Professional photographer and journalist, founder and editor of magazines PHOTOpro, Photon, Freelance Photographer, f2 and Cameracraft. For 25 years director of the Minolta Club. Fellow of the BIPP and Hon. Fellow of the MPA.

photokina calls it a day

Received from the organisers today – and we don’t honestly see that it will return in the same form, ever. Perhaps some other technology show, as it already encompassed digital comms, design, film-making, 3D printing and many other non-photo things. Or perhaps – is it too much to hope? – a show once again mostly about photography:

90 years of photokina – 1924 to 2014. The final one was in 2018.

photokina will be suspended until further notice 

After 70 years, decreases in the imaging market force a hard cut 

In view of the further massive decline in markets for imaging products, Koelnmesse has decided to discontinue organising photokina at its Cologne location for the time being. “Unfortunately, at present the framework conditions in the industry do not provide a viable basis for the leading international trade fair for photography, video and imaging,” according to Gerald Böse, President and Chief Executive Officer of Koelnmesse. “This hard cut after a 70-year shared history was very difficult for us. The trend in this industry, with which we have always had a close and trusting partnership, is very painful for us to witness. But we are facing the situation with a clear, honest decision against continuing this event, a decision to which, unfortunately, we have no alternative.” 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, the imaging market was already subject to strong upheaval, with annual declines in the double digits. The momentum in this direction intensified massively in 2020, most recently reporting a decline in the 50-percent range. Recently, these developments have had a profound effect on photokina, which – in Cologne since 1950 – for generations has been the top address for the imaging industry and ranks among the most favourably and emotionally charged brands in the trade fair world. 

Since 2014, Koelnmesse, together with the German Photo Industry Association, has taken its cue from downward market trends, responding with adjustments to the underlying concept of the trade fair as well as considerable investment in new exhibitor and visitor segments. “These changes in conceptual design, along with a shift in intervals and a change of dates, did not fundamentally improve the situation of the event,” says Oliver Frese, Management Board member and Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse. “While there are more photographs taken today than ever before, the integration of smartphone photography and videography, together with image-based communication, e.g. via social media, was not able to cushion the elimination of large segments of the classic market. As a result, the overall situation is not compatible with the quality standards of photokina as a globally renowned brand representing the highest quality and professionalism in the international imaging market.” 

Koelnmesse has made its decision in close coordination with the German Photo Industry Association. Kai Hillebrandt, Chairman of that association, remarked: “Our partners in Cologne have done everything in their power to maintain photokina as the leading global trade fair. Nonetheless, an event held in 2022 could not have met the expectations of the entire imaging community that those efforts were intended to serve. That is why we, on behalf of our association, are joining them in taking this regrettably unavoidable step. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the team in Cologne for a tremendous 70 years together!” 

Your contact: 

Guido Gudat 
Vice President Corporate Communications 

Goodbye white sky…

With cloud covering much of Britain and our own home territory in near the North Sea coast shrouded in featureless white for days, remember that post-processing can transform landscapes

This was just a few days ago when the promise of a sunset disappeared. The sky was taken ten minutes before I expected the best sunset, and shot without any ground – it had potential for use as a stock sky to compose into other shots. The ground, a field of wheat taken from the highest point looking north-west a short distance from our office, was shot hand-held with a 1/5th exposure, stabilisation providing a sharp image from the 17-28mm Tamron FE Sony lens – but the wind blowing the crop selectively, so some ears show contrasting movement.

And that, above, is what a straight conversion from the raw capture looked like (you can also see how the sky had not morphed into a lovely sunset but instead lost any colour and became a neutral dusk). The point is that even a shot like this, in conditions like this, can be turned round by adjustment from raw and combining two frames. The almost square result is also a 170MB file, big enough for an acceptable print the size of some living room walls.

Landscape Pro as a solution when the weather lets you down

We used Photoshop for this but if you don’t have a full Mac or PC editing program, Anthropics’ Landscape Pro is purpose-designed for even more complex fixing-up and comes with its own library of royalty-free sky images (you can add your own). Here’s an example from Anthropics:

This one uses the masking functions of Landscape Pro to fit the sky to the shape of the rocks, and its controls to define water, mountain and trees as separately adjustable zones. There is also an intelligent function to create reflections in water with a realistic density. Notice that the water-weed in the foreground remains intact in the processed image and the sky reflection has been very accurately masked at the left hand side.

Using the program is well explained in a series of short videos on the Landscape Pro website. These are not the tedious kind of how-to vids you tend to find on YouTube which seem to aim to take several minutes to get to the point, maybe to enable advertising to appear. They are short and very clear in their message, and there’s a good selection (screen shot below).

There is a discount offer of 50% at the moment and an additional 20% off with our code CC8L – this code was not working when this post went out on August 16th due to a technical glitch, it is now working and can be used up to Sunday August 23rd.

Save on Landscape Pro & Portrait Pro using Cameracraft code CC8L

Code valid on any Anthropics software (PortraitPro, PortraitPro Body, LandscapePro or Smart Photo Editor), new editions, upgrades, or bundles. Download your free trial today! 50% OFF sale now on + for an EXTRA 20% OFF use the code CC8L.

high speed flash two images combined

Elinchrom ELC500 TTL studio flash

A new generation from Swiss masters of studio flash Elinca SA brings multi-platform TTL, super-fast recycling and flash durations, brilliant LED modelling and many design innovations. David Kilpatrick has been trying out the twin head kit.

The second wave of any innovation in technology is often safer to invest in than the pioneering first generation. Studio flash offering IGBT duration and power control, allowing much the same TTL and high speed functions found in camera speedlights, has been in development for over a decade but whole generations have been orphaned by advances in wireless trigger and camera firmware.

Finally bringing this to their new mid-range ELC TTL heads – one rung below the ELC Pro and one above the BRX – Elinchrom has worked for maturity in the whole technology. So, when the ELC 125 and 500 TTL arrived they worked much like any head with the EL Skyport Pro. Days later new firmware for the triggers enabled TTL operation, across a range of camera platforms already proven with the portable ELB 500 TTL.

The ELC 125 TTL is a little larger than a D-Lite. The ELC 500 TTL is substantial – as expected.
Continue reading »

Sony E 70-350mm f/4.5-6.3 G OSS

The neatest solution for sharp long tele shots on Sony A6000 series APS-C

  • Excellent full aperture performance from 70 to 350mm
  • OSS stabilisation works with every Sony Alpha E-mount APS-C body
  • Perfect for movies with A6000, A6300, A6400 without sensor stabilisation
  • Compatible with all NEX and Alpha E-mount models from 2010 on
  • Enhanced OSS with A6500, A6600
  • Compact and light weight
  • G series optical quality, Custom Button on lens, AF/MF and OSS switches on lens
  • Lens lock at 70mm to prevent zoom creep
  • Single extending zoom barrel
  • 67mm non-rotating filter thread
  • Bayonet lens hood included
  • Moisture and dirt resistant multicoating
  • Coverage allows use on full frame bodies with larger than APS-C crop

This lens was purchased in October 2019 and the review is based on nine months of use on Sony A6500 (ILCE-6500), A6300 (ILCE-6300), A6000 (ILCE-6000) and A7R MkIII (ILCE-7M3). Review by David Kilpatrick.

A solution for practical photography out and about – worldwide

I had been using the Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS full frame tele zoom on my A7RIII for over a year. This lens is very sharp wide open and benefits from the best close focusing in its class at 90cm meaning a scale of 0.31X at 300mm. It weighs 854g and has a double tube zoom extension. As you can see above this lens (left) is only a few mm longer physically than the APS-C 70-350mm (right) but the extra barrel heft, 72mm filters and much larger lens hood meant it needed a bigger kit bag, and proved harder to change quickly when swapping lenses.

The 70-350mm for the smaller image sensor proved if anything even sharper, right to 350mm. Lenses like this often prove soft at maximum focal length and maximum aperture. The 70-300mm at f/5.6 is a third of a stop faster, but to get it as crisp as its newer little brother, it needs to be set f/6.3 – a match in speed. You can see above how much bigger the full frame lens becomes at 300mm. The 70-350mm only weighs 625g but its very fast and silent XD Linear Motor AF can only get as close as 1.5m at 350mm, 1.1m at 70mm. The maximum subject scale is 0.25X.

I knew the 70-350mm would be my choice for travel and daily use with my A6500, but I was going to miss that closer focus. The full frame lens has an AF range limiter, full range or 3m to infinity but oddly no 0.9m to 3m choice. The APS-C lens has no limiter but I have never missed it and rarely used it on the 70-300mm.

My big question was – can I do without the 70-300mm and use the 70-350mm on my full frame bodies?

Cropping power, sensor resolution and coverage

Tests quickly proved that distortion and vignetting kick in fast beyond the crop format field of view, but sharpness remains good and depending on focal and aperture you get much more than APS-C. You can almost get a full frame at close range.

This mushroom (about hand sized) is at 350mm and f/11 on the A7RIII, and you can see the mechanical vignetting cut-off left and right. It’s caused by the lens rear baffle not the optical design – the lens could be modified to remove this, but it’s not advised.

At 70mm on a very demanding subject the distortion without lens profile, on full frame, is extreme (left) but with Lens Profile correction applied at 200% plus -8 Manual, and similar vignetting adjustment, Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom can almost handle it. On a neutral subject like a portrait with a foliage background the coverage would be fine. More to the point, manual crops much larger than the 16 x 24mm you could expect from an APS-C lens are fully usable.

But why use a full frame body? Unless you own a Sony A7RIV (61 megapixels) you won’t actually get a more detailed distant animal or bird. The modest 24 megapixels of all the current APS-C bodies beats the 18 megapixel crop format of the A7RII/III. Canon users have much the same position, their smaller APS-C (1.6X not 1.5X) and 28 megapixel resolution matches 60 megapixels on 24 x 36mm. The advantage of full frame is that you may catch more of your subject, your framing and tracking active subjects enjoy more leeway. If your subject stays in position the smaller sensor can capture finer detail – and this is where the 70-350mm excels.

This is a good example. At 198mm on the 70-350mm on A6500, it’s the same composition I would have had with the A7RIII and 70-300mm at 300mm and that would have produced a larger more detailed image. There’s only a real benefit to the 70-350mm on APS-C when you’re near the 350mm end. Did I keep both? No – I already knew I wanted a much faster but still compact zoom for the full frame kit, and the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 was coming in six months’ time. So I sold the 70-300mm and decided to use the A6500 with 70-350mm for all longer tele shooting.

From the start it proved a very capable combination.

Fast lenses are not as important now

Mirrorless cameras with phase detection autofocus, good high iSO performance and better resolution electronic viewfinders have made wide aperture lenses less essential for low light. The linear motor focus of the 70-350mm rarely misses a shot regardless of conditions. One of my first shoots was a music festival, where this lens allowed me to work from the very back of the hall and never get in the way of the audience.

Processed from a raw file at ISO 6400, this shot of Steve Byrne performing was taken at 350mm wide open at f/6.3. The same on full frame would need a 525mm lens at f/8 and ISO 8000 (a direction Canon is taking with their new 800mm f/11 IS STM for the R mount – the working aperture no longer matters much if the viewfinder stays bright, AF is accurate and there’s not much noise at high ISO settings).

The long reach in a concert hall is one side of using a 350mm on APS-C. Here’s another – the lens may only achieve a quarter life size and need you to be 1.5m away at 350mm, but 0.25X on a 1.5X factor sensor is 0.375X in ‘old macro’ terms. Not only that, the ISO 2500 used here is about the same in grain or noise terms as an ISO 400 film and the stabilisation of this lens on the A6500 is as good as you get. A 1/125s shutter speed did not prevent tiny hairs on the caterpillar’s head being sharply resolved.

This lens is far better than the 18-200, 18-300, 18-400 or 16-300mm I’ve used on a variety of DSLRs for long APS-C reach. It’s free from the residual aberration which demands you ‘stop down one’ to clean up the long end image. Combined with Sony’s PDAF it handles a concert or low indoor light as well as an ƒ2.8-4 on a conventional DSLR.

Compare this with a 100-400mm for the same format

For the sake of 50mm at the long end – a difference of only 12.5% in image scale – the excellent Fujifilm Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM also gives a half to a third of a stop more light transmission in its longer range. But look at the cost! It is twice the price and weight, and you can see the size. Gains – a near-apochromatic performance, matched 1.4X and 2X converters available (not an option for the Sony and never likely to be). Losses – only 0.19X close-up scale. It’s remarkable how much difference there is in the physical aspect of these two lenses. I have used both and in practice they are equally sharp on 24 megapixels.

The Sony 100-400mm and Sigma 100-400mm are both full frame lenses and much larger. The 70-350mm is unique as far I can tell, no-one else has a lens like it. It also answers one of the major criticisms of the original E-mount APS-C system, the lack of any lens longer than 210mm and that only in a 55-210mm design best described as consumer grade. I’ve actually found it pretty good for the money – but it’s not much money!

Sony 70-350mm G OSS image gallery

Rather than write much more, I’ll leave you with this gallery. I have reduced the file size but where you see an enlarged section clip along with the full frame – well, you can judge for yourself.

Sony 70-350mm G OSS verdict

If you own any of the APS-C Sony bodies, from the NEX-3 and 5 of 2010 onwards, this lens will not disappoint you. The effective OSS image stabilisation means that even if you prefer to compose and shot using the rear screen and hold the camera away from your body you’ll get sharp stills and steady movies. It’s a big step up from the 55-210mm and much more affordable than, say, a 70-200mm f/4 G with 1.4X or 2X converter.

You may have to control colour fringes in some strong backlight situations with blur when working from raw files, as it’s not an apochromat just a regular very good tele zoom. However the resolution reflects advances in design over the last decade. It’s also a very handsome looking black lens with its silver G logo and designation contrasting with white markings. It feels robust and the zoom and manual focus (when needed) are smooth. The metal bayonet is a tight precise fit on my A6500 and A7RIII, a little less so on my A6000 with its older four-screw type body mount.

I can carry this lens all day without even realising it’s there, round neck or shoulder – and there are not many lenses covering this range you would want to hang on a strap round your neck.

You can support my reviews if you check these links for availability and price:
Amazon UK – didn’t have any stock at all at the time of writing – https://amzn.to/30ZC4Ck
Park Cameras UK – https://tidd.ly/3jLHbP7
WEX UK – https://tidd.ly/3hKRhhA
B&H USA and Worldwide – https://tinyurl.com/y6cguvpo

Thirty keys to stock photography

Well, I asked for it. Ten years ago I suggested on one of Alamy‘s forums that stock photography was nothing like art, photo club or personal photography. You might have pictures which have won contests, pictures good enough for a friend or two to have asked for prints and still have them on the wall. You might have pictures from a decade or two during which you have happened on some wonderful sunsets or visited great places at just the right time.

But you might not have anything which would work in the stock image market for unreleased editorial or released royalty-free, the two big volume markets which exist.

Continue reading »

Using the 10-18mm OSS zoom on full frame

The Sony E-mount (not FE) 10-18mm f/5 OSS lens can be used effectively on full frame for creative work and within limits for technically more demanding shots. Below, an uncropped A7R shot of the concourse at Abu Dhabi Airport, taken at 13mm setting, f/6.3 with my lens profile as provided below. Check the straight lines in the floor tiling, if you doubt that this lens would be of any use for architecture.

However, you don’t get this without a lens profile, and without due care to limit the focal length to a range of 13 to 16mm – not the full 10 to 18mm. Below, you could get this if you try 12mm straight out of camera…

uncorrected12mm

This is a pretty awful case of vignetting and distortion – as you would expect. It’s from an APS-C format wide angle zoom, the 10-18mm f/4 SEL OSS lens for NEX, used on the Alpha 7R full frame mirrorless body. Early in the launch period of this camera, various far more attractive images appeared on-line using subjects like roads, rail lines, beaches and even shop counters where the lines look straight – rather like that drainpipe – because of where they fall in the shot. As you can see, anything with a horizon near the long edge of the framewould have given a very different impression.

However, Adobe offers a free utility which enables you to make lens profiles to correct vignetting and distortion.

I created a lens profile for ACR/LR using full frame and the 10-18mm on the A7R. The vignetting is such that the profile creator really can’t handle it, and overcorrects the extreme corners as a result. I’ve done f/4, f/8, f/16 at 12, 14, 16 and 18mm focal lengths using an A2 chart; for a lens like this, a much greater working distance and an A0 chart would really be desirable. The link below is to a zip file of the Adobe Lens Profiles I produced – for A7 and A7R, with .lcpp files for final use, and .lcp files for different settings of the 10 18mm I found useful.

10-18AdobeLensProfiles

corrected-customprofile12mm

At 12mm you can probably see the vignetting artefacts in the corners, the magenta corner shift and incomplete correction of the horizon line. You’ll also be quick to spot that the 12mm coverage has been reduced to something much less, lens profiles always reduce the field of view (they can not do otherwise).

The profiler simply can’t handle the degree of sudden fall-off in illumination given by the 10-18mm used on full frame. Manual distortion corrections can actually do a better job. At other focal lengths, the profile I’ve made works well enough, and if the frame is cropped slightly (still exceeding the APS-C area the lens is designed for) it’s possible to get good results and wider angles.

I have sold my Sigma 12-24mm HSM II which was used with the A99, and also sold a Voigltander 15mm f/4.5 I bought to test (zero cost fortunately, as it made a small profit between Gumtree source and eBay destination). The Sigma was not only very difficult to focus using CD, its HSM motor won’t play with Sony CD.

My .lcp full-frame file can be downloaded from:

//www.photoclubalpha.com/AdobeCameraProfiles/ILCE-7R FF (E 10-18mm F4 OSS) – RAW.lcp.zip

Just for good measure, here is an uncropped A7R 13mm focal length shot of the church of Maila Dumpara in Kerala taken to use dramatic converging verticals – which fail terribly unless the lines are properly corrected, the last thing you want in a strong upward angle is lens distortion. It’s very stiff test of any lens to do this. I have left the vignetting uncorrected. I rather like it. Click either this or the Abu Dhabi photo and you’ll get a larger image, about 1000 x 1500 pixels.

Samples produced for a dPreview forum question

There’s been a lot of discussion on dPreview forums of which lenses work on full frame E-mount, as Sony saw fit to put a Disable APS-C crop option in the menus of the A7 and A7R (almost as if they wanted owners to experiment). They have made other welcome changes of a similar kind which I’ll cover in a full review of the camera – which I can not do yet as I have no FE mount lenses for it, and with the current choice and prices, I can see I may never use FE mount lenses on this camera.

So, to answer some questions on dPreview’s E-mount forum, I posted these images and comments.

Here is a ‘native’ uncorrected shot of a local building taken on the 10-14mm on A7R at 11mm, f/10, ISO 100:

View: original size

Here is the result of using the profile, doing a crop and some straighten of slight rotated tilt, and pulling the scale down (with the profile applied, the roof apex is clipped off at the top as the lens has so much distortion its 11mm probably becomes more like 15mm when corrected):

View: original size

I’ve used some clarity and local burn adjustments on the sky to treat the image more or less as I would (except that I wouldn’t actually photograph this building at this time of day, with blinds drawn, etc).

For me, the 10-18mm on A7R with our without the profile correction offers the same options as using assorted lenses on 5 x 4 sheet film. It never mattered whether a 47mm didn’t cover the entire film, you got an image circle and could use whatever part of it you want. At 10mm the image, with the profile used, has strong corner cut-off but the overall circle of usable image greatly exceeds APS-C provided you stop down (f7.1 seems just OK, f/10 is maybe optimum, I’d certainly try f/16 despite fears of detail loss).

View: original size

The red crop mark is square – my ‘Hasselblad SWC killer’, as the classic SWC had just a 38mm wide angle lens. You needed to get an Arcbody with 35mm Rodenstock to go any wider on 56 x 56mm film (6 x 6). With the A7R and 10-18mm at 10mm, you get the equivalent of a 24mm lens. Not a 24mm fisheye on 6 x 4.5 like the widest ever offered by Mamiya… a 24mm rectilinear on 6 x 6.

The yellow crop mark represents a significantly larger area than APS-C (which is actually just a little under the 24 x 24mm square in width). It is shifted vertically, as if the lens was being used as a shift lens. If only the APS-C area is considered, its approximately 16 x 24mm area can be positioned right to the top of the frame, equalling a 4mm rise, or the equivalent of using a 6mm rise on a full-frame PC lens (most actually go to 11 or 12mm rise). There is only one lens made which can compete with this, and that’s the Canon 17mm f/4 TS. Admittedly this is a superb lens and when stopped down to f/11 and used on the 6D (Canon’s most shift-friendly sensor) will blow this result away for clean rendering of detail toward the frame edges.

And then, you can still use the 10-18mm in APS-C crop mode as a snapshot wide angle with pretty much perfect correction (Adobe’s own Sony profile for APS-C), for videos too.

– David Kilpatrick

Nikon’s DF finally recaptures the spirit of Dynax 7D

Sony said, as they took over the Konica Minolta camera division in 2006, that the day of mechanical controls and switches was gone. Economies of production and efficiencies of design meant that from now on, cameras would be controlled by buttons and menus. Anyone who remembers the original Alphas, the 7000 and 5000 from the mid-1980s, will also remember that this is not an original idea.

Minolta started to return to mechanical dials and visible controls after ten years of experiment with buttons, programs, and automatic functions. The Dynax (Alpha, or Maxxum) 800si and above all the 600si Classic restored traditional camera controls. The acclaimed 9 and 7 models followed, featuring physical switch or dial controls for exposure compensation (separate ambient and flash) and drive modes along with a shutter-dial style mode setting including the vital 1, 2 and 3. The triple custom memory setting enabling users to switch instantly between (say) outdoor action, studio flash and tungsten theatre lighting has survived as a Minolta gene all the way to the latest Sony generation.

Now Nikon has arrived with the DF, a very much standard autofocus DSLR using the D4’s 16 megapixel full frame sensor and a D610-derived AF and shutter specification, in a moderately compact retro-styled body with about the same number of mechanically switched visible controls as the Dynax 7D. It’s over ten years since the 2002 design of that camera (which finally appeared in 2004 after a change of imager from a planned Foveon sensor to the 6 megapixel Bayer Sony, rumoured to be a decision helped by Sony’s pressure on Konica Minolta as their main supplier for compact digital sensors).

nikdf-slant Dynax-7D-slant

Top, you see the Nikon DF in the black finish which very few sites are choosing to highlight – the silver and black looks SO much more retro – with 18-35mm Nikkor lens, 2013; below it, you see the Konica Minolta Dynax 7D with Konica Minolta (aka Tamron) 17-35mm. Note the strap lugs; KM moved one forward for better balance, but carefully kept the right-hand strap behind the shutter finger. Nikon has rather peculiarly chosen to place this strap lug forward as well, putting the strap physically between the index finger and the rest of the fingers.

The Nikon is hiding a flip-out aperture coupling pin to allow the use of original Nikon F (Photomic metering) or Nikkormat generation F-mount lenses, which have an external non-self-indexing meter coupler on their aperture control. Minolta’s full aperture metering used a self-indexing coupler which, unlike Nikon, did not required a back and forth rotation of the ring to tell the camera the relationship between the full aperture and any stopped down setting. In the 1960s, Minolta’s method enabled the fastest lens changes and also enabled ‘blind’ changing as there was no need to look down at the lens or engage a pin when doing so.

Nikon kept faith with their old mount when they introduced their AF system, despite the deep body register and narrow throat creating many problems with lens design. Minolta designed a brand new wider throat. At the time it made sense. Who then was to know that precisely the same constraints on lens design imposed by the narrow Nikon mount and deep mount to film register would make Nikon lenses much better, 20 years later, in the age of digital sensors with their need for telecentric designs and small rear exit pupils?

You’ll see that the old KM has a switched White Balance at the right hand end, more or less where Nikon has put a small PASM selector dial on the DF. Imagine it – a switch to get AWB, your most recent Preset, a Custom reading or to set in Kelvins. Where the D7D has a PASM plus 123 custom memory selector (locking) and hiding below it a mechanical switch for self-timer and sequence drive modes (3fps from the 6.1 megapixel sensor), Nikon has a very granular T (for time) to 1/4,000th shutter speed dial cramming those intervals in.

nikdf-top

The actual shutter inside the camera despite being full-frame in the Nikon is really much the same as that of the D7D, a 30 second to 1/4,000th unit with X at 1/200th. And below the Nikon’s dial at the front (the KM has it at the back) is the drive mode selector, which does include the Mirror Up position that the D7D was lacking. There’s a mini LCD display on top to allow the use of the 1/3rd step control-wheel set shutter speeds, and to display the aperture on G type lenses which don’t have a physical setting and must be set from the body.

On the left end of the Nikon there’s a two-tier wedding cake for ±3EV 1/3rd stop exposure compensation, and below this an ISO control from L1 (50) to H4 (51,200).

d7dback

I don’t seem to have a picture of the D7D left hand dial from above, but it offered something unusual – turn the dials a full 180° and the 1/3rd step EV compensation adjustments were exchanged for 1/2 step adjustments. The D7D also had a stack of controls on the back, like the lockable AF point selector control round the four-way selector, an ISO button (bearing in mind this camera was derived from the Dynax/Alpha 7, which used DX coding to read filmspeeds and an LCD menu entry to adjust them), Memory Set and other stuff which now seems rather clever and useful. The AS anti-shake physical switch, last seen on the Alpha 900, is one which would be welcomed back again. And of course this camera had AS. It was the first, and everyone apart from Nikon and Canon has followed the lead.

nikdf-back

Where the back of the D7D was criticised for being a bit complex for the everyday user, the Nikon DF in all fairness bears a remarkable similarity right down to five left hand buttons and the metering selector switch, AE and AF buttons. The DF has more stuff on the front, including a control wheel which looks a bit like the battery cover off an early Mamiya SLR and two buttons down to the right of the lens escutcheon which vaguely resemble an ancient two-pin flash connector. Since there can be no actual need for the bulges they are placed on, this is probably deliberate. Same goes for the mechanical cable release screw thread in the shutter button, fun feature, but actually electrical releases can have many more functions and don’t transmit hand movement the same way. The DF has a pretty skinny right hand grip but exceptional battery life at up to 1500 exposures, where the D7D has a lovely big grip partly to accommodate a similar size of battery which rarely managed 400.

KM’s pioneering DSLR weighs almost 200g more than the Nikon, though both are made from magnesium alloy, despite the smaller format. That’s perhaps because the prism in the Minolta design was not downsized and the actual eyepiece magnification of the 95% view was 0.9X, where the Nikon dealing with a full frame is reduced to 0.7X (and still, of course, looks larger – 0.7X versus 0.9X 0.66X 0.95X, or a cumulative 0.56X scale).

As for size and fit, the Nikon is said be based on an F2, or maybe they meant an FM2 – but it’s not in any way, the prism can look vaguely FM2-like in the chrome version with leather panels, but the body is a completely different shape some 15mm shorter than an F2 but much fatter and taller. It’s a dumpy sort of chunk, is also shorter fatter and higher than the D7D despite having no built-in flash. D7D = 150mm x 106mm x 65mm (specifications misprinted as 77.5mm in many reviews, no idea why); Nikon DF = 144mm x 110mm x 67mm.

Now there’s one other way in which Nikon has copied the KM D7D – the DF has no video! It does have live view, and that means you can overcome the shortcomings of the D600-like 39 point AF module (limited to the DX crop area and in my experience with very small AF point areas making it ‘twitchy’). Live view has magnification and focus peaking.

The new Nikon shoots 16 megapixels not 6 – that’s what a decade of progress has done – and it shoots 5.5fps not an actual 2.8fps like the ‘3fps’ D7D managed. But it’s got just a fixed rear screen, 3.2 inches verses 2.5 (the D7D was ahead of the field in 2004). The Nikon also shoots superb ISO 6400, equal to the old sensor’s 1600 at a pixel level before you consider the benefits of the larger file as well.

And the pricing is borrowed from KM 2004 too – the D7D came in as a $1599 body only which made it a premium product against competition like the Canon EOS 300D, the Nikon DF arrives at $2749 body only and it’s a comparable level considering the full format, technology and cost changes, and a near ten year interval.

We’re sure the Nikon will be a success and this article is not trying to knock the concept or the execution. It’s just here to point out that a decade earlier, Minolta had designed and Konica Minolta eventually produced a DSLR with a general philosophy of physical, external, mechanical-feeling controls. As the pictures show, the Nikon DF could almost be a tribute to that design rather than something based on historic Nikon film bodies – which it quite simply isn’t!

– David Kilpatrick

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