“Why do you shoot mainly with the D4?” This is a ~real~ common question and very valid since it costs more than any other Nikon body. To me it’s real simple, Custom Setting e4! I’ve been talking about this Custom Setting since the D4 first arrived on my desk and it’s not changed. Not found in any other Nikon, Custom Setting e4 permits you to disengage the exposure compensation setting in the body so it only effect the camera body meter and not the flash. With every other camera body, when you dial in exposure compensation, any amount you dial in the body automatically effects the flash. So if you dial in -2 in the camera body to underexpose the ambient light by 2 stops, you’ve also have dialed in -2 into the flash. With the D4 using Custom Setting e4 engaged, you dial in -2 into the body, the flash exposure hasn’t changed. This one Custom Setting basically gives our flash 3 more stops of light!
Putting this into practice, here’s my “artsy fartsy” photo of our friend Meb. You can see the sun in the top right corner and the shadow it casts on the ground on the left. So it is very much at play in the photo. The lighting is simply two, SB-900s. I’ve dialed into the camera body -3.3 exp comp which is giving me the exposure for the ambient light. With any other camera, that would have made the flash almost useless in this situation since all the flash can do is a +3. When you take the -3.3 in the body and add the +3 in the flash, the flash is now at ZERO! But with e4 engaged, the +3 on the flash is actually +3 and the final effect you can see on the left side of Meb.
Yes, I have the D800 in my camera bag and now the D600 and use them when their big MP is required. But the camera body I turn to day in and day out is the D4. Yes, it costs more to buy, yes, it has a whole lot less megapixels an no, that doesn’t matter to me or more importantly, my business. And that’s the one variable that most photographers understandably can’t relate to and why my choice of the D4 seems odd. It’s a tool doing things no other bodies do, tools I need to be a successful visual communicator.
NOTE:It appears the D600 has the same feature (though different designation). It’s been pointed out to me it’s on the Menu but I’ve not had the opportunity to read the IB yet to confirm. Something to do on the plane flight east today.
I travel a lot, I like to shoot a lot, so combining the two in only natural. Carrying a camera body on your shoulder while trucking through the airport gets old really fast. Pulling it out of the MP-1 or Think Tank when in the air never works. Like this last flight from WA, the scene out the window was fleeting and having the D4/50f1.4 right there when I want to shoot was a must to get the shot.
Earlier this year I switched briefcases to Think Tank’s Disguise 60 v2.0 and I’m so glad I did! It normally takes the D4, 50 & 24f1.4, MacBook Pro Retina, 5 hard drives, cords, iPad, headphones, book, cables and a whole lot more and still easily slips under the seat. In flight, getting out the body and lens, a snap. This system not only makes it easy to shoot while traveling, it actually frees up space in the other bag/case to take more video gear which is a growing issue. Tons of protection, easy to pack and carry, no-brainer!
Well, I’ve been shooting with the D800 for over a month which includes the new Epson Finish Strong ad campaign and the photo above of the P-51D Mustang “Precious Metal.” Many have been asking me what I think of the camera so thought I should give you my two cents worth. The files are gorgeous, there is simply no way around it! They are also freakin huge! Since I process much of my aviation and landscape photography while on the road working, I am incredibly thankful I’ve switched to the MacBook Pro Retina. I don’t know how folks are working a 5 image HDR taken with the D800 without such speed! It could be just me, but when you have a dust speck on your sensor, with the D800 is looks like a bomb crater! I suspect it’s the resolution of the sensor but a dust spot when you shoot closed down is simply massive! But when it comes to creating 24×30 prints, the D800 is simply spectacular producing better files than my beloved D3x. The increase speed in FPS and buffer dump is a joy, lemme tell you. I really like that.
When it comes to shooting the D800, I still need that additional bulk of the grip. I keep taking it off as I shoot more and more with the D800 to see if I can take advantage of its smaller size. But it simply is a no go, my hands need that greater mass to hold onto. Now comparing the MB-D12 to that knock off a “fan” sent me, well I don’t have any kind words. Been shooting with the knock off for a month and it is already “fading.” It has become so loose that I can’t shoot with it attached to the D800 on a tripod at slow shutter speeds. I’ve tightened screws a couple of times with one now stripped out. While the knock off might be less money, I simply can’t afford it crapping out on me during a shoot. I have to admit I am shocked that within a month it is already showing the effects of constant use. I’m going to keep using it until it does fall apart because I want that photograph. I do carry the MB-D12 though with me waiting for that day. And if it’s a shoot for a client, I switch to the MD-d12.
When it comes to recommendations for you, well I don’t think you can go wrong with the D800 but in all honesty, it might just be more camera than you need. You must consider the file size because when you do an HDR with it, you instantly have possibly 1GB of files open and possibly that much to file for just ONE image! My D600 should be delivered today and I’m very excited to run it through its paces, I have the feeling that might just be the camera. As for me, the D4 with its Custom Setting e4 is my workhorse, go to camera for nearly all my own photography.
Amazingly, only one person has asked me this question why, after 27yrs, I made the switch. Of course, buying one MacBook Pro hardly switches the office over which is still all Window machines. Personally, I’ve not had a problem with or ever regretted being on a Window machine. In fact, those who know me know I make the Windows machine sing, producing an incredible amount of work. Nope, the reason for the switch is real simple.
I need notebooks that are very small, light and fast. Photoshop and Word is the same on either platform, so that wasn’t the issue. With a huge increase in my travel coming up and with the extra junk I have to have with me to capture video, I had to find an answer to the additional “stuff and weight” issue video brings and the new MacBook Pro was it. It’s a gorgeous traveling computer. Have I found it difficult to move from Win to Mac? Not in the least being a control freak, I have both platforms set up basically the same. Photoshop Actions work on the Mac just like on Win7. Have I found the increase in speed and the loss of weight? Oh baby, the Retina freakin rips like no computer I’ve worked on. Is the display to die for? It is gorgeous but is the same in the 7lbs Dell m6500 I have, but it is faster and much, much, much smaller. I’ve had a great few days setting up, learning and customizing and as I get to road test my results, I’ll be sharing them with you. I can tell you one thing for sure, the MacBook Pro is more than worth its price and we’ll have more in the office soon!
I’ve had a number of folks email and ask if I’ve found a remote method for starting video capture with the D4 / D800. What I do is use the Pocket Wizard III and it works great! Is there something special you have to do to make this work? The only trick is on the D4 / D800, set Custom Setting g4 to Record movies. When you do that, when the D4/D800 is in Movie Mode (lever on the back of the camera) the shutter release starts and stop the video recording. With this, you partially depress the Test Button on the Pocket Wizard, the camera will focus, depress fully and the recording begins. To stop, depress the Test button again. I have added CS g4 to My Menu because I use it so much. Hope that helps.
This is GREAT gear folks and it might just solve a problem that we share. Great filters, affordable and instock. Here are the links to them:
77mm Filter adptr
4×4 Master Kit
I can’t recommend these enough to you!
I am a filter nut, always looking for a great filter to solve my problems. The problem is, I go through a lot of them not finding ones I like. I really love to use split grad neutral density filters, it’s a leftover from film days. The problem has been that for digital, I’ve had to carry the Lee .9 4×6 but as you might know, finding them is like finding ghosts. At the same time, they are a pain to carry. Well, Schneider now has a .9 (that’s 3 stops) split grad neutral density soft edge 77mm and it’s gorgeous!
Here’s kinda of a classic use of a split grad. These photos have no processing, Jpegs out of the D800. The subject is the dwarf pine on the knoll. The top image is straight, the bottom is with the Schneider 77mm .9 split grad. In the top image, the white clouds put the eye up and away from the pine. At the same time, the exposure is down for those white clouds so the spot of light on the knoll is darker. With the Schneider split grad attached, the clouds at the top of the frame are now held back so the brightness of the light on the knoll pops out.
Here’s another example everything the same with the results the same. There are a couple of reasons why I love this filter and recommend it over all the others I’ve tried. First, the neutral density material in this filter is gorgeous rendering no funky color tint. It’s glass and spectacular and in brass mount that is smooth as silk. And ya, you’re paying for all the quality. But you must be asking, “Why bother, I can do that in post?” True, you can but here is why I use them. First, clouds often “burn up” so you loose detail. If it’s lost in the capture, you can’t get it back in post. That’s why I wanted a .9/3 stop because .6/2 stop just isn’t enough for digital. Next, this was shot with the D800, that’s one big ass file. You start adding to that file in post and you have a massive file! When you can get it in capture, you have a smoother gradiant, smaller fill and cleaner highlights. Now I’m testing some other really cool filters I’ll be telling you about shortly, but I’m really excited about this new find!
“Is the 1000x really worth the price?” Man, is that a really valid and common question. I can honestly say for most photographers, it’s not. Do I need it, like life or death need it? Oh man, do I! Right now I’m running the 32GB & 64GB 1000x and just ordered some 128GB 1000x and here’s why.
Current bodies can now take advantage of the higher speeds of these cards, I found this out firsthand on a commercial shoot recently. Shooting the D800 on CH with my finger never letting up on the shutter release, I was so pleased to see them damn big files getting sucked in lickity split. And as I’ve mentioned before, the D4 is cranking 100+ on a burst with these cards. While I don’t need that speed every time I go out shooting, not even every week, but all I had to do is experience that speed once when I did need it and I was sold on their value.
When it comes to ingesting images from the 1000x cards, you might have to buy new readers. The 1000s cards work with the ExpressCard Reader (be sure to get the driver) or the USB3 Multi Card Reader. Now the USB3 works fine as is but if you update its firmware, it goes even faster! Now this investment might not be right for you, that makes perfect sense. The savings of time at both end of the process for me did make sense. Hope that answers the question.
I’ve spent the last few weeks with the new Nikon 24-85VR Lens. It’s a really compact zoom with a really nice range. Keeping with that spirit, I took the MB-D12 off the D800 and went shooting with it. alot! I really like the zoom range of 24 to 85mm, the VR was attractive because I could make use of that in my aviation. I wasn’t really concerned with its “slow” aperture because I wasn’t buying it for that speed. I really wanted it to work because it has a greater range then the 24-70AFS in a smaller package with VR. So Sharon & I got on our MtnBikes and went for a ride.
I think the lens does an excellent job. I was very pleased to see the lack of vignetting and its sharpness. I think the lens is better than the 24-120VR but not as good as the 24-70AFS. Like the 24-120VR, the lens expands and contracts with zooming, something you don’t have with the 24-70AFS. So while I like the lens, it does not replace the 24-70AFS so I won’t be adding it to me camera bag. But if you’re looking for an expensive, compact zoom in this range, the lens will serve you well.
On a side note, while Sharon & I were riding our bikes, we came across this old guy. With the pot belly of a campground bear, it was just strolling through the forest between campsites looking for a pic-a-nic basket. He was upset with the guy with the camera (me) when I wouldn’t let him get anything. Don’t think it hurt his physique any, I’m sure it scored after I left. It was taken at the 85mm end of the 24-85VR
One of my favorite tools just got a whole lot better! “The Box” as I call it, eMotimo has a whole new look built upon what was an already great platform. The first think you’ll notice is the entire massive beef up of the pan/tilt/time lapse mechanism. This provides incredible stability, flexibility and smooth as silk operation to hold the beefiest camera. The joy stick now operates via Bluetooh. And the programming software in The Box is improved and with more features. I decided to do a little test to prove my point.
i set the The Box to run all day during a thunderstorm. The D4 w/50f1.4AFS was set up and left running through the wind, rain & hail capturing 1294 Jpegs over 10.5 hours. The unit was covered with the LensCoat Raincoat to keep the rain out, but I had to constantly go out and dry off the front element. The D4 was powered with AC and was the eMotimo. As you can see, it worked flawlessly.
Remotes are a part of my photography, have been since the very beginning. So when PocketWizard announced their new PocketWizard III, I was very excited to get my hands on them. The biggie is if you know PocketWizard, you’ll notice that there is no Pre-Focus cable attached. Just a standard 3.5mm to 10pin cable (not included). That’s now part of the unit! What I really like is the smaller size, greater range, WakeUp/AF operation with a half push of the Test button and camera firing with full depression. They work with other PocketWizards like the Flex (but not TTL). A unit can be set to transmit, receive, Relay, very versatile. They have 32 channels and 4 groups, and for someone like me, damn simple to use. Be it for camera or flash remotes, I can’t recommend these enough to you!
I could be alone here, but personally, I’m tired of TSA going through my luggage. With nearly 50k miles this year alone, you’d think some computer somewhere would see my name on a manifest and say, “Not this dweeb again” and let my luggage just go through. As you might imagine, I have a bit of stuff in my check in and with video, there is even more boxes with cables. And though I pack real carefully, at least once a month my luggage gets a visual inspection and at least once a month, items go missing. Well, I have had enough so I talked with a TSA official and we went through my luggage.
Items that go missing aren’t necessarily stolen but more likely, put aside and then forgotten to be repacked in my luggage (that makes me feel a whole lot better). I was told the problem might be that I’m using cases which the inspectors can’t see through. That does kinda make sense so I went and got some Think Tank Cable Mngt cases (the 10, 20 & 50). I don’t want to jink myself so I’m tapping on wood and crossing my fingers as I type, but since doing this, I’ve not had any issues. Just wanna pass this along in case I’m not the only one with this problem. Former problem, knock on wood.
When I saw the announcement for the new Nikon 18-300AFS DX lens, I thought it might be an ok knock about lens. I mean really, that’s a huge zoom range! I’ve never been a big fan of these zooms, the normal tendency is vignetting and less then tack sharp results. To say I’m more then pleased is an understatement. Being a DX lens, I shot with it on Sharon’s D7000 and for the last week, been having fun with it. First thing you’ll notice, it doesn’t vignette.
OK…it has a huge range…now what? The one thing I needed to know before moving forward, it is sharp? At 18mm, sharp really is a relative thing because at 18mm, things look sharp because they are small, you can’t really tell. Here’s the Sunday scene at Lake Mary, pretty typical for Mammoth in the summer.
Zoom out to 300mm and shoot the colorful kayaks in the center of the frame (that is an impressive range!)…
Is it really sharp? You can’t tell from these kinds of test posted on the web. You have to take the work of the reviewer. I think it’s sharp, I’m actually surprised to be saying that. Now it’s not a true zoom, you focus on a object at 18mm and then zoom out to 300mm, the focus point is not retained. The lens really expands at 300mm (there is a 18mm lock and that front does move when extended). But that’s not the point of this lens. It’s meant to be a one lens does all so you will focus every time you compose. But is it sharp? On our Sunday walk, we had a Bald Eagle grab a trout on the other side of the lake and even though it was an ugly eagle, it was a viable field test to see if the lens is sharp.
See, an ugly eagle. To give it its due, it just fledged its young for the year, it earned the right to look tired. When it flew overhead, I zoomed out to 300mm and shot. That’s what you see above. Pretty small image size but when we crop in 200%, we get this…
To be honest with you, those are results I simply did not expect. I’m totally impressed by the results of the 18-300AFS! I have no problem recommending it to you, being a great first lens, only lens or additional lens to any camera system!
I mean really, $500 to make it feel right? Ouch! The price as come down, you can find the MB-D12 for around $400 now but still, $400? Muscle memory is something you relate to a lot of activities but personally, not one I would have attached to holding a camera body. That’s until the D800 arrived in the office and I had to get to know it, fast. I’m here to tell you, I simply had a helluva time liking the photographic experience with the D800 when it came to shooting with the body only. It felt like it was going to squirt right out of my hands. But the point of a smaller body is to have a smaller body. Adding bulk to a small camera body defeats the purpose of being a smaller body. But I just couldn’t get past the muscle memory, my hands wanted and needed the bulk to function. The D4 feels perfect, the D800 by itself, totally foreign. That left me no choice, I love the file from the D800 so I got the MB-D12.
Then there came that price tag and like so many others, I swallowed real hard when I saw the price. The knock offs are out there at a fraction of the price. I even had many say they can’t see, feel or in operation find a difference between the Nikon and the knock off. So why buy the Nikon over the knock off, why spend the extra $300? Damn if I have a good reason for you, I just know for myself why I went with Nikon. While I don’t like the price, I rather give my money to the company that not only stands behind the product but keeps creating new and better products. Now I have seen two knock offs “die” in the field, one stopped working and the other, well, was kinda comical when it imploded on itself sending parts all over the desert floor. There are plenty of times to go DIY to save money, but I just don’t think this is one.
One other question that keeps coming is, why did I go with the D800 over the D800e especially when I first thought I the 800e was the obvious choice? First reason, I could get the D800 before the D800e and I don’t know about you, but I’m not good at waiting to get new gear. I get very impatient. Once the D800 was in my hands, the files where big enough, the quality basically overkill for what I need as it is. Getting more and having the possibility of moire issues just didn’t make sense. With that all said, the D4 is still my principle body. The D800 is always with me in the bag but the body I reach for the majority of the time is the D4.
Not sure what it is, but if there is one piece of camera gear that is misunderstood, it has to be the 16Fish. The Nikon 16f2.8AF is a lens I count on all the time for many, many different types of photography. Many think of a 16Fish and this lens the bends the world and it can, but is doesn’t have to. Here’s shot coming back from a project where the project was to take a portrait using the 16Fish (you’ll see the final image later this year). And this shot taken with the D800 flying back from the project in the rear of the A36 was also taken with the 16Fish as well. When we talked about shooting with the 16Fish this weekend at Short Lens Course (GREAT group BTW, loved having you!) and then I made a shot with a participants Canon Fish, I could see on faces I had opened some minds which is why I wanted to blog about again today. Check out the video below but it comes with a warning, it might cost you money! On a side note, this is a 5 image, hand held during a bumpy ride over Owens Valley, HDR finished just with Nik’s HDR Efex Pro 2.
How to bring movement to stills? There are actually many ways with some being combined for even greater impact. The most basic, simplest and requiring no special tools is panning. Panning is the art and technique of moving your camera body in sync with a moving subject and therefore nullifying any movement in the frame. Now that should make you scratched your head. How can moving the camera with the subject nullify movement while being the best method for communicating movement? Answering the first part of this, how does panning nullify movement? If you take a picture of a rock (one of my favorite subjects), the rock in relationship to the film plane does not move. So we get a sharp photo of the rock. The same thing is happening when we pan (as long as it’s done correctly). We move the film plane at the same speed as the moving subject so as far as the film plane is concerned, the subject is not moving so we can stop movement in our frame with movement. You gotta love that geometry!
If this is the case, we are stopping movement with movement, how then do we communicate movement? We do it by blurring the background. In these two examples shot with D800, 600VR2 swung on a Gitzo, the top frame was shot at 1/40 and the bottom frame at 1/125. If you look at the two frames, the top frame has the illusion of speed greater than the bottom and that’s because of shutter speed. While the film plane is keeping up with the moving object, the background is not moving at all. When you pan and shoot with a slower to slow shutter speed, you blur the background more and more creating that illusion, the illusion of speed.
Doug over on my FB page said he was looking forward to my comparison between the D3x and D800. I honestly wasn’t thinking of doing one but then someone else pinged saying the same thing. Since I no longer have my faithful (and great) D3x, I’m not in the position to do a side by side photo comparison. But I can and have done 24×30 prints from both cameras with the Epson 7900 and can look at the results. Understand, this is going to magnify any pluses or minuses going to a print this large with 24×30 always being the standard I go by when making quality judgements. Both of these are megapixel cameras with the express intent of capturing great detail. They both exceed at this beautifully!
The question on the table is, which camera produces the better file? Technically, the D800 does, hands down. Now will you see that bump up in quality in a 8×10, 11×14 or even 17×22 print? You might not even see it at 24×30, especially if your shooting technique is no spot on. With that being said, looking past the file quality there are some other aspects of the D800 that put it ahead of the D3x. You can’t get past the fact the D800 out of the box is 1/3 the size, weight and cost with 3x faster FPS and buffer compared to the D3x (does better at high ISO as well).
Now personally, the D800 out of the box was not the shooting experience I’ve been use to for the last 30yrs, small camera bodies just don’t work for me. That was solved with the expensive MB-D12 which I love shooting with but have not bought yet (still renting from Borrowlenses.com). The placement of the BKT button I can’t get use to. The Multi Control Selector sticks out further on the D800 so when I shoot vertical the AF sensor dances around as my forehead depresses it. The blinking of the entire lit grid in the viewfinder when you change AF sensor position is driving me bloody nuts! So when it comes to actually taking the photo, the shooting experiences, I prefer the D3x hands down! But with the file size and 5FPS (6FPS if & when I get the MB-D12 and inset D4 battery) the D800 produces, there is no way I can go back to the D3x.
The two photos here were taken with the D800 (above) and D3x (below). These are pretty classic reasons why I want the high MP cameras, I wanna see the rivets on the aircraft. Now I shot air to air with the D3x for a few years and never missed any photos because of FPS or buffer, but I could have more and that’s a good thing. I could not do air to air with the D800 without the MB-D12, there is simply not enough mass. Now I’m personally not seeing a big difference in the metering or exposure range when comparing the two bodies. The D800 has less noise than the D3x but that’s not really saying much. It’s not a noise machine but I’ve shot it ISO 1600 with no ill effects. Now this is no scientific, fact gathered kind of comparison because I never planned on doing one. I didn’t see or don’t see a need to do one. The D800 is a tool evolving forward megapixel shooting and I’ll use it just as that, a tool. My main shooting body will remain the D4. I love the D4! But now that I’ve spent two weeks glued to the D800, I’m making it more mine and fitting it into my shooting. We’re getting along and I have no problem pulling it and making the shot. Really can’t ask much more from a tool.