April 16, 2005

The following is a review that a fellow wedding photographer, John Michael Cooper, posted on the Digital Wedding Forum in March ’05. I’m re-posting it here with his kind permission, since I wanted his offbeat view and sense of humor to have a wider audience. He is definitely someone to watch, always delivering work that surprises and impresses. Anyway, here’s John Michael Cooper’s review of the D2x .. or as he would have it, his new BigBlackCamera …

Neil van Niekerk


Ok here are my impressions of my new BigBlackCamera.

First let me say that what follows is just my opinions and personal thoughts about this camera and its effect on my photography, and is not intended to be and accurate accounting of this camera’s ability to capture quality images.

Out of the Box:
This camera right out of the box seems to be one bad-ass machine. While taking the image below I had an epiphany which has influenced my direction in this review. Let me say that in the image below the best part of getting this new camera is clearly visible, I’ll explain that in the conclusion.

(I’m always quick to un-brand my gear for not so obvious reasons) Side By Side:
The BigBlackCamera showing off its muscle compared to TheLittleCameraThatCould.

With Honk’n big chimp’n screen the BigBlackCamera almost intimidates the SlowCameraWithPrettyColors.

Speed Test:
Damn! This thing is fast, and any good Frenchman will discount its speed until it passes a steroid test. If you are as clumsy as I am then you’ll be familiar with this kind of shot. I get this at least once or twice a wedding.

With the BigBlackCamera WOW! Its more like this, and will probably happen twice as often since there is an extra shutter release to contend with.

that’s 8fps baby! (ok, i cheated; its 5 fps for 1.2 secs, i didn’t bother to switch to cropped mode) I’ll have to neuter my BigBlackCamera and keep it in S mode and will probably only switch to C mode when I need to “show off” –which is a common bad habit I picked up somewhere.

Resolution Test:

SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColors vs. BigBlackCamera
SLOW:

BigBlack :


Alright this is were reality sets in.. I think its reasonably clear that my BigBlackCamera has little or no effect on my sucky compositional skills and my ability to control light was just as horrible as before, hence the reason I retouched the images. It was only the inclusion of my very cute stepdaughter Rosilyn that gave the images any photographic value at all.. saving the day with a pretty face.

Both images at ISO 100 f4.5 at just under a half a sec. I intentionally chose a slow shutter speed just in case I needed to blame poor quality on subject movement. I lucked out and got sharp images on both, not sure how that happened.

A side note on color. The SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColors was on AWB while the BigBlackCamera was set to 3700k which I deemed to be the best at the time (its AWB wasn’t helping me out after seeing her very magenta shirt) . The SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColors straight out looked much better and I used that as a ref to match the colors on the BigBlackCamera file. After a little adjustment the BigBlackCamera file started to look much better IMHO then SBCWPC file which started out way prettier.

Here is a hundred percent crop for those that want to stick their nose to the print.
Slow on top, BigBlack on the bottom.

While BigBlack is clearly much sharper by far, I was actually impressed that my old Slow would look so good this big… as a reference if printed at this res the print would be 40×60” and that’s bigger then you want to remember most people. Its amazing how we discount our older cameras’ abilities once we have a new love in the house. I have to rethink why I truly needed to jump up to this newer camera.

Off on tangent: looking these kind of side by side blowups of the same eyes that I have seen hundreds of during my research of different cameras, My mind tends to freak out on them an wants to bring them together as one being. Kinda of unsettling, but this is what it does in my head:

Real world, 6mp vs 12:Here is the difference.
6 mp

12 mp

Which means you’ll be able to add the 2nd cousins that the bride and groom don’t like but the mom insisted that they were invited even at $75 per head. (You can see they are struggling to smile). The only major benefit at the moment I can see with all of that resolution is: That I will be able to include a few more faces in the group shots. And I will feel much less self conscious when delivering the 16×20 of the group.

And when the clients sticks their nose to the print to examine how sharp the digital image is, much the same way we stick our noses to the screen while looking at 100% crops of eyes, I wont have to whip out the phrase “…that print is designed to be viewed AT A distance of FOUR…..maybe five feet….”

The LittleBigScreen on the back.

Wow what a nice little big screen. This was actually the first thing i wanted to lick out of the box, but better judgment made me pick the top of the pentaprism instead. It’s like going from a 27″ TV to a 42″ plasma (in HD)..
the menus are super easy and clear compared to my SLOW which just made me say Whaa? Whaa?…. anyway much more helpful and lots of little things to get into and make you feel that you’ve got some sort of control, if not understanding. My favorite feature:

Its not a super zoom.

First I hated the zooming compared to my already fine zoom on my SlowCameraWithPrettyColors. But after a while I got use to it and the zooming is much more satisfying. You can zoom up on one location then hit the thumb wheel and go to the next image at the same point and same zoom level, making is easy to check and track the sharpness of a zit across several images.

LittleCameraThatCould’s zoom had always disappointed me and was more of a tease when I press the magnify button… saying “here it is.. want to see it closer… not” … hated the fact that you couldn’t zoom up anymore.

Although I’m happy with my old Slow’s zooming, this is just a step up.
Here is a dramatization… Warning … the high level of zooming of this camera may make you more prone to longer chimping times and may even show you up close much unwanted detail.

Ok, I just picked up my LittleCameraThatCould and I realized that its zooming feature is a little similar. I just was doing it wrong… Maybe I should have read the manual… I guess that sorta may discredit my review a little ’cause I’m not a manual reader… But then again that may just put me in the majority.. Gee, I wonder what other wonderful features my LittleCameraThatStillCan has that i didn’t even touch on…. Hmmmmmm…..

Ok.. next installment. SPORTS.

Although I’m not a sports photographer I thought I would give it a little try because some of the BigBlackCamera’s abilities might lend itself well to this profession.Here’s my weekend at a glance – NASCAR virginity, beer, Iwa Jima, turkey legs, beer, fast cars, dashboards, good folks, high speed chase on the way home, hiding behind a bar, more beer, and porcelain.

Back to the review:
Nascar

There is something very interesting about this cross section of middle America, so much so that I wanted to do a group shot. First my focus might have been a little off and since I was drinking beer (we had a DD so I decided to partake more the usual) I didn’t bother to tripod or put down the turkey leg so that counts to some camera movement..First it would have been better if Bubba would have sat down, and if Bo on the other side of the group would stop chimp’n and distracting his friends. Other then that its just an ok group shot and I think I could of done a little better no thanks to mr. MGD

.

Focus speed, tracking, and composition.

180mph through a fence, two shots in S mode, sharp enough to read all the decals. Compound the fact that I’m a little dehydrated and already Faded from the better part of a 12pck. This is one impressive camera.

(now I am in no way endorsing drinking while photographing, and if you think that, I’ll tell you all about the being the passenger in the high speed chase that occurred later that day. – I’m just saying that BigBlackCamera performed exceptionally even though its operator was proving just how stupid a person can be.) and that’s impressive.

Do really need to justify all that extra resolution, here’s one. Even with my shiny new BigBlackCamera I was still stuck in the NoseBleed section and that little extra res will help me brag that yeah I was really close to the action.

That was first nascar experience. Saturdays race was fun although I couldn’t keep up with who was in what place. Sundays race, the Nextel cup was even better with more excitement, but I missed it ‘cause I was home getting sick and watching it in HD with my new BigBlackCamera on the shelf out of harms way.

didya think i was going to let you get by without any dashboards.

in the parking lot you meet a lot of nice people.

’64 volvo

A few wedding images.

Within a week that I received my BigBlackCamera, I shot 2 basketball games, 2 portrait sessions and 2 full day weddings and just after that my nascar experience.

So here are few wedding images. Keep in mind that I shot only in jpg since Capture was the only thing to convert with and its speed didn’t sit well with my A.D.D. I did have a painful adjusting period correcting and getting use to the WB – stepping down from the SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColor.

I chose images that I sucked on either exposure, white balance, or both just to test the cameras files ability to pull my ass out of the fire – (saving it in the soup as we use to call it in ole days).

Although I shot faster, a little better focus, and much higher res, I am a little disappointed after reviewing my images and realizing that they all look just like the crap I shot with my old cameras. It seemed to have little or no effect on my photography.

The Conclusion.

Am I disappointed? Yes. Let me explain with some charts. ( I saw the other day another review site had some charts so I thought some purty charts would make things a little interesting)

You’ll notice from the charts that I wasted a lot of time and energy researching and anticipating the decision and then the arrival of the BigBlackCamera. As time came nearer my excitement built up.

Even though I said many months ago the only reason for upgrading was to replace my ageing, well worn and overworked cameras with something that was a little more robust, I still let myself fall into the trap of thinking this machine was going to be the end all and allow me to reinvent my work.
With every new camera that I have ever purchased, I seemed to justify things this way leading up to the purchase: “once I have this new camera I’ll be able to take on this job”, “honey, if I get this camera, I’ll be able to sell more prints and we can finally go on that cruise”, “I’m waiting to start that special project when I get the new camera cause I cant do it with my old ones”, “I know it’s a lot of money but I’ll be able to make so much more money with it”

Now with every new camera that I have received my photography has changed a little and progressed and realize now that it was due more to the excitement and newness then the camera itself.Now here is the best part of getting a new camera.

Someone might’ve guessed it early on, it’s the box. Before the Box arrives, you spend countless hours daydreaming, sleepless nights wondering, and many ideals of things to shoot pass through your head. The opening of the box and knowing there is something new inside that you can play with and get to know like a new friend. You take it out and want to shoot right away only to realize that you have to charge battery, bummer!

It’s the newness that gets you excited about your photography again and not the camera itself. It’s the box that makes you feel that way, its was the same when I first pulled out and held my SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColors with wonder and then again when I got my LittleCameraThatCould which was held with the same awe as with all the cameras that came tucked in boxes the years and years before. The box, makes everything new and makes you want to shoot, and best of all forces you to think of your photography as a brand new toy. Makes you get out and really play again just like we used to when the last one came.

I really wish most of us would stop blaming our good photography on our shiny new cameras. Like any tool its how excited you are to use it and your passion that makes it.For those with little imagination, getting a BigBlackCamera for the wrong reasons may be the best thing that has happened to you and your photography in a long time.

For those gifted with brilliant imaginations, you’ll only need a box. Just put your OldFaithFullCamera in it, then pull it out the next morning and hold it in wonder as if it were the first time and be just as excited and full of daydreams to go out at shoot with it right away.

My personal opinion aside, I do hella recommend this camera, the D2X, to all those thinking about purchasing it for the right reasons. It shoots faster then what I have been shooting with. Its files are bigger and sharper with more detail. Its body is far more rugged and tough (I’ve been known to walk into walls). Its focus is better and quicker. Its incrementally better in almost all areas compared to my old cameras except for one major one, that of paramount importance…… its effect on my photography itself, other then the fact that for a while anyway I’ll be a little more excited to get out and shoot.

My reason for this review: Why did I rename the camera BigBlack and such, well when the D4X comes out I’ll re-read this as if it were a new review and maybe I’ll put my old BigBlackCamera into a box and just pull it out as if it were brand new then take my wife on a cruise.

The Players:
BigBlackCamera – Nikon D2X (the camera that proves size matters)
SlowBlackCameraWithPrettyColors – Fuji Finepix S2 (were image matters)
LittleCameraThatCould – Nikon d70 (the camera that still proves size doesn’t matter)

Thanks,
.johnmichaelcooper.

ps. One cool feature that I didn’t mention is that while holding this BigBlackCamera in your hands is you’ll get a lot more of “wow that thing you got there is pretty darn big” , “yes, I know, and I know how ta use it”

 

 


 

{ 7 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Reuben December 23, 2007 at 4:04 pm

thank God, at last, someone who can thumb his nose at all the gear heads of this world

Reply

2 David December 24, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Great commentary. Laughed a lot.

Now, where are you two going on the cruise???

Reply

3 Glenn February 19, 2008 at 8:42 am

Great commentary, excellent point of view, and humor, on the subject of equipment.

Reply

4 Mike Godwin February 27, 2008 at 9:08 am

He must be getting the bad cameras I keep sending back. I keep getting ones that take bad photos also. I can’t believe there are so many bad cameras out there. How do these camera companies stay in business when they keep sending out cameras that take such lousy pictures?

Reply

5 Ceda March 19, 2008 at 4:56 am

It matters who stands behind the camera, not the camera itself..

Great article!

Regards!

Reply

6 Bhakti May 19, 2008 at 11:11 am

When I was working for a photographer to help pay for college, he told me about his friend who was a warranty service technician (Nikon). So many cameras sent back for warranty repair were flawless that he simply wrote them up as “Loose nut behind the viewfinder” and returned them to the customers. Seemed to work fine…

Reply

7 Ruyooka July 26, 2008 at 9:52 am

Brilliant!

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