Tag Archives: Photo gear

Christian Fletcher workshop

I had been down on Christian Fletcher’s workshop list for a few months.  He doesn’t hold them very often, and I missed the last one down in Dunsborough.  But luckily, he held one up in Perth last week, so it wasn’t too far to drive.

Although he basically just talked for 4 hours, it was satisfying to hear that he is human!  I mean, that the techniques he uses aren’t too out there, his equipment within reach (although unfortunately above my budget!).  

And that post production can make a heap of difference.  I think this is where I need to have more time to play around more.  I just don’t have the time to sit in front of the computer and play around with different settings and stuff at the moment.  But this is where a plain photo can be turned into a stunning image.  I guess it’s the equivalent of locking yourself up in a darkroom and dodging, burning, playing with chemicals, etc.

It was good to hear he’s beginning to like Nikon users 🙂 and nice to see he was wearing the infamous iTNFP T-shirt.  I’m definitely not worthy of that T-shirt yet!

On the endless quest to spend more money on photographic gear, I’ve added some things to my wishlist now:

Manfrotto 338 (3416) Leveling Base
To make it easier to level the camera body on the tripod.  At the moment I’m using the tripod legs to do macro adjustments, which I found inconvenient and a bit dangerous when standing precariously on a slippery rock.

Manfrotto 804RC2 Quick Release Basic Pan/Tilt Head
I’ve only got a small ball head at the moment.  Which is good for some applications, but for landscapes and vertoramas where I really only want to be rotating on 1 axis only, the ball head is useless.  This 3 way head should give me all the flexibility I need.

Manfrotto 341 Junior Elbow Bracket
Christian recommended using one of these to place the nodal point of the camera on the rotational axis.  There are much more sophisticated and more expensive brackets for panoramic work that let you precisely align your camera, but this one seems to do the job fine.

Future Christmas presents?

Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 lens

Interestingly, both my father and my father-in-law are photography enthusiasts too! I think this is partly why I’ve taken up the hobby myself.   And like me, my fathers have accumulated various photographic gear over the years…  but old gear!

I’ve recently found that my father has a Nikon 50mm f/1.2 lens!   That’s a huge aperture!  I wonder if there’s anything larger.  Anyway, I borrowed it recently and tried it on my D80.   Unfortunately, it’s a manual focus lens.  But I was hoping that the D80 would be able to read or even set the aperture on the lens.   But after trying it on, no such luck.   After some googling, I’ve confirmed that the D80 does not support metering with non-CPU AI lenses.

Oh well, I decided to have a play today- having to set exposure manually (shutter speed on the camera, aperture ring on the lens) as well as focus manually.  But it was fun – and the pictures are amazingly silky smooth!   The bokeh at f/1.2 is amazing, and the depth of field is so thin!

The lens looks mighty on the FE2.

Nikon FE2 with 50mm f/1.2
Nikon FE2 with 50mm f/1.2

Here’s a comparison of my cheap but excellent value for money $150 50mm f/1.8 with the 50mm f/1.2.  You can see that the 50mm f/1.2 has no CPU contacts on the mount.

50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.2
50mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.2

I took some shots of the music of the Presto from Bach’s G minor violin sonata.  This is at f/1.2 on my D80.   A nice small depth of field and creamy out of focus areas.    The only problem I see is that there seems to be a slight green aberration just outside the in-focus area.   And I seemed to have some problems getting the right area to focus – it was almost like something was causing a back or front focus (I haven’t quite figured which yet).   I wonder if my diopter isn’t adjusted correctly, if it’s the lens, the combination of lens and body, or just my lack of experience focusing manually.

Music manuscript with 50mm f/1.2
Music manuscript with 50mm f/1.2

Later this evening, I thought I’d try the lens out with some low light shots.   Unfortunately, with manual focus, and no viewfinder split image focus screen on my D80, I found it extremely hard to get a shot with what I wanted in focus correctly.

My only other complaint is no metering support on the D80.   I don’t mind shooting manual once in a while (especially when the lighting is quite constant), but when I do, I usually rely on the camera to tell me about the exposure.   With this lens, I have to either chimp, or use a light meter.

I think I’ll leave the lens on my D80 for a while to play with.  It’ll definitely be a learning experience, and hopefully force me to learn how to focus manually and judge exposures manually.

Photo of the 50mm f/1.8 taken with the 50mm f/1.2
Photo of the 50mm f/1.8 taken with the 50mm f/1.2

More info here:

Nikon’s Product page – http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Camera-Lenses/1435/NIKKOR-50mm-f%252F1.2.html

Ken Rockwell’s Review – http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/50mm-f12.htm

PBase photos – http://www.pbase.com/cameras/nikon/50_12_ai

Flickr photos – http://www.flickr.com/groups/nikkor50s/

D90 Envy

Nikon D90 (image on nikon.com)
Nikon D90 (image on nikon.com)

I know..  I know..  I sometimes justify the whole SLR route of photography to my wifey saying that I’ll never have to upgrade the SLR body – I will just spend money on lenses.   But the camera gods keep coming out with new fandangled SLR bodies that I really want!

Last year I upgraded from my Nikon D70 to a D80.   At the time I did think it was a bit indulgent as I didn’t really push the D70 to the extremes.  But when I’ve had to use them both side by side for some shoots, I really notice the key differences – in particular, the larger brighter viewfinder, the 10MP vs 6MP, the larger 2.5 inch LCD screen.

But now Nikon has announced the D90 model.  It has a whole slew of new features that I’m not sure I’d use (like Live shoot mode, Movie mode), but I’m really lusting over these particular features:

  • 3 inch LCD at the back that’s the same as the D3 – I really notice the difference when reviewing photos on the D80 compared to the D70.  This is even bigger with 4 times as many pixels.  It should make reviewing images on the camera even easier.
  • The same high image quality as the D3 using Nikon’s latest Expeed technology – don’t need to save up for a D3/D300 now
  • Big improvements in low light sensitivity (less noise at higher ISOs, and up to ISO 3200) – I love shooting using existing light, large apertures and high ISOs (read – anti-strobist!).  Anything to reduce noise is good.
  • Buit in image sensor cleaning – I get scared everytime I take my Giotto Rocket Air Blower to my D80’s CCD.  It’s about time Nikon introduced this capability into the camera itself.
  • 12.3 MP – more isn’t necessarily better, but it means getting good resolutions after cropping easier

So, wifey (or any other relative looking to buy me a present) – if you’re reading this – I’d love to see one of these under the tree for Xmas! hahahaha..

Back to reality, the D90 (body only) seems to be going for US$999 at BH Photo & Video and AUD$1329 at DigitalRev on eBay.

More info here:

Ken Rockwell’s D90 Review – http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d90.htm

Digital Photography Review’s D90 Review – http://www.dpreview.com/previews/nikond90/

Nikon’s Page on the D90 – http://www.nikonusa.com/Find-Your-Nikon/Product/Digital-SLR/25446/D90.html

Thanks PRA!

Well today I had a small photo assignment..  at work!  I had to do a group shot, probably outdoors.  I do have a cheap studio lighting kit, but it’s not portable and I don’t have any battery packs or anything.  So I decided to do it minimalist – strobist style.

Unfortunately, I suddenly realised last night that I didn’t have any adapter to mount my Speedlight onto my lighting stand!  D’oh!   After dropping off the kids, I tackled the traffic into the city and eventually was lent an umbrella swivel bracket from PRA Imaging.  Thanks PRA!  You saved my day 🙂

Now to wait until they come in stock and I’ll grab a couple…

Umbrella & Flash Shoe Swivel Bracket
Umbrella & Flash Shoe Swivel Bracket

Review: DigitalRev eBay

Since becoming more interested in photography a few years ago, I have started buying more and more toys.   Prices in stores in Australia have always been too high for me.  I used to buy gear from Cathay Photo on trips to Singapore.  However, this didn’t happen that often and usually meant I didn’t get Australian warranty.

And so I stumbled across eBay shops one day, and DigitalRev, in particular.  DigitalRev (http://www.digitalrev.com) is one of the online eBay shops specialising in photography gear.  I was attracted to the fact that since it’s on eBay, I could read reviews of previous transactions and I could use any protection provided by eBay for my purchases.  These definitely helped me decide on DigitalRev as one of the first eBay shops I’d try.

So how does it work?

1) I assume you’re signed up for eBay – if not, sign up
2) You buy your gear from DigitalRev through eBay using “Buy It Now”
3) You pay for it through eBay (I like PayPal for the protection)
4) Once they receive and acknowledge payment, they’ll send it to you
5) Then you wait patiently for a week for it to turn up 🙂

DigitalRev seems to be one of the more reliable and better rated stores on eBay.  It has a great range, their prices are competitive and I have had pretty quick responses from them.  I can also vouch that their return process works too (see below).  You don’t really have to worry about them not sending you your item as there is eBay buyer’s protection and they wouldn’t want negative feedback anyway!

I’ve since purchased many lenses and camera bodies from DigitalRev and been very happy with the results.  The main reason I like DigitalRev and eBay shops is the price – it’s much cheaper than buying gear from a store here in Australia.  Also, there’s more range and there’s no salesman forcing you into a purchase.

However, buying online means you don’t get the gear straight away.  So if you really need it for a client job, you either have to plan ahead or buy it from a local store.

Also, the lenses that DigitalRev are not covered with an official manufacturer’s warranty as they are “grey market lenses” (see this blog for a good description – http://jimdoty.com/Tips/Equipment/gray_market/gray_market.html).  What this means is it’s not distributed through the official local channels and doesn’t come with local manufacturer’s warranty.  You’re basically bypassing the Nikon Australia and Australian store markups.  What DigitalRev does is provide a dealer’s warranty.   So, if something goes wrong, they will replace it for you themselves.  DigitalRev will even reimburse you for postage.    But in the end, a similar arrangement to when I used to buy gear from Singapore.  If something went wrong, I knew I’d probably have to send it back to Singapore.

Be aware, that if buying things over AUD$1000, the item may be stopped at customs at which you have to pay GST on it to collect it.

For us in Australia, DigitalRev has an Australian agent – basically, someone in Australia that you can return the faulty equipment to and they’ll arrange a replacement for you (presumably from Hong Kong).  When I bought my Nikon D80, I found a stuck pixel on the LCD at the back – I shipped it to the Australian agent and they arranged a replacement for me.  I got it the new one within a week.  There is much talk on the net about whether it’s a good idea or not to buy precision optics with this type of warranty/service.

I don’t think there’s a single answer for everyone, it really depends on your situation and budget and how much risk you can afford.  For me, being a hobby and price being everything, saving the money was the priority and luckily I haven’t had any problems.  I’ve recommended DigitalRev to a few friends and they’ve had no problems either.

That said, I bought my latest toy from B&H Photo Video, for even cheaper than DigitalRev and it’s NOT grey market!  But that’s another story..