Friday, 21 December 2012

Time for a new camera

The world didn't end today, but my 18-200mm Nikkor finally packed up. While snapping traffic on Marszałkowska this lunchtime, the zoom mechanism failed; it would not zoom back all the way to 18mm. I could push it back in, but that's not the point. This lens is now approaching its sixth birthday, and it has every right to fail, being plastic rather than metal, having been built down to a price and weight. After a couple of years, the rubber zooming ring came off, and more recently, the zooming mechanism has been getting stiffer and stiffer at the long end.

Today, at -11C, something inside finally decided to snap (I can hear it rattling around inside the lens). Should I repair it? Worth a try, but not right now. I bought my 18-200mm Nikkor in March 2007 for 3,000 zlotys (today, the newer VRII version of the 18-200mm Nikkor with zoom lock can be bought for 2,699 zlotys).

What do I need more, I thought to myself as I made my way to the Nikon dealer at Promenada, a new lens or a new body? For 1,959 zlotys* I treated myself instead to a new Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm VR lens. The specifications on this camera are mind-blowing. It boasts 24 megapixels (compared to 12 on my D80 and six on my D40). It can shoot movies in high definition, it has a larger screen on the back and a wider range of ISO settings. Most importantly, the sensor's high dynamic range gives more detail in the shadows and more detail in the highlights.

The D3200 is a direct descendant of my old D40 (bought second hand three and half years ago). The D40 was replaced by the D40X, the D40X by the D60, the D60 by the D3000, the D3000 by the D3100, and, earlier this year, the D3100 by the D3200.

Other than the huge jump in megapixels and the high dynamic range, it is VR (vibration reduction) that makes this camera such a noticeable advance over the D40. In dark conditions, I can hand-hold the D3200 to take a shake-free shot at quarter of a second; the old non-VR version of the 18-55mm would require a 30th of a second to get the same sharpness in low light.

My old D80 with 18-200mm lens weighs in on the kitchen scales at 1,300g, while the new D3200 with 18-55mm lens is just 800g (both with strap, battery, UV filter and memory card). That's half a kilo less to lug around my neck. (The old D40 weighs 780g).

The D80 will be consigned to long lens duty (wildlife and aircraft), serving now as the permanent body for the 80-400mm Nikkor (a lens that needs a body-mounted autofocus motor, that the entry-level D40 and D3200 both lack).

A lot more about the new D3200 anon. It's a magnificent camera that puts professional ones from a few years back to shame. If you're not a photo-snob and can live with the epithets 'entry-level', 'consumer', 'DX sensor', 'polycarbonate body' etc, this is a camera that will not disappoint.

* That's 1,959 zlotys complete with a 16GB SanDisk memory card and a Tiffen Haze -1 filter. Cheapest price of these two items online totals 85 zlotys, so camera price is 1,874 złotys.

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