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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Kind o' Camera

I found myself at a huge, brightly-lit electronics store yesterday evening, looking for something. I'd tell you what I was looking for, but I got dazzled by an entire row of all the latest DSLRs on display, and I forgot.

I have to say, in direct comparison, hoisting one slick digi-Wunderplastikam after another to my eye from one end of the row to the other, it's not much of a contest—one camera stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Nikon D80 is just more of my idea of what a camera ought to be than any of the others. Fast, responsive, ergonomic, great size and weight, near-ideal design. Sure, it doesn't have a feature or two I like (see the post below), and I could nit-pick a control or two, but for the most part, well, Nikon just "gets it."

As far as a comparison with its Big-C competitor is concerned, sorry, but the D80 has the 30D beat at the starting gate. I'll tell you why. If you hold any two cameras up to your eyes at once (one to each eye, of course—sorry I have to specify that, but I'll get mail if I don't—and you'll have to hold them vertically, naturally, unless your face is a foot wide), and train them on the same place, you can see a nice visual superimposition of one viewfinder image on top of the other. (If you have trouble with one-eye dominance, open and close each eye alternately a few times.) In this case, the 30D's a little bitty 98-pound-weakling rectangle was nestled inside Nikon's big, bright, bold viewfinder image rectangle. The 30D viewfinder is not bad, exactly, but, as this exercise makes all too clear, neither is the contest close.



Blogger Player said...

Mike, plus it makes a great companion to the D200. The viewfinders are virtually identical.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Mike, did you compare the D80 with the K10D? The Pentax isn't quite as nice to hold, perhaps, but the viewfinder looked pretty good in my local shop.

10:03 AM  
Blogger MJFerron said...

The D80 is a wonderful camera. I would have been happy with my D50 but the the big viewfinder on the D80 is much better for 52 year old eyes. Also the big screen in back is great for general viewing and for zooming in on detail. I get D200 image quality in a lighter package. Only nit for me is the meter is not quite up to the bar set by the D200 which is among the best in the business IMO. I keep my D80 set at -.3 to -.7 and things usually work out well. I think it's the best plastic camera out there.

10:16 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"Mike, did you compare the D80 with the K10D?"

No, the store didn't have any Pentaxes, just Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and Sony.


10:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting thought. When I first started using Nikon film cameras I thought the camera felt better in my hands. The same feeling for my 2 dslrs. The controls are intuitive and well ingrained. I don't have to think about them when I am shooting. Once in a while I pick up a C but the feeling isnt there. I'm sure C people feel the same way.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Oleg Shpak said...

Alan, you are right. Praises for Nikon's ergonomics make me laugh. It is very inconvenient for me to hold and use nikon's cameras and I tried many of them. And Canon is a natural extension of my hands and brain. It is amusing that C and N make functionally almost the same cameras yet they are so different.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


You are getting dangerously close to the one test above all others that I would love to hear your opinions on - the Zeiss Distagon T* 2/35 ZF on a Nikon D80 body.

2:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shoot on Canon cameras. I have a 5D now but used to shoot on a 20D (the 30D's predecessor). I have to agree with your commnets on the viewfinder and, the differences of the superior 5D aside, could never go back to the boxy little viewfinders they seem to have in their APS-C size cameras. If Nikon can do it why can't Canon? And it's not just a matter of aesthetics, it helps a great deal with focus too.

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems so strange all those pros using those "un-ergomonic" Canon cameras. Check out any news or sporting event and you many, many more Canon users than Nikon users.

3:30 PM  
Blogger John DM said...

damn, i hate to get caught up in the old Canikon debate, but as
bright as the viewfinder is Mike, i need a camera that's able to provide
good low noise images when the light outside the viewfinder isn't
bright. At the moment, i know there's no contest. it's the 30D

3:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"It seems so strange [that] all those pros [are] using those 'un-ergomonic' Canon cameras. Check out any news or sporting event and you [see] many, many more Canon users than Nikon users."

First, I said the Nikon D80 was ergonomic, not that any Canon wasn't. Nobody in the comments used the term "un-ergonomic," either, so who are you quoting? Secondly, none of those pros at those sporting events are using 30D's, which is relevant because that was the camera I was talking about.

Sorry if I sound snippy, but I get tired of people who don't even read the posts before commenting on them. The only thing I compared explicitly between the Canon 30D and the Nikon D80 in the posting were the viewfinders.


4:24 PM  
Blogger John DM said...

now, Mike. You're making an assumption that all pros are not using 30Ds. If i began shooting with a Crown Graphic on a weekly newspaper 40 years ago next month, and i now do a lot of shooting at sports events with my own camera (guess which one), ain't i a pro? But i do stick really expensive glass on the front, if that helps.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Frank B said...

I love the relatively big viewfinder of the D80 and could never go back to a smaller viewfinder. You have to see to photograph.

Frank B

7:02 PM  
Blogger Ira Crummey said...

Mike, I appreciate the fact that you do not show particular bias in DSLRs. You have praised Nikon for the D80 viewfinder and served notice for lack of in-camera stabilization. You have praised Canon for their high end models and noted the shortcomings of their mid range models (20D, 30D). You have given pros and cons for most companies' products, with a soft spot for the defunct K/M 7D (SONY, wake up!!!). I call that fair. I am tired of one-marque snobbery from any source.

Good points made.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I haven't bought a DSLR as yet, but every Canon I've handled seems WAY unfriendly compared to the D80. I don't get this, because most Canon P&S digicams have insanely great interfaces. My PowerShot A620 is a simply remarkable camera with a better LCD and MUCH more logical interface than a 5D. Is the Canon philosophy that real pros don't care about this sort of thing?

I did buy another Canon recently, though. A 1961 Model P rangefinder. Handling it after any plastic wonder reminds me of that bit in "Crocodile Dundee" about what a real knife is.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

For those who've never seen it....


7:28 PM  
Blogger ctyankee said...

Mike, I'm with you on this. I use a KM 7D. Warts & all, a wonderful camera to use. I tried a Canon 20D at the time & decided that I could "live with it" if I wanted to shoot Canon lenses. Tried a D70 & thought it was ok, minus the poor VF. But then, one day, I picked up a D80 & looked through that VF; camera felt great in my hand, AF on the kit lens was flawless & silent and said to myself I can see why anyone who picks up these cameras would choose this one.

7:40 AM  
Blogger willfurniss said...

It may be sad for some but in light of these kinds of comments, and a look at the industry (camera making) in general, differences between cameras are becoming more and more insignificant; if Canon were to embiggen (thats a technical term I assure you) their 30D viewfinder a bit (which they will do soon I'm sure once the 30D's are sold), we would all have to be talking about something else. Beyond a sensor method revolution, things are going to start to get boring for techies. Having said that, pushing the camera manufacturers to improve is a good thing, one feels they actively avoid making the really perfect camera at times. Personally I am looking forward to a Nikon W1 eyeball, the "W" stands for "wink." The zoom action might be a little disturbing however....

8:04 AM  
Blogger Eli Sarver said...

I really don't get why the Canon X0D cameras even exist. The Rebel XTi does a really good job on the low end, and the 5D does a stupendous job a bit above the 30D.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Weeks said...

Mike, I shot Nikon for 20 years, and my last Nikon was a D70. That was a great camera. However, I shoot sports and in situations where there is terrible light (with no flash or stobes). For those types of situations, I made the switch to Canon 20D's because of lower noise and better AF performance. After shooting Canon for 2 years, it's my opinion that Nikon makes a better camera body, but Canon makes a better sensor. Also, the AF on the mid-level Canon cameras are definately better. Finally, the 20D handles much better than the Rebel line of cameras (and the Rebels feel "cheap" to me when I hold them). In sum, the Nikon and the Canon cameras are both very good. Anyone who says differently is probably influenced by brand tribalism - which is just stupid to me.

10:09 PM  

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