Category Archives: Camera Gear

Why I’m Not an Early Adopter

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When I received the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6, I immediately mounted it on a Nikon D7100 body, and I noticed that locking it into the camera mount required more effort than my other lenses.

I took a few pictures and was excited about the possibilities of the lens. Then, last night, I decided to see how it works on the Nikon D610 camera body. But it was hard to remove from the D7100, and when I did, the lens’ mount looked like this.

I would have gladly accepted a replacement, but Amazon offered only a refund, because as expected, the lens sold out almost immediately.

So I guess I’ll let Nikon tech this out for a year or so, and then try again later. Too bad, because I was really looking forward to shooting birds and possibly some concerts with this monster. Oh well.

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Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 First Day

Top of a telephone pole in midday light. On the D7100, 500mm looks like 750mm.

Top of a telephone pole in midday light. On the D7100, 500mm looks like 750mm.

Marketing-wise, I do not fall into the category known as “early adopter.” I usually get cameras and lenses after they are well-documented by thousands of users. But when Nikon announced the 200-500 f/5.6 a few months ago, I threw caution to the wind because if this is what it appears to be, I’ve been waiting for this lens a very long time. I pre-ordered impulsively, and then completely forgot about it until I got a shipping notification.

There weren't many birds in the backyard during the few minutes I had to try the lens, but there was  a moon.

There weren’t many birds in the backyard during the few minutes I had to try the lens, but there was a moon. Hand-held, wide open at f/5.6.

And what does it appear to be? A relatively inexpensive, Nikon-quality birding lens. Heck, based on my experience photographing Trombone Shorty with a 70-200 and TC17, this might even serve as a stage performance lens in professionally lit venues.

Pretty high up in a eucalyptus tree. I'm concerned about the focusing, but as I say in the text, I need time to use this lens with appropriate shot discipline.

Pretty high up in a eucalyptus tree. I’m concerned about the focusing, which hunted a bit and got stuck occasionally, but as I say in the text, I need time to use this lens with appropriate shot discipline.

What remains to be seen, of course, is whether this is what it appears to be.  So far, I don’t know, because it arrived in the middle of a work day and I’ve only had a few minutes to make these captures, hand held. This weekend I’ll bring some shot discipline to the task, and try the lens on both the D7100 and D610. Stay tuned.

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Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography

I Should Not Have Been Able to Do This

In 35mm equivalents, this was a 510 mm lens. Hand held. In a dark theater. Aimed at a moving subject.

In 35mm equivalents, this was a 510mm lens. Hand held. In a dark theater. Aimed at a moving subject.

UCSB Arts & Lectures brings the world’s greatest talent to Santa Barbara. I was given the opportunity to shoot the season-opening event last night: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. I was nervous, and rightfully so. I’d never shot in the venue before, and I would have ten minutes, from a fixed position, to wrangle a couple of keepers.

I needed to counter two primary obstacles: First, the distance from back-of-theater to stage was greater than any I’d worked before. Continue reading

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Best Camera, Best Lens, Wide Open, Black and White

I like the way shallow depth of field and monochrome presentation add a little bit of seriousness to the most mundane of subjects. Please don't tell The Chairman that I called him

I like the way shallow depth of field and monochrome presentation add a little bit of seriousness to the most mundane of subjects. Please don’t tell The Chairman that I called him “mundane.”

I suffer from gear-itis, and while I’m not seeking a cure, I do need to treat some of the symptoms. I’m grateful to have a collection of cameras, lenses, and flashes sufficient to tackle whatever assignment comes my way, but it also makes me lazy and indecisive, making technical rather than artistic choices.

Not quite far enough from the background for creamy out-of-focus areas, but far better subject isolation than I would have gotten at f/2.8 from the same distance.

Not quite far enough from the background for extra-creamy out-of-focus areas, but far better subject isolation than I would have gotten at f/2.8 from the same distance.

As I described in the previous post, I’m testing myself (luxuriously) by trying to limit personal work to one camera body (Nikon D610), one lens (Nikon 85mm f/1.4), and black and white output. This is great gear – better than anything I’ve owned before, but this “deprivation” exercise helps me rekindle the passion I had as a teenager who could only afford one camera body, one lens, and black-and-white film – and had the time of his life learning how to SEE things photographically.

Backgrounds are a constant nemesis to this lazy, disorganized, impatient photographer, but shooting the 85 wide open simplifies otherwise complex backgrounds.

Backgrounds are a constant nemesis to this lazy, disorganized, impatient photographer, but shooting the 85 wide open simplifies otherwise complex backgrounds.

Quality shows. The 85 f/1.4 and D610 work very well together, letting me get sharply focused eyes and beautiful focus fall-off in the foreground and background.

Quality shows. The 85 f/1.4 and D610 work very well together, letting me get sharply focused eyes and beautiful focus fall-off in the foreground and background.

Of course, many of our day-to-day images require the OPPOSITE of my exercise: wide depth of field and full color. Vive la difference!

Of course, many of our day-to-day images require the OPPOSITE of my exercise: wide depth of field and full color. Vive la difference!

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Filed under Camera Gear, Camera Settings, Motivation

Personal Assignment – Wide Open

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I don’t choose lenses just for focal length and speed. Oh no. Each lens has its own character. Technically, a Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens is at its best stopped down to f/5.6. But you don’t buy a 1.4 lens to shoot it at f/5.6.  So for July, my assignment is to shoot the 85mm f/1.4 wide open, in black and white.

f1.4 test-4040-2

f1.4 test-4156 f1.4 test-4034 f1.4 test-4020

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Filed under Camera Gear, Low Light