Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts on the Nikon Df

The newest addition to Nikon's DSLR lineup is the Df.  I had hoped to actually be able to see and handle this camera when I attended NYC Photo Expo last month and to be able to report on it here.  Nikon, though, inexplicably decided not to officially release the camera until several days after the event had ended.  When I was at the show and asked a Nikon rep about the camera, he only smiled disdainfully and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."  This snub to its prime customer base (what other location has as many professional photographers as NYC?) was the only latest in a series of blunders made by the struggling camera company. One has only to remember the dismal reviews that greeted the Nikon 1, a primitive milc that was little better than a point & shoot but carried a high end price tag.

Nikon is paying the price for its flawed decision making process.  According to a report quoted last week on the Nikon Rumors site:
"Nikon Corp cut its full-year unit sales forecast for high-end cameras for the second quarter in a row on Thursday, as a dramatic fall in demand among photography hobbyists that began last year accelerated faster than expected. The company posted a 41 percent drop in operating profit to 21.9 billion yen ($222 million) for the six months ended September, saying overseas demand for pricy single-lens reflex models had remained depressed."
To get back to the Df, the camera is a puzzle.  Initial reports indicated that it had been designed to compete directly with the Sony A7, a camera which I did see at Photo Expo and which I found very impressive.  (Ironically, according to an article in PetaPixel, sales of the A7 are running 200% above expectations.)  The problem is that the Df is priced a full  $750 above the A7.  For that matter, it's also a full  $750 above Nikon's own D610.  At $2,746.95 (the B&H preorder price as of today's date), the Df is only $50 less than the current asking price of the D800.  And yet the Df's specs do not measure up to those of the D800.  Most notably, the Df does not have any video capabilities.  And while the D800 offers 36.3 megapixels, the Df provides only 16.6.  Moreover, the smaller size of the Df body must necessarily make the use of longer lenses, such as my 80-400 VR, more problematic.  Granted the Df has an appealing retro design (I still own and regularly use my F3T), that's hardly the criterion on which to base a camera purchase.

The bottom line is that I would not recommend purchasing the Df, at least not at its current price level.  Even if it were the camera I wanted, I would wait and see.  If the sluggish sales of this model continue, I predict that the Df will eventually be greatly reduced in price.  I would not be surprised if it soon ended up selling for less than $2,000.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nikon D610

I have been considering purchasing a new digital camera for some time.  Although I'm still primarily a film photographer, I thought it would be highly useful to also own a full frame digital camera on which to mount my 35mm Nikon lenses.  Last year, I had come close to buying the D600 but was discouraged by numerous accounts of a defective shutter design that resulted in an inordinate amount of dust accumulating on the sensor.  I am honestly not sure how real or extensive this problem was, though Nikon did finally announce a service advisory regarding it.  At the time, I thought it best play safe.  Since most of my work is on black & white film, I felt I could afford to wait until the issue was resolved one way or another.

It turned out Nikon's solution was to discontinue the camera altogether along with all the bad press associated with it and issue a new model, the Nikon D610, in its place.  This was probably the best alternative, both for the company and prospective buyers.  The principal difference between the two models was a redesigned shutter mechanism.  There were two other minor changes in specs (faster continuous shooting and improved white balance) but these were in themselves too paltry to justify the release of a new model.  Whether as a result of the new shutter mechanism or some other change, the D610 apparently has none of the dust problems associated with its predecessor according to a report in PetaPixel by Roger Cicala who first raised the issue on the D600.  In summary, the D610 is for all intents and purposes the same camera as the D600 - minus the bad reputation.

From what I saw at Photo Expo 2013, the D610 is an excellent camera and a viable alternative to its pricier sibling, the D800, which it resembles closely.  The only problem I really had with it was the lack of a PC sync terminal, but this can be easily rectified by attaching an adapter to the hot shoe.  Dpreview has already posted a "first impressions" review for those interested in learning more about the camera.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Photoshop Photography Program

For those who make their living working full time at photography, Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription makes a great deal of sense.  It's just part of the cost of doing business - a minor expense that's completely deductible   The great advantage to subscribers is that updates are available immediately.   There's no longer any need to wait for the latest version to be released and then downloaded for installation.

For those who are not full time professionals, however, the subscription is more problematic.  In this economy, the last thing one needs is another bill to pay every month.  Moreover, many of those who are already registered users of CS6 are happy with the features provided to date and see no urgent need to upgrade.  To lure these customers, Adobe announced in September at the Photoshop World Conference the Photoshop Photography Program, a limited time subscription offer at a reduced price of $9.99 (plus tax) per month.

I checked out the program and found, for me at least, a major problem.  At the link above, Adobe explicitly states, "To be clear, $9.99 is not an introductory price. It is the price for those of you who sign up by December 31, 2013."  Proceeding forward to the actual Terms and Conditions, though, I encountered the following:
"The price is valid for a full 12 months. After that, we'll renew your contract automatically, at the then-current price of the offering, unless you cancel. The price is subject to change, but we will always notify you beforehand."
In other words, Adobe is not guaranteeing anything beyond the initial 12-month period to which the user must agree to contract.  At the end of that time, even though "$9.99 is not an introductory price," there's nothing to stop Adobe from doubling or even tripling the cost of the subscription.

There are other problems.  When I first attempted to check out the program, I was unable to access the details.  I received a message when I clicked on the link that the Cloud was "not available" along with a status report that really showed nothing other than that Adobe's system had crashed.  I don't know how long this outage lasted or how common it is, but it was hardly a reassuring introduction to the product.

In addition, there's the question of security.  Adobe's databases have recently been breached and passwords and credit card information stolen.  At first, Adobe maintained that only about three million users had been affected.  But according to an article in Reuters published last week this initial claim was false.
"Adobe Systems Inc said on Tuesday that the scope of a cyber-security breach disclosed nearly a month ago was far bigger than initially reported, with attackers obtaining data on more than 38 million customer accounts."
It's highly disturbing that not only is Adobe's protection of data so lax but also that the company is willing to misstate the extent of the damage done.

Not surprisingly, I've decided not to take advantage of Adobe's offer.  As a fine arts photographer who still works primarily with black & white film, I don't really need it.  To me, unless circumstances change dramatically, it's not a good buy.