Monday, November 7, 2011

SEMA 2011

I went, I saw, I came home and wanted to beat my little Project Fubar Miata into a worthless hunk of metal with a sledgehammer, then roll it off to an irrigation ditch and leave it for aliens to discover long after the human race has blasted itself into oblivion. This car is going to need soooooo much work to be at the SEMA show level...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Canon 1Dx thoughts

Damn! $6,800? This sure makes a second-gen 1Ds mkII look like a deal now, if you can find one in good shape. Looking at Rob Galbraith's site has me questioning the AF performance of Canon's top cameras now. Rob doesn't have any complaints posted about the 7D though, but since it's not a full-frame body, it's not on my list.

Dear Canon, what I'd like is a 7D body with the sensor from the original 5D. 'K? Thanks! I want the separate AF processing chip and the wireless flash control built-in. And that creamy narrow DOF that a full-frame body possess. Would this be too difficult for you? This way I can take advantage of the excellent sharpness your lenes exhibit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

RIP Dan Wheldon

Sad, sad day in Indy Car racing. Dan Wheldon passed away in a truly awful crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leaving behind his wife Susie and two little boys. Terrible news...

Monday, October 10, 2011

One body shooting

It is dang tough to shoot an event with just one body. Impossible to do it with one body and primes. I was thinking these thoughts as I was shooting the Formula Drift 2011 Season Finale at Irwindale this past weekend. Since I was shooting with for a magazine, I can't concentrate on making only artsy photos with primes. I have to be able to shoot off-the-cuff rapidly, and that means a zoom lens is required. I want bokeh, and my little zooms aren't delivering that. Decisions, decisions...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sony A77? No, no no!

Ah Sony... so many tricks, so little use for them. 12 FPS, but you can only shoot wide open because the camera can't control the f-stop fast enough? Really? Buffer only holds 13 shots? So, truthfully, the 12 FPS burst speed is useless. One second of shooting at 12 FPS, which may result in over-exposed shots because the aperture can only be wide open?

Now, shooting at 8 FPS is very fast, but again, if it can only do 13 shots in a row before the buffer is full then it may be of very little use out in the real world. This spec can be matched by any old used Nikon D300 or D700 with a battery grip, or by the Canon 7D straight out of the box.

Hard to see what Sony's thinking with this one. At least the A900/A850 twins were sheer photographic tools with zero frills. This one seems to be more "because we're Sony and we can" fluff than it should be.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nearly October

So nearly the entire month of September has come and gone, and still no new pro-level Nikon camera anouncements. I am impatient! Are Canon and Nikon playing a game of "chicken" to see who goes first and who steals the thunder?

I'd also like to point out that we are just in the infancy of digital photography at this point. Advances in sensors will likely bring about vast increases in the total megapixel count in just the next few years. The elimination of the Anti-Moire filter (also called anti-aliasing) will likely point out all of the flaws in our current lenses. It should also make capture rates much faster as the on-board processors won't have to do as much work, increasing battery life and reducing heat output inside the camera body.

This is an exciting time to be a photographer. If anyone is curious, I currently only recommend a few cameras; the Nikon D300S, D700, and D3/D3S, and the Canon 1D mkIV, the 1DS mkIII and 5D/5D mkII. These are cameras with superlative processing in-body, making for incredibly sharp and colorful photos. The 7D doesn't make my list due to a slightly stronger anti-aliasing filter which softens the output a little too much for my preference. These bodies also use software trickery to reduce chromatic fringing most evident in older lenses. Don't believe me, browse Flickr and search for combinations of D200 and 50mm f1.4D. The staggering amount of blue fringing you'll find at the edges of bright/dark transitions really cut down on the clarity, color, and contrast of the photos, especially when compared to the same lens on a D300 or D700 body.

As with all of my comments, your experience may vary, but this is what I've observed, and one of the key reasons I'm not in any rush to replace my D300. The only useful gain I can make is to go to a D700, because the contrast and clarity of the bigger pixel sites on the full frame sensor, and its better resistance to heat-induced color-noise makes it THE body for Nikon users at this moment. I can only see wanting a Canon 5D mk2 if I were making films and wanted to precisely control depth of field on a budget. The doubling of megapixels really increases the color-noise in low light, and to me, photography is all about capturing colorful photos in low light!

Afterall, why spend all that money on lenses with the ability to resolve 90 line pairs per millimeter if you're just going to stick them on a body with a cheap anti-alising filter or no chromatic fringing reduction software on-board? Ansel Adams used to point out how any modern lens is appropriately corrected at f8, and he was right! However, only the best lenses are useful at f2.8 and below, and it is those lenses which are needed for low-light situations. Car photography is inherently a low-light (or controlled light) type of art. So... pick the body with the best low-light capability for your budget (for me it's the D300 at this point) and lenses which are "appropriately corrected" for use in low light, with larger apertures, and have at it now, before you get any older!*

*All of this advice will likely be out of date as soon as the new Nikons and Canons arrive! LOL

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Nikons?

So where are they? We're all the way into September 2011, and still nothing new announced from Nikon? What's the story with that?

In other news, in spite of all of the hot air from proponents of Global Warming theories, the Arctic sea ice extent did not reach the low 2007 level, was more than six percent greater, and has already begun rebounding. Part of Al Gore's 24 hour-long boring seminar on why he's right and we're all stupid took place from Hawaii, where it SNOWED that very night. Yes folks, God does evidently have a sense of humor after all! Proof can be found on Snow in September on top of Mauna Kea ocurred on the night of Al's broadcast about "climate reality". Heh. Now that there's funny!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Old photos, new thoughts

So, two weeks ago, while browsing through old photos looking for a car I'd misplaced, it suddenly dawned on me that my current photos, shot with my Nikon D300, are FAR sharper and more colorful than those shot with my first camera, a Canon D60. They are also better than those shot with my second camera, a Minolta Maxxum 7D. This was shocking, because I had been impressed with the Canon (photos of my kids still hanging on my wall from this one), and really impressed with the Konica-Minolta (image stabilized all the time). In summary, take all of my raving about my past cameras and throw it all in the trash!

In other news, still no announcements from Nikon. Will we even see a D800 or D400 before Christmas? I wonder.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Alas! Nikon disappoints me again.

The 24th of August has come and gone, and still no new D4 or D800 camera bodies from Nikon. Does anyone else feel this way?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Nikons on the 24th?

So, supposedly we'll finally be seeing the new Nikon D4 and D800 around the 24th of August. A Wednesday. Hmmmmmmmm. I think it's about damn time! It might be the case that these were nearly ready to go back in March, but the massive earthquake and tsunami messed up the time table. I was thinking that Nikon did their announcements earlier in the summer, with the actual shipping dates arriving before Christmas. If they don't get them out on the market soon, with the stock market crashing, and the dollar's value dropping, it'll be hard to see how we'll be able to even afford new Japanese cameras over here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Prototypes versus Production

Could just ONE car company bring out a nice looking sports coupe which looks EXACTLY like its prototype? Is that so much to ask?

Friday, July 22, 2011

New Nikons soon?

The buzz is out that there's two new full-frame bodies coming from Nikon at once. People are concerned that it's a bit wierd that there's to be a D4 and D800 released at the same time, but not if you think about it from the video standpoint. Nikon is still playing catch-up to Canon in this area, so look for the D800 to be a "5D mkII fighter" with a big sensor.

I wonder what this will mean for the long-awaited D400? Will it fall in the 18-20mp range as anticipated? Will I even care, being that there will be a plethora of available D700s dumped on the market once the D800 lands? Mmmmmm, D700 deliciousness at discounted prices! Yummy! I can't wait for August!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's been too long since I've uploaded photos to my blog so here are a few I like. this is Apollo Performance's very nice WRX STi, shot with my two trusty SB-600 flashes and my Tamron SP AF 70-300mm Di VC lens.

How's this for a night shot with two SB-600 flashes and my Tamron SP AF 70-300mm Di VC lens?

Light blogging recently

Sorry for the lack of updates. Hectic end to my wife's school year, frantic preparation for a long summer trip, followed by a two-week long home-repair bender upon our return. Everything is beginning to return to normal now in the house, and I can finally get back to my writing. I'll be sharing some of my thoughts from photography that I had during my trip too, in a day or so.

Meanwhile... still no new cameras from Nikon or Canon, but there are more rumors now. Nikon, really... a 20mp D800 at $2500? Did you not see the Sony A850? Or the Sony A900? Canon, The 7D looks great on paper, but feels a little like a toy in the hands. I guess something had to be given up to hit that $1400 price point, right?

Tamron, could we please get the VC system in your 70-200mm f2.8 Di LD lens? Soon? The market needs an alternative for the super-pricy Nikon 70-200 VRII.

Bye-bye Nikon 80-200mm f2.8

Well, Nikon, I tried your good old 80-200mm and when it's good, it's really good. But when it's off, like it is constantly for the AF system error at minimum focus distance, it's really horrible. Having seen this same performance from my old Sigma lens up close, I'd say the Sigma's optical formula was based on the Nikon 80-200, as they shared minimum focal distance AF errors and focus shift. I have a Tamron 70-300mm Di VC lens and it has no problems even when used on the same D300 camera body. When I analyzed my shooting, I figured out that I wasn't using the f2.8-f4.5 range anyway, because I didn't like the softness in the images. Above f5.6 both my Sigma and my Nikon were acceptably sharp, but if I'm going to shoot at f5.6, I can do that with my significantly-cheaper Tamron 70-300, and have image stabilization to boot! Yes, the Tamron VC is incredibly good. It enables me to take sharp, colorful, contrast-boosted shots in situations where I had to go to f2.8 before (f2.8 on my previous two lenses suffers from light diffraction inside the glass elements, causing less contrast and color, and a reduction in apparant sharpness). It's good enough that I'm considering getting Tamron's 17-50mm f2.8 Di VC lens in a month or two, making it time to sell off both my 50mm f1.4D (which I never shoot below f2.5 due to focus shift) and my 17-55mm f3.5-5.6 AF-S kit lens. There are benefits to be had from the Tamron, and if I can capture engine bay details at f2.8 or f3.5 between 35mm and 50mm of focal length, I'll be incredibly happy with the new Tamron. Now to save my pennies...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Climbing Aboard the Nikon Wagon

Well, I've turned a page and made the move to a a more Nikon-centric lens collection with the addition of an AF 80-200mm f2.8 ED-IF "two-touch" unit. Focusing appears to be fast if a bit torquey. And, I'm happy to report, aside from the weird "AF false lock" problem that all of these lenses have with Nikon's DSLR logic, it is sharp at all apertures. Most importanly of all, the bokeh is really nice! You simply don't realize how much you miss smooth and creamy bokeh until you don't have it any more. With my prior "pro" lens, I was forced into using too much f-stop to obtain sharpness, and the penalty in the loss of bokeh took my photos from appearing "artistic" to looking more like snapshots. The new 80-200mm appears to solve this entirely, being sharp down to f3.2, just as long as I don't ask the lens to close-focus at 200mm focal length!

I can live with that; I don't need a macro lens.

I've also found that I have a hankering for a 35mm wide-aperture lens. There are two possibles; the new 35mm f1.8 G DX or the older 35mm f2D. Both offer considerable sharpness at f2.8, and both would be wider than my 50mm f1.4D and offer more DOF. My 18-55mm AF-S f3.5-5.6 just doesn't open up wide enough for my liking. If they'd made that lens an f2.8-4, with the middle ranges being f3.2 to f3.5, I don't think anyone would ever complain about it. It just needs a little more light and more bokeh. It can be plenty sharp at f8, but, and I'm surprised at this, my Tokina 12-24mm f4 is sharper at 24mm and f8 than the little Nikon DX zoom. The Tokina does cost four times as much though, so the old adage applies. "You get what you pay for!"

Well, lately I've paid for a new D300 body, a new 80-200mm f2.8 lens, and want to add a 35mm lens too. Someday a 180mm prime lens might arrive, but it won't be until long after Uncle Sam's sent me next year's tax dollars, that's for certain!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

In with the NEW!

Just got a new(er) D300 body. Have done one photo shoot with it. The output appears to be much sharper than what I could achieve with my "old" D300. Obviously, the old one needs to visit the Nikon Service Center here in California soon!

I had quite a bit of fun on this shoot!

The Great Interconnectedness of Things

First of all, my thoughts and prayers go out to the population of Japan. That is one seriously put-upon group of people currently, and they deserve our support. We buy their cars, their electronics, their technology, etc. All of that has come to a screeching halt while they attempt to find the pieces and put them back together. Northeastern Japan will never be the same. I fear there's an entire generation lost, as photos have not shown a great deal of school-aged kids when showing families. At the time the quake struck, those kids would have been in school. Schools, plural, which were then washed away when the tsunami hammered the coast. If you can afford to donate, donate all that you can. Here's why:

We import their cars, and sell them at local dealerships around the country. This drives tax revenue for the states. Think of what a shortage of those cars would mean to the already low tax base? Even more state insolvency, that's what it means. We buy their electronics too. Long term shortages of these products will do the same thing as a shortage of cars, but on a smaller scale. It's a net cumulative effect which could have very dire consequences in our economy here in the US.

Finally, there's the looming threat of runaway nuclear reactors (3) and outgassing/radiation from burning or warming fuel rod storage pools (6) at the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, all of which contain very damaging forms of long-term radiation. As someone who works outside to do photoshoots, dealing with long-term damage from the sun is a big concern of mine. Sunblock is an essential part of an outdoor photographer's kit. I'm wondering how long it will be before some clever soul creates a nuclear-proof sunblock lotion bolstered with potassium-iodine? While I don't fear glowing clouds over Los Angeles, the down-the-road implications of lung or skin cancer due to trace amounts of radioactive particulate matter entering my body doesn't exactly thrill me. Life is always tough, but it beats the heck out of the alternative.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about this in a day or two.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I can reset your Nikon AF system!

They say that necessity breeds genius, right? Well, I've spent enough time playing with my own Nikon D300's AF system screws that I'm now 100% confident that I can reset anyone's Nikon digital camera which uses the dual-mirror, dual-stop adjustment system. The D90, D200, D300, D300s, D700, D3, D3s, D3x, and possibly other models like the D40, can all be adusted so that your lenses will focus on the selected spot, every time. Photos will pop with clarity and contrast like you've just purchased a new camera.

Your AF system focuses based on the position of a small mirror behind the main mirror inside your camera. This mirror rests against a small stop which isn't secured with any more than a very small Allen socket-head screw with an offset cam attached to it. As the screw is turned, the AF system brings the focus from near to far and back to near again. A second screw in the front does the same thing for the main mirror, changing what you see through the viewfinder. "Soft focus" is when the point of aim does not match where the AF system thinks it should be. AND... it's a lot more common than you think.

Would you like the confidence which comes from being able to manually-focus your camera on the head of a pin? Do you rely on your camera to make a living? Are your indoor or low-light shots currently a little fuzzy matter what you try? Is infinity out of your grasp in your landscape shots? If so, contact me, and I'll fix it for you. Why wait 6-8 weeks for Nikon to look at it. I can turn it around in just a couple days. AND, I can do it affordably, for just $50.00 plus insured shipping.

If I can't set it, or if I find another issue, then you don't have to pay me. It's as simple as that! Give me a call at 760-799-0368 if you have any questions or concerns, or email me through this blog and I'll share before and after photos from my own D300. You won't believe the difference an adjustment can make!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Testing AF systems

Okay, after reviewing information available on the internet about various famous camera brands and models, I've come to the conclusion that perhaps cross-type phase detection AF sensors occasionally have focusing issues with bright subjects, no matter what brand. I've read reaports about the 1D mkIII being problematic when introduced, with some owners requiring an entirely new mirror box to be fitted to the cameara. I've heard of front-focusing complaints from D300 users, D700 users, 5D users, and the list seems to go on and on. I'd like to test of few of these on my own, if anyone would like to contribute a camera body or two.

The test is simple; shoot a brightly colored and lit car at a wide open apeture, over a rough surface like gravel, from a tripod, and note for a series of 10 separately-focused photos, how many are focused right on the nose of the car. In theory, if the car isn't moving, the score should be 10 out of 10. Right now I'm not sure my D300 is doing that. Every so often, using Single Point AF, it will focus completely in front of the subject, resulting in a clear focal point ahead of where I've intended it to be. When shooting a car a distance away, this gross error can be large and extremely annoying. Especially when it's caused me to waste really good light, like what happened this past Sunday on a shoot.

So, in essence, I want to "audition" new AF systems. I want to know, over the last 5 years or so, who has produced the most accurate AF system. Then I want to purchase one! Immediately! I am tired of blown-focus photos.

And, lest anyone think that perhaps it's user error, I shot with two Konica-Minolta 7D bodies which were as durable and accurate as I could have wished, no matter what I shot or how ham-fisted my efforts were. I simply pointed and it nailed the focus. They weren't "fast" but they got the job done again and again. I expected this level of competence from the Nikon D300, and thus far have been disappointed. Time for a change...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Shame on you, Nikon!

The award for the most disappointing, underwelming, half-assed display goes to Nikon. By a landslide. No great glass on display. No 70-200mm f2.8 lens at all, and it didn't look like there was anything longer than 85mm in the single display case. There was a room, upstairs, in the back, and two glass display cases with a selection of cameras, the highest one being a D3s. That's it. No photos on the wall, no magazine covers, nada. A couple black couches and some Pepsi on a table (without ice even). Really.

Canon brought a stage decorated as a rain forest with Cirque du Soleil type dancers hanging from ropes attached to the ceiling. Photos on display everywhere. Nikon had just two "reps"; Canon had more than I could count, and that's just at the camera body station.

A big win for Canon at this trade show, obviously...

The 1D mk4 is a killer camera, but it's not made for guys with big hands like me. The support ridge under the shutter button is too small (narrow) and in the wrong location, forcing me to have to apply uncomfortable finger-tip pressure, to hold the camera with my right hand. It's surprisingly slender front-to-back. And it is fast! Very, very fast, with seemingly amazing low-light gathering at ISO 3200. That was quite surprising. Perhaps that body is worth the money? I rarely shoot in such low light, and if I did I don't know that I wouldn't be using a tripod anyway. I love low-ISO photos for their lack of grain and color noise. Not sure I need such terifficly-high ISOs for my work.

It takes one push on the "play" button AFTER a photo is shot to pull up the picture, and 12 pushes on the "+" button to magnify all the way in to see how sharp it is. Bad Canon, bad. I thought I read a review which said there's a one-touch custom function which goes to 100%, but no one at the counter knew how to set that up. Also, Canon bodies were not reset to "default" settings after each person put one down. By Sunday, when I browsed the show, it took me 5 or 10 minutes just to get it to the point where I could shoot a photo. The first question a rep should have asked is "What do you need your camera to do for you?". Followed by "Are you familiar with this model?" Very poor salesmanship from the Canon reps, and even worse (if possible) from Nikon.

I'll be interested in seeing if they improve at any photo expo trade shows later this spring. Obviously, there were no new introductions from either MFG... Which is total BS because we all know they have new stuff in development. Canon obviously feels that in-camera video is the wave of the future, and the 7D is certainly an impressive body. The AF is a touch slower than the 1D mk4, and of course it feels substantially lighter. My D300 feels more robust. The 7D does have crazy-high ISO too, like its big bro. It appears to be a very good "semi-pro" body for the APS-C crowd. Adding the wireless flash is nice, but they didn't have a flash in the case, and weren't showing or telling folks about it. If they were car salesmen, they would starve!

CES= interesting but disappointing from the pro-shooter crossover standpoint.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The BIG NEWS for CES 2011!

So far the biggest news, for me, is that there's simply no big news at all from Canon or Nikon. Nada. Zero. Zip. No planned new product announcements for Nikon. Do they simply not care, or are they planning something whoppingly fantastic that we'll all (Nikon users) want to rush out and buy as soon as we here about it?

I'm sensing a lull in the action from the majors, and the longer this dry spell continues, the more antsy I, and other pro photographers, are growing. Do we replace used cameras with the same model again, and then curse when some new piece just pops out of thin air later in the year? Some people shoot FAR more photos than I do, and they really burn through shutters. For them, buying a new camera isn't an issue. For me, when I make just one camera purchase every three years or so, selecting the right camera is a REALLY BIG DEAL. Because of this, and the lack of news from Nikon, I've been carefully considering a few Canon bodies. That means new glass (I don't use many lenses) and new accessories too, and a whole lot of expense. Which is why I always look around tax time...

Could someone please point out to the majors that I'm not the only one looking to spend tax return money on camera gear? Perhaps a little better timing of your new cameras would help separate me from my funds...