Writing about cameras is a subjective effort. Second hand accounts of a model you’ve never seen don’t offer much beyond model specs and the estimated street price. Whether you’re in the Dakotas or in uptown NYC, if you can’t handle it yourself, you just don’t know.
I’m thinking of this because, at the moment, Nikon is widely seen as coming up off the mat and delivering a broadsides to The Good Ship Canon with their latest models, the D3 and D300. Once THE camera for professionals (their ads solemnly declared “Someday…you’ll need a Nikon”), the company had lost it’s place at the top of the Pile and for many years played Avis to Canon’s Hertz. This is not to say Nikon didn’t have its devotees: it’s just that they were swamped by all those AE-1s, F-1s, T90s, and EOS models that appeared like clockwork from their competitor.
The new Nikons are receiving rampant press coverage and are the buzz on photographic forums, since the only thing photographers enjoy more than shooting pictures is talking about equipment. (This hubbub shouldn’t be confused with digital noise, which refers to the grainy appearance of digital images shot at higher ISO settings.)
I haven’t taken either in hand, yet, but I can tell you I once drove a Renault and enjoyed it. That was in 1968, coincidentally the last year the model was made, I was seventeen, and driving unsupervised was Freedom. Plus, that sickly green import got 40 miles-per-gallon when gasoline wars were still common (for those too young to remember, gas wars were fought by service stations, not sovereign nations.) I could drive to Boise, four hundred miles away, buy a cheeseburger basket (they don’t let you don’t forget the fries in Idaho), and drive home for less than ten dollars. But if I hadn’t liked the way the gear shift felt, or the placement of the pedals, or the appearance…I would have stuck with the family’s Jeep Wagoneer or (shudder) Mom’s Buick.
So, be it a Canon or Nikon, or a Pentax or Olympus, or Sony…pick it up and see how it feels in your hand.
Then put it up to your eye. It won’t matter if the camera is a full frame or reduced APS-size frame model if you can’t comfortably look through the viewfinder. A good choice would have a dioptric adjustment to allow for changes in eyesight, and a rubber eyepiece that’s comfortable and allows a good view if you wear glasses.
If it meets those simple criteria, then you can move on to other perceptions such as handling and weight and make a decision apart from which accessories are available, the relative costs of lenses, et cetera. Does the camera balance well when you attach a longer lens, or a flash? Tune out (for the moment) the salesperson who’s showing you the equipment and trust your intuition.
Believe me, it’s just as easy as buying a car.