Monday, October 28, 2013

Thoughts on Nikon DF and Sony A7

Nikonrumors just did another post with rumored specs of the Nikon DF.
 
It seems from the specs that the DF is designed to be a compact digital rangefinder-style camera (not actually a rangefinder because it has a pentaprism).  IOW a Nikon version of a Leica.  If so the rumored $3000 price tag would make sense.  But as Nikonrumors pointed out, it's called a hybrid camera, but we don't know yet in what sense it is a hybrid.
 
So far, I find the Sony A7 more intriguing.  More particularly I am most interested in the A7's autofocus capabilities.  The A7 uses a hybrid contrast detection and phase detection system.  With contrast detection there is of course coverage on the entire frame.  It makes sense that they broke the frame up into 25 smaller areas (I.e., for faster navigation -- have you tried moving the AF point around on a Nikon DSLR in live view mode?  It's like encouraging a turtle to run faster.).
 
The phase detection mode has 117 AF points, but more importantly, look at the coverage (the blue rectangle in the image below).
 
 
It covers all but the borders of the frame.  This is far larger than the coverage of even the 51-AF points of some Nikon full-frame DSLRs.  In fact, it is a larger area than the 51-AF points on an APS-C Nikon (such as the D300 or D7100), being significantly taller and only slightly narrower.  I think this is the killer feature of the Sony A7.
 
Couple that with Sony's promise of faster autofocus and automatic focusing on the near eye, and it looks like an amazing camera.  Plus it has a tiltable viewfinder (for unusual angles or for waist-level shooting).
 
Those are some of the reasons I'm more interested in the Sony A7.  It's not perfect though.  The sync speed is a dismal 1/160 and it has the weird Sony/Minolta hotshoe.  But if you've seen my recent posts you know I don't shoot with flash much these days anymore.  So I'm willing to overlook them.  I also wish it had a touchscreen like the OM-D (though hopefully with they Eye AF there won't be a need for it).
 
The bigger questions are lens selection and longevity.  If they can at least get 3rd party support from Sigma then I think it becomes more viable.  Otherwise it would be prudent to wait and see.
 
Meanwhile, about the Nikon DF, I still hope that by hybrid they mean hybrid AF (like some newer Canons which are DSLRs not mirrorless but have a hybrid AF system).  And it ought to have a wide AF area coverage, with autofocusing on the near eye, as promised by the A7.  Even then it might still be twice as expensive as the A7, and won't have a tilting LCD.  Though if it does use the Nikon F-mount that would be a huge advantage.

11/4/13 EDIT:
Here are supposed shots of the Nikon Df. 
http://nikonrumors.com/2013/11/04/this-is-the-nikon-df.aspx/#more-66660

Based on the shots, I think what Nikon means by hybrid camera is that it's somewhere between analog and digital.  It's digital at its core, but it has many knobs and dials just like an analog camera.  I'm not betting on contrast detection / phase detection AF hybrid because that would be contrary to the spirit of being analog-digital.  If this assessment is correct, then this looks to me like a nicer-looking but more expensive D600 with a D4 (16mp) sensor.

11/4/13 EDIT:  It looks like I'm right so far: http://nikonrumors.com/2013/11/04/nikon-df-body-only-price-2746-95.aspx/#more-66728

11/4/13 EDIT:  If I were to choose between these three cameras, I would choose the Sony A7.  Why?  The Nikon Df is pleasing to look at, but in terms of actual function I think the A7 is superior.  The A7's biggest advantage is that it is mirrorless, and has a very short flange focal distance, which means that with an adapter, it can be used with practically any lens, including Leica, Voigtlander, or any exotic lens.

So if you are nostalgic for "classic" image quality, then I think the A7 is the better way to get it (with the right lens).  As for me, I don't plan to get any of them, though the A7 will be on my radar.  What I'm waiting for:
- Sony needs to come out with the lenses I want (with good quality and price).  Alternatively, if Sigma supports the new full frame E-mount I would be satisfied.  Sigma already has the 35 1.4 and 85 1.4, both with good quality/price.
- Sony needs to fix the autofocus of the A7 to make it both accurate and quick.  I'd like it to be as good as that of the Canon 70D or the Olympus E-M5 or E-M1.

If neither of these happen, it's not a big deal for me.  I'm waiting for prices of used Sony RX1s to drop.  Paired with the Nikon 85 1.8G on a Nikon D600, it would make for an awesome combination. :)