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Equipment Etc

New Pro DSLRs from Canon & Nikon

The new Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mark II pro DSLRs

Do Canon and Nikon have spies working in each other's factories? Or is it just that the Olympics is happening later this year and both companies want to impress with a new pro camera? And the winner is?

I have worked extensively with both the Nikon D4 and Canon EOS-1D X cameras and, along with the new Phase One XF, I think that they represent the best cameras in the world history in terms of ergonomics and fit for purpose. The new D5 and remodelled EOS-1D X Mark II remain up the top although to be frank, I don't see any camp swapping. If I already had an investment in one or the other brand, I wouldn't be switching over. Both are superb machines. Both will keep their respective camps very, very happy.

These new cameras are aimed at the professional market - I suggest mainly sports and news. For this reason, their sensors are only 20-21 megapixels in size because this is all the market requires for magazine and web reproduction. In years gone past, a professional camera would demand the highest in reproduction values, but today, 20-megapixels is already as good as 4x5" sheet film was in the days of film, especially when you're using top quality lenses.

These cameras excel in operation. The Nikon boasts 153 focus points, 99 of which are cross-type sensors; the Canon has a 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type AF points. Whether more is better I haven't tested as yet, but in comparison to the one or three points we started with years ago, these are both incredibly fast and accurate autofocus systems. Importantly, both cameras now work at -3 EV, meaning AF will work better in low light and you can also use supertelephoto lenses with teleconverters and retain full AF operation. And if you don't mind using just the central AF points (like you do with the previous models), the Nikon provides AF service at -4 EV. Incredible.

In terms of shooting speeds, the Nikon can fire at 13 frames per second with full autofocus on every frame, the Canon chugs along at 14 frames per second! No chance of missing a shot now - although doesn't the Panasonic Lumix offer 4K capture and effectively 24 frames per second? 

And I guess this is why a number of industry observers are wondering if these pro DSLRs might be the last of a breed. When you look at technology today, why do we need a reflex mirror and an optical viewfinder when electronic viewfinders are so good and you don't need to worry about so many moving parts? As Paul Burrows from ProPhoto magazine asked both Canon and Nikon at the camera launches, if you really wanted to impress us, the new cameras would be mirrorless and a lot smaller and lighter.

And here's the rub. Professional cameras have been traditionally larger and heavier than consumer models. They need to be tougher and most are weather resistant as well, so they can work in all conditions. However, carrying two of these cameras around all day at a wedding would not be fun and I'm sure the sport photographers wouldn't be too upset if a few kilograms were shaved off their camera bags as well. Weight is an issue simply because there are many other cameras and camera systems out there that do almost as much with far less weight and bulk. And if you fly, that's doubly attractive due to limitations for carry-on luggage.

Don't get me wrong. I'm looking forward to reviewing both of these camera. They appear to be awesome devices for both still and video capture (both offer 4K movies at 30 fps on the Nikon and 60 fps on the Canon), but who will buy them? At over $8000 each (final prices are yet to be determined), they are not inexpensive and five to 10 times the price more than consumer DSLRs. You can buy a lot of lenses with the savings on a cheaper DSLR. And there are fewer professional photographers earning sufficient profits today to afford these cameras, so part of the market has to be the enthusiast.

So, how long will the DSLR design last? Are the big companies so entrenched with the DSLR market that the beancounters are holding back the R&D departments on purpose? Or do these companies disagree with the industry pundits and think mirrorless cameras are just a passing fad?

In years gone past, the professional cameras lead the market. They still are in terms of features, but as a beacon for the future, one wonders if this is a sunset market.

Congratulations to both Canon and Nikon - amazing cameras. View more at their respective websites.

Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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