Z24-120 – A Lens Delivering on a Promise

Kodiak Brown Bear captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

Can we work and succeed with just one lens, just one? I don’t think so but you sure can accomplish a helluva alot with just the one, right lens. I’ve talked about the Z24-120 already, that’s not the point of this post. It’s about helping you find that “one lens” that when you wonder which to grab, it’s the first that comes to mind and solves so many problems, but not all, in your photography. Is the answer a zoom? It might not be for your photography, it just happens to be for mine. The key in finding that one lens is looking inward, at your own strengths that you can apply to your photography. One example is simply your feet, zooming with your feet works with a prime just it does with a zoom lens. Zooming to 120mm and getting physically closer by “zooming with my feet” to the Kodiak Brown and then folding out the monitor on the Z 9 for a lower angle for the click made the photograph happen. Could another lens have accomplished the same thing? Why of course but this is just one example of how I make the Z24-120 that one lens for my visual storytelling.

NAF N3N-3 project captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

I’ve been depending on the Z24-120 now for a number of months. I’ve used it for macro, portraits, landscapes, critters, air-to-air photo missions, projects and family events, being the primary lens on the Z 9 either on the primary body or second body on a strap on my shoulder the majority of the time. The focal length range of 24mm to 120mm in part makes the Z24-120 that one lens for me. It’s f4 helps a lot with that as well and that’s because I rarely close the lens down shooting the majority of the time wide open. The one exception is when doing an air-to-air and I’m working with really slow shutter speeds so the aperture is closed down. What focals lengths do you find yourself shooting at most of the time? What’s your preference for DoF and does it require a fast lens? Asking these questions can help in the search for the one lens. The really small size and light weight of the Z24-120 is another attribute I depend on. When working on a project like the NAF N3N-3, being able to get in a corner of the hangar, out of the way yet able to shoot is critical. There is one last attribute that you need to add into the equation in finding that one lens for yourself. Sharpness! Nikon has created some truly brilliant glass for the Z family and the Z24-120 is one of those. Throughout its entire range, the Z24-120 has delivered my story I’m telling convincingly sharp. It’s so sharp that I have to think about the portraits I take as some folks well, shouldn’t be captured with that much detail while others require it. And that kinda sums up that one lens you pick and use over and over again. It has those attributes you need to tell your story with as much depth as your photography covers. I wrote about how much I loved the 24-120 and couldn’t wait until it was in the Z line. Well, the Z24-120 is a lens delivering on a promise.

Z 9 Firmware 2.10 Dropped – Great New Stuff Here!

And the hits just keep on coming! The AF performance for critters just got even sweeter!! Nikon has dropped Firmware 2.10 and you’ll want it!! Here are the updates

• [High-frequency flicker reduction] has been added to the roles that can be assigned to camera controls using Custom Setting f2 [Custom controls (shooting)]. For more information, see the Supplementary Firmware Update Manual.
• Autofocus is now better at tracking small subjects.
• Autofocus now produces more accurate results with human portrait subjects detected via eye/face-detection AF with [Continuous AF] selected for [Focus mode].
• Fixed an issue that resulted in the camera focusing on the background when [Single-point AF], [Dynamic-area AF (S)], or [Dynamic-area AF (M)] was selected for [AF-area mode], or when [Wide-area AF (C1)] or [Wide-area AF (C2)] was selected with a custom focus-area size of [1×1].
• You can now expect better results from vibration reduction during panning shots taken with the camera pointing up or down and an option other than [Off] selected for [Vibration reduction].
• Fixed the following issues:
– With certain Z mount lenses, choosing [Focus] for Custom Setting a1 [AF-C priority selection] with [Continuous AF] selected for [Focus mode] would sometimes disable the shutter release even when the subject was in focus.
– [Aperture lock] could not be selected for Custom Setting f4 [Control lock] in modes M and A when an F mount lens was attached.
– Assigning [Recall shooting functions] to a control using Custom Setting f2 [Custom controls (shooting)] would render [Save current settings] unavailable when an F mount lens equipped with an aperture ring and power contacts was attached.
– Auto distortion control would sometimes not be applied to pictures taken with [ON] selected for [Auto distortion control] in the [PHOTO SHOOTING MENU].
– The camera would not recognize custom Picture Controls saved to a memory card using the Mac edition of Picture Control Utility 2.
– Recalling shooting functions would sometimes result in unexpected changes to exposure if:
▸ ISO sensitivity was set to a fixed value in mode M,
▸ an option other than [Exposure maintenance off] was selected for Custom Setting b7 [Keep exp. when f/ changes], and
▸ [Recall shooting functions] or [Recall shooting functions (hold)] was assigned to a control using Custom Setting f2 [Custom controls (shooting)] both with no option (or mode M only) selected for [Shooting mode] and with no check next to any of [Shutter speed], [Aperture], and [ISO sensitivity settings].
– When [Recall shooting functions] or [Recall shooting functions (hold)] was assigned to a control using Custom Setting f2 [Custom controls (shooting)], subject detection would not function as expected if the setting for [AF subject detection options] recalled by pressing the control differed from the option currently selected for [AF subject detection options] in the [PHOTO SHOOTING MENU].

My updated settings for 2.10

DxO – Nik 5 Update

DxO – Nik 5 Color Efex 5 new UI

If you’ve launched your Nik 4 Color Efex Pro in the past few days, you probably saw the notice that Nik 5 is now available from DxO. Using Nik back when it was only Beta, it has been an essential part of my imaging finishing. The new update I hoped would at the very least take care of some long-residing bugs (it does!). The Color Efex 5 does that and a whole bunch more!

You have to delete Nik 4 to install Nik 5. My first warning to you is that the images you finished with Nik 4, the layer with Nik Color Efex cannot be opened by Nik 5 to make changes. In my workflow, I bring my Nef into ACR and then open it as a Smart Object in Photoshop. I apply my Nik Color Efex Preset to that layer. The Nik Color Efex is its own layer under the Smart Object. If I double-click on it, it will open and bring up the Color Efex UI. This is no longer true for all my images finished with Color Efex 4 or earlier now. In fact, you’ll see the warning symbol next to that layer. They’re forcing us to delete Nik 4 to install Nik 5 seals the fate of those old files and any flexibility we had worked for in our workflow. With that and the fact that any “Recipes” you created before (now called Presets) don’t work in Nik Color Efex 5, you might as well delete the old ones when you install Nik 5 Color Efex. BEFORE YOU DO THAT, you might want to do screen grabs of your recipes and all their numbers so you can recreate them in Nik 5 Color Efex 5.

And here are my Nik 5 Color Efex 5 Presets in a Zip file for you to download and install if you’d like. When you install them, they will go into the Imported Panel in Color Efex 5. You cannot modify and save the changes to Presets in the Imported Panel! If you want to change any aspect of them, you will need to recreate them in Custom and then you can modify and save them on the fly all you want. And you may want to as some of the math has improved! With all that said, the updates in Nik 5 Color Efex 5, I find are worth all the hassles. If you’re wondering about the rest of the DxO Nik Suite, Analog, Silver Efex & Vivesa they are still at 3, HDR Efex & Define are still at 2, and the others, no clue. I only use Color Efex 5 & Output Sharpener and they are outstanding so I’m a happy camper.

TourBox Neo – Pretty Dang Cool

TourBox Neo
Simply put, the TourBox is a really darn cool tool! It’s small, small enough I would love to take it on the road with me (more on that in a moment) as it takes up no space on my desk (seen above). This powerful little box permits you to “automate” a ton of keyboard shortcuts / features in practically every app you have on your computer. While it comes “packaged” with a ton of Keyboard shortcuts like for Photoshop, you can change them to your hearts content (see below). The goal of TourBox is to permit ultra fast access with a click of a button or turn of a dial to those tools you need in those programs you use a lot to make the process so much faster (and with some personal sound effects, you could be shooting down that TIE fighter at the same time as working). Brent could make this puppy fly in Premiere! Being a gamer and really smart, he’d have no problem programming buttons for his needs and remembering what button he programmed to do what with his eye/hand control. Dad, that would be me, not so much, my taking a bit longer to remember what button he had programmed to do what. But I did quickly learn those buttons I use most often pretty quickly.

Set up of the TourBox Neo was a snap! Install the software and in a heartbeat, you’re up and working. Above to the left you can see the first four programs I have working with TourBox, Photoshop, Bridge, Premiere and Photo Mechanic (Epson Print Layout & Audition are next apps on the list to add to TourBox). TourBox is pretty darn smart. I have three desktops set up on my M1 iMac / MacBook Pro and as I scroll to one where say, Photo Mechanic is open and the next desktop where Photoshop is launched (right image above, some of my programming for PS), TourBox automatically switches to work with that program (turn on Auto Switch for this feature) with all the controls I’ve programmed. You don’t have to do a thing. Looking at the photo on the left again, you can see all I created from scratch in a split second as there is no Photo Mechanic preset already set up in TourBox. Easy peasy! I assigned keyboard shortcuts to the various TourBox controls permitting me to operate Photo Mechanic very efficiently as fast as my fingers can go. What’s really cool is you just need to program the buttons in one computer as you can export your settings and load them in another computer retaining everything you have set up in the first. You don’t have to do the programming all over again, schweet!

When I was contacted by TourBox and I checked out their product online, my first thought was, this is the perfect tool for when I’m on the road (which is a lot)! When I’m on the road I don’t take a mouse because in hotel rooms, it’s not always easy to use. It always needs space to move to do to its job. The TourBox I figured would be the perfect solution for this. It just sits, it doesn’t need to move around to function. This would be killer for me on the road. The TourBox Neo needs to physically be connected to the computer to operate via a cable. If you’re a Mac user like me, you know that your iMac or MacBook Pro only has four ports. With  Wacom tablet, CFExpress Card Reader, hard drives, printers and power and the like, dedicating one port to the TourBox is a challenge. I find myself having to plug and unplug it from my iMac during the work day and that’s not practical for on the road at all. TourBox has a Bluetooth model coming and that’s what I would ~highly~ recommend to you, then it will be the perfect tool. That would make the TourBox the ultimate workflow accessory!

And the Skies Opened Up – No Problem

Kodiak Brown Bear captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

Some of the worst weather can make for the best photography! I’ve said that forever in part because it has so often delivered for me. I love the saturated light rain can bring. When you have a 1100lbs mom and three, two year old cubs, the last thing you want to do is leave especially because of a little thing like rain. And when you’re literally standing out in the middle of nowhere with no cover within miles, your only option is to pack up and head back to camp. Or is it? I have a simple rule of thumb when it comes to shooting in the rain, if I can take it so can my gear. Many have asked how the Z 9 does in inclement weather, especially when using the FTZII with F mount lens attached? It all work simply brilliantly, simply brilliantly!

As you can see below, it was one of those gloppy Alaska rains I was shooting in. To work in such conditions, I always carry a dry, white towel with me. With great care, I would pull it out of my jacket with the bears right in front of me feeding, blot my gear dry (never wiping) when needed, put it back under my jacket and continue on shooting. What you see below was what the rig would look like just prior to plotting it dry. I have never had any issue shooting in the rain working like this nor those shooting with me. I have total faith in my gear which includes the white towel keeping me in the game. Cause moments like this, you don’t want to leave!

Small, Bright … Brilliant! Nikon Aculon

Nikon Aculon 10×25 Bins

Bins are an essential tool for wildlife photographers! My standard is the Nikon 12×50 which was $1200 when they were available, big, bright, gorgeous, and not practical when also working with a big lens. I saw my good friend Javier with these small little bins that literally fit in his shirt pocket and I was on a mission to add them to my kit. The Nikon Aculon 10×25 which sells for typically $70 is simply brilliant! I cannot recommend these enough to folks no matter your binocular needs but especially to wildlife photographers. Since they are so light and small, you will never find a reason not to go out with them. And having that extra reach at times makes all the difference. I still have my 12×50 but they stay home most of the time. The Aculon are always in my kit!

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