Df at 6 Months

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It’s been about 6 months since I purchased my Nikon Df. I have had a blast with it in those span of months, reconnected with photography and created many pleasing photos for my own enjoyment.

This is one of my longer posts on this blog, so reader beware and and also sure to grab a beverage of choice before settling in to read through this.

It’s worth saying quickly, originally I wanted a D810 and merely stumbled into a Df the second time I tried one at my local shop.  You should know that the looks of the camera were not the driver for me looking at one or eventually getting one.. In fact, early on I was a little puzzled by the Df.

The first look was out of curiosity and after reading a lot of forum chatter. The second look came a few weeks later after more forum chatter and then looking at a lot of images and reviews.  In a few of the reviews I started noticing the quality of the images and its pleasing colors.  I’ll confess boredom and the polarizing views over the Df in part is what made me curious. And then it happened, I got one while I waited for the D810.

In preparing for the D810 I wanted to straighten out my lens portfolio as over the years I had sold my better glass and replaced it with average glass.  Also the D810 resolution  and potential  awesomeness edged me on even further.

After playing with several lenses at the camera stores I decided to go with the Tamron VC F/2.8’s, the 24-70 and the 70-200. This got me where I wanted to be for both the D810 and Df for a wedding I will shoot later this year. I will likely add to that collection with the newer 15-30 Tamron as well. I also added a Samyang 14mm F2.8 Manual and the new legendary Sigma Art 35.

This set of better glass as I call it will be all I need for the future. My point in mentioning these lenses is that the Df loves great glass and using them is not lost on the Df.  Balancing doesn’t seem to be an issue either, even with a 50-500 or 70-200.

Somewhere along the way though, I built up an older collection of Nikon AI-s lenses. I had inherited an 18 F/3.5 and 24 F/2.8 from my father and started playing with them on a trip to Omaha. Much to my surprise I really liked the 18 and started researching AI-s lenses.

That research led to me finding a nicely priced 28 F/2.8 AI-s.. The bokeh on the 28 Ai-s is fun and can be pleasing at times.

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The story gets a little complicated because when I got the D810 I got a really sweet deal on some older D lenses, a 50 F/1.4 and a 85 F/1.8. They were both nice, but didn’t really wow me.

My D810 just didn’t wow me as much as I had expected it to and I found myself preferring to use the Df over the D810.  After about 4 months of the D810 I decided to see what I could get in the way of a CCD camera and offered my D810 and D Lenses as a trade.

I never imagined anyone would take me up on the deal but someone did,  they wanted out of Astronomy, wanted a D810 and we made a massive series of trades that netted me a few high caliber CCD cameras and accessories, a Nikon 50 1.2 AI-s for my D810, D lenses, and my Nikon 28-300 VR. This deal hasn’t resulted in any regrets  as far as the gear I traded away and the 50 F/1.2 is so spectacular, even though it’s manual focus, it’s just razor sharp like my 14mm Samyang and Art 35. More Ai-s research ensued along with other conversations with fellow photographers and I got interested in a 105 F/2.5 and a 135 F/2.8 AI-s and found some nice deals on eBay and acquired them along with a F/2.8 180.

The 105 and 135 arrived ahead of the 180 and on a wild hair I took them to my girls basketball game and tried some action with them.

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The results stunned me and I used what know how I have obtained over the years and used a zone focusing technique to get some cool action shots. The high auto ISO capability and performance of the Df are absolutely awesome and the nice smooth Focus rings of these old lenses and Df green dot make focus pretty predictable. After a while I kind of got a feel for where to turn the focus ring for each end of the court. I took all the AI-s collection along and used the 28 & 50 a few times as well, and the only thing I felt lacking during the game was a 85 AI-s. I would absolutely do this again!

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Needless to say I found a deal on a F/2 85. I will have it but not have had time to use it by the time I publish this post, so more on that lens later excpet to say that I will be interested in its color remdering, my 85D F/1.8 seemed to have an almost distinct yellowish cast in its pictures.

The 180 ED AI-s arrived, not in as nice of conditions as the others, however, the glass seems to perform wonderfully! I took a few indoor dog portraits and was blown away by the results.

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There is something about the photos from the 180 that make me understand why it became a legendary lens and I actually look forward to using it to make some portraits of our girls. It may well become my favorite acquisition, although I have yet to try the 85 as of this post being written.

All this begins to get to the purpose of this long post. Some find it annoying when photographers use words like magical.  The 50, 105, and 180 are magical for me. The reason I spoke of new and old lenses in this post is because it seems to me that the newer Nikon glass with VR is not quite what it could and should be. Having tried their 70-200 F/4 and F/2.8 VR II I walked away a it disappointed. It’s why I ended up with the Tamrons that I did.

These older AI-s lenses though, wow, something about the way lenses were made back in those days that strikes you when you look at the images. The 180 ED really impressed me! I like my Tamron lenses, so don’t get me wrong, they perform really well, nice sharp images. This image below was made with the Tamron 70-200.

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And while these lenses have been a huge part of my Df fun, the camera itself has been simply awesome.  Leading up to writing my review I watched a few video reviews of the DF on youtube and found Matt Grangers to have captured some sense of why someone would like the Df.

He offers a fairly pragmatic view of pros and cons from his view and usage.  The fact it sports the D4 sensor at half the cost gets a lot of play with reviewers as it rightly should.

There are a few twists on the Df that people seem to miss though.  I have thought about it all lately wondering how my resurgence and passion for photography has been rekindled.

The last time I experienced my passion at this level was with the Nikon D2X and Fuji S3.  The D2X had incredible color and accuity at the time and the S3 had lush color and deep dynamic range that resulted in rich creamy tones.

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What I realized in the end is that the Fuji S5 and D700, D7100 and D810 all failed to spark my fire.  In terms of specifications they were fairly solid with the D810 being one of the most capable competent cameras on tje market currently.

In 2008 the D700 value proposition and ISO performance really captivated me, but the photos left me wanting and at one point I tried to buy an old Fuji S3 and then ended up with a grey Fuji S5 trying to capture the magic via nostalgia..

The used S3 was returned because it was just too beaten up and I kept the grey market S5.  Fuji screwed up the color with the F5 by using Nikons color processing and an emulation of what was so attractive to me about Fuji S3 colors.  Truth be told though I liked the S5 color more than the D700.

The D810 was this awesome high resolution machine and again an awesome value equation, however, the images just didn’t quite have that magic and there that word is again that so many hate when used to describe anything photographic.. In full disclosure, if there were not a Df then I would have the D810.  They can also complement each other, however, since I am an amatuer and don’t plan on doing pro-level work again, I found the Df meeting all my current needs and above all providing me images with high personal appeal.

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But that is a huge part of the X-factor for me amd the Nikon Df.. Images like the stunning black beach above are what really gets me stoked about the Df, while it is awesome in low light, its simply amazing i. great light like the Nikon D2X and Fuji S5.

I missed the D3 lineup, I was pretty much out of the game at that point as I kept the D700 for 6 years and still have the Fuji S5 due to nostalgia.

It is why I look past the specs,  I probably too easily forgive some of its quirkyness and foxused on learning and trying to master its little nuances.  With the controls as they are and me taking more time to learn what I wanted to change definitely is a part of my reconnecting experience though.  Perhaps that thought and deliberateness is why I am also liking my images more.  I am a bitten taken with the fact that thinking out basketball photos using old manual lenses resulted in what I think were better pictures than I made with the stabelized higher end zoom lens.. There still is no substitute for skill and experience in photography, even with a $7K camera, one needs to know what they are doing to make truly great photos.

I also relate to those that find the Df a nostalgic purchase because of my own nostalgia for trying to find a camera that possessed magic again.  While some call the ergonomics a disaster, the controls complicated and unuseable, and the hundred other gripes, one can not buy a more capable retro digital camera, particularly with the lens base Nikon has from any other source.  IE reviewers fail misserably to understand and convey this aspect of the Df.

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While Fuji is doing an admirable job and likely in part why Nikon created the Df to stop the migration, the IQ while being very good, is just not there compared to the Df.  I am going to also bet that this is in part inparticular why the Df was built around the D4 sensor which in turn then caused Nikon to have to sell the camera at a higher price. One has to understand Nikon models verses features pricing and marketing scheme  to understand the Df price pount.

And of course once you start to experience the magic of a camera and it happens to have a connection to ones past, for me the Nikon FG which was my first real SLR, it becomes easier to understand that one might buy a nice strap or case for the camera as well or buy some manual lenses.

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To start wrapping this 6 month review up I’ll share the highlights.

Simply awesome IQ if you are not trying to compare resolution to 36mps.  ISO performance is top notch!

Standard Nikon menus, a D600 level of feature implementation minus AF assist a d Popup flash.  The controls while a bit difficult to readapt to are actually quite nice amd pretty failsafe with locking.

Autofocus is competent, but dont be suprised if you find yourself wanting to try some MF lenses.  With a Nikon flash unit attached this camera will run with some of the best.  Nikon, just add an AF assist light on the D2f.

The battery lasts forever!

Nikon has room to change and improve the controls implementation. They can also give us a better power button, side loading SD card and Aperature control and last but not least click on/off dial locks.

I echo the comments of some reviewers in tnat if the Df inteigues you be it for its stunning D4 like images or hamdsome retro looks, this is a camera you should try before you buy.

I am simply amazed though that I ended up with a Df and then a set of older lenses. The Df was never in my original plans, it was to be an D800e and then the D810 as soon as I learned it was real and on the way. Never did I ever imagine I would be craving to use these old manual focus lenses either. And all this with killer out of the camera images that process fast and easy on the computer is while I find the Df and classic lenses so magical.

Until next time, peace and happy clicks!

Posted in Talking Photography

Grey Days At The Pier

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Can you hear the gulls in the background?  They are a pack of 3, I was tempted to make a video of them earlier as they were perched atop a building wailing in corus like a siren in The Streets of San Francisco! I seriously wondered if this trio somehow was doing just that, mimicking a siren!

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What fun it is to walk the Piers, even on a gloomy damp day with my DF! I stopped to capture a few memories of my walk through these words and rest a bit with a cupcake and a cappuccino.

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I have to laugh because the frosting was so tall on the salted Carmel cupcake, it got on my nose and I felt like a child.

Equipment wise I have a few regrets this trip, wishes I had opted for the Tamron 24-70 IS over the Nikon 24-300 VR. Next trips that’s the plan! These will all be B&W renditions mostly, while the DF has superb color, today’ weather will not yield good light for color work, so in my minds eye and past experience these will all be B&W with contrasty processing.

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I tried it all Ray’s way today, Ray is an accomplished street photographer I follow on the web and he shoots a lot of Auto ISO on his DF. This 12-24 I have opted to mainly shoot today is a little slow for street work, however, I should have a decent FOV shooting between F/4.5 and F/6.3 mostly. That’s the real beauty of the DF, there’s no real worry about ISO’s, especially in daylight in my humble opinion.

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The D810 is gone now, I shipped it off to a gentleman in SF in a blockbuster trade I made for some CCD cameras for Astronomy along with it went my 50mm F/1.4 D and 85 F/1.8 D. The D810 and lenses were a distraction truth be told.

The D810 ultimately failed to capture my heart like the DF has and heart is so important when your having fun and capturing memories.  The D810 like my previous D700 were/are awesome cameras, I just failed to connect with them as I have the DF and a few limited other cameras from my past.

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Travel kit for the next go around where I can take a camera and just a few lenses? It will be the Tameron F/2.8 24-70 IS and a Samyang 12mm F/2.8 Manual. I think those will work for travel to cities. If it’s to a national park or the like then I would add the Tameron F/2.8 Tameron 70-200 IS. Maybe I would seek the Art 35 in the bag as well, but honestly, I think I will be trading that lens away along with a few others. Too many lenses are a distraction in my humble opinion.

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Well, it’s time to walk the Pier some more, I have been so lucky to have Pier 39 mostly to myself, a trade off I guess for the overcast skies and morning walk!

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Part Two I am probably cruising at around 30K feet right now on a work trip. Work is such that it had be traveling again this week and I thought I would take a minute to finish a few thoughts on the SF trip.

You’ll learn through my blog entries I like to write while I am traveling. I probably look like a mad scientist of sorts right now, the cabin is very dark here on the plane and my iPad is probably casting a lone glow like a beacon for the others on the flight, all the while while I am finger typing on them glass at about 30WPM. Back to SF though for a bit. Every once in a while as a photographer you can find yourself in the zone. This unfortunately mostly happens when I am left to roam somewhere cool alone and take my time to really take in the sights and then selectively frame and record them as I please.

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Walking along the piers was just one of those experiences this trip and I haven’t even had time since I returned to download the pictures yet.

In fact, I am still not finished with the Hawaii pictures yet either. Over the Xmas break I will catch up on both, even though I have a few new projects spinning up. So while I was in the zone and taking pictures of ships on a less popular pier, it dawned on me that our love of photography can both grow on others and fall short. I know now my wife takes more pictures while we travel now, I think she appreciates the value of the memories of good times that revising photos and videos can evoke. That’s the beauty of this wonderful past time. And in the same token when I think about it all, I had to frown a little as well about how often photography forums spoil budding photographers passions at times with the snarky your photos look like crap remarks.

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The notion that people are recording memories and sharing them often seems lost to those who get overly wrapped up in the technical aspects of the long lived pastime. And this all brings me full circle to my thoughts as I walked down that pier snapping pictures, seeing the framing of them, moving the dials on my DF to adjust my depth of field and making perfect little pictures in my minds eye, many of which will roll off into the trash can on either the Mac or PC. Who will view these pictures and who will even care?

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Who will even notice or care about the Zone I believed I was in when I took them, and how many will deem them as worthless junk?

It occurred to me as it had in the past that while I tend to share my self proclaimed masterpieces with others, it’s not what drives me. I take them for myself, a little bit for my wife ( she need not suffer them more than needed – even though she would always look if I ask) and beyond that, they are here for you to like or hate as you may.

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To that end in my next entry, I’ll take you into the zone with me, my minds eye and share the thoughts on the how and why of them.

Why? Because it may help you as well as me to understand how you may decide to capture your own pictures. It can explain my rationale of why some are framed the way they are and why the DOF was chosen in the end.

And so with that said, I’ll wrap this entry up. It won’t be posted for a while, I want to share a few pictures of the trip with you and that won’t happen until I finish processing them perhaps next week.

Knowing that these words will make it to close out 2014 I will wish you a great 2015 ahead!

TheRock

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Posted in Talking Photography

The Black Beach

It’s been a bit since I made a post and that’s because I was on vacation and thought I would share some pictures in this post on one of the places I visited that I truly enjoyed.  Some of the pictures here appear more for documentary purposes to provide a better sense of the area.  That being said though, I never intended to document my experience here and so in some ways the documentation is incomplete!

Also, the colors on the blog are regrettably distorted by the WP resizing engine so unfortunately these images can’t be really viewed inline as I intended them.  To help I have placed a slideshow gallery at the bottom of the page where you can see the colors a bit better, still not perfect.

Alliteratively you can click on an image to view its full websize and color and then return to the blog by clicking on the back button on your browser.

The Black Beach!

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Posted in Talking Photography

Musings

It’s a lazy Saturday morning, the kind where you roll around in bed, read on your iPad, nap a little more, get some coffee, then read more meaty content after you wake up a bit. Before I had gone to sleep after watching to Royals beat the Yankees (no, I wasn’t dreaming, it really happened;), I had stumbled upon a thread about super gluing the exposure compensation lock button down on the Nikon DF to make it easier to use. I started looking for mods for the Nikon DF and came up with just that one.

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Posted in Talking Photography

KC Blacklight Run

I had the pleasure of attending this years local Blacklight Run in Kansas City this past weekend and took along the Nikon DF and Tamron lenses to cover the event.

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Regrettably the Rain washed us out and led to the cancellation of the run before it got dark and before I could get race pictures, so what follows is some coverage of the pre-race activities.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Learning to Process RAW

This week I thought I would cover a topic that generates some hesitation and fear by newer photographers wanting to shoot RAW.

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Processing RAW files is really no big deal if you have a RAW Processor.  I am going to cover three super simple workflows here so for those wanting to use RAW can start sooner verses having to learn some huge drawn out process.

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Posted in Talking Photography

1000 Clicks with Nikon D810

Alas it was time to talk more about the D810 now that I am over 1000 clicks into using it.  That’s not really many, however, I am rather stingy about actuation these days making sure for the most part I really want to take the picture.

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Local Lake Test with the D810 and Sigma Art 35

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Posted in Talking Gear

Metering and Color Differences Nikon D810 & DF

This morning I did the first of 3 different tests I plan on this topic. There have been lots of debates and conversations about color differences between the D8X0 and DF cameras.

I’ll be comparing the D810 and DF specifically. Please note, I have no care on the outcome of this other than finding out for myself what I can from my informal unscientific tests.  I have both and plan to keep both cameras.

In my first test (same Ole lake landscape I default to due to its dynamics and detail) the DF metered the same spot 1/10th a second faster than the D810, rather consistently overall with the DF metering for a lighter exposure on a regular basis. [Took 4 Exposures with each camera]

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Posted in Talking Gear

Battling the Dust Bunnies

Maybe you find yourself with lots of dust bunnies in your pictures when you go to post process them, if so this article may help you better mange them.

Its rather humorous for me to find myself battling dust bunnies on the Nikon DF & D810.  In 6 years of owning my D700 I never had any issues, the way I practiced photography along with the sensor self cleaning settings I had seemed to prevent me from having issues.  All that changed though with the DF & D810 as now I find I am getting dust that my proactive practices no longer seem to be able to control.  It would appear that these bodies actually attract dust rather than repel it by the quantity of dust I am seeing.  So lets talk about how with these bodies to control dust.  My disclaimer is that I am not an expert on the topic, so what I offer comes from common sense, years of observation and subsequent adjustments now.

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Posted in Talking Photography

Distance Between Primes

I have been trying to round out my primes for my DF and D810 and spending quite a bit of time researching lenses.

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Posted in Talking Photography