pro shooting day … Er … no we can’t forgive that finally. Or what companies mean by a 2019 « pro » sport cam that is shooting a 25 minutes event. By comparison, overall, the 3 Nikon go to 4300+ pics (fine/large files) on a single battery (and leaving the cam on all the time). That means hours (even a day) of shooting, at 11fps, etc., full trhottle. The rest is fairy tales.
Cards … I remember when the D4 was released, that my first comment was «whaaat ? … a mix of CF Card and XQD ? Why not 2 XQD slots (or 2 CD Cards slots for the poor LOL). It came on the D4s but they wasted (or skipped) that opportunity for some kind of reason (were XQD not reliable enough then ? Wrong – but why use them ? A processor not powerful enough to treat all the pics, so why use faster cards, etc. ). Well, whatever the reason, Nikon finally used 2 XQD slots and they work like a breeze. Don’t trust what they’re saying, XQD are just perfect, very fast, reliable and tough. They just want you to admit that SD Cards, or the new SD UH… or SD cards in their sweet little plastic cover are the new big boys on the field. For cupcake shootings, yes (but if you are a cupcake shooter, you may skip that article, Digital is for you). On the track, I would not try … especially considering that, if you have jpeg files at 20Mp each or more (thanks to the new megapixels sensors) you will need a lot of cards to shoot a full day. And if you change a SD Card on the track, good luck compared to a XQD. Call me reactionnary or old fashion but … changing cards when you’re on an iced stairs on the side of an almost vertical ski jump … that does not match the catalog picture.
So, batteries and cards are absolutely not on par with what they are promoted for : pro sport. So far, for sure, cos as said, this will evolve and they sure will find ways to make all that thougher and more reliable.
NOW THE CAMS …
I won’t give a name but I tested one of the latest release of a big company, in mid september. This comment appy to almost all the new digital cams on the market (Sony, Canon, Nikon) …
First, the cams are small. Small is light, which is good, until you have to put it a 300 or 400mm 2.8, which makes you look like you carry a bazooka with a matchbox glued at the end. Ok we don’t care about the look but … the balance (which is important when you shoot for a long period of time) is catastrophic with a serious heavy lense. Will they build long light prime, sure yes. But not now.
Small means also … small buttons and rotary knobs and small format overall. And I’m talking about normal hand sizes. Schreks of the world, forget it. Ok, you can add a grip, but NOT all of them allow to have 2 more batteries (er … that could be a good idea. It already is. But not now again) but already cost almost 300$ … and the cams are still not near in size from their big elders, by far. Try one, and you’ll see what I mean.
The screen. It’s your business but how many times did you use a touch screen while shooting ? And how many time would you need to rotate that screen ? Without even trying to scroll through the menu that way … Basically, let’s get serious, either your cam is configured .. or not. Remember that the theory behind the Nikon and Canon flagship cams was that, during the shooting time, you can configure everything from «the outside » and not from the menu (and/or just having to check the screens in case). But that surely will be more difficult for the previous generation of photographers than for the new ones who will get old with that new technology. But the fact is, when you shoot action, the less you have to check your cam, the best (you are here to shoot, not to configure)
Overal, the fabrication and quality of these cams is very good. Not built to last long, but built to last to the next version … they’ll suggest you to buy. That said, for that price, we expect something serious. It is, but I wouldn’t go too hard on these cams.
The digital viewfinder … the shutter, and the shutter speed. Digital shutters are horrific. You have the impression to press a laptop key (no click, no haptic anything, just a finger on a burger bun). Which is nice to type, not to shoot. If you can pass that … the viewfinder has something that is an advantage on the classic vieuwfinders : you see the changes you make directly in the viewfinder. Coool .. except that 1. Your cam is supposed to be configured 2. You are supposed to be a photographer so you are supposed to know already, by skill and experience, what do what when you make a change on the cam setup. A gadget, but nice.
The continuous viewing is pure marketing bullshit … if you’re already able to shoot the righ pic amongst 11 fps, even with the « blacks » inbetween, you won’t need that. It even has a strange feeling that nothing’s happening when you shoot. Weird.
And all in all, even when I used the awesome bridge from Sony (DSC RX-10, yes, a great camera, for the price and far more advanced than the new digital IMO) that couple digital viewfinder + electronic shutter felt … unnatural and laggy.
Now the shutter speed and FPS’s … Well, if you have the eye and the feeling, you will get the right pic even at 7-8 fps, if not, even 80 fps won’t help you. Go video instead, and cut slices in the fat. The average, er … considered useful is between 9 to 12 fps. It’s far enough. If you’re not good (or not focused), you will miss it anyway. LOL
But, still, the shutter lag feels less important on classic big DSLR than on digital cams. Maybe that’s subjective, who knows.
Last, the lenses. Companies are rushing to release “copies” of the same lenses range as for DSLR/APS-C so difficult to judge now.
The impression for me is that with digital, the industry try hard to reload what happened years ago with DSLR/APS-C but died slowly these last years : people enthusiastic to buy new gear. Let’s be honest, once you have build up a great setup for your DSLR … you won’t need to buy anything more (dare I say, for years ?). So once this market is gone (the « old photographers ») they need to find a new one. And “voilà” the Digital.
I’m no technician but I still think that, say, a Nikon 300 F2.8 (amongst others) is still an unbeatable beast and its reduced / digital bro will be a cheap (quality) version sold at the usual price (high). Technology and progress sure reduces the weight of the glass but I wait to be convinced that, considerring the piece of curved glass alone that weighs in around a 2+ and considering the number of glass in a pro lense … a smartphone, or micro third will compete. Just do the math.
Well, the main advantage of big sensors stuff with pixels is the pic size. And they are big, yes. Very good to crop, to print (resolution … but maybe not the final print quality cos at 1 :1 pics seems less sharp than at 1.1 on a DSLR). But that’s a good point. New Sony’s Pixel Shift (globally each part of the sensor take a pic wich is stitched in one huuuuuuge pic -like 100Mb+ a pic) is a great idea if you can achieve it (which means that you can only use that on tripod, with an absolutely not moving target – so forget sports with that). That opens a lot of possibilities.
CONCLUSION SO FAR
These digital cams are nice. You will take great pics with them. But you would also whith the huge traditionnal actual catalog. What to say ? if you are bored, you have money to waste/use, love gadgets, well, your choice. But as a dirt/track gear, I would not expect too much of them soon.
Digital cams are certainly going to be the new smartphones (commercially, a big success). Smartphones don’t sell well theses days (too expensive, probably at the max of what’s technically possible and … useful) but the big commercial advantage of these cams is that they will be upgraded more often than DSLR.
IMO, DSLR is not dead 😉