Photo Daydreaming

It seems unlikely that whatever insurance covers in the end will be sufficient to replace the photographic gear that I lost: a Fuji S2 Pro DSLR, a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, a Nikkor 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 lens, and a Promaster 12-24mm lens. So I likely will have to compromise on something, somewhere.

But at the moment I’m indulging some fantasies, not looking at the far more dismal reality. If I could set about buying something within range of the original purchase price of the Fuji S2 ($2,400 in 2002), what would I be getting? I still have various other Nikon lenses, so I’m likely to remain with a Nikon system. About the only circumstance that might alter that is if some combination of Canon gear matching the feature set of what was stolen from me was significantly cheaper, while matching or exceeding the image quality. If somebody has some info on that, enter a comment.

So here are some of the choices I see…

For cameras:

Fuji S3

This camera would be a step up from the Fuji S2 that I had. The S3 offers essentially two cameras in one: shooting in ‘normal’ dynamic range mode, and its performance is pretty much identical to the Fuji S2, but shooting in ‘wide’ dynamic range mode kicks in another 6 megapixels of smaller sensors that help give the S3 a broad highlight shoulder. The extended dynamic range is about two stops worth. I considered shooting with the Fuji S2 to be rather like shooting within the dynamic range limitations of slide film. The S3 would be more like shooting with color negative film so far as dynamic range is concerned. Of course, Fuji’s low-noise reputation continues with the S3 sensor. The drawback of the S3 has to be its slow image write times and small image buffer. B&H Photo has the S3 digital camera kit for $1,168.40 currently, so it is selling for less than half what my S2 cost me in 2002. If I were getting original cost on the stolen gear, I could buy two. I don’t know yet whether I’m going to be in a position to buy even one.

Nikon D200

The Nikon D200 is a pretty cool camera. It offers pretty much the proven ergonomics, environmental sealing, AF performance, and speed from the F100 cameras, with a whopping 10.2 megapixel sensor. It has i-TTL flash. It has WiFi. And it is a mere $1,699.95 from B and H Photo currently. What it doesn’t have is a Fuji sensor. The Sony sensor is supposed to be pretty decent for a non-Fuji sensor. Of course, this camera isn’t really complete without the MB-D200 battery pack, which besides allowing it to use good old AA batteries, also provides a vertical shutter release and fore-and-aft command wheels for vertical shooting, for $169.95 more. Otherwise, one would have to rely on the proprietary Li-ion battery pack. Ken Rockwell reports that he may use two fully charged packs in a day of shooting. I’ve always appreciated the Fuji S2’s use of AA rechargeables over proprietary solutions.

Nikon D80

Apparently, this camera has the same image sensor as the D200, less a couple of data channels, so you can get the same image quality as the D200, just not at 5 frames per second. What you don’t get is the metal body, seals, and other nifty features like the WiFi. On the other hand, the price tag is $999, if it is in stock.

Fuji S3 Pro UVIR

Now, this is exotic. This camera is the Fuji S3 Pro I discussed above except… Fuji has replaced the standard ultraviolet and infrared sensor filter with something that passes those bands, too. Thus the “UVIR” designation. This was specifically aimed at the forensic photographer market. Something else nifty… the Fuji engineers have this camera set up to do continuous preview on the rear LCD for focus and composition with the mirror locked up. I don’t know how difficult it would be to minimize the UV and IR contributions when pursuing just the usual photographic stuff, but on the other hand, the extra sensitivity on either end of the visual spectrum sounds awfully handy to have. This one has the heftiest price tag at $1,799.95. Call it $1,800.

Fuji F30

This wouldn’t be a replacement for the DSLR, but as a portable camera it sports a 6 megapixel Fuji imager with sensitivity up to 3200 ISO. Reports are that the images taken at 3200 ISO are even usable. Isn’t that a trick? The sole means of composing is the extra-large LCD on the back of the camera. Sorry, no swivelling. Bad news: it uses a proprietary battery pack. Good news: it is a good battery pack, and can run the camera pretty much all day. I think I’d still like an extra battery on hand. Fuji just announced another similar model, the F31fd, that adds face detection to the camera’s tricks. They claim the F31fd will be able to detect up to ten faces in the frame, and adjust exposure to properly expose those faces. That sounds kinda cool. It’s too bad that the face detection model isn’t in shops now.

Fuji S5

This one was also just announced. Apparently, Fuji was able to get D200 class bodies from Nikon to put Fuji’s extended dynamic range sensor into. That brings with it a bunch of the ergonomic goodies of the D200, with the Fuji images coming out. Nice. What wasn’t announced, which makes me a bit fearful, is the basic operational speed of the camera. Fuji DSLRs have always been a bit on the poky side. The S2, for example, could take 8 pictures at 2 frames per second, and about one picture per 2 seconds after the buffer filled. The S3 can, in ‘normal’ DR mode, hit about 3 frames per second, but still with a smallish buffer. Switch to ‘wide’ DR mode, and it gets still slower. Can the S5 move bits around with better alacrity than its predecessors? We know that the Nikon body isn’t the limitation this time. Another thing that wasn’t announced was the pricing. I’ll venture a guess of $2,900 list at introduction. Fuji likes to make people gasp with their initial prices. Six to nine months later, the price should have taken a major dip. But, if I want this one, I’m going to have to both save up a lot and wait a while. I expect it will be at least six months before this camera hits the shelves.

For lenses:

Nikkor 18-200mm VR

Ken Rockwell gushes over this lens, one of Nikon’s DX smaller sensor offerings. This would provide field-of-view like a 29-300mm lens with a full-frame sensor. It has Nikon’s vibration reduction technology, so hand-holding becomes far easier. The only thing really, really wrong with it is that it ends up as f/5.6 at the long end. That 70-200mm f/2.8 lens really spoiled me on what can be done with low light. On the plus side, it would handle a lot of photographic situations. As Ken noted, pet portraiture would need nothing else. Not as bad a price as I feared: $749.95.

Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR

I don’t know, I just may have to have another helping of this lens. I compared it head-to-head with my Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIS lens, one of the sharpest lenses Nikon has produced, and the image quality was a tie. Plus, the 70-200 has great bokeh. And… f/2.8. Fast. Completely usable completely wide-open. VR seems a bit timid to me, but still quite handy to have. The bad news: $1,614.95. About the same price as before.

Wide-angle lenses

I lost my Promaster 12-24mm f/4 to the thieves. That was a rebranded Tokina 12-24mm. I really enjoyed that lens. The options look similar to what was around last year when I was looking for a wide-angle.

Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX

Typical Nikon performance, typical Nikon price: $919.95. Probably not going to be an option for me.

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6

A bit wider than what I had, and a bit less expensive, even: $499.95. I liked the constant maximum aperture on the Promaster, though. Sliding effective apertures are still an annoyance.

Tamron 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6

Very slightly wider on the wide end, not so long on the long end, those pesky sliding apertures, and $519.00 after rebate. Unless I find a review saying that this beats the Sigma all hollow on resolution, this is probably not for me.

Tokina 12-24 f/4

Basically, the same lens I had before, and a bit cheaper mail-order: $499.95. I’d have to say that overall I was quite pleased with the lens I had; getting another one wouldn’t be bad. It was on the contrasty side, which exacerbated the battles I had with dynamic range in digital anyway. Until one has a lens in hand, thought, it is awfully difficult to tell exactly how that will play out. I will have to look carefully at that extra 2mm of wideness available on the Sigma and weigh the sliding aperture annoyance.

Given that I have a Nikkor 28-85mm lens on hand, I may not replace the 28-105mm. If I did decide to, I’d have to look closely at some moderate-wide to moderate-tele zooms with a constant f/2.8 aperture.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Photo Daydreaming

  • 2006/10/19 at 11:08 am

    I’m looking at moving into the digital age since I haven’t used any of my Nikon 35mm cameras in over 5 years.

    I’m nearly settled on the Nikon D80, 18-200 mm VR lens and Nikon speedlight SB-600.

    The only negative comment I’ve read in reviews of the 18-200 VR is being able to find one. Heavily backordered.

    I think that Nikon finally has it all together with the D80 and the price doesn’t scare me away considering my intended use which is personal photography. The Canon has been a close second choice, but once bitten by the Nikon bug it’s a tough disease to shake!

  • 2008/05/19 at 5:21 am

    A lovely selection and a lovely wish list. I too was recently in a similar situation when my Nikon D70 and lenses were stolen from my home the night before going on a shoot. (Hence everything in the bag).

    In the end with the insurance I settled on the Nikon D80 and have to say it is an absolutely superb piece of kit.


Comments are closed.