I've been thinking about replacing my 11-year old Konica Minolta Digital SLR for a few months now. The old camera still works okay, but it has issues that started to bother me more and more. The battery door opens on its own, which is annoying. If it hasn't been used for a while (e.g. a few hours), the first photo taken doesn't work and the camera has to be power cycled. There are other signs of wear and tear that all add up to a degraded experience. Sure, it works, but not as well as it used to, and certainly not as well as more modern cameras.
Last week I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a Nikon D5500. An incomplete list of the things this camera does better than the old one:
- The Konica Minolta has 6 megapixels, which is plenty for what I need. The Nikon, with 24 megapixels, probably has more than I need. However, digital sensors have come a long way in a decade. Despite the fact that the Nikon sensor pixels are smaller than the Konica Minolta's (both cameras have APS-C sensors), the Nikon sensor has much better low-light performance than the Konica Minolta.
- The Konica Minolta doesn't have a movie mode, while the Nikon can do 1080P at 60 FPS. I don't often take movies, but it's nice to have that feature there if I want it.
- The Nikon has much faster and better image processing. Of course, this is no Nikon D5 that costs $6,500, but it's plenty fast for my purposes.
- The Nikon has a touch screen that has iPhone-like swipe/pinch gestures, and touch-to-focus. As hilarious as it is to see my daughter try to swipe on my old camera, I like the idea of making photography approachable for her.
- The availability of lenses for Nikon cameras is probably unparalleled. This was a source of consternation for me - let me explain. I have a number of lenses for the Konica Minolta that aren't necessarily top quality, but they work fine. I have coverage from 18-500mm. In 2006 (shortly after I got my Konica Minolta, natch), Sony bought Konica Minolta's camera line, and continue to make cameras to this day based on that product line under their name. Sony still makes cameras that are compatible with Konica Minolta lenses (the A-mount system), but recently they have focused most of their innovation towards their E-mount system. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay with a system that (it looks like to me) Sony isn't focused on. Sony makes a line of very nice mirrorless cameras that only support the E-mount system. I thought long and hard about buying a Sony mirrorless camera (especially the α6500, $1400 for the body), but in the end I decided I couldn't justify spending that much money. With a Nikon, I can get a more reasonably priced body and gain access to a wealth of high-quality lenses.
- The Nikon can be controlled (in a limited fashion) from a smartphone or tablet over Wifi, which seems pretty useful.
Clever readers might wonder why I got a D5500 when Nikon has already announced the follow-on D5600? Well, the D5600 adds very few features over the D5500 (basically only Bluetooth connectivity and slightly better battery life), and I got my D5500 as a fully warrantied refurb for a significant discount. Clever readers might also wonder why I didn't get something like a Sony α6000/α6300 for $400/$1000? Basically, I had read bad things about the Sony menu system, the α6000/α6300 don't have a touch screen, and E-mount lenses are rarer and comparatively more expensive than Nikon equivalents.
Finally, here's a photo using the new camera from this morning's dog walk. I centered it on the iconic NCAR Mesa Laboratory building. Click for the full 24 megapixel size!