Friday, May 5, 2017

How old is too old?

I have GAS. Not gas like flatulence, or gas like gasoline, gas like Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It's a real thing, ask my good friend Wye Keen.. As a photographer I think it's almost impossible to not suffer from GAS, who doesn't want a $9000 Nikon D5 or the soon to be released Sony A9 that shoots a stupid 20 frames a second? I sure as hell do.. Unfortunately some people, like myself, don't have disposable income lying around, so we have to make do with what we've got.

In todays technology market, cameras are being churned every 12-18months, that's not even enough time to use the damn thing properly, but people demand new shiny toys and companies give the people what they want. Most of the time it's not good enough, but there's no such thing as a perfect camera is there? In 2009 Nikon announced the D300s, a minor upgrade to the already very good D300, 1 fps faster, 720p video shooting.. this and that.. not much of an upgrade but an upgrade nevertheless. 

So back to the title of this post, how old is too old? Lets find out. I inherited an unwanted and unloved D300s from my aunty last year when I went to HK to visit some family. I love cameras but more importantly, I love free things - I'm Asian after all. So I've had this camera for a few months now and I've pumped a few thousand frames through her already. The verdict? Not bad. 7/10.

The camera has the same autofocusing system as my D750 and the AF points reach to the edge of the viewfinder, but for whatever reason, it isn't as fast or pick up subjects as fast as my D750 does. Granted there's like 6 or 7 years of new technology in the D750, but the AF module is the same and I thought i'd get similar results? Anyway, when the camera focusses it's pretty sweet, the 1.5x crop factor is great for when you want to carry a lighter lens and not lug around a behemoth like the 600mm.

For games like cricket, AFL and soccer where the fields are often quite large, having the extra reach of the 1.5x crop makes a huge difference, you'd be surprised how much of a difference carrying the 400mm is compared to the 600! With most people who shoot sport, having the 1.5x crop is something they miss when shooting sports with full frame cameras, I personally like crop sensor, but my style of shooting is normally quite wide and by having a crop sensor, you often suffer on the wide end. Sure I can buy wide angle crop lenses, but there isn't a point considering I already own a wide angle lens for my full frame bodies. 

The D300s took some time to get used to, most of it was button placement and also the camera had a few quirks like not tracking targets as well as other cameras I've used and the camera seems to just feel laggy or sluggish compared to my current cameras. My D750 isn't a sports camera but can still churn out 6.5fps and the RAW buffer is really good with the 95mb/s cards I use. The D300's on the other hand, 15 JPEG files and half that of RAW files and the buffer gets full. Yikes.

Using the D300s for sport was a given, so I wanted to try my hand and using it for another subject I have a passion for - Macro.

Now i'm certainly not going to win any awards for my macro and i'm not particularly good at it either, but it's a nice way to slow down the way you shoot and focus on little creatures that often go unnoticed.

The one thing that can't be denied is that the dynamic range on this thing isn't great. Maybe because i've been spoiled with the D750, but when you try and lift shadows - nope - it's ok, but not great, highlights, also mreh and ISO performance is very mreh. 

Although the D300s has its quirks like ok only AF, mreh ISO, shadow and highlight recovery and relatively low megapixel count, there is light at the end of the tunnel. For those who want a camera with professional build quality, relatively fast frames per second, good ergonomics and on the cheap, I couldn't recommend the D300s anymore. Sure you have to be careful when shooting it, like don't under expose by 3 stops hoping you're gonna recover the shadows - because that wont happen - but slow down and shoot it like slide film. Back when I was at uni we used to shoot tranny* film (transparency) and boy was it hard to get right. That stuff had no leeway in terms of highlights and shadows and we were often taught to sacrifice either the highlights or shadows for the shots. 

BUT and there's a big but, when it worked, the developed film that came out was fan-flipping-tastic. Shooting the D300s reminds me a little of that, when you get the files right in camera, there really isn't much you need to do to make them pop, slow down, expose properly and you'll get great looking photos. Come to think of it.. why don't I do that more often...?

Well that's food for thought for the day, lets see where we are in another 8 years. I might have to re-read my D750 review in 2021 and see if the it was the GAS that made the camera good or whether it really was that good.. hmm


*Tranny isn't politically correct but that's what it is/was called - Don't shoot the messenger.