Light is Everything!

Cameras

#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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Nikon

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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!


DSLR Workshop

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DSLR class in Redvers, SK

Susan Hill and I ran two DSLR and Photography workshops this past week in the charming little town of Redvers, SK. The classes were held at the Redvers public library and 30 people in all took the course. It was tonnes of fun! :cool: Helping people take their camera off of Auto Mode is always such a treat. As for myself, I bought my first DSLR (Nikon D40) because I hated how slow and laggy my point and shoot was. I took a billion photos in auto mode and loved every minute of it. Nothing really changed until I got a 50mm f/1.8. Best thing ever for turning the ol’ mode dial to A mode. That’s what started my foray into being a full blown photo and exposure nerd. We introduced the participants to all the basics of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed – knowing full well nobody is going to become a full blown M mode shooter overnight. But to have someone take me by the hand and guide me through everything would have been helpful to me when I was getting interested in photography. But we all had a blast and we will be running more classes in the future. :D

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Susan Hill

 


First Wedding of 2014

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Hitched in a Blizzard!

Well I had the first Wedding of 2014 on the 3rd of the month. It was a very special wedding because it was Parishioners of mine who asked me to take a few photos after the ceremony.  It was a very small gathering with only the couple and their witnesses present – which is just fine. Everyone thinks a wedding needs to be a big deal with metric tonnes of frills. It doesn’t. It can be a small, humble event, as this wedding was. And in all truth, it became one of my all time favourites! :cool: Hubert and Audrey were so excited to seek the Lord’s blessing on their relationship which is such a cool testament to their faith. At 80 plus most people would simply think living together would suffice. But nothing beats good ol’ fashioned marriage! And a good ol’ fashioned marriage deserves a good ol’ fashioned camera!

I brought along my old film Leica FujiFilm X100s. The photos were going to be all posed portraits in the church sanctuary and I took a couple of candid shots afterwards. But I figured I could get it all done with the Fuji and it worked great. I brought along a very simple Off Camera Flash setup of 2 stands, 2 LP180 flashes and 2 umbrellas, triggered by Pocket Wizard PlusX units. Very simple and very effective, no nonsense kit. I carried the camera, triggers, gels and flashes in a small lowepro bag about the size of a milk carton. Who doesn’t love that?! We did lots of the typical “nice” photos everyone wants, then I had my lovely wife assist me for a shot with more dramatic lighting which turned out to be my favourite of the day. I LOVE the Fuji’s black and white JPGs with the yellow filter! :)

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But I also love the Fuji’s rendition of colour. Just look at that candle smoke. The subtle blue is out of this world! It just nails colour every time, even in weird mixed light environments. Ahh, Fuji, is there anything you can’t do? ;) All the best to the latest Mr. and Mrs. Freitag! May God give you many years!

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My Take on The Nikon Df Camera

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I don’t usually post stuff like this. However, I feel compelled to. :cool:  Call me a hipster, a wanna be retro mofo. I don’t care. I like nostalgia. I like buttons and tactile dials. I like the link to the past. The inter web has become a flurry of controversy over Nikon’s latest offering. The Df. The name is kind of goofy. DF: Doesn’t Focus, Darn Fugly, etc. But it’s an intentional throw back to the film cameras of legend. It’s a “Digital Fusion” camera.  It means it incorporates the feel and look of the old with new technology. I instantly liked it. I like the look and style. I like the fact that you get a D4 sensor for less than 3 grand. I like what this camera is designed for. But that is the key. One must understand it as such. If you go into this camera comparing it other DSLRs designed for different purposes then you will be disappointed and drinking a big ol’ glass of hater-aid.  Like this article from stoppers.  The biggest complaint I see from the blog critics is that it doesn’t shoot video. So flippin’ what?! It’s not designed for DSLR video. If you wanna shoot video, get a 610 or an 800. Honestly. “It doesn’t shoot video.” Every six year old kid has an iPhone that shoots great video. Use that for crying out loud. Not every camera needs to shoot video. It’s a still camera made for still photography. I have a D800 and I’ve never used it for video. If this camera had come out before the D800, I’d have bought it instead.

To me this Df camera is a beautiful mix of form and function. It’s a perfect prime lens camera and an awesome travel camera. And, it can use all the old school Nikon glass sitting in your dresser collecting dust. That’s cool.  I could see using this camera with a 24mm, 50mm, 85mm and 105mm. I could see using this camera as a wedding machine. The low light capability is fantastic. Strap a 24 on it and you’ve got a your ultralight wide angle madness. Use a 70-200 on another body and you’re golden as an event photographer. I’m digging this camera. The only thing stopping me from picking it up is the yet to be released XPro-2. Fuji is the bomb and they’ve been rocking the retro now for quite some time.  We’ll see.

Is Nikon just trying to liquidate their D4 sensor stock because an update is coming? Probably. But I think they are really after the heart of still photography with this camera. I’m a firm believer that the camera you use makes you shoot photos differently. I’ve experienced that first hand with my Fuji X100s. It made me into more of a range finder type photographer. I get closer to things than I normally would. I’m thinking that Nikon is onto something special with this camera and I predict that those who buy it for the right reasons will love it a lot. Plus, Joe McNally likes it. What more do you need. Get the credit card out. :)

 


FujiFilm X100s on Color

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Here’s the thing with the FujiFilm X100s camera. Color. It does colour, really, really well. :cool: I’m not kidding. It nails colour in a gorgeous richness. My daughter had this amazing little dress on and I knew I had to capture that colour. So I grabbed yonder X100s, a flash on a stand and away we went. The above image was 1/500 f/2.8 ISO 100 via pocket wizard plus x. Every time I pick up that camera, I get stoked about the images that I peel off the card. JPG for crying 8O out loud!  I’m thoroughly in love with my beautiful daughter and the camera that forever has frozen these images for me!


Holy Sync Speed Batman!

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So I’m really liking the Fuji X100s. Leaf shutters are amazing creations, like hydraulics and GPS. Basically, it allows you to sync a flash at any speed. You don’t have to worry about 1/250 or 1/200. You can rock out at 1/1000s at f/2 in full sunshine and still sync a flash – at 1/8 power!!! :twisted: It’s crazy! The flash photo options available with this camera are nearly limitless! :cool: I took a 1 light setup outside yesterday to try and see how the X100s does in full sunshine. I locked on the internal 3 stop ND filter and was able to underexpose the ambient at ISO 200, 1/1000s at f/2. That’s pure sweetness! In contrast, to do this with a DSLR, you’d need to drop your sync speed to 1/250 and crank your aperture to f/5.6 to get the same exposure (before an ND filter). But the Fuji nails the sweet bokehlicious backgrounds and, I can overpower the sun with a speedlight on 1/8th power!!!!!!! Like, what’s not to love?! :grin:

Here’s the results (JPEGs shot in Astia simulation mode)


Here comes the Fuji!

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The Fuji in Action! f/2.8

Finally got a chance to use the X100s in a real world scenario. My good friend Susan from Susan Hill Photography had a wedding gig lined up and I asked if I could tag along as second shooter to really try out the Fuji. She graciously obliged. Not only was I using the X100s, I also got to try it out with my new pocket wizard plus x triggers. I’m happy to report that everything worked amazingly well. :D I confess though, that I’m naturally a telephoto-eyed shooter. So, I couldn’t leave my D800 at home. I had it with my 85mm f/1.8 on a black rapid strap as well as the Fuji. It truly was a dynamic duo as you get a pretty nice 35mm equivalent FOV from the Fuji and decent telephoto from the 85mm. And, the Fuji is so nice as a second camera because it is super lightweight. You can carry it around all day and not get played out. So all in all, it was a sweet mix. I just swapped the pocket wizard trigger back and forth from camera to camera as I needed to. I was using a simple one speedlight rig in a Photoflex octodome NXT XS on an ultralight LumoPro stand. It was a perfect on the move, versatile lighting setup. :cool:

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X100s at f 2.8

I really wanted to push the Fuji on this gig. So I tried to use it as much as possible and it didn’t disappoint. Despite being a wide-ish angle lens, you can really get some nice subject isolation with it. The colour and skin tones are amazing. I shot everything in RAW and JPEG but the images on this blog entry are all JPEG – they are simply that good. And, they tweak very nicely in post.

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D800 f/2.8

Some stuff though is just made for telephoto and I did find myself swapping in the D800. I still believe that people look best shot with telephoto focal lengths. But the variety of having both cameras and not having to change lenses (hence lugging around WAY less kit) is pure awesome.

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X100s f/2.8 1/500, 3 stop ND filter on, full Pocket Wizard Sync. Boo ya!

This wedding session was all formals with some candids with the big family at the end. We setup in the Carnduff golf course because after all, it’s May and there is still snow lying around… shudder. :roll: But, we did our best. So we found this little tranquil spot and knew we could do something with it. When I got home and looked at the file, it struck me. This image looks fake! It looks like my 1985 kindergarten portrait studio backdrop! I think it’s attributed to the being able to nuke the sun with the deadly combo of the Fuji’s built in 3 stop ND filter and higher sync speed. This one was f/2.8 at 1/500 via Pocket Wizards. Sweet sassy! I’m gonna like that capability more and more me thinks. :mrgreen:

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X100s f/11 1/30

The other killer thing with a small, lightweight camera is that you can hand hold slow shutter speed shots no problem. There were a metric tonne of kidlets around for the big family photo and I thought, lets get them buzzing around the bride. With the ND filter still on, I cranked the aperture up to f/11 and dialled the shutter down to 1/30s. The bride is sharp handheld, the kids are pleasantly blurred. My only regret is not popping a wee bit o’ flash on the bride. It would have made for a stellar image. But one gets caught up in the moment. :oops:

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All in all, it was a super fun 2 hours on duty with the Fuji. I love that it’s small, lightweight and ready for anything – like when all the kids in the family decide to start rolling down a goose crap encrusted golf course hill. :lol: It’s just there and ready to rock!


OCF and the X100s

20130429G-15Not many people can say that they still get winter storms on the 30th of April. It’s because many more (sane) people don’t live in Saskatchewan. :twisted: This winter just . . . won’t . . . die! But before the snow came, we had these amazing clouds and lots of rain. I grabbed my X100s, my sister in law, a black umbrella, my SB-900 and brand new Pocket Wizard Plus X triggers and headed out for some dramatic environmental portraits! When we found a cool spot with lots of great cloud structure, I got setup. It was then I realized that I forgot the PC cable for the Plus X. DOH!!! :roll: I have a lot to learn about radio triggers! So, rather than go back and risk missing the sky, I put the SB-900 into SU-4 mode and triggered it optically from the Fuji’s built in flash. It worked in a pinch, even though I wanted to try the Pocket Wizards out. Heheheh… :cool: I heightened the structure of the clouds in post, but I love the drama of the B&W.

20130429G-5I did a similar one using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro  and kept the colour, but on this, I prefer the black and white.

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My X100s Review

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I was super fortunate to be able to take my new Fuji X100s for an extended tour of duty as a travel & event photographer. It was precisely for these two applications that I bought this camera, but after using it, it is quickly becoming my “go to” camera. I’ve never owned or shot any traditional film rangefinder cameras and I’m coming to the X100s from a D800 and other Nikon DLSRs. So it was a new experience and a nifty learning curve but this camera fits like a glove. All the reviews of the internet celebrity bloggers like Arias, Hobby, and others have lauded this camera and all I can say is that everything is true. It is THAT good. Even if your friends accuse you of down grading from a DSLR, just smile and nod. :lol:

You can look up the tech specs on Fuji’s website. This review is about the user experience and the pure can of whoop @$$ this camera packs into such a sweet little package. Firstly, it is a dream to use. It’s an extremely tactile camera, everything clicks. Nicely. The buttons have a great feel to them and are easy to use. The only gripe I have is that the on/off switch can easily be flicked unawares when putting the camera into a pocket. But that is an extremely minor gripe. The new “Q” button is really, really handy for making changes on the fly. Also the 3 custom user modes are perfect for events as you can switch back and forth to customized presets without having to burn through tonnes of menus. LOVE that feature. During my trip we attended a friend’s wedding and I shot the X100s in Black and White mode mostly because I love the look of the files (and being able to tweak the tonality of shadows and highlights is the bees knees). But, I could switch back to Provia colour in a button flick. It’s a really great experience all round in using the camera. The one fixed 23mm f/2 lens is super sharp and you don’t have to worry about changing lenses. Ever. :)

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I found that the camera truly was ready for nearly anything. Not even once did I wish I had my D800. The low profile of the rangefinder style is really unique. I found that people were less nervous getting their photos taken by it. The camera changes the photographic relationship if that makes sense. It certainly makes you push in closer to get the shot, which was a bit uncomfortable at first for me. I’m naturally “telephoto eyed”. I love my 85mm 1.8 and I take mostly everything with that. So the 35mm equivalent made me get closer and in so doing created a photo and look that I really enjoyed. While at the wedding service, the paid pro was walking around with a loud Canon 5D Mwhatver and the shutter sounded like a Clydesdale horse plodding through the mud “Clug-clock, clug-clock, clug-clock!” Meanwhile my X100s set to silent mode was like a ninja’s shadow! Truly, it’s totally silent and unobtrusive. Thank you leaf shutter! :cool:

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The image quality is outstanding. I shot the camera at 3200 ISO nearly the whole time I was at the different events on my trip and when I got home to look the files over, they blew me away. The files aren’t D3s clean but there’s no noise. It’s a silky grain that adds to the character and personality of the camera. The color. The color is unbelievable. I can’t get over how amazing and beautiful and rich and vibrant and . . . you get the idea . . . the color is. I love color and the Fuji files pop off the screen with scrumptious tonality.  The photo of the roses was shot in a Costco under those heinous “sodium-vapourizer-punch-your-auto-WB-in-the-face” lights. Auto white balance and like all the photos on this review, SOOC JPG.

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This window light portrait was shot at ISO 400, f/2.8. I really love the over all look of the files. The skin tones are amazing, the colors pop. What more can I say?! The files are gorgeous straight out of camera, as is my smokin’ hot wife. :D

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I feel about the X100s the same way I felt when I got my first DSLR (Nikon D40) – Romeo & Juliet. I’m in love! :cool: But the best part is, we’re not star-crossed in any way. The camera is a finely revised version of an already great model. It brings the thunder in every way. It’s no nonsense. The user experience is great. The autofocus speed is slick. The files are pure awesome. It’s literally anything anyone would want in a compact travel/event camera in nearly any situation. If you are a rangefinder retro-style junkie, buy this camera. If you have an X100, buy this camera. If you want a camera that you can pick up and feel that it is an extension of your photographic creativity and skill, buy this camera. It’s a 5 out of 5 star camera only because I can’t give it 6 out of 5. It’s cooler than the other side of the pillow. :D


X100s Boo Ya!

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My new toy finally arrived from Pre-Order. The Camera Store in Calgary surprised me by saying my order wasn’t included in their first shipment of cameras, but then someone cancelled and a I got one! :cool: That person’s loss is my gain!  This camera is INCREDIBLE!  You’d think it was coming from a full frame DSLR! The ISO performance is great, the color is exquisite. I’m really not kidding here, this camera brings the thunder. I’ve got just a couple of test shots of it here using some of the film simulator presets. I’m going on a little road trip right away so I will test it further but suffice it to say, I’m having fun learning how to use a rangefinderesque mirrorless camera! :D


More Camera Nerdery

Hanky @ 6400 ISO

Hanky @ 6400 ISO f/4 1/60 50mm

There was some question about RAW conversion when it comes to the camera manufacturers software vs. third party stuff. I decided to take a look and do a quick head to head comparison. Here’s the results, 50% crop/screen capture.

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Aperture 3 RAWConclusion: to my eye, no difference. But let me know what you think. :cool:


More Insane D800 Stuff

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Deer from the deck

OK, OK. I’ve nearly got this camera nerdery out of my system. But check this out. The deer were coming by the yard to freeload and eat the bird seed. I waited until it was very dark outside with barely any light, save what was spilling through our living room window. I had my 70-300 lens on the camera, 300mm 1/25 f/5.6 (bleh, I know) but I nabbed these deer shots at 25600 ISO or H2.0 in Nikon speak. The files are heinously, cell-phone-esque noisy, but a) the camera nailed the focus in utter darkness and b) when down sampled they are nearly usable! All that resolution really helps make a purse from a pig’s ear. :cool: I didn’t edit the shots except for watermark and the one crop. They are all SOOC RAW conversion.

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Welcome to the buffet, you fat lard!

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50% Crop! 25600 ISO

And, here’s one more I shot earlier at 6400 ISO which is totally usable. :D I heart the D800!

Deer


The Crops

At lunch today I went out back and nabbed a few shots of some chickadees and redpolls that were coming to my black sunflower seed bonanza. I wanted to see how much you can crop a D800 RAW file. As a rule, I don’t crop anything. I like to fill the frame and have the shot exact in camera. But for this challenge, I wanted to see how the detail would hold up as we crop in on an image. Chickadees and other small song birds have loads of fine feather detail and I couldn’t wait to see how the D800 would do. Truly it is amazing how much information is there in these files. You can see in these shots, one at full size, one at 50% and the third at 100%.

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Isn’t that wild? It’s unbelievable! But, all that resolution beats the living tar out of your lenses too. I shot this with a 70-300, Nikon’s el-cheapo telephoto and it shows. The fine details quickly turn to mush-mush. It would be nice to see what a 300 f/2.8 would be like. :cool:

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D800: The Mad Skittles

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I’ve had my D800 for exactly a week and all I can say is “boy howdy!” This camera is a beast and I love it. I am so glad that I made the choice to get it over the D600. The fit and finish is just like my D300s. In fact, the D300s actually feels more bulky and tankish than the D800 does. Regardless, it’s a perfect fit for what I love to do. I’m blown away by the image quality and detail with every single shot I take. And, I’m blown away that when I put a 32GB card in it, I get roughly 400 RAW photos. Gulp. Dear Santa, please bring me a billion hard drives for Christmas next year. . .

MyD800 2The resolution of this camera just doesn’t quit. You can zoom in and zoom in and zoom in. Nothing can hide from the sensor. Which can be a little unnerving too. It will change how I do post production for sure. That said, when you make edits, they are easily seen. You have to tread lightly over those 36 megapixels.

MyD8006The Internet is ripe with people who have reported left autofocus point problems with the D800. I was very nervous about my camera being affected. But I did the tests and it looks like clear sailing for my copy which is a big sigh of relief. I setup the siemens stars and did a live view focus test followed up by an autofocus test at f/1.4 on a 50mm AF-S lens. Everything looked the same when I viewed the files on the computer (they all looked pretty crappy as my 50mm lens copy isn’t  very good at f/1.4).

MyD800 1I was able to take some test shots with off camera flash over new years too which worked seamlessly. The metering is pretty much bang on which is nice. And, the camera can accurately autofocus in absolute darkness! Unbelievable! :cool:

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Ruby at f/2.5 in window light

I was up in Moose Jaw visiting the family too and Dad and I decided to put the D800 to the test. We did a high ISO test between it and the Canon EOS 1D-X, an amazing low light wonder camera. I wanted to test the idea that because the D800 has double the resolution of the 1DX, it should perform comparable if not better at the same ISO. We put both cameras at 6400 ISO and took them to a old train station which has since become the liquor store. :D Check out our vid to see the real world print results of downsampling.

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Which Camera? Or, the Nikonian Conundrum

“It’s time for a new camera.”  We’ve all said these words. We’ve all walked down the path of researching the brands and models. It’s one daunting experience to say the least! You can go absolutely crazy trying to process all the information out there. Besides the manufacturers websites that provide the specifications, there are also myriads of photography forums where users share their own experiences with the products. This can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is, you get feedback from people who actually own/have used the camera you are interested in. The curse is, there’s plenty of whackos with all kinds of dumb opinions! Forums are often raft with contradictory experiences. It can be hard to get an accurate vibe about a product.

Even amongst the “Photography Rabbis/Gurus” that are celebrated on the Net, there are differing opinions about cameras. One guy says buy this camera, the other says no, this is the better camera. Like I mentioned, there is no end to the opinions. But I will argue – my opinion ;) – that we shouldn’t be making a decision based on other’s opinions. Often we do, especially from the Rabbis. We take their word as gospel. However, we need to make informed decisions about upcoming purchases based on hard data instead.

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This issue has been plaguing me personally for months. It’s been at the forefront of my mind. I’m a Nikon guy shooting my D300s. It’s a nearly perfect camera. I love the build quality, the ergonomics, battery life, almost everything. The only thing that I complain about is the ISO performance. In low light, it’s lack luster. So, I have been wanting to remedy that for quite some time and going to an FX full frame Nikon has been my goal. But I have been in agony about what camera to buy. It should be simple, but it’s not. In the previous generation, Nikon made the D3 and the D700. Choice was easy. If you were sports/action full time pro, D3. Everything else: D700. It was and is and epic camera that will go down in history as such. It was the ultimate all rounder. Amazing ISO performance. Fast FPS that got better with a grip. Great battery life. No movie mode though, which came back to bite it as Canon’s 5DMII gobbled up the videography market. That aside though, it was the perfect FX camera.

The problem that both Canon and Nikon ran into though was that the D700 & 5DMII cannibalized sales from their top end cameras. Full time working pros were buying these amazing performers at a much cheaper price point and getting tremendous results. In this latest generation of cameras, efforts have been made to prevent the problem from happening again.

Instead of having two FX choices, Nikon users now have 3 wonderful tiers to choose from. D4 for the ultimate in low light and speed, D800 for maximum resolution and print ability and, D600 as a great all-rounder. The D800 is radically different from the D700 and, it is not necessarily the logical upgrade – despite the branding. Nikon has split the once lower tier into 2. The D600 is probably the more logical upgrade to the D700 in spec and performance, but with caveats. And those caveats are causing the Nikon “FX Conundrum.”

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The D800 has the build quality, controls and feel of the D700 and that D300s users know and love. The D600 is fashioned more from the D7000 DX camera lineage. Both cameras produce incredible image quality, as testified to by DxOmark. But a camera is more than a sensor. It’s the whole package that comes together to make it work. Both the D600 and D800 are impressive, however I would have been tremendously happy if the we could have had the D600 sensor in the D800 body (Kinda like a Canon 5DMIII). I want the build quality, controls and feel of my D300s in the D800, but I don’t really want the huge glory of 36MP RAW size. 24MP would be perfect, but I don’t like the more D7000-esque controls of the D600. So what’s a D300s user to do? Gotta pick one.

That to me is the key question I ask myself. What do I need in an FX camera? I believe this must be the starting point rather than pouring over endless camera forum opinions and even camera manufacturer spec sheets. What do I need? What do I shoot? What are my photographic goals now and what will they be in the future? What camera will help me reach those goals? After all, cameras are just tools.

I do a lot of off camera flash portraiture stuff. The first bone of contention with the D600 was the 1/200 second sync speed drop from 1/250. Small, but fairly critical. You lose a third of a stop of flash power. Also, some of the fit and finish of the D600 system feel like a “down grade” from my D300s, especially regarding the autofocus. I also shoot a lot of landscape so the added detail of the D800 would be welcome, but in all seriousness, the D600 is one amazing landscape camera. Either would be very capable. Likewise for macro work that I also love to do. The image quality and resolution of both would be more than enough.

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So for me and my needs, I decided to pull the trigger and get the D800. At the end of the day, I felt that it would help me reach my photographic goals better than the D600 – marginally though, which made it an agonizing decision! Also, I feel that the D800 will be more future-proof as computers get faster, storage gets cheaper and huge resolution gets bigger and more common. And, it may sound stupid, but I’ve always wanted an integrated eyepiece shutter too for time lapse or long exposures. Minor I know! :) But over all, the D800 was more like my D300s which I still plan on using, especially for events. Having similar controls makes switching back and forth a more seamless experience.

Will a 36MP hog become my everyday, goto camera? No. No it won’t. And this was a big hangup I had for a long time! I feel that a D700 or D600 could easily be because they are not so unruly in file size and over all management. But ironically, since I’ve had and used the Nikon 1 V1, this need has been met in an even more portable/manageable non-DSLR format. I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it anywhere, especially for snapshots of the kids. Where any DSLR is just too bulky to contend with, the V1 fills the need for having a small, light goto, do anything camera. But for more serious stuff, the D800 is going to do everything I need and then some.

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So there you have it. This is how I arrived at my decision. I highly recommend you do a needs-based assessment of your photographic goals first before reading the never ending stream of internet opinions about cameras. You will have a much clearer direction in mind before you start to read spec sheets and other guru opinions. Find the camera that is right for you.

Cheers! :cool:


Nikon 1 – It Doesn’t Suck

20121214SnowFun 9Granted, I’m a little late to the party. But I want to set the record straight on the Nikon 1 V1. “It doesn’t suck!” It’s amazing little camera! This image of the kids is straight out of camera with no edits (other than water mark and resize). The colours are amazingly vibrant! All the images are very contrasty and punchy, and I like it! I finally had the chance to go for a little walk around today with it and shot a couple of landscapes. Other than the fact that it was a foggy abysmal day, I found that it set the stage for some cool black and white. I shot in JPEG and RAW and had a good experience with both. RAW always gives more latitude, but the JPEG performance is really nice. The only achilles heel is the high ISO, which is to be expected for a small sensor camera. But it’s not that bad, all things considered. When you evaluate the performance against my current DSLR, the D300s, it doesn’t lose by that much in color and dynamic range. It’s negligible really. ISO get’s punched in the face, but we already knew that. For outdoor day to day stuff, in my opinion, the Nikon 1 brings the thunder. And, its far more portable. But I already mentioned that. :cool:dxo300sv1

 


New Toy!

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I bought my wife a new camera. She was sad it wasn’t pink, but I’m sure she will get over it. :) I bought a Nikon V1. I can’t believe it’s true, but it is. When Nikon first released it, I mocked it! I thought a small sensor camera was the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of . The quality couldn’t be any good. The price was insane for what you get. And that was that. I never gave it another thought. That is until Nikon released the V2 and had to get rid of V1 stock. I got a killer deal on the V1 and the 10-30mm kit lens. $300.00 at B&H. For that insane price, there is tremendous value in this little camera. I scooped one up and I am stoked that I did! :cool:

First of all, mirror less inter changeable lens cameras fall into the “better than your cell phone, but not quite as good as your DSLR” market. It’s compact and convenient. That’s what I love about the Nikon 1 series. The focusing is super fast – like unbelievable fast. It’s incredible! The image quality is also tremendous for a sensor it’s size, including high ISO. I bought this camera as the goto, do anything family camera for stills and video. We have a canon point and shoot but the quality sucks. We had a flip hd camera, but it died. So we needed to clutch up our family memories department, especially for those times when the DSLR just isn’t an option. I can see the V1 being a near perfect little travel camera. I love that I can man handle my children and this little camera doesn’t get in the way. I love that! It’s such a plus to carry this much camera power in a light and compact setup.

Having the camera for only a couple of hours, I had the perfect venue to test it’s metal. Phoebe had her music for young children recital tonight at the United Church in town. I had no idea before hand but it is probably the worst-lit building I’ve ever been in! (Granted during the day time the nice windows light it up amazingly, but at night, it’s got old nasty green fluorescents). Perfect to test the high ISO garbage-light settings of the V1. The problem with small sensors is that they usually suck in low light. Henceforth, full frame cameras always do better than crop body DSLRs in low light. But how does the V1 perform? Not too shabby! I did find that with the kit lens, being limited to 3.5-5.6 sucked big time. I under exposed the video simply because I couldn’t open the lens up anymore. The sweet pancake 2.8 prime or the new 18mm f/1.8 would be just the ticket and I will quickly add one of those to the V1 kit for sure. Anyways, I shot video with the V1 and also with my iPod as a comparison. It’s interesting to see number 1, how well they both perform and number 2, how the Nikon beats the iPod hands down.

Same goes for still pictures too. The Nikon wins over the iPod/iPhone. So it’s worth carrying a larger recording device to me. I’m excited to see how the V1 fares over the next few days. I will test it outside and shoot some landscapes and some more video. I’m really excited and find that the streamlined body style is comfortable and fits my hand very well. I think the redesign of the V2 makes the camera a bit too bulky, even though I’m sure it will be far nicer to use. The menus are very intuitive and I was using the camera easily in no time. The ability to add the FT-1 adapter too to use my FX Nikon lenses will be amazing as well – perfect for wildlife! All in all, the V1 is a tremendous little camera with amazing possibilities. I’m sure Regan will love her new camera. :D

PS: For a stunning display of what the V1 is capable of, check out this amazing photo essay using only the V1 and the 10mm pancake lens.


Efficient Aperture Workflow for High Resolution Images

I’m always looking for ways to stay as efficient as possible when it comes to editing and organizing images. I came across Nasim’s article about having an efficient Lightroom workflow for D800 files and other super high resolution RAW files. You can never stay too lean or efficient when tossing around the huge D800 36MP files! As an Aperture 3 user, I found a really great image import workflow that has really helped me stay efficient. We all love RAW for the power it gives us to edit and capture the very best of a camera. However, undoubtedly we’ll have a good portion of images from a shoot that either aren’t in focus, aren’t sharp, poor compositions or just plain suck. Why waste time and computer grunt power importing all those crappy (yet still enormous) files?! Here’s the trick: Don’t import them! :cool: Save yourself the time. Here’s how to do it.

Set your camera to shoot both small jpeg and RAW. When you get done your shoot and get ready to import, just import the small jpeg files. You can do this from the Aperture 3 import dialogue or set your camera to write jpeg files to one card and RAW to the other. Importing small jpegs is very fast and efficient. Once they’ve all been imported, you can take a look at your files and make a selection of keeper images. Use a star or a flag or a color or whatever. Then go back to the import dialogue and import Matching RAW files. This import workflow ensures you only import the keeper RAW images saving you oodles of time! :D Who doesn’t love having oodles of time?

Check out the YouTube video I made of the import procedure in action.


Hands on with the Canon 1D-X!

Canon EOS 1D-X with 500mm f/4 Lens

Ahem. I humbly start this post, firmly entrenched in the Nikon camp, but I have to say it: I formally recant pretty much every negative thing I’ve ever said about Canon. Ever. :oops:

Pa got his new toy, the highly coveted Canon EOS 1D-X camera. For those who don’t know (where have you been?!?), it’s Canon’s flagship, top o’ the line, best camera ever. And it is, most definitely Canon’s finest camera to date. This camera is a beast! It’s nothing short of amazing. My chief complaints about Canon have been 1) Crappy Focusing and 2) Crummy LCDs. This camera addresses those issues and then some. This is not an in depth Camera Scientist review by any means, rather a quick 1st impressions post. And, the impressions are good. The focusing is incredible! Check the specs and see, there’s an entire processor dedicated to focusing alone. And it shows. With oodles of programable modes, you can tell the 1D-X exactly what you want it to do and how you want it to behave. It’s positively awesome.

“Hummingbird Focus Mode”

Just check this out – you can customize the focus settings for several different cases, depending on what you’re photographing. In this case, Dad had a hummingbird setup in the back yard and so he went with this “Bring it on, sucker” focus mode. It’s unreal. The birds came into the frame and boom shakalaka, this camera nails the focus again and again and again. Check out one of his photos from his Flickr stream. There’s a whole set there of tremendous shots with more to come.

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Certainly, you’d come to expect this kind of performance from a camera setup of this calibre. With the 500mm lens, it’s nearly diabolical! The shots are sharp and the focus is . . . fixed! ;) And, the LCD on the back of the camera is more like an HDTV instead of watching colecovision. (Google it if you don’t know).

Canon 1D-X with Sinister Lighting

If you are a Canon fan and you’ve been waiting for this camera, it will be everything you’ve dreamed of and more. You’ll probably curse Canon a bit for moving the tried and true traditional button configuration around – (even I found that annoying as now it’s quasi counter intuitive). But the performance of this bad boy more than makes up for having to learn a new button liturgy.

I told Dad that he should go out and satisfy my curiosity about the focus system and shoot some motocross. If anything will stress the tracking features, MX certainly will.  Being that he’s primarily a wildlife shooter, perhaps getting my brother to chase a herd of pronghorn antelope in front of the lens may be a more fitting focus test. I suspect that it won’t be much of a challenge anyways, the focus is just that good. During the hummingbird setup, we slapped on a teleconverter and I simply watched the wind flicking the honeysuckle blossoms in the wind through the viewfinder. The focus points tracked it back and forth with no intervention from me. It’s sweet!

Canon 1D-X: Lord of the Garden

So basically, that’s all I’m gonna touch on in this post. The Canonista Camera Scienticians will soon have incredibly detailed reviews out about this beast. I’m sure it’s ripping up the olympics right now too. Oh, one last comment, the ISO performance is awesome too – another great improvement. Being 18MP, it’s just about a perfect blend of resolution and noise performance. That extra bit of crop-ability is appreciated and the high ISO stuff looks good. 6400 was totally usable in my books and it goes up from there, waaaay up. But the image quality similarly decreases too. Can’t wait to see some head to head tests with the 1D-X & the new D4 from the good guys Nikon! :cool:

You’re jealous. Just admit it.


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