Category Archives: Nikon

2018 Purchases – Nikon D750, Apple XS Max, Apple MacBook Pro 15″& Sony A7iii – Reflections

2018 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business.  After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two.  And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size.  I also bought a new MacBook Pro.

Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto

Foggy hill in Olympic National Park Velvia 50
Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 and Fuji Velvia 50 Edited in iPhoto

Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held.  My flower photos improved doing that.  I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera.  I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless.  But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one.  So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one.  I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time.  Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx cell phone and edited with iPhoto

After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all.  Too big and heavy.  With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500.  It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis.  But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me.  The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons.  The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera.  I only shot stills with the 750.  For video I used my iPhone X.  I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body.  The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better.  Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750.  On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx smartphone

The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive.  But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors.  Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system.  I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting.  But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.

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Shot with Olympus XA compact film camera

The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it.  The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.

My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls,  and using labs that were not great.  This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.

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Shot with Nikon D3200 and 55-200 kit tele lens.  I have not changed these photos from my 2014 edits.  So when you see unleveled photos such as this one just know I was not as picky four years ago on editing.

We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7.  Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii.  After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6.  I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera.  While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews.  I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7.  Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way.  I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it.  The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.”  The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.

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Nikon D5500 and 18-55 kit lens.  Edited with iPhoto

Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing.  I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.

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Voightlander Prominent from 1953 and 50mm f1.5 Nokton lens, Kodak Ektar film

I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass.  But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good.  Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount.  They just don’t perform as well as when adapted.  This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read.  I agree with him.

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“Yellow flowers on hill in Olympic National Park”  Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 lens Velvia 50 film hand held.

Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7.  It works great, $1,300.  I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities.  This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did.  I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good.  Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.

The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless.  I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear.  I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid.  But of course less the ebay sellers fee.  The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid.  The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.

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Taken with Voightlander Prominent 50mm f1.5 lens and Ektar film

So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.

  • I gained eye auto focus.
  • I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
  • If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
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Eye auto focus is fine, but this great shot of my daughter was taken by a 65 year old Voightlander with a difficult to use rangefinder focus adjustment that has not been adjusted since 1979.  And to top it off Kodak Ektar is not supposed to be a very good skin color film.

Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it.  One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year.  I will make two exceptions 1.  Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay.  2.  Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies.  And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions.  If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.

Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.

  1. Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor.  The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras.  I like the perspective I get from 35mm.  I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
  2. Nikon Z6 or D750.  The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period!  Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750?  And for gods sake add another card slot.  Preferably with SD cards.  750 to 760.  I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount.  To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view.  And a touch screen.  4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
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Shot with Nikon D3200 and kit 18-55mm

My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust.  No cheeping out on bargain film or labs.  And to shoot more film.

Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X.  Meh.  The iPhone X was a great great iPhone.  The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.

MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb.  Meh.  I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook.  It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post.  But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes.  It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago.  But it is not slower to start than the new one.

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Taken with Nikon D3200 and 18-55kit lens

Pros of the new MacBook –

  • bigger screen
  • better speakers
  • newer

Cons of the new MacBook

  • $3,000
  • no variety of ports like the old one.  This one really pisses me off.  I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple.  Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector.  They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it.  And no SD card slot.  Something I used all the time with my old one.  So now I am switching over to the new style connector.  By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
  • I really liked my older MacBook Pro.  My favorite Apple product of all time.  The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit.  I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips.  Apple has made this device worse not better for me.  The old style keyboard is better.
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Olympus XA compact film camera with Ektar film

Conclusions.  New is many times not better and sometimes worse.  I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine.  I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone.  It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever.  I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device.  But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.  

Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture.  But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos.  Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone.  Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom.  Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom.  And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC.  My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software.  And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.

In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact.  All worked just fine.  The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear.  And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.

 

 

DSLR vs Mirrorless – Nikon D760 Rumors

Today I saw the first rumors of the update of the Nikon D750 that will likely come next year.  Is that a wise move by Nikon, and is the DSLR dead?  My answer to those two questions is yes and then no.  But let me put in a qualifier on if it is a wise move by Nikon.  It is a wise move if Nikon improves the auto focus in live view so that it is at least on par with the current Nikon Z6.  If the back screen gets a bump up in speed then it becomes much more useful.

Over the last six years I have taken under ten videos with my cameras that were not smartphones.  The new iPhone XS Max which I have had now for about two months takes excellent video including 4K up to 60fps.  Apple has an easy to use video editor called iMovie that is free and works well.  And I don’t have to learn all the stuff that goes with bigger cameras like my Sony A7iii like “log” “lut” “gamma” “grading” and so on.  I have shot some test videos with my Sony A7iii.  It is far harder to use than the light iPhone XS Max which I put on a small tripod type holder.  The iPhone XS max also has a far better screen to use with the camera than the Sony.  My point is that one of the Key mirrorless advantages is lost on me.  Better video than a DSLR.

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Shot with an iPhone XS Max.  

The key advantage for me of an EVF is to improve exposure.  Seeing zebras and the histogram in the viewfinder helps.  I mostly use the zebras and adjust exposure compensation using them as a guide.  But with improved live view on a D760 you could see that information on the back screen.  Is that as good as the viewfinder, no, but it would help.  A big advantage of the OVF is it is always on and does not use power.  Plus the D750 I had this year had a much clearer optical viewfinder than the Sony electronic viewfinder I now have.

The rumors I read say the new camera will have a new 36 mega pixel back lighted sensor.  The optical viewfinder will be with a prism and 100% coverage.  The back screen will be flippy and full touch enabled.  Two SD card slots.  (I have also read rumors saying the sensor will stick with 24 mega pixels and the back screen will not be flippy.)  Price between $2,295 and $2,495.

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Shot with Minolta 600si with 24mm 2.8 lens

Even though I wanted the weight to be less when I had the 750 that was only with the 24-120mm f4 lens that was 27oz.  The D750 was fine with the 50mm f1.4.  Now after owning the Sony A7iii for 2 1/2 months I would say I prefer the D750 and lighter lens to the Sony A7iii and lighter lens.  The 750 is a bit heavier but has a much better grip than the Sony.  And the Nikon buttons and co-ordination with the menu on the D750 was much better (actually much much better) than the A7iii.  And if the new 760 comes with the touch screen like I used on the Nikon D5500 then the Nikon D760 will have a far far superior control and handling setup than the Sony.

The other giant benefit of the D760 is that I assume it will come with an F-mount.  That means Nikon’s giant catalog of F-mounts will be able to be used on the new camera.  That means all kinds of specialty lenses but also much better values like the 50mm f1.4 for approx $400 instead of $1,500 on the Sony.

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For the last couple of years uncounted people with podcasts, videos, and blogs have hailed the coming of mirrorless to replace the old mirror system in SLR’s.  I never really saw the reason for getting rid of the mirror.  I have had an Olympus OM2n body I bought in 1980.  In 38 years of use I have had exactly zero problems with the mirror.  And the old Oly has just a magnificent viewfinder with a very simple optical focus aid.  I would hope the new D760 would come with a similar manual focus aid or at least be possible to add one.  I really like focusing manually, but find it harder to do with viewfinders that have no help to let you know when you are at focus.

With these rumored features.

  • Full frame new 36 mega pixel back lit sensor
  • Improved live view focus to at least Z6 level
  • Weight and size no bigger than the D750
  • F-mount not Z mount
  • Price between $2,295 and $2,495

I think Nikon would have a real winner.  Of course something extra like a little electronic screen in the viewfinder with a histogram would be really nice too.

Sony A7iii After 6 Weeks & compared to Nikon D750 & D5500

I have now had my Sony A7iii a little over six weeks and it is time to post some additional  thoughts about it and also in comparison to my previous Nikon DSLRs the D5500 and D750.  All three of these interchangeable lens cameras have the same mega pixel count, 24.

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From left to right Olympus OM2n, Voigtlander Prominent, Minolta 600si, Sony A7iii

And to my eye from a users perspective and not a scientific test, all three will give about the same quality photo using the same quality lens.

So why did I switch to Sony if the image quality was about the same.  There are two main reasons.  1.  Try and get the size and weight down from the D750.  2.  EVF.  I like being able to set exposure using zebras or the histogram before taking the shot.  After about six years using DSLRs I wanted to see if I could be better at getting the exposure right in varied conditions.

  1.  For the most part I did get a size reduction on the Sony compared to the D750.  But you still have the problem with the lens size and weight.  D750 Nikon 29.5 oz, 50mm f1.4 9.8 oz 24-120mm f4 25 oz, Sony A7iii 22.9 oz 50mm f1.4 27.5 oz 24-105 f4 23.4 oz.  So you can see the problem with those two full frames.  The Nikon D5500 is way smaller and lighter.  I did choose the Sony – Zeiss 55mm f1.8 that is exactly the same weight as the Nikon but only f1.8 and not f1.4.  Also, the Sony Zeiss is well over twice the price of the Nikon 50mm f1.4.
  2. EVF.  The Electronic view finder makes it much easier to nail exposure.  I don’t have to bother bracketing any more.  The Sony finder and back screen allow easy exposure settings.  I don’t have any problems with lag in the EVF.  It is not as crystal clear as the Nikon D750 OVF.  Both the Sony A7 and Nikon D750 viewfinders are far superior to the Nikon D5500’s.  The D5500 has a smaller size view.  I don’t really know why.  My near 40 year old Olympus OM2n has a huge bright viewfinder and it is a smaller body than the D5500.
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Taken with Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8

I am 71 years old and am strong but have a slight bit of arthritis in my right thumb.  When I would start out with the D750 and the 24-120mm lens it took a while before it became comfortable to hold.  And when walking with that setup it is pretty big.  I bought a Peak strap to go with it and that helped a lot, but I still many times would wish for a smaller camera set up.  So now I have the Sony A7iii with one 55mm lens that is light.  Plus I have five adapted lenses that are Minolta.  The A7 & native 55mm f1.8 makes a great package.  The adapted lenses do not perform as well as they did with the Minolta film bodies.  They work, but some of the photo magic is just not there with them.  I do not have a good wide to medium zoom.  And if I buy the 24-105 Sony f4 then the A7iii and lens will be right back up there in size and weight with what I have with the 750 & 24-120.

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This is the Sony A7iii with an adapted 50mm f2.8 macro Sigma lens.  This particular adapted lens works well.  

Handling – Lots of writers have complained about the menus.  I have had 4 Sony compact cameras over the last 15 years and the menus are all about the same.  But no doubt the Sony menu is longer than Nikon’s DSLR menu.  Once I set up the programable buttons I did not use the menu much.  I am a big fan of touch screens.  The one on the Nikon D5500 is great.  Neither the A7iii or the D750 have touch screens.  Yes the Sony has a very limited touch screen, but not enough for me to use it.

Both Nikons have well set up dials and buttons that are easy to learn and use.  The single dial and buttons are very easy to use one handed with the D5500 as it is so light and comfortable to hold.  I do prefer both a front and back dial.  The D750 has front and back dials.  These are the ones to adjust exposure and shutter speed.  The D750 is also relatively easy to use one handed if you have something like a 50mm lens on it.  A big zoom, not so much.  The buttons on the D5500 and D750 are resistant to being accidentally hit and changed when using the camera.

The Sony is a different story.  It’s weight is about 6 oz more than the D5500 and about 7 oz less than the D750.  The D5500 and D750 have better grips for my size hand than the Sony.  The Sony grip however is the least desirable of these three.  But the Sony has an additional issue that makes this worse.  And that is that you many times want to adjust the camera while in your right hand.  Adjustments to the back or front dial or buttons is much harder than either Nikon.  It is much easier to accidentally move one of the setting buttons or dials on the Sony.  I did just that last time I was out shooting.  I took at least 2 dozen shots before realizing it.

I also have 5 film SLR cameras I use all the time.  2 Olympus OM2n’s.  This is the gold standard of handling.  Perfect size with only a few simple controls.  2 Minolta 600si cameras.  Just a little bigger than the Olympus and slightly larger.  A wonderful camera for handling and use.  Simple excellent quick to use controls for manual or auto use.  I like this a little less than the Oly.  Mostly because the Oly looks and feels better.  The Minolta is plastic and not the Nikon nubby kind.  Auto film load and rewind.  3.  Voigtlander Prominent from the early 50’s.  Same size as the Oly and the Leica M3 by the way.  Funny about those coincidences.  The Voight is beautiful with just gorgeous lenses.  But it is hard to use.  Much harder than the Sony.

Color – Lightroom works hand in hand with Nikon files put out by the three DSLRs I have owned in the last ten years.  Ever since Lightroom started their new system earlier in 2018 I just only take raw and make my adjustments.  Both LR CC Classic and LR CC work very well with Nikon.  In tough lighting situations the Nikon files can require some work to get them to look right.  Of course you can fix a lot of that by “chimping” and looking at the histogram after you take the shots.  In general it is easy to use Nikon colors with LR.  Not so with Sony.  Sony  (and keep in mind this is only my personal use and experience and I am just a user and no expert.) raws and Jpegs do not for me have nearly as much differentiation as the Nikons.  Raw with Nikon is flat and obviously not processed.  Sony when I shoot raw + jpeg the files come out looking much more similar.  And if you get my Sony A7iii near the ocean or a large body of water it swings the raw files towards blue.  I am forced to spend a lot of time getting the color to look how I like it.  Much more so than my Nikons, Apple iPhone, or my Sony HX 80 compact.  The last one really confuses me.  Going towards the blue side must be part of the AWB and the camera looks for water and it’s computer must make an adjustment.

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Both of these went towards the blue.  These look pretty good now, but it took some work in LR to get them so.  

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The Sony does a very good job for me with jpeg on flowers.  I take lots of plant pictures.  I worked at getting good at that with the Nikons.  The Sony does just as good a job on raw but better for me on jpeg.  I also find that even though I have begun to think the Sony jpegs are a little “weird” I am getting the “Ektar” look that I love using that Kodak film.  Part of that has to do with the really spectacular Sony Zeiss 55mm lens.

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These two were from a local hike the other day.  They are just OK photos but they have punch to their color like Ektar gives.  These two are with an adapted 24mm Sigma 2.8 macro lens.  

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So for me specifically I have things I like about the Sony color and things I do not.  I guess I will call this a tie.

Video – The Sony has much much better video ability than either Nikon.  The ease of use on the A7iii is significantly better.  In the past I disliked the results I got from the Nikon DSLRs and so used my iPhone for video.  I have heard that the Nikon Z6 & 7 have much improved video.  So if you have to have Nikon get one of those for video.

Price – The Sony with lenses is far more expensive than the Nikon D750 or Nikon D5500.  Back when the Nikon was introduced it’s price was about the same as the Sony.  And Nikon’s new Z6 is about the same as the Sony A7iii.  Right now you can buy a Nikon D5600 and two zoom lenses for $700.  And today you can get the D750 with the 24-120 for $1,800.  The Sony A7iii with Sony 24-105mm is going to run you $3,300.

Bottom Line – If you want to buy one of these cameras you should do so knowing you are getting a great image maker.  If you shoot mostly, almost all still photography get one of the Nikons at todays prices.  Even at a big discount the D5600 is 1/3 of the D750 cost.  For most people the D5600 is a much better buy.  The only really huge improvement in the D750 is the viewfinder (I agree with Ken Rockwell who said the same thing.)  Other than that the smaller Nikon is much easier to carry and has a touch screen.  If you take video and don’t want to use your phone for that then you should get the Sony or maybe the Nikon Z6.

The Sony and Nikon cameras I have owned over the years have both been very reliable.  The Nikons seem a bit tougher but I have not had problems with my Sony’s.  For me I am going to stick with this Sony through the end of 2019 at least.  I may buy one or two more lenses for it.  But I am worn out from all the new cameras in 2018.  Time to use the gear I have.  Unless Olympus makes a full frame mirrorless the size of my old Oly OM2n.  I would buy one of those.  And I am going to shoot film too.  I love the new Kodak Ektachrome.  I think it might be the best slide film I have ever used.

 

Camerageddon = 2018 – Might Be The Biggest Year Of Change Ever In The Photo – Video Industry

This year has had one significant introduction after another in new camera bodies, systems, and film.  Sony has introduced the A7riii and A7iii.  Both mostly great and maybe the greatest full frame mirrorless cameras of today.  Nikon has put forward the A7 & A6 full frame mirrorless designs with new lenses.  So far to me this looks like the biggest contender of the Sony’s.  Canon EOSR.  A great camera, except, no ibis and big crop on video at 4K.  Both Nikon and Canon have only one data card slot.  This is a big omission.  Fuji XT3.  Another great camera, but crop sensor and no ibis.  Fuji again with the R version of their medium format camera.  This looks like a great landscape camera but lacks features that are in the full frames.  Panasonic now is talking about their S line for full frame mirrorless, but full specs are not available.  And then Zeiss and their ZX1.  Complete specs are not available and neither is the price.  As I said in my previous post I love this ZX1 concept.  I want one.  But I want one based on specs that I imagine but are not confirmed yet along with the price.

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Nikon D5500 – Using Lightroom to get B&W

I would like to buy a new full frame mirrorless camera.  I currently have a Nikon D750 DSLR and would like something smaller and lighter plus has an electronic viewfinder.  Of the ones above that we actually know the specs and price of I would say the Sony’s and the Nikon’s are the closest to what I want.  But here is the thing, I am not sure I like either enough more than the Nikon D750 to switch.  I like have tried the A7riii and did not like the way it felt in my hand and thought the menu-control system to be difficult.  I do like the dual SD cards.  The Nikon Z7’s are just now getting shipped to their buyers.  So far I have heard good feedback.  But I don’t really want to switch to XQD cards.  My three computers all have SD card readers but not XQD.  So dongle time would be the case with the Nikons.  And I like the dual card slots I have on the D750.  I don’t like the fact that Nikon is charging a lot more for a 50mm f1.8 than and F mount 50mm f1.4.  Actually I don’t like that a lot.

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Kodak Tmax 100 with Minolta 600si and 50mm f1.4

Or for that mater Nikon charging 50% more for the Z mount 35mm f1.8 than the F mount f1.8.  Even the 24-70 f4 is more than I recently paid for the F mount 24-120 f4.

And neither the Sony’s or the Nikon’s have settings adjustments for the all important aperture, shutter speed, and ISO dials.  Ones I can see at a glance like Zeiss and Fuji.  The Sony and Nikon do have quick change on aperture and and shutter speed but not in the elegant way Zeiss and Fuji do.

And then the Fuji XT3.  What a great camera with dedicated settings for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation.  And it is a beautiful camera, far more so than the Sonys.  And a bit prettier than the Nikons.  Plus it is cheaper than any of the full frames.  But no 35mm sensor.  What were they thinking???  The whole World is going back to the best image size ever invented full frame 35mm and they stick with crop size? And no ibis to top it off.  But I have to say the simplicity of the Fuji and quality of materials, and the smaller size have great appeal.

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Shot with iPhone X and it’s wide lens

I have no experience with Canon cameras except that several of my friends and relatives have and like them.  Most prominently my professional TV and Movie cameraman son who is about ready to go back to a Canon DSLR after having a Sony A7S for two years.  His reason, “Canon has better colors”.  And this is a person who uses $100,000 camera rigs in his work.  So maybe when the Canon R is in the stores I will take a closer look.  Right now I don’t like the one card slot of the Canon or the no ibis.  Plus it is big unlike the Fuji.  But Canon has an extremely good reputation so maybe more on it later.

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Shot with Nikon D750 and converted to B&W with Lightroom

Like Canon I have no experience with Panasonic.  Their two full frame bodies look quite good, but no final specs or prices yet.  So more to come on these two later.

Kodak Ektrachrome is finally shipping.  After the unexpected Zeiss ZX1 this Kodak announcement was the most exciting of the German show.  I like shooting with film.  I like the look of the results I get from my old SLR cameras (4 of them with lots of lenses) and one very nice Voightlander rangefinder with a set of 3 lenses.  On our summer trip this year I did not shoot as much film as I had planned as I bought the D750 just before the trip and was still experimenting with it.  But one of the rolls I shot was Kodak Tmax 100.  I used my Minolta 600si for this film and all of the shots turned out.  I was being lazy and did not use any filters for the whole roll, which was a mistake.  I should have used a yellow, orange, or red for daylight shots.

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Both of these above shots were from this roll of Tmax.  The second shot was a lean out the moving train shot with 100 speed film and an unstabilized lens.  The camera was set to auto focus and worked perfectly.  It has 3 auto focus points and not 500 like modern cameras.

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The above 3 shots are from Portra 400 film that was about a year expired.  All were shot on a 40 year old Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.8.  One of the best film SLRs ever made.

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And the above three were from inexpensive Kodak Gold 200 that was expired two years. I used my second Olympus OM2n to shoot these.  The Kodak Gold really did it’s job, but if I had it to do over again would have shot with fresh film.  Keep in mind these were shot with a very simple old meter in the Oly and then put through medium priced developing and only mid range scanning (3000 x 2000).

So I am thrilled to be able to get Kodak Ektachrome fresh again.  I fully expect that Kodak’s new formulation will be better than the old Kodak Ektachrome.  This film is being made in the United States in Rochester New York and is shipping from the factory now.  The new Ektachrome is the “natural” formulation and not the old “vivid” formulation as per an interview I watched yesterday from a Kodak spokesperson.  Why am I thrilled?  Slide film has punch you cannot get from negative film.  And you can project slide film on a screen without electronics.  One downside is reduced dynamic range.  As you can see from the three color photos above, the Kodak Gold has tremendous dynamic range.  I have already called one of the local camera shops to get an estimate as to when they are getting the film.  Guess is second week in Oct.

Waiting For Good Light

If you cannot see the back LCD on your DSLR maybe it is not a good time to take pictures or video?  Or you should stick to film that has huge room for bright highlights in full sun?  95% of my best digital outside photos or video are taken when it is not bright overhead sun.  So instead of a new camera with EVF or reading the zebras to make sure your highlights are not blown you should just take your shots or video when the light is good?  Even if you turn down the exposure on digital so you don’t blow your highlights in full sun you have to pull your shadows up so much that you get a lot of noise.  The best digital cameras like a Nikon D850 only have about +2 stops of highlights before the pictures are unusable.  The best film like Portra have about +4 stops.  Many times when the photo is overexposed a stop when you try to improve it in post you just don’t get a good result even using raw.

The flower below was taken with a digital camera about an hour before sunset and mostly in the shade.

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Nikon D750 taken late afternoon

The shot below is what happens to many digital photos when taken at mid day.

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Same camera as the above shot a D750 but full sun in North Dakota this summer.  This was taken raw but there is no way to get this into a good photo.  At least it is beyond my ability.

On the other hand here is some film shot at mid day with full sun.

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Inexpensive Fuji film and the lowest priced scan
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Fuji 200 (cheap) but a medium quality scan both of these taken at mid day
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D850 late afternoon in shade
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Fuji 200 mid day shot.  Medium scan.
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Black and white film works fine mid day but a filter either red or yellow would have improved the sky.  Kodak TriX 400
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This is Tmax 100 with no filters.  Again I should have added a yellow or orange or red filter.

Right now you have a ton of people switching to buy mirrorless cameras from DSLRs to get an EVF.  That way you can control your exposure better when you can’t see the back screen.  My suggestion is that if you cannot see your back screen maybe your camera is telling you it is not a good time to be taking pictures.

Now if you are switching to mirrorless because you want to take more videos with your camera then I think that is a good reason.  But if you are going to take mostly or all photos and not video there is no reason to ditch your DSLR or not buy a new one.  Both Nikon and Canon offer very good DSLRs at modest prices.  I have a several year old Nikon D5500 that takes sharp clear detailed photos and is half the price of a comparable mirrorless.

Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, Olympus, Fuji, and Maybe More New Mirrorless Cameras

So mirrorless full frame cameras are now going to be a common thing.  Sony has had most of the headlines in this category for the last couple of years.  Leica has long made mirrorless full frame cameras too, but they are a very high cost device and their announcements for reasons of price and also features have been muted.  I personally have been waiting to see what Nikon and Canon announce as at this point I really do prefer the full size 35mm image capture either film or digital to other sizes.  Why, it is what I am most used to and also seems to work best.

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Expired Kodak Gold 200 taken with Minolta 600si 35mm with Minolta 50mm f1.4 Edited with Lightroom CC Clasic

Last Spring I rented a Sony A7riii with a Zeiss 55mm f1.8.  At the time I was not thrilled with this camera except for it’s images.  When I rented the camera they did not include an operators manual (even though I likely would not have read it) and I found it quite confusing even though I have had four compact Sony’s and the menu system is similar to the A7.

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Sony A7riii with Zeiss 55mm f1.8 taken as a jpeg with a small amount of editing in LR

I blundered along using the A7riii for a day and of course used it in the most harsh condition of full sun mid day.  But I did get a few shots of subjects I had taken with other cameras and found the jpegs from the Sony to be excellent.  I only shot jpeg and did not do anything but shoot in aperture priority.  This was before I bought a Nikon D750 and was used to the weight and size of a D5500.  I found the Sony to be heavy and hard to hold.  But then for a month after I got the 750 I found it heavy and hard to hold.  Since I used this A7riii there is a Sony A7iii that is cheaper than the r model.  But now we are down to 24 mega pixels and not up at the r’s 42.

My overall impression of the Sony was good and not so good.  The images looked very good when I figured out how to operate the computer, oh I mean camera.  But I am sure I would learn how to operate it just like I figured out how to use a MacBook after 20 years with Windows.  What I might not get used to is the grip.  Not nearly as nice as my Nikon D5500 or D750.  But then my favorite camera is an Olympus OM2n which has no grip at all.  The Oly is just a flat case like the Leica M’s.

Nikon had their somewhat low key intro for the Z6 & Z7 just over a week ago.  I still have not held one in my hand as is the case with nearly every other prospective buyer.  But a fairly big number of youtube personalities have and like almost every news caster today spins their opinions in lots of different directions.  To me the main reasons to get mirrorless over a DSLR is that you get an EVF and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) plus much improved video ability.  I like WYSIWYG.  It is very useful so see what you are going to get in a viewfinder before you take the shot.  This is one of the main reasons cell phones are so popular for photos and video.  It is easy to get great shots if you know what you are going to get before and when you are taking it.  Plus good video ability.  My two Nikon DSLR’s are hard to use for video so I don’t.  I use my iPhone.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.8 That is my wife’s face in the upper left of the shot

Pros of the Nikon Z’s

  • Looks like a typical easy to hold camera body like my existing two Nikons
  • My Nikon glass adapts easily to these cameras
  • I have had very good experience with Nikon.  Their cameras have been very reliable
  • Touch screen has full control of menu settings.  This is a big deal.  I have that on my Nikon D5500 and it is very fast and easy to adjust settings.  However, my Nikon D750 has marked dedicated buttons for major functions like ISO and Image quality. The buttons make up somewhat for the fact the 750 screen is not a touch screen.  Sony’s screen is not a full featured touch screen.  Sony’s buttons are not marked.  That means I have to assign the functions and remember where I set them.  Overall I would have to say that Nikon’s choice to go with full featured touch screen on the Z’s is the best one.  Sony’s the worst.
  • Nikon introduces a good working inexpensive adapter for Nikon’s F mount lenses.
  • Nikon comes out with 3 lenses that are relatively small and relatively well priced with new cameras.
  • Very good set of video specs. From the video I watched on youtube last night it seems like the video focus works quite well as does the stills focus.  But so does Sony.
  • Z7 has basic ISO of 64.  The best of any of the new mirrorless full frames.
  • The bodies are smaller and lighter than my D750.  But so are the other new mirrorless full frames.
  • High resolution EVF

Cons of the Nikon Z’s

  • One card slot and the one card is not SD.  My D750 has two SD card slots.  I like two slots.
  • Screen does not fully articulate like my D5500.  In fact it is exactly like my D750.
  • New lenses are high priced.  Why does the new 50mm f1.8 cost more than my recent 50mm f1.4?
  • Z7 more costly than D850 which is the king of DSLRs at the moment.  If you don’t care about video the 850 seems like a better buy.
  • No built in flash.  I have one on my D750 and it works very well.
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Sony HX 80 Compact Zoom – mirrorless

Canon EOSR. 

Canon announced their full frame mirrorless EOSR a few days ago.  Orders can be placed this week and deliveries very shortly after that.  I have never owned a Canon camera so my comments are just armchair ones.  I would like to say that my sister has had Canon for years and is happy with it.  My son who is a professional camera man for movies and TV has both a Canon 5Diii and a Sony A7s.  He likes Canon.  He likes Leica lenses better.

Pros for Canon

  • Canon has a habit of making cameras that work well without problems.
  • 30 mega pixels vs 24 for Sony and Nikon (The lower Sony and Nikon)
  • Fully articulated screen
  • Touch screen
  • Inexpensive adaptor seems to work very well with Canon legacy glass
  • Made in Japan

Cons for Canon

  • One card slot
  • 4K video is cropped
  • No high megapixel option
  • Two of the new lenses are huge.  Small size is one of the major benefits of mirrorless and huge lenses defeat that.  Those two lenses are also very expensive.
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Nikon D5500 with 18-55mm f3.5

Panasonic.    

Panasonic has made it their speciality to make excellent mirrorless mirrorless micro 4-3rds cameras that are known for their video capability.  They have indicated that they will announce a full frame camera in a few weeks.  Since good video is one of the prime reasons to go mirrorless this might be a dark horse winner.

Olympus 

Olympus has made a very popular line of micro 4-3rds cameras along with Panasonic the last ten years.  In the past Olympus has introduced some very innovative cameras.  The OM line of 35mm film cameras offered a very capable 35mm body that was smaller and lighter than the competition.  The XA compact film 35mm camera was a miracle of miniaturization for full frame image size in a pocket camera.  The EM5 digital camera of 2012 started the trend of making retro digital cameras with in body stabilization, advanced video, and a high quality lens line.  So anything could happen from these guys.

Fuji 

Fuji has been rumored  to be introducing a larger than full frame sensor rangefinder camera at Foto Kina in Germany later this month.  Prices for the body are supposed to be in the $3,000 – 3,300 range.  If so that could sway Z7 and A7riii buyers to look at the Fuji.  We will have to wait for announcements to see how all the Panasonic, Olympus, and Fuji cameras turn out.

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iPhone X using portrait mode.  As it came out of the camera with just the Apple enhance button pushed. 

Conclusion

If you need a camera today you need to buy a Sony.  And that might not be such a bad idea.  They have three mirrorless models and also the A 99 which is mirrorless but different.  Sony now has a very good lineup of lenses for zoom or prime buyers.  And with an adaptor you can easily use the older Minolta AF lens line at a much lower price point.  I have a number of pieces of Minolta glass and can tell you that some of it is excellent.  I would put my Sigma/Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro up against any comparable lens for sharpness.  And Sony is a huge company that has the resources to forge ahead with new models.  They currently also have a line of excellent crop sensor cameras that use the same E mount.

For Nikon and Canon I would say that if you have Nikon or Canon lenses now that you should likely stick with that brand and go with mirrorless if you plan to do both stills and video.  If you are going to mostly shoot stills I would stick with DSLR’s.  Two of my friends bought Canon full frames recently at very good prices.  I bought a D750 because Nikon made me an offer I did not want to refuse.  And sticking with a DSLR means you can use the existing lines of glass new and used without adapters and at much lower price points than any of the mirrorless full frames.  I came very close to preordering one of the Nikon bodies the first day.  But then I just decided it would be better to hold one in my hands and maybe even rent one before buying.  I suspect the Nikon bodies will not be fully sorted out for a while.  For that mater Adobe won’t have raw conversion when the first production models come out.

The last three, Pana, Oly, and Fuji, their offerings are not known yet and only rumors.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.4 taken raw and edited in Lightroom CC Classic

Oh, and to leave the best for last there is Leica.  I would love to have the budget to buy an M10 with autofocus.  But I don’t have the budget and they don’t sell them with autofocus. I actually like focusing my old Olympus OM2n bodies because it is so easy when it is light outside.  I like the look and feel of a Leica M10 better than any other.  I love the small size of the bodies and especially the lenses.  But at about $8,500 for an M10 and a 50mm Summicron is that really a wise purchase in 2018.  I suppose you could make the case that an M10 and an iPhone X paired is all you would need.  But realistically you would want a 50mm, 28 or 35mm, and a 135mm for your kit.  And now we are up to about $15,000.  But going back to the first though, an M10 with 50mm Summicron + the optional electronic finder, paired with an iPhone X would be a pretty good set up.  And you could call it quits and just know you were carrying two of the World’s best cameras.  Keeping in mind that the Leica does not shoot video.  So if a lot of video is in your future a Leica M10 is not.

But think about this.  A Nikon Z6 with a Nikon new Z mount 50mm f1.8 could be bought for about $2,800.  It includes EVF and video.  The size is similar to the Leica, but with the lens the Nikon will be longer from back to lens front.  The grip is likely more comfortable than the M10 that does not really have one.  That said I find no problems when I hold an M10.  And with my similarly sized Olympus OM2n I have been using it for 38 years and it is my favorite camera.  So is this a better camera setup than the Nikon D750 or Canon 6D or 6D II?  For just stills, maybe not.

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Nikon D5500 with 18-55P kit lens taken raw and edited in Lightroom CC Classic.  Seen in the full size file this is very detailed.  Plus Lightroom dehaze made this a great shot.  I used the D5500 the whole day plus my ever trusty iPhone X. 

Added the next day September 10

I write this blog to keep track of my thoughts and maybe once in a while put up something that helps out someone else.  And in no way do I make any money from this or intend to ever do that.

It is amazing the amount of chatter and people involved in photography today and the storm in information and opinion going on about the new photo tools coming out this year.  The year 2018 is almost 3/4 over, but it is like a building crescendo of noise from all the new cameras coming out.  It seems like Sony started the noise back at the end of last year with the really capable A7riii.  Then Sony upped the ante and added the cheaper but also very capable A7iii in the Spring.  Now Nikon and Canon have introduced their full frame mirror less bodies and the noise is gone way up without any production units shipping.  A few blogger-youtubers say they have production model Canon’s but to me real production units is when many regular users get their cameras.

What all of this reminds me of is when computers were something everyone was getting and general use of the internet was fairly new.  Say about 2000.  Every few months performance and new applications were introduced and Microsoft would make changes on their system.  Many people including myself bought a new computer frequently.  In my case I had both a desktop and laptop.  I got a new one at least once a year.  And Apple was starting to make a comeback.  Today’s computer-cameras right now seem to be changing a lot and their is a lot of noise going on as to what the changes are and what is best.

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Taken with 2000 Minolta 600si with 50mm f1.4 Minolta lens and Kodak TriX 400.  Developed and standard scan.  A tiny tiny edit in Lightroom CC

All of this excitement is good for photography and video.  But it is not the same as computers in 2000.  Back then many of the computers and computer software being sold was crap.  Remember the blue screen of death.  For those too young to remember that is when Windows crashed yet again and you had to restart your computer.  What is different is that there are all kinds of very good cameras being sold today that do not have problems and the new bodies are just improving things a little.  Keep in mind the new Nikon and Canon bodies are also taking things away, like the 2nd card slot.  And going with shorter battery life.  Even Sony has an excellent legacy system.  The A mount that has the same sensor and mega pixel count as the top end A7riii.

WYSIWYG is a big deal if you take the time to consider and adjust your shots before taking them.  Blown highlights are still an issue with digital sensors and being able to tone them down before taking the shot will help you get better shots with fewer tries.  WYSIWYG is not new except for Nikon & Canon in the viewfinder.  Even with Nikon’s exposure setting for highlights it is helpful to be able to see in the viewfinder if you are going to blow the highlights in advance.  I do that with my little Sony compact.  I set it to aperture and look at the zebras before I take the shot in the viewfinder.  I turn down the exposure when I see zebras.  It saves ruined shots and saves time in post.  So I expect EVF’s are going to take over.  Eventually.

The big German camera show Photokina is going to be here shortly and I expect more announcements from more camera makers.  But here is the thing.  Until these new devices get released and in the field no one will really know how good they are.  My favorite blog this morning after singing the praises of Nikon a couple of weeks ago and basically saying Fuji can now go back to making film.  Sony can go back to TV’s and toasters.  Now this morning is changing their mind as says buy Sony A9 for sports and action and Canon R for everything else.  Now I am paraphrasing here and condensing the last couple of weeks of this blogs postings plus this is just my opinion of their postings – but if you had followed this blogs advice you would have placed both the A7 and A6 on preorder.  Now we are told that in fact Canon is the best one except for sports and action.  So you have $6,000 worth of Nikons coming in that are now not recommended.  But the blogger would have been paid a commission if you had used the links on the blog.

My advice.  Spend your time and money learning to use the image capture devices you already have and concentrate on improving your ability instead of trying to improve your images and video with new systems.  When there are units in the field and you can go to a camera shop and hold one then that is a good time to maybe buy one.  Or not buy.  All the camera makers are giving big money off their existing models and Fuji just introduced their XT3 body for less money than the XT2.  And the XT3 is mirror less.  (crop frame though)

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1980 Olympus OM2n with 50mm f1.8 using expired Kodak Portra 400 developing with standard scan.  A little Lightroom CC editing.
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Same details as the shot above.  I love the colors in these two shots.  The Kodak Portra gave colors I just don’t see from my digital cameras or the same look.  To me film still many times adds something you cannot get from digital.  Film is analog and we still see in analog. 

Travel Photography When You Can Take Everything

We travel regularly by motorhome.  We don’t live in a motorhome, but we do go for local and extended trips with one.  One of the benefits in doing this over either going somewhere by car or flying when you like to take pictures and video is you can take everything.  Another benefit is that if you are a hybrid shooter who uses both digital and film you have a refrigerator with you to store your unused and exposed film.  We left mid June and I had with me.

  • Nikon D750 Full Frame digital DSLR with two lenses
  • Nikon D5500 Digital DSLR with three lenses
  • 2 Olympus OM2n’s with six lenses
  • 2 Minolta 600si SLR’s with six lenses
  • 1 Voightlander Prominent rangefinder with 50mm f1.5
  • 1 Sony compact HX 80
  • 1 iPhone X
  • At least 30 rolls of film
  • 3 tripods.  None have been used yet.

We are now still on our trip.  Since I bought the D750 shortly before the trip I have used that the most so far to see how well it performs.

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Taken with a Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-120 f4

And the answer to that question is pretty dam well.  Other than the two little corner imperfections that I should get rid of with Lightroom the above photo from Bryce National Park is very nice.  Yes there is a little bit of sky issue caused by too wide of a lens for a polarizing filter, but when you look at the file in full size on a good screen the detail and color of the rocks is stunning.

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Nikon D750 with Nikon 50mm f1.4

The above shot was a couple of days earlier near Page UT.  This was taken at dusk and the file was taken raw and it allowed me to bring up the foreground of the photo so that it blended well with the top of the frame.  When you see this file full size it is very detailed.  Again I have not done as much Lightroom as I could and the top corners need a little fixing.

My experience using this camera when traveling is that if you put my 50mm f1.4 prime lens on it and one of the Peak larger camera straps you can carry it around pretty well without feeling weighted down.  It is nowhere near as easy to use like this compared to the Nikon D5500.

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Taken with a Nikon D5500 and 18-55mm P

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All three of these photos above were with my D5500 and the latest 18-55 P model zoom.  I took the D5500 with me this day because it is much lighter than the D750 and I felt like using it instead of the 750.  To me the 5500 files are as good as what would have come from the 750.  But when I work with files from both these cameras there is no doubt that the full frame 750 and full frame glass gives more details and less noise.  It seems like you can crop the 750 files forever and they still look great.

And a few times I have put the little compact Sony in my pocket and come up with these results.

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All of these were shot hand held.  You cannot do raw with the Sony so these were jpegs only.

Plus I did use my iPhone X some.

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For the iPhone X pictures I used for these three the native Apple app that comes with the phone.  Sometimes I use the Adobe Lightroom camera app which allows you to use raw.  This works very well with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app on the phone and my iPad.  But as you can see from these three shots that the standard Apple app works pretty good.  The middle photo is taken using Apple’s portrait mode.  This now gives what I would call excellent results in most of the times I use it.

Now here is the bad news.  No matter how many cameras you have with you you cannot control the weather.  We have been in the mid west USA mid summer heat dome and we have had bright overcast days for at least a month now.  Blue skies and puffy clouds have been as rare as Leicas.  Bright overcast skies are the enemy of good outdoor photos.  Bright overcast skies are almost impossible to shoot with a digital sensor camera as all digital cameras do not handle highlights that well.  Even if you shoot in raw you might have only two stops over on the best digital camera.  What happens is this.

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Wisconsin Dells shot spoiled by too much contrast in sky to land.   
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North Dakota grasslands spoiled by too bright sky

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So with too much contrast in the sky you only solution is to take shots without sky like the one above.  The problem with this is that when you are at places with natural things to see like National Parks you need to put some sky in the shots sometimes.

To me not being able to handle over-brignt highlights as well as photo film is digital photographies biggest weakness.  In one very well done you tube video I have watched a couple of time “The Slanted Lens” showed how the Nikon D850 compared with Kodak Portra film.  The Nikon shots were not usable at 2 stops over and the film was OK up until about 4 stops.  This is a very big difference.  Remember that each stop doubles the amount of light.

  1. Mirrorless cameras with good EVF’s and indications in the viewfinder are helpful at knowing when the highlights are too bright.  However, this does not fix the problem.  It tells you to turn down the exposure, but then you can plug your shadows.  Or if you don’t plug your shadows, you darken them.  And when you turn up your shadows in post it increases noise.
  2. Film tends to work better than digital in situations where you have very bright highlights and lots of contrast.  At least film with lots of dynamic range does.

Thats it for now.  Time to go shoot some film in the classic western town of Medora with classic old SLR.