Z100-400 w / Z2x – Dang!

Blue Jay captured by Z 9 / Z100-400 w/Z 2x

Subject size in the frame is often an important criterion in photography. Wildlife photography tends to want that subject frame filling. And there are times when you can’t get close physically so you depend on glass. That’s where often the teleconverter steps in. Nikon just released their new Z100-400 which is a gorgeous lens! Incredibly well balanced, built like a tank, and features a new, anti-creep technology that works brilliantly. I recently spent time with a lovely lady who owns a Z100-400 and is very generous and shares it. I spent time with it with the Z2x attached photographing birds at Big Sable State Park (great feeders there attracting birds). Shooting handheld from around the corner of the warming hut, the effective 800 f/11 performed brilliantly! The AutoFocus even in the low, dark light was spot on keeping up with the activity of the birds and the resulting images, beautifully sharp. It’s easy for me to recommend this great lens and teleconverter combo to you. I had a lot of fun shooting with it, thanks Carol!

Gear Locker – Remodeled and Updated

The Gear Locker as of 01.07.22

It’s been quite the ride but my Gear Locker landscape has changed a whole bunch in the last few months. In fact, this photo I just took this morning is already obsolete as I just ordered a Z2x from Bedfords … but that’s the fun! You’ll find my Gear Locker page completely redone, remodeled, and updated. Besides gear, all gear videos and settings can be found there quickly and easily. Hope it helps give you some ideas and direction!

Z 9 Power

“How’s the battery life?” is a common question this week. The Z 9 EN-EL18d battery is basically a 2021 version of the D6, D5 & D4 battery and like that tradition, is a powerhouse! Personally, I figure the battery is going to receive the greatest amount of abuse when the body is brand new. That’s when in test and experiment mode, I pound the camera shutter, menus, and LCD while I chimp and learn. My warmest shoot so far with the Z 9 was 21 degrees. Even cold temps aren’t making a dent in its power. Both of my Z 9s EN-EL18d have performed just like their predecessors, working with tons of power to spare. I have not even ordered a spare EN-EL18d and I doubt I will.

My EN-EL18ds started off by being in the charger (which is new for the Z 9) charging up until the charger said it was full and then left in the charger for an additional minimum of fifteen minutes. While they were charging, I used the EN-EL18c from the D6 to start inputting settings. Yes, the older EN-EL18 batteries can be used but can’t do one thing I’ll cover in a moment. Then, for the first few charges, I wait until the battery is on its last breath before I put them back in the charger. Old habits I still follow. What’s really cool is what the Z 9 can do with external power!

The Z 9 has the ability to accept power via its USB c port (pictured above). For example, you could plug the Z 9 into your MacBook Pro and charge the battery while you work. That’s why you need the EN-EL18d battery, can’t charge via the USB c port other batteries. You can charge the battery right in the camera. This opens up a whole bunch of possibilities. You can power the Z 9 via 120v with the EP-6a (the older unit for D6/5/4 doesn’t fit in the slot). I’ve always had 120v power for my bodies for doing my 12-hour time-lapse shoots. But with the Z 9 USBc power option, at this point I’ve not ordered one. Instead, I got a soluser solar-charged USB power block. Talking with my power expert (Thanks Eric!) I was able to determine the power out needed to operate the Z 9 (18watts). The Omni 20+ also powers the Z 9 via the USB c port. What’s the point? The soluser can be charged from the sun, it then powers the Z 9 (battery must be inserted to work). You can charge the Z 9 (camera turned off) with the soluser which brought the EN-EL18d from 18% to 100% in 59 minutes! It only weighs 13oz so when I head up to AK for Kodiak Bears in May where there is NO 120v, I can charge the Z 9s at night with the soluser (with power left over for iPhone/iPad charging), and then I can set it out in the sun during the day to recharge. I’m waiting for clear skies to do a 12 hour time-lapse for my final power test of the soluser and USB c port.

The bottom line, the EN-EL18d powers the Z 9 all day long and now with the USB c option, running or charging it when there is no 120v power is not an issue. I really appreciate how well the Z 9 power has been thought through. One less thing to think about!

The #1 “Thing” in My Bag

Sandhill Crane who has watched too many Roadrunner Cartoons captured by Z 6II / 800f5.6

When new products are announced, in the past, there was a wave of discussion of pluses and flaws and lust for a short time and then we got back to the business of photography. These days, the new product is almost a daily ritual so getting back to the business of photography is getting pushed to the background. After watching a few hundred photographers for the past week, I saw the basics weren’t even in play and heard lots and lots of depression over images missed. The basics were either not known, practiced, or forgotten. As I stood there enthralled with the birdlife in front of me, my mind got to thinking about all in front of me. That’s when I came to the conclusion what the number one thing is in my bag for photographing everything I point my lens at!
My sense of humor, that’s the most important thing in my bag! Were you expecting to say some body or lens? Oh, they are incredibly important but they only work as well as the person behind them. That would be me. On those days when I’m on top of my game, any piece of gear I put in my hands just sings. On those days when I’m in a fog, there are no good gear options. It’s not the gear fault and no new piece of gear on that day will help. I know this about myself which is why no matter what, the camera is in my hand every day practicing proper hand-holding, panning, and long lens technique. I’m working on the equipment operator and not the gear. I go over basic camera operation and settings. I know that my gear is not the weak link, I am and I know when I’m not operating correctly then my sense of humor is not coming through my images!
There has long been the debate of what is more important, the photographer or the gear but to me, there is no debate. The sharpest lens on the planet is not sharp if the operator is not giving it a stable platform. The fastest firing camera on the planet is not going to capture that action if it is not keeping up with the subject. And the story you want and need to tell in your photographs will not happen with the finest lens, body, or post-production technique if YOU are not at your finest. At the same time, if you’re at your finest and your gear is not, you are not getting that story told your way. But that’s coming back to the photographer and not the gear as the photographer must know their craft, and know themselves so they know when the issue is the photographer or the gear. I’m a firm believer photography has to be fun, the entire process. And for me, my sense of humor in the #1 thing in my bag!

It’s Ice Claw Time!

Really Right Stuff Ice Claws

I unscrewed the rubber foot which exposed the spike foot on the tripod for the first time and put my tripod down. Bam! The spike ran right into the ice, stopped, and the stability of my tripod with the big glass went from bad to worse as the spike rode the top of the ice. For a number of years, I had homemade “ice feet” that worked but were not great. Then Really Right Stuff came out with their Ice Claws and man, do they work! Snow or ice makes no difference, I have these bad boys attached (never, ever hit your leg with these attached. They will leave a mark!). Why these are superior to spikes IMHO is because they grab to the surface of ice/snow and don’t have to penetrate it like a spike to provide stability. They are like crampons for your tripod and they WORK! Folks have told me they are expensive but they are nothing compared to the gear they are supporting or the money spent to be at that spot that requires them. These are one of the greatest add ons for your tripod I can recommend to you!

NX Tether … Better than Free!

screen grab of NX Tether

I saw the announcement that NX Tether had been released, had it on my list to check out but quickly forgot about it while on the road. Then an email came from my good friend Rog saying he was loving it and perfect for his project. Well, I went and grabbed right then and there. It’s an incredibly simple install and app to use. I went with a hardwire connection, a USB c cable connection my Z 6II to my MacBook (works on both Win & Mac platforms). Then for my quick studio shoot, I had the images appear in Photo Mechanic Plus and with a keyboard click, into ACR. I went with saving the images right to my computer and even with that, images popped up fast. Great program, check it out!
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