Category: Camera Bag | View all recent posts
Adobe Lightroom 4 & Nikon D800
What a week for photographers everywhere, but particularly for our studio. First, a very major release from Adobe. Photoshop Lightroom 4 was released to the public and like everything Adobe creates, each new version improves on the virtues of the previous release. I have to be honest, I loved Lightroom 3. It was, and remains, a great tool for any serious photographer; however, Lightroom 4 is a major upgrade and after editing just a half dozen images I am in serious love. The new exposure adjust tools are so intuitive, powerful and just down right easy, I have to ask, "What's not to love?" If you haven't checked this out yet, well you owe it to yourself to get very familiar with this product. I see considerable improvement in image quality - when I compare LR3 versions to LR4 versions, the only way this could be any more delicious is if they deep fried it.
The next big addition to the studio's arsenal is the new Nikon D800. Personally, I have purchased and shot every Nikon professional grade DSLR since the D2x, with the exception of the D2xs (didn't see the point to be honest, nice camera, but I digress). So I am talking a D700, two D3 bodes (wow, what a game changer of a camera - cried when I sold each of them), currently shoot the spit out of two D3s bodies and love 'em, my workhorses; until I get my new D4 next week - digressing again, sorry. I have a D3x and as a studio and portrait camera it rocks, but not at low light levels. If you have to shoot above ISO 1600, wrong camera, this beast needs light, and lots of it.
Enter the D800. Man, oh man, what a camera. If you can't tell from reading the paragraph above, I like very fast and very big pro bodies, I am a big guy, 6 feet 2 inches plus, and let's not talk about how wide, please - thank you. So when I thought about the D800, my initial feelings were that I would probably pass on it, I was thinking that my wife Barbara would really like it because it's smaller and lighter, but too much of a girlie camera for a real man like me (insert a Tim Allen - grunt here, ok, moving on). I thought it would be the little brother of the D4 and I had decided to go the extra yard (and green, ouch!!) for a couple of D4 bodies. I was wrong, that's right Barbara, I said it, finally, after all these years.
Check out the image below to see why. That image is at ISO 6400, 1/25 sec, f/4 and handheld in natural light. Ok, I lied, it's from a tungsten blub, you hear that Congress, I still use tungsten blubs, you bums. The details are amazing, no way the JPEG at 72 DPI on your screen can do this justice. You don't have to, but you should trust me. Like I said above, I shoot a D3x all the time and I love the image quality from that camera. It is amazing, but it cannot do this. Anyone reading this that is a Nikon or DSLR aficionado can go grab a cold one, go ahead, you have a few minutes here.
The D800 is a 36.3 megapixel camera with a native ISO range of 100 to 6400 and what I am trying to tell you is that it shoots pretty dang clean at 6400 and the image quality is phenomenal and that's not hyperbole. It's a fact, ok, remember the movie 'My Cousin Vinny' - well just like Marisa Tomei said it from the witness stand, "It's a fact!"
The gradations are so clean, no banding in the JPEGs and the image above was tweaked in LR4 and not Photoshop CS5; and that's a fact too. So, with the exception of the HUGE file sizes and a thank you to 64 bit operating systems and 3 and now 4 Terra Byte hard drives, I say again, "What's not to love?"
Check back for some shots from an upcoming engagement session this weekend. Wow, I only have six 32 GB compact flash cards. Should I go buy more? Probably, but right now I don't even care. Hey, those Nikon guys never came back did they - I get no respect.
Remember the reason for Easter and bless you even if you don't. Happy shooting to ya'll - can't wait to post some serious images soon from the D800 and I hope we both love 'em.
Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G AF-S
Kelly Bonsack, from Showcase Camera & Video here in Atlanta, called me today to let me know that a new Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G AF-S had arrived. I was excited, I have a big wedding this weekend and this low light marvel will be the perfect lens for shooting without flash in The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Atlanta.
I have the 85mm f/1.4D AF version of this piece of sweet glass and it has always been one of my favorite lenses. I read with much interest, posts on Cliff Mautner's blog about this beauty. Long story short, he loves it. If you would like to check out his post go HERE. Here is a shot of the lens from the Nikon site
I always shoot a new lens the day I buy it to make sure there are no production issues with my copy; lemons do happen, unfortunately. Plus, I am a glass freak and whenever I buy a lens it's a special event.
I stopped at a Longhorn Steakhouse on the way home to pick up dinner; it helps to keep the Minister of Finance as happy as possible on the days you purchase premium glass. Actually, I was just doing my part for the economy, yeah, that's it, it was a patriotic act. By gosh, you know what, I think I deserve a medal or something... the sacrifices I make for my country.
Here are a few test shots from the Longhorn and a few shots around the yard of assorted subjects. This first shot was taken in the parking lot of Showcase. Several of my friends have wanted me to take a shot of my Acura so they can see the new wheels. Ok fellas, here you go. EXIF data is 1/5000 sec @ f/13 at ISO 2000; yep, stepped out of the store and forgot to dial down the ISO - see, happens to pros too. Thank goodness the Nikon D3s is so clean, plus a good example of the sharpness of the lens stopped down.
Next, I was stuck in traffic on Hwy 400 North, a two car accident caused the delay - I hope everyone made it through unharmed. This billboard caught my attention, so I snapped this quick shot from the car. 1/6400 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 200. Pretty amazing sharpness wide open, of course the fast shutter speed doesn't hurt.
This billboard, with the condo as the background caught my attention while sitting at a light. 1/1600 @ f/4 at ISO 200. I hate the power lines, but wanted to do minimal processing to show you the capability of the lens.
While waiting for my to go order, I shot some of the liquid refreshments available. 1/80 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 2500. Notice the sharpness again of the bottles in the image on the left and the nice bokeh. I love the circular diaphragm and the sweet little circles of light in the image on the right; now that is a buttery smooth bokeh - love it.
This is one of my favorites from the test shots. 1/320 sec @ F/1.4 at ISO 5000.
The image on the left is 1/160 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 5000, the image on the right is 1/200 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 5000. This lens has fantastic contrast and it is so sharp, even wide open. Amazing piece of glass that is going to be mounted to my Nikon D3s a lot.
The shot on the left is 1/2500 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 200 and the image on the right is 1/2000 sec @ f/1.4 at ISO 200. I love the bokeh of this this lens and can't wait to capture a brides eyelashes super sharp as her veil and face blur into a beautiful softness.
So, what is the verdict of this very non-scientific lens test? I love this lens! I always loved the 85mm f/1.4D AF, it has long been a go to lens for portraits and weddings, but I love the speed at which this lens focuses. The AF is measurably faster, especially at low light. I have not done a side by side comparison with the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 for image quality, but the Zeiss is a manual focus lens that I use more for shooting video more than stills. I will reserve judgment until I do the comparison, but having a fast prime that focuses so quickly and silently, the previous model had a tendency to be a little noisy and hunt a bit in low contrast, low light situations, will be a real benefit at weddings.
My first impression is very positive, this is sweet glass that will get heavy use at weddings and most definitely be a mainstay for portraiture. I am very impressed with the recent offerings from Nikon and applaud their commitment to producing fast primes, particularly the recent release of the 24mm f/1.4G AF-S. My only disappointment is the lack of VR II on this short telephoto; now that would be a wedding photographer's dream lens.
I suspect that more fast primes are in the pipeline, but it's just conjecture or wishful thinking. Hopefully Nikon will update the 105mm f/2 PC Nikkor and the 135mm f/2 PC Nikkor as well in the months to come. I would put myself on the list for those lenses the day they were announced. I am on the list for the new 24-120mm f/4 VR II AF-S Nikkor. What this lens sacrifices in speed is compensated for with a very useful focal range and the 4 stop improvement that VR II affords. I believe this model will be an improvement over its predecessor and will prove to a very useful lens during receptions and ceremonies; time will tell and the proof will definitely be in the shooting. If it proves to be well designed and, most importantly, sharp - I predict it will be a real winner.
24mm f/1.4mm AF-S Nikkor
Kelly Bonsack from Showcase Camera, here in Atlanta, called me Thursday, July 16th, 2010, to inform me the 24mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor I had on order had finally arrived. It is important to note that I was number two on a very long waiting list. My name was placed on that list on February 9th, 2010, the day the lens was announced by Nikon; it has taken more than five months for this beauty to finally make it into my anxious hands. The one person above me on the list received their lens about a month ago; so I have been like a kid at Christmas - I can be so impatient. I suppose some things never change, the sun rises in the east and Nikon's supply chain can be infuriatingly glacier at times.
But, as the old adage goes, "All good things come to those who wait." This lens was worth the wait. "Isn't this lens a bit pricey?," you might ask. Yes indeed it is, at $2,199 retail, and notwithstanding that there are no discounts when you are on a waiting list, this is a very expensive piece of glass. "Do you think it's worth the price?," you should ask. Lord, I hope so; yes, I absolutely do. This is the lens I have been wanting Nikon to make for a very long time. There is one hole in Nikon's lens collection, it is the sparseness of super fast primes. Canon has a complete line of super fast primes, that is good for the Canon shooters; but it just frustrates us Nikon shooters that Nikon is not matching the efforts of their competition.
Hopefully, Nikon is rectifying this situation and the new 24mm f/1.4G AF-S is the first in many new offerings. I pray this is the case. I hope that Nikon will update the venerable 85mm f/1.4D AF lens next, I would love a new 85mm f/1.4G AF-S and would be high on that waiting list again. The bottom line is super fast primes are lenses with which you can make some real magic, and give you options that you just don't have otherwise. This lens, especially in low light, extends the capabilities of the photographer - this lens is a money shot maker.
I have nothing spectacular to show you, yet. I went out after a passing rain storm and grabbed some quick test shots to make sure I didn't buy a lemon - hey, it has happened. The shot below of the hood of my truck was taken at 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400 with a Nikon D3x. I am posting this to demonstrate the potential of this lens. There are a couple of other shots below to demonstrate the sharpness of the lens, even when opened up. My first impression of the lens is that it is incredibly sharp, even wide open. Stopped down to f/2.8 the sharpness gets intense and the bokeh remains buttery smooth.
Can you imagine shooting a first dance in low light at a reception or the exquisite details at a wedding against strong back light at the minimum focusing distance of .25 meters? What about an intimate moment between a newly married couple on a balcony overlooking the city's natural evening light with the lens wide open? I can envision the beauty of the thousands of beautiful little circles of light in the creamy smooth bokeh from the nine bladed round diaphragm. The depth of field play the lens offers is going to be so much fun. As I begin to gravitate to the world of HD Video and photo fusion with my Nikon D3s cameras, this lens will be the go to lens for wide shots.
Again, I cannot get over just how sharp this lens is. Below is a 20% crop that illustrates just how sharp this lens really can be. The image on the left is the full frame original and the image on the right is the cropped final image. The image was taken at 1/40 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 400 on a D3x. The bokeh remains incredibly smooth and, again, the sharpness is fantastic.
This lens is destined to become an instant classic; remember the 28mm f/1.4D AF that now sells for twice its original price? This is the next generation of that lens. It is the perfect companion for any Nikon full frame body, but it will shine like a diamond mounted to the Nikon D3s. The applications of this lens are myriad; sports shooters, wedding photographers and photojournalists are going to crave it. I cannot wait to shoot it; tomorrow I am going to do a little walk about and see what I can capture after a rainstorm. This is such a sweet piece of glass and I am so pumped. I will try to give you a full review once I have spent some quality time with my new best friend.
The final image is of buds on a Dogwood tree in the front yard; this is about a 60% crop. Notice the clarity of the droplet of water - the image was shot at f/2.