Equipment: Sub-$1000 DSLR wars heat up

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D_D50_04.jpgNikon has now officially announced the consumer-level D50 and prosumer D70s, which were scooped on this site a few weeks ago. The reaction has been a giant collective yawn. The Nikons have too few features, are too late, and too expensive to compete against the current Canon and Pentax offerings. And to make matters worse, Nikon has begun to encrypted parts of the raw NEF format in their high-end models and Adobe has announced that they will not fully support the new format. Things do not look good for Nikon right now.

The following chart shows how the various sub-$1000 DSLR offerings stack up:

Canon
EOS 20D
Canon Digital
Rebel XT (350D)
Nikon D50 Nikon D70s Olympus
E300
Pentax
*ist DS
Pixels
8.2mp
8.2mp
6.1mp
6.1mp
8.0mp
6.1mp
Crop Factor
1.6
1.6
1.5
1.5
2.0
1.5
Frame Rate
5fps
(9 burst)
3fps
(14 burst)
2.5fps
(137burst)
3fps
(144 burst)
2.5fps
(4 burst)
3fps
(144 burst)
Memory
CF I/II
CF I/II
SD
CF I/II
CF
SD
Weight
(Body)
685g
490g
540g
600g
624g
605g
Price
Body ~$1300
B+Lens ~$900
B+Lens $900
Body $900
B+Lens $1200
B+Lens ~$800
Body ~$800

The question is: who will survive? I think everyone was disappointed by Nikon's offerings. Canon doesn't have to release anything new in the next six months and still remain competitive. Feedback and comments always welcome.

D_D2HS_01.jpg2005.04.21: One of the things going around the mailing lists right now is Nikon's decision to encrypt the white balance data in the raw NEF format in the new D2X/D2HS cameras (according to PDN). Because the USA has a law against hacking encryption standards (the DMCA), Adobe has announced that cannot support the NEF format white balance fully. See this AdobePhotoshopNews.com thread. This boneheaded move does not bode well for Nikon at all. Expect very rapid backpedaling from Nikon soon.

Adobe chief engineer for camera RAW technology Thomas Knoll's posting:

They (Nikon) decided to ENCRYPT the white balance data inside the NEF file for these cameras. Previously, the white balance data was stored in non-encrypted format, and was readable to third party raw converters using simple reverse engineering of the file format.

While any encryption system that stores the decryption key inside a PC computer program (vs. having the user type in a decryption key) is fairly easy to crack (Bibble has already broken Nikons encryption algorithm for the D2X), it does raise legal obstacles. Nikon might consider breaking the white balance encryption a violation of DMCA, and sue Adobe.

The irony is, of course, that Adobe has been one of the biggest supporters of the DMCA. They gone to court repeatedly to prevent people from reverse engineering their PDF or PSD formats. They've even put people in prison for cracking their eBook standard. So it's a bit of an odd situation. Ideally, the DMCA would be amended so that people could have free access to their own data.

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6 Comments

I wonder about Pentax, too. They have been quietly discontinuing many, if not most, of their prime lenses.

Bruce Sherman

Pentax released a new, very compact 40mm f/2.8 prime designed especially for the DSLRs. It makes the *ist into a very pocketable combination.

In a general sense, you're right, though. There is no market for non-telephoto prime lenses anymore. The only primes being developed are new super-telephotos. Wide- and standard angle lenses are now all zooms. That's what the market wants, unfortunately.

Even Canon discontinued its flagship 50mm f/1.0 EF standard lens.

But Nikon has 1/500 flash sync.

Yes, both the D50 and D70s have 1/500 second X-sync. Amazingly fast for a focal plane shutter. I've always thought that Nikon has much better flahs technology that Canon. Even right now on the Canon EOS 20D list, people are griping about the poor flash performance of their cameras -- even with the new 580EX flashes with E-TTL II.

I think Nikon often has better and more reliable technology where it really counts: metering, flash, and shutters. Too bad that the only thing people care about are the number of pixels, auto-focus, and image stabilization....

p.s. Luis -- I really appreciate your comments! Please sign in with TypeKey, that way I don't have to approve your posts manually (an anti-spam measure)....

Unfortunately, the newer cameras seem to be lacking in features that the prosumer and professional cameras have. Mirror lock up is almost gone now. I don't need it because I don't often take astrophotographs or night shots where camera blur or vibration would be much of an issue. Besides I still have one old Minolta SR-7 in case I do (that is if I can find film for it). The new cameras will make us all better picture takers (not necessarily better photographers).

You're right. Nikon and Canon don't want to draw sales away from their midline (D70/20D) models and so they often cripple the intro line. Canon has gotten better after the first Rebel D fiasco where Russian hackers found how to enable all of the crippled features. We'll have to see how this turns out.

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This page contains a single entry by Karen Nakamura published on April 21, 2005 1:33 PM.

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