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Mon, 25 Apr 2005
So much for Nikon...

A few weeks back, news of the Nikon D50 digital SLR leaked onto Engadget and Gizmodo. I was moderately interested in this, because someday I hope to get back into photography, and SLR's are of interest. Last week it was discovered that Nikon is encrypting the white balance data in the RAW files generated by their high end D2X and D2H SLR's. Apparently this is causing problems with Photoshop support. Nikon has since tried to clarify their position on this. but unfortunately it doesn't look like they are going to change their position. The tone of their response is quite condescending, since you need to be a "bona fide software developer" (whatever that is) in order to have a dialogue with the company..

The encryption problem doesn't affect the D50, but when you buy an SLR, you are buying into the ecosystem of lenses, flashes, battery packs, etc. The body is not the only cost, and people do occasionally upgrade bodies. Features from high end bodies find their way into lower end bodies over time. The last thing I want to do is get locked into the Nikon ecosystem and then wake up one morning and find out that all new generation Nikon bodies are encrypting parts of my photos. Nikon already has plenty of lockin via the lenses and other peripherals. Trying to get lockin on my data (the photos) is over the line.

Fortunately, I have a choice. We've been a Canon household, and while I was impressed by some reviews that I read about the D70, the encryption episode has pretty much guaranteed that I'll be steering far away from Nikon products for the foreseeable future.

[00:05] | [gadgets] | # | TB | F | G | 3 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
well, I'll have to chip in on this one, having moved from Canon FD system to Nikon when switching to digital. Any manufacturer can lock you out at any time (although admittedly I skipped a generation in the Canon system when they went to EF lenses.)

While I am not too happy about Nikon's attempt to lock out competitors for their own, somewhat clunky software, be aware that the sole piece of information that they're hiding is proprietary metadata associated with the raw image. The raw image data from all manufacturers is in a proprietary format - although usually its easily decipherable based upon the type of imaging device they use (just look up Bayer matrix algorithms.)

In this case, its the value of the measured white balance. And its only on the D2X body - a $4K camera. A fine line, to be sure, but the image data is still there. Interestingly enough, the
version of the Nikon software I'm using doesn't display this data anyway, as anything other than "recorded", although PS Raw plugin shows the actual value.

I like Nikon's equipment, and especially their lenses, but frankly both Canon and Nikon make great equipment and lenses - if you're willing to pay for their better ones at least.

That said, I admit that this latest move by Nikon is disturbing - seemingly motivated by greed and fear of the marketplace. Maybe if enough current (and future) customers complain they'll back down. If they proceed further down this path, I would certainly consider changing - my lenses are still worth something on the used market!
Posted by
rick at Mon Apr 25 11:57:25 2005

I think I'll wait for the Four-Thirds SLR System standard.  Canon and Nikon probably will not adopt this standard, but there is always hope.  The standard should bring high quality, inexpensive lenses to digital photography.  Till then I'll enjoy my Canon Powershot.  If Four-Thirds works maybe they can sponsor a lossless open standard compression scheme for photos.

-- Jeff
Posted by Jeff Sandys at Fri May 13 14:34:28 2005

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