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One-upmanship

Since last year, Nikon has been doing a pretty good job of smackin' Canon around during DSLR product announcements. Last year Canon announced the 40D, Nikon counters pretty much immediately with the D300. Canon announces the 1DsIII, Nikon brings forth the D3. And then earlier this year, the D700. Just because. This latest round hasn't diverged from the script much as Canon announced (surprisingly) their new 50D and Nikon jumps in with their D90 which has (gasp!) video recording capability. While I'm not interested in either of these two bodies (once you go full frame... ah... ferget it), I do find the 50D interesting for what it portends for Canon's 5D successor.

First, the fact that they left the AF the same as the 40D was depressing. Previously I had written that I would have accepted it if all they did for the 5D successor was update the AF to what was on the 40D. After having to actually deal with photographing a toddler for the past few months, I'm not sure I can still say that. But current rumors (yeah yeah, take with grain of salt and all that jazz) has some sort of odd, never-before-seen 19-point AF for the 5D successor. I can only hope but I find the 19-point AF rumor to be a little suspect because the same rumor lists HD movie mode as a feature. I think any sort of movie mode makes more sense first in a more consumer-level DSLR like Nikon has with the D90. That's not to say that DSLRs at all levels won't have a movie mode eventually but it doesn't make much sense for Canon to unveil their's on a body like the 5D successor. Another interesting thing is this promotional blurb by a famous wildlife photographer who has tested the 50D stating that its AF is the fastest he's ever handled which is a little odd since it's supposed to be the same AF as what is on the 40D. Maybe there's been some tweaking of the AF algorithm behind the points.

However, there may be hope for Canon in the high ISO IQ department with the new DIGIC 4. While I'm not expecting them to surpass Nikon's D3/700 in that department this generation, they should at least match. With the critical test being from ISO 1600 to 6400. As I mentioned before, any ISO past that is purely marketing and simply won't be used much except for shrunken down web viewing. With that in mind, the first ISO 1600 shot from the 50D that I've seen looks pretty darn good. Not sure how much post-processing was done to it if any but the black areas seem to be devoid of any noise whatsoever. However, what grain there is seems to be a bit splotchier than what I've been seeing from the D700 which tend to be pleasingly uniform. But if this Canon sample was shot straight in JPEG that may explain the blotching. There's also this other ISO 1600 sample which seems to be pretty acceptable. There's also an ISO 3200 sample in that set but apparently it's not a true ISO 3200. But if Canon's new cropped sensor plus DIGIC 4 can contain noise so well, it bodes well for the images that their next full frame sensor + DIGIC 4 can produce. So because of that, I'm excited.

So Canon currently has half of the two major upgrades that I believe they need to do to effectively compete with Nikon's current offerings. Whether or not their AF will be good enough won't be known until the successor is announced and user tested. With the fiasco that their new AF turned out to be on the 1DIII, whatever they come up with will have to withstand much more intense scrutiny.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 2, 2008 4:44 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Amazing Orange Tabby.

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