PhotoRadar is suggesting that a replacement for the Nikon D700 is likely to be released in February or March. Possibly to be called D800, and then again, possibly not.
As I’ve been using a D700 since soon after its launch I naturally take an interest in these things. It’s not that I’m desperate to replace my existing D700 (which was serviced just before Christmas), but there are some potential improvements that would make me sit up and take notice. I think it’s a given that it will have ‘Full HD’ video, so I’m not even going to comment on that.
I notice PhotoRadar leads with the suggestion that the new camera will have a 24 megapixel sensor. Groan. This is most definitely not one of my desiderata. Exactly what will that achieve apart from making it more expensive? If you're one of the tiny minority who actually needs 24mp you'll have a D3x already. 16mp – for parity with the D7000 – would be plenty; it would be nice to be able to prepare images for Alamy without up-sizing. But otherwise, 12mp is fine. I'd rather see the focus on improved dynamic range than the 99% pointless pursuit of too many pixels.
Conclusion: don’t want to pay over the odds for inflated pixel count. Rather have better dynamic range/high ISO performance on a sensor between 12 and 16 MP.
Another suggestion on PhotoRadar is that the “D800” will have an articulated LCD a la D5000. My gut reaction is that this would make me much less likely to buy the new camera. I’ve used a D5000 extensively and for me the articulating screen was mildly beneficial when shooting video (which I do occasionally) and a right royal pain in the butt the rest of the time. The “D800” screen would have to be a much better implementation that the D5000’s but even so… A fold-out screen will inevitably add weight and bulk. That’s one negative. But it’s also exposed and fragile in use; bad news for the outdoor photographer. Either you leave it in the open position, where it’s vulnerable to damage (because there’s no screen protector), or you fold it away every time, which leaves you less ready to shoot.
This was more of a pain on the D5000 because more of the controls had to be accessed on screen. A camera like the D700 (and presumably the “D800”) uses buttons and dials much more to change settings, so there’s less need to see the screen before shooting. But I do like instant image review (especially the histogram) so I would want the screen to be readily visible. I’ve used other DSLRs with fold-out screens, e.g. Sony a350, which possibly had a better system (just about the only thing I did like better on the Sony though) but still am not convinced about overall cost-benefit analysis of folding screens for still photography (sorry, I mean ‘photography’). Maybe I should come back to this topic.
Conclusion: a folding screen on the “D800” would be a negative for me.
Having downgraded a couple of items on the PhotoRadar wishlist, what’s on mine?
Dual card slots–dual SD a la D7000 is fine by me. The halfway house on the D300s (1 Compact Flash, 1 SD slot) is just mildly annoying. I know people who have lots of CF cards may find it a nuisance, but SD cards are pretty cheap these days.
Remember that stuff called film? A 4Gb memory card will hold around 200 RAW files from a 16megapixel DSLR. 200 shots is the equivalent of say 6 rolls of 35mm, and my memory is that Velvia film + processing didn’t leave much change from a tenner a roll, i.e. £60. You can get two SanDisk Extreme 4GB cards for that at Warehouse Express.
Dual slots allow instant backup. You couldn’t get that with film (yes, you could shoot duplicate images, at least for non-moving subjects, but if anything happened to the film they were both gone).
SD slot(s) would also allow us to use Eye-Fi cards. I don’t use one myself (yet) but it would be pretty handy when I’m doing product shots or other macro stuff at home. An alternative, which might be be better still, would be an inexpensive WiFi gizmo no bigger than the GP-1.
I’d also like to see significant improvements to autofocus operation in normal shooting (I’m less bothered about Live View). Most of all I’d like a wider spread of focus points. These currently cover less of the frame on Nikon’s full-frame (FX) cameras than on the DX format models. But ultimately I’d like the AF to be able to work anywhere within the frame, as it can in Live View).
Another thing I’d really like to see would be “smart bracketing”. This is where the camera reads the brightness range of the scene and, if it can’t encompass it in one shot, brackets exposures accordingly. For me the point would generally be to be able to merge those frames to a High Dynamic Range image in post-processing, but it should also integrate with an Auto HDR function in-camera to produce JPEG images from the Retouch Menu.
Give me all of those for £2000 and I probably would trade in my existing D700. If they could make it smaller, lighter and tougher too, that would be even better ;–)