Nikon D40 tips the scales in Canon vs Nikon fight

nikon_d40.jpg The recently announced Nikon D40 could be the camera that wins over the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of DSLR owners and it’s being released right before the Christmas buying season.

Why? For two reasons, price and brand. There are a number of digital SLR cameras in the sub $500 range; the Pentax K100D and Olympus E300 among them but the Nikon brand of digital cameras is better known. Canon don’t have any current camera to compete at this price range, yet.

What camera will parents buy their offspring this Christmas? The more expensive Canon 400D or the Nikon D40? I think it’s a no-brainer which camera they’ll buy. The Nikon is the perfect “starter camera” for junior. It’s relatively cheap, looks professionally black, makes the click sound when you take a photo like “real cameras” do and you can use other Nikon lenses. What is there not to like?

Well, the Nikon D40 is great but for the price there have been compromises made. The DP Review preview of the camera compares it favourably to the Nikon D50, emphasising the extra features the cheaper camera has. The biggest drawback is an issue with lenses. It can’t auto-focus with traditional Nikon lenses because it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor. This is arguably worse than the Canon limitation on EF-S lenses. At least Canon EF-S cameras can take advantage of proper Canon lenses.

Perhaps the biggest negative on the D40 is that it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor and hence no mechanical focus drive pin, instead it only has CPU contacts which means it can only Auto Focus with AF-S and AF-I lenses (those with built-in focus motors). Indeed our ‘standard’ lens the Nikkor 50 mm F1.8D (and the F1.4D) are manual focus only on the D40. The images below show the difference between the mount on the D40 and D80, the D80 has a mechanical focus drive pin at about the 7 o’clock position.

Canon need a sub-$500 DSLR to compete. Once you’re hooked on a brand of camera it’s much easier to stick with that brand. The controls will be familiar, you can use the same lenses, you visit the same online discussion boards.

Personally, I think it’s great that DSLR technology is so cheap. It’s not that long ago that the only digital SLR was priced beyond the budgets of anyone but the professionals. Isn’t Moore’s Law great?

Ken Rockwell has a great review of the Nikon D40. I think he likes it:

First impressions are:

Super-duper light weight = too much fun!

Why interestingness just got harder (to game)

It looks like Flickr have changed their algorithm to decide what makes an image interesting. I noticed this a few weeks ago when my number of interesting photos almost halved to 14 photos.

What has happened is that Flickr doesn’t count views and comments from certain groups on the site. Why? There are many critique and comment groups where members are asked to comment, favourite or view a certain number of other’s photos for every photo they add. In the past this has been a great way of getting your photo to the top of the Interestingness ladder but was obviously not always a realistic view of how good a photo is. I expect these groups will become less popular and groups on a specific subject will grow in popularity. New critique and comment groups will appear in an effort to outrun the Interestingness filter but I’m sure there’s a little “ban group” button the guys at Flickr can push so it’s probably a futile effort.

I’m disappointed, but also glad that this has happened because it may stop people dumping photos into groups, leaving short and useless comments and obsessing about popularity. What else can you do?

  • Tag every photo you upload with short descriptive tags. Don’t spam.
  • Upload one photo a day, or make sure the last photo you upload is your best, and/or looks good as a thumbnail. This image may have been so popular because the thumbnail had a strong X form.
  • Join niche groups and contribute photos and to discussions. Don’t dump photos and run. Participate in the group forums.
  • Apparently it used to matter when in the day you posted a photo but not now. I disagree. From the perspective of someone living in Ireland, if you post early in the morning and contribute to groups your photo may appear for longer near the top of that group’s photos. On the other hand, if you post later in the day you may get more immediate eyeballs but more photos will be posted too. It all depends on what time it is in the American continent. If your photo is particularly good then posting later in the day might be better.

Good luck, I’ll update this post from time to time with new tips when I come across them.

PS. I’m helping my brother Donal with spot prizes for his charity table quiz tonight. Can you help?

It takes more than fancy equipment

Every photo taken today is taken with a more sophisticated camera than classic photos taken years ago that everyone recognises. It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer. Sure, the barrier to entry has collapsed but talent counts and separates a snapshot from a work of art.

If you don’t believe me, then read today’s What The Duck! for a humorous look at this issue and don’t get hung up on buying expensive bits and pieces for your camera. Sometimes though, dumb luck helps.

PS. if anyone is worried that they’re getting obsessed wth purchasing expensive Canon lenses, especially L series ones, then give me a shout and I’ll take them off your hands. No, I won’t charge a penny for this charitable work. I just want you to get back to basics and take great photos!

Thanks Treasa for mailing me about the broken permalinks here!

The secret life of the Irish blogger

2006-11-06__mg_6390-m.jpg Haydn Shaughnessy’s article on blogging in Ireland is in today’s Irish Times. It’s a lengthy 3/4 page read and in the Arts section so it covers the artistic side of blogging more than the political or mainstream – photography, podcasting and video blogging are the main aspects of blogging that he treats.

Unfortunately the online version is subscriber only but here’s what he wrote about us photobloggers:

In fact, Irish bloggers excel at photography, and two of the most outstanding are the O’Caoimh brothers. Their record of changing Cork city and county are the kind of document we might look back on in a decade with some gratitude. The photographs of Ryan Whalley, meanwhile (, logging the Cork countryside and coast, are exceptionally well staged works of art and draw attention from around the globe.

In each case it’s their self-taught skills that make blogging a superior distribution mechanism than, say, the local photographic gallery. Is the Irish blogging scene vibrant and creative, as the photography suggests?

Ryan’s Glassey Alley photoblog, and my brother Donal’s blog are referred to above. One of the photos in the article is this one I shot at the Ceili Mor several weeks ago. If this is your first time to this site feel free to browse around and visit again. There’s a new photo here every day!

Is the Canon 30D noisier than the 20D?

Is it possible that the noise levels in the Canon 30D are worse than that of the ageing Canon 20D? According to this story it’s true! I find it hard to believe because the cameras are so similar – same sensor, same digital processor and more. I wonder how the 20D compares to the new Canon 400D?

Even if you don’t have any Canon equipment, the article takes a look at the RAW vs Jpeg debate too which might be less sensational but makes for a good read. (via)

Luminous Links

I wish Luminoous Landscape had an RSS feed. I’d subscribe to it in a flash. It doesn’t so I’m only now discovering some of these great articles –

  • Of cameras and art is the final in a series of four articles discussing the artistic merits of photography. A subject close to my heart.
  • Digital Focusing and part 2 look at problems with making ever bigger prints from small sensors and other digital issues.
  • Leica M8 review – this is the first digital Leica, a brand much loved by some photographers. I’ve never used a Leica so I don’t get what the fuss is about. This review promises to solve that. We’ll see!
  • Finally, the Canon Rebel XTi EOS 400D is reviewed. I excitedly mentioned this camera when it came out and my brother Donal bought one of these and I’ve played with it briefly. It’s impressively light, the screen is great, and the mirror flip-up is quieter than my Canon 20D. I can definitely recommend buying one if you’re looking for a DSLR!

Run Photoshop in Linux

It may be possible to get Photoshop to run in Linux but would you want to? As a research project in the interest of informing the dear readers of this blog I attempted the install.

  • First of all I had to search out an illegal copy of Photoshop because frankly I don’t have Photoshop and can’t afford it given the revenue I get from my photography. Bittorrent helpd here but, boy was it a pain. There’s a version of Photoshop floating around called “Portable Photoshop”. It’s a self contained install. Unfortunately I got hopelessly low download rates for the several torrents of this application I tried. Adobe, you have nothing to worry about!
  • While that was downloading I installed wine with a simple apt-get install wine. No surprises there. Apt did it’s job and installed everything properly.
  • Finally, the necessary bits downloaded and I unzipped it into a directory then ran wine Photoshop.exe.

How well does it run? After running Wine, up popped the Adobe loading screen and for what seemed like an age it looked for plugins and other assorted stuff. Finally, after a significant wait the Photoshop user interface appeared and I marvelled at how far Wine has gone since I last tried to run Half Life 2. First thing to do was load an image so I clicked File-Open, selected a file and clicked OK. Then, poof! An out of memory error popped up and Photoshop died!

After closing Firefox and Thunderbird I tried again. This time the image loaded but as soon as I tried any operation on it the same error popped up. After briefly searching for an answer and looking through the winerc, I didn’t bother trying a third time. Even if I didn’t have these memory problems I wouldn’t find myself using it. It doesn’t match the rest of the desktop. It’s dog-ugly actually. Windows apps usually are when they’re running in Wine. Bye bye Photoshop! It’s now deleted off my drive.

Linux users – Ubuntu, Debian, Gentoo, Slackware, Red Hat, whatever you use, just use the GIMP. It’s a great piece of software that’s simply different to Photoshop. That doesn’t make it necessarily worse. If you are really hankering after the Photoshop UI then go play with Gimpshop. You’ll feel right at home in no time and you’ll save the 833 Euro that Adobe charges for their cash-cow. Ouch! How can any non-professional afford that?

Oh, Sven is working on colour management for the GIMP to keep all you printing folk happy!

Another alternative, Krita has come a long way since I looked at it last. I installed it this morning using Edgy’s Apt repository and it looks good. From a photographer’s perspective it’s missing a few necessary tools, although a levels tool is in the works. It does have support for CMYK but I’ve never had a use for that and as Cyrille says, all home and business printers use RGB. Some high end printers use CMYK but your local lab will print from Jpeg files so don’t lose sleep over it! I must post a comparision between the GIMP and Krita when I’ve used it before.