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Commercial coffin nail for film?

Nikon to focus on digital: Digital Photography Review

So Nikon has announced formerly that it’s to focus on digital, dropping production of virtually all its film SLR bodies and manual lenses.

DP review summarises the press release so:

Nikon UK has made an interesting announcement titled ‘Nikon prepares to strengthen digital line-up for 2006’ that signals the beginning of the end of nearly 60 years of Nikon fllm cameras. Nikon Corp has made the decision to ‘focus management resources’ on digital cameras in place of film cameras, and is discontinuing most film camera bodies, manual focus lenses and accessories, and all large format and enlarging lenses. In Europe only the flagship F6 film camera will remain on sale.

This is news and not news, I suppose. On the one hand it’s been clear that the only film game in town was the professional F6 (lovely camera, even if it lacks the simple elegance of the F3); on the other that’s one heck of a game to have! The only modern, pro-specced film camera.

The manual (ie non-autofocus) lenses clearly were coming to an end: the more modern cameras needed the microchip in the lens to set aperture as well as getting distance information to assist with metering. The sadness over the manual lenses is that they feel so lovely: brass, rubber, glass… They have “heft”. They also weigh a lot and don’t focus for you (something I used to dismiss as unnecessary… Age is taking its toll!).

The real gap though is the fast, prime lens: the 50mm f1.4, or the 35mm f2 or even, if we’re being exotic, the 35mm f1.4. Given the multiplying effect of the DX sensors (which multiply the focal length by 1.5x) you’d need to have a 20mm f1.4 lens to get to the esoteric 35mm I mentioned above. I can’t quite conceive of such a beast – I certainly couldn’t carry one!

So the future looks in the medium term to have slow-ish lenses, mainly zooms and increasing amounts of megapixels and digital cleaning of the CCD output to compensate. This is a far cry from the simple, quiet photography of 15 years ago. Now we need a plethora of cables, chargers, batteries, spares etc, as well as a humungous chunk of whirring, flashing metal to take photos. No wonder there’s a renaissance of interest in rangefinder cameras like the Leica M6/M7. Small, quiet, discreet and with a build quality to drool over, these are tools for a more contemplative, involved and considered photography. The compact digital can cover the rest.

Now, it’s time to head over to ebay and pick up some prime lens bargains…

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