Tag Archives: Nikon

Excited about the Nikon D7000!

Every few weeks for the past few months, I’ve been doing a Google search for D700x or D700s, in anticipation of a new camera body from Nikon at the upcoming Photokina photography trade fair.

So I was surprised, but excited, to read that a new D7000 model is being launched at Photokina next week.

It seems to be upgrade of the D90, prosumer line, than an upgrade to the professional D700 line. 

I’m excited about these things:

Supposedly great low light (high ISO) performance

This is one thing that is really pushing me to upgrade my D80.  At ISO 1600, I get really grainy shots.  Sure I can fix it somewhat later through software, but it’s always better to get the best quality shots out of the camera first.  Initially I was thinking that the D3 family or D700 is my only route to get better low light performance because of the larger pixel sizes on the full frame sensor.  But if the D7000 can deliver as good low noise, I’ll be happy!

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a definitive review on its high ISO performance yet or a comparison to the D700, so I’ll have to wait and see.

DX format

OK, I was seriously thinking of going full frame, only because of the low noise aspect.  But the truth is, I have 2 lenses now that are DX lenses – my Tokina 12-24 and Nikon 17-55 2.8.  If I had to upgrade to full frame, it would cost me!!!   I don’t care if people think that FF is better and DX inferior – if someone has come up with a way for DX to produce exactly the same quality photos than FF, then does it really matter?

So if I get the same low light performance with DX, then I would theoretically only need to upgrade the body, and leave my entire lens collection intact!

Also, DX format means my Sigma 70-200 2.8 is actually a 105-300 2.8.  By going full frame, if I wanted that reach I’d have to buy an extender or a new longer zoom lens.

— 

As for other things, LiveView, video recording, virtual horizon – they’re great but not something I “need”.  Sure, I’ll use them if the camera I have has them, but I’ve gotten by without those things.

Time to save up and prep the wifey 🙂

Here’s some further reading:

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Should I go full frame?

How do you describe your shooting style?   For me, I like to describe it as trying to be photo-journalistic, stylistic, available light.  I would rather go up to ISO 1600 on my D80 than use the onboard flash or external flash.   I love taking photos of music concerts and gigs, of dancing and theatre performances.  And in these environments, you really can’t use a flash at all – both for practical reasons (distance to stage) but also safety and annoyance reasons (don’t want a flash distracting the performers or the audience!).

The sacrifice (for my current setup) is noise.  I have invested in a few f2.8 zoom lenses and some prime f1.8 lenses that allow the camera to capture as much light as possible with beautiful bokeh, and really sharp with low chromatic abberation. 

But it’s the sensor in the camera body that is responsible for capturing the light, for the resolution, for the ISO performance – and hence the amount of noise in the photo. 

Some of my photos, for example, of music gigs in dark places, just have a LOT of noise.  In fact, for one recent potential sale, the client asked why there was so much grain on my photos – it was just unusable for their purposes.   I explained the challenges of low lighting situations with no flash, but in the end, the image quality was not there so no sale.  In that dark club, the only other option would really be to use a flash, or ask the club to turn up the house lights just for me 🙂   No, I couldn’t use a lower ISO with longer shutter speed unless I asked the performers to stand like statues for a few seconds 🙂

But there is another option – upgrade my equipment, in particular – upgrade my camera body.   The latest top end digital SLRs have fantastic low light capturing abilities.  And so I’m now starting to look at the upgrades – on the Canon side, the EOS 5D Mark ii.   On the Nikon side, the D700.  I’ve now read stacks of reviews and comparisons of each, and in the end, they’re both really similar.  One reviewer did make an intelligent recommendation – just stick with what you know and what accessories/lenses you already have.

Since I already have a camera bag with 5 Nikon lenses, as well as a Nikon flash and other accessories, I really need to stick with the Nikon family.  Here’s my current camera bag:
* Nikon 50 f1.8
* Nikon 85 f1.8
* Tokina 12-24 f4 (DX)
* Nikon 17-55 f2.8 (DX)
* Sigma 70-200 f2.8

And so I started investigating how much the switchover would cost. 

Change bodies – Nikon D80 to D700

Obviously a simple decision.  

From BH Photo and Video, the D700 is about $2500.   But what would I get for my D80?  Maybe $500?

Changes lenses – DX to FX

Looking at my camera bag, I actually have 2 DX lenses.  Although I can use them on a full frame, FX, camera body, I really don’t want to do this. 

In this category I have the Tokina 12-24 f4 and the Nikon 17-55 f2.8.  The 17-55 is my prized walk around and travel lens at the moment and I’ve taken some great shots with it.  It will be hard to let go of it.   I’d hope to get at least $1k for it, but the Tokina might be only a couple of hundred dollars.

But what to buy next?   I think it would be a major dent on my pocket to get another mid range zoom like the 24-70 f2.8 or 17-35 f2.8.  I think I’ll need to save up for that (think 1 year time), but in the mean time, I could just use my 50 f1.8, or sell that and get a 50 f1.4.

But whoa, this seems quite restrictive – I would just have 2 primes (50 and 85) and a long zoom lens (70-200) for the next year.  Nothing for that family group photo unless I buy or borrow a cheaper zoom in the mean time.

And then the question – how to get rid of my existing gear?  Sell to a local camera shop, ask friends or sell on eBay?

Effect of Australian Exchange Rate on Nikon D90 prices

Driving to work this morning, I heard on the news about how the Australian dollar has hit another high – it’s now 92.6c!

The last time it got really high, I took the opportunity to buy my 17-55 2.8 lens from the US.  With the Aussie dollar really high again, it’s the best time to buy gear from the US.

So, say I decided to upgrade to a Nikon D90 body only.

Local Australian Brick and Mortar Shops

Buying local does mean you support local business and you get personal customer support, as well as much more convenient after sales support, especially if anything goes wrong.   These are the advertised prices on their website, but I’m sure if you go into the shop itself, you may be able to get a better deal – but probably not as low as overseas shops.

PRA Imaging AUD$1355
(http://www.praimaging.com.au/d1568-13-nikon-d90-body.html)

Quality Camera AUD$1599
http://www.qualitycamera.com.au/nikon-123mp-body-only-digital-p-4555.html?osCsid=31f1baa24dcf2197ccd6bb17f9bcf29f

Camera Electronic AUD$1395
http://shop.cameraelectronic.com.au/E5Product.cgi?Code=18208915712

eBay shop

For those that read my blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve purchased quite a lot of gear from DigitalRev.  They are an eBay shop, but they also have a physical shop in Hong Kong.  Returns are a little more complicated, but I’ve had to return my D80 SLR body before and got a replacement one with no problems.  The good thing about an eBay shop is that their feedback is all laid out for everyone to peruse.  Like any eBay purchase, you should buy from reputable shops with high levels of good feedback.    Also, if shipping from overseas, you may need to pay duty (10% GST) on the price if it’s more than AUD$1000 (see http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=5549).

Digital Rev AUD$1089 (free postage to Australia)
http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Nikon-D90-Body-6Gifts-Bat-1Yr-Int-Wty-IN-Stock-ACPF_W0QQitemZ390107797582QQcmdZViewItemQQptZAU_Digital_Cameras?hash=item5ad43c984e

Pretty dumb that they’ve priced it just about the AUD$1000 customs limit.  Hopefully they’ll drop it below sometime soon, or I wonder if they could reduce the body price below AUD$1000 and add shipping on top of that.

The other thing to think about when buying from Digital Rev (or other eBay sellers) is sometimes they advertise the same product in different currencies – and when you convert these to Australian dollars, the amounts can be different.

Overseas online shops

B&H Photo and Video is a huge photo/camera/imaging store in New York with a very good online website.  Buying from the U.S. means longer times to get gear and having to pay for shipping, but since they’re advertising in U.S. dollars, the exchange rate can help make their prices competitive.  Also, if shipping from overseas, you may need to pay duty (10% GST) on the price if it’s more than AUD$1000 (see http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page.cfm?u=5549)

BH Photo & Video US$809.95 + US$88.75 (International Express Mail) = US$898.70 = AUD$970.26 (http://www.xe.com/ucc/convert.cgi?Amount=898.70&From=USD&To=AUD&image.x=58&image.y=14)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/580241-REG/Nikon_25446_D90_SLR_Digital_Camera.html#

Other Australian online shops

There are other Australian online stores that sell photo gear.  Unfortunately, without a feedback system that is highly visible and transparent, it’s hard to determine the reputation of these other shops, or even where they are.  If you want to buy from these shops, I’d recommend doing some investigation on the shop itself.

Shopbot shows prices starting AUD$950
http://www.shopbot.com.au/pp-nikon-d90-price-124009-2767603.html

Summary

If you’re just going for the cheapest price, and don’t worry too much if you may need to post your camera back for warranty claims/repairs, then buying online and/or overseas seems to be the cheapest way to go. 

For the D90, the overseas price is below the AUD$1000 customs limit, so you won’t need to pay extra duty.  However, if you’re looking at more expensive lenses and SLR bodies, then you may need to reconsider, and buying and haggling locally may be more beneficial in the end.

But if you want to form a relationship with a local shop, try gear before you buy it, have the peace of mind of being able to go back to a physical shop for repairs or help, you will need to pay just a bit more…  

The other thing worth thinking about – if you’re buying expensive lenses or digital SLRs, you’ll want to make sure that every pixel works on the CCD, LCD at the back or that the glass in your lens has absolutely no defects (back focusing issues, etc).  If you’re spending $1000-$3000 (or even more), it’s much easier to ensure you get a top quality product or return it and try a few others if the shop is local.

New digital SLRs that can take photos in the dark!

In the last couple of weeks, both Nikon and Canon have announced new  top of the line Digital SLR models to their range.    Obviously way out of my price range, but I’d love to get have one of these in my camera bag!

So what’s new?  It seems that the battle of the pixel count has momentarily stopped and it’s now the battle of the High ISOs – in non-technical speak, the latest Digital SLRs are better at taking clearer photos in darker lighting.   Both of these new cameras advertise the ability to push their ISO up to 102,400  – which is basically like taking photos in darkness!   Well, maybe even pitch black to what our human eyes can see according to Vincent LaForet.

For those that know my photo style, I like taking photos in existing light – I’d rather push up the ISO and get noise than use that flash, so these new cameras are just what I need!

Unfortunately, I can’t justify spending that much money on a camera as its just a hobby for me – I just have to wait and hope that the technology in these cameras trickle down their model lineup to the prosumer models at a more reasonable price.

 

Nikon D3S

Nikon’s News Release:  http://www.nikon.com/about/news/2009/1014_d3s_01.htm

Nikon’s D3S Product Page:  http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/digitalcamera/slr/d3s/index.htm

 

Canon 1D Mark IV

Canon’s 1D Mark IV Product Page:  http://www.usa.canon.com/consumer/controller?act=ModelInfoAct&fcategoryid=139&modelid=19584

 

Note: to Canon/Nikon – if you do feel the need to lend me one of your latest cameras to test at music/event/concert/dancing gigs in low light, I’d be more than happy to accept 🙂

Nikon 18-200 VR vs 17-55 2.8

We spent the weekend with a family holidaying in Guilderton.   It is a great getaway, away from Perth but not too far to drive.

My friend had a Nikon 18-200 VR lens, whereas I brought my 17-55 2.8.   The 18-200 VR was the “other” lens I was considering when buying the 17-55 so I was happy to have a little play with it.   Is it “better”?   I don’t think there’s a “better”, it’s just different – it satisfies different requirements.

Good Things

I loved the smaller size of the lens!   My 17-55 is a big lens.  But when the 18-200 is extended to 200mm, it does get quite long, but that’s to be expected.  The smaller size is definitely good for travel when compared to the wider barrel of the 17-55.

I loved the ability to zoom up to 200mm.   We went kayaking on Moore River and the wives stayed on shore, snapping some photos of us.   The 17-55 only managed landscape type shots, and we were really small, whereas the 18-200 was able to zoom in really well.

Depth of Field

I’m not sure of the exact calculations, but the largest aperture for the 18-200 ranges from 3.5 at the 18mm end up to 5.6 at the 200mm end.   Yes, this means “more” depth of field, meaning it can be harder to get that thin slice of sharpness and everything else out of focus.   But remember that depth of field also is dependent on focal length, so at 200mm, it’s going to be fairly thin anyway (but not as thin as a fixed 70-200 2.8 lens!).

VR

How about the VR?  After playing around with it in the evening with VR on and off, I found that the VR did make a difference.  It allowed me to take shots down to nearly 1/10th second with minimal shake!!  I was really excited by this!!   However, it was really only good for stationary objects.   For shots of the kids in low light, it didn’t work so well because they weren’t sitting still, resulting in blurred moving subjects.

So in summary, the VR would be good for still portraits, landscapes or scenery shots where the subject is still.  If you’re travelling, shots inside churches, temples, etc would be better with the 18-200 VR lens – you could have a lower ISO, less noise, yet be sharp.

For lowlight photos where the subject could be moving, like concert or dance photography or kids in lowlight, the larger aperture is much more useful.

Summary

So, which should you get if you could only get one?   I think it really depends on your needs and shooting style!

I’m currently getting away with a 17-55 2.8 and a 70-200 2.8.   I use both for events and wedding photos, but if I travel, I’m stuck with just the 17-55 2.8.   I can’t zoom in, but I’ve found that I rarely need to.

Panorama of Le Consulat, Montmartre

Le Consulat, Montmartre, Paris

I had forgotten all about a series of panoramic photos I took on a holiday back in January 2008.

I wanted to travel light On the holiday, so all I brought (and had in terms of a mid-range zoom) was the kit Nikon 18-70mm.  No tripod either, but I felt that I needed to take some panoramic shots becaues of the expansive cities and engaging environments in a new country.  

Here’s one of the Le Consulat – a famous icon in Montmartre, an arty district in Paris.  We had climbed up a heap of stairs to reach the peak of a hill where the Sacre Coeur sits.   We wound around the left side to some shops, and then reached the famous square where artists sell paintings and will draw portraits of you.   This building is little further on past the square.

I’s a 5 image stitch done in Photoshop, and I was happy to use some of the sharpening and local contrast tips that I picked up at Christian Fletcher’s workshop.

Mundaring Dam panorama

Mundaring Weir panorama trial

A few months ago, we camped up in Mundaring and took a bush walk down to the dam.

It was such a beautiful day, blue skies, and the dam was so expansive.  I had my camera on me, but no tripod, but wanted to somehow capture the grandeur of it all.   I snapped a few series of photos that I hoped I could make into panoramas.

And so back I came and stitched them together and tried to make something of them.  But I’m failing.

With this particular shot on top of the dam wall, the stitching is getting all confused by the railings and fence.   In the shot above, you can see the fence on the left and right having a continuity problem.   I started to manually put anchor points on, but with 10 shots or so, it was taking way too long for all the combinations! I think hand holding also meant I was not definitely not rotating around the lenses nodal point either!  I was probably rotating around my torso = bad.

The harsh midday lighting isn’t doing any favours to the shot either!  I know people add colours/tints afterwards for dramatic effect and to change the mood of photo, but unfortunately I haven’t quite mastered that yet. I think I will have to play a bit more with that.

So in the end – I’ve ended up with a shot that is pretty average 😦   Maybe this was one of those times where I should’ve just not taken a photo and enjoyed the scenery more.