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Rapid Fire Nikon D4s

17th April 2014

How does 11 frames per second sound?

At the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Expo last month in Las Vegas, I got a chance to handle Nikon’s newly announced D4s camera.

Although it’s lighter than the D4, it has a remarkable 16MP sensor that’s superb at high ISO settings. In fact we saw a demonstration of the camera at an ISO setting of 25600 and there was virtually no noise. With many other DLSRs sporting higher pixel counts, the D4s sacrifices more pixels in exchange for very superior noise reduction.

But the feature that caught my eye (actually my ear) is its high speed, rapid fire capability. Rated at 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus and autoexposure, this camera is will garner the attention of sports and action photographers.

I made a short recording at Nikon’s booth. The shutter sounds like a miniature machine gun. To hear it, please press the play button below:
 
 
      
 
 
Pretty impressive, if you ask me.
 
 

Although it’s a better performer in several respects, the new D4s is lighter weight than the predecessors D4 and D3s.

Nikon’s rep Paul Van Allen told me that the the D4s is already available. Price for the D4s body is steep $6,500.
 
 
Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 
 


 
 
 

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The Backorder Has Arrived

This past October, I was in NYC to cover PhotoExpo 2013. It’s a large trade show for the photographic industry where new equipment, accessories, services and the like are on display.

One of the nicest things about trade shows is that you can have some hands-on time using the new hardware and ask in- depth questions that the reps are able to field.


I was interested in a few new pieces of equipment including Nikon’s newly announced AW1. It’s based on the one year-old Nikon 1 series. These are compact, mirrorless models that have interchangeable lenses. They are small and lightweight but deliver high quality images.

But the kicker here is that the AW1 is also waterproof to 49 feet, temperature resistant to 14F degrees and shockproof to about 6 feet. I was attracted to this camera because of its ruggedness.


I spent about 30 minutes of touchie-feelie time with the AW1 at the Nikon booth. I also peppered Brian – the Nikon rep – with dozens of questions about the camera.

In the end, I came away satisfied that this new piece of equipment needed to become part of my arsenal.

When I returned home from New York, I placed an order for the AW1 with two waterproof lenses. Although the AW1 has been available for sale for about six weeks, the two lens kit was just made available.


However, due to the usual holiday confusion, I have yet to open the carton. In the next few days, I hope to try it out. Since it’s 10 degrees outdoors here in Grand Rapids, I think the underwater testing will have to wait unless I decide to try it out in the bathtub.

But with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) right around the corner (next week), I just might take it with me to Las Vegas and jump into one of the pools. I’ll fill you in when I have more to report.

 

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 


 

 

 

 

Getting Personal

03rd December 2013

Camera Brands are like Religion

Not a week goes by without someone asking me what brand of camera they should buy, a Canon or a Nikon.

Most of the time they’re wanting to replace their good quality point-and shoot camera. They’re looking for more advanced equipment along the lines of a DSLR.

Having owned or used literally dozens of cameras, especially in the past five years, I have a definitive answer which I’ll share with you shortly. But what I find interesting is that so many photo enthusiasts also have very definite answers to this question.

Let me back up a bit and explain why I’m writing this.

A Facebook friend wrote that he was looking for a new DLSR. “Should I buy a Canon or a Nikon?”, he posted. I replied “or a Sony?”. The point I was trying to make was that there are more choices than only Canon and Nikon.

A few minutes later there were many more replies on his Facebook status: “Nikon”; “CanonCanonCanon”; “I shoot Nikon”; “I use a Nikon D90”; “Canon definitely”; “I have a Nikon 5000”; etc.

 

 
It’s not surprising that a camera brand is a very personal choice. It is as though each photographer is pleading with my friend to heed only his or her suggestion. Isn’t proselytizing their brand like forcing a person’s religion onto another?

Yet when I think about it I was doing the same. I was suggesting that a Sony NEX camera is similar to DSLR but without the weight and bulk. And since I am very fond of carrying lightweight equipment, I frequently use a Sony NEX camera.

Of course I could have chosen a different way to respond to his initial post by asking a few qualifying questions: will he be taking lots of sports or action; are movies part of his photography repertoire; how much money does he have to spend.

But frankly these qualifying questions don’t matter much.

Here’s my answer to his question: it doesn’t matter if you choose Canon or Nikon. Both have equally capable cameras in the various price ranges. And Sony also has equally capable cameras. One could argue that Pentax and Olympus also offer quality models too.

There’s too many slanted opinions for my friend to make his choice based on all of the Facebook replies. I hope my friend makes his choice based on how the equipment feels in his hands; getting the most features for the price; availability and affordability of additional lenses; past experience with previous purchases.

What do you think? Any comments?

 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 

 

 


 

 

A Long Lens Story

12th June 2013

Avoiding the $8,500 shock

Those of us who like to hunt wildlife with a camera know that you can never have enough mm of lens. But sticker shock kicks in when you look at the prices for a fast super-telephoto lens. Last year I made it a high priority to seek out an alternative way to acquire one of these highly sought after gems and ended up with a prized lens at a bargain basement price.

My lucky catch doesn’t have the features of late model glass, but neither does it doesn’t carry an $8,500 price tag. Instead of the a brand spanking new 400mm f/2.8 with auto focusing and vibration reduction I picked up a used 400mm f/3.5 manual focus lens. As you’ll see, although it lacks the convenience of the high price spread, it performs very well for my type of shooting. And at a price of about $600, it is a steal. If you’re a lover of long lenses that isn’t willing to take a mortgage out to buy one, follow along to see if the used lens approach can satisfy your equipment wants.

To be exact, my “find” is a Nikkor ED IF AI-S 400mm f/3.5 lens. There are no marks or scratches on any of the lens surfaces. The lens body shows heavy wear and a few scratches to the paint. It has a tripod collar, a built-in lens hood and accepts affordable 39mm drop-in filters or expensive very 122mm external filters.

Mechanically, this lens has high quality optics; manual internal focusing (lens barrel does not extend or retract as it is focused) and automatic indexing so that the camera can determine the aperture setting.



To try out the lens, I mounted it on a Nikon D600 body. Notice the white dot on the lens.


Simply line up the white dot on the lens with the white dot on the camera body and twist counter-clockwise.

This monster of a lens weighs more than 6 pounds. You won’t want to handhold this camera and lens combo for very long.

While it is possible to mount this combo directly onto a tripod, a more practical solution is to use a gimbal mount.

Here’s one that I use.


Using the tripod collar on the lens, the combo is screwed onto the gimbal. The gimbal itself is mounted and balanced onto the tripod.

With the arrangement, you can now frictionlessly tilt, swivel and pan the camera and lens combo to take aim of your subject.


There’s one final step to complete before we can use this older lens with a newer camera body.

Newer Nikkor lenses owe their intelligence to a tiny CPU which controls the exposure settings. Since this lens does not have a CPU, you must “register” this lens to the camera by setting its maximum (widest) aperture. The Tools menu has an item for doing this.


Having registered the lens, there are two options for setting the exposure: ‘M” manual, where you set both the shutter speed and aperture or “A” aperture priority, where you set the aperture and the camera sets the appropriate shutter speed.

In either case, you rotate the aperture ring on the lens to the desired lens opening. In “M” mode, you also dial in the camera shutter speed. In “A” mode, the camera automatically sets the shutter speed.

You’re all set to take aim, carefully focus and fire away. Here’s a few of my first shots with the lens.



This photo is a full frame capture of a colorful duck. The lens’ large focusing ring lets me easily bring things into sharp focus.

To give you an idea of the quality of the lens, this is an enlargement of the duck’s head taken from the photo on the left.


How sharp is this lens? Full frame shot at f/5.6.

The enlargement here looks pretty sharp to me.


In this comparison of the same capture at f/3.5 and f/5.6 you’ll see a noticeable drop in sharpness when using the widest opening. The lesson for me: stop down to achieve the sharpest photographs.

At first I was a little hesitant about buying an older lens without the autofocus and autoexposure features that I’ve come to expect from newer lenses. After all, this lens comes from the early 1980s; isn’t it obsolete? Now that I’ve had some positive experience, I realize that quality equipment lasts for many years.

I feel that I hit the jackpot with this lens at a great price. Now I’m hoping to find some time to capture many more birds in the future.
 
 
 
Written by Arnie Lee
 
 
NOTE: While this article featured Nikon equipment, I’m hoping to look for similar money-saving angles for my Canon equipment.
 
 


 
 
 

Photoplus Expo

25th November 2012

for both professionals and consumers

When someone asks me where I’m from, I usually volunteer a two part answer: “I grew up in New York but I live in Michigan”. Still after almost 40 years, it’s a treat for me to return to New York to see friends and family.

My most recent visit was in late October to attend the Photoplus Expo that’s held each year at the Javits Convention Center.


I’ve traveled there for the past several years to report on the newest photo products, speak to the equipment vendors and watch several of the live “how-to” seminars.

This year thousands of professionals and enthusiastic consumers also traveled to New York City to get a hands on experience with the latest photographic equipment and accessories.

For this report, I’ll concentrate on several of the new digital cameras as these are the among the most popular.

Nikon D600

I first saw the Nikon 600 a few weeks ago at the huge Photokina Expo in Cologne, Germany. Nikon’s newest DSLR is positioned as a “prosumer” model. Its full-frame sensor, the same size as a 35mm film frame, offers an impressive 24MP resolution with superior light gathering power and less noise than the more common APS-C size sensors found in many consumer targeted DLSRs.

 

The D600 is smaller than the full-frame Nikon D800 which was introduced only a few months ago. Its $2100 price is $900 less expensive than the D800 which has a 36MP sensor.

The autofocus system is switchable between 9, 21 or 39 autofocus points depending on the type of subject. Its high speed image processor can capture up to 5-1/2 frames per second. The large 3.2″ LCD automatically adjusts the brightness to suit the surrounding lighting conditions.

The D600 automatically recognizes when a DX lens is mounted and adjusts the camera resolution to about 10mp. So owners of DX lenses can continue to benefit from their earlier investment.

Other notable features are:

  • built-in flash with versatile wireless control of external units
  • dual SD card slots – you can configure the D600 to record duplicate of images on both SD cards or to record jpg images on one card and RAW images on the other
  • in-camera HDR capability – multiple exposures are combined automatically to capture a wider range of tones
  • Active-D lighting – reduces very contrasty scenes to retain detail in highlights and shadows
  • time-lapse – captures multiple frames at specified intervals
  • full 1080p HD video at multiple frame rates
  • uncompressed video output via HDMI cable
  • external stereo input with visual auto level monitor

Users who want to transmit images directly to a smart device can purchase the inexpensive WU-1b wireless adapter. With this they can backup images and/or share images as text messages or online social media sites.

The D600 will prove to be a very capable model for those looking to upgrade from one of Nikon’s DX format cameras to a full-frame body. It’s available now for $2100. The price of the WU-1B wireless transmitter is $60.


 

 
Canon 6D

Pick up the Canon 6D, and you’ll immediately notice how much smaller (less wide) and lighter it is compared to Canon’s previous full frame 5DMkII and 5DMkIII models. The target market for the 6D is the prosumer who wants to upgrade from an APS-C frame size body, similar to what Nikon is doing with its D600 model.

Other features of the 6D are:

  • 20MB full-frame sensor
  • 11-point autofocus system
  • high speed capture at 4.5 frames per second
  • single SD card slot
  • in-camera HDR – combines bracketed exposures to yield images which encompass wide exposure levels
  • multiple exposure – superimposes up to nine separate images onto single frame
  • full 1080p HD video at multiple frame rates
  • built-in WiFi – sends images wirelessly to smart devices (computer,mobile phones) for backup or preview
  • built-in GPS – adds location information to images

 

One feature missing from the 6D is a built-in flash. Normally, this classifies the camera as a professional model. Originally slated for release December 15th, the Canon 6D was already shipping in late November. The price is $2100, same as the Nikon D600.


 

 
Sony NEX-6

I have to admit that I’m a big fan of Sony’s line of mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC). The newest member of the NEX series is the NEX-6. The MILCs are all much smaller and lighter than any of the DLSRs, making them very convenient to carry.

This model uses a hybrid autofocus system that addresses a shortcoming of the earlier models. Autofocus is now performed by combining fast phase-detection for coarse focusing with contrast-detection for precise focusing.

Many of the controls on the NEX-6 have been reworked from earlier models to change the settings faster and more conveniently. The high resolution electronic viewfinder lets the user preview the effect of the settings before the shutter is released.

 

Sony has also introduced a new 16-50mm zoom lens for the NEX series.

This lens is the first E-mount lens with a power zooming feature.

The lens ring is used for zooming and manual focusing.

When it’s not being used, the lens retracts to less than 30mm thereby making the camera and lens combination even more compact.

The 3″ LCD display has a 920K dot resolution and tilts 90 degrees upward and 45 degrees downward for easy viewing in a variety of shooting situations.

Among the innovative shooting features are:

  • in-camera HDR – combines three separate images into a single image with wide tonal range
  • adjustable DRO – dynamic range optimizer helps prevent overly contrast images
  • multiframe NR – captures multiple frames and combines parts to produce single framewith least amount of moise
  • sweep panorama – sweep your camera horizontally to take multiple frames which are stitched together in camera
  • built-in flash
  • built-in WiFi – sends images to mobile device or computer for backup or display
  • full 1080p HD video

The Sony NEX-6 is available now with 16-50mm lens for $1000.


 

Thanks to the vendors from Nikon, Canon and Sony who provided me with much of the technical information that I’ve presented here.

The show management told me that more than 24,000 visitors attended this year’s Photoplus Expo. Based on my conversations, I recently added a new Canon 6D to my large inventory of photo equipment. I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one to have made a purchasing decision after the show.

 

Written by: Arnie Lee

 

 

The “Panorama Machine”

29th December 2010

Panoramas Made Easy

Last week Fedex dropped off a small package with another high tech gadget. The shiny box contained a panorama base – a device for easily capturing photographic panoramas.

Let’s back up to last October when I met Howard Chen at the PhotoPlus Expo in New York. An attractive photo in front of his booth caught my attention. He proceeded to show me how the e-Filming PS-30B Digital Drive Panorama Base automates the making of panorama photographs with popular DSLR cameras: mount the camera on the base, press a few buttons on the control panel and press the start button. A few seconds later and you’ve captured a set of high resolution images ready to be combined (stitched together).

In addition to the drive unit, the package contains a vertical bar mount, a remote controller and control cables. A cable connects the device to the remote control socket on your DSLR camera. The six included control cables are usable with most of the popular DSLR cameras.

I spent a few minutes installing the Cool Stitch software from the included CD-ROM and printing the 16-page user’s manual.

The manual describes the five options available from the LCD control panel: shoot, time, speed, function and language. However in practice, I found that I needed to change only the shoot option.

There’s also a short article “How to Shoot Photos for Great Looking Panoramas” that appears when you run the Cool Stitch software. I recommend that you print this document and carefully follow the several helpful tips.

(more…)

If you’re a user of certain Nikon cameras and want to find a photograph or two from a specific day there is an easy way to do it.

Let’s say you’ve just returned from a photo-filled vacation and want to look for a favorite photo from a specific day of the vacation. You snapped so many photos, however, that previewing all the photos on your camera would not only can take time but battery power as well. One answer is to use the Calendar Playback feature found on certain Nikon cameras such as the D3000 and D5000.



Nikon’s Calendar Playback is a quick way to find a photofrom a specific day.

To start, press the PREVIEW button on the back of your camera. (It’s to the top left of the LCD monitor.) This will display a photo you snapped in the LCD monitor. Then press the THUMBNAIL-PLAYBACK-ZOOM OUT button. (It’s to the left of the LCD monitor next to the big question mark (?) symbol.) Press the button until you see a calendar.

Notice the little thumbnails appearing on the dates you took photos. Press the multi selector to select a specific date on the calendar. Press the THUMBNAIL-PLAYBACK-ZOOM OUT button to display thumbnails of the photos corresponding to that date. These thumbnails will appear on the right side of the LCD monitor (highlighted in yellow in the following photo). Press the up or down multi selector to select the photo you want to preview. Then press the OK button to preview the picture in the LCD monitor.



Thumbnails of the photos corresponding to the date on the calendar

Press the PREVIEW button again if the LCD monitor goes blank.

This is a simple and quick way of finding a photo from a certain date while the memory card is still in the camera.

Written by Scott Slaughter

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