Nikon at Photokina and the New Nikon D2x
Held every two years in Cologne, Germany, Photokina is the world's biggest trade show for photo and imaging products. No, I've never been to one, but I picture it as just one big toy store for photographers. I don't think my imagination is too far off the mark. The event for this year is just wrapping up after having run September 28 to October 3. The flurry of press releases it unleashed from basically every company with even a marginal investment in photography has been astounding. For Nikon shooters, this year's Photokina brought with it the announcement of the much anticipated D2x digital SLR plus other goodies.
First, the D2x. I've been on a waiting list for one since before we even knew what it was, so it's nice to see that it will live up to my hopes. Those interested have probably already heard, but the magic number turns out to be 12.4 effective megapixels and a buffer big enough and frame rate fast enough to rival the D2h (expect D2h prices to fall around the time the D2x reaches market). What makes this possible is the high speed 2x crop mode (user selectable in place of the normal DX crop of 1.5x) where the camera will only use the central 6.8 MP of the sensor rather than the entire thing. Two focusing screens are offered to help visualize the cropped area, one showing crop marks in the four corners of the 2x crop area and the other with a solid outline around the whole high-speed image area. Wildlife shooters and others who see themselves using the 2x crop mode extensively will likely prefer the latter.
Rather than the JEFT/LBCAST sensor used in the D2h, the D2x features a Sony-manufactured CMOS sensor designed by Nikon. High speed image recording is acheived through four parallel channels processed simultaneously. A new improved ASIC chip and optimized A/D converters are claimed to provide improved color accuracy and smoother transitions across the tonal range.
Connectivity options include the built-in USB 2.0 high-speed interface as well as wireless 802.11g (54 mbps) with the new WT-2.
Other great features include histogram displays in red, green and blue as well as composite, an in-camera multiple exposure capability (for the purist I suppose, even though doing it in Photoshop still makes more sense to me with a DSLR), GPS support, ability to password encrypt images stored on the compact flash card, and DxO software built-in to accurately correct for barrel/pincushion and chromatic aberration with Nikon lenses. ISO speeds are from 100 to 800 plus HI1 and HI2. Most of the other specs are as one would expect from looking at the D2h including metering on AI and AI-S lenses, 11 focus points, exposure compensation in a +/- 5-stop range, external ambient light sensor for improved auto-white balance, 2.5 inch LCD (more pixels than D2h!), 1/8000 second flash synch, and a socket for a 10-pin electronic remote.
The other really big announcement from Nikon was the F6. Yes, the F6 is a film SLR. Nikon has basically taken i-TTL, the Multi-CAM 2000 autofocus module with 11 sensor points and other recent innovations and added it to a new film SLR that will likely replace both the F5 and F100. F5 purists will lament the loss of interchangeable viewfinders, but others will likely welcome this unexpected addition to the Nikon line.
There's also a new 300mm AF-S VR f/2.8G IF-ED lens that likely heralds the beginning of upgrading all of Nikon's big glass to include VR, something the other guys have had for some time now. It also features what Nikon describes as a Nano-crystal anti-reflective technology and a new meniscus front element to replace the standard flat front protective element. This is intended to further reduce internal reflections and yield even higher image clarity and contrast.
Coolpix users will welcome three new models 4.0 MP Coolpix 4800 to the higher-end 8 MP Coolpix 8800 with VR built-in. A new TC-E3PF 3x teleconverter featuring a "Phase Fresnel" design that greatly reduces chromatic aberration at the same time it reduces overall size and weight.
New versions of both Nikon View and Capture are also forthcoming, although they seem to feature mainly just support for the new cameras and a few bug fixes. Some degree of performance improvement is also in the offing. PictureProject seems to have become the standard for software shipping with new cameras, but Nikon View remains available by download. What use a D2x user would have for PictureProject is beyond me.
The D2x is not expected out until January and release dates for the other new products will likely range over the next several months as well. While it would be nice to have them now of course, this gives everyone a chance to save up to afford them first. All those other camera and imaging companies also made numerous announcements, but I'll them to others to let you know about.