Focus Thoughts

March 09, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

 

Yesterday I made my annual visit to Focus on Imaging at the NEC. Thank you, Virgin Trains, for a smooth and on-time journey both ways. I was persuaded once to drive to the NEC – never again.

One of the biggest draws at the show was, of course, the Nikon D800. So much so, in fact, that Nikon had to institute a queueing system for all those punters eager to get hands-on with the one and only example available. Frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. We already know what the camera looks like, and I’ll be getting one as soon as they are available so I can work on the Expanded Guide. (BTW my Guide to the Nikon Coolpix P7100 is due out in May.)

I did, however, attend a Nikon presentation about the camera. It was interesting that Nikon’s representative was at pains to point out that the D800 is not a direct replacement for the D700 and is not a “baby brother” to the D4 in the way that the D700 was to the D3. I still think (see earlier posts) that that is the camera I want. He was also careful to emphasise that the D800 is squarely aimed at photographers who are currently using ‘medium format’ kit (Hasselblad, Mamiya, etc). For these users it should offer faster shooting and better low-light performance, a wider lens range AND a much lower price.

For other users, the huge files which the D800 produces (250MB TIFFS!) mean many people will need to upgrade their computer systems to handle them. And to get the full benefit of its undoubtedly amazing imaging quality, people will need to use the very best lenses and impeccable technique – which will frequently mean using a decent tripod.

All this smacks of Nikon damping down demand for the D800 – pre-orders have apparently been phenomenal. I suspect they have something else up their sleeve and would quite like some people to wait. Is this going to be the real D700 replacement – the camera I’m looking for?

Well, time will tell, and I look forward to reporting further on the D800 when I do get my grubby mitts on it.

Meanwhile there was lots more to see at Focus and one of the first places I headed was the Fujifilm stand to look at the new XPro1. And all I can say is… oh dear.

Why? Because I want one! This is the most appealing mirrorless/compact system camera I’ve seen so far. Rugged build quality, superb ‘hybrid’ viewfinder, easy manual controls, and judging by the samples on display, fabulous image quality as well. The only problem – all the lenses so far are primes and to get a basic three-lens outfit I wouldn’t see much change from £3000. But if one of my Premium Bonds came up tomorrow… 

It was perhaps unfair to go from that straight to the Canon stand for a look at their “large-sensor compact”, the G1x. After the XPro1 it felt cheap and plasticky. I don’t think it’s that bad really, just that the Fuji is so well made that most other cameras would feel a bit naff in comparison. (Though I’ve always felt that at any level, Canon’s cameras aren’t quite as solid-feeling or as good-looking as their Nikon equivalents.) The G1x also has a rudimentary and fairly useless optical viewfinder – like the Nikon Coolpix P7100 which I reviewed recently, it feels more like a gesture towards the retention of a viewfinder than anything you’d really want to use day in day out.

I’ve already recorded that during the show I signed up to Zenfolio, which is the new host of this blog and, before very long, my main website too. Other products which caught my eye included the Green Clean system of cleaning products. I’m hoping the distributors will let me have some samples for review soon.

No visit to Focus would be complete without catching up with the legendary Ray Fitchett on Sigma’s stand. All being well, he’ll be lending me both their latest SLR and their new 180mm macro lens to try. Watch this space!

And finally, I never seem to be able to visit without stressing the debit card in some way. Well, there are always bargains on offer! Last year it was Nikon’s SB-700 flash (which is excellent); this year it was a new tripod. I’m trying to remember how many years ago it was, on one of my first visits to Focus, that I bought a Manfrotto CarbonOne tripod and magnesium alloy head. Quite possibly a decade… It’s been up hill and down dale with me ever since and so it’s no wonder that it is showing a few signs of age. So it was with little hesitation that I plumped for the equivalent model from today’s range: a 190CX3 with 460MG head. And it came in cheaper than the original! Result.

 


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