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FedeoJune 16, 2012

Filters in digital photography

Do you know what is most underrated and at the same time also overrated accessories? And what do photographers very often search for straight after they purchase a camera and lens? Well, that is probably tripod, but filters are following closely. But choose the right filter and more important, choose the filter you will actually need and use is not that easy.

There are just too many filters on the market now days, all of them do some good to your photography, but thanks to clever guys from Adobe you can simulate most of them in post process. Oh, I can hear that wave of disapproval right now, but don't get me wrong, you just don't really need to spend your cash on something you can fix in 5 seconds in Photoshop. So here's the list of all at least a bit important filters I can think of what you can screw or slide in front of your lens.

- UV filters
UV filters were used to reduce amount of ultraviolet light getting through and wasting your image with nasty haze in film photography. Sensors in digital cameras can deal with this without help from filter, so UV filters are used today as a lens protectors. It is still cheaper to replace filter than lens if something goes wrong, so I keep UV filter screwed on my lens all the time. If you have a good lens, buy the best UV filter you can get.

- Color graduated filters
Filters can be in any color to add impact to the images, mostly in landscape photography. Mostly used are tobacco, violet, olive. Thing is, your camera at Auto White Balance setting will probably cancel the filter out and also, this effect can be very easily done in Photoshop, so I wouldn't waste money on this. If you'd like dramatic sunset straight out of camera, you can play with white balance to achieve some different result.

Graduated colour filter.JPG

- ND (Neutral Density) filters, graduated ND filters
ND filter is simply grey glass and it's used to extend exposure time by not letting enough light to the camera. It has different grades (shades of grey) from light grey to very dark. Graduated ND filters are used in tricky light condition, where sky is very bright in comparison with foreground, so if you'd exposing without graduated ND filter you'd end up with either bleach out sky, or black foreground. ND and graduated ND filters are very useful to have, more about them in next chapters.

ND 1000.jpg 
"big stopper" 1000x ND filter

ND grad.jpg
graduated ND filter

Graduated ND filter.jpg
effect of graduated ND filter

- Polarizing filters
There are linear and circular polarizing filters, but you can forget about linear one, nobody uses it anymore. With help of physics, circular polarizing filter let just some rays of light from the spectrum into the lens and the others reflects out. Result is darker blue sky, nicer and richer clouds and more vibrant green. It also reduce reflection from shiny surfaces such as water, glass and metal. This filter is very difficult to reproduce in Photoshop, so it is must have piece of equipment. We'll find out more about polarizing filter in next chapters.

CPL filter.jpg
circular polarizing filter

polarizing filter.jpg
effect of circular polarizing filter

- Warming / cooling filters
It is obvious from the name what those filters do, so there is no point to write a novel about them. I'll just mention you can warm / cool your images until you get mad in your camera with white balance and if that's not enough, Photoshop offers endless sea of options. So it is also obvious you don't need to buy it.

cooling filter.jpg
cooling filter

warming filter.jpg

- Special effect filters
I'd put filters such as soft focus, star creation and kaleidoscope filter into this category. I can't really think about more of them, firstly because their photography enhancing effect is lost to me and secondly because if somebody decides to ruin the picture by this effect, he can easily do it in Photoshop. Bellow is an example of soft focus.

soft focus.jpg

In next chapters we'll take out only the filters which we actually need to have in our bags to some outdoor fun to see what can be done with circular polarizing filter and ND filters and how our photography can benefit from them.

Posted by pkuzmin at 2:24 PM | Comments

FedeoApril 4, 2012

Profoto Light kit passes Hagen test with flying colors

profoto-port_110.jpgNikonians Academy director Mike Hagen recently proved the reliability of the Profoto D1 Studio Kit by taking it straight to an important shoot two hours after he unpacked it for the first time.

Mike’s adventure resulted in a successful series of images and a Profoto D1 Studio Kit Review, now available in our Resources at Nikonians® pages

Profoto_lt_220.jpg The hands-on review shows the flexibility of the Profoto D1 Studio Kit when handled under some challenging conditions.

The background for this particular session, a fundraising event at a museum, consisted of a brushed metal surface, which most photographers might have avoided. Mike used that shiny surface to his advantage, and the Profoto kit delivered.

Mike’s on the spot appraisal:

Profoto_port_300.jpg
“The shots from the fundraiser turned out very well. My initial fears were unfounded, which is a true testament to the ease of operation and overall quality of the Profoto equipment.

The equipment performed flawlessly and allowed me to focus on my job – taking photos. There wasn’t a single glitch or failure in hundreds and hundreds of shots. The Profoto gear was reliable, consistent, and excellent.”

Check out the full review for more sample images and details on how Mike arranged his lighting.

Posted by flashdeadline at 7:00 AM

FedeoApril 3, 2012

What is the best memory card for you?

While at first this may seem like a silly question (just get the cheapest and fastest card available), choosing the card that's best for you is in fact not a straightforward thing?

In the Nikonians resources Hayo Baan, Nikonians Academy Europ Head Instructor gives you some advise and things to consider when buying your next memory card and/or card reader.

Posted by hrbaan at 3:29 PM

FedeoFebruary 23, 2012

D4, D800 & D800E hands-on report

Being a Nikon Professional has its advantages, besides shooting with great equipment (Nikon), you sometimes get to see products before they are available on the market.

Today I was at Nikon NL to preview the new Nikon flagships, the D4, D800, and D800E. Together with a presentation listing the highlights of these new cameras and their underlying technique, I was able to actually play with them. Very exiting and quite unique as these previews are only available to a select group of Nikon professionals. What makes the event even more unique is the fact that I was holding the only D4, D800 and D800E cameras in the Netherlands!

The rest of the report can be found on my own blog page.

Feel free to comment/ask questions. And yes, you'll want to start saving to be able to buy one of these cameras, they're really that good :-)

Posted by hrbaan at 9:48 PM | Comments

FedeoJanuary 19, 2012

New Nikon D4 vs. D3s - what's new?

Nikon-D4.jpg

King is dead, long live the king! Actually it won't be that long, because life cycle of the cameras are shorter and shorter, but still... The D3 came to the market in august 2007 which might seems as a long time ago, but it's gone through the facelift in October 2009, and re-name itself to D3s, so in fact the current version had lived only for 2 years. Than there was D3X announced in December 2008 with double mega pixel count, but slower shutter aimed to the market where resolution is a Holy Bible and speed is forbidden. Brothers had lived happily together, until now...


Now, there is a new kid on the block, top of the food chain, Japanese crown jewel, the best what camera world can offer. Well, at least 35 mm world to be precise, because it could upset some medium format system owners. Anyway, the all new Nikon D4 is here and there are two questions to be answered. Firstly, how already insane ISO 102400 can be raised up to 204800 and still be useful and secondly, where Nikon get that idea to replace two top models with only one flagship, because it sounds a bit let's say familiar to me.

Unfortunately, as I have no idea about one of them (ISO) and have only small suspicion about the other one and it actually might not be true, I am probably not the right person to waste your time with the answers to that. Well, here is the third question then and that is how different (read better) is D4 in comparison to D3s. Of course, as every new release in every industry it'll be faster, smarter and everything, but let's have a closer look to the main features.

Basics numbers:

New D4 is taking 16,2 MP to the megapixel race with the competition against 12,1 MP in D3s. Sensor is exactly the same size in both cameras (36 x 23,9 mm), what is logically making one pixel smaller in D4 (7,3 micro metre) than in D3s (8,45 micro metre). Pixel size can look like a WTH??? information, but in fact is quite important, because the bigger the pixel, the more light sensitive it is, which means it can memorize more light data and at the end it is creating better images and that is all what matters. And that is a pub argument tip why your mate's 15 MP compact is not even in the same sport than full frame DSLR. 

Maximum picture resolution is 4928 x 3280 in D4 and 4256 x 2832 in D3s. More is still better. And nothing is better than more fps, in fact D4 can make 10 fps in full frame format and you can even talk it to the 11, but you must lock your AF on your first frame, where D3s was capable of 9 in FX mode, or 11 in DX (cropped) mode. They both have 51 AF points. 

ISO range in old D3s was normally 200 - 12800, boosted form 100 to mentioned 102400, where D4 can do bottom 100 as a standard to 12800, which can be boosted to 50 at the bottom and 204800 at the top. It will probably create some desperate looking pictures, but desperate times call for desperate measures and if you'll ever need it, the possibility is there. 

Dimension-wise, the  D4 with 1180 grams is 60 grams I was going to say lighter, but I'll say less heavy than D3s with 1240 grams, even though it's a bit bigger - 160 x 157 x 91 mm for D4 against 160 x 157 x 88 mm for D3s. So let's sum it up.

d4-d3s new.jpg
Key changes:

Let's start with the probably biggest change against D3s and that is D4's video ability. D4 is capable to do a 1080p full HD video at 24 fps now, where D3s could do only 720p also at 24 fps, which was quite a handicap against competition. 

Changes from still shooting point of view are not that dramatic, but picture quality was quite impressive in D3s anyway. Of course, there are tweaks to make it even better, such as new 91.000 pixel metering sensor instead of 1.005 pixels sensor in D3s. This sensor is not there just for metering, but it will do the subject tracking, white balance and it also allow you to do "face detection" shooting through the viewfinder. It also has got improved AF system called "Nikon Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX" with 51 AF points. Now if you'd like to ask where the difference is, because same thing was in D3s, I'll give you a hint. There is no "Advanced" in D3s system. And if something is not advanced, it won't focus every one from 10 pictures you'll take per second with D4. 

To make sure everything captured at the speed will be also precessed at the speed, there is new EXPEED 3 image processor, which will send data do the completely new high speed memory card technology called XQD. No, you don't have to trash you CF cards, D4 will take those as well. Thanks to that D4 will do 100 RAWs or 200 JPEGs at one burst, where D3s is far behind with "only" 40 RAWs, or 130 JPEGs.

And that's about it. Nikon with D4 improved what was already a standard in its class and by adding an HD video, Nikon has erased the gap against its rivals.

Posted by pkuzmin at 8:43 PM

FedeoDecember 5, 2011

"The Nikonians" iPad App Updated

"The Nikonian" eZine app for the iPad has been updated to Version 1.1. You'll get access to our exclusive newsletters, packed full of equipment reviews, great photos from our ANPAT trip, updates of our Academy classes, and of course, exclusive Nikonians offers! Grab the app now!

Posted by covey22 at 3:02 PM

FedeoJune 12, 2011

The Nikon D7000 – A New Category of Camera?

D7000_110.jpgThe newest book in the NikoniansPress/Rocky Nook series of "Mastering" books: Mastering the Nikon D7000, by Darrell Young is being printed and should be available next month. Darrell's latest book is his largest to date, and he tells us the main reason is the number of surprises he found when digging deep into the D7000 features.

In writing this new D7000 book, shortly after writing Mastering the Nikon D300/D300s and Mastering the Nikon D90—and using each camera extensively—Darrell formed some strong opinions on the three cameras. Now that the author's deadline has passed, he shares some of his thoughts in the following brief preview:

Darrell-Young_200.jpgNikon has upped the game significantly with the Nikon D7000. In fact, it’s basically in a category of its own and costs more accordingly. Why do I say that? Well, compare the Nikon D90’s cost, at US$900 for a body only kit. It’s about the same as the new Nikon D5100, not the D7000. At US$300 higher the D7000 is significantly more expensive. Could the Nikon D5100 be the real replacement for the Nikon D90, and not the D7000?

Compare the D90 and the D7000 and you’ll notice that the D7000 has features more like the semi-pro line (D300S, and D700). In fact, the D7000’s basic operating system is a near clone of the D300S’s functions. There are new items in the D7000 that actually improve on the D300S, and simply blow away the D90. It’s almost like the D7000 is in a new category of camera. Instead of just being considered an “advanced” or enthusiast camera—like the D90—the D7000 is fully capable of shooting commercial work in nearly every way.

I’ve shot two weddings and a graduation ceremony with my D7000 and, let me assure you, this camera is faster and better than the D90 in nearly every way. It is much more robust physically with its mostly magnesium alloy frame, its autofocus system is even better than the D300S in some ways, the image quality is in a class of its own, for sure.

The feature set on the D7000 is very rich, with items not absolutely needed by non-commercial shooters, but required by pros. Some things that come to mind are:
• 100% viewfinder coverage
• 150,000 shot shutter
• 100 shot JPEG image buffer
• 39 point AF system, with 9 cross-type AF sensors
• multiple user settings (U1 and U2) for storing custom camera configurations
• 14-bit color depth
• magnesium alloy frame with weather sealing
• 1/8000 second top shutter speed
• 6 frames per second firing speed
• 2,016 pixel RGB sensor for metering
• Dual SD cards (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
• Ability to meter with and use non-CPU manual focus lenses
• Full Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) control with a Commander Mode
• Full-time autofocus in Live view and movie mode
• Full manual control of the shutter speed and aperture for movies
• 20 minute movie segments
• Stereo sound recording
• Amazingly good noise control in high-ISO shooting

D7000_400.jpgIn fact, I am seriously amazed by this camera. Its list of features reads more like a D300S or D700 than a D90. In my opinion the D7000 sets new standards for enthusiasts. It costs a little more, but places the user in almost the same class as the semi-pro line. I wouldn’t be afraid to take this camera any place I shot with my D300S previously. In fact, I have! My D300S has gotten a lot less use since I got the D7000. It’s that good.

If you are on the fence about which camera to buy today, don’t walk … run … to the nearest computer and order your D7000. You can depend on the camera to take more abuse than a D90, last longer than a D90, and provide better quality images than even a D300S—approaching the level of a D700.

Nikon has given us a new class of camera. It’s better than an enthusiast-level camera like the D90, and nearly as robust as a semi-pro level camera like the D300S.

As I’ve said in previous articles, the D7000 is a mature camera. It is made to last and last until N.A.S. gets you and you buy it’s replacement. However, you can wait as long as you’d like, it won’t be necessary to buy again for a long time. Buy new (or old) lenses instead! This camera can use almost any lens that Nikon makes (except non-AI).

Mastering-the-Nikon-D7000_175.jpgEditor's Note:
This is an excellent time to take advantage of preorders. Amazon currently has a preorder rate of $20.94 USD (saving you $14.01).

All books in the Rocky Nook/NikoniansPress series include a special Nikonians 50%-off voucher discount for a one year Gold Membership in the Nikonians community. This will save $37.50 on Gold Membership.

Posted by flashdeadline at 11:40 PM | Comments

FedeoMay 6, 2011

Epson Stylus Pro 4900 - The Nikonians Review

Nikonians Team Member Ernesto Santos (esantos) extensively reviewed the latest 17" wide-carriage Epson Stylus Pro 4900 printer and proclaims it be just about perfect:

"Whether you are looking to upgrade your old and tired 17" pro printer or this is your first venture into the world of wide format printing the Epson Stylus Pro 4900 is an excellent choice to consider."

Posted by covey22 at 6:41 PM

FedeoOctober 4, 2010

Tamron SP70-300 Di VC USD: The Nikonians Review

For most photographers, a telephoto lens is like a specialized tool; you don’t often have need for it, but when you do, you want it to work right the first time. Tamron’s latest telephoto zoom, the SP 70-300 f4-5.6 Di VC USD, is exactly that – a very useful lens that gets you the shot you want when you need it.

Editor's Note: The Samples Gallery is now available.

Tamron is no newcomer to the market. As a third-party manufacturer of still camera and video lenses, the company has been making optical products since 1950. The new 70-300 VC USD reflects their long history and experience in its’ build, handling and performance.

Some of you are probably thinking; “What, another mid-range telephoto zoom?” This isn't just another "me-too" product, it's got some really compelling features, and performance that will surprise you. Let’s quickly walk through the basics:

Ultrasonic Drive (USD) - this is Tamron’s first lens to use a coreless drive motor. Much like Nikon’s Silent Wave motor, the lens is not dependent upon the camera’s internal shaft drive to move the optical elements. Instead, Ultrasonic Drive pulls battery power from the camera and uses a ring motor to silently and swiftly arrive at the desired focus. It’s perfect for fast moving action but discreet enough in events requiring a low noise profile.

Vibration Compensation (VC) – this is Tamron’s fourth lens to feature a form of image stabilization. This is an extremely useful feature when you’re talking about a telephoto lens. Longer focal lengths require sufficiently higher shutter speeds to avoid hand shake effects. Vibration Compensation is rated to give up to four stops of hand-holding, allowing us to shoot in progressively lower light and/or lower ISO at lower shutter speeds, or forgo traditional supports like tripods and still be able to get blur-free photos.*

*If your subject is moving at a pace faster than the shutter speed can freeze the action, it will still be blurred.

Optical Formula – the new lens features an LD (Low Dispersion) and an XLD (Extra Low Dispersion) optical element that helps prevent chromatic aberration (the so-called “purple fringing” effect). The optical formula of 12 groups in 17 elements is considerably more complex compared to Tamron’s previous implementations – the AF 70-300 Macro and the AF 75-300 Macro LD both had 9 groups in 12 elements, and only a single LD element each.

Di Type – Tamron applies a multi-coating to optimize the lens’ use with more reflective Digital SLR sensors, although it is fully compatible with film cameras as well.

The build is quite modern and reassuring. Although it is mostly composed of light-weight materials and a metal mount, the lens is hefty at 1.7 lbs/0.7 kg and feels solid. There is no creak or give whatsoever, and when extended to its full length at 300mm, the lens barrel does not flop or bend. Tamron also includes a deep bayonet-mounted flower-petal hood that is reversible for easy storage. The hood’s length is great as it increases the efficiency of glare reduction. A proprietary rear cap and a pinch front cap round out the package. The pinch cap is very convenient, and is easily mounted and removed even with the hood in place. The filter size is a common and relatively inexpensive 062mm, which is great for photographers on a tight budget. The lens has the normal seals against dust and dirt, but is not waterproof.

As previously noted, this is not a constant aperture zoom, so the maximum aperture at each focal length is as follows:

  • 70mm - f4.0
  • 100mm - f4.2
  • 135mm - f4.5
  • 200mm - f5.3
  • 300mm – f5.6

The lens has no dedicated aperture ring. Like its modern peers, the mechanical linkage of aperture is now electronically controlled through the lens mount interface, allowing the photographer to set the opening via control dials on the camera body.

There are two ring controls – a very large zoom ring dominates the front two-thirds of the barrel length, while a narrower but easily handed focus ring is placed closer to the mount. The focus ring adequately allows clearance even for larger hands, so you won’t feel cramped while trying to manually focus. A display window on the top closest to the lens mount end shows focus distance in feet and meters. The rings are mechanically sound – both turned with a crisp reassurance, but were tight enough that with some practice, you could move the zoom ring by “feel” to a given focal length and know it would stay there. It takes about a quarter turn to cycle through the whole zoom range. Because of the full-time AF manual override, the focus ring turns freely in either direction and does not hit a stop or detent. Those of us who have struggled with “switchology errors” on lenses will be pleased to see the simplified setup Tamron has created – there’s just two switches, both on the left side; one turns VC ON or OFF and the other switches AF ON or OFF. That’s it. For folks who like to delve into the technical details, it sounds suspiciously like Tamron’s implementation is too simplified, but be reassured, it’s not. We’ll get into that later in this review.

In the field, the lens handles as well as it looks. On lighter bodies such as the D40 or the D3000, the feeling is a little nose-heavy, but using enthusiast and pro cameras like the D200 and the D2 series, the result is a nicely balanced combination. The hood’s length provides a reassuring protection from foreign objects (and kids’ sticky fingers!) as well as glare reduction. I was even able to reach in and manipulate a circular polarizer, but if you have smaller hands, results may vary.

The Ultrasonic Drive was noiseless, and I could not distinguish any difference between its operation and Nikon’s Silent Wave. Autofocus operations were very responsive. The lens locked on to the subjects accurately and with no hesitation. If you’ve never used coreless drive lenses before, you might be slightly surprised the first few times; when looking through the viewfinder, it feels like the image “jumps” into focus because you don’t get the aural feedback from the shaft-drive motor. Full-Time manual focus is available by simply grabbing the focus ring and overriding the AF system.

Many of you have been waiting for this section. So let’s get right into it; the Vibration Compensation works and works well. End of statement. That’s the short story. In typical optical stabilization models, most manufacturers have two modes, one to accommodate normal use – removing up-down and left-right, and another to remove all movement entirely. These modes are defined by a hardware switch on the lens. Most lenses are also equipped with only two axis sensors inside the lens to detect and compensate for those movements. Tamron upped the game by providing a three-axis (i.e., three-coil) system. That means Tamron’s implementation of image stabilization compensates not only for up-down (oscillation) and left-right (lateral) movements, but also compensates for yawing (up-left, down-right), all in a single mode. Think of a “+”sign superimposed over an “x” sign. For those of you who like to pan, there’s nothing to worry about; the three-coil system detects the movement for panning accordingly and only compensates for the up-down and yaw movement.

End-result - you don’t have to think about which mode the lens is in, and can concentrate on other aspects of the photo-taking. As I mentioned earlier, some of us who like to get down into the technical details would be suspicious of a single setting for such a complex operation, but Tamron’s design is simple, efficient and elegant.

Some handling steps that everyone should be aware of when using VC. First, there is no tripod detection mode, so VC should be turned OFF when mounted on a stable support. Secondly, the use of AF-ON button will not activate VC, only the half-press of the shutter button will. VC is more useful when it has more information about the motion it needs to compensate for, so begin the tracking process with the half-press as soon as you possibly can.

And VC really works. The first time you enable it, the image locks down. At low shutter speeds where handshake would be noticeable through the viewfinder, the image stops moving, period. Absolutely stunning and puts VC very much a leg up on Nikon’s Vibration Reduction – in VR, you will still see the image “drifting” even at shutter and ISO combinations where VR is effective – that’s the most noticeable difference in a two-coil versus three-coil implementation.

VC effectiveness lives up to the four-stop specification. My worst cases were a harvest moon at ISO 100, handheld, varying the apertures to get a properly exposed shot. At 1/30th of a second, I was getting very usable photos of the moonscape. In normal use during daylight and low-light scenarios, both the VC and USD functioned perfectly in conjunction with each other. In situations where I would have boosted the ISO just to get a higher shutter speed, I simply flicked the VC switch to ON and kept shooting.

The image quality of the lens is equally impressive. The test cameras were a D200 and D2H, using NEF format. The default color mode selected was Mode I, which savvy post-processors know tend to be low contrast and low saturation in order to maximize for skin tones. But even straight out of the camera, you could already see the rich color fidelity in many signage and street shots. Sharpness was set to Low, but the NEF files already showed depth and detail even without any optimization, such as the architectural details close-ups during a stroll in historic downtown Newport. The LD and XLD elements were doing their job, enhancing contrast and color even on rainy and overcast conditions during a Hurricane Earl photo-trek. I wasn’t able to invoke Chromatic Aberration at all during high-contrast shooting. The nine-blade aperture produced very acceptable bokeh, nicely rendered with no sharp points.

The bottom-line: It was very tough returning the lens once the review ended. The Tamron SP 70-300 f4.-5.6 Di VC USD is an extremely impressive optic and at a going street rate of under USD500, brings a great set of capabilities and image quality, all in a light and well-built package. Nikonians contemplating a telephoto purchase would be well-served to add this lens to the top of their wish-list. After all, the holidays are coming…

Posted by covey22 at 2:16 PM

FedeoAugust 5, 2010

Nikonians Review: Tamron 60mm f2.0 and Think Tank Hydrophobia

Have you seen the latest Nikonians equipment reviews? This month, Thomas Berg gets up close with the Tamron SP AF60mm f2.0 Macro, and Team Moderators Victor Newman and Martin Turner get under the covers with Think Tank's latest weatherproof shield, the Hydrophobia.

Posted by covey22 at 4:38 PM