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Yes it's another gear post!


Guest plesbit

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Okay, so I know that when any gear-head type topics are started on here 9 times out of 10 it's me that starts them - sorry! But there is a reason for that, specifically it's hard to talk gear at places like DPReview without getting burned alive by the fanboys and prejudiced alike and gleaning little information which is objective and useful. Here, at least, are photographers who actually take pictures, rather than just polish equipment for use in an online battle of who has the longest appendage!

Now, as some of you will know, whilst I am pretty happy with the performance of my equipment I am not happy at all with the company that makes it. My recent experience of customer service, and being ripped off by repairs, did nothing to improve my already low opinion of them and a spate of pretty much universal price rises last week had me absolutely staggered. Back in January it was obvious their lenses are out of step with other systems price wise, but not enough to worry too much. Generally in head to head comparisons by reviewers they also have a very slight edge in IQ as well so you could overlook the price premium. However when the first round of price increases happened back in January C & N also raised their prices. But good old Sony raised theirs by more, increasing the disparity. But this time neither of C & N have raised their prices at all but Sony has stuck in some huge increases. My SAL 70-300G that I paid £450 in January is now just shy of £700. Meanwhile its Nikon equivalent, the 70-300VR is a mere £423 AND that has build in image stabilisation which the Sony doesn't (as Sony puts the stabilisation in the camera instead). It is true that reviews and tests put the Sony version as the finest lens in its class but I seriously doubt the slight IQ advantage adds up to much with standard prints - it's probably just pixel peeping as usual. And it doesn't stop there, the four new lenses announced on Monday have a recommended price (by Sony) which is higher to the UK in £ than its own recommendations are to the US in $. For the company itself to be publicly recommending the same tool to be $150 or £160 is just insulting.

So there you have it, there is nothing so motivating to take your business elsewhere as poor treatment by CS or the feeling you are being systematically and deliberately ripped off. The impressive performance of the equipment simply can't make me pleased to give my money to this company.

I have been very impressed by the Nikon D90 in my hands on experience with it. I was all set to place my order for that, coupled with a Nikon 16-85VR lens, which I think is reckoned to be the best in that tier of the Nikon system and equates fairly closely to the position occupied by my existing Carl Zeiss 16-80. However, I've read a few things recently which have stalled me at the last minute. Firstly, quite a number of warnings and complaints on the DPR D90 forum about the metering blowing out highlights all too frequently. That's a pet hate of mine as I find blown highlights very distracting in an image and the last thing I want is a camera which has made a name for itself doing just that. The DPR review also raised this as an issue. Not only do I not like it but it's quite a departure from what I used to. The Sony's tend to do the reverse and when faced with harsh highlights opt for darker exposures meaning that often subjects with strong backlighting are underexposed. But the same DPR review also shows that the Sony's are able to extract much more information from the shadows than the D90 so, in a sense, Sony is playing to its strength here, sacrificing the shadows to preserve the highlights but in the knowledge that the cameras have a lot at the bottom which can be recovered in RAW. The result is that my pictures usually have a nice satisfying highlight roll off (more film like) than most digital captures around. And there's more - take this post from that rare thing, a professional Sony shooter:

I don't know how many times that it needs to be said before it sinks in, but, here it goes again: SONY USES STRONGER CFAs, and THE CAMERAS HAVE BETTER COLOR SEPARATION than the competition!! This helps Sony cameras avoid the mushy green foliage or mushy skintones that other cameras may have due to color response overlap. Nikon and Canon have been going down the road of weaking the CFAs to let more light in, which requires less amplification for high ISO, and allows these cameras to be review darlings, since apparently high ISO performance is at the top of reviewer's lists. This is a specific difference with the Sony system.

Those that care most about high ISO noise, and can't tell/don't see the difference of Sony cameras at low ISO, should go buy a Nikon or Canon, because Sony doesn't seem to be changing course on this. I am perfectly fine with that, myself.

If what he says is correct then I am also fine with that approach because I rarely shoot high ISO so it doesn't bother me much. I should also add that in addition to this a number of reviews, including DP Review which has something of a reputation for being a Canon only club, has commented before on the good colours and highlight roll off of the Sony's (whilst then knifing them repeatedly for high ISO performance). In addition their reviews also point out that Sony tends to use a different approach to AA filters - the result being that at pixel level it can appear that Canon can make slightly sharper images (you can only tell at pixel level) but the trade off is moire appearing on very fine grained detail and as a result the Sony cams always outresolve Canon's of the same theoretical resolution (though in fairness this could be partly related to lens differences and the same site in their lens tests stated that the standard 50/1.4 they use from Minolta outperformed the C & N versions).

This isn't meant to be an advertorial for Sony, they're hardly my favourite company as you may have gathered, but it just illustrates the point that they not exactly "sans clue" they're just daring to follow a slightly different course and one which happens to suit what I want in many ways.

So I am stuck between two places, I'm not happy to give any more of my money to Sony because of the way I've been treated personally, because of the complete rip off prices for their lenses, flashes etc and because they are actually suggesting retail prices higher in pounds than in dollars for the respective markets which is a blatant con to the GB public and infuriates me. On the other hand, the equipment is technically sound and what weaknesses it does have either don't affect what I shoot or fall into the category of "if you're going to get it wrong, get it wrong in this way rather than this way" (e.g. clipping shadows rather than highlights) whilst it appears the Nikon camera I am looking at has faults of its own and its choices are ones which may suit me less.

What to do... am I over-analysing things (as usual) and should I just shut up and get the D90? :roll:

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My initial question would be Simon "do you need to make any change right now"?

I hear all you are saying about dissatisfaction with Sony but your images look good and what cost to change?

I had a brief foray with Nikon back in the film days but found Canon products to more intuitive (to me). I do hear the blown highlights criticism although have no personal experience but as an old photographer I knew used to say 'you can do something about exposure if you have some detail but you can't do anything about no detail' .

I can't help more than that Bruce as an ex Nikon user may be able to give you a better view.

Personally I'd sit on my hands for a bit

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Sitting on my hands is what I have been doing though - and in the meantime the prices are going up and up and up. Sony have dispelled my concern that they were re-thinking the SLR market. The new models they've brought out are a very clever move. They don't expect to attract anyone from other systems, they're after the market of tomorrow with sexy, appealing and easy to use cameras that work the way compacts do. Good, but no use to me - other than as confirmation the system will live on.

On the other hand Perry, if you felt you'd been mistreated by a company, ripped off and were going to be largely conned in the future by paying massively over the odds for important items how keen would you be to keep writing cheques to them, especially knowing that every one you wrote made it that much more difficult (and costly) to ever take your business elsewhere?

I guess the thing to do is just buy the Nikon and use it and if I don't like it sell that. Sure I'll lose money but if I switch I'll lose a lot more. And if I do like it I'll just do what I was going to do anyway.

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Good grief - long post Simon, and indicative of the underlying annoyance.

I have never used Sony, so can't help with any comparison. I changed from Nikon to Canon purely because it was time to go full frame AND high resolution, and since I had no significant investment in modern Nikon full frame lenses, I could jump either way. For me the Canon 5D Mk II had significant advantages over the Nikon D3X, not least price, so that was the direction of the jump. Having no fanboy tendencies, I jumped! Now, having invested many thousands in Canon lenses, there is no way I will ever jump back.

The D90 is, by all accounts, a great camera. The 16-85 VR is a great lens - I used to use it with my D300 before the defection. If a camera does have a tendency to "overexpose" (which is a very simplistic concept) it can easily be resolved by simply checking the histogram to make sure there are no badly blown highlights, which with most general subjects is frankly unlikely to happen with a bang up to date camera when shooting RAW. The choice between Canon and Nikon for many people comes down to handling and ergonomics, which is important.

At the risk of being a bore, the biggest question is what does one want the images for, and is it really necessary to spend the money on a better camera/system? For people who just post the images on the web, the answer is very different from those who need to make 48 inch prints or sell to stock libraries. In reality, most modern camera systems are pretty much of a muchness when comparing apples with apples (i.e, equivalent resolution and sensor size), and each system has some good lenses and some less good which will affect "IQ" - but would you really notice that difference on a normal size print? The pixel-peeping tendency is highly insidious, and of questionable value in the real world.

In the end, only you, the person with the money, can decide. Of course it's not as simple as that. There is a great deal of feeling tied up with it, and being the owner of a modern 5x4" camera, made of ebony and titanium but essentially a Victorian design with leather bellows, and knowing the pleasure it gives to to use it, I would never disparage the importance of feeling and "tactility". That emotional attachment may sell the D90 to you over its rivals.

I guess my conclusion is if you have the money, go with your heart. If you haven't (not talking to you Simon, but speaking generally to those considering expensive camera investments), make great pictures with what you've got and wait until the money arrives before making expensive decisions.

Bruce

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Money is not really an issue. If it was I would not even be considering it. I am certainly not unhappy with the IQ of the existing camera and I hope my posts on this forum have shown that it is largely up to the job.

I think the problem is that I have outgrown the entry level sector. It's not the IQ that's the problem, after all it's really the glass that makes the difference, it's the controls. Far too much stuff buried in menus and time wasted fiddling to change settings. And this is the main area that the enthusiast cams have over the entry level ones - ready access to more advanced controls. My pics from Somerleyton Hall, out with Paul, out with Mark and Sharon, at the Salhouse meet and again this weekend past out with other friends have all suffered from the same problem and underlined the fact that entry level cams are more commonly used by folk who don't spend much time altering the settings. That is what is effectively pushing me towards upgrading the camera. The reasons outlined above are what's pushing me to upgrade away from my existing system. I know that a successor to the A700 will be along later this year (though probably not until the autumn) so I could bide my time until then. But on the other hand, I don't want to give my money to such a thieving bunch of toerags!

Like I said, I may well buy the D90 and 16-85VR anyway and run both systems for a while so I can then make my choices based on actually going out and using the equipment, see how it handles, see how it performs and what results it turns in and how much "fixing" is required in PP. Never underestimate the power of being stuck in a house staring at the same four walls for months to help you become fixated on what new shiny bits you would like to buy and play with.

On an unrelated note Bruce, I wish you all the best for moving to Norfolk as that now sounds like it is becoming a reality.

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I certainly was not advocating spending more money on Sony kit, merely asking do you need to at present?

If you feel your current camera is limiting you then time for a move.

You seem to have made your mind up and given that you have clearly researched this area, and the cash is not an issue - go for it.

You are only here once ;)

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I think the problem is that I have outgrown the entry level sector. It's not the IQ that's the problem, after all it's really the glass that makes the difference, it's the controls. Far too much stuff buried in menus and time wasted fiddling to change settings.

That was my feeling exactly Simon, when I upgraded from the 350D to the 50D. I have obviously gone down the Canon route, simply out of personal preference. I like the way the controls are all intuitively placed at my finger tips, but as I have never even held a Nikon, I cannot give an opinion either way.

When spending the sorts of cash we are talking about, the decision can only be made by the user. It will be based on how comfortable you feel with the thing in your hand, as that is where it will spend it's time. If the camera feels good, is nice to use, does everything you ask of it, then don't be swayed too much by technical reviews. IMHO there is so little difference in quality these days between the big names, that reviewers tend to inflate minor issues out of all proportion as they use complete perfection as a benchmark.

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My camera is fine when you have all the time in the world to adjust settings. But recently I have been shooting in a faster paced and more difficult conditions and that's where it's fallen down - too much time spent delving into menus to adjust metering mode, AF mode and sensor select mode and so on. As you say, most of these things have dedicated buttons on the enthusiast models because they expect people to actually change them regularly. So I'm just copying you in that respect!

What I am doing differently, of course, is looking to change system too. I'm really quite happy with quality of the gear I just dislike the manufacturer for the reasons I've outlined before. That may seem like a poor reason for switching systems and costing yourself a lot of money but there is little so motivating to take your business elsewhere as shoddy treatment and rip off prices. Although the bodies are competitively priced all the accessories in the system cost more than equivalent products in other systems, in some cases by a large margin. Sony has a long and unhappy history of this sort of thing and clearly they are happy to continue like this. The difference is, I'm no longer happy to play that game.

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On an unrelated note Bruce, I wish you all the best for moving to Norfolk as that now sounds like it is becoming a reality.

Yes. it's true - it's imminent :party2:cheersbarice slice:grin::clap:teddy::party2::lol::trophy

Good luck with the system change Simon - may it bring you everything you hope for.

Bruce

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That's great news Bruce. Hope it all goes well.

I'm not hoping for anything from the system change, Nikon doesn't offer anything that I want but can't get from Sony, but it'll be good to not feel like I'm being taken for a mug every time I buy any lenses or accessories. The move from entry level to mid level I hope will offer me something in the way of making my life easier when changing settings but I imagine the quality of my pics won't improve as that is down to me more than anything else!

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As I consider myself still very much an "entry level" photographer despite being into photography for years, I've never allowed myself to constantly want to update the kit I've got hoping it will improve my results.

After years of using a film Olympus OM manual with 2 prime lenses and a Dynax automatic + small zoom, I'm going to buy an Olympus digital slr, not because it will give me better results but for convenience.

I'll spend around £400 and be happy with that, if I spent £1000 my money would be wasted, I'm of the opinion that the results you get from this vast range of kit is always pretty similar, can anybody show me who makes a bad slr camera for 8 x 5 prints anyway ?

I started with a Zenith E with one lens and thought it was ace at the time.

I believe that the skill is in just seeing a picture, getting the composition right and a la Cartier Bresson, catching the decisive moment, and I'm still trying hard !

I was interested in one of Clive's comments ( think I read it in his site) that the majority of his pics were taken on a standard type lens, that'll do me for now.

Happy snapping ! cheers

Stefan

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People seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that I think buying a more expensive camera will make me a better photographer but I've never actually said that. The limiting factor in my photography is me. The change of tools is merely to get one with easier and more direct access to the features and functions that I use frequently. This is where the key difference lies between the entry level camera I have and the enthusiast models that sit in the middle tier of the SLR market. And the change of tool manufacturers is for entirely different reasons.

Good luck with the Oly. You'll be this forum's second Oly shooter though Col doesn't seem to be enticed to show his pics from the Salhouse meet yet. ;)

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Good luck to you too !

No silliness intended with the post. As they say , its a hard road. My biggest problem is still being able to pick a potential picture !

Regards,

Stefan :)

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