Random Questions Answered

Should I buy those rubberized protective covers/shields for my lens or camera?

Maybe. In terms of damage protection, the main thing they do is prevent scratches and brassing. Some provide a little more protection against the elements (though watch out for water getting between the cover and the camera and being held there). Most tend to obscure controls or make them more difficult to use, and the lens coverings tend to slip and get in the way at some point. But in terms of impact damage, I'm not sure they help much, if at all.

If you handle your gear roughly and can tolerate the change in feel and access to controls, then these covers may be an inexpensive way to keep your gear in just a little better cosmetic shape. But don't think that they make your gear invulnerable to weather or damage. They don't. 

Personally, I've tried a number of the options here and virtually always end up taking them off. 

Should I buy a protective cover for the rear LCD?

Slightly different story here. The lower cost your body is, the less protective the top layer over the LCD is, and it will be more prone to scratching. Nikon's top body, the D5, has a much more robust tempered glass cover that doesn't let the LCD scratch nearly as easy as a lower cost body, such as the D7500. Nikon used to provide clip-on protectors with the DSLRs, but that's no longer the case.

If your camera has a fully-articulating LCD that reverses to the body, make sure you do just that when your camera is packed away or bounding around on your neck strap while walking. If your LCD doesn't rotate to face the body, then consider getting a protective cover. I prefer the "tempered glass" ones to the all plastic ones, but they're a bit more expensive. The reason is that the ones labeled as glass tend to be a higher quality and less obscuring of the underlying screen. Some of the rub-on plastic films tend to have a blurring effect on the LCD.

Does adding video to a stills camera increase cost?

Generally, I'd say the answer is yes. That's particularly true now that we're seeing the video parameters increased (e.g. 4K and slow motion). The reason is simple: the cost is coming mostly at the image sensor, where R&D work is added to do things to increase bandwidth, remove rolling shutter, and otherwise support the firehose of data that video throws at the camera's main electronics. All in a part that isn't produced in really huge quantities, so the cost of that R&D work has to be spread over a modest number of units. In addition, patent licensing fees are involved in virtually all of the compression schemes that are used. Plus don't forget the internal audio amp, microphones, mic input, and headphone output. Finally, you're adding complexity to the product, and that has impacts on QA testing and support.

Does that increase the price of a stills camera significantly? Not really. We're talking a few dollars in parts, R&D costs, and other burdens. Let's be liberal here and say that it's US$10 in total cost to the camera maker. That implies a US$35 increase in retail price. So you'd have to ask yourself how much having video is really worth in a still camera. Maximum cost is likely that US$35 number I just gave you, but the reality—particularly in the consumer models—is probably less. I'd argue that having the versatility to also do video is well worth that small cost increase.

Is full frame the future now?

It's certainly the future the camera companies want you to buy, because they've managed to reduce their full frame sensor costs enough that if they can keep the retail price of the camera high they can recover profit margin they've lost in the true consumer camera realm recently. 

Nikon's been at this "buy FX" (full frame) game for a decade now. They've managed to convert a fair number of their serious crop-sensor user base over to full frame, and that's helped them stay profitable as they contracted in volume. Sony has also recently been emphasizing full frame, to the point of leaving first generation full frame mirrorless products in the market at crop-sensor prices. I'm not sure that Sony is making much, if any, margin on a US$1000 A7, but it does push a user into a new mount that has dozens of Sony lenses available for you to purchase ;~). 

I'd still say that APS-C (DX) is the sweet spot for sensors. A large enough sensor so that it is both well away from the smartphone capabilities while not totally struggling with the randomness of photons in low light. Small enough that it can produce cost and size benefits that are much tougher to achieve in full frame. Canon's EOS M series shows just how cozily small (and affordable) APS-C can be. 

If the camera makers want to not see the ILC market shrink below the 6m units a year mark (it's currently at 10m/year), the only way that's going to happen is if we have lower cost, smaller sensor cameras that are compelling. (And to beat the drum I've been hammering on for over a decade now: said cameras have to be nearly as easy to use for social networking as smartphones. The current best of breed in that regard is still well behind where it needs to be.)

Is m4/3 dead then?

No, but it's struggling. Neither Olympus nor Panasonic have really managed compelling products in this category recently. (Yes, my flak jacket is on. I know I'll be bombarded by m4/3 users who insist otherwise.)

Something like the Pen F should be right at the heart of m4/3, yet it's been discontinued and Olympus is pushing the behemoth E-M1X instead. And Panasonic continues to roll out DSLR-like m4/3 cameras that are bigger than that Canon EOS M I mentioned earlier, but with a smaller sensor. 

Realistically, m4/3 is managing to hold on for the moment mostly because of its lens set. At the moment I'd argue that the full and compelling set of lenses tend to be the star of the show, not the cameras. Sure, Olympus has its geeky camera engineering feats—the unique and useful Live Composite feature for long exposures, for example—but how many geeky buyers that want functions like that are there for cameras these days? Meanwhile, Panasonic shows that they can make a DSLR-like m4/3 body over and over. Yet I'm finding that I'm less and less enamored by the bodies being iterated now than I was in the past. If I want a D7500 type body, I'll buy a D7500. But as I noted earlier, if I want a small body, I'd likely be more interested in the EOS M.

So what I and others are struggling with in evaluating m4/3 now is this: exactly what niche are they trying to fill? And are the m4/3 products then the best and most compelling products in that niche? Moreover, the narrower you define your niche, the less likely that you can now pull off enough volume to be successful.

Are DSLRs dead?

No. But the days of their total dominance are waning. I'd still say today that the Nikon D850 is the best all-around camera you can buy, and the Nikon D5 the best sports-type camera you can buy. Both are DSLRs. But the mirrorless Nikon Z7, Sony A7Rm3 and A9 are credible competitors (I'm still evaluating the Canon R/RP offerings). 

Some people will find that mirrorless ILC is their future, some will find that DSLR ILC is still their present and thus, future for the near term. 

This morning as I was working on this site and this article, an email popped in that sort of illustrated one problem that a lot of folk are having trying to figure out where they are in any transition that might be going on. This gentleman was contemplating going from a D7000 with mostly screw-drive lenses to a Z6, and thus complaining that he would have to start from scratch, basically. 

Think about what he was proposing, though: Going from (a) a US$1000 camera to one double the price; (b) a crop sensor camera to a full sensor camera; (c) a DSLR to a mirrorless camera; and (d) legacy lenses to new lenses. That's a lot of change. To what purpose? Would he not be better served by just upgrading to a D7500? Or perhaps a D750 if he wanted to go full frame? 

What a lot of folk are doing at the moment is trying to second guess the future and somehow future-proof themselves, mostly at the expense of the present (and their credit card balances). In doing so, they add cost, complexity, and uncertainty. And thus, they get confused in their decision making.  

For many people, a DSLR is still the right choice. For others, transitioning to a mirrorless camera is the right choice. Though maybe not today; maybe tomorrow. 

Right now you have excellent choices in both DSLR and mirrorless products. Great DSLRs, good to great mirrorless models. So you really have to look at cost/benefit a little more closely to determine where you really should be putting your money short term. 

If too many folk get caught up in the mirrorless marketing hype and not in a reasonable analysis of their needs, then yes, DSLRs will fade faster than they are. There's little doubt that 10 years from now almost no one would be buying a DSLR. But what are you doing in the meantime? ;~)

It's not a trivial question, and Canon and Nikon are going to dangle some new goodies in the DSLR world before they decide to depart. Goodies you ask? Price reductions and a couple of well considered new cameras, maybe even a couple of new lenses we'd want.

When will we get 16-bit data in our cameras?

When you buy a medium format camera. 

At the pixel pitches we're seeing in crop sensor and even full frame now, there really isn't enough data definition to require 16-bit. As I note in my Nikon DSLR/mirrorless books, even 14-bit is only producing useful information at low ISO values, typically below the gain change point in the dual-gain sensors. 

You need enough bits to accurately encode the value you get from the stored electrons (the result is what we call the DN, or digital number). Adding more bits than you need adds a faux level of precision, and it of course increases file size when you do it. That's why I recommend setting 12-bit Lossless Compressed at higher ISO values in most of the Nikon bodies: using 14-bit at the high ISO values isn't going to give you any more accurate DNs with more information than using 12-bit. 

Is it possible this will change in the future? Perhaps. I'd guess that it would take a huge leap in quantum efficiency, or perhaps a far bigger well saturation number, or perhaps a change to a rollover well. But we're not there yet, and I haven't heard a hint of us being near there yet, either. 

When will I get my 500mm f/5.6E PF lens?

Tell me how many people are in line in front of you, and I might be able to guess, plus or minus 30 days.

Like the other exotic lenses—e.g. 400mm f/2.8E FL—the 500mm PF is manufacturing constrained, and that's pretty much solely due to the glass inside. I'm told that the PF element takes four to six months to make from scratch, and that Nikon had limited machines on which to finish and polish that element. So production has probably been in the high three or low-four figures a month from the beginning, and I'm not sure how much additional production capacity can—or would want to—create. From what I can tell, we've got about an average of close to 1000 units a month that have hit user's hands globally. Clearly demand is higher. 

Demand is not infinitely higher, so what will happen in the next few months is that at some point the currently existing backorders will likely all clear. But this is a great lens, and it's not likely to go out of demand (it works just fine on the Z bodies with the FTZ adapter). So I'm pretty sure it will still be going in and out of stock constantly each month even as Nikon eventually catches up to the initial demand.

Put a different way: are there 1000 people who would be interested in buying this lens each month? Yes for the foreseeable future. 

As with all deeply back-ordered Nikon gear, this site's exclusive advertiser (B&H) is not where you want to be ordering your copy. Because of NikonUSA's distribution policies, the local pro authorized Nikon dealers tend to get more of their allocation each month than the big online outlets when units are constrained (the exception to this is if you put in a Priority Purchase order if you're an NPS member; it shouldn't matter who you put that order in with if that dealer is not diverting NPS PP purchases to other users).  

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