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Author Topic: My Take on Nikon Today  (Read 10507 times)
Dan Wells
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« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2007, 12:40:12 AM »
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One interesting consideration is that NOBODY has introduced a high-end DSLR lately. The last ones with any real innovation were the Nikon D200 and Canon 5D (almost simultaneous in late 2005). Both are wonderful cameras, but one would assume that, in a technology-driven market, someone would have updated something since then (if not those bodies, which are due, but not overdue, for an upgrade. then one of the older pro models - Nikon still has the D2hs in their line, which is pretty much a 2003 model). Canon's flagship 1Ds mk II is a 2004 model, and the 1D mk III looks like a pretty darned incremental upgrade to me, at least as far as image quality is concerned. The 2004 model D2x is also looking ready for an upgrade, not to mention that Canon still has a 2004 model with a mild facelift (30D, which is really a 20D) in the midrange.
       These companies are smart, and they have a lot of folks designing cameras, so the fact that the only 2006 or 2007 pro DSLR so far is a 10 MP Canon that mainly fixes user interface annoyances got me thinking... All these 22 MP and higher ubercameras rumored for years, yet none appearing... Have we hit a fairly fundamental limit? Will adding pixels now either out-resolve our lenses or inevitably add noise and subtract dynamic range? It seems like pixel pitches have settled down in the range of 6 to 9 microns (with the D2x pushing a little bit, to 5.5), and this is not only true of 35mm type cameras, but the MF backs as well. The first 6 micron cameras showed up in 2004, and resolution hasn't gone up since then - one would think that, if a 4 micron camera actually took better pictures, we'd have seen one by now (and a high-res D3x would have to be, if it wasn't full frame). The chip can certainly be built - 4 microns is still huge by the standards of feature sizes found on other types of chips.  A 6 micron full frame camera is a 23 megapixel body, but that may be the limit of where we can go with today's Bayer sensors.
        It is also interesting that Canon hasn't introduced a 23 mp camera when they have BOTH 6 micron sensors and full-frame sensors - just not a 6 micron, full-frame sensor, but that should be easy if they have both parts. The fact that Canon didn't upgrade the 1Ds at PMA makes me think there's some technical hurdle, whether they don't feel that the 6 micron sensor (which would be a full-frame version of the Rebel XTi sensor pitch) offers professional image quality or it's just too much of a challenge for the lenses.
       The wild card here may be whether something other than a standard Bayer sensor can offer better quality, assuming that we've run out of room on Bayer sensors (yes, digicams use 2 micron sensors, but they're plagued with noise and dynamic range issues, plus their lenses don't need much coverage). Fuji's SuperCCD and some variant on the Foveon sensor seem like possibilities...

                                     -Dan
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2007, 01:41:04 AM »
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Isn't it that both Canon and Nikon have been focussing their resources on the market segments where the real money is, meaning low and mid range DSLRs?

Considering the investements needed for high end, and the very low sales volumes, I don't believe that Canon and Nikon make so much money on their 1ds2 and D2x.

Besides they know their current top cameras are already good enough for most jobs and are very expensive devices by traditional photography standards.

My guess is that they are not willing to release new products that are not appealing enough to trigger a massive upgrade. Let's be realistic, the folks here at LL who buy anyting new because it is new are a tiny minority.

Regards,
Bernard
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Ray
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« Reply #22 on: April 11, 2007, 02:04:27 AM »
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Canon's flagship 1Ds mk II is a 2004 model, and the 1D mk III looks like a pretty darned incremental upgrade to me, at least as far as image quality is concerned. The 2004 model D2x is also looking ready for an upgrade, not to mention that Canon still has a 2004 model with a mild facelift (30D, which is really a 20D) in the midrange.
       
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=111808\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Many of Canon's upgrades are incremental. A doubling of pixel count from the D30 to the D60 was a major improvement, but the next upgrade from the D60 to the 10D was incremental, the chief advance being lower noise at high ISO's. The next upgrade from the 10D to the 20D was major, resulting in both an increase in pixel count and even lower noise. That was followed by a very small incremental upgrade in the form of the 30D.

There seems to be a pattern of alternating major and minor upgrades. Perhaps we're due for a major upgrade to the 30D towards the end of this year and a minor upgrade to the 1Ds2 and 5D.

I think what is constraining Canon is its policy (I presume) of not going backwards in one area of specification as a direct consequence of an advance in another area. There's no point in increasing pixel density, for example, if the result on whatever size print you care to nominate is more noise or less dynamic range. In both the 1D3 and 400D, increased pixel count has been acheived without reducing the size of the microlenses (and possibly the photodiodes). Instead, Canon has reduced the gap between the microlenses and reduced the size of the on-chip processors.

I imagine such improvements will become increasingly more difficult. At some point there'll have to be a major breakthrough or innovation.
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Dan Wells
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« Reply #23 on: April 11, 2007, 10:00:52 AM »
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I agree completely with Ray, but I think we have ALREADY reached the point where any real improvement has become very difficult. Companies like Canon and Nikon (especially in high-end SLRs) don't want to release cameras that are improved in one way (pixel count), but suffer in others (noise or DR) for it. It may be that all the high pixel-count prototypes floating around are actually not up to standards from an image quality standpoint (plenty of reports of "I've seen the prototype of the 22 mp pro Canon", but no reports of of "I've seen a spectacular .CR2 file from said prototype and put my Phase One back on eBay"). The tradeoff of specifications for quality is happening in consumer digicams right now, where most of the 10 mp models actually have worse image quality than the preceding 7 mp generation. I wonder if someone like Sony, more marketing driven than Canon or Nikon, will release a 22 mp SLR with extremely dense pixels and compromised image quality, selling millions?

                                                              -Dan
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mahleu
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« Reply #24 on: April 11, 2007, 10:20:19 AM »
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If they have reached the limit, then it would be nice if they brought the cheaper models closer to that limit.
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Anyone selling a 1DSIII or 6D cheap?
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #25 on: April 11, 2007, 07:30:22 PM »
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If they have reached the limit, then it would be nice if they brought the cheaper models closer to that limit.
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Well, Nikon is clearly moving towards that, they now have 3 cameras sharing the same sensor with a price ranging in Japan from 65.000 (D40x) to 180.000 Yen (D200).

Their vision is clearly that once we go beyond the initial phase during which sensors are still improving significantly, the main difference between top range and low end will be in the body's physical features. Basically, the film days paradigm.

It makes a lot of sense to me, they are trying to move the game back to the arena where they have always been one of the best, and can save a lot of money in design and purchasing since they buy huge volumes of a given sensor from Sony.

For marketing reasons, they have been careful to introduce new sensors in the top model first, meaning that you pay more to have access to the latest technology a bit faster, but in the end it is also made available in the lower end.

As a customer, I like this approach since I feel a healthy relationship between cost and price, and it also gived me access to great image quality at a fraction of the price.

Canon does things differently at 2 levels:

1. They use different sensors in all their bodies. Not only size, but also pixel counts,...
2. They design and manufacture in-house.

I wonder how long they'll be able to keep competing in price/value with this model. Today, they have less than 40% of DSLR market share with 4 different sensor types, all the rest being basically Sony sensors or 2 types only. I wonder if there is any truth to the supposed advantage of doing everything in-house anymore. There is at least clearly a point beyond which buying from Sony for the low end will become a better solution.

Cheers,
Bernard
« Last Edit: April 11, 2007, 07:55:42 PM by BernardLanguillier » Logged

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GregW
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« Reply #26 on: April 16, 2007, 11:02:43 AM »
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I agree Bernard.  I think what you are describing is the digicam market 10-2 years ago.  As I understand it sensor development is almost universally outsourced today.  I'm sure we will see more and more of this in the DSLR segments.  

Nikon would appear to be one or two steps ahead of the curve in this area.  By chance or strategy I don't know.  

More specifically I think the Nikon/Sony model/approach to the D200 will become more common in the semi-pro and pro segments.  Sony developed the sensor, but Nikon developed the 4 channel DAC to get the data off the sensor, clean it up and deposit in to the buffer.

This strategy will help bring pro features and technology to a broader market.
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Ray
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« Reply #27 on: April 16, 2007, 04:16:23 PM »
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I agree Bernard.  I think what you are describing is the digicam market 10-2 years ago.  As I understand it sensor development is almost universally outsourced today.  I'm sure we will see more and more of this in the DSLR segments. 

Nikon would appear to be one or two steps ahead of the curve in this area.  By chance or strategy I don't know. 

More specifically I think the Nikon/Sony model/approach to the D200 will become more common in the semi-pro and pro segments.  Sony developed the sensor, but Nikon developed the 4 channel DAC to get the data off the sensor, clean it up and deposit in to the buffer.

This strategy will help bring pro features and technology to a broader market.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112691\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

There's at least one major flaw in this strategy. Nikon and Sony are competitors. Even apart from this difficulty, there's a lot to be said for having complete control over the design and fabrication of a product at each stage of its development. Fine art photographers who farm out the printing of their images to a third party probably realise this and they are not even competitors.

It seems to me there's a fundamental difference between being 'given' a particular sensor design, then having to make the best of it with add-on functions, and being able to change the design at will to facilitate the best integration with other in-camera processes which are being developed within the same company.

Of course, one might presume there's a lot of discussion taking place between Nikon and Sony regarding sensor design, but full co-operation would seem to be unlikely between competitors who are marketing similar products.
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bjanes
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« Reply #28 on: April 16, 2007, 05:52:09 PM »
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There's at least one major flaw in this strategy. Nikon and Sony are competitors. Even apart from this difficulty, there's a lot to be said for having complete control over the design and fabrication of a product at each stage of its development.

It seems to me there's a fundamental difference between being 'given' a particular sensor design, then having to make the best of it with add-on functions, and being able to change the design at will to facilitate the best integration with other in-camera processes which are being developed within the same company.

Of course, one might presume there's a lot of discussion taking place between Nikon and Sony regarding sensor design, but full co-operation would seem to be unlikely between competitors who are marketing similar products.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112727\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Ray,

Constructing your own semiconductor FAB is a huge expense and might not be practical for Nikon, which is a smaller and less diversified company than Canon. Sony's semiconductor department is probably separate from the camera section and the former might not want to give up a huge customer (Nikon) for the benefit of the camera section, which may keep separate books. Sony's SRL cameras are not currently high volume products. Nonetheless, if I were Nikon management, I would be worried about depending on a competitor for sensors.

Dalsa and Kodak are major players in the medium format sensor market, and perhaps Nikon could hook up with one of them for future development, but Nikon still would most likely not have exclusive access to the sensor. Another possibility for Nikon would be to design their own chip and have it fabricated by a FAB (possibly FillFactory (now part of Cypress).

All in all, Canon seems to be playing with a better deck of cards.

Bill
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #29 on: April 16, 2007, 06:04:20 PM »
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There's at least one major flaw in this strategy. Nikon and Sony are competitors. Even apart from this difficulty, there's a lot to be said for having complete control over the design and fabrication of a product at each stage of its development. Fine art photographers who farm out the printing of their images to a third party probably realise this and they are not even competitors.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112727\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I have read this many times, but do honnestly not find this to be an issue at all. The sensor business of sony is an order of magnitude more important for them than their camera business, and it is very clear that to keep this business afloat Sony has to show to those companies that are at the same time customers and competitors that they remain a credible provider.

As far as sub-contracting is concerned, I am sure that you are aware that major sectors of our economy are based on this - the automotive world for instance - and it is not a problem at all. Very complex sub-assemblies of cars - dashboards for instance - are nowadays always sub-contracted. This is made to work - among other things - thanks to the presence on site at the OEM of several guest engineers coming from the suppliers. I am sure that you'd be less concerned to trust your printing to someone else if that guy came to your place to listen to your needs.

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It seems to me there's a fundamental difference between being 'given' a particular sensor design, then having to make the best of it with add-on functions, and being able to change the design at will to facilitate the best integration with other in-camera processes which are being developed within the same company.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112727\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Relevant for the high end, not anymore for the low end now that the quality level is already clearly beyond the needs of 90% of mass market customers. Besides, large volumes will enable more investement in research.

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Of course, one might presume there's a lot of discussion taking place between Nikon and Sony regarding sensor design, but full co-operation would seem to be unlikely between competitors who are marketing similar products.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112727\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

See above.

What you appear to be missing here is that sensors in the low end have basically stopped to be the most important component of the camera from which differentiation occurs. What drives the sales of low end DSLR is the brightness of the viewfinder, how well the body feels in your hand,...

We are in the very same situation as for compact digital cameras. You'll notice that Canon already uses Sony sensors in the segment. There is no fundamental difference between compact and DSLR. Until now, the higher price of DSLR enabled a company like Canon to spend time in R&D on a per camera basis, but it should be clear looking at the last 2 years that Canon has already greatly reduced their sensor investement, probably because they just cannot afford to develop a new sensor for each body while satying competitive.

Regards,
Bernard
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: April 16, 2007, 07:56:50 PM »
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What you appear to be missing here is that sensors in the low end have basically stopped to be the most important component of the camera from which differentiation occurs. What drives the sales of low end DSLR is the brightness of the viewfinder, how well the body feels in your hand,...

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112754\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Not for me, Bernard. Fundamental and real improvements in performance come first. Low noise, high ISO and high pixel count are the features that are going to persuade me to buy another camera. Additional brightness of viewfinder, a nice feel in the hand and other bells and whistles will not persuade me to part with another $5,000 or so.

Ultimately, I want a 35mm format camera that is better than the P45. That is, equal resolution (with improved 35mm lenses), lower noise at high ISOs (which
Canon already have) and of course greater DoF at the same f stops, plus the usual advantages of the lighter camera.

Also bear in mind that the difference in sensor size between the P45 and FF 35mm is less than the difference in size between Nikon DSLR sensors and FF 35mm.

Those who are trying to put up an argument in favour of the smaller Nikon sensor being able to equal the quality of a Canon FF 35mm sensor should be able to appreciate how realistic the goal would be to eventually produce a 35mm camera capable of similar image quality and resolution to the current P45. Of course, by the time that happens, digital medium format will also have improved, so there'll probably be no catching up.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2007, 08:16:35 PM by Ray » Logged
BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #31 on: April 16, 2007, 08:51:03 PM »
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Not for me, Bernard. Fundamental and real improvements in performance come first. Low noise, high ISO and high pixel count are the features that are going to persuade me to buy another camera. Additional brightness of viewfinder, a nice feel in the hand and other bells and whistles will not persuade me to part with another $5,000 or so.

Those who are trying to put up an argument in favour of the smaller Nikon sensor being able to equal the quality of a Canon FF 35mm sensor should be able to appreciate how realistic the goal would be to eventually produce a 35mm camera capable of similar image quality and resolution to the current P45. Of course, by the time that happens, digital medium format will also have improved, so there'll probably be no catching up.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=112770\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I might not have been clear. You are not the target for Canon's low-mid range DSLRs obviously.

I don't believe that Canon will adopt Sony sensors accross all of their models.

They'll move to standard stuff on the low end, and stick to their own on the high end.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Ray
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« Reply #32 on: April 17, 2007, 02:00:18 AM »
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I might not have been clear. You are not the target for Canon's low-mid range DSLRs obviously.

I don't believe that Canon will adopt Sony sensors accross all of their models.

They'll move to standard stuff on the low end, and stick to their own on the high end.

Cheers,
Bernard
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Bernard,
I agree. You weren't clear   . There are no Canon DSLRs at which I would turn up my nose. Their cheapest, the 400D is a marvel of quality for the price. A camera that can literally do things that not even their flagship model, the 1Ds2 can do, because it has the highest pixel density of all Canon DSLRs, yet retains that superb low noise characteristic which is a trademark of all current Canon DSLRs.

I don't need to point out that a full frame sensor with the pixel density of the 400D would be around 26mp and that the next step up from a 10mp cropped format, with a still reasonable pixel pitch of 5 microns, would be 13mp which translates to 34.5mp on a FF sensor.

The only reason I haven't bought a 400D is because I already have a 20D.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2007, 02:05:03 AM by Ray » Logged
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