Release

My productivity has been extremely low today. Weak-willed as I am, I’ve been slavishly following today’s release of the Canon EOS 40D and EOS-1Ds Mk III. They look like excellent models, with the 40D showing an impressive set of new features and welcome improvements, no doubt in response to concerted competition from the Nikon D200 and Pentax K10D.

Oh – and did I mention that the 40D clocks in at 1300 USD?

If there’s one message the 40D feature-set and pricing sends, it’s this: The fight for the “high-amateur” market, with its balance of margins and unit sales, and high growth potential, will be a bare-knuckled slug-fest. Nikon’s statements on its latest financials – “we also expect that the market competition will become more intense in the second-half of the fiscal year” – are proving quite prophetic.

This Canon releases further highlights the question, the one Nikon watchers have been asking since the ill-fated D2H intro: “Just how will Nikon respond?” The past weeks have seen a slew of rumors, ranging from the highly unbelievable to the overly prosaic and every shade in between; but the weekend saw one spec came to light that I think is ‘it’:

D3

  • 12 MP, full-frame (or near full-frame)
  • 9 fps, 11 fps in DX crop mode
  • ISO 200 – 6400 with LO (ISO 100), HI1 (ISO 12800), HI2 (ISO 25600)
  • 51 point AF, with 15 cross-sensor and selectable, the rest as assist
  • 3” VGA LCD
  • Live-view (makes a lot of sense, given the increasing shift to video)
  • Contrast-based AF in live-view mode

D300

  • 12.4 MP, APS-C format most likely this sensor
  • 6fps, 8fps with optional powered grip
  • ISO 200 – 6400 with LO (ISO 100), HI1 (ISO 6400)
  • 51 point AF, with 15 cross-sensor and selectable, the rest as assist
  • Live-view
  • Contrast-based AF in live-view mode

Lenses

  • 14-24 f/2.8
  • 24-70 f/2.8 (successor to the 28-70 f/2.8)
  • VR updates to the three super-telephotos viz. 400 f/2.8, 500 f/4, 600 f/4

Unlike many others I also believe Nikon will offer a D200s, with a feature-set and price below the 40D and above the K10D. This strategy allows them to segment the marketplace, and provides far greater pricing flexibility than possible with a single D300. A D200s/D300 lineup also avoids direct competition with the 40D, brackets the K10D, and, by reusing existing technologies from the lineup, increases return while leaving room for the coming price wars. This D200s would look very similar to the current model, with only a few small changes:

  • 10MP APS-C sensor, same as existing D200
  • 2.5” 230K LCD, same as the rest of the consumer lineup
  • The D2H 11 area Multi-CAM 2000 AF unit
  • Improved JPEG processing (to bring it in line with the D40x)
  • Improved noise performance (again to bring it in line with the D40x)

I guess we’ll find out Thursday…

Comments

  1. tcoen - August 22, 2007 @ 14:14

    The coolest thing about all the new releases is the marketing material they release that shows the cutaway internal shots of the cameras. Serves as a good reminder of what marvels of miniturization cameras are.

    All the hype has me wanting a new camera. Until I realize I already have a perfectly good camera that I don’t use enough. And that cameras are expensive and lenses more so.

    The contrast based auto-focus seems like a no-brainer for live-view mode. I assume Olympus and Canon haven’t implemented this due to lack of development effort, rather than any real technical hurdle. But I could be wrong.

    The ISO 25600 sounds a bit sketchy for the D3. My guess is that it will be akin to ISO 3200 on the current crop of 10MP 1/2.5″ sensors. i.e. a joke. Could be wrong though.

    I think you are right about the competition. Does seem to be fierce.

  2. Allen George - August 22, 2007 @ 14:54

    The ISO 25600 sounds a bit sketchy for the D3. My guess is that it will be akin to ISO 3200 on the current crop of 10MP 1/2.5″ sensors. i.e. a joke.

    It won’t be a joke, and although it won’t be great, it’ll be far, far removed from compact ISO performance; “HI” modes on Nikons simply give the photographer the option of getting the shot and dealing with the increased noise later.

    If you want to see what HI looks like in comparison to the regular ISO range, check out (for example) some of the D40x samples here. And, for kicks, take a look at the P5000’s performance above ISO 400 here.

  3. tcoen - August 22, 2007 @ 18:46

    I don’t know if historical trends will be a good indication of this. It seems that for about the last year, every new compact camera has ISO 1600 or 3200, whether it’s garbage or not.

    Based on the expected D3 specs, I think noise performance would be pretty similar to the Canon 5D. So it would be basically a 5D image pushed 3 stops. Maybe not as bad as some of the current compacts, but still not great.

    Not that I could afford such a camera anyways.

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