After a nice fire with our good neighbour last night, we looked up and realized that the stars were amazing! I mean, they always are but last night was tremendous on account of there was no moon. Awesome! I went and grabbed the old picture box and set it up after googling how to take photos of the Milky Way. Turns out ISO 3200 and 30″ exposure does nicely. After nabbing several cool pics of the Milky Way itself, I set the camera up to include some foreground nicery. There was a nearby tree that was conveniently being lit up by some RM yard lights across the valley from us. Made for a cool light painting effect without having to do any work. Bonus!
In other news, my life is total upheaval at the moment. My main computer, my faithful 2008 iMac bit the dust this last week. Thankfully my backups all work and I didn’t lose any data. However, I’m down to living off of one Macbook Air with 128GB flash memory for storage. Umm, ya. It’s like packing up a mansion and cramming the contents into a pup tent. Not gonna happen. So, I’m stuck living off of external hard drives. Doh. It sucks. Plus, all the new Mac computers with the slick new Haswell chips are not out yet. Hopefully this month!! And I will order a new mac mini ASAP. I’m leaving iMacs behind and going for the 27″ Cinema Display (hopefully updated this month too with 4 or 5K resolution!) and a totally flash driven mac mini. Should be screamin fast for my needs. Anyways, until then, I wait. Editing on my 11″ MB Air….
Went out tonight for some landscapes that I’ve been neglecting for too long. There’s lots of water around recently with all the rain which means for a bit of a speedier creek. I wanted to test the X100s on slow shutter speeds for water effects. It has that sweet, sweet little built in 3 Stop ND filter. I LOVE that feature. It comes in super handy for dragging the shutter into glorious smooshy water. I also had the D800 in tow with my Genus 8 Stop Variable ND Filter. See if you can tell which shots are which. Also, I nearly got attacked by 2 killer beavers. But they let me go unscathed. ;)
I’ve often wondered why we call “Grad” Grad and not Prom. I continue to ponder it. I got to go and do some grad shots for a couple of lovely Arcola girls and their families on the 17th. It was a riot and the weather held out giving us some sweet, sweet dramatic skies. I took my trust X100s along for the ride, as well as my D800. With my two favorite cameras in hand we got to make a ton of really exciting images with lots of different looks. Just one note on Sarah’s pink dress – it really is THAT pink. And the guitar, yep, Juliana can totally rock it. It’s not just a prop. Thanks for the fun times girls! You’re amazing! It was awesome to do back to back shoots for such cool friends!
It’s been a long stretch with no bloggin’ so today I decided to catch up a bit. I have been über busy as of late with Grad shoots and funerals, plus and impromptu road trip with my boy. So I haven’t been doing much recreational shooting. But this morning after another glorious rain, conditions were perfect to do some raindrop chasing. The D800. For as much as I LOVE my X100s, I won’t soon part from the full frame glory of 36 glorious mega pixels. The color and quality of the images is really superb. Whilst wandering around the yard, I noticed a nearly microscopic spider. And thankfully, she (we’ll call her Charlotte :D) cooperated and I was able to nab a couple of images. There was a slight breeze which really sucks for macro photographers. I was already at IS0 3200 trying to keep a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion. Tricky business. But super fun! Gotta love Macro.
Bonus Video! BTS of the complete and utter gong show Macro Photography can be in the wind. Or breeze. heheheheh…
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. 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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. It’s just there and ready to rock!
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.
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. I didn’t edit the shots except for watermark and the one crop. They are all SOOC RAW conversion.
And, here’s one more I shot earlier at 6400 ISO which is totally usable. I heart the D800!
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%.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I was recently spoiled this Black Friday! I had been needing a new laptop for a LOOOONG time as my little old white Macbook was likened to an old flee bitten dog with 3 broken legs trying to limp itself back home so it could be shot out of compassion. The battery died and ceased to work at all, the screen was wrecked, I’d gone through 3 hard drives, but it’s still kick’n, even if it is only with one leg. Long story short was, this past Black Friday I took advantage of Apple’s “generous” $101.00 off deal. I’d been eying up a new Macbook Pro, but didn’t want to spend the long dollar for the Retina display. I need a laptop primarily for work – running presentations and bible studies, movies for the confirmation kids, etc. Nothing really over the top powerful. But I also thought it would be cool to have a mobile computer for photography needs as well. But the more I priced things out the more I concluded that if I’m gonna be slugging through D800 RAW files (price drop coming this December!), I’d need massive grunt power. Like I mentioned, I didn’t want to spend oodles of cash. So, I decided to dump the photography needs from the equation and focus on a simple, light and portable solution for work. And, I made up my mind on a Macbook Air.
I had looked at them awhile ago and concluded they were for trendy vegan hipsters whose limp wrists couldn’t hoist the heft of a Macbook Pro at Starbucks whilst sipping a mocha frappa latte chino. I had concluded that the MBP was the only way to go. I liked the idea of the SSD over the traditional hdd and if I had got the MBP, the first thing I was going to order was a SSD to use in it. But it was an extra expense. Plus, the 13″ version that I was interested in maxed the RAM at 8GB. If I couldn’t have 16, I wasn’t interested. So, I decided to give the Air another look.
But what absolutely blew me away was how fast it is. My main computer is a 21.5 iMac with the Core Duo 2 chip and 16GB of Ram, not a slouch but not the latest kid to the party either. I wanted to test this little Air’s performance and I know of no better way than to try to choke it to death on D800 RAW files. I had an 18GB library of some files I shot with my friends camera. So after I got Aperture 3 installed on the Air, I attached my USB 3.0 Seagate drive and got ready to give the digital Heimlich maneuver. But I never got the chance. I watched as the RAW files loaded up in the library and snapped into focus. There was hardly any long delay waiting for the files to render. I slid the mouse around the file look at 1:1 view and the little computer kept up with no issues. In short, it’s FREAKIN’ AWESOME!!!! With the 1.7 i5 chip and 8GB of RAM, this sweet little computer cooks RAW for breakfast. I was astounded at the performance. But the achilles heel of the 128GB SSD drive is the rather conservative size. Not a whole metric tonne of room for storage. However, with the sweetness of USB 3 and Thunderbolt, you’ve got awesome high speed mass storage solutions. I plugged in my USB 3 Seagate 1TB drive and it ran the Aperture library without a hitch. And, the drives are only $100 buckeroos. Cheap.
So to recap, I’m really happy with the Macbook Air! It was rather serendipitous that it turned out to be an exceedingly capable photography computer as well as basic “light-duty” portable laptop. Ideally, a larger 15″ retina screen would be nice for doing tethered shooting, but the 11″ is just that much more portable. Easily fits in a camera bag with no issues. It’s incredible value for the money I’d say. It was basically $1100 in the configuration I bought. We know that these little computers aren’t going to be upgraded ever, so I bought the max RAM I could. I’m confident that it will serve me for many years to come, just like my old palliative Macbook did.
Oh and as for “JoJo”? I asked Phoebe what I should name the new computer. “JoJo” was the answer.
This post could be called D800 Snugs part 2. I took full advantage of Teresa’s camera while she was here. Ironically, I have been wanting to get a macro shot of a peacock feather for a long, long time. However, since the D800 came out, I’ve been waiting to use it to capitalize on the megapixels and get blown away by the sheer awesomeness of the detail. It didn’t disappoint. The 105mm micro lens is unreal sharp. I used it on the feather but also for the ad hoc portrait of Talitha . . . who’s last name is Peacock. Go figure. Serendipity? Talitha is a super rad girl and, she’s a harpist which makes me cool and couth by association. Check out her music here: http://peacocksmusic.com. I was blown away by the portrait. Goes without saying that Talitha is beautiful, but the quality of the file is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The D800 really brings it! The feather image is going huge on my wall. I’ll see how 36×48 looks!
A friend of ours was on her way through the hood and was able to stop by for a couple days visit. It was super fun to have Teresa and her (and our new) friend Talitha stop by. We haven’t hung out for many moons as Teresa and her husband have been living in New Zealand for a couple of years. Great to have them back in Canada! And, it was a grand occasion for me additionally because I got to play with the Nikon D800! Teresa is an awesome photographer now based out of Calgary, AB. Check her out at http://teresarehmann.com. We traded some photography as she needed some updated portraits and we needed a family photo that has all of us in it! bwahahhaah… And, I got to test the D800 extensively. And test I did, plugging all my lenses onto it and running it through it’s paces. I know the sensor is good. But I didn’t know it was THAT good. It is unbelievable. I’m really not exaggerating here. The image quality, the sharpness, the detail, the contrast, the colour, it’s nearly beyond description. And for what I do, portraits, landscapes and macro stuff, it’s a match made in heaven. HOWEVER. And it’s a big however, the files are so huge that they are unruly. We shot everything in RAW pretty much and editing them on my 3.06 iMac with 8 GB of RAM was painful. Slow. Excruciatingly so – packed in the whole Mac and needed a reset once. But it’s worth it! The images are unbelievable, especially with my 105mm macro lens. “Wicked sharp” has a whole new meaning to me! There’s just sooo much detail and nothing hides from that sensor. Probably need a new computer though . . . :D