Light is Everything!

Cameras

Nikon Df with old Manual Lenses

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My Nikon lens kit is a pretty basic, do anything kit. I don’t have any of Nikon’s Holy Trinity f/2.8 zooms because they are extremely heavy and expensive. Instead, I picked up the newer, sharper, cheaper, lighter & slower f/4 zooms. 16-35 & 70-200. I don’t have the 24-120 as to my eye, there is nothing interesting happening in those focal lengths. Same goes for the do-it-all, ever versatile, ready for anything 24-70. I’ll never buy it. Too close to uncle Bob’s kit lens focal lengths. Nothing cool optically is happening there. Wide and telephoto is where it is at.

That being said, I’m primarily a prime shooter. I just like them better. A little sharper glass. Lighter in the hand. Easier to transport. Etc, etc, etc #PrimePraise. So for my prime kit, I have a Nikkor 50mm 1.4G & 1.8D, 85mm 1.8G & 105mm 2.8G Macro (And the Fuji X100s at 35mm equivalent f/2). I didn’t have a fast wide angle lens though. I thought about picking up Nikon’s new 20mm 1.8G. It looks awesome. Nassim just got his review done, check it out here. It’s affordable and awesome, a true winner. But I am honestly tired of spending money on photography gear. And, even more so, I didn’t want the 1.8 form factor. The new G lenses are larger and bulkier. Optically better, but just also bigger. I didn’t want that.

I wanted to pretend I had a Leica. :cool: I love the smaller form factor of the rangefinder systems, another reason I love the Fuji so much. But I also have my trusty Nikon Df with all of its awesome old school film inspired manual controls. So I started to think about picking up an old school lens to match. Nikon made some really killer glass back in the day. No AF. No weather sealing. No Magical Nano Crystals. Just glass & metal. So I looked at a couple of fast(er) primes and I settled on the old 28mm Nikkor f/2.8 AI-S. The old lenses in this form factor take the small 52mm filers. They are light and pocketable, much like Fuji’s X-series lenses, but fit full frame sensors.

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It’s a sweet gem of a lens. It’s eagle talon sharp, even wide open. Very little lens distortion. Hardly any Chromatic Aberration (unlike much of Nikon’s new G stuff). It as hard stops on each end of the focus which is great for locking the lens into infinity focus for landscapes and astro photography. It’s all sweet, smooth manual focus baby – which is a rather sucky experience on Nikon. They do give you the green-dot-O’-focus but it’s not as good as using focus peaking on the mirrorless cameras. However, the focus and distance marks are still engraved on the old lenses which is awesome, especially for a technique known as zone focusing.

I’d never heard of this before but stumbled across it while looking into the Street Photography Genre. Suffice it to say, in a world without modern Auto Focus, how would photogs get sharp shots in the fast paced, ever changing world of the street? They would stop down and preset the focus on their lenses. This would essentially give the photographer a “zone of focus” – an area in the photo that would have an acceptable level of sharpness. Say f/8 at 5 feet away. This gives you roughly 6 feet of in focus area to work with, 1.7 feet in front of the subject, 4.2 feet behind. You just had to get good at manually guessing how far your subject was from you when you made your shot. If they were in that 5 foot range, you’d nab the shot. It’s actually quicker than auto focus because you just pointed the camera and clicked the shutter button. That’s how they did it.

I wanted to try it out. But I don’t really live near any streets. LOL. :cool: I’ll try it for real when we go to the city. But it does work pretty good, especially with the Df’s low light capability. I can crank the ISO and still have clean images for the small f/8 & f/11 apertures.

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Just compose and boom!

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It’s a pretty cool technique. And you can do it on the cheap. I picked up the 28mm off eBay for like $250! I was leery of buying glass unseen off eBay and vowed never to do so. But I took a chance and it worked out great. The lens shipped from Japan and was in BETTER condition than what the seller had indicated. It’s essentially brand spankin’ new. Gotta love that!

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Optically it’s really sharp, even wide open. I was blown away by the quality. Even on the D800, this puppy holds up. I thought that sensor would eat it for breakfast but it does a great job.

20141111-28mm-014And it’s got a nice creamy bokehliciousness to it as well. Wide(r) angles aren’t really known for the bokeh. But this is pleasing enough for me! :cool:

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Happy New Year!

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2015 is here! I thought we would be burning around in flying cars by now! Guess not. But what we do have are really tremendous cameras. I think the old film guys would be doing backflips in their graves if they could shoot with the stuff we have now. So many photo blogs and sites compare the features of this camera and that camera – but you know what? All the technologies in these new cameras are really fantastic. Auto Focus is awesome, even on less than stellar performing cameras. None of the old guys had it. Just try turning your AF off on your camera and shoot for a day. You’ll appreciate even slow AF after that! :D

As I look over my husky collection of personal images (like 66,000 or something crazy), Lightroom allows me to sort them by metadata. Such as which camera took what number of images. My old & sold D300s definitely took the most as that was the camera I really learned photography with. But the most used camera I own isn’t my Nikon D800 or the Df – both of which I certainly do love. Rather, it is the FujiFilm X100s. The bulk of my professional work is still shot with DSRL. But my family/personal camera is the omnipresent X100s. It’s a camera that I naturally just pick up. The Nikon Df also has this spirit about it too. I love the manual controls and dials on these retro-styled cameras. But there is just something about the Fuji. It’s sum is somehow greater than its parts.

Ergonomically, it’s a winner. Small profile. Virtually silent. And then there’s the features: Macro capability, Killer sharp optics, stellar high ISO performance, leaf shutter flash sync speeds, AMAZINGLY ASTOUNDING COLOR. And this is the big one for me. The X-Trans sensor is a colour ninja. All the photo gurus go on and on about this but it is so true. This sensor renders a scene exactly as your eye sees it. Nuances of colour exist that even my D800 and Df just cannot replicate despite being bigger and 3 times more expensive. I snapped this shot just to see how the X-Trans would negotiate the wild mixture of light in this photo: Tungsten lamps in the living & kitchen illuminating the family, daylight balanced wall sconces and Christmas LEDs in the family room in the background. This is a JPEG image shot in auto WB mode! It’s amazing! And the skin tones are incredible. And look at the various shades of blue! I’m constantly blown away by this camera.

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I used the X100s exclusively over the Christmas season for capturing family memories. I shoot it in JPEG. I wouldn’t dream of doing that with the Nikons. The pre-processing of the camera makes this possible. Using the X-Trans for professional work would be a dream, especially for weddings. Being able to produce pre-processed JPEG images – that are FANTASTIC – would save hours and hours of editing time. And the black and whites are the best in the business. Bar none. No contest. The FujiFilm Black and White is incredible. I’d love to compare them to say the Leica M Monochrom. So Leica, if you’re reading, send me a setup to try! :cool: I shot this one of my Nephew in very low light, using MF focus peaking to get it sharp. It was f/2 1/60 at ISO 6400. At 1:1, you can count his eyelashes. And the “noise” looks like film grain at 400 ASA. It’s astounding. Like my nephew who is the most striking little gaffer ever. His eyes are jet black!

20141225-NYBlog-004 Also, because of that tiny little profile and silent shutter, you can nab moments. Nobody even knows you are taking photos!

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Sony made and is making a big splash right now with its full frame Mirrorless A7 cameras. Rightly so. They’ve beat both Canon and Nikon to the punch in changing the history of photography for the better. DSLR technology is just analogue film tech ported over to digital. Mirrorless is true digital photography. No old analogue tech work arounds. It’s the real deal. I’ve looked seriously at switching to Sony, particularly with the release of the A7II. Awesome kit with killer in camera stabilization. Way less weight to lug around all day. What’s not to love? Not much. . . . Except that it uses the same sensors that Nikon does. (Or, rather, Nikon uses Sony’s sensors). This isn’t a draw back. The sensors rock the set. But as I look at the X-Trans images, I prefer the look and feel of them. The tonality and colour can’t be matched, not even by Sony’s incredible full frame sensors (Sorry Canon, you’re beaten like a rented mule on this one). I’m not ruling out Sony stuff, that’s for sure. It’s an exciting time for photography! Loads of awesome image making options. But let’s just say that I’m anxiously waiting for the X-Pro2 release. So Fuji, if you’re reading, send me a setup to try! :cool:

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My last point about Fuji that I want to touch on is their approach to their customers. No other camera manufacturer respects their customers more than Fuji. When you buy a camera, undoubtedly there will be some glitches and bugs to get worked out. Firmware releases generally fix those up. But that’s all they do. Seldom, if ever, is more functionality introduced to a camera – and especially not if an upgraded model has already been released. You have to buy said upgrade to get the new features. Not so with FujiFilm. They so respect their customers that they release firmware updates that make the existing products better. Even products that have already been replaced with updated models! That’s awesome! It instills confidence in the purchase for the customer. I know that my investment in Fuji is not a one time deal. They will bless me with greater functionality in the future. This is how a company can create a jubilant base of hardcore fans and supporters. It’s a two way relationship with Fuji. And they keep on giving. They show respect to the customer and for that, I give a very deep and long bow (not to mention further business in the future).

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So here’s to a happy new year of image making in 2015! May all your pixels be bright! ;)


Whitetails at 36MP

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People may complain about the high megapixels of today’s generation of DSLR cameras and I’d agree that yes, sometimes they are are über overkill. But then, some whitetail deer might show up 363 yards and all you might have with you is a 70-200mm lens. And then, you’re happy to have the D800 mega-pretzel madness! The photo above is a 100% crop of this photo: #LOL :cool:

20141118-Deerts-001It’s a bummer. I was too late grabbing the camera because this deer and another buck were sparring. I watched with binoculars for a bit then ran for the camera. When I got back, the other deer had already run off. To the victor goes the spoils! Cheers to next years Whitetail babies! :D

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X100sB&W

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I must confess, ever since I got the Nikon Df, my X100s has been on vacation. I still love it to death. But I find that the Df gives me more versatility with my DSLR lenses. However, every time I go and re-pick up the X100s, I think I could totally sell all my DSLR gear and just go mirror less Fuji. They are so light and wonderful in almost every way. So compact. So handy and versatile. And of course, the B&W.  I love shooting the X100s in black and white. I just love how the Fuji renders the files. I have to do virtually nothing to them providing I shot the exposure right in camera.  I had it along as the image maker today and shot primarily in black and white. Most JPEG and a few RAW files – which are easy to edit into Black and White gold since Lightroom has got the Fuji camera profiles now.  Quick user preset of wee exposure tweaks and you are golden. I love this camera!!! It was the perfect camera to enjoy a day up at Kenosee Lake with the family. :cool:


#Camping2014

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It’s been quite busy as of late! We’ve been campin’ up a storm all over Saskatchewan and most recently Manitoba. Child’s Lake has a really terrific campground, as well as tons of other cool stuff. It’s been my in-law’s campground of choice for years. This year we had great weather but the bugs were heinous verging on horrendous. Lots of water = lots of mosquitos. Our poor children looked like walking mosquito bites, despite slathering them down with all manor of DEET bearing spray known to mankind! :evil: But we always have a good time. Weather was good. There was only one rogue black bear in the campground to worry about so that’s not bad either. :cool:

My favourite shot from the trip was the banner image from this post. I was really wanting a nice sunset image of Child’s Lake. But the sunset was quasi-lackluster. And boats galore were chopping up the lake for some last minute water skiing and tubing. So I had to with them out until it was almost too late. Plus I was getting eaten alive by the winged vampires – despite the army of dragonflies eating them by the metric truck load above my head. I had the Nikon Df on a tripod and made the 13 second exposure with the 24mm AFS f/1.4 lens. That lens is a cracker jack piece of glass! When I’m travelling I only ever bring a prime kit (24, 50, 85), or just my FujiFilm X100s if I want to be truly ultralight. I opted for the Df because I knew I wanted to make this image that required a bit wider of a lens than the X100s has. The super long exposure turned the water into a polished mirror. As the seconds ticked by the haunting call of loons filled the lake. One notch off of paradise I’d reckon. :)


Nikon Df review video

I finally got my Nikon Df review video online. It sums up those 5 paradoxical things about the camera and offers my thoughts about buying it. I really do love the Df. :D It’s a fantastic all-rounder camera despite it’s flaws. I got to try out my dads old school film lenses on it as well this past weekend. They work great! I was blown away by the old 35mm f/2.8 lens. It’s sharp with no chromatic aberration wide open. Not even one of my modern AF-S Nikon primes can boast that!

This video was my first kick at the cat trying “cinematic filming techniques.” I’m no videographer, that’s for sure, but I had fun putting the montage together. Although, I recorded the outdoor scenes at temperatures between -25 and -50C (no, that’s not a typo) which made it very tricky and somewhat miserable! And I didn’t even freeze to death. Yay! :cool:


The Nikon Df on Assignment

So I’ve been shooting non stop with the Df for the past few days, exposing its weaknesses and revelling in its awesomeness. My original “paradoxical” concerns have all turned out to be true. :| But, it’s all trumped by the joy it is to shoot, its amazing image quality as well its killer good looks :cool: I’ve been doing lots of candid stuff of the kids, low light tests and a had a chance to use it on a shoot. I still primarily used my D800 but I wanted to see how the Df would do. It did fantastic! I had my lighting setup for a corporate headshot. Here’s a BTS shot of the setup, noting that my rim light had already been taken down when I remembered to make this shot. A sheet gaffer taped to the wall (DO NOT USE DUCT TAPE) was my background in a confined office space. Umbrella key, background light and a hair light was the 3 light setup. I tuned it all and shot with the D800 then simply swapped my SU-800 commander to the Df. Other than max shutter speeds being different (1/250 on D800 and 1/200 on the Df), everything operated the same. The metering between both cameras was spot on as well.20140221-untitled-001The other cool thing I wanted to try with the Df is it’s spot white balancing ability in Live View. This is a super rad feature for nailing a white balance. Just pop the camera into live view, switch the White Balance to PRE, hold it, then measure your grey/white surface in the lighting conditions. It’s really, really accurate and pleasing! It’s not really in step with the “pure photography” mantra but I’ll take it nonetheless. It’s slick!

photo-4It was also nice to edit smaller RAW files than the D800 megapretzel madness. I was quite happy with how the Df rendered skin tones and colour. It seems to be a wee notch up from my other Nikons, which is a plus. I look forward to using the camera on assignments in the future! :)20140221-Kori-001

 


I bought a Nikon Df

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My Df showed up today in the mail. I was totally stoked! I ordered it last Thursday. It shipped Friday and was here today after a long weekend! Thanks to the great folks at The Camera Store in Calgary, Alberta. I’ve bought all my cameras there for the past two years and I love the store. The staff rock the set. Buy all your gear there. ;) So I had my old 50mm f/1.8 AF-D lens still kicking around. But I don’t use it much anymore since I bought my 50mm 1.4G. But it’s still a great little lens. Soft wide open with lots of nice chromatic aberration. But whatevs. It was my first prime and I love it for nostalgia reasons. It’s a perfect match for the Df. I bought the camera straight up without the kit (on account of my 1.4). And at first it appeared that I couldn’t use the aperture ring to change aperture. But thankfully you can change that. If you use setting f7 in the menus you can in fact use the Aperture ring on the AF-D lenses for that sweet manual touch and feel. (more…)


I am Buying a Nikon Df

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I am going to buy a Nikon Df. No, I’m not a hipster but yes, I am insane. :cool:

They’re never been a more polarizing camera ever. Everyone either hates it or loves it, much like lutefisk (I’ve never had it so I assume it’s either loved or hated). That’s how people treat the Df. And that’s OK. Whatever floats your boat. I was able to check it out and use it a bit the other day. I read the reviews and watched all the YouTube vids but this camera doesn’t really connect with you until you pick it up. I was instantly in love with it. Much like my FujiFilm X100s (hipster alert!). :D First of all, it is small and light. It strikes me as an ideal prime lens camera. Beefy zooms (or even my less beefy favourite f/4G zooms) will be better suited for my D800 or a D610. But all my primes that I love will fit this camera like a glove. And the shutter is quiet. And quiet mode is actually . . . quiet! Not X100s quiet but ninja’s shadow quiet. And I do love the tactile buttons. Am I gonna use it like a non-film digital SLR? Yep. And I don’t care about the “pure photography” thing. I like that it doesn’t have video in exchange for killer battery life. There’s a lot that I like about it despite it being a completely paradoxical camera.

Enter the 5 Fold Paradox:

♥ It’s a D4 chip. A low light beast. It begs to shoot primes in the dark. But it has the inferior D610 autofocus system that will no doubt struggle to acquire focus in the dark. :|

♥ It can accommodate every Nikkor ever, but the focusing screen isn’t designed for manually focusing lenses. :|

♥ It’s $3000.00 but not a “Pro” Body. :|

♥ It only has one card slot instead of two, depriving it of a very useful in-camera photo backup workflow. :|

♥ Its top shutter speed is 1/4000 bummer for fast primes in full sun :|

But…

I just don’t care. I think the Df offers the ultimate of flexibility, portability and image quality. It will be an ideal compliment to my D800. I’m thinking low light wedding dance madness where the clean files will be great. I’m thinking that events where 36MP is complete overkill 16MP will be just fine. I’m thinking that it will be a sweet companion for the X100s – 23mm/35mm on it and 85mm on the Df. Very nice, light event kit. :cool:

So as soon as I hock some more camera equipment I no longer use, I will have enough dough to shell out for the overpriced Df. Despite all of it’s paradox, I’m still going to buy it. It’s a decision not made with the head but rather the heart! It’s that experience and bond with a camera that I love, like my wee but mighty X100s. Call me crazy. I’m ok with that. :D Just don’t call me a hipster. Cuz I’m really not.

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Fuji vs. Nikon Color

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I read a photography blog post the other day where the author responded to the general claim that Fuji’s colour reproduction is magical. He claimed that the consensus of celebrity pro-togs who love Fuji have their heads up their posteriors. It’s all hear say and media hype. Now, I love Nikon and I also love Fuji (specifically the X100s). I’ve had great success with both. But is the colour really that much better on the magical Fuji? Well I had the opportunity to really test that out today at my daughters birthday party. One of the fun activities was making bead necklaces. So we had lots of different coloured beads available. I brought my cameras and here’s the skinny. :cool:

Caveat: Any of these “scientific” colour tests are inherently skewed because it’s impossible to get everything the same across camera platforms. Lenses are different, sensors are different, blah blah blah. You get the idea. :)

I normalized the cameras as much as I could across the settings and exposures. I decided that I would use an on camera flash to bounce the same exact light across each exposure. The frame is lit entirely by flash with no ambient bleed. The settings were: JPEG files straight out of camera with no editing whatsoever (other than the down sample of the full res files to 1024px). Fuji was on factory Provia and Nikon was on factory Standard settings.  1/250 f4 35mm ISO 200 WB Sunny/Fine. SB-600 Speedlight on Camera zoomed to 35mm shot in Manual mode at 1/32 power for both. FujiFilm X100s (23mm = ~35mm on FX) vs Nikon D800 with 16-35mm f/4 AF-S VR. Take a look at the results and see for yourself.

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I put the photos side by side in Lightroom and did screen captures. I didn’t downsize the D800 so they don’t line up. I put them both at 1:1 just to compare the colour. In all the shots, the Nikon file is on the left side.

So, what do you think? I noticed that there was about a 1/3 stop exposure difference between the two files. I made the histograms the same in post and brought the Nikon exposure down -.35 in Lightroom – but that difference is not shown here. These are all SOOC. Even with the slight exposure tweak, the files to my eye are different. The Fuji has an extra little bit of contrast and pop straight out of camera. And whatever it is, this magical Fuji special sauce is what all the Fuji hype is about. :cool: Just look at the difference in the pinks (read SKIN TONES), it’s quite remarkable!


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