Monday, December 1, 2014

Hello new friend - kind of a camera review.

******I wrote more than I planned to, but here's the TL:DR version. I love the D750, it has what I want in a camera and some more, plus image quality isn't bad either. ********


I had just written a few hundred words into this blog post and decided to delete it. Why? because I think the only way I can explain this properly is to just get to the point. 

I bought a Nikon D750 and I love it. It's probably the best camera i've ever used/had/owned. Period. 

Like most photographers, I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) I always want the newest and bestest* (not a word) things. I'm always online looking at camera sites, rumour sites, just to see what the newest and latest in camera technology is. In the past I owned a Nikon D3s, I loved her, she was like the loyal dog that never left your side, she never let me down. However, although she took amazing images and was the queen of darkness, she was just too big to take around when not on assignment. Think of her as the great dane that you have to try and fit into your little hatchback, doable but annoying for everyone involved.

Over the years I bought cameras such as the NEX and X100s to use as my portable carry around cameras. They're great pieces of kit, the NEX is a mini DSLR and the X100s is.... well.. just a special item on its own, bit of a love hate relationship, mostly love. So as good as the NEX and X100s are in terms of size, portability and image quality, they can't beat a DSLR on continuous AF, battery life, lens choice and weather sealing. Yes there are some mirrorless cameras that come close to these things but for me, DSLR is still king. 

I'm planning on doing some freelance photography in the near distant future and unfortunately I had sold my D3s so I was in need of a new DSLR. Coming from professional style bodies such as the D3s and 1D series cameras that I use at work, instinctively I wanted a "professional" styled body. As a Nikon fanboy I wanted a Nikon, if I wasn't a fanboy i'd be all over the 5DMKIII in a heartbeat. 

Unfortunately, Nikon has been doing some pretty confusing things with their current FX DSLR line which made picking a camera that much harder. Currently in the FX lineup you can either buy the 16MP D4s/Df, 24MP D610/D750 or the 36MP D800/D810. As much as i'd love the D4s, I can't really afford to drop $6k and the Df is a near perfect camera for me, but the overall ergonomics and poor AF system are the reasons I didn't go for the Df. The D610 is nice in terms of MP size, but poor AF system in a consumer body means she's no good, and the D800/D810 are a perfect size, professional body with dials and controls where you need them, but 36MP... why can't you make a 24MP sensor or a 16MP sensor in the D810 style body.. argh.. Nikon are scared of cannibalisation of their products, ie D3 and D700.. I'm no business man but wouldn't you rather cannibalisation of your own products than money in the competitors pockets? 

Amidst all this confusion there's the D750, a Frankenstein camera of sorts. As its name suggests it should be the successor to the D700, many say no, but I say yes. I'll explain. The D750 has the superior 51 point AF system with group AF as the $6000 D4s, the 1080 60P video features of the $3200 D810, wifi, tilty screen, 6.5FPS, arguable some of the best high iso quality, BUT in a consumer styled body at $2200. It's all very confusing but here's why I think it's worthy of being the successor to the D700. 

The D700 put professional features in a small body, some have said that the D700 and D300/s were anomalies, flukes, products that will never be made again, but I think the D750 comes close. At its price point, nothing comes close to it in terms of features and image quality. Like the D700 before it, it really does have professional guts, but unlike the D700, in a not so professional body. But, lets be honest here and get to the crux of it all, does it REALLY matter that it's not in a professional style body even though it offers professional features? At the end of the day we're photographers, we're judged on the images we take, not the camera we use or whether it's professional or not. 

When I first started getting into photography, my dream camera at the time was the D2X with a 300mm lens. Why? because it was big. Yes, we photographers have small man syndrome when it comes to camera gear, i'll be the first to admit it. As a photojournalist who works in a regional daily, I don't really, need a 1Dmk IV or 1DX. They're nice but 90% of the time i'm shooting setup shots with nice light and flashes. Of course it's nice to have the high fps and vertical shutter when doing sports, but that's the other 10%. I'm sure that others will disagree, but this is my opinion and my shooting style. 

Right.. I didn't mean to write as much as a did but I got a little carried away. No more talking, time for photos.

This is my mate Wye Keen. ( He came to Wollongong to visit me as well as shoot a small documentary about the rock pools in the region. These photos were taken on the day that I picked up the D750 and used with the 50mm f1.4. 

The first thing I really noticed was how quick and zippy the AF system was. It was nice to have a camera that just near instantly picked up on what you want to focus on. The button layout took a little to get used to, specifically the ISO button, but over time i'm sure it'll become second nature.

Having owned a Nikon D3s in the past, I had a benchmark set for what would be considered acceptable in terms of AF speed and tracking. The other day I went down to the rodeo and thought it would be the perfect place to test the AF and tracking of the camera. Safe to say, she didn't let me down. 

For the rodeo I used my 70-200VRI. I'm happy to say that the 70-200 is doing just as well on the 750 as it was on the D3s.

As you can see from the gif above, AF locked on tight. The images were shot at 1600ISO using the new group AF at 6.5fps. I'm currently using Sandisk Extreme Pro 95mb/s cards and they had no problem churning through the raw images to the card. Not once did I have the buffer fill or have to wait for the card to clear. 

These horses came in quick and the 750 was able to focus in and get usable images at 8000-12800iso.

Before I bought the camera I did a lot of reading about the 750 having -3EV AF sensitivity. As a photojournalist who usually works in less than ideal lighting situations, being able to focus in dark environments is very appealing to me. 

When I saw this cowgirl on her horse I knew exactly the shot I wanted, all I needed was the camera to be able to create the shot for me before the moment disappeared. No word of a lie, this sucker locked onto focus straight up. Like a laser beam it just snapped into focus. I find that the middle AF point is by far the most accurate and it never missed a shot. When using the outer AF points in the dark, it did hunt once or twice, but locked on pretty much after that.

Again, black hat in dark light and the camera locked on instantly.

I've written more than I wanted to but I think i can safely say that the D750 is new best friend. Watch this space for photos from her.

Until next time,


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One year on

Every single year I say. "Man that years gone fast." and everyone says. "Oh I know right?! totally." 

This time it's no different, the year really has gone fast. I've been at the Illawarra Mercury for ONE whole year now and 'how has it been' you ask? ---- It has been awesome, as simple as that. 

I'm grateful that I've been given so many fantastic opportunities at my work, I've been in planes flying over the Illawarra, I've been on boats cruising around in the lake, I've been up and around Sydney shooting random stories and I've had amazing opportunities to shoot sports like the NBA,   A-League, NRL, State of Origin and soon the NRL Grand Final. I don't think many photographers get the chance to shoot such big and important sporting events, let alone a cadet.

In Gladstone, I really had no one to look up to, my boss was a self taught photographer who had only been in the game a year longer than me and was too focussed on her wedding business. Here its been different, I have colleagues who collectively, maybe have over a hundred years of experience in the game. They've won Walkleys, PANPA's, shot World Cups, Olympics, Commonwealth Games, travelled around the country, travelled the world, you name it, they've done it all. 

These guys are people I really look up to, I don't tell them because... that would be stupid... but they are everything I always wanted to be when I was growing up. 

So basically, what i'm trying to say is, I'm pretty happy with my job. There's not many people who can say. "I'm doing what I actually studied at uni, I get to take photos every, single, day." I'm extremely grateful that I even HAVE a job, being a photographer is hard enough, a NEWS photographer.. they are certainly very slim pickings...

My first year has been a bit of a learning curve, I started off confidently, lost all motivation and confidence in my imagery halfway through, but feel like I've been coming strong for the last couple of months. Hopefully this upward trend continues and I can start to really spread my wings and get out there and do what I know I can. We'll have to wait another 12 months and see..

Until then,


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

State of Origin - Game Two

I just spent the last hour or so trying to write a blog post about Origin and what the experience was like. It didn't work. I ended up writing real short sentences that ended abruptly and made no sense - like that. so... I just deleted it all and i'll start again.

I can't describe what shooting Origin was like, I can't describe what it felt like because it was just that damn special. I know there are lots of photographers who shoot sport all the time and have excelled in their craft and shoot events like grand finals, olympics, world cups etc etc, so for them, this is just another Sunday afternoon shooting sport.

For me, i'd never done anything this big, this momentous.. this exciting and definitely NOTHING ever that involved 80,000+ fans cheering and chanting in a deafening roar. 

It all went so quickly and felt like a blur, there was times I got overwhelmed by the enormity of the event and lost track of what I was doing and felt flustered and actually angry at myself. I've shot league before, but this was some other kind of beast, just faster and harder. Normally when I shoot league, I place myself at the end of the field and let the players come to me, i'm lazy like that. At Origin, we (photographers) were assigned positions and had to stick to them. No excuses. I'm not fit, i'm the first person to admit it, if it were up to me i'd eat all day and get super fat. Unfortunately, i'm also very vain and care about how I look, so I haven't let myself get that fat - yet.

I was stuck on the eastern wing and had to run up and down, all night. Not fun. It's especially not fun running up and down with two 1DX's, a 400mm and monopod. I'm sure I pissed off more than one of the other photographers when I dropped my 400 on them when I switched from tele to wide. My bad..

I was lucky enough to be there when NSW finally broke their 8 year losing streak. I knew it would be huge if NSW won, but I never expected it to be THAT big.

From watching my first State of Origin match two years ago in a pub in Gladstone, surrounded by a sea of blue and purple Maroon (mostly purple Maroon) I would never have imagined that two years later i'd be there shooting it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Landscapes with the Fuji

It's been just over a month since I went and bought the Fuji X100s. So far I love it. There have been a few times where I would like the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, but I guess being stuck on one focal length makes you work a little harder for your shot.

In my free time I like to go out and do some landscape shots. For the last couple of years, its been the Sony nex 5n + 16mm. Its served me well in the past and i'd never played with a 35mm for landscapes.

Overall i've been pretty happy with the X100 for landscapes, unfortunately I haven't been out and about as much as i'd like to, but what I can say is that the lens is pretty damn sharp, that's for sure.

Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My first week with the X100s

Like I mentioned in my last post, I bought an X100s. I was meant to get a black one, but they ran out, so they sent me a silver one instead. I'm personally not a fan of the panda look, but it's not too bad the more I look at it. I may consider painting the silver black.. we'll have to wait and see.

There were a few cameras I was considering before I went and bought myself the X100s, honestly, it probably wasn't even that high on my list of "cameras I want." The few cameras I was looking at included the Sony A6000, NEX6, Fuji XE2, Fuji XT1 and even the Nikon Df..

What I liked about those cameras was that they all had interchangeable lenses and were small and light, perfect for travelling, one of the reasons I bought the NEX 5n in the first place. Although I really REALLY liked the Fuji line, it meant I would have to buy more lenses, more gear, more accessories, more money. The thing that i've found about cameras is that, you always want more, even when you think have enough - it never is.

The beauty of the X100s is that you buy a beautiful 35mm f2 lens that comes with a camera body. The way I looked at it was that the X100s would be the perfect travel camera because that's all I would need to take with me, wouldn't have to worry about which lenses to take because there only is one lens.

The X100s isn't very big, certainly smaller and lighter than it looks in photos. It's a little bit bigger than the 5n, but this has the EVF/OVF built in, which adds a little height to the overall size.

I went back to Melbourne last week and I took the Fuji for its first test run. I've never restricted myself to a 35mm lens before, i've always been a 50mm kinda guy, but after using the X100s for just over a week now, I can safely say that i'm leaning towards the 35mm camp. The 35mm lens means I have to get closer to my subject which doesn't bother me really as it means I can be more intimate, more emotion from the shot, but the 35mm also gives you enough width to fit more into the frame than the 50mm, those extra 15mm's let you tell a completely different story.

Anyway, as this isn't really a review of a camera or anything as I don't think i've really had enough time with it yet to give a review or anything. However as an initial look and thoughts on the camera, i'm damn glad I made the jump to the X100s. The idea of camera that just takes pictures without any finicky menu's or buttons is really quite refreshing.

The X100s is what the Nikon Df wants to be.

I mentioned I liked to use flash right? One of the main reasons I went for the Fuji was for the beautiful little leaf shutter. How can you not love overpowering the sun at any shutter speed. damnnnnn

Well that was my first look at the X100s, definitely more to come.