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Doubling Down on Nikon DSLRs

January 09, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

What am I doing buying this hulking, behemoth Nikon DSLR at a time when others are downsizing into mirrorless cameras and ditching their DSLRs? You might say I'm crazy, and you'd probably be at least partly right, but before you send for the padded wagon, please allow me the opportunity to give you my rationale.

Like it or not, I often find myself shooting a lot of events in dark surroundings where flash is not an option. Almost half of my 2014 images were taken at an ISO of greater than or equal to 4000. Roughly fifteen percent were taken at ISOs of greater than or equal to 6400 and apertures of f/2.8 or wider. That is the ragged edge of what I am willing to shoot on my Nikon D800. So for the kind of shooting I do, low light performance is critical. I would love to be able to get good images at ISOs of 12800 and slightly higher. That would enable me to stop down a bit, say to f/4 or f/5.6, to get a bit wider depth of field. I'm not comfortable shooting at ISOs higher than 6400 with my D800. With the D4s I am.

If I was going to get a new camera, I wanted it to replace everything that my Nikon D700 does for me so that I could eliminate a camera from my collection. The primary area where I have used the D700 since buying the D800 is for sports and action photography. The Nikon D700 can shoot at a frame rate of up to 8 frames per second and has an excellent autofocus system. I was thinking about getting the Nikon Df, which also has excellent low-light shooting capability and is quite a bit less expensive than the D4s, but it's really not an event or action camera. The Df frame rate is slower than the D700 and the autofocus system is not as advanced, even though the D700 came out seven years ago.

The one mirrorless option out there for a terrific low-light camera is the Sony A7s. There are two major problems with that option though. One is that I would have to make an investment in a new line of lenses, which I'd only do if I were getting out of Nikon completely. I am definitely not getting out of Nikon. The second major issue with the A7s is that it is a slow camera. It does not have an autofocus designed for action nor does it have a fast frame rate. So the Sony A7s is a non-starter for me.

Now that the dust has settled, what I have is a high-resolution, image-quality champion, in the D800, for my nature, landscape, portrait and travel photography and a fast-shooting, low-light monster, in the D4s, for my event and sports photography. I can imagine that I may switch back and forth between these two Nikon cameras for my portraits work.

When I really want to go light or when I want to shoot video, I will reach for my mirrorless system, the Panasonic Lumix GH3. There really is no micro four-thirds camera out there that will meet my needs of superior low-light performance and fast autofocus. The physics of a smaller sensor puts the micro four-thirds system at a distinct disadvantage to full-frame cameras when it comes to low-light capability. Concerning autofocus performance, the latest offerings from Panasonic are closing the gap with high-end DSLRs, but they're not there yet.

So that's where it's at. To be investing in Nikon's top-of-the-line DSLR when others are moving lock, stock and barrel to mirrorless may be madness, but to quote The Bard, there's method in my madness.


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