Nikon

camera review: Nikon Df – the steampunk Nikon D4

The anachronistically retro styling of the Nikon Df (B&H), along with the digital trappings, really makes this the steampunk D4. Especially so since it has the same top-notch sensor as the Nikon D4 (B&H).

If you have used a film camera, and specifically one of the F-series cameras, this camera will catch your eye. It’s obvious that Nikon is aiming at the same sector of photographers who found the  Fuji X100s (B&H) so appealing. That vintage look and styling definitely brings a certain cool factor into play. I bought the original Fuji X100, and then the Fuji X100s partly because it looked sexy. It looked like a fun and eye-catching camera, that also happens to be a serious machine.

Now we have the Nikon Df, and it takes all your Nikon lenses and accessories. Perfect for those photographers who would find this styling interesting, and already have an array of gear. I really think this camera is meant for the connoisseur – someone who wants a camera that is stylish looking, and a superb image-making tool.

Yup, it’s all quite interesting. But let’s have a look at how the Nikon Df (B&H) performs and handles in actual use. At the same time we’ll see how it stacks up against the bigger super-awesome Nikon D4 (B&H)

You can pre-order the Nikon Df now from B&H. It comes in a Silver and Black style.
You can also buy the Nikon Df together with some Nikon lenses (B&H)

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review: Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens

November 15, 2013

review: Nikon 58mm f/1.4G lens

The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G (B&H) is an odd focal length. It’s not-50mm. More than that, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (B&H) is only $440, and this new 58mm lens is $1,700 … yup, that’s a pretty hefty difference! The price of the 58mm lens is in line with the 85mm f/1.4G … so could one expect improved performance?

I have to admit that the 50mm f/1.4G is my least used lens, along with the fish-eye. I’m just not that excited about using it. The focal length is just not wide enough (like a 35mm might be), nor tighter like a 85mm lens might be. So while the 50mm lens is affordable, it doesn’t set my creativity alight. So here’s a new version, which from the outside, looks like it is only slightly different. So what would set this new 58mm apart?

Looking at Nikon’s info about the lens, a little more is revealed:

Its fast f/1.4 maximum aperture produces outstanding evenly lit images with edge-to-edge sharpness—virtually no sagittal coma or light falloff. Its unique design and rounded 9-blade diaphragm produce stunning bokeh and depth of field control from f/1.4 to infinity—equally useful in daytime portraits and nighttime cityscapes.

So we’d expect a crisply sharp lens with minimal optical aberrations when used wide open. This would make the lens geared towards low-light photography (with pin-point light-sources that are controlled well.) And this lens is designed to have great bokeh.

That it handles coma very well, would indicate that this lens might be seen as a successor to the Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 which is a legendary performer.

I was fortunate in being able to try out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G (B&H), and took some photographs at night in Manhattan. I also did a few comparison shots with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (B&H). Now, I didn’t shoot that much because it’s cold out there! So I’m only posting a few images for now, but they should suffice to show the optical performance of this lens.

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ISO comparison – Canon 5D mkII, 5D mk III, Canon 6D, Canon 1Dx, Nikon D4, Nikon D600

I had a number of people ask about more details about the Canon 6D and whether I would recommend the Canon 6D (B&H), or Canon 5D Mark III (B&H). It’s tough enough to give advice at best of times, since the decision to buy a top-notch camera is a nuanced one. There are so many factors that come into play – your budget, weight of the camera; ergonomics; features & specification. Everyone has a different requirement of their camera gear.

So when I was able now to get my hands on a broad enough selection of Canon cameras (Canon 5D mark II /Canon 5D Mark III  / Canon 6D / Canon 1Dx (B&H) simultaneously, I decided to also add the Nikon D4 (B&H), and Nikon D600 (B&H) into the mix. One would expect that the Canon 1Dx would beat the Canon 5D mark II hands-down since there is a generation difference in technology as well as a massive difference in price. Similarly, one would expect the Canon 1Dx (B&H), and Nikon D4 (B&H) to compare favorably to each other.

Now, as I said, the choice between cameras depend on a number of factors – but one of them that becomes important in certain areas of photography, is high-ISO performance. Instead of relying on my say-so, and a few 100% crops, I decided it might be interesting if everyone does a bit of homework for themselves, and scrutinize the relevant RAW files. This would help in making the decision a personal one.

Download the RAW files from here. Right-Click and Save-As to your computer. They have been renamed in an self-evident way. (The last 4 digits are from the original file-name.) Be prepared though that this might hit your bandwidth limits with your internet service provider, since these files are quite large!

I shot sequences of images (of the same castle), with all 6 cameras, starting at 400 ISO all the way to 6400 ISO, in full-stop increments. The cameras were on a tripod. I used the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)  and the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G (B&H) on the respective bodies. I tried to keep the framing as exact as I could. In terms of camera settings, I changed the shutter speed in full-stop increments as I changed the ISO. I kept the aperture at a constant f/8 and do keep in mind this isn’t a lens test.

I purposely photographed the shadow side of this castle, so you can see how the high-ISO noise looks like in the darker shadow areas. There is also enough detail in the image so you can figure out how the higher ISO settings affect image detail.

You will notice that for some images, I changed the shutter speed by 1/3 stop lower. This is because despite me working as fast as possible, the light did change subtly in the 3 or 4 minutes in which I shot the initial sequences for each camera. So I repeated several sequences. Therefore, the images you see here, are images that to my eye looked to have the same brightness. In other words, I tried to compensate for the slight change in light levels as I shot the sequences. I know, I know, it’s not scientific, but this is as fair as I could make the comparison.

Also, be aware that I shot with Shade WB, and this differs quite a bit between how Canon and Nikon interprets that. So for your own comparison, change the images to some specific Kelvin setting. (The beauty of RAW files – these parameters aren’t fixed.)

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Canon and Nikon

November 23, 2012

my experience in using both the Canon and Nikon systems

It seems that whenever I post here about using either Canon or Nikon gear, or when I’m seen with either, that some people are surprised that I’m using the other brand.

Just to mess with everyone, here is a snap of me carrying a Nikon D4 and a Canon 1Dx, each with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. If I look a little gung-ho there, I most certainly do look happy with all those toys … appropriately enough, in front of Toys’R'Us in Times Square. The gleeful smile is mostly because I still have the same enthusiasm and love of the gear as when I first fell in love with a camera, way way back. I love the Art, but I also love the toys.

I know there’s a lot of curiosity about this topic – whether I shoot with Nikon or Canon. Or why I would have both systems. Most people who follow the Tangents blog, will know that I (predominantly) shoot with Nikon. There are specific reasons for that, and that’s the topic of this rambling blog post …

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maximum flash sync speed, and the Nikon SB-900 / SB-910 speedlight

Because of the way the focal plane shutter works in DSLRs, shutter speed doesn’t affect our flash exposure … while we don’t go over maximum flash sync speed. When we go into high-speed flash sync, our flash output drops. (The linked article there explains it thoroughly.)

However, when we work with ambient light (and intend to add flash to our subject), then a change in shutter speed has an indirect effect on our flash exposure. A change in shutter speed will mean a change in aperture, and this is what affects our flash exposure (with manual flash), or our flash output (with TTL flash.) Check this article for how manual flash and TTL flash differ.

Therefore when we add flash to ambient light, then our shutter speed choice becomes important.

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review: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens

At the same time that I photographed Anelisa for the review of the Nikon 28mm f/1.8 AF-S lens, I had the brand-new Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens (B&H) on my other camera body. For every place that I photographed Anelisa with the 28mm f/1.8 lens, I also shot similar images with the 85mm f/1.8 lens. In a way, these two lenses complement each other, if you like working with a dual prime lens setup. A nice wide-angle view with the one lens, while the 85mm is a sweet portrait lens.

Wanting to show off the shallow depth-of-field, I shot at f/1.8 or f/2.0 throughout this photo session.

I have to remark that in terms of the bokeh alone, this new f/1.8G lens is a superb upgrade to the previous f/1.8D version. The D series lens had harsh bokeh. The G series lens has smoother bokeh. In fact, doing various test shots in my garden the next day, I couldn’t distinguish between the bokeh of the Nikon 85mm f1.4G (B&H) and the new 85mm f/1.8G lens. Couple that with autofocus that is faster than the f/1.8D and that this new lens is very sharp wide open, the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens (B&H) is an excellent choice for the more budget-minded photographer.

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review: Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G lens

To test out the new Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8G lens (B&H), I met up with Anelisa in Brooklyn to try my hand at some environmental portraiture. With such a wide field-of-view, you inevitably have to include the background.

I wanted to show the effect of the shallow depth-of-field of this lens, so I shot at f/1.8 or f/2.0 throughout. When you use a fast (i.e., wide aperture) wide-angle lens, and have sufficient distance between your subject and the background, that shallow depth of field can be used to great effect. It can be tricky though, since wide-angle lenses tend to show a lot of depth-of-field unless we’re specific in how we use them.

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Nikon D4 / Nikon D800 time-lapse photography – review

The highly anticipated Nikon D4 (B&H) and Nikon D800 (B&H) are loaded with features, and both cameras offer exceptional image quality. Hidden in the list of camera specs, is an item which is of specialized interest – Time-Lapse Photography. So if a photographer doesn’t have a specific interest in this, they are most likely just going to gloss over this – but this is quite a powerful feature.

With Time-Lapse photography, as with video, it just looks much more interesting if the camera moves as well. With movies too, the cinematography and how the camera moves, make all the difference. Last year some time, I stumbled on the Time-Lapse photography by MindRelic. The movement of the camera as the city scenes unfolded, blew my mind. This was done via a motorized dolly – specifically, the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly. So of course, with no prior interest in Time-Lapse photography, I immediately bought a Stage Zero dolly. It all just looked that cool.

But then the winter approached and it was just too cold to venture outside at night to try out Time-Lapse photography. So the dolly lay dormant, still boxed, in my office. Until my Nikon D4 cameras arrived a few days ago!

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lens review: Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

The 50mm lens in general is an interesting optic. Not necessarily for what it does, but how it seems to have fallen out and back in favor over the years. For example, in the 1970′s pretty much all 35mm film cameras shipped with a 50mm lens. Zooms weren’t something that just came with the camera as a kit lens. It was the 50mm lens that was the “kit lens”.  So the first thing the serious amateur would do, is dump the 50mm lens and get a zoom lens to get some variety in their photographs.

Then over the years, more compact and slower aperture zooms became the norm. Even more so during the digital era.

Now, as more of the newer photographers are realizing that a 50mm lens is an inexpensive way of getting super-shallow depth-of-field, the 50mm lens is seeing something of a resurgence in popularity.  That super-shallow DoF is a look that your f5.6 kit zoom lenses just can’t give you.

With that, a 50mm lens deserves a place in your camera bag. It takes up little space, and is (usually) inexpensive. (Well, until you step up to something like the Canon 50mm f1.2L … but that’s another story.)

Nikon just released the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G (B&H) as an update to the popular Nikon 50mm f1.8D (B&H), and as a more affordable option than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (B&H) … so let’s look at how it performs.

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Auto FP setting for Nikon D300s & D700 – high speed flash sync

The Nikon D300s and Nikon D700 have a custom setting to enable high-speed flash sync – custom fucntion e1. However, you have the option of setting it to either 1/250 Auto FP, or 1/320 Auto FP. I’ve often been asked which is the preferable setting … and you know, I never quite knew either.

So it was time then to systematically check this out and see what actually happens at either setting – 1/250 Auto FP and 1/320 Auto FP – for both the Nikon D300s and  D700 …

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