Well I finally took the plunge and laid out a fairly major investment on a new camera. Until recently I have been using an Olympus E-520 4/3 cropped sensor camera. It has undoubtably served me well but it is now 6 years old and it is now very limiting for the type of photography I favour, live gigs. The Olympus is limited to 1600 ISO and Olympus have phased out the 4/3 line moving to micro fit and mirrors cameras. My Olympus lenses are also fairly limited in that they are not fast enough and the auto-focus in the very variable lighting conditions of gigs mean that I have a real struggle to get sharp shots.
A bit of research brought me down to a choice of 4 cameras. I couldn’t justify the £5k for a camera body that the Canon EOS 1DX or Nikon D4S required so the choices were Canon 5D Mkiii, Canon 7DMkii, Nikon D810 or Nikon D750. These are undoubtably all fantastic cameras and all have their own unique selling points. I ruled out the 7D Mkii for one reason alone, the cropped sensor. I was finding that with a 55 – 200mm lens on a cropped sensor I could not get full length shots when I was in the orchestra pit at gigs and for that reason alone I passed on the 7D.
I ruled out the Nikon D810 because at 36M pixels I felt the resolution was too high for my needs. I doubt whether I will ever have to print beyond A3 so the resolution was probably overkill for my needs. I was torn and almost went for it but the file sizes for processing etc put me off. That left me with the Canon 5D Mkiii or the Nikon D750. Again both have their advantages and for me it really was a toss up. The AF system, frames per second and resolution were all broadly equivalent, both have 14bit raw resolution. The Canon has a wider ISO range, the Nikon has wi-fi connectivity. In the end my wallet made the final decision as the Nikon was some £500 cheaper. I also purchased the camera from a company called SLR Hut. It was imported from the USA with all import duties paid, and that saved me close to another £500. Those saving allowed me to buy both a 24 – 120G F4 VR lens and a 70 – 200G F2.8 lens. I need both lenses and had I bought the canon I could not have afforded both straight away. Money talks!
As you are entitled to expect when you pay this amount of cash for a camera it is beautifully made, very solid and tactile and it is weather sealed, very important in English conditions. At first glance it does look pretty complicated, a feeling added to when you look in the manual, which weighs in at 500 pages (all in English). Thankfully if you are comfortable with an SLR the controls are pretty intuitive once you switch it on. All of the main functions are available without having to resort to the menu’s. Most controls are available simply by pressing and holding a button and using one of the two control wheels. All of the buttons feel solid and positive.
I took the camera out when I walked my dogs this morning and had a bit of a play around. The first thing I notices (and loved) is that the auto focus is lightning fast, it also indicates in the view finder exactly where the focus is locked. It acts intelligently, for example in the image below that has a tree on the right of the image the camera told me that it was locked onto the tree despite the fact that that the tree was not centrally positioned. I found the same with closer up shots for example the focus on the fungi on the side of the tree trunk was instantaneous.
On downloading the pictures when I got home the biggest difference I noticed was in the depth and vibrancy of the colours. With my olympus I had got used to shots of the heathland looking fairly uniform and a bit ‘washed out’ in terms of colour. The Nikon captures the colour much more accurately and the colours look more rich and vibrant. This was very much a first look at the camera and I won’t pretend that I have either totally got to grips with it or that I have challenged the camera in any way. I have only tried out the F4 lens in decent light. I am however very impressed with what I have seen so far. I look forward to checking out the F2.8 lens at a live gig next Saturday. I will let you know how I get on.
Incidentally, the Native ISO on the D750 is 100 – 12600, expandable to 50 – 51200. The camera has two slots for SD cards, I have two 64Gb cards which gives me around 2,500 images when shooting 14bit Raw files. I expect that will be a lot of jpegs if I ever shoot in Jpeg 😉 The cards can be configured in a variety of ways, you can shoot in Raw + Jpeg and have each image type on a different card. If you are on a really important shoot you could have the file saved to slot 1 and a back up on slot 2 or you can just use slot 2 as an overflow.