Loyalty checks

Keeping the faith in photography
By T Martin

For Nikon enthusiasts eagerly awaiting news of what how Nikon intends to respond to Canon’s 1D Mark II, there is a lot of speculation, but not much detail. Some of us particularly adamant Nikon users are facing new options, though, and there is some fear that the most hardened Nikon users might be looking into Canon products.

A professional photographer friend of mine recently confided that he was frustrated with Nikon’s slowness to stay on top of the market and that he was considering switching to Canon. And a firm professional of the Canon persuasion has told me that he is impressed with some Nikon moves, but that Nikon has always been behind and needs to do something about its current F-mount. This laxity has made it hard for seasoned professionals with over 20 years of Nikon experience to remain faithful, and it’s certainly not any easier for enthusiasts still trying to grow in the field.

Forums and review sites are talking about what could be, indeed should be, Nikon’s next moves. There is a lot of talk about the “ideal” next Nikon professional digital body, and there is even more rumored to be true. However, only a few facts are the only common thread among members of various photography forums; not much else is “solid.”

Fact: Canon’s company size and resources allow afford them a stronger and faster R&D department. As such, Nikon doesn’t cut the edge anymore; instead, they seem to “respond” to new trends set by Canon. When Canon’s EOS 10D replaced the company’s D60, it cornered Nikon, who was only just getting some first generation D100’s out. Again in response, Nikon released the D2H to succeed its D1H and to counter Canon’s EOS 1D, but it was far behind in reaching the market.

Fact: Nikon is new to development of its own sensor for its DSLR’s, and will have to work quickly and diligently to remain competitive. While other DSLR’s have mocked Nikon’s body, lens mount or other feature, Nikon’s own line of pro digitals has only begun to implement Nikon-developed processor chips, while Canon has long developed its own, adding to its ability to stay on top of the market.

Nikon and Canon being my favorite players in the professional photography game, I had toyed with several name-brand cameras before settling with Nikon. Granted, thanks to exposure (no pun intended) to Nikon imaging since childhood, I’ve always had a thirst for Nikon power. My father’s passion was his Canon A1 35mm camera, of which he owned two bodies, while I was learning on a Mamiya and later a Minolta [X700]. I used the Canon A1 once, after his death, to photograph my sister’s graduation, but didn’t take to it.

Entering the social photography scene, I invested my meager dollars in two consumer-level 35mm cameras: Minolta HTsi Plus and Canon Rebel 2000. (Originally I had bought the Rebel G, but upgraded to the 2000 within a week.) I became very uncomfortable with both systems as my needs a photographer grew. I became interested in the Canon EOS D30, but would never have been able to afford it on my part-time salary. By the time I started dabbling in digital photography, I knew not to try for the pro digital cams without first testing the water.

Everywhere I went, as an event photographer and as a journalist, Nikon was the name on the professionals’ tongues. I had acquired a Nikon FG camera along the way, but I didn’t use it after purchasing a Minolta DiMage 7 5.2 megapixel camera. The need to shoot all things Nikon was rapidly growing, but market prices kept me from moving that way. I had to earn my way there after an EOS 10D, but since owning the Nikon D100, I’ve felt right at home behind the camera again.

Within a year of the D100 purchase, I scrounged and saved for the D2H, attracted to some of its finer features. Despite a few shortcomings, I remain satisfied with some elements of the camera, and this has been what I called “the last camera” I need to buy. Then came 8.5fps at 8mp (8.5 frames per second at 8 megapixels, for the English-speaking)… from Canon.

Expressing some disappointments with higher ISO settings on the D2H, I am looking for something that will allow me larger prints, greater focusing accuracy, and increased shooting speed for the diverse range of photography projects I tackle throughout the year. The Canon EOS 1D Mark II offers that, reviews being very favorable about this new – expensive – pro digital camera.

I am waiting patiently, unlike some of my Nikon brothers and sisters, for Nikon to counter with a fast, accurate, high-res camera in their line-up. Rumored are all kinds of things: an 8mp camera with 3fps, a 10-or 11-plus mp camera with 2-3fps, a 16mp with 2.1fps… a lot of it just speculation, though. Nikon has been known to keep its developments secret up the last minute, but to keep its users faithful, I think they let just enough information leak so that they maintain their share of the market before they present their new product.

Truthfully, I’m vested in Nikon now, and I can’t afford to make the switch to Canon if I wanted to, and believe me – with the Mark II selling by the end of April, I wouldn’t mind! I won’t be able to afford another pro digital body for at least another year, and it’s my hope that Nikon will blow us away with something to rival the Mark II in every way by that time. I’m holding out, sticking to my guns, for Nikon to do just that, but I’m young in this business. While Nikon has been my passion, I have time and space to grow into something else.

Maybe this is my “tough talk” to hide the fact that I’d be emotionally scarred for life if Nikon can’t deliver something better than the competition, but it helps me sleep better at night for now. Look for Nikon to announce something new in June or July 2004, and know that I’ll be at the front of the line to view it. But rest assured if it doesn’t measure up to the rave reviews on the Mark II’s tested so far, I might be in dire need of a loyalty check by the year’s end.