Nikon has blown photographers away this past year with the introduction of the critically acclaimed Nikon D3 and Nikon D300. Rumors abound of several new Nikon DSLRs in the works, including a D90 (update to the D80), D10 (mid-range full-frame camera) and a 24 megapixel D3X (leaked in a recent D3 firmware update). We should know by the time Photokina 2008 rolls around which of these new cameras will come to fruition.
The technological advancements found in the D3 and D300 have pushed Nikon to the forefront of the DSLR market. According to recently published patent applications, Nikon may have something special up its sleeve for its next generation of DSLRs.
Nikon is the owner of a US Patent Application Publication No. US 2008/0084484 (you can read the whole thing on uspto.gov – just do a search for the application number), which details an invention whereby a small display screen is visible through the optical viewfinder. The photographer can switch back and forth between the optical image and the digital display for a variety of purposes. According to the patent, one of the most prominent uses will be to enable a wide viewing angle when zoomed in tight on a subject.
What the Viewfinder Display Looks Like
As you can see from the images presented in the patent application, Nikon contemplates use of this function when tracking subjects in a sports setting, specifically, as shown, a soccer game. The digital display will show a wide angle image with a superimposed frame that indicates the field of view provided by the lens.
Nikon is taking care to make sure the optics for the digital display in the viewfinder are well-integrated with the TTL calculations. In the upper left corner, the new Nikon tech provides a zoom bar, which indicates the current focal length of the attached lens. The viewfinder’s electronic display also features the ability to magnify the image by optical or digital zoom.
How to Use the Display
To engage the wide preview mode in the viewfinder, the photographer presses a button near the lens mount on the left of side of the mount on the top image. In the diagram above, it is labeled as 48c. The button labeled 48d is the aperture preview button. The patent further indicates that a zoom switch permits the user to optically or electronically increase/decrease the magnifying power of the preview image. No diagram in the patent shows this “zoom” switch; however, I anticipate that it is accessible via the right hand thumb – not so different from the zoom switch found on point and shoot cameras. The patent emphasizes that all of these in-viewfinder changes can occur without the photographer’s eye leaving the viewfinder. Therefore, it only makes sense that the “zoom” switch is thumb-accessible.
As you can see from the images near the top of this article, Nikon contemplates integrating this in-viewfinder display in different types of DSLRs. Specifically, the top image is clearly a full-sized pro camera, like the Nikon D3. Could this feature appear in the D3X, or maybe a sports-oriented D3H? Additionally, the second image from the top, indicates a viewfinder lens on a pop-up flash, which we see in more consumer-grade Nikon DSLRs. Perhaps we’ll see this on the Nikon D90 in September.
One thing is for sure. Nikon, Canon, Sony and the rest are not slowing down in making better DSLRs and packing more convenient features into their cameras for the photographer’s eye. While I am not completely sold on the utility of this feature from Nikon, as a photographer, it’s certainly comforting to see manufacturers take another step forward. Competition breeds progress, and progress is good for photographers.
I’m interested in your thoughts on how this new technology can advance your shooting. Or, if you think it’s not so great, I’d also be interested in your thoughts on why. So, what do you think? Hit the comments below and let us all know.