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August 27
New Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon recently announced a new Mirrorless camera system, the first two cameras, the first three lenses, and previewed an upcoming flagship lens. I think this is neat for a few reasons, but first, a little bit of meta:

I posted in a few places to start to try to speculate about whether this would be a mirrorless camera to address the concerns I have with the EOS M, which caused it not to be my main camera. Instead, I immediately got replies (before I could expound upon why I thought it was interesting) to the effect that a camera from another vendor would be better. This is the photography equivalent of being told to use another linux distribution or a different programming language. It might or might not be true but in one of the cases, I hadn't even gotten to the point where I was thinking about cameras in terms of accessibility for the muscle weakness caused by my chronic illness. In the other situation, the entire thing was dismissed because of the existence of a particular lens.

I'm excited for a few reasons, even though this kind of system isn't currently what I'm looking at, because mirrorless has for the past few years looked like where I'll be heading if I ever want to get a newer camera. Because of my chronic illness, a few years ago I bought a Canon EOS M to use in travel situations, because my Nikon D300 is big and heavy. Since then, midrange and high end digital SLR cameras haven't gotten much smaller, so I never really considered replacing the D300 or the EOS M.

Before smartphone cameras were good, and before I was diagnosed with my chronic illness, I pretty much hung an SLR or digital SLR around my neck and ran around with it all day, stopping intermittently to record interesting things. Most of what I shot ended up being what normal people would just use a phone to capture today, and that's where I am now. I retain my two cameras essentially for special events only.

I like the D300 and the EOS M a lot, for different reasons. The M is compact and easier to wear around my neck and take with me, but it runs through batteries like crazy and the ergonomics aren't wild. It shoots video, but I got it five years ago before 4k was practical and so it "only" shoots 720p and 1080p. Accessories for it are a little thin on the ground, because it appears Canon has changed some of the standards on the M line since that model.

The D300 is great, I have a lot of good F mount lenses (this specific component was something interesting to me about the Z cameras, a Z to F adapter is available) and I already know I like the ergonomics of Nikon's cameras.

Basically, the question I wanted to ask is if for about what I paid for the D300 when it was new ten years ago, a Z6 would be a good compromise between modern high performance, better video, comfort, weight, and good optics, plus flexibility to use all my existing lenses when appropriate. (Especially given the cost of the Z series lenses today, while they're still the hot new stuff.)

I don't think I can justify the cost of a new camera right now, and for better or worse, I end up using my iPhone for most of my day to day photography. However, part of my excitement for Nikon revisiting mirrorless as a genre is just that it recapture a time when I was excited for new cameras in general. When I got the D300 in 2007 or 2008, the thing it enabled was for me to just shoot without thinking about it. It appears that's still Nikon's motive with the Z series, and I think that's what digital imaging really should be about – making it easier to get the images you want. Whether that's with a $90 compact camera that is used to take pictures casually or with a $3000 professional camera that fires off a few thousand actuations daily.

This goes along with any discussion of tools. Nikon appears to have no interest in designing a Hole Hawg, as it were, they understand how important photographic tool usability is, and that's what I discovered in 2007 when I got the D300 and it's one of the reasons I haven't given it up even when I have the EOS M and its portability, video, and twice as many pixels.

I'll be watching the Z line with interest as a hypothetical future entry level Z3 or Z5 may end up being the ideal camera for me.


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