Body conundrum | D4, D800 or X-Pro1?

There’s a lot of action in cameraland these days: D4, upcoming D800, X-Pro1. New Canons on the horizon as well. I’ve been watching this with a lot of interest since I’ll likely be in the market for a new body, finances willing.

Last night I got an email from photographer friend - and fellow canadian - Morten Byskov, asking me (tongue in cheek) where my blog post on all this was hiding. After emailing him back with some of my thoughts I figured I was probably ready to write about it after all ;)

To be honest, I’d love nothing more than to be David Hobby or Zack Arias right now (or any day of the year really!) and hop over to Phase One medium format heaven. Pretty big news from those two wasn’t it? In the same week no less. The problem is…. well, the problem is cash. That’s a re-mortgage-the-house kinda purchase. No way I can afford it. But reading Hobby’s thought process, I realized I was heading in a similar direction. I also realized this could explain my lukewarm feelings towards the Nikon D4 — beyond sticker shock.

I want my next purchase to be deliberate, well-thought out and based on actual need instead of technolust. And I don’t need video. Not really. I know it’s a new market with new opportunities yadda yadda yadda… but I’m just not interested. In a past life I did some video work, I worked in post both as an assistant and a video editor. I did some directing. Did some production. So I KNOW I’m not interested. Video isn’t the language I want to express myself with. I know there’s a lot more to the D4 than those new (stellar btw) video features, but I’ve scratched it off my list. Too much money for features I won’t use.

Now the D800… That’s been an odyssey. A year and a half ago it was a no-brainer: I was going full-frame and waiting for an update to the D700. Might as well right? But then it took awhile – D5000, D7000, System 1, multiple consumer offerings. And boom! the 36MP spec hit the rumor mill. Made me seriously scratch my head: 36MP? What about ISO performance? Speed? Workflow? And weren’t the rumours predicting the D4 with 16MP? Huh?

But if the 36MP rumor is indeed true (it seems to be), the picture is getting clearer: instead of positioning the D800 as a smaller D4, Nikon is opting for differentiation. Machine gun editorial machine vs large file studio centric body.

No more D700 price point though. That’s a shame.

And then there’s Fuji. The X-Pro1.
For a company that wasn’t even a blip on my radar two years ago, they’ve managed to make me question allegiances I didn’t think would ever be in question. My love for the X100 - faults and all - is no secret. So a sneaky what if scenario has been poisoning my drinking water: what if I jumped ship to this brand new system? Fujinon prime lenses, new 16MP sensor without a low-pass filter, kickass metal body with knobs and usable aperture rings… I mean, I could almost envision myself as a modern day David Bailey, wielding this retro chic jewel like the coolest cat around.

But Morten alerted me to the fact that it’s a 1.5 crop sensor, not a 1.3 like the APS-C in the X100. It’s a focal plane shutter so no crazy sync speeds with studio strobes. And those lenses? According to DP Review the manual focus is fly by wire.

Come. On.
Why? The worst thing about the X100 is its manual focusing. It would be the worst thing on a toy camera. It’s that bad. Useless. I can’t believe they’re using it in a system targeted for pro use, no matter how efficient the AF turns out to be. As intrigued as I am by this camera, it feels a lot like a deal-breaker.

Or a heartbreaker. Bummer.

So the way things are shaping up I guess the D800 is the candidate for me. Full circle. But I’m taking my time. Who knows? There may be surprises ahead - like a Leica M-mount adaptor saving the day.

The two pictures below are nothing special. Just driving back from a meeting. Still love that Fuji though… Even through a grimy car window.