Light is Everything!

Posts tagged “Camera

Nikon 1 V3 Review Video

Well, my time with the Nikon 1 V3 is over. I was a blast of a camera and a great opportunity. Thanks again to Nikon Canada for contacting me and letting me take it for a spin! My only regret was that our weather here while I had the camera was oh so uncooperative. -50 billion ºC is never fun, especially when you want to get out and shoot a camera. 😎 Check out the full video review here:

 

I put it through it’s paces in three main ways. I came at the camera as a Manual Mode DSLR shooter. Could the V3 keep up to the advanced shooter? Yep. Yep it can. It’s got enough external controls to keep me happy. I wanted to know additionally how the FT-1 Adapter would work for wildlife and for macro. It’s very capable! The incredible field of view you get from the CX sensor and full frame lenses is fantastic. Also for macro. The 105mm Micro Nikkor I used with the V3 made an excellent combo. And, I wanted to know how the image quality stacked up, especially in low light with high ISO. Shazam! It’s incredible.  Nikon really hit a home run with the V3. The extra perks of built in WiFi and the articulating screen make it so much more enjoyable than it’s predecessors. Too many people write off the Nikon 1 series because of the small sensor. That’s a shame! It’s an incredibly capable camera and system with loads of uses and appeal to consumers to prosumers! 😀

Capable

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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. 😎 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. 😎 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! 😎

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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 😎

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! 😀

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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. 😀 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! 😎


How to Buy Lenses

So you’re into photography. So is everyone else and their dog now that digital SLR cameras have dropped in price so much. You get sick of your point and shoot camera, you go out and a buy a Canon Rebel or Nikon D3100 starter camera and it comes with a kit lens, something typically from 18-55mm. For the most part, that lens is not too shabby. It’s inexpensive, but sharp. It does pretty much everything you want it to do for that first year or so. But, when the photo bugs start biting you and you want to learn more about photography and taking pictures, you often want to start buying more lenses to do different stuff. But what do you buy and why? If you show up at a camera store without a plan, you’re like sheep to the slaughter. You best have some idea of what you want prior to going in there or else the sweet talker salesman is gonna get your VISA card loaded up before you know it! 😯

Winning Lens Characteristics 

What makes a lens good or bad? Well, there are some generalities. We need to be clear that not every lens that Nikon or Canon or whoever makes is a “good lens” some of them are pretty darn crappy. So here’s a few things to look for:

Good lenses produce sharp and contrasty images. Out of focus parts of the picture should look like cream cheese, not chunks of cheddar. When the sun hits the lens it shouldn’t flare with drops of color. Straight lines, like in a brick wall, should stay straight. Good lenses also are designed well mechanically. The focus & zoom rings should be smooth, not clunky. Big zooms shouldn’t zoom and creep by themselves, they should stay where you leave them. It should be sealed from the weather/dust. Autofocus should be fast like a cheetah not slow like a turtle. It should have image stabilization (VR or IS). And finally, good lenses open up wide with big f/stops like 1.4 or 2.8 and are constant (if in a zoom lens). Lenses that go from f/3.5-5.6 generally aren’t that great. They should be able to focus close and focus internally, meaning the front of the lens doesn’t turn while focusing (which is a real pain when using filters).

Size Matters

One more consideration to be aware of before you go any further is to note the difference between Crop Sensor Cameras and Full Frame Cameras. Without going into a whole bunch of detail, some lenses are designed to work specifically with crop sensor camera bodies. In Canon this is called EF-S lenses and in Nikon this is called DX lenses. There will be badges on the lenses to tell you which is which. It’s good to consider this because when buying lenses, it’s good to be forward thinking – as in it’s good to buy full frame (Canon EF, Nikon FX) lenses even for use on crop sensor camera bodies in case one day you want to shoot a full frame camera. In my mind, it makes more sense to invest in good lenses once, rather than to buy cheaper lenses first, then have to sell them all and upgrade them later. However, if you intend to stay in the beginner/enthusiast realm, buying EF-S/DX lenses is just fine. It just pays to be aware of the future possibilities.


Picking Your Lenses

OK, with those considerations in mind you can start assembling your lens arsenal. Most pros in any field of photography have 2-4 lenses that they use for just about everything. You don’t want a metric tonne of lenses, because you have to carry them around. But you also want to be ready for as much as possible. There are 2 groups of lenses: Zooms and Primes. Zooms are more flexible and give more options, but Primes are sharper and often have super big apertures for low light photography and awesome portraits. The three lens categories for both zooms and primes are: Wide Angle (14-24mm) Mid-Range (24-70mm) and Telephoto (70-600mm). And there is also a fourth category of “special” lenses that have unique purposes such as fish-eye lenses, macro lenses, perspective control, etc. Here are some suggested setups:

Kicked up Beginner 

If you want something more than the 18-55 kit lens your camera came with, I’d suggest a big zoom that goes from wide to telephoto. 18-200mm or 28-300mm are very popular, so are the 24-105 and 16-85. All of your bases are covered in one lens. The downside is, these are usually variable aperture lenses that aren’t very fast and don’t give any possibilities for shallow depth of field shots (for those cool “lots of stuff in the photo is out of focus” shots). So I would pair the big zoom with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. They are always sharp, allow for low light shooting and they are inexpensive. Additionally, this kit is a perfect vacation or travel setup as it’s light weight and packs into a small convenient bag.

Photo Spectrum

What follows next here is what I call a photo-spectrum. One (or more) of these general categories will be where your interests fall. Recommendations are listed appropriate to each area along the spectrum.

Landscape: Big wide angles to take in the scenery reign supreme on the landscape. 16-35mm zoom is the land lover’s first choice, but also possibly some fast wide angles like the 20mm f/2.8 or 24 f/1.4. Keep in mind the need to use filters (neutral density and polarizers). Landscapers will also want a longer telephoto zoom for extracting mini landscapes from the larger scene. 70-300 or 70-200mm are good options.

Nature: Long reaching zooms get you closer to the critters 100-400, 200-400 or the 300, 400, 500, 600mm primes. And, add some wide angels for landscapes, particularly the 16-35 over the 14-24 because you will want to use filters.

Action: Sports! You want to be near the action, but you can’t be. So the name of the game is long zooms like the 70-200, 200-400 and long f/2.8 or f/4 primes from 200 to 300 t0 400 to 500mm!

Photojournalism: You’re in zoom country. 14-24mm/16-35mm, 24-70mm and the 70-200 will have all your bases covered and at all at f/2.8.

Weddings: You’re the hybrid of portraits & photojournalism. You need the versatility of wide angle zooms 14-24/16-35 & the 70-200 and a bunch of f/1.4 primes for killer portraits.

Portraits: The portrait junkie loves primes. 35 f/1.4, 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.4 usually become the workhorse lenses. But also the cadillac 70-200 f/2.8 zoom for amazing subject isolation, bokeh and compression.

Macro: This is the domain of bugs and creepy crawlies, but also products and still life. Sharp macro lenses in the neighbourhood of 105, 150 or even 200 are the ticket for getting close and making images that are larger than life!

So there you go!

That basically covers it all. I’m not giving exact individual lens recommendations because lenses change. New stuff comes out and new advances are made in technology and performance. However, these general categories will remain forever. Before you buy anything, read lots of product reviews by professionals who have actually used the products (see the list below for some of the internet’s best). Also, watch YouTube for videos that enthusiasts may have put up regarding your lens of interest. Finally, goto the camera store with your lens plan known in advance so you can check out the products before you buy them. Take your camera body and do some sample shots to see how you like it. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be far better prepared to make good long-lasting lens choices that will follow you throughout your entire photography interest.

Cheers! 😀

Awesome Links of Lens Reviews:

Mansurov’s Lens Reviews

Photozone

The Digital-Picture

SLRGear

LensTip


The Aurora

Everyone loves light shows, from fireworks to the Northern Lights, it’s always tremendous. When we were in Grenfell last week, I stayed up to 2AM because the Aurora Borealis were dancing up a storm. That and I wanted to nab a few star trail shots. I couldn’t wait to see what the lcd screen showed me after I finished the 15 minute long exposures. Pure awesome, I thought to myself. That is, until I got the shots home. On the computer monitor I could see something wacky. It looked like a dust spot, but I had just cleaned my camera. Upon closer inspection, I saw these concentric circles radiating out of the center of the image. CRAP! I thought I had destroyed my camera’s sensor chip by taking fireworks shots! 😥

What a gong show! But then, I did some research on the net and came across this article that explains this phenomenon:

With my Nikon lenses I have found that long exposures result in concentric circles showing up in the middle of the images when I use a filter of any kind. Nikon says this is due to the high reflectivity of the aurora. Thanks to the University of Alaska forecaster, the explanation follows. “These are interference fringes due to the parallel faces of the filter and to the narrow spectral emission at 5577 Angstroms in the aurora. That green, atomic oxygen emission line is the strongest emission in the aurora near our film and eye peak sensitivity, so it shows up first when there is any device in the optical path which sorts out the spectral emissions.” So, don’t use filters!

That pretty much sums it up. Lesson learned. If you’re after the Aurora, don’t forget to take your filter off your camera lens! I wish I would have known that before hand. 😳

 

 

 

 


5 Year Plan

Beginners to photography always ask what lenses should I buy (after they ask what camera should I buy). 😉 It is good to have a plan in place so that you don’t spend money on junk glass that you will want to sell later on to buy better stuff. I came across the whole 5 year plan concept on one of Jared Polin’s YouTube blogs and I thought the idea was superb. Have a plan in place that allows you to save your money and upgrade to the very best of lenses and camera bodies over time. Quality is everything! And we pay dearly for it! But it is worth it. 🙂

The plan I present here is for the beginner who has gotten into photography and really likes it & wants to take it to the next level – either hobby or business wise. As such, it starts out with the entry level camera body and kit lens.  Then, it encourages buying professional level glass as the next step. Why? Because if you waste your money on junk glass now (because you can afford it), then as you get better and want to upgrade, you’ll have a bunch of junk glass nobody wants. But if you purchase higher end glass, you’ll be fine and dandy as sour candy for your entire photographic career. Camera bodies come and go but lenses last forever (well, a LOT longer than camera bodies!) 😉 As for camera bodies, you want to jump from the entry level body to the top of the pro-sumer line, then to the top of the professional line. It’s not advisable to simply buy the next update of the entry level camera body you already have. They don’t change that much from update to update.

This proposed plan may take you shorter or longer to accomplish and that’s OK. It’s totally up to how aggressively you want to pursue photography and how much cash you have on hand to bank roll it.

Check out this plan for both Canon & Nikon lenses & bodies and let me know what you think. Lists of accessories are also included. The over arching goal is get good glass in your hands that covers the focal range from super wide to long telephoto. But it really depends on what kinds of photography you want to do. For example, if you really want to do Macro photography, that lens will be further ahead on your list than say a 300mm f/2.8 wildlife lens 🙂

5 Year Plan.pdf


Yay!

Well, we had our very first Photography Club meeting. It was really exciting! The roads however put a kibosh on the number of people who could attend the event. Nothing like a nice bunch of roads turning into hockey rinks to make people stay home. Curses! Oh well, we did have a good group of seven people take in the first meeting and we got the name of the club solidified as well as the meeting dates. The last friday of the month at 7PM at St. Peter Lutheran Church. We also did some brainstorming of what we would like to see in a club. None of the people in attendance had ever been part of a photography club before, so we are all blazing a new trail. We also hammered out our photo assignments for the year. Each assignment will be due for the next meeting and we will share our 3 best shots.

I love what a photography club can offer to everyone at all levels of experience. We have primarily lots of beginners to the DSLR world which is great. But even the more experienced people can learn lots as well. For instance, one of the girls had on her camera strap the eye piece cover that goes over the camera when taking a landscape shot or any other picture where your face isn’t up to the viewfinder. I always had mine in the bottom of my camera bag because you can lose it so easily. But I learned that it actually clips onto your strap so it’s handy when you need it. Cool! 🙂 Who knew?!  (OK, OK, so I’m a moron.) 😉 But I’m thankful for the photography club because I have much to learn!

I’m also putting together a beginners guide to cameras and photography. There will be a print edition as well as a digital slide show I will try to put voice recordings with.  Hopefully it will be of some use to somebody sometime. I’m excited that the club has finally all come together and the pieces have fallen into place.