The D800 is nigh.

Despite ordering my D800 the night it was announced from Amazon, I apparently didn’t make the cut in their first shipment. This weekend they notified me that they again needed me to approve an extension of my preorder past the end of May, and I did so. Note that I’m not using the word “grudgingly” in that sentence or anything. Sure, I could claim that I’ve stalled on certain things while waiting for the D800 — the 365 project was one thing that I had intended to start when I was expecting to get my D800 in late March, but when that happened I went ahead without it anyway, for example — but overall, I’ve been a pretty patient customer, and I’ve gone out and shot in the meantime.

After approving the preorder extension on Amazon this weekend, though, I got notification today that they now expect my D800 to be in my hands by the end of the week. I’ll take that! But even if it doesn’t happen and I’m again left waiting, I’ll happily wait and shoot some of this new film I just got in the meantime!

PS. If I’m unfortunate enough that my D800’s battery is one of the recalled batteries, I luckily have an ace up my sleeve: when I ordered my D800 in February, I also ordered an extra battery at the time and received it months ago; I’ve already checked, and it’s clear of the recall.

Nikon 50mm 1.4G vs. 1.8D at the Palace Hotel

In comparing the Nikon 50mm 1.4G to the 50mm 1.8D, I at one point found myself at The Palace Hotel. I didn’t run a complete aperture series here, but I did fire off a quick comparison of the 1.4G and 1.8D at f/1.8. 1.4G shown, click or mouseover for the 1.8D:

For a good time, mouse in and out of this image quickly for a fun 3D effect.

In comparing these two shots, the 1.8D is a little bluer in my eyes and the 1.4G has a notably smoother bokeh, but more significantly it destroys points of light — in particular, note the candle “flames” on the frontmost chandelier. In the 1.4G’s image the shape of the lights is clearly visible, while in the 1.8D’s image the lightsources become mishapen blobs. This could indicate a focus error, but given the blobby shapes of points of light at different depths, I’m going to assume that’s the lens’s behavior.

“But the background of the 1.8D looks sharper,” you might say! Keep in mind this was f/1.8 at 1/500s, so if this shot had been taken in the wild we would have to assume there was some reason for that choice of aperture, and assuming the goal was some sort of isolation of that foreground chandelier, then I think the 1.4G clearly did the better job at rendering a shallow depth of field. Look at how messy the double paned glass looks in the top model on the 1.8D compared to the blur of the 1.4G.

In this comparison, there’s no doubt in my mind that I prefer the 1.4G — but if you’re really concerned, let me know which half of the Frankenchandelier you like better:

Frankenchandelier

PS. I apologize for not lining them up perfectly, and I’m also still working on how best to indicate and display which image is which and provide affordances for both mouse and touch use, but I’m intentionally starting with a simple case.

Baseball Photography

My interest in photographing baseball was pretty immediate, and as soon as I thought about it I knew I was going to want the Nikon 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 VR as at least a first attempt at “sports” photography. It turns out it works pretty great on my D300, and while I’ve used a few other lenses along the way, the 70-300 is the real workhouse. For example:

Where's Waldo?

More soon… this is a placeholder to simply have more posts visible in my blog template for the moment.

Nikon F100 and Kodak Ultramax 400

In another fit of impatience for my D800, I bought a Nikon F100 from eBay — y’know, to experiment with the full frame perspective, I told myself.  Y’know, to experiment with film and broaden my artistic horizons, I told myself.  The latter is the more reasonable excuse, but they’re all excuses.  The upshot is, I had fun shooting a roll of film the other day for the first time since I bought a disposable camera in Brussels in 2004 — and I did *not* have fun shooting that disposable camera, so we’re actually talking 90s.

For comparison to the digital shot I took of these bikes a few days ago.

There was only one problem:  I had a camera (and a partially broken lens that came with the camera — more on that some day, and some batteries,) but no film.  So of course I fell down the rathole of reading film reviews, and trying to pick out a film to use with the camera sitting otherwise unused on my table, and there it sat for a week.  Finally I was at walgreens and saw that not only did they develop film, but also that they sold some film — Kodak Ultramax 400 — behind the counter, so to get the experiment off the ground I grabbed the film, fumbled through loading it, and off I went.

Before I loaded the film I reminded myself to check the ISO setting, which of course I promptly forgot for the first four shots, yielding a couple of decent exposures and an overexposure.

One nice aspect of the F100 is that it’s a modern Nikon SLR — pretty much all of my muscle memory from using a D300 and D90 very directly translated to using the F100.  Sure there are 20 some odd custom settings on the F100 and no menu screen to check them on, but the settings the used camera salesman left them on seemed innocuous.  I will go back and review them later, but so far so good.

365.028 2012-04-17, approximately 09:45:00

Other notes:

  • The 28mm was a pretty nice field of view on the full frame camera, though I’ll have to pixel peep on the lens later to see how it really performs.  The broken filter thread is annoying, but if I like the lens at all I’ll just get a filter to pop over it.
  • The 50mm was also a *great* field of view on full frame, and I foresee using that a lot more on my D800 than I ever did on my D300.
  • It feels like Walgreens chopped off the left edges of my pictures slightly;  I’ll have to go back and review the negatives, but avoiding tight framing might be a habit to learn on film.
  • Walgreens’ scans were also very low res, and their color was a little weird.  In general, I’ll probably be looking for another photo processor besides Walgreens, and I’ve already heard independent good things about SF Photoworks — I’ll have to check them out.
  • Breaking the habit of pulling the camera away from my face to check how the shot came out is going to be very difficult, but one that will probably ultimately help me take better digital pictures, too.

All in all, it was definitely a fun first experience, and I’ll definitely be shooting more film in the near future.  I suppose I should plan a few projects to shoot with film, and I’ll probably want to carry a digital body on the same shoot, but so far I’m happy with my investment.

Should you shoot film?  It probably depends, but I’m already leaning towards suggesting that any serious hobbyist photograph should at least give it a try (again.)

Thank you lord for sending me the F-ilm?

Nikon 80-200 AF ED Review

Nikkor 80-200mm AF ED

The first lens I received from eBay was not the first — or even the second — lens I bought off eBay.  Indeed, waking up to realize I’d bought this lens in a moment of impatient insomnia was like one of those drunken memories you’re not entirely sure you’re happy with when you wake up.  In this case, I wasn’t 100% sure which lens I’d even bought:  the title of the listing said “80-200 AF-ED (non-D),” which could have been either AF-S or the original AF.  At a glance I obviously didn’t want the original AF, and the AF-S was pictured, and well, you can see where this story is going.  Knowing who the seller was, I even went and tried to figure out based on online samples which lens I’d bought — so I could prepare myself either way — but with no luck.

Spoiler alert: I don’t like this lens, but the lens was returnable, and that’s where it went.

So I’m new to this and I’m sure my format will evolve over time, but for now, I’m just gonna try to break it down into some basics:

Lens:  Nikon 80-200 AF ED, circa 1990.

Pros: 365.016 2012-04-04 20:35:31  Weoponized my D90.  Took some nice handheld shots of the moon.  Occasionally delivered another nice shot.

Cons:  It’s heavy — uncomfortably so on the D90.  It’s doable on the D300, but not pleasant.  The push pull zoom is very loose and slides and thumps back and forth when I put the lens at my side or pick it up.  The focus limiting ring on the copy I used was pretty janky, to the point that I’d fear it would break with moderate use.  

The copy I used had a scratch on the front element which didn’t seem to *hurt* things, but it certainly didn’t help its case.  Also on the cosmetic scale, the handgrip looked like it’d had a bath in baking soda.  Both of these cosmetic issues were listed in the ebay listing, and the seller also claimed that he had included photos of his actual lens in the listing at some point (I never saw them,) but that’s not really the point:  I’d be totally fine with the cosmetic problems if I *otherwise* liked the lens, which I didn’t.  When weighing whether or not I was going to keep the lens, they definitely fell into the “also not to not have” column.

Nikkor 80-200mm AF EDThe lens ghosted and was otherwise washed out when shooting in many situations — poor contrast pretty much all of the time.  The lens came with a filter (and no lens cap), but the filter seemed to just make the ghosting and flaring worse in some tests in my apartment, so I didn’t even try to shoot with it in the wild.

Autofocus was slow and loud and indecisive on certain subjects — also known issues with this lens, and also nice to not have.

It didn’t actually come with the tripod collar, which makes it unusable on a tripod — which, given everything else, is the one scenario I could have maybe imagined using it.

Annoying twist aperture lock.  No manual focus override.  As above, “nice to not haves,” not deal breakers by themselves.  

Conclusion:  In aggregate, this lens was simply not worth the effort to try and use given its keeper rate and other optical qualities that were only “meh” in my eyes.  I was hoping I could at least use it at baseball games, but I’m not excited by it enough to even try, even for the relatively moderate price I paid for it.  I’m happy with my 70-300 VR for now, and maybe some day I’ll find some better options for baseball.  If I didn’t already have a 70-300, and an 85 f/1.8, and a 105 f/2.8, and a 135 f/2.0, then my calculus on keeping this lens would have been totally different, but as is, it simply wasn’t the best use of my money or effort.

Lessons learned:  if you’re gonna buy something stupid on eBay, check the return policy.  Given my lens coverage, the only reasonable lens to augment the long end at this point is probably some 70-200, maybe something like the “Bigma,” or maybe a 180 f/2.8, 200 f/2.0, or 200 f/4.0 macro.

Get off the pot.

Yo.

It was time.  I’ve been hemming and hawing about restarting a blog and even a full blown website, beta testing names, pondering choices of CMS, but all of that was just a distraction from actually creating content.  I’ve been perfectly content with flickr for my photos and the names I’ve been using for years, so why do I need to do anything special here now?

So here we are:  2012, a hosted CMS, the original name, and progress rather than perfection.  Writing for myself rather than for an audience, and if people start reading, right on.

365.019 2012-04-08 18:15:34

by Benjy Stewart