Thursday, August 26, 2010

Canon and Nikon News

Big announcements from Canon and Nikon this week with both offering a consumer level camera body and an assortment of new lenses.

55-300mm/f4.5-5.6 AF-S VR DX
28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR super zoom for FX
24-120mm/f4 AF-S VR, constant f4 mid-range zoom for FX
85mm/f1.4 AF-S (no VR)

EF 70-300 f4-5.6 L IS USM
EF 8-14 f4 L USM Fisheye
EF 300 2.8 L IS II USM
EF 400 2.8 L IS II USM
EF Extender 1.4x III and 2x III

Surprisingly, no Canon 24-70mm 2.8 IS which has been a hopeful rumor all year.

I'm most familiar with the Canon lineup but I have been a Nikon user, most notably in the early eighties when I joined the staff of the SF Chronicle and they were using Nikon. So, I always anticipate Canon and Nikon's new product announcements.

Anyway, back to the purpose of this post - new toys! Since I don't have the opportunity to have any of this equipment in my hands to play with, I can only comment on what is coming out in the press releases and some of it is pretty exciting! I'll start with the lenses and then finish up with a few brief thoughts on the two bodies, especially their video capabilities.

What is in my opinion the coolest lens to be announced by both camps has to be Canon's EF 8-14 f4 L USM Fisheye - a zoom fisheye! And the way it is designed, you get two lenses in one - a circular 180 degree view at 8 mm and a full frame coverage at the 14mm setting. How cool is that! This is certainly a specialty lens and not one you'll use all the time, but it's the one lens I really want to play with.

Looks like Canon is revamping their fast super telephotos with their EF 300 2.8 L IS II USM and EF 400 2.8 L IS II USM - most notably the weight. (They also just announced they will be doing the same with the 500 and 600) If you've ever lugged around a 400mm 2.8 all day, every day for 3 weeks like I did at the summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia a few years back (Ok, 10), you'll know what I mean. And aside from the weight shaving, Canon offers a new three mode, four stop IS with movable programmable buttons. Something else I look forward to trying out!

The new and improved extenders will be also be interesting to check out. I've always liked the 1.4 extender, especially on my 70-200 2.8 zoom. Paired with a 400mm 2.8, the combo was perfect for covering football and many other sports. On the other hand, I never liked the 2X - never seemed sharp to me and it slowed the auto focus capabilities so, it will be very interesting to see how these new converters perform.

The lens that looks most interesting to me from Nikon is the 28-300mm/f3.5-5.6 AF-S VR zoom. With this lens, you pretty much have it all covered - I see this as a great travel lens. Don't really ever need another! One of my friends who was a long time shooter for Associated Press loved this zoom. (He was using the old EF 35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L Canon lens released in 1993) He would often show up to events with just this lens and 1 body while the rest of us had 3 bodies draped on our neck and shoulders with wide, medium and telephoto lenses. Biggest drawback to this lens is the relatively slow aperture however with image stabilization and better sensors, even that is less of an issue these days.

Now on to the camera bodies…and this is what I'm most excited about.

The Nikon D3100 is the first DSLR that will allow you to shoot video with auto focus! Don't know how well it works - will be interested in getting my hands on one to find out - but to be able to shoot in auto focus mode is huge for many. Pro film makers of course will pooh-pooh auto focus but for most, it will solve one of the most frustrating things about shooting video with the DSLR. The D3100 also offers 24, 25 and 30p frame rates at 1080p resolution however the biggest disappointment is that there is not a 60p mode. The higher frame rate is important for film makers who shoot action or like to slow down their footage for smooth slow motion effects.

The Canon EOS D60 stands out for me because they finally put a flip-out variable-angle 3 inch LCD on the camera so that you can set the camera anywhere and still be able to see the screen. For video, this is huge because if you're shooting without support, you can now tuck the camera to your hip for added stability to avoid  the all too common jittery videos you see these days on YouTube. The other features of this new camera are very similar to the 7D but unlike Nikon, Canon unfortunately has yet to offer us an auto focus video mode. Soon I'm sure!

Here are a few links for more detail on these new toys.

Nikon D3100
New Nikkor Lenses

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