Saturday, May 29, 2010

Here's where I talk about cameras

Canon vs Nikon, in a nutshell. Ha.

In 1987, Canon ditched the FD mount in favor of the new EF mount. This put them worlds ahead of Nikon in terms of autofocus - Canon's new mount relied on an autofocus engine in the lens body rather than the camera body. This allowed much faster focus. To this day, many Nikkor lenses use the in-camera motor. This results in slower, louder autofocus, though some claim it is more accurate.

Many Nikon fanatics say Nikon made the right choice because you can mount any older Nikon lens on a new Nikon camera. BUT, this really doesn't matter for working professionals who need autofocus. The Canon FD mount was manual focus only anyway, so Canon's switch means that Canon has more autofocus lenses available for their cameras, even if Nikon has more total lenses available. Additionally, Canon's AF lenses from the late 80s and all of the 90s are faster because they use in-lens AF motors.

The impact this has today is with the Nikon system, pro cameras (D300, D700, D3, D3s, D3x) can use all of the lenses, but amateur bodies like the D5000 have a severely limited choice of AF lenses. These cameras don't have the screw that drives autofocus on many of the Nikon lenses, and Nikon has a comparatively small selection of lenses with in-lens autofocus.

What Canon is doing wrong today is creating cameras with too many megapixels. The 1D Mark IV vs D3s example is a good one. The 1D IV has superior image quality up until ISO 1600 or 3200, but many pros are willing to forgo that for the D3s because it absolutely smashes the 1d IV in low light shooting.

Even more frustrating is Canon's refusal to get into the game of building a fast full frame camera, and they got into the full-frame business 4 years before Nikon. The best Canon has is the 1Ds III, at just 5 frames per second. Canon professionals like Al Bello are forced to use the D3 for ultra-wide, 14mm action shoots. Because of its great autofocus and blazing 9fps at full-frame, the D3 tends to be the photojournalism camera of choice.

In lower model cameras, Nikon takes the cake for build quality and features. While Canon's 5d Mark II and 50D have abysmal autofocus, the D700 and D300 have the same number of focus points as the D3 and D3x. They even have the same tracking, albeit at a slower AF rate, and both are capable of 8fps with the battery grip attached. These are not your classic amateur camera. Also, Nikon bodies are all weather-sealed - Canon only does this in the pro lineup.

Canon has come back a little with the 7D - finally we have an "amateur" camera that is weather-sealed and shoots 8fps. The problem is the 18mp APS-C sensor - cameras several generations back (5d, 1D Mark II, 1Ds Mark II, 1D Mark III) all perform better than it in low light. The same is seen with the 50D - the 40D, 30D, and 20D have sensors that perform better in low light.

Now, we can discuss the good things Canon does. The first is that they make their own sensors (Nikon uses Sony CMOS sensors - believe it or not, the D3X and A900 share the same imaging sensor). As a result, Canon produces images with finer detail and better color accuracy. The older 5D actually produces sharper images than the state-of-the-art Nikon D700, D3, and D3s. This can be seen in Ken Rockwell's test, and he is a known Nikon fan. Though I would take any of the Nikons over the 5D because of their other features, the image quality produced by a camera outdated by 3 years must be recognized.

This is also noticeable in Canon's older models. The 1Ds released in 2003 tells the story - the image quality at ISO 100-400 is barely different than Nikon's 2007 cameras (D3 and D700). While comparing it to cameras with smaller sensors isn't fair, it is interesting to note that the 1ds beats the IQ of the far newer D300. Additionally, the Canon 1D Mark II and 1Ds Mark II are still great cameras. The 1Ds Mark II has better image quality than anything from Nikon except the D3x, and the 1D II beats the much newer D300 in terms of noise and autofocus speed, though not by much. The appeal of these is price - the 1D II comes in at under $600 (heavily used), and the 1Ds II is around $2000.

Nikon is doing exactly the right thing in terms of the feature-set of their bodies. They delivered the D700 with nearly the same specifications as the D3, and still sold millions of the D3 because they knew it was a great camera. Canon seems scared to put real features into their lower-end cameras as if they might defeat their high-end. Nikon just needs find a way to produce sensors of the same caliber as Canon. I'm convinced that if Canon made a modern 12mp full-frame sensor, it would blow the modern Nikon (Sony) ones out of the water. I base this on the superiority of the original 5d over the far newer D700 and D3.

What Nikon has done is hammer in the idea that megapixels are not king, and image quality goes beyond resolution. The D700 is a great camera to go to for those who have had enough of the 5D Mark II's AF system, and the resolution difference isn't important at all.

Canon's genius was the release of the 5D Mark II. As much as I complain about the amateur autofocus and poor build quality, I recognize that Canon skimped on features so they could keep the price low on a full-frame camera with a 21mp sensor. At nearly 1/3 the price, the 5D Mark II produces images almost identical to the D3x, and it does so with a tiny body and much more useable menu and review speed. Also, Nikon does not come close in terms of video. BUT Canon needs to get their act together and make a fast full-frame camera. 35mm is a photojournalism format. Forget megapixels. Give us a 16mp full-frame sensor in the 7d body. Bump it to the 45 af point system from the 1ds mark III, give it a $4500 price tag, and I promise it will become the most popular DSLR in a month.

Over all, the best thing is to weigh the choices carefully, and if you have the luxury shoot both like Al Bello.

Because of the spectacular Rochester Institute of Technology equipment rental cage, I have said luxury. I don't really cast in with either company, because I can see the benefits of both. I find it immensely frustrating when people come up to me intent upon starting a Nikon vs Canon argument, so I tape off the labels on my camera.

(There are other reasons as well, but I wanted an excuse to show off this picture)

Because I see Canon's mistakes as easier fixes than Nikon's, for now I will stick to them. They are the larger company, they make everything themselves, and they appear to be on the right track feature-wise with the 7d. In the end, both companies suck, and both companies are great.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Fest '10

Jim, a worker at the French Fry booth during the May 7-8 Carnival in RIT's D-lot, patiently waits for patrons. Few students were attracted to the the outdoor activities of Spring Fest 2010 because of the cold, wet weather.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May Day

May Day from Rob Shook on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Annie Leibovitz

An Empty Pool

Friday, May 14, 2010

David Fass, otherwise known to Tigers fans as "Big Goon," walks to his car after the hockey team's final homecoming rally of the season. The Tigers lost to Wisconsin in Detroit during the finals game of the Frozen Four on April 8, 2010.

RIT President Bill Destler takes a moment to reflect during the final hockey homecoming rally of the season.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Baseball stuff

Some nice singles

May in Rochester