Jun 032014
 

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Covering the Anti-Coup Protests in Thailand with the Nikon DF

By Lee Craker

Covering the Anti-Coup Protests in Thailand with the Nikon Df

On the 25th of May, 2014 I covered the Anti-Coup demonstrations in central Bangkok Thailand. Thailand had experienced a Coup D’état 3 days earlier, and this was one of the first gatherings of people to show disapproval of the coup.

Using the Nikon Df on an important journalism assignment was literally a last-minute decision. I had arrived in Bangkok on the 23rd to teach a street photography workshop, and in my camera bag for the trip I chose 2 bodies and two lenses. I travel to Bangkok from my home in rural Thailand by public van to avoid the insane traffic in Bangkok and traveling light is a necessity. I chose my workhorse D3s and the Df as bodies, and a Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 along with the Nikkor 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 for lenses. The Nikkor 28-300 has all but replaced my Nikkor 70-200, it is a sharp capable lens, but that is another story for another day.

On the 24th, the day of my workshop I chose the D3s to shoot with as we were starting before sunrise and I wanted to have a fast focusing body for the morning darkness. I ended up carrying the D3s and the 28-300 lens for about 8 hours that day. I need to explain I am 62 years old and have been a professional for many years. Carrying two pro bodies and lenses has taken a toll on my body. After a day of carrying the D3s for 10 hours, I have had it. My back is sore and my neck is also feeling the pain of the heavy body. So on the morning of the 25th I decided to shoot with the Nikon Df for the day. For the reasons stated above, these days I carry one camera and one lens for fast moving assignments. I’ll leave carrying a bag of equipment that you may or may not need to the younger, stronger guys. I’ll rely on a good camera, experience, and maybe a little luck to get the job done.

I had two concerns in choosing the Df for this assignment. 1) Would it focus fast enough in critical situations? and 2) If it got knocked around would it hold up? As for #1, the Nikon Df does not focus as fast as the lightning fast D3s, but it did focus fast enough. I also knew that I did not have 9FPS available to me and on this particular day I never needed a rapid-fire machine gun of a camera. My other concern was durability. When in tight situations, when I was being shoved around by the crowd, I protected my camera as if I was carrying my Leica and had no problems at all. This is another distinct advantage of carrying one camera, it is in your hands and not at your side so it suffers much less abuse.

I have to report that the Nikon Df did a fantastic job on the 25th. It did everything I needed it to. Except for me being out of position, I did not miss any shots or walk away feeling I would have done any better job with any other camera. After this experience I am not afraid to use the Df as a journalism camera, when I need to.

One of the reports I filed is here: http://www.demotix.com/news/4840647/protests-against-thailand-coup-continue-central-bangkok

The following are some shots I made with the Nikon Df at the anti-coup protests in Bangkok, Thailand, May 25, 2014

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

Anti-Coup d'état protest, Bangkok, Thailand

 

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Jun 022014
 

titlejowaw1

Nikon V3 and AW1 and Floating Lanterns

By Joe Marquez - www.thesmokingcamera.com 

I took a Nikon V3 and 32mm f1.2 lens and Nikon AW1 to the Lantern Floating Hawaii Ceremony at Ala Moana Beach Park in Honolulu. This event has become a Memorial Day fixture in Hawaii and is attended by nearly 50,000 people.

The ceremony is quite beautiful and culminates at sunset with the placing of approximately 6,000 candlelit floating lanterns in the calm water along the beach. Each lantern contains a handwritten personal message to deceased loved ones from family and friends. This is a very emotional event – and a beautiful one to photograph.

Photographically, the ceremony presents several challenges. First of all, some of the best photo ops are in the water so one has to be quite careful with expensive camera equipment. Secondly, the wind direction determines whether lanterns congregate near shore or float away toward the ocean – so some years longer reach is quite useful. One year I used a Nikon 200mm f2 lens as the wind whisked the lanterns away. Finally, over the years more and more serious photographers attend the event – and along with the improved low light capability of all cameras and even cell phones, many more casual photographers and attendees are in the water jostling for position to get the very best angles. For this last reason I stopped attending years ago.

However, this year at the very last moment I decided to photograph the event. Unfortunately, the forecast was 50% chance of rain and I didn’t want to risk a DLSR (D4, Df, D800), so I thought this might be an opportunity to test my newly acquired Nikon AW1 and 11-27.5mm lens. Unfortunately, the waterproof 11-27.5 (30-74mm equivalent full frame FOV) is only f3.5 wide open so I wanted something faster and longer. I decided to take my V3 and 32 f1.2 (85mm equivalent full frame FOV) as well.

In my Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 bag – which is absolutely superb – I carried the V3/32 combo and extra batteries in waterproof pouches and the AW1. Fortunately the V3 and AW1 use the same battery. How did that happen Nikon? My plan was if it rained I would only shoot with the AW1, if it didn’t rain I would carry the V3 around my neck and the AW1 with a wrist strap.

I arrived quite late, just as it began raining so out came the AW1. The menu is quirky and the ergonomics are poor, but it was wet and this is why I bought the camera. I struggled with the menu but eventually found the right settings. Took a few photos then the rain stopped. Turns out no more rain the rest of the evening. I took out the V3/32 combo and snapped away. This combo is blazing fast and at the beginning of the ceremony there was plenty of light.

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I worked my way through the crowd, into the main staging area where people were writing words, drawing pictures and decorating their lanterns and eventually arrived at the shore. Conditions changed quickly as bright sun turned to dark cloud cover.

As quickly as light conditions changed so did the mood of the crowd. When I arrived, most people were enjoying Memorial Day cooking, eating, swimming, playing sports, listening to music and talking story. However, as the sun went down and the ceremony began, the mood changed to quiet somber reflection and lots of flowing tears.

At sunset, the lanterns are placed in the water in one of two ways: by individuals at the shore or by volunteers on a fleet of outrigger canoes which each carry hundreds of lanterns. Each lantern has a personal hand written message – all of which are quite heartfelt. My wife cried when she read some of the messages in my photos. Very powerful, very emotional.

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Throughout the fast-moving ceremony I continued taking photographs at the shore, pretty much using the AW1 for wide and the V3/32 for reach. With my Nikon DSLRs I would shoot manual knowing I had lots of leeway in post processing if my settings were off. However, I know the V3 and AW1 do not have anywhere near the same leeway as a full frame DSLR so I was hoping the camera would properly expose as I was shooting in all directions under rapidly changing light. I set both cameras to aperture priority and auto iso. This turned out be a mistake because quite often the camera would drop shutter speed too low instead of increasing iso. Furthermore I had max iso at 800 instead of 3200 for much too long. Consequently, I ended up with lots of blurry images. My bad.

The lanterns floated out to sea fairly quickly so there was only a brief opportunity to get some angles I wanted. I was forced to wade out belly-button deep in order to get the shots. I tightened the camera bag close to my neck, held the V3 high in my left hand secured by a neck strap and the AW1 in my right hand secured by a wrist strap. I alternated between the EVF and tilting LCD of the V3 and dipped the AW1 in the ocean as needed. I don’t think I would be so audacious with my D4.

joe marquez nikon AW1 V3 lantern floating  16_DSC3646

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joe marquez nikon AW1 V3 lantern floating  18_DSC0536

Other than my auto iso mistake how did the cameras do? Well, I’ve included images for you to examine and here are some thoughts.

The AW1 was surprisingly effective. I was able to shoot in the rain at the beginning and dip the camera into the ocean to get some unique low angle shots. If it had rained at the event I may have been one of the few photographers (other than those with GoPros) capable of taking decent photos. The menu and ergonomics are quirky and frustrating but ultimately the AW1 was able to get the job done. Overall it kind of reminds me of the V1 in that you set up the camera and trust it to get the shot.

I’m a big fan of Nikon’s 32 lens and love shooting wide open at 1.2. The lens is small, fast, sharp and renders well. It will never replace my Nikon 85 f1.4 but it can certainly produce gorgeous images with surprisingly shallow DOF on Nikon’s tiny CX sensors. It did not let me down at the ceremony.

Obviously this is not a V3 review. However, I’ve been using the V3 for over a month and for me it is a worthy upgrade to the V1 (never owned the V2). More pixels, tiltable rear LCD, assignable function buttons are improvements I wanted and got. There are things I don’t like such as the switch to microSD and the limitation of 40 shots when shooting at high fps. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with the V3 because of its speed, accuracy and reach in a small, lightweight, silent package (can’t wait for surf season on the northshore). The V3, just like the V1 (and V2, I presume) is simply the best mirrorless camera I’ve ever used to capture a fleeting moment. This may be true in good light, but what about bad light?

This ceremony turned out to be an opportunity to test the V3/32 combo and AW1 in poor light. As darkness fell, both were able to focus well enough, however the V3 produced images much noisier than I expected and noisier than the AW1. Could it be the denser pixel count of the V3 18MP sensor or the result of Lightroom 5’s current lack of support for the V3? As of today LR5 uses a beta profile for the V3. I really don’t have an answer. I know these cameras with their tiny sensors are weakest in poor light, but sometimes out of necessity capabilities are pushed to and beyond the limit.

In summary, the image quality of the V3/32 combo and AW1 will never match that of a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a larger sensor – particularly in poor light. But how important is image quality and what is good enough? I tried to capture the mood and feel of the ceremony along with a few special moments. I certainly did not have the ideal setup and I made some mistakes. I leave it to viewers of my images to decide if I succeeded or not.

Beyond the technical aspects of the shoot what I remember most was the ceremony concluding and the sky having that last glimmer of light. As I stood waist deep in water, I looked out at thousands of beautiful lanterns in the ocean, took in a deep breath – and simply savored the moment.

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May 242014
 

Aahh, Venice………..HATED IT! Liked it. LOVE IT!!

By Brendan Jack

Hello!

This is Brendan in Dubai. After you kindly posted my first “Daily Inspiration” a few months back, featuring New Year’s Day camel racing here in Dubai (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/01/27/new-years-day-at-the-camel-races-in-dubai-by-brendan-jack/), I thought I would share another post. While browsing through my Lightroom catalog I came across some photos I’d taken in Venice over the space of a few visits and it occurred to me how much my feelings for this city have changed.

Living in Dubai, we are lucky that it is a travel hub & that it is relatively easy & affordable to travel from here. My wife and I are Australian, and when we were living in Australia, it was neither relatively easy nor affordable to travel to Europe from there (although you wouldn’t know that from all the Aussie accents you hear in far flung corners of the world). Moscow is closer to Dubai than Perth is to Sydney and it’s much cheaper to get there.

Our first visit to Venice was done as part of our first European holiday in 2007. We drove throughout Switzerland and northern Italy (including a mandatory stop at Maranello J ) and on to Venice. I had such a romantic vision of the place, developed from many movies and photos I had seen shot on location there.

I HATED IT!!

At this point, I should come clean and say that we were daft enough to visit there in August….summer high season. I did say it was our first European holiday. And being from Oz, we have a slightly different take on what “crowded” means…we were warned and (rather foolishly as it turned out) I thought, prepared. It was during a heat wave (big one that year that thinned out the Euro population some), seriously overcrowded & it stank…..boy, did it stink. Forgot to mention that one on the travel brochure. No scratch-and-sniff on the “Visit Venice” fold out glossy, no-sir-eee. Oh, and it was also old and crumbly and mouldy….fancy a thousand-plus year old water city built on reclaimed swamp being old, crumbly & mouldy…..go figure. My wife, on the other hand, loved it (not for those same reasons, of course). Nothing really dimmed her romanticism for the place. You would have sworn we were sailing about on rose water & not what surely had been plumbed directly from the toilets of Wandsworth Prison the morning after curry night. I was more than happy to see Venice in the rear view mirror and set course for the Dolomites and Lichtenstein. Some very ordinary photos from Venice on that visit. With me at least, I need to have my head in the right place to take anything half decent and I was really not in the mood. Crushed. And I vowed not to darken Venice’s dank and malodorous doorstep again. My wife’s secret plan for a romantic few nights were no doubt crushed too, given my all-round petulant whining & feral grumpiness.

Fast forward three years and we were planning a short holiday to coincide with some public holidays here in Dubai. Where to go? After a pretty warm Dubai summer, we wanted somewhere cool. My wife had not long finished reading a book set in Venice during Aqua Alta (high water). I knew that she would really love to go back and that she was not game to ask, given my earlier gondola-hating trollishness. But, feeling somewhat abashed and sheepish over how badly I had behaved last time; and time having returned my sense of smell to near normal; and time also having dulled the memory, I suggested Venice. Yes, yes…screw my vow….I really do love my very patient wife. It was late November, early December, and it also coincided with an Aqua Alta. Serendipity. We had a week in Venice. It was cold, windy, sunny, foggy….pretty much everything that a photographer could want. There were no crowds and the experience of being there during Aqua Alta was amazing.

After a few days….I liked it.

After a few more days…..I LOVED IT!!!

The light during this time of year is spectacular. It is fickle but rewarding if you have enough time to wait it out. Having done a lot of the “touristy stuff” on our first visit, this time, we had a list of off-the-beaten path things that my wife wanted to visit to compare the reality to the context of the books she had read. Me? I was happy as a lark to wander the back alleys with her & my Nikon while we found the various literary spots. To see all the high-end shops around St Marks Square with two feet of the Venice Lagoon slopping around within their walls was something that you don’t get to see every day. It must be heartbreaking for them but they seem to just get right on with pumping their stores out and using these “doorway dykes” (no, they’re not large, waterproof, lesbians) to seal up their shops before the next high tide. On a few mornings, we ate breakfast in the restaurant of our historic Grand Canal hotel, with several inches of water frolicking over the floor, served by impeccably uniformed waiters in gumboots, serenaded by submersible pumps hidden away behind the instant-art of jenga-esque antique furniture stacked on top of each other to get them out of the water. Great memories.

We have been back for a day or two since then, on the way through to other places in Italy and I look forward to our next chance to go back. It is one of the marvels of the (photographic) world. I have included a few lo-res shots from our Aqua Alta visit for visual reference.

All the best and thanks for your hard work to keep this site so damned spectacularly good!!

Kind regards
Brendan

Early Winter Walk, Aqua Alta, Venice

Early Walk, Venice, Monochrome

Fog, Gull & Aqua Alta, Venice

Winter Fog & Aqua Alta, Venice

 

 

May 202014
 

Living With Dementia

By Mark Seymour

Dad, 82 years young.

I’m not a great wordsmith but a documentary wedding photographer and son who with his mum learned that dad had Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. Mum has been the most incredibly strong woman married at the age of 19 and now nearly 60 years later has until yesterday cared and looked after dad every single day, seeing the man she vowed to be with for better or worse gradually decline. Dad yesterday was admitted to a dementia care home for mum’s safety.

Here is the story of the last few years with dad in his garage workshop, visiting the Ace cafe where they dated and the brilliant nurses and carer’s that have helped mum and now dad. Many tears have been shed making and putting together this short slide show at the end of these few images…….Please let me take just 120 seconds of you time……….

Thank you

Mark

http://markseymourphotography.co.uk/dementia/ see the slide show

All images shot on Nikon V1 / Nikon D3s and Nikon D4 over a 2 year period

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May 032014
 

By Request: Nikon V3 vs Nikon J1 – OOC JPEG

P1060095

I had a few ask of you me to post a couple of quick side by side snaps to compare the brand new Nikon V3 to the old 1st gen Nikon V1. My son has the V1 with him right now so I used the next best thing, the J1. The J1 has the same IQ as the V1, same sensor, and same IQ.

So how did the old J1 fare against the new V3? For starters, keep in mind that I paid $200 for the J1 with 10mm 2.8 lens, new. The V3 sells for $1200 as a kit with the new kit 10-30. For this test I just wanted to show straight out of camera JPEGS here. Both with the same 10mm 2.8 lens (it does better than the zoom) and both cameras set to their base ISO (100 for the J1 and 160 for the V3).

I can say the EVF makes the V3 more of a joy to use over the J1 that does not have an EVF of any kind but in the hand, they both feel good with the V3 coming in at a little bit smaller of a size.The little $200 J1 feels solid though.

Below are direct straight out of camera JPEGS. Both cameras were also set to “Neutral” color in the setup menu and both cameras were set to matrix metering. Both had the Active D Lighting set to off. What you see is what you get. The V3 has more megapixels but is also rendering the images differently Same lens was used, same spot, same moment.

What are your thoughts? Click on each image for full size file. Right click and open in a new window to see full file on your screen correctly. Each image is labeled with what it is.

 

nikonv3jpegsponge

nikonj1spnge

nikonv3trees

j1trees

wallv3

wallj1

 

The V3 seems to be less harsh and less contrasty but also loses some of the bite of the 1 series. How about high ISO? This is where we should see a huge performance increase as we are going from 1st gen to 3rd gen sensor for the 1 series.

v3iso3200

j1iso3200

So it is no question that after shooting both that the V3 offers more megapixels and better low light performance. The question you have to ask yourself if you are a 1 series shooter is “is this worth upgrading my current camera for”? Only you can decide. Me, after shooting a teeny bit with the V3, its response is up there with the fastest I have shot with, even faster feeling than the Olympus E-M1. But, for $1200 I will stick with the V1 and J1 for now (for my 1 series shooting). Like I said here, the V3 could have been so much more and using Micro SD cards really killed it for me up front.

The V3 is available HERE.

 

May 022014
 

The Nikon V3 Arrives. 1st Impression report.

P1060095

UPDATE: A quick super fast generic J1 vs V3 JPEG OOC test is HERE.

My V3 review sample arrived today and I was excited to test it. FINALLY, the V3 we have been waiting for! WooHoo! Many of you here know I was and am a huge Nikon 1 system fan and my fave was the original V1. 

Then I opened the box and took the camera out. Uh Oh. 1st impression is that Nikon dropped the ball. The V3 is TINY, feels cheap (The $200 J1 feels nicer and better made), the EVF is cheap without a swivel and is quite small..but the killer for me? The V3 now takes MICRO SD cards! YUCK! Gone is the SD card slot and it is replaced by an itsy bitsy teeny weeny Micro SD card slot. I am not a fan of using Micro SD cards in a camera, especially one that costs $1200 as the V3 Kit package does.

So yes, my 1st impression was not a good one. I decided to load up the battery and take it out in my yard to test the AF and all of the other good stuff such as the new 10-30 Kit Zoom. Maybe it would wow me with something cool and unique or its overall abilities when in use…

…AF is very fast but no faster than the new $700 Sony A6000. Shutter sounds pretty nice, but no nicer than the new $700 Sony A6000. IQ? Same as the V1 and V2 in my limited snaps out back (which I do love). The new kit zoom seems softer than the old one. For $1200 Nikon has delivered the cheapest feeling and smallest V body yet. In comparison, the failed AW1 felt like a tank in comparison. Not sure who is making the decisions at Nikon these days but they do not seem to care about the 1 system nor the users who fell in love with the nice V1 and V2.

With such disappointment out of the gate I may not even do a full review. It does nothing to inspire me or motivate me. It feels cheap, it is too small, has nothing special about it and is a step backwards from the V1 and V2 in build, feel and maybe even IQ. The Micro SD card was a bad move as well.

P1060099

The new 10-30 zoom has pretty noticeable barrel distortion as well (looking at OOC JPEGS).

In the $1200 price range I would take many cameras over this V3, and even save some money while I was at it. I have been a huge Nikon 1 fan since the V1 but Nikon let us down with the V3, at least that is my opinion after an hour or so with it. Way too much competition with better cameras and lenses for less money. After messing with the V3 around the house for a while I would say that this camera should come in at around $399-$599 today simply because there is much better out there for less money (The Olympus E-M10 with lens for under $700 is a much better buy than the V3 and will outperform it in every way). This may be the nail in the coffin for the 1 system as what Nikon has delivered in a V3 falls really short of what was needed in todays market. I have some nice 1 system lenses so I may buy a V2 once it goes to fire sale clearance. I will be skipping the V3.

YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE V3 AT B&H PHOTO HERE. Maybe some of you will enjoy it :) For me, it is too much of a letdown as it could have been so much more. While I look at the positive in everything, I really have very little to say about the V3 that is good…or positive besides the fast speed that we always have had with the 1 system but I get this with the V1 and J1 already. I mean, it is a good 1 series camera but why buy a V3 that feels cheaper, is smaller, uses an external EVF when you can get a V1 or V2 that has a better feel, built in EVF, etc for much less?

Just a few of the alternatives that are a much better buy IMO: Sony A6000, Fuji X100s, Olympus E-M10, Panasonic GX7, or a Nikon V2. Maybe even a Leica C.

My next reviews? Sony A6000, Sony A7s, Leica C, Voigtlander 75 1.8 on the Leica M

Apr 302014
 

Big and small: in the field with a D800/55mm Otus and an A7r/35mm Summilux

Andrew Paquette

www.paqart.com

My background is as a visual artist, not a photographer. I started out as an editorial artist in New York, then became a comic book artist, a 3D artist in the video game industry, a special effects artist in the feature film business, and then an art director in video games. Throughout my career I have made extensive use of cameras, but only in a utilitarian way. For an illustration I did for Travel & Leisure, I took reference photos with a Polaroid. For an issue of the comic Nightbreed, I used my Nikon 2020 to shoot some friends in my loft, again as reference. For the movie Spider-Man, I used photos taken by one of my colleagues to build part of the 3d New York City set. For my paintings, though I preferred to paint subjects “live”, I sometimes took photos with my D70 for reference. On one painting in particular I had the nagging feeling that if only I’d had a better camera I could have skipped painting it. It turned into a fairly popular poster, but even today I think that a photo of the same scene would have done just as well or even better. Now that I have that better camera, I am fairly sure that is true.

I have read in many places that it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have if you have a good eye for a picture. I would say that if you don’t have a decent eye for what makes a good picture, it won’t matter as much what kind of equipment you use, but it will still make a difference. If you do have some experience making pictures, the equipment can make a huge difference.

At the moment, my two favorite camera/lens combinations are almost exact opposites. One is huge, the other is tiny. On the big end of the spectrum, I love my D800 when paired with the Zeiss 55mm Otus lens. On the small side of things, I am equally pleased with my Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH when mounted on an A7r. The difference between how these two kits handle cannot be understated. The D800 + Otus is so ponderously heavy that I literally injured my hand using it (and even had to go to the doctor as a result). The A7r + Summilux is so tiny that I can carry it in a hip pouch and forget it is there. At face value, one might think that the small setup is the way to go but I have found the images I get out of the D800 + Otus so compelling that I take it out for a walk just as often as I go out with the A7r. I have not put the Otus on the A7r as others have done because for me, the purpose of the A7r is to have something lightweight and discreet. If I’m going to use the Otus, it won’t be discreet no matter what it’s mounted on, so I may as well have the higher frame rate offered by the D800.

When I bought the A7r, I was planning on switching to an all Sony/Leica system so that I could travel more easily with my photography gear. At first, I thought that was how it would work out, but then the Otus was released and I got curious about it. The next thing I knew, I had the Otus and found that it was capable of a wonderful medium format look. The A7r/Summilux would have been a perfect combination to shoot the subject I painted that was mentioned earlier, but the D800 + Otus would have been better for another painting I made shortly thereafter. Despite the extra weight, I found that I wanted to keep the D800 (and all my Zeiss lenses) and the A7r. Now, I use the A7r whenever I travel by plane, have to stay in a hotel, or if my arm is not feeling up to walking around with the Otus. Otherwise, I almost always use the Otus. For special occasions, other lenses will get a ride on the D800, but these days I almost always use the Otus.

I should also give a plug for Zacuto viewfinders here. After using the Sony’s vastly superior electronic viewfinder on the A7r, I was too spoiled to be satisfied with the optical viewfinder or live view on the D800. I use the Zacuto Z-finder pro 3x on both cameras now, and hardly ever misfocus as a result. As an added bonus, my exposure is much improved thanks to the Zacuto’s ability to isolate the LCD from exterior light. For the D800, I leave the mounting plate attached to the camera body, then snap on the viewfinder when I need it. For the A7r, I do not attach the mounting plate, but wear the Zacuto on a lanyard around my neck instead, then hold it up to the live view panel when needed.

With all that preamble out-of-the-way, here are some photos. Most were taken in Amsterdam, but several were taken on a recent trip to Geneva with the A7r. See the captions for more detailed information.

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1 The A7r+35mm Leica Summilux ASPH

Carnival ride, Amsterdam. There was a carnival in Dam square a couple weeks ago when I shot this image. The ride was moving so fast that I was amazed I could get any shots at all with the manual focus Summilux, but got several regardless. The real problem was that the seats on this ride spun from the arm they were attached to, meaning that I only occasionally had riders facing the camera.

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Breakdancing at Museumplein, Amsterdam. There is a troupe of breakdancers that I have now photographed three times at Museumplein. The first time I shot them on an overcast day with a Zeiss 15mm Distagon, then with a 55mm Zeiss Otus, and here with the 35mm Summilux. Like the carnival ride, I was worried about shooting fast action because of the A7r’s comparatively slow shots per second, but it worked out fine. I didn’t get as many shots as the D800 would have provided, but it was enough to get the exact shots I wanted.

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Indian magic trick at Leidseplein, Amsterdam. Although I avoid doing so with my other lenses, I love shooting backlit subjects with the A7r/Summilux combo. It isn’t that I never get decent shots of this type with other lenses, but this combination yields terrific contrast in these situations.

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Horse-drawn coach, Amsterdam  I’ve tried several times to get a decent shot of this horse, and finally got it with the A7r. One thing I love about the 35mm Summilux is its ability to provide context to a subject, as in this case by showing the environment around the horse.

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Particle beam casing and magnets, CERN, Geneva. My friend, Dr. Richard Breedon, has been associated with one of the experiments at CERN for as long as I’ve known him. Recently he offered me an opportunity to come to Geneva and take some photos. I think he gave me something like two days’ notice, but I’d wanted to do it for quite a while, so I got the plane tickets right away and flew down. Taking pictures at CERN was made difficult by the poor lighting and the bizarre colors almost all the machinery was painted.

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Scientist calibrating panel at CERN, Geneva. This was one of a small number of shots I took at CERN that has a human subject in the frame to give a sense of the scale of the beam magnets. This scientist is standing at the base of one of these things, which are about 30 meters in diameter. Like most of the shots taken in this area, I converted it to black and white to get rid of all the brilliant green, red, and yellow painted objects.

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Skier at Chamonix. Richard and I drove down to Chamonix the day after photographing CERN, to have a look at the slopes near Mont Blanc. This shot was taken in an ice cave at the top of a perilous cable car ride. From here, it was all downhill. Most of the shots I took in Chamonix were taken with ISO 50, f 16, and 1/4000 shutter speed. This was one of maybe three shots that had more normal settings. I would post some of the others because I like them, but anyone who has ever been to this location will have very similar shots because there are only a few places to take pictures from unless you want to risk life and limb.

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Geneva auto show, Geneva. This shot looks pretty bright, but it was an indoor space lit with artificial lights, so it wasn’t that bright. This is where having a 1.4 aperture option comes in extremely handy. At ISO 400 I was able to shoot this at 1/400th of a second. One thing I should mention here is that I avoid shooting the A7r at less than 1/200th of a second to avoid shutter vibration, even if it means a higher ISO than I would normally use. In the 1/60-1/125 range, shutter vibration is noticeable, so I just don’t use those settings at all.

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Swan on Lake Geneva. I took about 20 shots of these swans, all in attempt to get one shot of water dripping off their beaks. After thinking I’d missed the shot every time, I found that the first shot got exactly what I wanted.

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Pedestrian, Geneva. This was taken after sunset. Streetlights were just coming on and it was starting to get difficult to see. Despite the lack of light, the Summilux delivered a very nice tonal range.

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Missing the pocket, Amsterdam. When I spotted this couple walking down the street, I had to get a shot of them. I turned around and snapped about five or six shots before they disappeared into a crowd. I particularly like shooting with the Summilux slightly after sundown because of the rich blue violet shades that permeate images made at that time of night. The same evening I took some other nice shots of boats and lights reflected in the canals. Absolutely gorgeous light.

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Roman Road golf course, Wales. I took this on the last day of a conference I attended in Wales. Until that morning, the region had been buried in deep fog that made it almost impossible to shot anything. I was grateful when the sky opened up a little to allow this image to be taken.

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2 The D800+55mm Zeiss Otus

Parked cars, Bergen op Zoom. In the Netherlands, it is very common to see trees trimmed like the ones in this image. Coming from the U.S., I think this looks a bit strange, but interesting. In this shot, I like how the shallow depth of field blends all the twigs together in the background, creating a kind of smoky bramble above the cars.

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Looking and not looking, Amsterdam. To get this shot, I parked myself in front of the violet lamp-post, focused on it, then waited for people to walk by. When I got home, I was fascinated by how sharp the lamp post is. I’m still not used to this quality the Otus has. The Summilux has terrific color and contrast, but the neutral color and outstanding sharpness of the Otus are mesmerizing to look at.

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Artist, Spui, Amsterdam. This shot looks about as cold as Siberia, but it wasn’t very cold at all, nor has it been all winter. We didn’t even have snow this year. Normally I don’t like to take pictures of paintings unless they are mine, but in this case I liked the large amount of white space interrupted by these couple of spots of intense color.

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Couple, Museumplein, Amsterdam. This shot, like many other shots taken with the Otus, looks like medium format photography to me. It also reminds me of the colors one finds in color photography from the 1950’s. The people in the Netherlands tend to be tall, and I like how this man looks like a giant in a tiny seat as he eyeballs my camera.

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Girl with braid, Amsterdam. The primary reason I shot this is because of the colors in this little girl’s clothing. While I think of the Summilux as being particularly good at dealing with blues and yellows, the Otus seems to like pinks and greens more. This may just be my imagination, but it has led me to shooting specific colors with this lens because I think they look better with it.

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Hands with tiny camera, Amsterdam. Unlike the monster I shot this with, the camera in these hands is barely visible. I had wanted to get a picture of this man because of the complex pattern on his jacket, but he ducked into an alcove, took a picture of a building across the street, then went back the way he’d come. I took this in anticipation of him coming out of the alcove in a moment, but he didn’t do it.

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Green and red, Haagse Beemden, Netherlands. I may be the only person in the world that likes this photograph of practically nothing, but I really do like it because of the colors. It is just a garbage can and a big red cylindrical building on the edge of a manmade lake, but I like the combination of red and green.

D800-07

Organ, Amsterdam. I have taken a lot of photos of cathedrals, but not as many of the organs, which are usually so high above the ground that it isn’t worth the trouble to shoot them with less than a 100mm lens. This one was lower than most and had great color.

D800-08

Breakdancer, Amsterdam. A problem had with the Zacuto is that the D800 live view screen will go black after the shutter is pressed until the image is finished saving. This meant that as I tried to follow the breakdancers with the camera, I could only frame the first shot by eye, and then the rest (if shot in continuous mode) I had to guess. For this reason, I have decided to use the Zacuto for initial focus when shooting action, but will remove it after it is focused so that I can track the action. For this type of shot, I thought the A7r was easier to use because I didn’t have to deal with the Zacuto getting in the way of the EVF.

D800-09

Skater, Amsterdam. To me, this skater looks almost like a superhero in this shot. I have at least a hundred shots of skaters in this park, but this is easily the most elegant of the group.

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Intersection, Amsterdam. It almost seems criminal sometimes to turn some of these images to black and white, but in this case I felt it was worth it to enhance the effect of the light falling between buildings on the opposite side of the street, silhouetting the man on the near traffic island.

D800-11

Bubbles, Carnaval celebration. This is another one of those shots that demonstrates how brilliant the Otus typically is. It’s pictures like this that have me wanting to think up some decent staged shots, find some models, then do some deliberate shoots to get a specific composition instead of hoping to find something interesting while walking around town.

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3 Conclusion

I have a hard time saying that I think either of these kits is better than the other because they are both clearly very capable systems. A funny thing about the handling of them is that while I wish the Otus didn’t weigh so much and was less bulky, using it is in some ways more comfortable than using the A7r. The A7r is easier to carry and less obtrusive, but I feel less in control of making the image than when I am using the Otus. I think this is because of the long throw on the Otus, which allows more fine focusing. With the A7r, I always worry that I’ve tapped the little focusing knuckle ring a little too far or not enough when taking a photo. Since I can tell whether it is in focus or not by using the EVF or Zacuto viewfinder, it is a silly concern to have, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling more confident when shooting the Otus. Having said all that, when selecting images for this article, I initially had almost twice as many Summilux shots as Otus shots as candidates. Is this because I unconsciously favor the Summilux? I wouldn’t know.

AP

Apr 252014
 

Sicily with the New Nikon D4s

by Mark Seymour

My passion for photography extends beyond recording weddings, it is people’s everyday lives, cultures, beliefs and religious practices that fascinate me and inspire my documentary photography. To develop this interest I schedule photography trips a few times every year to enable me to immerse myself in new places and experiences.

I have recently returned from what turned out to be one of my most fascinating photography adventures, capturing the incredible images of a tradition Sicilian Easter celebration in Trapani and was further enhanced by having the opportunity to meet up with some great documentary and street photographers such as Ernesto Bazan.

The trip was planned several months ago after my son Jonny asked to accompany me on my next documentary project and develop his skills behind the camera. We had an amazing trip together between us we took hundreds of images, impressing me with one real show stopper image of a Christ figurine.

The Processione dei Misteri di Trapani has been performed for over 300 years and retells the passion plays through the most elaborate floats being paraded from the church through the streets of Trapani for 16 hours. We joined them as they prepared and gathered in the church early in the morning and followed them throughout the day until nightfall. The immense effort under which the men carry the floats of Christ and Mary is clear in their faces, and the whole experience is incredibly powerful for even the non-religious visitor. It has definitely provided me with many stunning images to recall my memories from this visit.

The use of black and white documentary style photography really captures the emotions of the day highlights the facial expressions that tell the story of their belief and commitment.

I have selected the key images to retell the story of the day in the following slideshow, the background music is performed by a Sicilian marching band like the ones that accompany the procession.

All the images were taken on the new Nikon D4s which Nikon UK kindly sent me for this trip.

The full post can be seen here http://markseymourphotography.co.uk/trapini-easter-parade/

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Apr 232014
 

The Nikon Df in Ghana

by Steven Jermaine

Hello to all readers!

I had the opportunity to go to Ghana this March with my college, the University of the District of Columbia, for an educational and vacation opportunity. I purchased the Nikon Df about four days before the trip with the 50mm 1.8 AFD. Maybe not the smartest move but it’s the photographer and not the tool right? I was there for ten days and while we were there we stayed in Accra, Kumasi, and the Cape Coast.

The people were amazing and the experiences were a mix of emotions from fun to sad yet life affirming and renewing. I felt very much at home and welcomed by the Ghanaian people. I will always remember my time there and would love to return. Everything from the Slave Castles to the Last Bath to donating books and shoes to a small school there, affected me and still affects me to this day. As a Jamaican and American resident, I left feeling like I returned to my homeland and came back to America anew.

Anyways, the camera did a great job. I had reservations about the camera but Steve’s review put me over the top. The controls are accessible and easy to use for me. Others might have trouble but for me it feels great. The grip is small and I have big hands but it was not uncomfortable and as a camera I carry with me everyday I don’t have the same problem. The sensor doesn’t need to be talked about, it’s a proven sensor and it did a great job. For others who are looking at potentially buying the Df I would say try it out and I bet it will reach 80-90 percent of your expectations. It’s a great tool, light weight, takes great lenses, the auto focus worked great and still works great for me.

Anyways here are the images image sized per instruction. I included more than three but if that’s a problem choose the first three. Thanks Brandon and Steve!

My new website: www.kwesijones.com
Instagram: @messagesfromme

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Apr 142014
 

How the Nikon V1 is changing my approach to Photography

by Francois Kaplan

v1

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.

flower

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:

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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.

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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).

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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

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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)

http://www.metabones.com/assets/a/stories/Speed%20Booster%20White%20Paper.pdf

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
 

nikonv2aspen

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/aspenz/

Mar 132014
 

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

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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

http://www.flickr.com/photos/djdelavega/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/tag/d-j-de-la-vega/

http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2011/06/22/user-report-a-photographic-road-trip-with-the-leica-x1-by-d-j-de-la-vega/

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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

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