Light is Everything!

Archive for December, 2012

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! 😎


Winter Wonderland

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Winter Wonderland, a set on Flickr.

Quick Burn around town with Regan’s Nikon V1. Did a bang up job. Colors are vivid! 🙂


Smash!

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Another new first for me today! Our pals Dane & Lexi turned 1 not too long ago and, what better way to celebrate one year or life on earth than to smash a big ol’ chocolate cake into oblivion in a high key lighting setup?! I can’t think of any better way. 😎 It turns out that both kids were somewhat terrified of cold chocolate cake. Reactions didn’t go as expected. I think we parents, knowing our kids, think that when encountered by a ginormous cake will dive right in with both hands and eat like its going out of style! We tried this with Ethan and he barely mashed into his cake too. Oh well! It was still loads of fun and contributed wonderfully to the laundry situation. 😀

 

I also borrowed Regan’s Nikon V1 (again) and did a time-lapse of the whole event! Well, technically, not the whole event. Math never was a strong point of mine and I screwed up the first part of it while we were setting up the lights. hehehehe… 😳 I got it figured out though and put this vid together from still images taken every 10 seconds for the duration of the event. In one of the frames the flashes synced with the V1! Pretty awesome coincidence. It was a bona fide metric tonne of fun!

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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. 😎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! 😎

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. 😀

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.