Sunday, September 28, 2008

The New Nikonos?


First, despite the title, let me say I don't expect an amphibious camera like the Nikonos will ever come back. Certainly not in analog form, as film is well and truly dead for most applications, and not even likely as a digital amphibian. Despite some, who in a fit of nostalgia, wish for a camera with the simplicity and ergonomics of the Nikonos V, but with digital capability. Underwater is just to narrow a niche to invite the creation of an exclusive product from a major manufacturer unless they knew they could OWN the market, like Nikon did for years with the Nikonos. Now, the housings are so very good for both D-SLRs and compact digital cameras, there is no universally dominant solution. Housings for existing cameras will likely be our trend for the foreseeable future.

But, here's one camera I think will have major legs for extremely wide acceptance ... the Canon G10. Now that the camera is being shown at Photokina and nondisclosure agreements have expired, here's why I think it will be significant:

1. Loyal user base of G9 shooters already familiar with camera navigation, but G10 is improved camera in every respect.
2. 28mm lens at wide end of zoom instead of 35. 35 behind flat port became 50mm, not wide enough for many subjects. 28mm will be much better both topside and underwater.
3. Terrific specs, http://www.dpreview.com/news/0809/08091702canon_g10.asp including 14.7 MP with RAW capability and Digic 4 processor to provide functionality we’ve never had in a compact camera (from the Canon press release):
* DIGIC 4 for exceptional images - Canon’s new DIGIC 4 image processor uses improved algorithms and calculation accuracy, allowing the PowerShot G10 to deliver two major advantages: ultra-fast operation, and rich, low-noise images with outstanding clarity and colour reproduction.
* DIGIC 4 also powers several intelligent onboard features.
*Canon’s new i-Contrast feature increases the dynamic range in images to bring out previously unnoticed detail in dark areas, like shadows – without blowing out lighter areas.
* Canon’s anti-blur solution combats blur caused by camera shake and subject motion using a range of technologies: optical Image Stabilizer, Motion Detection Technology and Auto ISO Shift, plus new Servo AF – which, when engaged, continually adjusts focus on a subject moving towards or away from the camera.

4. Expected wide support among housing manufacturers including Canon WP-DC28 as stand-alone, Ikleite (here for G9 http://ikelite.com/web_pages/5can_g7.html) and Patima ( http://stephenfrink.blogspot.com/2008/07/patima-housing-and-canon-g9-in-red-sea.html)
5. Camera controls are "housing friendly". Instead of arcane menus and submenus to get to important image-making variables like shutter speed, ISO, and mode; these are rotary dials that also show up in huge font on the 3" LCD screen. With the G10 even exposure compensation is a rotary dial, a massive advantage to anyone wishing to bracket in TTL.

I may be partial because I am so fond of G9 as my topside family & walkabout camera. But I think the G10 has the potential to break away from plethora of compact cameras to be bridge between point-and-shoot and D-SLR, particularly in housings capable of accepting external strobe (TTL in some cases) and accessory wide angle lens. Ikelite will no doubt support TTL, and any housing that has a Nikonos 5 pin synch socket could even use a topside Canon speedlight for E-TTL in an Epoque underwater strobe housing.

I can't predict all the housing support and macro/wide-angle accessories that may evolve for this camera, but with 15MP RAW capability, minimal digital lag, inexpensive price to acquire, and ease of travel, this will undoubtedly make quality underwater photography more easily attainable for more divers.

Oh yeah, and don't forget that it takes stellar video clips as well. Let's see our old Nikonos V pull off that trick. Shown here is a highly compressed "Behind the Scenes" shot that Travis Gainsley did with my G9 while we were on location in Little Cayman for Scuba Diving magazine.
video

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