The son of our neighbors next doors is seven years old and collects minerals (“treasures of the soil” as he calls them). When we visited them a while ago I suggested to photograph his treasures along with some of his Lego figurines. The idea was very welcome and so I packed my Lowepro photo trolley and rolled it over to their place.
I chose a simple tabletop lighting setup, photographing the minerals on the dining table surface. To create an interesting background I applied a technique called “El Bokeh wall” by photographer Laya Gerlock from the Philippines. The idea is very simple – take a sheet of aluminum foil, crumple it into a ball, fold it out again it and tape the crumpled aluminum sheet to the wall. When lit by a flash the crumpled surface throws back countless tiny reflections, which, out of focus, result in a pleasing pattern of bokeh rings. But why blabla when images can tell the story:
The setup requires two flash units. One flash unit illuminates the background, the main light illuminates the mineral and the Lego figurine (the main purpose of the Lego figurine is to act as a reference for the size of the mineral by the way). To avoid harsh shadows on the minerals I attached a Lumiquest softbox to the flash. The images were made with a D800 and a Nikkor 105mm f.28 Micro lens. Since the minerals are 3D and have quite a depth considering we are using a macro lens, use a small aperture (I recommend f8 and up, but that depends on the individual subject). If you are not pleased with the lighting situation, try to elevate the main light a little so that it points down at an angle towards the subject. A second main light, placed to the right of the minerals, might also help. There is no “right” or “wrong”, just try a few setups and see what works.
Keep in mind that in order to receive a pleasing bokeh at small apertures (high aperture numbers) the background needs to be “far” away from the subject. In the setup I used the distance between background and subject measured perhaps 60-80 cm.
And finally, here are the final results from that shooting.
When I made the shots of the D610 for my “purchase decision post” I did not have the time (and patience) to make a proper studio setup. So I decided to go for a quick’n'dirty solution. To my amazement the results were far better than expected.
I placed the D610 on the box it came in and put both in front of a 24 inch display which was switched off. With the D800 and a SB-910 flash unit I took the images at eye-level of the subject. The flash was angled 60° towards the ceiling with the white bounce card pulled out.
Here is the setup:
The setup results in a nicely lit background (note that this might not work with glossy screens). The bounce card is responsible for the reflection on the surface of the TFT screen. The subject itself is also lit quite well. To bring out the details in the subject I raised the dark areas, cloned away the dust (gee, it’s everywhere and I unboxed the camera only a day ago before the shoot), cropped the image, applied a slight vignette and violà ! It is a good result in my opinion considering this very simple setup.
One might have derived from my last post that I am looking for a new camera. And that is totally true. Recently I bought a Nikon D610 as my secondary camera. The D610 replaces my D300s , so now I will have two full frame cameras in operation (D800 and D610).
The reason for ditching the D300s lies in its not-too-well low light performance (compared to today’s camera lineup). I shoot a lot indoors with available light, meaning there is never enough of it and I constantly use Auto-ISO on my D800. While the D300s is a superb camera it is not specifically built for low light extravaganza (sensor technology has evolved since then). As a result the D300s stood on the shelf with the D800 being my workhorse. So I decided to put it the D300s up for sale and look for a replacement.
When the Nikon Df showed up on the horizon I thought the time had come, but Nikon’s ridiculous pricing strategy thwarted that plan. Since I still felt the need to replace my D300s I started looking for alternatives. Basically two cameras came into question: The D7100 and the D610. Both have a very similar body, both 24 Megapixels while the D7100 has a crop sensor (DX) and the D610 full frame (FX). Both cameras have its pros and cons.
The D7100 is ahead of the D610 in several points regarding features and specifications (D610 properties in brackets):
The D610 on the other hand scores against the D7100 with the following points:
I had a hard time choosing between these two cameras. While the sheer number of advantages of the D7100 seemed to decide the race quickly my gut feeling said I should think again and rate how important each aspect was. I ranked autofocus and low light performance as being very important and identified the rest (max shutter speed, flash sync speed, stereo mic, 60 fps video, LCD resolution, price) as being less important. So it cooked down to a decision between autofocus and low light performance.
I started reading reviews. Remarkable reviews can be found on http://www.dpreview.com, I read the 25-page review on the D600 (The D600 and D610 are identical besides some details – shutter mechanism and framerate – so any performance test of the D600 is also valid for the D610). There I read that the difference in low light performance of my two “contestants” is very noticeable and that the D610 is ahead.
With that in mind I finally opted for the D610. In the end all that counts is the image, so I wanted to get the very better sensor performance. I know that some people would have chosen differently. Somebody who uses telephoto a lot should choose the D7100 for example. While being the same megapixel count the smaller sensor gives you a virtual focal length multiplication. But that was not the point for me. I shoot a lot portraiture indoors, and here I prefer the wider image area of a full frame sensor (and its low light capabilities).
Note: D610 raw support in Adobe Lightroom
Lightroom has not yet incorporated support for the D610 raw files (Lightroom 5.2). At the moment LR 5.3 release candidate is being tested. The version has an expiration date of 31st December 2013, so I guess that the official 5.3 update will be released around that date. If you have a D610 and use Lightroom at the moment either you will have to download Adobe’s camera raw & dng converter 8.3 (beta) or download the Lightroom 5.3 release candidate. Both software packages will allow you to use D610 raw files with Lightroom. I chose to convert the files to dng because I did not want to risk working with a release candidate which is not fully tested yet.
I went through my gear to decide what could be released onto the second-hand market. I found three nice pieces of equipment which I would like to sell, so drop me a line if you are interested (I am shipping within Europe only).
1.) Nikon D300s body with two extra original Nikon batteries
I bought this camera four years ago. The shutter has around 41.000 clicks, the camera is in very good shape. The top LCD display has a little scratch on the surface, but that does not impede the function or visibility of the display.After the scratch occurred I protected the display with a transparent foil. The camera ships in its original packing with everything that the camera came with. There are two extra original Nikon batteries, so you get a total of three batteries for the D300s.
Price: 650 Euros plus shipping
2.) MB-D10 battery grip (fits the D300, D300s and D700) ***SOLD*** (Update 09Dec13)
The grip has not been used very much since I found the camera to be too bulky and heavy for my taste with the grip attached. It is the original Nikon grip, not a third-party product. This item also ships in its original packing. The AA battery holder and the soft pouch for storing the battery holder are also included.
Price: 120 Euros plus shipping
3.) Manfrotto 322RC2 ***SOLD*** (Update 08Dec13)
This is a very handy ball head for your tripod. The 322RC2 has a pistol grip and lets you quickly readjust the alignment of your camera. The camera is mounted on the connecting plate and has a quick release mechanism.
Price: 50 Euros plus shipping.
Three months ago I created a battery charging / data connection box (see the making of here). It is a wooden box into which all my battery chargers are placed, fastened with velcro. A seven port USB 3.0 hub connects to a bundle of data cables for mounting all sorts of devices. I have been using this box for over three months and would like to share some thoughts and experiences with you.
First of all: IMPORTANT NOTE ! Never close the box while batteries are charging ! Battery charging generates heat which needs to escape. If you close the box during charging operation you might risk a fire !
Having all chargers in hands reach and not having to bother about the wiring is great. I am so relieved that don’t have to rummage around in a box for the correct charger anymore or find a spare power plug. Charging your batteries (I have four different battery types to charge) is now achieved in a very convenient way.
The USB hub also provides extra comfort. I can plug my camera directly to one of the cables from the bundle and I am ready to go. So same thing here – life has become easier. But the design turned out not to be perfect. When I connected my D800 to the USB 3.0 cable of the hub Lightroom stopped importing the images from the camera at random points. I got an error message that the files were not readable. I had to reconnect the camera and import again. At first I thought of a faulty memory card, but after a while it dawned on me that the USB hub might be the issue. So I used another USB cable and connected it directly to my iMac. The result – a smooth import, no problems. I am not sure what exactly causes the problem. Perhaps the combined cable length of the USB cable and the cable which connects the hub to the iMac is too long and packet loss occurs. Just a theory.
But I am pretty sure about the cause of the second problem I encountered. While I can connect and charge my iPhone perfectly with a cable connected to the hub my iPad won’t charge. The cause is clear – not enough voltage. Note that there are USB hubs on the market with dedicated charging ports for smartphones and tablets. These ports put out more juice. I saw such hubs when I chose the one for my box but did not buy it since the distribution of the ports on the hub did not go well with the component layout I planned (some ports would not have been accessible).
To wrap it up – nothing is perfect at the first attempt except Chuck Norris. But despite two minor issues the box made my battery and cable management a lot easier. The components are easily accessible, can be removed if necessary (velcro !) and stored out of sight when not needed (close the box). It is an effective and inexpensive solution (you have to buy the box, some paint if you like and a USB hub).
For a long time no product being rumored in the Nikon world has sparked so much anticipation and excitement as the retro-style full frame camera which’s existence leaked not long ago. A lengthy teaser campaign followed with six videos showing a photographer roaming the Scottish highlands, rediscovering photography.
Today Nikon announced the Nikon Df – A full frame camera with the sensor of the D4 in a retro-style body. There are two versions – silver/black and pure black. The body design follows the Nikon FM2, a very successful film SLR. Nikon added many control dials on top of the Df. There is a dial for ISO, shutter speed, bracketing, shooting mode and a PSAM dial. The dials have a very solid clicking sound when being operated, another feature which adds to the “retro” experience. I have to admit that I love the silver and black design. And for long I have pondered swapping my D300s for a full frame camera. So the rumors about the Df got me very excited and I thought my piggy bank’s days were numbered (again…).
But it came different. To make it short – the technical specs make the Df a very interesting camera for me, but Nikon blew it by selling it at a ridiculously high price. The camera with a custom 50 mm f1.8 lens ships for – hold your breath – 2.999 Euros. Remember: The D800 sells for about 2.100 Euros at the moment. Hey ! A higher price is ok if the Df outperforms the D800, but that is not the case. I am not bashing the camera, I am bashing the value for money. So please read everything that follows with that in mind.
Let’s take a look at the tech specs of the Df:
The D800 offers way more functionality and flexibility for a significantly lower price. So what are the selling points of the Df ? It all boils down to three main aspects: Superb sensor, retro design, most compact Nikon full frame available.
That is a little bit thin for such a price. So who is supposed to buy that camera for that price (again – 2.999 Euros with lens) ? It seems Nikon target wealthy people between, let’s say, 45-60, who owned a film SLR back in the days and want to have the “old feeling” of shooting back. Perhaps people who have tons of old lenses (hence the AI lever). Nostalgia. Target group sounds like architects, designers, artists, hipsters (ok, that’s not a profession ;-)… people who usually pay attention to design and have money.
I am somehow disappointed. Value for money is significantly imbalanced. You pay a lot for the design (which’s practicability has yet to be proven; think about shooting at night – the dials are not illuminated !). While the sensor – I keep repeating myself – is a strongpoint the rest of the specs disappoint (again, at that price). The only innovative feature is the AI lever. If you ignore the retro design you have a camera with “downgraded” or missing capabilities (think about video, shutter speed) at a ridiculous price.
Bottom line: Definitely no piggy bank slaughter for me ! I am not complaining about the specs themselves. I could live with them perfectly, but not for that price !!! For the last time – value for money is totally out of balance. Let’s see how the price will develop. The D800 was 2.899 Euros upon release, now (1.5 years later) it is at 2.100 Euros, that is a price drop of about 28 percent. So if I project that on the Df price we would still be around 2.150 Euros in 1.5 years from now. Still too much for my taste. Seems like the D300s replacement will have to wait.
I usually do not repost content from other sites, but I am too excited about this one not to share it. Nikonrumors reported that Nikon is going to release a retro-style full frame camera in the next two weeks (6th of November might be the day). The camera is supposed to look similiar to the Nikon F3 (see title picture, thank you Arne List from Wikipedia for this image). There are two things in particular I am excited about: First – full frame; Second – it’s supposed to have the D4 sensor ! Oh boy, that would be something. When I got the D800 I wrote a post after a few months of ownership in which I summarized my opinion on this camera. In the conclusion of that article I stated that a D800 body with the sensor of the D4 would be perfect for me since I do not need 36 Megapixels. Ok, it’s not the D800 body now, but a smaller full frame camera is also something very interesting (plus, I love retro design cameras).
Here is a breakdown of the main specs (taken from nikonrumors.com):
At the moment no information on:
The absence of video is interesting. Technologically there is no reason why one should not put a video mode into a DSLR these days (actually Nikon sports excellent video DSLRs – the D4 and the D800). And perhaps that is also the reason for video absence. If you had a camera with the D4 sensor and also excellent video quality this could impact the D4 sales. This way there is a clear distinction between the two cameras. I think the camera might be more targetted at the street shooter. I hope Nikon will not sacrifice CLS compatibility, but I don’t think they will. CLS is a key feature and unique selling point of Nikon, so they would narrow down the target audience even more after dropping video.
Let’s see what unfolds. From what I learned until now that camera makes my gear acquisition sense tingle. Perhaps the retro camera might be a replacement for my D300s (I fancied getting a second full frame DSLR for a while…).