Bolt Takes Some Snaps

If you are one of the few yet to see them, you can see the pictures taken by Usain Bolt immediately after his 200m victory after he borrowed a Nikon D4 from Danish sports photographer Jimmy Wixtröm on his newspaper’s website. It was good news for Nikon, whose D4 camera got a lot of coverage, as well as the lens which is I think the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, and does a pretty good job with all those bright lights around.

As someone who used to be pretty exhausted after finishing a 200m (or more usually 220 yards back in those days) several seconds slower than Bolt, his performance behind the camera strikes me as impressive under the circumstances. Though had any of the photographers stuck in their pit wearing silly vests been able to work with the freedom he enjoyed on the track I think we would have seen rather better images.

Recently when asked to talk to bloggers about taking better pictures, the first point I made was that you needed to get in the right place before you did anything else. Of course it isn’t always possible, and to work as a photographer at the Olympics you have to make the most of where you are put. But if you are a world-beating athlete who has just clinched his place in Olympic history, you can get away with almost anything. Though in a couple of them there is a rather worried looking Olympic official.

For the photographers of course it provided a good photo-opportunity, adding something a little unpredicted into what can be a rather dreary shift. And some of them certainly did a good job, producing some very polished and professional images.

I tried the 14-24mm when it first came out, and didn’t much like it. 14mm is just a little too wide to be useful much of the time, and having used a Sigma 12-24mm I’d become annoyed at the 24mm upper limit; it gave a much more useful focal length range on a DX camera than with full-frame for me. It was also a heavy lens – more than 2lbs in weight and pretty large.  Having had the Sigma I was also put off by its large bulbous front element, which again doesn’t let you use a filter – and the bill for replacing the Sigma front element after it had collected a few defects was pretty large.

Nikon’s 16-35mm is 2/3 the weight and takes a 77mm filter. I’ve broken 3 of these without damaging the lens front element. Of course it is a stop slower, but that is seldom a problem, and probably the VR in the 16-35mm makes up for the difference. It’s also slightly less sharp than the 14-24 in the corners, especially when wide open, though a couple of stops down the difference is marginal. In any case the lens is razor sharp by any normal standards.

To my eye, most of Bolt’s shots are too wide. Perhaps he would have been better off with the 16-35 too!

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