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Found 40 results

  1. This lens is an good example of the advantages the new Z-mount brings. The large diameter of the Z mount allows the lens designers to come up with new exciting and/or better performing lenses. The Z 24-70mm f4 is an example of the latter, it's optimised for the new mount and thus behaves in a way like the similarly optimised lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system, the outstanding Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 comes to mind. The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f4 has excellent MTF figures but what's more important in every day use, it's a no-nonsense tool for fantastic images. Finally a "standard range" zoom lens for a full frame system that to me has no flaws. Sharpness is outstanding, even in the far corners. Optical distortion is corrected in the RAW profile and Jpegs. Color, contrast and bokeh are good (although the Z 50mm f1.8 has more punch). Built, size and handling are also very nice. In a kit combined with the Z6 or Z7 this lens represents great value for money and should be a no-brainer when contemplating the purchase of a Z6 or Z7. Some images (all shot on a Nikon Z6) 1. f5 1/13sec iso320 2. f5 1/15sec iso560 3. f5.6 1/40sec iso100 4. f10 1/13sec iso100 5. f4 1/1600sec iso 100
  2. I thought all the big events were over and done with but there has been a barrage of new products in the last few days - all mirrorless ! first a new Nikon Z Lens; a new Canon R body plus a slew of R mount lenses previewed and a new body and lens from Fuji. There was also a Panasonic announcement a week or two earlier.
  3. In my seemingly never ending quest for smaller and lighter gear for my street photography, I recently acquired a slightly used Nikon Coolpix A compact camera. I had previously been shooting with M4/3 gear, specifically Panasonic cameras. The A was introduced in June 2013. It features an APS-C DX 16.2 megapixel sensor in a very small, compact package. It comes with a fixed 28mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens. The camera has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/2000 and the ISO can be set from 100 to 6400, with two extensions available- 12,800 and 25,600. While I rarely shoot anything beyond 3200, I have tried the 12,800 setting and the results were really astonishing- very clean and usable images. My settings for the camera are the same ones I have used on all film and digital cameras I have used in the past- I shoot in aperture priority with center-weighted metering. I set the lens to autofocus about 50% of the time. The rest of the time I switch the lens to manual focus, set the lens to f/11, and zone focus by manually focusing the lens on an object about 6 feet away- anything from about 4 feet away and beyond is in focus. The biggest adjustment I had to make when I first got the camera was learning to use a screen to compose the shots with instead of some sort of viewfinder. In the past I had always used some type of viewfinder, whether it be optical or electronic. Plus, in very bright sunlight, the screen on the back of the camera can be difficult to use, so I promptly purchased an Xpro Viewfinder III for the camera. This is an extremely well-made optical bright-line viewfinder with markings for 28, 35, and 45mm lenses. This viewfinder is a real bargain compared to the Nikon viewfinder, which can cost as much as $300.00. The XPro viewfinder is approximately $75.00. I also added a Nikon lens hood which snaps into a ring that surrounds the lens. Using the camera on the streets has truly been a liberating experience. The fixed 28mm lens is just about perfect for street photography. I tend to compose the shots a bit differently than I had previously and the small, compact size of the camera means that I virtually take it with me everywhere I go. A lot of times, I do not carry any type of bag or pouch for the camera- I simply hang the camera around my neck (something I never did previously), stuff an extra battery and memory card in my pocket, and then I am off to explore and see what I can find. In the next few weeks I will be publishing an article about another type of camera I will be experimenting with- street photography using a large format 8x10 pinhole film camera. I will be scanning the 8x10 black-and-white contact prints using an Epson flat-bed scanner. I do not know what the results are going to be using such a large and slow camera for street photography, but I do know one thing- it should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned for the results. Pacific Street - Dallas, Texas Elm Street - Dallas, Texas Animas Street - Trinidad, Colorado The Eye - Commerce Street - Dallas, Texas Houston Street - Dallas, Texas El Dorado Motel - Fort Worth, Texas NW 4th Street - Fort Worth, Texas Main Street - Dallas, Texas Pegasus Plaza - Dallas, Texas
  4. On my seemingly-eternal search for interesting lenses for close-up work I could not help but come across the Schneider Kreuznach Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5 CAS lens, if only because Schneider promotes the Macro Varon all over the place. And that’s a lot of promotion for a lens most photographers have never heard of. Well, I heard about the Macro Varon and searched it down to its price tag of $4500 and that set me back on my heels a bit. I don’t need a new lens THAT much. Well, perhaps a Zeiss Otus or two would be alright. I did make some calls, sent out some email requests and finally found that the Macro Varon could be had for somewhere in the mid $3K range brand-new. Well, of course that just sent me to Ebay looking for used copies. However, while it has happened, the Macro Varon does not show up used on Ebay very often, in fact hardly ever. Well, that limited my searching. I did find out that one sold on Ebay some time ago. Again, I spoke with Schneider reps about the Makro Varon on the phone and finally just let it go. It’s not that I don’t have other lenses that I might buy. LOL. And for those of you foolish so think I’m rich, guess again. I sell old equipment to buy new equipment as I go along. I just do it methodically. To make a long story short, recently a good friend sent me a message that there was a Makro Varon actually on Ebay for $1500. Well, that turned the corner for me and I bought it in about 15 seconds from receiving the message. It came from China, was used, but looked in decent condition. When the lens finally showed up at my door it was obviously brand new or in mint condition. However, it came in a strange industrial lens-mount which held the lens captive with three very tiny screws. I exhausted my collection of tiny screwdrivers, flat, Phillips, and torx (star). Then I called the local optician and gear-heads and no one had a tool that small. Well, that was disappointing, since I had no way to mount the lens without removing this big clucky adapter that gripped it first. Then I went salvaging through dozens of boxes of camera-related stuff and finally found a set of tiny torx drivers, but none of them was small enough to work. But, there was one (tiny) hole where a missing torx wrench should be. Where was it? And sure enough, in the bottom of my box of Cambo Actus parts was the tiny torx screwdriver and to my surprise, it worked! I had the lens mounted in a few minutes and was good to go. Now, I wanted to find out if this lens is best mounted directly to the camera and the camera placed on a focus rail, or should the lens be mounted directly on the camera with a small helicoid to focus with. The lens itself has no way to focus. It has six aperture blades (I wish there were more) and It has f/stops from f.4.5 through and including f/8. It does have something special, however. The Macro Varon has an additional ring on the barrel that allows me to adjust the floating lens parts in the lens to fit a particular magnification ratio 0.5x to 2.0x. This compensates and suppresses aberration depending on the magnification ratio. The only other lens that I have that has such a ring is the first edition of the Nikon Printing Nikkor 150mm APO f/2.8. These rings actually work. Another rather unique feature of the Macro Varon is that on each individual lens, during final adjustment, a tiny drop of red paint is placed on the rim of the barrel that allows (when the M42 adapter is screwed on tight) us to orient the particular lens to the camera sensor orthogonally, at right-angles. This is red dot calculated and optimized for each individual lens. Anyway, I soon figured out that (at least for now) I get the most play out of mounting the lens on the Cambo Actus Mini View Camera. Next, I had to decide what kind of hood would be best, since my first shots (made without a hood) lacked a bit of contrast. I tried both flared and narrow-tube hoods and finally fashioned one from the Nikon K-Ring set, one K5 plus two K3s all screwed together. They made a nice tubular hood that seems fine so far. Mounted on the Cambo Actus Mini, I soon found out that rather than the large (special order) cambo bellows I normally use that prevented me from getting as much field of view as I wanted with this lens, so I substituted a short bellows, which is fine because I do not need as much room with the Macro Varon anyway. That helped a bunch. I could also look into using a tiny extension/helicoid mounted directly on the camera, but I doubt that I would gain much, and moving the rear-standard on a view camera is better for stacking than using a helicoid. Anyway, I am up and running. Here is a quick photo of my setup, the Nikon D850 on the Cambo Actus Mini. On that is the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm f/4.5 lens adapted to Nikon mount, with a hood made of several K-rings. So far, so good. And I include a couple of early shots taken with the Makro Varon to give you an idea of what this lens can produce. This setup is not hiking-material, but certainly can go outside to the fields and meadows, at least if there is easy access so that the gear does not have to be carried far. The lens itself would be easy to carry for hikes, but would have to include some form of helicoid to focus or be happy with a DOF at F/8 and fixed focus. Anyway, I’m checking out the Schneider Macro Varon 85mm and would be interested in any other user’s experience. A fine review of the Scheider Macro Varon is this one by Robert O’Toole: https://www.closeuphotography.com/macro-varon/schneider-macro-varon-lens
  5. The Nikon industrial Printing Nikkors are exemplary and highly corrected lenses, but for whom? Who wants to use them because, for the most part, they are restricted to a particular narrow field of view. There not only is no infinity available, but in general they are highly restricted as far as view. Worse (much worse) is that the higher the f/stop, the less sharpness and resolution. So, we can’t just dial up the f/stop to f/11 or f/16 and expect spectacular results. The Printing Nikkors are optimized wide open or close to it.. They may be better than ordinary lenses, but the sharpness and resolution are confined to the lens either wide-open or nearly so. And that is a very thin depth of field. Who uses that? And so, there is no sweet spot for standard photography unless... and here it comes, we stack focus. That’s where these lenses come into their own and earn their high prices, at least in my book. Using focus stacking, we can paint on focus just where we want it, a razor-thin layer at a time. Yet, even for focus stackers, the reproduction rate for most is very limited in range. It’s a kind of “take it or leave it” proposition, i.e. use this limited field of view or forget about it. Most Printing Nikkors only come alive on a bellows system, some work only well on a focus rail and none work well on the camera itself without a rail or a small helicoid. There is no native helicoid or way to focus other than the rail, which as focus stackers know, is the least preferred way to stack focus. Why do I bother with these lenses and invest hard-earned cash in finding them? That’s a good question, but the answer is: I like the quality in these lenses and I only wish that kind of correction was the standard in lenses. The closest I come are the Zeiss Otus lenses, (and the Zeiss 135mm) which I consider an Otus. With the above in mind, let’s look at the main Printing Nikkors (95mm, 105mm, and 150mm) and see what their field of view IS like. Forget about macro range and above. These lenses can go there, but I don’t. Someone else can check that out. The 95mm PN standard magnification range is listed as 1/3x~1/1.5x, while the 105mm PN standard magnification range is listed as 1/1.5x~1.5x, and the 150 PN standard magnification range is listed as 1/x. Other than there, we are going outside their optimum qualities at our own risk IQ-wise. Since I don’t usually do macro, but rather close-up photography, that tells me that the PC 95 is going to be the most useful (all around) for me. It does not mean that the others (or the 95mm) don’t go higher in f/stops, but that they don’t go higher at their sharpest. What’s the point of having a $3K lens if I am not going to be able to shoot at the range I want to shoot at and get top IQ? Unless I want to stack focus, I am kind of limited to “arty” photos, ones with just a hint of field depth. It’s nice, but for only once in a while. The 95mm PN can be used mounted directly to my Nikon D850, provided that camera is mounted on a focus fail. I could also add a very small helicoid to the lens, but the moment I do that I immediately lose some of what I most need, range. This lens is designed for something like 1:2 magnification. I find the 95mm very sharp, easy to use, and probably gives me the best bang for the buck, so to speak. The PN 95mm has 45mm outer threads. The lens mount M45 x 0.75 and there are 12 blades. The 105mm PN pretty much has to be on a bellows or view camera and, even then, the range is limited to about one view and (for my work) that is not even at its sharpest. The PN 105mm has 43mm filter threads and the lens mount is M45 x 0.75. There are 12 blades. There are two PN 150s (actually three), but the one not mentioned here follows the lead of the PN 150, 2nd version, and I don’t have it. The 150mm PNs are advertised for 1X magnification range, but it will work wider, but of course at a loss in IQ I would imagine. The PN 150mm (first version) has front and rear threads of 62mm. I’m not an expert, but this earlier version of the 150mm has an additional ring that compensates for the magnification, insuring sharper images over a wider range of magnification. This is perhaps what makes this version the most useful to me. It actually works and is kind of amazing to watch. You just dial it in and it is sharper. And the PN 150 (version 2) has a filter thread of 58mm and 12 blades. It can’t go much above f/4.5 and not lose quality. It does not have the extra ring to compensate for magnification. As far as mounting the Printing Nikkors to the Nikon-F mount, it is not difficult, but you do have to match up adapters. I have enough laying around here to mix and match until they all are ready to go. I post here two stacked photos for each of the four Printing Nikkors I have. These photos give you a rough idea of the kind of reproduction-ratio that I can get with these lenses. I am sure if you want to go 1:1 and above, you would with some get better results. However, I do the best I can with what I have. Below are shown two sets of four images, the first four are simple stacks of 2 layers, one each focused around the center of each flower. This lets you see each lens with little stacking. The second four images are all stacked liberally. They will show you what a stacked image looks like with each lens. I’m not sure what you will get out of these, but you can take a look. Meanwhile, I continue checking out these interesting (to me) lenses, the Printing Nikkors.
  6. Dallas

    Similar Posts

    I discovered a feature of the software I didn't know existed before and have implemented it in the page footer of all posts where tags are in use. So, for example, having tagged this post with Nikon and Olympus, readers should see shortcut links to several posts with the same tags in the footer. Enjoy!
  7. This post is kind of a mixed bag, it's about the quality of images with a cheap kit lens and about the shooting experience. It's a tradition for me to visit and photograph the annual Christmas Market at our local garden centre. In the past I took my Nikon Df and Olympus E-M10 cameras with fast lenses, useful because the event is indoor and quite dark. This time I took my D5500 with the El Cheapo (only € 69 for a white box version in Holland) variable/slow aperture Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AF-P lens. I also planned to use the Jpeg images and apply minimal post processing. The end result imo is quite ok but the shooting experience was less of a pleasure. The D5500 has a tiny dark viewfinder, viewing the focus point was very difficult if not impossible and after a while I had a headache from tunnel vision. I also had to correct exposure quite a lot (due to Jpeg + minimal post processing) and I dearly missed the live view of the exposure in the EVF of a mirrorless camera. For some shots I switched to live view on the D5500 but the camera then is more prone to camera shake so this was not ideal. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
  8. Kyle

    Range Roving Part 2

    So over a month ago I vowed to "post more" from my mountain trip....one fixed keyboard later and a new CPU, here I am. Enjoy.
  9. I've dabbled a little with adapted lenses on my mirrorless cameras. Those lenses have always been of the modern type. Bumbling into one of the local camera shops here in town, I started looking through the old Nikon lenses (AI/AIS). With Nikon Df and adapted PEN-F in hand...I walked out of there with a Nikon 105/2.5 The lens is just so much fun and easy to use on either camera. That same day, even with the weather being as "meh" as it was, I got some good results and can see a lot more use of it for me. Perhaps some additional dedicated manual focus lenses are in my future. Here is the lens. Well worn on the outside, but the glass is in very good shape considering. Focus ring is very smooth and aperture ring is tight and clicks nicely. A few samples from a walk around my neighborhood. These are from a Fotodiox adapted PEN-F.
  10. I have a special craving for these lenses, especially the older one, the f/3.5. I compared an old f/3.5 non Ai, a f/2.8 Ais and the latest AF f/2.8D. I just wanted to know which one is the sharpest at center and border to decide once and for all which one will remain in my bag. I used a Nikon Df on a tripod, with Aperture Priority. This is far from a complete and scientific test. First batch are pictures of a map in my wall, with the camera placed 1m away from it, so focus may not be perfect. 100% crops from the center and upper left side, lens wide open and two other apertures (f/5.6 and f/8). Second batch are from my window, lens at infinity and 100% crops from center and border (close). Only at f/5.6. They are all in this sequence (older at the top, newer at bottom). 1- NIKKOR 16mm f/3.5 non AI 2- NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8 Ais 3- AF NIKKOR 16mm f/2.8D WIDE OPEN @f/5.6 @f/8 FOCUS AT INFINITY AND @ f/5.6
  11. Covered this today for my VisualOhio news blog. I'd only ever watched a dog show on TV, never been to one in person. It was just like the big Westminster one but instead of one large ring, there were 156 smaller ones. I love dogs so this was a fun assignment. The people were great too! Enjoy!
  12. This was a short video I put together comparing the Nkon D500 and D810 plus first out of the box impressions of the D500. I have since taken the D500 to Costa Rica and had much local time with it. All in all I believe it is a Fantastic body and probably the best DX DSLR body out there, at this time.
  13. Nikon Df Nikkor 35-135/3.5-4.5 Pokeman Go for those who do not know what it is 1 2 3 4 5
  14. Here is a little quick tip for you this holiday season. The bonus gift is that you'll get something that is useful all year long as well. If you've ever shot with a Nikon camera before, you'll know that it is very easy to blow out the red channel in your images (overly bright and saturated). It gives you what you see below: Lovely image of this little boy telling Santa what he wants for Christmas, but Santa's suit is a not right in the red sections. A quick way to rectify this in either Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW or other post processing software is explained within. Shoot in RAW if you can. You'll have more latitude in processing. If not, you may still be able to get this to work quite well with your JPG files. Your RAW image should look something like this when you first begin: The colors are muted and the image is low contrast(nothing strange here for an unprocessed RAW). So the first thing you'll want to do is start bumping up the contrast, exposure if necessary (hopefully you got the flashes at the proper power to make this a non-issue), vibrance, sharpening, etc. Problem is, if you use the TONE controls, they work on an image in an overall way, affecting everything. So in order to get the boys shirt/jeans and the background to a level you like, you end up having the blown out reds like you see in the first image Here is the fix. Scroll down to the section HSL/Color/B&W. Select the word Color. You'll see a box like the one below. After I got all the other colors the way I wanted them, I can now use this to fix Santa's red suit color. Each one of the colored boxes isolates the color properties in the image. It no longer will affect every color in the image. Click the far left box, which is the Red. Bump the Saturation down to -10 and the Luminance down to -40. The real game changer here is Luminance. Once you start sliding that down, you'll see the reds immediately start to lose that blown out look, the detail will return. Those values worked for this image, yours will be different. The take away is that you are just reducing the Luminance of the red colors. That gives us our finished image below: There are other methods of dealing with this, but I found this one to be one of the quicker ways to do it. My setup was 2 strobes (Alien Bee B400) one to camera right and above the subjects, and a fill/hair light to camera left parallel the where Santa was sitting. Power on main light was 1/4, fill light was 1/16 power. Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24-70/2.8G lens was used. Settings were 1/60 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 WB set to flash in camera. Here are the other settings I used in Lightroom.
  15. I never thought the day would come when I would once again be without a Nikon camera in my kit. There was a brief period between 2001 and 2004 when I shot with Canon EOS but then I returned to my Nikon roots in late 2005 with the purchase of a D70. It wasn’t long before all my EOS kit was traded in for more Nikon lenses and flashes. I was happy again. In 2009 I bought a brand new Nikon D700 and up until 2 days ago I had used that camera almost exclusively for all my professional assignments. Product launches, conferences, product photography, plus of course the wildlife and cultural safaris I’ve been organising all saw the bulletproof Nikon D700 getting used. It never failed me, except for the one time I stupidly broke off the battery compartment door by accident. Photographers are mostly restless creatures. We like to keep pace with technology and having the latest hardware is always something to get enthused about, but since the release of the D700 I have remained very unenthused by anything new that Nikon has brought to market. The D800 with an eye-watering 36 million pixels flies in the face of everything I believe in when it comes to making photography easier, so that model never made it to me. It didn’t help that so many users were reporting serious issues with auto-focus either. The D600 followed as the next FX model and, well, the less said about it the better as far as I’m concerned. A product bellyflop if ever there was one. As we all know a few weeks ago they brought out the Nikon Df, a deliciously sexy looking camera with a price-tag that can only leave one wondering if the brains trust at Nikon HQ have been ingesting some kind of psychotropic substance. The D4 and D3s would have been good for me, but as a regular Joe trying to scratch out a living in sub-Saharan Africa, they remain as financially elusive as buying a new F-type Jaguar. So I got restless and frustrated that Nikon wasn’t bringing out anything I considered a worthy successor to the D700. I also got to the point where I looked at each subsequent Nikon DSLR release and thought to myself, “apart from the sensor, what’s really new here?”. The answer was a deafening nothing. The basic camera remained the same. Heavy, fundamentally mechanical and in some ways fraught with impracticalities when it comes to getting yourself into awkward positions to take photos. I began to look at alternative camera brands. The one that caught my eye was the then new Olympus micro four thirds sensored, retro styled OM-D E-M5. I had previously owned two other Oly m43 bodies in the form of the original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 that I enjoyed using very much, but they couldn’t compete with my D700’s IQ. Eventually I sold them, however the thing that stayed with me about those Oly Pen cameras was just how awesome it was to put them in a little shoulder bag and walk around knowing that I wasn’t going to draw a lot of attention, especially compared to the bag I had to lug around whenever I took my Nikon anywhere. One fine day I found myself visiting a local electronics store and they had an OM-D E-M5 in their display cabinet. I asked the sales person if I could give it a closer look. It didn’t take long for me to know I wanted one. My initial impression was that this was a very robust feeling camera. It had a heft to it that left you with little doubt that it was probably worth the somewhat equivalently hefty price tag. I was intrigued and typically I later became fixated on it, exploring online reviews about the camera with every spare moment. That led me to discover that the OM-D E-M5 was making a lot of very high profile photographers very excited about its capabilities. A few months prior to this I had acquired a second Nikon D700 that had hardly seen any use and with the restlessness for something new growing bigger each day I thought “screw it” and I ended up selling that D700 to get the money to buy this Olympus OM-D E-M5. For a guy who doesn’t usually take risks, this was a big one. I still remember thinking to myself that I must have been crazy to sell a top flight Nikon D700 to buy such a small camera, yet whenever I used the E-M5 I just connected with it on a level that I had never connected with any Nikon DSLR. I loved the touch screen at the back and I loved the fact that wherever I took the camera nobody ever looked at me twice, except to occasionally ask me why I was still shooting with a film camera. In some ways it felt liberating and in others it felt like I was cheating on my wife (entirely metaphorically speaking that is). I bought the E-M5 in August of 2012 and I have loved using it ever since. I own 6 lenses for it at this time and there’s very little it can’t do. On our recent month long safari through South Africa’s Western Cape, Namibia and Botswana I used it 95% of the time while the Nikon D700 sat heavily in my ThinkTank roller case. Looking through the images I took on safari I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth I had sweated bricks dragging a nearly 20kg ThinkTank roller case from Durban to Cape Town on a plane when all I was using on that trip fit perfectly in the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag. My wife’s handbag is bigger than that. The only time I used the D700 with purpose was in Etosha for some wildlife shots using the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS and then once in Botswana for birds. I think it gave me a dirty look when I did eventually pick it up. While we were on that safari Olympus released a new OM-D body in the form of the E-M1. I remember sitting bolt upright in my hotel bed while I was reading the press release on my iPad. I wanted it right there and then. It addressed every minor shortcoming of the E-M5 (focus tracking being the main bugbear) and it added some other useful features too, not least of which is built-in wifi. Since its release it has been making a lot of photographers very happy. Why shouldn’t I be one of them? Last week I decided that I was going to take another risk. I put my remaining Nikon D700 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens up for sale. While I was doing that I checked out the shutter count on both cameras. The D700 had done just shy of 30,000 frames in almost 5 years. The OM-D had done over 18,000 frames in 15 months. Those numbers translate into 1200 shots a month with the OM-D versus 500 shots a month with the D700. More than double with Olympus. Any misgivings I had had up until that discovery flew right out the window because here was the bald faced truth in numbers that even the most inventive of statisticians could not argue with. A couple of days ago that D700 of mine went to a new home and yesterday so did the Nikon 24-70/2.8 (my most used Nikon lens). For the first time in nearly a decade I do not own a Nikon camera. I have since placed an order for the E-M1, the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and also the Olympus 75-300mm which I have been hearing very good things about. I will use it as a walk around 150-600mm equivalent until I get the 40-150/2.8 Oly next year. That will bring the total number of lenses I have for m43 up to 9, all of which can fit into a very small bag and which cost way less than the equivalent lenses for the F mount. Many people are asking me why I didn’t just hang onto my D700 and wait for Nikon to bring out something that would fit more with my needs. Some of them even call me crazy and shake their heads. I don’t care. The thing is I’ve been waiting for Nikon to bring out this mythical D700 replacement for many years. It ain’t happening. What has happened while I was waiting for Nikon to produce something that meant something to me though is that I have had a mind shift when it comes to what I need to work as a photographer. I don’t need the hassle of a big heavy system of bodies and lenses, nor do I need to “look the part” of being a pro photographer. It’s a pain having to drag heavy gear around with you all the time. All I need is the knowledge that the equipment I am using is capable of performing and right now I am very happy with the performance of the OM-D system and Olympus’ m43 lenses. They make me want to take my camera everywhere and that’s something I just haven’t ever wanted to do with my D700.
  16. I never thought the day would come when I would once again be without a Nikon camera in my kit. There was a brief period between 2001 and 2004 when I shot with Canon EOS but then I returned to my Nikon roots in late 2005 with the purchase of a D70. It wasn’t long before all my EOS kit was traded in for more Nikon lenses and flashes. I was happy again. In 2009 I bought a brand new Nikon D700 and up until 2 days ago I had used that camera almost exclusively for all my professional assignments. Product launches, conferences, product photography, plus of course the wildlife and cultural safaris I’ve been organising all saw the bulletproof Nikon D700 getting used. It never failed me, except for the one time I stupidly broke off the battery compartment door by accident. Photographers are mostly restless creatures. We like to keep pace with technology and having the latest hardware is always something to get enthused about, but since the release of the D700 I have remained very unenthused by anything new that Nikon has brought to market. The D800 with an eye-watering 36 million pixels flies in the face of everything I believe in when it comes to making photography easier, so that model never made it to me. It didn’t help that so many users were reporting serious issues with auto-focus either. The D600 followed as the next FX model and, well, the less said about it the better as far as I’m concerned. A product bellyflop if ever there was one. As we all know a few weeks ago they brought out the Nikon Df, a deliciously sexy looking camera with a price-tag that can only leave one wondering if the brains trust at Nikon HQ have been ingesting some kind of psychotropic substance. The D4 and D3s would have been good for me, but as a regular Joe trying to scratch out a living in sub-Saharan Africa, they remain as financially elusive as buying a new F-type Jaguar. So I got restless and frustrated that Nikon wasn’t bringing out anything I considered a worthy successor to the D700. I also got to the point where I looked at each subsequent Nikon DSLR release and thought to myself, “apart from the sensor, what’s really new here?”. The answer was a deafening nothing. The basic camera remained the same. Heavy, fundamentally mechanical and in some ways fraught with impracticalities when it comes to getting yourself into awkward positions to take photos. I began to look at alternative camera brands. The one that caught my eye was the then new Olympus micro four thirds sensored, retro styled OM-D E-M5. I had previously owned two other Oly m43 bodies in the form of the original Pen E-P1 and E-P2 that I enjoyed using very much, but they couldn’t compete with my D700’s IQ. Eventually I sold them, however the thing that stayed with me about those Oly Pen cameras was just how awesome it was to put them in a little shoulder bag and walk around knowing that I wasn’t going to draw a lot of attention, especially compared to the bag I had to lug around whenever I took my Nikon anywhere. One fine day I found myself visiting a local electronics store and they had an OM-D E-M5 in their display cabinet. I asked the sales person if I could give it a closer look. It didn’t take long for me to know I wanted one. My initial impression was that this was a very robust feeling camera. It had a heft to it that left you with little doubt that it was probably worth the somewhat equivalently hefty price tag. I was intrigued and typically I later became fixated on it, exploring online reviews about the camera with every spare moment. That led me to discover that the OM-D E-M5 was making a lot of very high profile photographers very excited about its capabilities. A few months prior to this I had acquired a second Nikon D700 that had hardly seen any use and with the restlessness for something new growing bigger each day I thought “screw it” and I ended up selling that D700 to get the money to buy this Olympus OM-D E-M5. For a guy who doesn’t usually take risks, this was a big one. I still remember thinking to myself that I must have been crazy to sell a top flight Nikon D700 to buy such a small camera, yet whenever I used the E-M5 I just connected with it on a level that I had never connected with any Nikon DSLR. I loved the touch screen at the back and I loved the fact that wherever I took the camera nobody ever looked at me twice, except to occasionally ask me why I was still shooting with a film camera. In some ways it felt liberating and in others it felt like I was cheating on my wife (entirely metaphorically speaking that is). I bought the E-M5 in August of 2012 and I have loved using it ever since. I own 6 lenses for it at this time and there’s very little it can’t do. On our recent month long safari through South Africa’s Western Cape, Namibia and Botswana I used it 95% of the time while the Nikon D700 sat heavily in my ThinkTank roller case. Looking through the images I took on safari I couldn’t help but wonder why on earth I had sweated bricks dragging a nearly 20kg ThinkTank roller case from Durban to Cape Town on a plane when all I was using on that trip fit perfectly in the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 shoulder bag. My wife’s handbag is bigger than that. The only time I used the D700 with purpose was in Etosha for some wildlife shots using the Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS and then once in Botswana for birds. I think it gave me a dirty look when I did eventually pick it up. While we were on that safari Olympus released a new OM-D body in the form of the E-M1. I remember sitting bolt upright in my hotel bed while I was reading the press release on my iPad. I wanted it right there and then. It addressed every minor shortcoming of the E-M5 (focus tracking being the main bugbear) and it added some other useful features too, not least of which is built-in wifi. Since its release it has been making a lot of photographers very happy. Why shouldn’t I be one of them? Last week I decided that I was going to take another risk. I put my remaining Nikon D700 and Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens up for sale. While I was doing that I checked out the shutter count on both cameras. The D700 had done just shy of 30,000 frames in almost 5 years. The OM-D had done over 18,000 frames in 15 months. Those numbers translate into 1200 shots a month with the OM-D versus 500 shots a month with the D700. More than double with Olympus. Any misgivings I had had up until that discovery flew right out the window because here was the bald faced truth in numbers that even the most inventive of statisticians could not argue with. A couple of days ago that D700 of mine went to a new home and yesterday so did the Nikon 24-70/2.8 (my most used Nikon lens). For the first time in nearly a decade I do not own a Nikon camera. I have since placed an order for the E-M1, the Olympus 12-40/2.8 and also the Olympus 75-300mm which I have been hearing very good things about. I will use it as a walk around 150-600mm equivalent until I get the 40-150/2.8 Oly next year. That will bring the total number of lenses I have for m43 up to 9, all of which can fit into a very small bag and which cost way less than the equivalent lenses for the F mount. Many people are asking me why I didn’t just hang onto my D700 and wait for Nikon to bring out something that would fit more with my needs. Some of them even call me crazy and shake their heads. I don’t care. The thing is I’ve been waiting for Nikon to bring out this mythical D700 replacement for many years. It ain’t happening. What has happened while I was waiting for Nikon to produce something that meant something to me though is that I have had a mind shift when it comes to what I need to work as a photographer. I don’t need the hassle of a big heavy system of bodies and lenses, nor do I need to “look the part” of being a pro photographer. It’s a pain having to drag heavy gear around with you all the time. All I need is the knowledge that the equipment I am using is capable of performing and right now I am very happy with the performance of the OM-D system and Olympus’ m43 lenses. They make me want to take my camera everywhere and that’s something I just haven’t ever wanted to do with my D700. View full article
  17. Here is a little quick tip for you this holiday season. The bonus gift is that you'll get something that is useful all year long as well. If you've ever shot with a Nikon camera before, you'll know that it is very easy to blow out the red channel in your images (overly bright and saturated). It gives you what you see below: Lovely image of this little boy telling Santa what he wants for Christmas, but Santa's suit is a not right in the red sections. A quick way to rectify this in either Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW or other post processing software is explained within. Shoot in RAW if you can. You'll have more latitude in processing. If not, you may still be able to get this to work quite well with your JPG files. Your RAW image should look something like this when you first begin: The colors are muted and the image is low contrast(nothing strange here for an unprocessed RAW). So the first thing you'll want to do is start bumping up the contrast, exposure if necessary (hopefully you got the flashes at the proper power to make this a non-issue), vibrance, sharpening, etc. Problem is, if you use the TONE controls, they work on an image in an overall way, affecting everything. So in order to get the boys shirt/jeans and the background to a level you like, you end up having the blown out reds like you see in the first image Here is the fix. Scroll down to the section HSL/Color/B&W. Select the word Color. You'll see a box like the one below. After I got all the other colors the way I wanted them, I can now use this to fix Santa's red suit color. Each one of the colored boxes isolates the color properties in the image. It no longer will affect every color in the image. Click the far left box, which is the Red. Bump the Saturation down to -10 and the Luminance down to -40. The real game changer here is Luminance. Once you start sliding that down, you'll see the reds immediately start to lose that blown out look, the detail will return. Those values worked for this image, yours will be different. The take away is that you are just reducing the Luminance of the red colors. That gives us our finished image below: There are other methods of dealing with this, but I found this one to be one of the quicker ways to do it. My setup was 2 strobes (Alien Bee B400) one to camera right and above the subjects, and a fill/hair light to camera left parallel the where Santa was sitting. Power on main light was 1/4, fill light was 1/16 power. Nikon D700 and Nikkor 24-70/2.8G lens was used. Settings were 1/60 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 WB set to flash in camera. Here are the other settings I used in Lightroom. View full article
  18. Guest

    The New 300 mm f/4 PF ED Nikkor E

    In terms of size, the use of a Fresnel principle has indeed dwarfed this 300 compared to other lenses of the same speed and focal length. Without its beefy sunshade, the PF Nikkor is just a tad longer to say an ED 180 mm f/2.8. It's lighter as well. Filter is the by now ubiquitous 77 mm size. Build and workmanship follow the current slick yet curiously anonymous fashion of modern Nikkors. The lens is slim enough to share the removable tripod collar of the 70-200 mm f/4 Nikkor. In common with that lens, the tripod collar is an optional extra. My review sample had no collar so I haven't been able to assess its qualities, perhaps owners of the 70-200/4 can pitch in here. The flight control deck on the left-hand side has settings for A/M, M/A, and M focusing modes. Apart from the pretty obvious implication of 'M' mode, one really has to consult the paperwork to decide upon the difference between A/M and M/A modes. Apparently M/A allows faster override on the AF functionality, but the information provided by Nikon here is terse and slightly confusing. Perhaps I need to become a hard-core AF enthusiast to appreciate the true difference. There is also a range switch to limit the lens to focus within infinity to 3 m. The near limit is approx. 1.4m, which does allow for some pretty tightly framed close-ups. AF speed is decent, but no more, on my Df. Accuracy was excellent so no need for any fine tuning here. Nikon follows the practice of some recent lenses by giving the 300 PF an electronic aperture. This means some of the older Nikons, say from the D2 series or earlier, cannot control the lens aperture. It's quite clear Nikon wants to introduce 'E' aperture to every new Nikkor, but thankfully they have commenced this make-over with specialised high-end products first. Despite the operational advantages of 'E' envisioned by Nikon, I still much prefer the fail-safe and time-tested manual aperture control directly on the lens. My Df simply calls for lenses with aperture rings to yield the perfect handling of the camera/lens combination. However, the 300 PF isn't that badly functional on the Df if you close your eyes to the lack of an aperture ring. VR is implemented via a three-way slider control to give 'Off, 'Normal' and 'Sport' settings. There is the usual confusion as to what really controls VR; the shutter release or the AF-ON button. Or perhaps both, at least in 'Sports' mode. The Fresnel lens construction shortens the optical path significantly. At the same time, new kinds of optical issues are introduced. It's obvious Nikon has mulled over this design for quite a long time until they finally decided to give it a go. Thus, expectations of high performance are natural and the rather stiff pricing point adds to this as well. Now, to the business end of this Nikkor. The main properties are as follows; The image is very sharply rendered corner to corner. Vignetting (corner light fall-off) is present at the widest apertures. Bokeh and blurring of background is nice. However, mechanical vignetting ("cat's eyes" blur circles) can be seen towards the image periphery at the widest aperture settings. Blur circles are kept quite circular up to f/6.3 and some edginess can be seen at f/7.1. As expected from a telephoto design, there is some geometric distortion of the pincushion type. However, the levels are low, thus even architecture could be depicted with only occasional need of any post-processing correction. There is a surprisingly high amount of chromatic aberration given its ED design. Most if not all of this is of the lateral kind, though, so removal in a decent RAW conversion programme is quite easy. It is worth noting that the preview shown in camera is based upon a jpg and accordingly, the lateral chromatic aberration is almost impossible to detect there. Open up a NEF however and you'll see LCA in spades. Image contrast is slightly lower than what we see with ordinary telephoto designs. Thus most captures benefit from a slight tweaking of contrast later in the work flow. Bleeding of highlights apparently is kept under excellent control. Time perhaps to put up some real sample images? This is a snapshot across the valley where I live, in the northern parts of Oslo. The depth of the scene is about 1 km. shot at f/5, 1/1000 sec, 250 ISO, with my Df and the 300 PF hand-held. No VR. The entire frame is presented, no adjustments other than a small detail increase in PhotoNinja to counteract the slightly low contrast of the PF lens. LCA reduction is applied as well. Please view large. Here is an example of the detectable, yet very low pincushion distortion exhibited by the 300 PF. Entire frame scaled to 2000x1333 pix, 1/1000 sec at f/7.1, 160 ISO, hand-held, on Df. The rendition of the out-of-focus areas is quite pleasing and you can stop down a bit a still keep the background sufficiently smooth. This is f/7.1 at which point the blur circles from specular highlights start to lose their perfectly circular shape. With the PF (Phase Fresnel) optics goes a propensity for forming 'onion rings' with these blur circles. They indeed do occur, but not as distinct as say exhibited by the new AFS 20 mm f/1.8 Nikkor. OK, so we know the new lens works. Let's look more at some details of its behaviour. The Fresnel principle may introduce issues by flare and lowered micro contrast. It's evident Nikon has addressed these areas: although an overall lowered contrast is a hallmark of the 300 PF, it handles scene contrast surprisingly well. Here, I tried to provoke severe flare by shooting sun reflecting off a window frame. According to the light meter, and the in-camera preview, the capture should be well and thoroughly overexposed. However, thanks to the dynamic latitude of the Df's sensor, and some internal wizardry of PhotoNinja, only a very small part of the image is actually blown out. This is the entire frame, The 100% crop of the overexposed area clearly shows how well the PF lens handled the immense contrast. The transition from blown to parts with some details intact is very smooth and gradual and flare entering the darker brick wall is controlled. Most telephoto lenses of conventional construction could be hard pressed to render these details any better. I've alluded to chromatic nasties a few times already, so time to scrutinise this potential problematic area. On subjects with inherent high contrast, such as snow on branches or trees seen against the sky, the 300 PF shows significant amounts of lateral chromatic aberration. As usual for this kind of colour issue, the fringing increases in intensity towards the peripheral parts of the frame. Here is an example, taken under low contrast light during a morning snow fall (the crop is the lower left corner and the branches are not in the plane of best focus). However, due to the lateral nature of these fringes, a quick fix in PhotoNinja clears up the rendition remarkably well. The crop below is the same frame run through PhotoNinja's automatic Chromatic aberration Tool so basically is a one-click affair. The readiness by which LCA is cleared in the software conversion is an indirect sign of low longitudinal chromatic aberration ('axial colour'). This detail of a snow-covered chair, taken at 45 degrees of incidence at the near limit, shows axial colour indeed is almost perfectly gone; Thus, one can expect crisp and clear colour rendition for close-ups. A most welcome departure from the stock Micro lenses (Nikon and other brands the names of which shall not be mentioned) with all their murky colour fringing around the focused plane. Now, to the VR performance. It's no secret I'm not in general too keen on having VR incorporated in a lens as the optics become more complex, and you do lose some control over detail rendition and the manner in which the image blurs appear. Nothing beats a well-designed (not necessarily heavy) tripod for getting the sharpest shots. However, it cannot be denied the stabilising feature can save your day -or make you get the picture - once in a while, so I'll accept it grudgingly as long as it can be switched off easily. The 300 PF Nikkor has three setings for VR: Off (should be in the default position but isn't), Normal (which occupies the middle default location), and Sport. The paperwork accompanying the lens isn't very clear what the decisive differences between Normal and Sport really are. I assume the Sport mode allows a little more movement of the camera say for panning, but haven't seen much of a difference during my tests. Both VR modes apparently get into action when the shutter release is pushed halfway down, whether or not AF is initiated by the release, and deactivate if you use AF-ON to focus. A configuration that really does not make much sense to me and it defeats the purpose of the dedicated AF-ON control found on the better Nikon models. Notwithstanding these niggles, VR really works quite well on the 300/4 PF Nikkor and you can, with some luck, shoot at 3 stops slower than the normal recommended shutter speed. I shot some VR test shots using an Olympus DSLR as subject, to hearten Dallas' mind perhaps. Thee setting were ISO 250, f/4.5, and 1/40 sec with the lens hand-held on the Df. The entire frame is here, and the 100% crop of the frame with VR off clearly shows I cannot get a sharp image at that speed with a hand-held 300 mm lens. No big surprise. Let this be the reference to assess the efficacy of VR. Here is the same subject , now with VR in Normal mode; The improvement in image clarity is quite significant to my eyes. Using Sports mode for VR produces more or less the same result as Normal, but there is a tendency to a slightly harsher background rendition. Could be a fluke under the current abysmal shooting conditions, so take this observation with at least a pinch of salt. I'll try to repeat later. If weather improves I might venture into the field to shoot more interesting scenery. All in due time. Aargh, still inclement weather. Thus the Moth Orchids in the window of my girl friend's home had to serve as test subjects for the close-up performance of the 300 PF. Nikon's data sheet specifies a reproduction ratio of 0.24x (approx. 1:4), which were the 300 a zoom lens would have netted it a 'Macro' designation. However, one-fourth life-size is in no way true 'macro', so the 300 PF was saved from such disgrace. In common with most telephoto lenses, its performance drops at near range, as plainly seen in this capture of Phalaenopsis flowers. Shot at f/4, 1/250 sec ISO 400, with VR Normal activated. I tried this, and other flowers, using VR Sport mode, and had severe trouble getting focus accuracy because VR kicked in as soon as I touched the shutter release and jilted the focus off target. Besides, many of the shots (at 1/125 sec) had double contours to indicate VR-induced movement. Thus, the 300 mm f/4 PF Nikkor is no substitute for a Micro-Nikkor or equivalent lens. But it can deliver the image in a pinch. I repeated close-up tests with a tripod support to eliminate the potential adverse influence from hand-holding the lens. Using my AF 200 mm f/4 ED-IF Micro-Nikkor as a reference, the 300 PF Nikkor now delivered much better results. Not entirely up to a genuine Micro-Nikkor, but close enough for for most situations. However, it again proved imperative that VR should be turned off and you also should employ proper technique such as combining mirror lock-up and a cable release to capture the shot. For long exposures with a tripod-mounted lens, VR is likely to degrade the image by making blurs in one ('Normal' mode or two dimensions ('Sport' mode). For these tests, shutter speeds ranged from a 'fast' 1/8 sec to a 'slow' 0.8 sec.
  19. Guest

    Same Place, Different Light

    I often think that the given light can play a more important role than the place itself. - This is about 200 meters down the river on the above shots, 2014. - And a newly edited shot from 2011, with my beloved and deeply missed D2X. "Moon Over Sea"
  20. Jyda

    Hiking (image heavy)

    In September this year I went for a few days hike in the Swedish mountains. I brought both a Nikon D810 and an Olympus OM-D E-M5. The Nikon for more serious shooting and the Olympus with a 17/1.8 to carry around my neck for casual shots. Both systems performed well. As can be seen from the pictures below, the temperature was on some days below freezing. That meant gloves were a necessity and operating the small controls on the Olympus was cumbersome. Nevertheless it was often preferably to digging for the Nikon in the backpack. The view from my tent the first night. Breakfast was interrupted by a snorting sound just outside the tent. It turned out to be a curious reindeer. Getting ready to leave for the next day. The tent I use is a Hilleberg Akto. A really great, light solo tent. I carry everything in a regular Arcteryx backpack. Speaking of reindeers, here's an example of why white isn't such a good colour to be during the summer. There are two reindeers in the picture. More reindeers. A nice place to take some shots. D810 with a 70-200/2.8 mounted on a light weight Gitzo tripod. One of the shots from the vantage point shown above. The next day was colder and some snow had fallen during the night. Still standing water had developed a thin sheet of ice. A typical hut for taking a short break. They are not for spending the night unless you are in an emergency. They are a welcome sight especially during the winter when the mountain stations are closed. Heating is provided by a wood burning stove and it also contains an emergency phone. The Swedish mountain terrain is typically quite flat and easy to hike even without trails. Back on lower ground the autumn colours sang their last hurrah. More autumn colours. One last bridge to cross before returning to civilization.
  21. Of course it matters. But MicroFourThirds vs Nikon FX web size images in real life photography ...? Please view large for best comparison. 1. Olympus E-M10 1. Nikon Df 2. Olympus E-M10 2. Nikon Df 3. Olympus E-M10 3. Nikon Df 4. Olympus E-M10 4. Nikon Df 5. Olympus E-M10 5. Nikon Df 6. Olympus E-M10 6. Nikon Df
  22. Guest

    24 Image Milky Way Panorama

    We are blessed with an incredible night sky in South Africa and I wanted to capture it in all its glory! So i set up my D3s and with meticulous accuracy, a wiberly side kick, really right stuff ball head and about 30 minutes shooting I got 24 images (12 top, 12 bottom) and stitched in photoshop after editing in Lightroom. Would love to know what you think!
  23. Guest

    A hyena reflects

    One month to go and a hyena stares into a pool wondering what wonders will be out to be photographed when the Nikongear group arrives at Sabi Sabi
  24. Guest

    Stitching stars

    8 images stitched together to create one epic shot of the milky way and a shooting star for good measure
  25. Guest

    Montenegro 2014

    ...
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