Apr 142014

How the Nikon V1 is changing my approach to Photography

by Francois Kaplan


Hey guys!

First let me congratulate you for the blog, it is always interesting and refreshing to read!

When I was 13 years old, I got my first serious camera, the Nikkormat EL with a 50mm prime. I enjoyed taking photos for years, mostly during my vacations. For some reason, studies, work, other activities probably, I gradually used it less and less and at one point, like many, I moved to digital cameras, this was the future! I bought a Canon ixus which had great reviews, but it broke, the cost of repair was prohibitive, almost like buying a new one. Anyhow a new one was just announced (of course) so I bought it. Unfortunately it fell also and broke a few months later. Even though I was the one who dropped it, I was upset with this concept of using fragile cameras and being driven to have to buy a new model each time something happened. I got a bit emotional with the whole thing and decided I will stop using digital cameras altogether and came back to my good’old Nikkormat.

This was my first shock! The process of taking photos was maybe a bit more complex than with the digital camera (but at the same time very refreshing and delightful) and when I got the prints back…. wow! They had a completely different quality to them, they had… soul (can I say this?). So here I was, happy again with my Nikkormat, rediscovering a treasure I had and also happy to beat the system.

But a few weeks later (of course) my good’old camera proved too old and broke twice (this time, not my fault, the shutter mechanism stopped working)… L and I was left on one hand with the realization of how much I liked photography and wanted to take photos and on the other hand completely unsatisfied with what I got from digital cameras.

I started to study a bit more, read many articles and in the end, decided to invest in more serious equipment. I did this progressively. I started with the D5000, then moved to the D7000, improved my lenses collection, bought in the middle the X100.

Each time, I went through an up and down process, starting to be enthusiastic with the progress I got from my previous equipment, but after a while feeling I was kinda cheating myself and had to admit I did not get the same “soul” experience than with the Nikkormat.

I definitely got soul with the Fuji (still not as the Nikkormat) which I love, but at the same time, I was also not fully satisfied with having to use the 35mm focal only. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy the discipline of having to use one focal only, this limitation drives creativity. I did several trips using only the X100 and enjoyed it a lot, especially when I was visiting cities such as New York or Paris, there the X100 shines.

But at the same time, I also missed the ability to use a wide or a good tele which I had with my Nikons.

After many hesitations, reading more reviews and encouraged by my wife, I made the jump to full frame and bought the D600. I found it was a serious step up from the D7000 (reviews say IQ is similar, but I experienced a real improvement). I still could not get the same “soul” of the Nikkormat or the X100, but it was really top-notch and produced a different type of photos, maybe colder, but definitely better than what I had previously.

In the process, I read your enthusiastic article about the V1 and also bought it when it was around $300 with the kit lens.

It felt OK, toyish, the slow motion movies was nice to play with and the ability to use my 70-300 with the FT1 adaptor was also fun, but I did not relate to it as a serious camera and I almost did not use it. Cheap, but lost investment… or was it truly?

I was quite happy with my Fuji and D600. They lived side by side, I used one or the other, never together as they are not complementary, which was a bit of a shame really. BTW, I happened to use the Fuji more often than the D600 (remember the “soul” aspect, even though the D600 is full frame).

Then, I decided to spoil myself more and bought a top lens, a prime, the Nikon 58mm 1.4.

This was my second shock: the quality of the photos I got from this prime were at a totally different level than with the zooms I was using until now. They finally had the “soul” I was looking for! This was not a quantitative improvement, but a qualitative jump, the D600 was actually overcoming my memories of the Nikkormat (which is quite an achievement, as competing with memory is always unfair).

The recent V3 announcement reminded me that I had a V1 and one day I decided to play a bit with it and adapted the 58mm 1.4 to see what it would give. Third shock! or should I say, third and fourth shock.

Third shock: the photos were really good, sharp, very shallow DOF. See the first flower photo. This made me understand something I read but never really got, which is that glass is more important than camera body. The photos I got with my V1 with the 58mm 1.4 were better than the photos I got with the D600 and the kit 24-85 lens! I did not check at pixel level, but they looked and felt better.


Fourth shock: even though using the 58mm in the V1 was challenging, it also drove creativity. 58mm on CX is equivalent to 157mm on a FX, which is an odd focal for portrait, it is too long. But I found out this disadvantage could turn into a fun challenge, I had to frame differently, showing only part of the face, the hands, etc… It was more difficult to strike the right balance, but it gave character to the portraits. Plus, the DOF added even more character. See second example of the dog photo:


I was really not expecting this, the V1 producing photos at that level? Mmm… this was great news as it is so small + it is complementary with my D600! I could now use my prime twice, as a 58 and 157mm!

I looked at the V1 with new eyes and decided to complete this system. I bought the wide angle (6.7-13), which is a type of lens I was missing so much. It is maybe a bit expensive, but not so much actually if you consider wide angles + it is very very small and also very good.

With it I could combine in one small bag 18-35, 58 (close enough to 50) and tele ~160! A full system in a minimal and light space!

I recently went on a business trip in Ireland, and took with me the V1 only with the 6.7-13 and the 58mm. The kit was so small it easily fit in my computer bag. This was a great experience (apart from getting little sleep so I could be at the beach at 6:00 ready to take photos and enjoy the golden hours J), the battery life enabled me to take several hundred shots, the process of taking the photos was fun, I had the sharp wide lens available to photograph the beach from low angles, which I would never had with either my D600 or Fuji, and overall, the IQ was very good, with this famous “film like” quality grain reported in the reviews. See 2 examples of tree1 photo, beach photo and tree2 photo.


tree 1

tree 2

This was my second lesson: a good camera with you is better than a great camera that you left at home.

Added to the first lesson: a good camera with great lenses is better than a great camera with good lenses.

Gave me this conclusion: a small good camera with great lenses is always fun to use!

You can see the folder of my Dublin trip: http://500px.com/francoiskaplan/sets/dublin_april_2014

So here I am now, re-discovering simple truths that have been explained many times on the web, but that I never fully understood until now.

I will now focus more on lenses vs body, prioritize those with great quality, original focal and light weight so I can have them with me at any moment and use them.

The combination of the V1 and the D600 opens many opportunities and combinations here.

Thanks for reading!

Mar 272014

Initial User Report on the Metabones Sppedbooster for Fuji X

By leosilve

Fuji X-E1 Speedbooster_web

Hello Steve! Long time reader and follower of this site. Thank you for the great work. You are an inspiration to many. This article first appeared on my FB page where it was first seen by my friends, and was thus written for people of all levels of photography experience. Here goes…

Unless you might think I’m writing about some new dietary supplement, or a miracle cure for (my) aging bones… The Metabones Speedbooster is a lens adapter with an optical element at its rear end. Ok, I probably lost most of you by now. Ho hum, just another boring gear review. Yup, but to my photog friends and camera buffs, this is one piece of gear you just might find interesting. So, read on!

The Metabones Speedbooster adapters are available in several lens mounts, adapting various full-frame lenses to Sony NEX, Panny/Oly Micro 4/3, and Fuji-X cameras. The rear optical element (made by Caldwell Photographic) is a focal reducer, shrinking the full frame image by a factor of 0.71X. This means, the lens’ focal length changes by this factor and the intensity of the reduced image causes an increase in brightness equivalent to one full aperture stop! When you factor in the 1.5x crop of an APS-C sensor, a 100mm f/2.8 full-frame lens will have a field of view equivalent to 106.5mm f/2.0 lens when mounted on an NEX camera by a Speedbooster. Not too shabby huh?

From this we learn 2 very important and useful information;

1) A full frame lens’ field of view (FOV) suddenly becomes almost what it is again on a cropped sensor camera. Very useful especially for wide-angle lenses on cameras with smaller sensors.

2) An instant 1 FULL STOP aperture gain! Because the image focal length is reduced to fit the smaller sensor, an interesting “side effect” is the stronger intensity or brightness of the incoming image, which has been measured to be equal to 1 full stop! So, a f/2.8 lens becomes an f/2, an f/1.8 becomes f/1.4, and so on and so forth.

There are other amazing promises; higher MTF rating (sharpness), the “bokeh” very similar to the increased f-stop on a full frame camera… so much so that after the initial hype, skeptics felt this was all too good to be true. So was it?

Earlier this month, I won a Speedbooster (Nikon G to Fuji-X) in an eBay auction. Normally this pricey adapter retails for $429. I won it for $213! But that, is a whole other story! Anyway, I was going on a trip, and was excited when the package arrived the day before I left. I got to take it with me and play with it! The images of the two lovely ladies below were both shot on a Fujifilm X-E1 camera coupled to a Nikon 35mm f/2 AI-s manual focus lens from my film days. You can see the setup in the picture with the Fuji X-E1, and the Speedbooster adapter between the camera and lens. I have set the camera to shoot RAW+JPG fine. The RAF(raw) file retains the color info. The JPG is set to Fuji B&W+yellow with a +1 exposure compensation. Other than some minor contrast tweaks, these images are both SOOC (straight-out-of-camera).



Both images were also shot at f/2.8 (or, was it f/4?) with a 1/52 sec. shutter speed at ISO-200. I have to make a conscious effort to remember the aperture, however the shutter speed and ISO are from the images’ EXIF data. But wait! Remember the aperture gain mentioned earlier? Well, this “old” f/2 lens just became a f/1.8, amazing! Now, there are a lot of reviews online and you can read more about the MTF ratiings, if the adapter did or did not affect sharpness, if the “bokeh” did in fact look like it was shot with a full frame camera, etc. I don’t even have time to do 100% crops, so I’m sorry to disappoint the pixel-peepers. I am going to say however, that I am quite happy with the over-all performance of the adapter, and that it has lived up to my expectations. Yours, of course, may vary ;) This is about MY user experience. And although I have just started using it, I now have it permanently attached to my X-E1, which I use exclusively with legacy manual focus lenses.

There are 2 other sample pictures with this article. The first one is the colored 3-series long exposure on the beach. The second is the B&W daytime long exposure of a small waterfall. I used to lug around my DSLR’s to do this kind of shooting, but now with the Fuji X-E1 and the Speedbooster, my full frame wide-angle lenses are almost what they are – certainly wide enough for this APS-C camera. My old Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 AI-s lens is back to life with a FOV of 25.5mm f/2 – not bad at all! And my backpack is now much lighter with this setup. The DSLRs stay home!

Receding Waves


There are other few things I’ve found out in my short time with the adapter;

1) Build Quality – In a word – Excellent! The adapter feels solid and mounts securely onto the camera with no play whatsoever. The adapter is heavy, but not too much. In fact the weight adds a good heft to the lighter feel of the camera. The rear optical element is made by Caldwell Photographic – ‘nough said. If you don’t know them, ask Google.

2) Since I now have the adapter on the camera all the time, the thought occurred to me that my camera’s sensor is better protected – especially during lens changes. I mostly use manual primes with this setup. So I am very careful during lens changes. The adapter covers the sensor and it is far easier and less risky to clean the adapter than the sensor.

3) I love the built-in (but removable) tripod foot. Some users remove it because they feel it gets in the way. This could be true if you do a lot of handheld shooting. I have gotten used to is as an additional point of contact thus making for a more secure hold on the camera. But I appreciate it more is because it places the tripod hole squarely in the middle line of sight of both lens and sensor. The camera tripod socket is NOT in this line of sight. Also, the solid build of the adapter with its tripod foot takes the “stress” away from the camera mount when using large heavier lenses.

I’m sure there will be other surprises as I spend more time with the Speedbooster. The adapter is pricey. And I’m not sure I would have bought it new, if I didn’t win it in the auction. It is not for everyone. Remember, there is no electronic communication between the lens and camera body*. There is no autofocus. There is no lens stabilization unless it is on the camera. To me, it lends itself more to an “old school” way of shooting. Its really great if you have a stable of legacy manual lenses, because now you can enjoy them again. In the end, the important thing is that it works for me. And I am happy to have and use it.

*The ONLY exception is the Speedbooster for Canon lenses that communicates focus confirmation, aperture and image stabilization. However, there is still no AF capability.

More info on the Metabones Speedbooster http://www.metabones.com/products/?c=speed-booster


Caldwell white paper on the Speedbooster (really techie stuff)


About myself:

My Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/photosbynoel

My Flickr pagehttp://www.flickr.com/photos/cuzincali/sets/

My 500px page - http://500px.com/Cuzincali

Mar 252014


The versatile Nikon V2 does South Africa!

By Aspen Z

Hey guys, greetings from Singapore. I’d first like to thank Steve for this opportunity and for having one of the most interesting and useful photography website around. Qualitative websites displaying such passion and enthusiasm (albeit too much at times, haha) for photography are difficult to come about and it’s really quite something.

When I first had serious interest in photography, I decided then to pick up a mirrorless camera in hope that it’d ease me into the bulky DSLRs someday as I acquired and honed my technique. Fast forward a year and a half and I’ve 5 native CX lenses and 2 DX/FX lenses, with no intention to ‘upgrade’ to a bulky DSLR. In fact, the latter two were bought solely for use on the V2 (previously V1) since I don’t own any other camera system. The V2 has shown time and again that it’s the only camera I need and its being mirrorless has no bearing on the type of photos since it handles any situation thrown at it well!


Naturally, you can imagine my disappointment as I waited, fingers crossed, only to see no mention of a V3 in the pipeline as Photoplus and CP+ wrapped up. Swarmed by doom and gloom threads alongside bleak prophecies gleaned through the careful choice of words from Nikon executives, I still took comfort in a fact- the V2 produces decent photos for my use and until it runs its course in shutter actuations, there’s no need to panic sell or even decide on further action, be it a change of systems (Sony Ax000, perhaps? Waits to be seen.) or getting another Nikon 1 camera. (UPDATE: The V3 has been announced)

To date, the V2 has covered more scenarios imaginable within the scope of a single camera, from landscapes to indoor performances, birds in flight (minimally, since I can’t seem to find an adequate birding location in Singapore!) to the F1 night race and more recently, the entirety of my South Africa trip.


I admit to being a bit paranoid, fearing that I’d miss out on shots unless I’ve all my lenses (minus the 10-30mm kit lens) with me. Fortunately for me the Nikon 1 lenses are small and lightweight; the 18.5, 32, 6.7-13mm and 30-110mm combined weigh a mere 20 grams more than just the 595 grams 85f/1.4! Every little bit helps, since all 6 lenses plus accessories become a noticeable 2.5kg that I’ve to lug around from my shoulder all day. If you don’t know what it’s like to walk about in an oppressively muggy climate all year round, let me assure you that any amount of mental preparation and fortitude can be worn thin by a grating load on your shoulder. It’s only so lucky that I don’t have to bring out the DX/FX lenses all the time. Granted, the South African summer was pleasantly warm and dry, with nary a cloud to be seen for most days, and that became less of an issue.


What did become an issue was the unrelenting UV, making photo composition from the LCD screen downright impossible. At times, I found myself instinctively lowering my eyes to the viewfinder, only to realize there wasn’t one since I was helping my friend take a family photo with the dreaded EOS-M. To those saying autofocus speed doesn’t matter, imagine a situation where a group of people are (im)patiently waiting in eye-watering sunlight for the shutter to go off and heaven forbid someone blinks or moves and I’ve to go through the arduous process again. Really makes me miss the V2- eye to EVF, compose, snap and there you have it, with the only limiting factor being me. Oh, and, because our families decided on joining a group tour, time actually is limited. The insanely speedy autofocus in both AF-S and AF-C makes the V2 a joy to use and you’d likely never experience the sinking feeling of uncertainty (will I miss the moment?) when a difficult situation presents itself. At times, it certainly feels like you can’t do any better with DSLRs apart from professional models.



Detractors of the Nikon 1 cameras are always quick to point out how limiting a small sensor can be but sometimes those claims are downright specious. Pointing out the supposedly atrocious dynamic range is a favourite, but in practice I’ve found it more than capable of handling a midday sun landscape scenario. The 6.7-13mm captured the Union buildings in Pretoria just right, showcasing the blend of colours from the ochre steps in shadow to the puffy cumulus clouds. Table mountain posed an even greater challenge as the featureless skies did nothing for the immense amount of sunlight. As most of the best views featured the glaring sun in them, I was forced to crop out huge swaths of details ruined by flare and burnt highlights. Even the ocean was affected and it wasn’t a pleasant sight despite recovering quite a fair bit of details in post-processing. Nevertheless, areas of the photos unexposed to the sun directly in them had a lot of headroom in terms of post-processing, and I was quite pleased with that. Dynamic range isn’t what you can get with the likes of D800 but it is in no way bad. Better yet, I’ve seen people with so much to say only to offset the difference by pumping contrast or saturation sky high. Surely that’s wastage of dynamic range?




The 1/16000 shutter also came in very useful, since it negated the need for ND filters while shooting wide open with the 18f/1.8 and 32f/1.2. Which brings me to the point of DOF equivalency. People lament that you can’t get enough subject separation but really, is it always that the ultra-shallow centimetres deep DOF turns out desirable? Most primes for bigger sensor cameras need to be stopped down to be sharper anyway, and in comparison, the 18.5f/1.8 and 32f/1.2 are tack-sharp even wide open, especially the latter. If you do portrait/model shots often, you’d realize the benefits of a full-frame camera but in general cases background distances and focal lengths have bigger bearing on DOF.


The V2 is simply great in terms of handling. It feels small yet provides a firm grip with its design and doesn’t look half as ugly in real life as photos would have you believe. Unlike the EOS-M which has a slippery feel and almost feels like a handphone camera in use, you’re unlikely to drop the V2. Hell, I’ve even mastered the art of changing lenses albeit precariously (something I make sure to do often) while walking and talking, with a mere two fingers like a vice grip on the small lens when detaching and swapping over the back lens cap, all made possible by the generous grip on the V2. The menu system is uncluttered and straightforward and with the function button able to make changes to stuff like white balance and iso, you’d be done with most changes in a few short seconds. Also important is the ‘secured-ness’ of the camera. Having handled an EM-1 and the Sony A7, I found the excessively responsive shutter button difficult to half-press without accidentally triggering a shot too early and the battery compartment flap flimsy, respectively. Don’t even get me started on the many confusing dials on the EM-1, if you like that type of stuff you’d love that camera.


Desiring a do-it-all system, I picked up the 85f/1.4 as a means of fast telephoto for the V2. At about 230mm on full frame, I decided it’d do the job right for safari (then again I had two other longer telephotos ever ready). Chromatic aberrations are visible and it’s not quite as sharp as I’m used to wide open but it does the job perfectly. Focus is fast (not quite like native lenses though) and I found the bokeh pleasing, especially so for me around the foreground of the staring zebra. With a stroke of luck, a giraffe fleetingly crossed into the ‘frame’ of an arresting backdrop and I quickly snapped off shots as the impatient jeep driver decided we had one too many sightings of yet another giraffe and started accelerating. At 15fps with swift autofocus, I probably had the highest chance of nailing the shot among all those in the jeep. The generous buffer of the V2 also means there’s no need to hesitate and you can deflate the shutter button confidently at length (not that I do that often). By the way, I heavily recommend a 95mb/s sd card for V2 users for optimal performance because it is noticeable if you want the job done quick. If it seems like overkill, remember it’s a small price to pay to get the best out of the V2.




It’s not that I can’t find issues with the V2 though. I wish it has better high iso performance, because as of right now, iso 1600 and beyond requires careful post-processing to yield desirable images (for me). It’d be great to have it improved a stop or so with the next generation. At lower iso, I’ve some photos with, ironically, more noise in the final output since I cannot be bothered to reduce it after sharpening to taste. Be warned that the V2 has noise in certain lighting even at the base iso of 160 and if you’re after smooth creamy files you’re most definitely not going to get that. What you will get is a sensor that punches above its weight in details especially with ‘just’ 14mp. More importantly though, the V2 tracks well even under challenging lighting, like when I had the chance to see a performance at the Lesedi cultural village the V2 simply kept focus without fail despite erratic movements. And surely, the first half of the battle is nailing focus even before iso woes. Another thing that annoys me about the V2 is the lack of a customizable autofocus box size; I found myself sometimes focusing on backgrounds and other elements when dealing with smaller subjects due to imprecision. Finally, much can be done about the lack of bracketing and other features like focus peaking since the issue here lies with Nikon’s ineptitude.


The V2 is most definitely not a perfect camera. It has its share of problems, some of which downright avoidable, but it’s the only camera that fits the bill for my needs short of going to a cumbersome DSLR, and for that, I’d tolerate the expressed grievances without a second thought.

For more photos like these, take a look here:


Mar 132014

The Nikon V3 is here..MINUS the built in EVF!?!


So the long-awaited Nikon V3 is just about here and what did Nikon go and do? They made is small like a coolpix, took OUT the built-in EVF which made it so enjoyable and once again re-designed a lens. The new 10-30 lens will be released with the camera but for me..I am disappointed in the design and style. Me, I LOVE the look, design and feel of the V1. It is like a mini Leica M in FEEL and design. The V2 was ugly but at least it had a built-in EVF and was a joy to shoot. When many were predicting the demise of the 1 system, I knew there was a V3 on the way many months ago. What I did not know was that they would take out the EVF! Grrrr.


The V3 has been completely re-designed. Now the camera has the ability to shoot 120FPS HD video in slo-motion at 1280X720 resolution. THIS IS sort of a big deal for some video people. Continuous shooting on the V3 will get you 20 FPS at the full 18 MP resolution or even 60 FPS stills using one focus point. The one thing they kept with the 1 system and improved upon is indeed the SPEED. They also added some sort of quasi image stabilization mode. Not sure what it will be like though.

The GOOD news I guess is that this is an all new Nikon 1. They are not dropping the line but instead they beefed it up for even better video capabilities, speed and also packed it with a tilt EVF and a new 18 MP sensor. You CAN add an external EVF but that always just adds a hump, which these days there is NO reason for. Cameras today are FINALLY getting away from the add-on EVF humps, so why Nikon ditched their internal EVF is a mystery to me.  You can now pre-order the V3 with the new 10-30 PD lens for $1196.95 at B&H Photo using THIS link.

There is not only the new 10-30 at $296 but also the new 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 NIKKOR 1 LENS at just under a grand. This lens with the Nikon 1′s 2.7 crop will give you an astounding 189 to 810mm equivalent with VR. There will also be a new grip for the V3 to add some size for larger hands. 


For me, the best Nikon 1 lenses are the incredible 32 1.2 and 18.5 1.8. 

So the new V3 is here. Maybe that means there will be a fire sale on the V2? Let’s hope so as it may be the last 1 camera with a built in EVF! When this one is released I will be taking a look because mate it will be just like the V1, the Camera I expected to hate!

image006 image007


Feb 262014

A moment back with my Nikon D7000

by D.J. De La Vega

I’m a long time (and compulsive) reader of the site and am pleased to see it continue to grow year by year! I haven’t sent anything in for a while as I really haven’t been trying anything drastically new worth writing about.

That is until recently when I have found myself doing something I never believed I would really ever do again… I have begun actively reaching for my dusty old DSLR to take out shooting for the day (I pretty much exclusively shoot with my trusty Leica X1 normally).

I’ve always shot Nikon DSLR during my life as a semi-pro freelance photographer. Always carrying one semi-pro camera with a smaller back up: FM2n/F80, D200/D70, D600/D7000. However for my personal work, for years I’ve ditched the bulk and carried the compact. I’ve never once found myself wanting in the image quality department, but speed and the use of a good optical viewfinder are something I crave and it has has been slowly eating away at me.

Here are a few shots I’ve taken recently, most of which would have been impossible with the X1 due to the start up time and focusing. With a DSLR, the speed of spotting something, whipping it to your eye (whilst turning it on), focusing and shooting is literally just a blink of an eye. This is something the new range of CSC’s are beggining to equal, but I can not find one that ticks all of my boxes to persuade me to upgrade the X1. Personally, I would like a Fuji TX1 with an optical or hybrid viewfinder or a down scaled Nikon Df closer to an FM2 size and dials.

Until then I’m happy with my X1 and on the odd days the mood takes me, my D7000.

Thanks for looking

D.J. De La Vega










Feb 122014

Using the V1 for shooting an ‘Open Stage’ school event

By Ivan Lietaert

Hi Steve and Brandon,

I teach at a secondary school in Belgium. At school I often shoot pictures during extra-curricular events for the for the school archives, and more importantly for the official school website and social network. Last week, the annual ‘Open Stage’ took place: students aged between 12 and 18 can show off their talent on stage to a wild crowd of enthusiastic fellow students. It is the most anticipated and fun event of the whole school year. Mostly, young kids take the stage in their debut rock bands, playing covers; some impressive street dancing, a blossoming singer-songwriter, it ‘s all really varied… this year, we even had an illusionist who had quite some tricks up his sleeve.

Ideally, when shooting this kind of event, a full frame camera and a really fast lens, something like a 70-200mm f2.8 lens, would be the camera of choice. I don’t have that kind of pro-gear. Last year I used my 550D/T2i with a non-stabilized Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens. (Soon, I found out that was not good enough, so I swapped it with the ‘nifty fifty’ EF 50mm f1.8 and did some serious cropping in post.) The pictures turned out quite fine, back then.

But this year, I decided to take a risk. I decided to use my Nikon V1, which has a smallish one inch CX sensor, mounted with the Nikon 1 10-100mm VR Power Drive Zoom. I love this little combo for video shooting (https://vimeo.com/85671971), but I knew that in low light, with an aperture of 4.5-6.5, I was taking quite a risk. I do own the faster 18.5mm f1.8 as well, but as this lens is pretty wide, close-up shots would be out of the question, and cropping them in post doesn’t make much sense either, as the V1 only produces 10 megapixel size pictures.

So there I was, holding the V1 and the 10-100mm PD Zoom and the bands started playing loud! I was shooting raw, in manual mode, exposure set at 1/40 or 1/60 with iso at 3200, and aperture as wide as possible. I used no flash, and to make things even worse, a fuse had blown, so only half the staging lights were properly working. I was a bit worried, because I knew that with these settings, I really was pushing the V1 beyond its comfort zone (being iso 1600). Autofocus, usually lightning fast, was now struggling a lot, and there was a lot of hunting, and I did miss quite some good pictures because of that.

So when I got home, I felt quite uncomfortable. After import into Lightroom 4.4, I did a first selection. From the 360 pictures I had taken, I had to throw away about two-thirds, for the usual reasons: bad framing, motion blur, bad composition, closed eyes, out of focus, boring etc. Mind you, in the 120 pictures I kept, there were still some that were slightly out of focus, but hey, these kids don’t care too much about this! As long as they can show off with them on their social networks!

Of course, when zooming in on these iso 3200 pictures in LR to the 1:1 level, detail and sharpness is horrendous. I decided to leave it to the standard LR treatment, without any tweaking, and instead to quickly move on to Google’s Nik Collection Plugins. I really love them and I still have 12 days of trial left. I used the Analog Efex Pro module, and went for one of the ‘Vintage Camera’ presets. There, I would fine tune some of the settings. I love to tweak the light leaks, the bokeh and the frames which come with the plugin. When done the tif-file would be saved. Back in Lightroom, I would then export to the jpeg format, which is suitable for distribution.

Late into the night, I uploaded the ten or so pictures picture I processed through Nik Software to one flickr set, and I uploaded the 120 ‘regular’ pictures to another set. I then posted both sets on our school’s Facebook page and the school’s website. Then I went to bed. The next day, I enjoyed watching the stat counters going up, and the ‘likes’ on Facebook growing. Sometimes, being a teacher can be very rewarding!

This is my personal flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanlietaert/

Kind regards,

Ivan Lietaert

Nikon V1 (1 of 12)

Nikon V1 (3 of 12)

Nikon V1 (4 of 12)

Nikon V1 (5 of 12)

Nikon V1 (6 of 12)

Nikon V1 (7 of 12)

Nikon V1 (12 of 12)

Feb 112014


My trip to Japan with the Nikon V1

by Brandon Huff

Hello to all readers of this site! I am Brandon Huff, Steve Huff’s son. Last year in I went to Japan and I used my Nikon V1 for this trip 100%.  I just wanted to share some of my photos with all of you as well as my experiences I had along the way with the little Nikon.

When I was deciding on a camera for my trip I wanted something small, something light, and mainly great quality.  The Nikon V1 seemed to match up to what I was looking for and I am happy with my choice.

In this photo I was experimenting with night photography and long exposures. This is my Step-Brother Kyle in the desert a about a week before I headed off to Japan.


Kyle and I left in the early morning to arrive at San Diego California, It is about a 6 hour drive from Phoenix Arizona, here are a few a photos from when we were in California.





 About a week later, I parted off from my family to join my new family for two weeks, the People to People group. This is a bunch of High school Students, Elementary school students and Teachers where we go off and explore many areas of Japan as well as visit with a home stay family for two days. Here are a few of the pictures from Japan that I snapped:














I have to say that when traveling to another country and having to carry a camera over 8 hours a day the Nikon V1 turned out to be much easier than I first imagined. The battery life is great, easy to just point and shoot quickly when needed and overall a wonderful experience with the camera. Japan was a great and beautiful place and the people of Japan are really kind and are happy to smile for the camera when asked.

Thanks for reading and looking at my pictures. BTW, the lens I used was the 18.5 1.8 which gave me a fast 50mm equivalent.

Brandon Huff

Feb 072014

The Voigtlander Ultron 40 f/2 SL II

by Julien Hautcoeur


I’m Julien, one of your readers, thank you for all your work that you share with us on your website. I’m a French engineer living in Canada. I like to travel and take photographs of the places I visit. I would like to share with you my experience with the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II that I use with my Nikon D700. I thought it could be interesting for your other readers.


This “review” will be more about the feeling of using this lens than the evaluation of the technical aspects. There are already lots of websites to describe the build and the qualities of this lens, so, I won’t do it here. It took me a while to finally buy it, but I had mainly three reasons to do it:


  • The size: this a very small pancake lens which makes my big D700 to look smaller. As lots of DSLR photographers, I was looking for a small camera to complete my D700. Something I could take with me every day, on a walk, instead of the big and heavy 24-70 f2.8. I bought the Olympus Pen E-P1 when it was just released but I discovered how the lack of viewfinder was making it difficult to use for me. I was tempted by the Fuji X100 or X100s but didn’t want to spend another 1k$ for a camera. The Voigtlander 40mm seemed to be a good alternative.


  • The manual focus: I wanted to slow down my photography to be more concentrated on the frame and the action. As the Voigtlander 40mm is a manual focus lens, it was a good response to that need. Due to the chip inside the lens, I can use the green dot in the viewfinder of the D700 to focus properly.


  • To give a present to myself: it’s important to do it sometimes.


I couldn’t find the lens to buy in Ottawa, so I ordered it online. When I received the lens 3 weeks ago and I took it in my hands, the feeling of this metallic build directly surprised me, it feels really serious. It is really solid, well made and feel very comfortable. Moving the focus ring is a joy; it is so smooth compared to my plastic Nikkor 50mm AF-D f1.8. With the D700 I have a nice compact combo, still bigger than some cameras such as the Fuji X series or the new Sony ones but already small enough to have it in my bag every day.



One of my fears was to not like the 40mm focal. I have the cheap 50mm AF-D f1.8, but I don’t use it because it seems to short, I had the 35mm f2 but I sold it because I didn’t use it enough. But surprisingly I feel comfortable with the 40mm for indoor and street photography. I can’t explain why the feeling is that different compared to the 50mm and the 35mm but it’s real. It’s probably a personal feeling, which is different for every one. When I see something interesting and I want to take a picture, the 40mm seems to frame it as I want.



The other important point is the manual focus, I’m used to the fast AF of my D700 with the 24-70 and 14-24 f2.8 lenses, but the manual focus seems to give me more pleasure to use. I feel more into the process of taking pictures. When I’m traveling or visiting a new place, with the AF, I see something, I frame it, I click, it’s done. With the manual focus I have to take my time, I correct the frame; I pay more attention to what I do. It’s a very good feeling, and even better when the result is a good photograph. I won’t stop using AF lenses but this little Voigtlander will be used a lot this year, perhaps I will also add the Voigtlander 28mm for more possibilities.



Finally this experience is a success for me. I think it’s important to move from what we know to try something different, to at this end, learn more and more.

I really recommend this experience to photographers who have only used AF lenses.

Thank you


Julien Hautcoeur 





Feb 072014

For me the king of them all – The Nikon D4

By Villager Jim


Hi Steve!

After many months of avid reading i thought it time if i may to put pen to paper from here in the UK and let you know my thoughts afetr owning a D4 for a year or more. I am lucky enough to also own a D800 and a Fujifilm X100S, both of which are fantastic cameras, but for me above all lies the quiet king of the all – the D4.

I enjoy with a passion wildlife photography , which of course, like sports photography requires at certain times the quickness and speed of reaction that cameras like this simply move away into a league of their own above the snapping and snarling frenzy of the mid range pack. But this short piece isn’t about those moments. This is about those other moments that other cameras can attain but somehow the D4 does without you or the camera taking a moment to think. I have owned 2 leica M9s , both of which i sold after trying so very hard to settle down into the world of the thoughtful and the structured, sometimes being in love with this special skill, sometimes driven crazy when so many shots went amiss because of lack of skill on my part of grabbing the moment. So many times i ended up just welling up with frustration over weeks and weeks of hard graft trying to calm myself and see this new world of photography where thought and composure fought against my constant need of seizing the moment .

So to get to the point my D4…. My D4 is simply the best camera in the world today, my D4 is by my side in 99 out of 100 situations , so strong is the need to have it with me, my D4 is simply a mechanical extension of my arm like no other. My D4 just is. And just does. I can find no better description than from a review i read someplace whilst waiting those painful months until release date, and it simply said IT JUST DOES. That for me after owning one for a year cannot describe any better the true genius of this camera, for me allowing all those ‘ thoughtful’ and ‘composed’ shots to be done , but just in a millisecond.

Thank you D4!


I am out in the wonderful Preak District countryside in the UK every single morning of my life and would ask anyone to follow my daily adventures on my facebook page at


Keep up the fantastic site Steve , fast becoming for me one of the top camera sites in the world today.

After The Walk


Autumn Classic

Best Mates

Chatsworth In The Mist


House In The Mist

Loving Swans

Napping Tawny

Skylark Supper

Topsy Turvy House

Feb 062014

South in Black and White

By David Mello

Hey guys! I’ve never shared my work before, but I’ve loved following your site, so though this might be a good time to start.

I’m originally from south of Boston. A few years ago, I was having a really bad day, so I just got in my car and drove. Traffic was better going south, so I ended up in North Carolina. Long story short, I never left.

I’ve always loved searching out history, but I’ve had to learn to see differently down here. History moves *slower* here, blending into the everyday in a way that is at first elusive, but ultimately quite beautiful. Structures and even towns that would have been torn down long ago in the north, somehow keep existing here, while the world moves on around them. Despite them, even.

I’ve always treated my digital photography as experiential as possible. That is, I never post-process, and shoot directly as jpeg files. Once the picture is taken, its done, for better or (usually) worse. Almost all my photography was taken on either a d700 or more recently a DF, with a voightlander 40mm being my go-to lens.

You can check out more of my work here:




Thanks for looking!


1. west jefferson, nc Nikon d700, Voigtlander 40mm


2. mebane, nc x-pro1 28mm


3. graham, nc x-pro1 28mm


4. carrboro, nc Nikon df 50mm 1.2


Jan 292014

Using the Nikon V1 and 32 1.2 By Kind Ion


Happy New Year Everyone!

Dear Steve and Brandon,

Your site is phenomenal, I visit it multiple times each day. The sense of community, sharing of knowledge, informal pieces about cameras and lenses, photographers from around the world expressing their passion, and friendly, positive, personal vibe that you guys oversee the whole thing with make it an absolute pleasure. Thank you for all the hard work and dedication it must take to make it that way.

I love my Nikon V1. It is fast, solid, small, versatile, modern, fun, and most importantly, capable of taking amazing photographs. Combined with the 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2 lens, it becomes somewhat magical. What draws a person to a camera or a lens is hard to say, we are all different and attracted to different stuff. Sometimes it’s the size of the sensor, the responsiveness, the build quality, the feel in hand, the industrial design, the lenses available, the speed of the lens, the focal distance, the brand, and of course the price. Like Steve always says – some cameras and lenses you just connect with. I have a strong suspicion that I would bond very easily with Leica products, I just can’t afford them yet!


About a year and a half ago I bought my first great camera, the Fuji X100. At that time the decision for me was between the X100 and V1. Even though I liked the feel of the Nikon better, the overwhelmingly positive reviews for the X100, amazing image samples, and its bigger sensor swayed me and I chose Fuji. I love the X100 and it was the first camera that really helped me to understand and experiment with aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation. The simple, intuitive, manual controls and tons of great information on the net taught me the basics of photography. I have taken many pictures that I’m happy with. After a year with the Fuji, I saw the immense price reduction on the V1, felt the urge to splurge, and bought one in a kit that included the 10mm f/2.8 lens. It’s a very different camera to the X100. One is designed like an old rangefinder camera with manual dials, an analogue feel, a fixed lens, a cool hybrid viewfinder, and an APS-C sized sensor. The other is a simple and clean modern design with few manual controls, a digital feel, interchangeable lenses, an electronic viewfinder, and a 1” sensor. Both, however, can take awesome pictures. Both can also be set to be completely silent, which I really appreciate. And both are fantastic cameras.


It seems right now in the mirrorless digital photography world, further enhanced by reviews of the Sony A7 and A7R, that if you want the ultimate in autofocus speed and accuracy and camera responsiveness you must choose a smaller sensor camera like Micro 4/3rd’s or Nikon 1, and if you want the ultimate in image quality, silky smooth rich files, and shallow depth of field, you must choose a larger sensor camera like the Fuji X Series, Sony NEX and A7’s, or Leica M (though with Leica’s rangefinder focusing mechanisms it seems the user can become extremely fast and efficient at these operations). In the near future, I’m sure we’ll be able to have mirrorless cameras with super speedy autofocus, blazing fast operation, and a big sensor, but right now it seems like a slight sacrifice must be made.


The V1 is extremely fast. It focuses almost instantly, can track moving subjects, and has a wicked burst rate. Everyone has talked about the amazing autofocus system on the V1, and I have found it to be just that. Craig Litten wrote an eye opening review of the camera on Steve’s site and has taken some awesome black and white photos with it at an old pier in Florida. In his review he stated that the V1 had almost “clairvoyant” autofocus and I agree – you can leave the camera in multi auto focus selection and it will choose the right focus point 90% of the time. The single point focus is also lightning fast and extremely accurate. Being a ten megapixel camera, the RAW file sizes are small, approximately ten megabytes, making them quick and easy for a computer to manipulate in post processing. The RAW files are also very malleable. Small sensors inevitably allow for small lenses, which is another huge benefit in keeping the system compact.


After reading Steve’s review of the 1 Nikkor 32mm f/1.2, I became very interested. I learned about different focal lengths and their advantages, as well as the advantages of a really fast lens, and decided it was something I wanted. It’s expensive, but aren’t all high quality lenses? So I went to my local camera store, checked it out, fell in quick love, and treated myself to my first piece of really good glass. The lens itself is hefty and built without flaw. It has a simple and strong design, devoid of ornamentation. A well dampened manual focus ring is the only external control. When you hold the lens and lift it up, it feels like something high-grade. It’s quite stubby and the front glass element is impressively thick. Fit and feel is great when attached to the camera and retains the V1’s small footprint and unassuming character. Autofocus is amazingly fast and the manual focus ring can be used to make adjustments, even while staying in autofocus mode. It’s more than sharp enough for me at any aperture. Most importantly though, with a lens of this nature, you can get some truly sweet shallow depth of field, and take great portraits. I thoroughly enjoy using it and it stays on my V1 all the time.


Here are some pictures taken with it on the V1. I mostly shoot it wide open. Some of the pictures have had contrast and exposure adjustments done in Aperture 3, and the portrait of the farm girl and the mannequin have VSCO filters applied. Hope you guys like them!

Thank You

kind ion

Jan 202014

Rendering Comparison: Olympus E-P5 vs Sony A7

by Michael Van den Bergh

First of all I’d like to thank Steve for his great website. I absolutely love his reviews, and his photos are an inspiration.

In this user report I will post comparison shots of the Olympus PEN E-P5 to the Sony A7 at the classical focal lengths: 35, 50 and 85mm.

The Sony A7

Inspired by Steve’s blog, I believe that a great camera is a camera that gets out of your way: convenient to carry, quick to access the right settings, and easy to get the shot you want.

My Nikon D7000 DSLR ticked none of those boxes. That’s how I tumbled into the world of micro four thirds. I currently use a PEN E-P5 as my main camera, and I cannot stress enough how great this camera is.

However, as a micro four thirds shooter there is always that itchy feeling that a full frame camera might produce superior images. With the new Sony cameras the itch got stronger, and on top of that I stumbled upon a crazy deal that I couldn’t refuse: $1,400 for the A7.

This pushed me into selling my Nikon gear and becoming the owner of an E-P5 and A7 side by side. I’m happy I made this jump. Rather than indefinitely debating which system is better for what, I’d rather just get it over with and own BOTH.

Right off the bat, the Sony A7 is fantastic. The controls feel right, everything is easy to access, and that EVF! I actually think the Sony EVF is better than the Olympus VF-4. They are very similar when you compare them side by side: about the same size and resolution, but the deeper blacks of the Sony make me forget that it’s an EVF. For me, that’s a milestone achievement right there: when you stop realizing that it is electronic and it all feels natural. Manual focus is easy through the viewfinder. There is no need for magnification or focus peaking.

The following comparisons are shown as a quick and dirty test, and are in no way scientific. My intention is to show what one might gain by moving from micro four thirds to full frame. This test compares 35, 50 and 85mm equivalent lenses, plus some outliers that might be used in similar situations (the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8).

35mm Lens Comparison

I find it really interesting to see how the A7 compares to the PEN with the 20mm f/1.7 and 17mm f/1.8 lenses. It is hard to compare focal lengths because of the different aspect ratios, but both of these lenses can be considered as 35-ish.

I don’t have the FE 35mm f/2.8, so I used my Nikon 17-55m f/2.8 for this test. When set to 35mm this actually works and covers the full frame. The Nikon is not a bad lens and should give us an idea of the type of images you can expect from a 35mm f/2.8 lens on full frame.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 17-55mm set to 35mm f/2.8 – ISO 200


PEN E-P5 – Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 – ISO 200


As expected, there are no huge differences between these images. The full frame image has a tiny bit more background blur. I’m sure the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 resolves an incredible amount of detail, but these Olympus and Panasonic lenses are already plenty sharp.

The Olympus 17mm f/1.8 is often discarded as inferior. I’ve never had any issues with sharpness, and I love the way it renders…

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 17mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


The Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 is my favorite lens on micro four thirds. It has been my go to lens for the past year or so. On the other hand I’m happy I never sold my Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G (which I never liked on my D7000), because this lens works beautifully on the A7.

PEN E-P5 – Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 100


In this comparison there is an obvious difference in background blur. If bokeh is your thing, full frame really wins here.

I can show some real-world samples as well. I really like the colors from the A7, like the following example. It is with this type of shot that full frame really shines: a comfortable 50mm field of view and great subject separation.

 Sony A7 – Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G – ISO 200


The Panasonic Leica is no slouch either though, and the following photo really highlights its lovely rendering.

PEN E-P5 – Pansonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 – ISO 200


85mm Lens Comparison

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G as my favorite lens on my DSLR. It performs really well on the A7 and I will probably keep it for a while. I am comparing it to the two typical portrait lenses one might use on micro four thirds: the equivalent 45mm f/1.8 and the longer 75mm f/1.8.

For this example the background is only 4 meters away. These are the typical portraits distances where it is more difficult to blow out the background because it is quite near.

PEN E-P5 – Olympus 45mm f/1.8 – ISO 200


Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 200


PEN E-P5 – Olympus 75mm f/1.8 – ISO 400


The Nikon 85mm has quite a bit more background blur than the Olympus 45mm. However, if you look closely the 45mm renders a cleaner bokeh while the Nikon suffers from cat eyes in the corners. Though a different field of view, the 75mm Olympus renders roughly the same amount of background blur as the 85mm Nikon on full frame.

Here’s one last example shot with the A7 and the 85mm. This setup makes it really easy to make spontaneous people shots. This would be much harder on micro four thirds.

Sony A7 – Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G – ISO 1250


So is full frame really better? I think it really depends. For extremely shallow depth-of-field a full frame camera is unbeatable. The photos are creamy and sometimes the gradients seem less harsh, more natural. I assume this is a result of better dynamic range.

Either way, the differences are subtle, and micro four thirds offers an incredible selection of small lenses. It is the system you want to carry with you on your travels. Both cameras (E-P5 and A7) make photography such a pleasure.

I hope this comparison was helpful to everyone out there on the fence between these two systems, or thinking about upgrading!

Jan 172014


Friday Film: My 1st roll of film in a Nikon FM2

by Huss Hardan

Hi Steve!

Thanks for providing such a great site and forum.

I love shooting film and I love shooting digital. The thing with film is that I find it nostalgic, using it just brings back happy memories from when I was a kid and used an Olympus OM10 SLR.

Does film make sense today? Well, if it is fun and you get results that you like, yes.

I have a bunch of other cameras, but for some reason I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to grab a Nikon FM2, with a Nikkor 50mm 1.2 lens off Craigslist. This was a semi pro/pro camera from the late 1980s.

Full manual – you set the exposure, you set the focus. Just as a I like it (my main shooter is a Leica M3 for film, an ME for digital).

It’s one thing writing a review of a camera that you have already shot extensively, so I thought it would be more fun to show images from the very first roll of film I put through it. No chance to get used to it and improve technique. Just pump a roll through it and see what happens.

My method – the cheapest film I could find (Kodak 400 for $2.50 a roll from B&H!) – as, well, what if the camera’s shutter was tweaked?. Or the lens’ focus was off? I didn’t want to blow a roll of Portra on that chance (my fave film). Shoot it in a day trying to find something quick and local so I could get it processed ASAP. This also means that, well, these ain’t gonna be Pulitzer prize photos!

I had it developed and scanned to DVD at my local Costco (just under $5, they do it in an hour – cool). Costco scans are good for prints up to 18 by 12 inches. If you’re going to print larger than that, use the negative directly or have it scanned by a pro shop.

I took my scanned shots, plugged them into Apple Aperture and topped it off with a smattering of NikEfex. This is how I handle my pure digital work, and this is how I really enjoy handling my film/digital fusion cuisine. Yeah it’s not a “pure” workflow but it’s an entertaining mix of old and new. Showing respect to the past while simultaneously embracing the future. Woof.

Back to the camera, the Nikon FM2. It’s a gorgeous solid piece of no frills industrial design. It has all that is needed to create images. An excellent fully mechanical metal bladed shutter that reads from 1/4000 to 1 sec, manual metering (a +, – and o showing exposure) with a massive and bright viewfinder that also mechanically displays the aperture and shutter speeds. The viewfinder is something to behold. Images just snap in and out of focus. Incredibly I did not miss the focus on one shot – well apart from the very first one as you will see! I wish I could say the same about my Leicas..

The lens – a 50mm 1.2 Nikkor – is a big solid chunky munky piece of glass and metal. No plastic here. The way I like it. I picked the 1.2 as I don’t use flash, and the fastest film I use is 400 speed. So I’d need all the help I could get for indoor and low light photography! As an aside, the Nikkor 1.2 is meant to be one of their best pieces so there is that too.

All photos were shot wide open, or as wide open as I could a la Leica as this is the test roll. Most all lenses are great stopped down so shooting at max aperture shows nuances. I have an ND filter coming in the mail to help with bright situations. I have to say, I’m happy with the results and really happy with the camera. Especially given that this was with the cheapest film I could find.

How much did this get up cost me? $100 for a perfect condition Nikon FM2 (imagine that, a full frame SLR for $100! ;) ) $340 for the lens. If I didn’t care about the 1.2, I could have got the 1.8 which would have given equally as good results from 2.8 downwards. For a total system cost of about $180. Not bad, not bad at all. And remember as this is a full metal and glass mechanical everything, it should last for decades.

I had so much fun doing this I have my eye on a Nikon F2as from the 1970s. Now THAT puppy is a workhorse!

All photos taken on the same day around my home in Venice Beach. The first is an homage to Steve’s many selfies!

Take care and happy shooting, whatever and however you do it.



Pic 1 – 1st shot ever. The camera, the lens, the pasty dood. If only I was able to chimp..

FM2 with 50 1.2-1

Pic 2 – Pepe’s feet. Attached to the rest of Pepe. On my bed where he is NOT meant to be.

FM2 with 50 1.2-2

Pic 3 – Typical Venice scene of a mermaid in a basketball hoop.

FM2 with 50 1.2-4

Pic 4 – Typical Venice scene of a mermaid browsing.

FM2 with 50 1.2-5

Pic 5 – Typical Venice VW.

FM2 with 50 1.2-6

Pic 6 – Typical Venice Mercedes.

FM2 with 50 1.2-7

Pic 7 – Hey, look, a flower! Actually a good demonstration of the tonal range of a $2.50 roll of film and 1 hour Costco scan.

FM2 with 50 1.2-8

Pic 8 – Soups up!

FM2 with 50 1.2-10

Pic 9 – Daisy waiting.

FM2 with 50 1.2-11

Pic 10 – The subject of Daisy’s wait. And mine..

FM2 with 50 1.2-13

Jan 162014


by Benjamin Schaefer – His blog is HERE


Almost a year ago, I sold much of Nikon gear, including my D800 and many of my zoom lenses to busier – and better – photographers who would give them more than a “shelf life”. Since our son was born in December 2012, I had lacked the time to continue the few gigs I was shooting, this never having been a full-time occupation. In the past few months I have been shooting my Olympus OM-D E-M5, and more recently an E-M1, which covered 90% of what I do and are compact enough to be brought along almost anywhere. For full frames, I used a Leica M9, with its excellent optics. However I could not quite divest myself completely from Nikon, and so I kept not only a UV-IR modified (and pretty much unsellable) Nikon D7000, but also a few of my favorite Nikkor primes, as well as a 17-35mm AF-S, the latter to be used with the D7000 (and I do not shoot a lot of IR). To be honest, the D800 was probably too much camera and a bit of a headache – it went back to Nikon twice for focus adjustments and the massive files were clogging up my iMac.

As it turns out, however, I missed my Nikon FX. I was looking over a few images I shot with the D800 in the past 1.5 years and started reminiscing of the creamy quality of my favorite portrait lenses, the 85 mm f1.4 and 105 f2.5… I can use them on the D7000, but only with a IR-UV cut filter (which isn’t perfect) and giving me less flexibility in terms of depth of field.

When Nikon announced the Df (Digital fusion, which I think is a misnomer I think F-D, as in digital F, would have been more fitting), I was intrigued, but first skeptical at first. With the OM-D and the M9, you know I am a retro-style, shoot in Manual, dedicated control wheel kind of guy (OK, I admit I shoot a lot in Aperture priority, too, but I never had much use for Program mode and “Custom” settings).

If you are reading this you probably know already, but the Nikon Df is a very well made, “retro styled” full frame camera, kind of “leicaesque” DSLR (with a leicaesque price to boot). Retro in this case means the top of the camera is reminiscent of the FE and F3 of yonder, with dedicated dials for shutter speed, exposure compensation and ISO, as well as a shutter button that accepts – nice but somewhat useless though IMO – a mechanical shutter release cable. The back, and – more important – the innards – of the camera are pretty modern DSLR material built around the excellent 16 MP sensor of Nikon’s flagship D4, which is the best low light sensor available in any camera today (I am not alone in this opinion). DxO ratings for ISO performance even put the performance above any other DSLR, including the D4 and the D3s.

Heading West, 28 mm f2, af f2, 1/60, ISO 8000, processed in camera (before LR5 came out with RAW converter)


After debating with myself for quite a while and reviewing the vibrant online discussion with opinions usually on both extremes, but seemingly more in the “anti-Df” camp, I pulled the trigger (or rather, I did not cancel my pre-order).

The camera arrived in a very nicely packaged, classy looking black cardboard box – taking queues from the lie of Apple and Leica. The first impression once I got the camera out was that slight disappointment: it feels somewhat flimsy, just because it is so light. It is almost hard to believe that the body is weather sealed (and I am not in the mood to test it like others have done for say the E-M1).

The camera certainly looks unique, no doubt. I like it but that is obviously a matter of taste. It has been compared to the FE, F3 and others. I think it borrows from various cameras, the back looks definitely like a modern DSLR, the top is the most “retro” and the front is somewhat mixed. Many people seem to prefer the silver version, however I have always had black cameras (with the exception of a used M8, sold long ago) and I feel the Df looks classic that way. Some people have commented on the silver coming in different shades, which makes for a weird appearance (and seems somewhat odd for a camera of this caliber). I have not seen the silver version yet.

If you follow the online discussion, many have condemned the camera before it came out. I love to looks and most of the operation, but there are also some things that I think could have been solved better.

Bellagio, 10.5 modified Fisheye, f5.0, 1/30, ISO 3200


First the pros:

- The camera is light (though first you feel that this is gives it a ‘cheapo feel’, it actually quickly grows on you

- The viewfinder is great, bright, easy to see. Manual focusing is easy and the green indicator light is spot on.

 - The buttons feel solid, well made. If you have used Nikon DSLRs before, they are where you expect them to be.

 - Despite what other say, I like the fact that the manual controls are lockable. They feel sold, well made and sturdy. The rear wheel is easy to reach with the right hand. See below for the front wheel.

Performer at Sinterklaas, 50mm f1.8 at f1.8, 1/1000, ISO 400 


Now for the cons:

- The power switch is hard to turn. I get why it was done this way, a ‘modern’ switch would have been hard to integrate into the design concept, but for me it requires I take the camera away from the eye. However you may like this feature, Certainly, it is hard to switch it off or on accidentally, and with the battery life being quite impressive, you may as well keep it on when out shooting.

- The grip is too small. The height is not so much of a problem as the depth. Comparing it to my Olympus OM-D E-M1, the latter actually is better due to maybe half an inch more depth.

- The battery/SD card door may be sealed, but it is cumbersome to open and close. It is also easy for the battery door to become unhinged – I have some doubts that the weather seal is very good.

- The selector for the metering mode is small and close to the back LCD – not my favorite configuration.

- The front control wheel is easily reached but not really comfortable to turn. If you have lenses with aperture rings, you probably won’t use it much, anyway.

Audience, 50mm f1. at f1.8, 1/500, ISO 100


There has been made much brouhaha about the limiting shutter speed of 1/4000 (and less commonly about the max speed on the dial being 4 s). Although as with other features (autofocus module) one questions whether NIkon cut corners for cost reasons here or just wanted to “keep the Df down” in order not to cannibalize D4 sales, I rarely find that “limiting” – reviewing my images, I came up on that once in full sunlight, wide open at f1.8. The M9 is the same, and I shoot it with f1.4 and f1.2 lenses all the time. As a bonus feature, however, the Df gives us a “T” setting on the shutter wheel, which think is great for long exposures and (at least for Nikon DSLR) a first, AFAIK. It does not quite beat the OM-D’s Live bulb and TIme modes, but it pretty neat!

The first opportunity to try out the Df came at the Sinterklaas festival in Rhinebeck, NY, for which I used the 50 mm AF-S f1.8 “Special Edition” (this is a local festival just like the Sinterklaas in the Netherlands always at the beginning of December). Then, I took it on a business trip to Las Vegas as my main camera, with an assortment of lenses. In Rhinebeck, the temperature was close to freezing and the only person appropriately dressed was our son, so mostly stiff fingers limited the shooting. Ironically Las Vegas was even colder (note to self: pack some gloves!).

Cool Grandpa, 50mm f1.8 at f2, 1/1600, ISO 100


Handling the camera feels intuitive when one is used to a Nikon DSLR. To Vegas, I took with me to 50 mm, as well we a Fisheye (modified for full frame), a 28 mm Ai-S, my 85 mm AF-S f1.4 and a 105 (the f2.5 Ai-S). The Df just feels like it is made for primes.

What is it like shooting the Df? First, I really love the shutter – particularly the Q mode. It is “Leica quiet” – although unlike the Leica, the mirror obviously stays up and the viewfinder is blacked out until the shutter button is released. IT is no speed monster, but for me, 5.5 fps is plenty as I am not shooting any action/sports (and it will be a while till our son is ready for soccer).

Autofocus is as expected – the fact that the focus points are clustered in the middle of the viewfinder is not much of a problem for me, as I often focus and recompose (a rangefinder habit), but not putting in the D4/D800 autofocus module is somewhat annoying at that price. I must admit that comparing it to the OM-D E-M1, the speed is similar, maybe with the OM-D sometimes having the edge. I guess that speaks volumes what mirrorless cameras have come to be. So far, focus has been spot on.

I found that when adjusting the settings, the best procedure is to take the camera away from the eye – the wheels are hard to adjust when having the camera is raised. Some seem to find that unacceptable, but again, this is not a pro-action camera like the D4, it is meant to be shot more deliberately. There is still one “classic” easily accessible control wheel in the back, which can control the aperture in A and M mode (if set up that way via Menu item f7) and can control the shutter speed in S mode, provided the shutter speed wheel is set at “1/3 STEPS”. This maybe all you need, though it would be nice to change the exposure compensation with ease, too. However there is one neat feature – when you are in Shutter priority or Manual mode, and you have activated the “Easy Shutter Speed Shift” (f11), you can change the Shutter speed by 1/3 and 2/3 up and down. This helps when shooting in Manual mode in particular, to account for changes in light etc. This adjustment resets when the shutter wheel is turned.

Laugh, Fisheye, ISO 1600, exposure pulled 3.3 stops in LR


The viewfinder is bright and despite much online furor about the 15mm eye point, I can see fine with glasses on. Manual focus works well with the lenses tested (28mm, 50 mm AF-S, 85 mm AF-S and 105 mm Ai-S). I am not a fan of manually focusing AF-S lenses, but the Special Edition 50mm focus ring may have been purposefully “stiffened” – I do not have a comparison with the original AF-S 50 mm f1.8, but comparing it to my 85 mm, it definitely feels that way.

While holding the camera with one had is not all that comfortable, using it with two hands feels much more natural to me – that I is how I shoot mostly. Let’s face it, the Df is NOT a point and shoot. The OM-D may be better if you are ‘shooting from the hip’ or overhead etc.

I have not yet used the camera with zoom lenses. As stated, it sort of demands to be shot with primes, as larger zooms certainly would feel unbalanced (but if you put it on a tripod, who cares).

Image quality is amazing, It may not be the right camera for fine art photographers, that need to print big, but it is a good companion for travel and I think it makes for a great portrait camera for anything less than billboard sized photos (let’s keep in mind that before the D800, you had to pay good money to get a full frame Nikon over 12 MP and all those 12 MP cameras did fine in the professional arena).


The Df’s low ISO performance is truly outstanding, I have never shot the D3s or D4 but it blows any other digital I have used out of the water. Chroma noise seems extremely well controlled and while dynamic range at base ISO is average, it deteriorates much less than with other cameras. I found I can shoot the Df at ISO 6400 in near darkness and pull a couple more stops out of it for some decent (though not great) images.

Overall I like the camera – a lot – though that may be partly an emotional response for this older wannabe hipster. As all others, it is a mass-produced tool, and thus not perfect for anybody. I prefer the smaller size and actually like the manual dials. They do make you pause and think a bit more rather than just firing away. Ergonomically the camera is not perfect. It costs a lot, though keeping in mind that it is made in Japan and made very well and probably in smaller numbers than the D600 or D800, I am not surprised. I would be astonished f the price dropped a lot in the next few months to years.

Give it’s narrow target audience and slow sales (at least in the US, it seems to sell out in Japan), there may never be a Df2…. in which case this one may just become a cult camera :)

Benjamin Schaefer

At Caesar’s, 28mm f2 at f2, 1/320, ISO 6400 – it was this dark!


exposure pulled 4 stops in LR (almost usable), LR luminance noise reduction a 54, color at 25


Jan 162014

How about some Canon or Nikon Coffee? Great deals on these LenZcups!

Just noticed that B&H Photo are now selling these famous lens cups/mugs and thermos bottles and at pretty nice prices. If anyone reading this is like me…then these may be something cool to grab (I ordered two t his morning). Every morning I wake up and within 2 minutes am at my machine making my 1st cup of coffee. Being such a photography and camera gear geek I wondered just today why I never picked up one of these cups! Especially since most of these are under $13!

I have seen these in the flesh before and they felt solid and nice. They are more of a conversation starter or for those of you who live to shoot. The thermos? Also very cool as you can bring it along on your photo journeys. Who here has ever left the house at 4Am in search of some nice scenery? I have and having a camera lens thermos would have pepped me up that extra percent :)

In any case these are now for sale and in stock at B&H photo starting at under $13. So click the link here to SEE ALL OF THEM! 


PS – If you are a Leica shooter, yes, you can get a Leica mug as well – check it out HERE.  (image of Leica directly below)



and the Canon/Nikon offerings…

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