For the sake of my marriage, I want to make something perfectly clear to my wife… this wish list is stuff that is not available yet (that I’m aware of) — I’m humbly asking the good people at Nikon to consider these suggestions for new and/or improved equipment or features. I cannot spend any of our money on these things, my dearest Honey-Poops, because they do not make them yet.
I really hope my wife puts down the rolling pin and after the hearty, but polite, laughter subsides in Japan, maybe we’ll see a couple of my suggestions realized.
My Qualifications for Telling Nikon What to Do
You’re probably wondering where I, an amateur who isn’t dedicated enough to his hobby to plan a picture-taking outing if the temperature falls below 10° C (50° F) or if there is any chance of precipitation, get the temerity to suggest anything to a world-leading camera manufacturer.
I love my Nikon and there are some things I’d like to see available just in case I win the lottery. I have a long history of breaking the family budget to buy camera stuff. When I was single, and didn’t have a budget (or much money), I’d buy camera stuff to the detriment of my reputation at the utility companies’ billing departments. My father indavertently got me hooked on photography and I’ve been obsessed with it in a casual, laid-back kind of way ever since. I think I’ve earned the right to have an opinion.
Here’s a list of the cameras I’ve owned, just to show you that I’ll spend money on just about anything even remotely photographic in nature, so Nikon is guaranteed sales of at least one unit of even the most ludicrous of my suggestions. All you professionals and highly-advanced amateurs will have a good laugh.
- “Spy Camera”: I sent away for this in the late 1960s after reading an ad on the back cover of a comic book. I got it and it took real pictures on spools of film that I would realize years later looked exactly like the roll film used in multi-thousand-dollar Hasselblads, only teensy-weensy.
- Kodak Instamatic 44: This was a Christmas present I got somewhere around 1970. It was great for getting shots of friends and family at special occasions. It was a true point-and-shoot… no exposure control (automatic or otherwise) and was fixed-focus. It did have a socket on the top for flash cubes, though!
- Kodak Pocket Instamatic 30: An auto-exposure 110 cartridge film (13 x 17 mm) camera. The auto-exposure really opened doors for me, creativly speaking. I soon learned to override the exposure control with a piece of hockey tape to create “ghost pictures”. I got a lot of use out of this baby, so much so I bought an electonic flash that would plug into the flash cube socket.
- Minolta 16 II: A small, 16mm film powered push-pull spy camera — sort of like the Minox James Bond used, but not nearly as stylish or expensive. It was completely manual, with aperture and sutter speed controls and no metering. I bought a small bulb flash unit, a light meter, filters for B&W photography, and the close-up lens kit which allowed greater flexibility when using different f-stops on this fixed-focus camera. I don’t know what happened to it. If you took it and feel guilty, return it and I’ll buy you dinner and give you a couple of bucks reward… no hard feelings.
- Olympus OM-1: Ooh, a great camera! The viewfinder was bigger and brighter than those on most other 35mm SLRs, a great advantage to me because I was into taking a lot of available-light shots in those days. It was pretty compact and the lenses were excellent. I has two Zuiko (i.e. Olympus) lenses, a 50mm (I think it was) and a 100mm. I also sank major cash into a Metz flash. This camera was lost or stolen while hitchhiking through Florida in the late ’70s. It was bad enough that I lost all my camera equipment but I stupidly forgot to remove a bunch of exposed film from the gadget bag and leave it at home before setting out on my trip. On those rolls of film were photos I had taken at a concert of a major Quebec-based band that had seen photos I had taken for another band. Those concert shots were my “audition”, as it were, to go on tour with the band, do album covers, get paid just for hanging around taking photos, have my expenses paid, and get bonuses for a every picture they used. I also would be in the position to possibly meet groupies with standards so low that they might show interest in the band’s camera guy. Because of my losing the films, someone else got the job and I couldn’t afford new camera stuff so here began a long photographic drought for me. If you lived in Homestead, Florida and “found” my OM-1 in the ’70s, I hope you treated it well. If you still have it and are having fits of conscience eating at your soul, contact me and I’ll not only pay shipping but I might throw in a couple of bucks on the side. Most of all, I’d like to find out what really happened to it.
- Canon 35mm rangefinder: My wife’s point-and-shoot that took remarkably good photos. More important, it was the spark that ignited the fire that was to burn up so much of our hard-earned cash for years to come.
- Nikon CoolPix 5700: Ahh, the freedom of digital photography… taking as many photos as I wanted and it costing me nothing except the cost of DVDs to store the images on! I thought the electronic viewfinder was great most of the time, but I was spending a lot of time recharging the standard battery. I got the optional battery pack so instead of spending a lot of time charging Nikon’s proprietary battery, I spent a lot of time charging AA batteries. The fixed lens had a tremendous zoom range and the quality of the photos was pretty good. The camera was a bit limited, though. The choice of f-stops was wanting, the electronic viewfinder wasn’t so hot in dim light, and the auto-focus was really slow (but I have never been into action shots so that didn’t matter that much). In spite of the fixed lens, I did manage to spend money on a Nikkor fisheye conversion attachment, and that was quite good. I also bought some cheap-o third-party telephoto and wide-angle converters but they weren’t worth the money. I also bought a couple of flash units… a Vivitar 285 HV and a pair of Sunpak flat-panel flashes… had a lot of fun playing around with them! The thing that really sold me on Nikon after I bought this camera was that I had an occasional strange image after I had aready taken about 8,000 pictures with the camera. Nothing serious, but it drove me nuts because I thought it was due to something I was doing wrong. By chance I saw a service advisory on the Nikon website for the camera, so I called Nikon. They gave me a prepaid shipping label, I sent the camera off, and it came back a couple of weeks later, fixed, cleaned, and better than new. I didn’t pay a cent. I was super-impressed with the service I got in spite of my camera’s warranty having long since expired and that the camera was a “pro-sumer” job, not an SLR. Respects, Nikon.
- Nikon D-300: My present camera! I bought it while it was Nikon’s highest megapixel camera by a whisker (but it’s only an APS “DX”, not a full-frame “FX”). I didn’t buy it only for the megapixelage, but for a bunch of reasons and I’m really, really happy with it (but I wouldn’t say no to a D3X). It’s a much more flexible camera (read: you can spend a whole lot more money on stuff for it) than the 5700 and the image quality is great. I have a Nikkor 18-200mm, a Sigma 10-20mm, a Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AIS, a Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8, a Samyang 8mm fisheye, a set of Kenko macro extension tubes, a Nikon SB-900 speedlight, a cheap-o Phoenix ringlight that works great, a KatzEye focusing screen, and a Solmeta GPS. I’m not going to say anything more about my arsenal because I intend to write half-assed reviews of some of it.
OK, now that I’ve listed the majority of the camera stuff I’ve already spent money on, I’ll spend even more money to get my hands on the stuff in…
The Actual Wish List
OK, Nikon… you got me. The first four items on the list are firmware-related and I’d expect those for free. The rest of the stuff are bona fide potential money makers for you.
- Firmware Versions: It would be nice if you made more than one update to firmware. Maybe you’re getting the v. 1.00 so good that you don’t have to go beyond v. 1.01. It just seems that as soon as I bought my camera, there was a firmware update but in the three years since then, nothing more. Even if you just take the latest version and rename it as though it was updated, we would believe that you were thinking of us even though you’ve made our cameras obsolete with several new models.
- Bracketing: It’s great having the camera auto-bracket 9 frames in one-f-stop increments but it would be even better if we could bracket in up to two-f-stop increments. I’d also like to be able to order the exposures so that the shutter speeds get progressively shorter — in low-light situations I find myself having to count the number of exposures already taken so I don’t hold the shutter release open after the bracketing series is done.
- Depth-of-field Utilities: A useful feature I’d like to see on Nikons is one that would allow you to select near-focus and far-focus points and have the camera focus the lens and select the aperture that would get everything in focus. I hear that Canon already offers this feature on some models. An auto hyperfocal distance feature would be great, too. For those of us who use manual focus lenses, depth-of-field tables that could be called up on the LCD screen would be amazing!
- More “Picture Controls”: For those of you unfamiliar with the way Nikon does things, you can have your camera use pre-determined profiles for the photos you take with their digital cameras. These Picture Controls are also available for the Nikon software you’ll use to convert RAW images to standard image formats. What I would like to see for the software Picture Controls is something that emulates the look of various types of films (like Kodachrome, Tri-X, Royal-X, Velvia, etc.). If you guys could strike a deal with the people at PTLens and include such a distortion-control utility with your software (for free), that would be amazing.
- Other Ways to Pay: How about a Nikon lay-away plan where I can embezzel small amounts from the household budget every payday and send it off to you? Then you give me a fair interest rate and at the end of a year or two, I could “cash out” and get a voucher for a new Nikon thingamabob. Or how about a Nikon lottery?
- GPS: Built-in GPS, with heading and altitude, would simplify things.
- Infrared: It used to be that the sensors in digital cameras were inherently sensitive to infrared but had filters that block infrared light from getting to them. I don’t know if this is still true or if the new sensors simply are no longer IR sensitive. If they are, it would be nice to have a way to have the filter swing out of the way at the touch of a button. A filter for my SB-900 allowing IR to pass but blocking visible light would be nice, too.
- Entrance Pupil: If you guys could put a little mark on your lenses indicating the location of the entrance pupil, you’d make life a lot easier for those wanting to produce panoramas.
- Resurrect NOCT: OK, you’ve come up with an AF-S 35mm f/1.4, but what about a NOCT-Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.2 VR II and/or a 50mm version to round out the line-up? I don’t know how the new 35mm compares with the old NOCT in terms of image quality, but the old NOCTs were supposed to be phenomenal. Add to that auto-focus and image stabilization and you’d have a killer low-light lens that I’d get my son to sell a kidney so he’d be able to afford to buy it for me for a combo Father’s Day, birthday, and Christmas gift.
- Resurrect the Reflex-Nikkors: I know a lot of people pooh-pooh mirror lenses but I think there’s a market for them. Again, if there were some way to make a Reflex-Nikkor AF-S 500mm f/8 (or faster) VR II with some way to counter mirror-slap vibrations when it is on a tripod, you’d be able to sell them to those of us that appreciates the utility of a honking long telephoto at a fraction of the price of your $8,000 AF-S 500mm f/4G IF-ED VR II. Don’t forget to develop new 1,000mm and 2,000mm Reflex-Nikkors, too. Some of us really like donut bokeh!
- Ring Lights: A line of true ringlights, with the flashtube wrapping around 360° would be nice. Make a range of them for every application from high-output studio models (like the Alien Bees model) to macro-only models with two-180° or four-90° flashtubes, and maybe an intermediate model that could be used for macro and up to, say, 15 feet for that trendy, high-fashion look. Make them fully CLS compatible, please.
- Potato-masher Flashes: They’re great, I love them, please make them.
- Shutter Release Button: For cameras that can take rapid fire, add another position on the release so if you push it down a little, you get metering (like what happens now), and a little further for single-shot mode, and all the way down for multishot bursts. This feature should be configurable in the user settings menu in case you want fulltime rapid fire or whatever.
- The Modular Camera: Here’s where camera designers everywhere have a great laugh and get a story to tell at the watercooler Monday morning about how ignorant some bloggers can be. On the other hand, some visionary might think about this and take photography into the next era! How about a camera that is designed to easily swap components, sort of like they do with medium and large format cameras only Nikon could apply that flexibility to digital cameras? The camera body would be comprised of a flange for the lens, several places to plug in components, and some circuitry to tie it all together. That way I could order a camera with the features relevant to the kind of photography I do, with no extras I don’t really want. For example, let’s say I’d like an DX sensor with no rapid-fire capabilities, but room for two memory cards, two batteries, a GPS, and a magnified viewfinder. I could “build my camera” the way I can build a computer or automobile at certain companies’ on-line stores now. Then, in a couple of years, I could trade up my sensor for a honking-big FX sensor, with the option of surrendering my DX sensor so you could refurbish it and resell it to someone else. You could make a line of Nikon MD (for “modular digital”) camera bodies with various degrees of expandibility (MD-1, MD-2, MD-3, etc.). The consumer could upgrade his equipment incrementally instead of having to fork over a huge whack of cash at one time. Each component would come with a little badge that could be installed under where the model is shown so the customer could show off all the features of his camera and it would advertise the availability of them to make for a better bottom line for you! You would also benefit because all the peripheral stuff, like batteries, shutter releases, etc. would be standardized so you’d only have to develop and stock one type. What would absolutely fabulous is the ability for the consumer (or a tech-oriented guy in the store) to plug in new components, saving my camera a multi-week vacation in Nikon’s service department.
So, there you have it. Nikon, if you follow through with any of these, please cut me in for a little piece of the action, even if you deem my share to be merely a sample.