Posts Tagged ‘Nikon’

Lenses and cameras

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Sitting outside a London pub on Saturday, possibly the last real Summer day of the year (I started to write this on the Autumn Equinox), I was enjoying an expensive pint of bitter and talking with a friend, when a group came to the next table including a photographer carrying a Nikon with the kind of lens that gives you a hernia just looking at it. I don’t know which focal length it was, probably a long wide aperture zoom, perhaps the 180 – 400 mm f4, which is around 14 inches long, weights over 7lb 11 oz and costs a mere £10,999, though I think it may have been something even larger. As the woman sitting next to us observed “My, you’ve got a big one!’

I held up my Olympus with the diminutive 18-150mm to show her, saying it did the same job. And at only 285g and a little over 3 inches long it does. It’s just a little bit shorter at the long end (300 equiv) but a lot wider at the short end. All for around a twentieth of the cost. Size does matter, and so far as I’m concerned this is a situation where being small is greatly desireable.

The Nikon may have a slight edge in sharpness (and the Nikon body helps with more pixels) but essentially they do the same job. Though the Nikon will also greatly improve your muscular strength through additional exercise. The Olympus, also an f4 lens at the widest focal length, benefits from 5 stops of stabilisation on the OM body, while the Nikon VR claims 4 stops from VR in the lens.

There are some situations where the larger lens would have a slight advantage. Nikon’s autofocus is a little better, particularly at following rapid action, thought the Olympus isn’t at all bad. That extra stop at the long end could come in useful at times too. I’ve never used the 180-400, which is a relatively recent design for digital cameras, but my tests a month or so ago showed the Olympus performing better than an older and smaller and lighter Nikon lens only around twice its weight and size.

Carrying long and heavy lenses has become something of a status symbol for many photographers, and I suspect that the white bodies of the Canon examples may have influenced some to change over to that marque. They make Canon photographers stand out while the equally excellent but black Nikon optics are less noticeable.

A rather silly article I read the other day (I won’t waste your time with a link) was about using an old film camera to work as a photojournalist. Of course some have never given up using them, particularly a few dedicated Leica users, sticking with essentially 1950s technology.

My Leica M2, built around 1956 is still a nice camera to use and later models of the film cameras really added nothing of substance to the design that wasn’t provided by the nicely engineered third-party accessory wind-on lever and Leica’s own MR4 exposure meter. It was left to others to bring the concept up-to-date, Minolta with the CLE, a more petite version with decent metering, and Konica who produced both the Hexar a fixed 35mm f2 lens camera with autofocus, and the Hexar RF, with excellent metering and auto film wind. Leica only really got back into the act after a few rather disastrous digital introductions, including the M8 for which I can never forgive them.

But back to the article, which suggested that modern photojournalists like to work from a distance because they are frightened of their expensive and fragile modern cameras getting damaged. Firstly I don’t think it is true, and most photographers insure their gear and forget any risk to it. Many of us like working close and with wide-angles that in the days of film would have been considered extreme.

The people who keep moving back are those who have spent fortunes on large heavy long lenses (and chiropractors) and need to justify the expense to themselves. The article was illustrated by some not particularly distinguished protest images, taken from a rather longer distance than I like to work (though you often can’t get as close as I would like) using a standard lens.

Of course the real reasons why most of us no longer use film have to do with cost and deadlines. I’ve been getting e-mails and phone calls from an agency that I file most of my pictures to calling on me to get work in faster as they say I am missing the deadlines, though I usually get pictures in only a few hours after taking them. That isn’t now fast enough – and those who get the pictures in that are usually used by the papers can be seen squatting in corners with a laptop while events are still taking place, often missing much of the events they are covering. A weak image filed within minutes is more likely now to be used than a good picture which arrives an hour or two later – it’s become being first rather than being best which makes the sale.

And standards in some respect have changed. With modern cameras and digital imaging it’s generally easy to get pictures which are sharp and correctly exposed of almost anything, and work which fails on these is likely to be rejected unless it is either showing some very dramatic event – or is being offered for free use. At least one of those accompanying the article might well have died in ‘Quality Control’.

I’ve been using the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II for some months now, and continue to be impressed with it and the few lenses I own. As with all cameras I have some reservations (and wish Olympus had a simpler naming convention.) It’s become my favourite camera to use, one I’ll pick up when going for a walk rather than just when going out to work and the only thing that has stopped me buying a second body is the impending launch of the Mark III. One of the expected improvements this will bring is a slight increase to 20Mp from 16Mp which would be welcome, but unless there are other substantial gains I might still buy another Mark II (and will doubtless be able to get it cheaper.)

Long lenses

Wednesday, August 14th, 2019

Last Friday I was testing out equipment for an event I was hoping to photograph the following day. For the last few months I’ve seldom used the two working Nikon DSLRs I own, working instead with a Fuji XT1 and an Olympus OMD EM5 MKII, and I wasn’t confident that they could cope.

I knew I would need a fairly extreme telephoto lens for some pictures. The longest I own for the Fuji is the 18-135mm F3.5-5.6, equivalent to a 27-203mm, and for the Olympus, the lightweight 14-150mm (28-300mm equiv) f4-5.6. Would either of these be good enough or should I take the larger and heavier Nikon D810 with the 70-300mm Nikkor zoom?

I was worried about the weight as I was expecting to have to walk some distance, so would have preferred not to have to carry the Nikon, as along with another lens to cover the mid-range it would roughly double the weight I was carrying for around four or five hours. But if it really gave better results I’d have to put up with it.

I could get greater magnification from the Nikon, as I don’t need the full image size, but could switch it to DX mode, making it at its long end a 450mm equivalent lens, while still retaining roughly the same pixel count as the Fuji or Olympus, and I thought before looking at the results that this would make a vital difference.

So I got out the gear and took pictures of a subject at roughly the same distance as I would be working – around 200 metres and compared the results. I used more or less the same shutter speed and aperture as I expected to need on the following day, around 1/500 f8 at ISO640, and made sure the image stabilisation was on for the Fuji lens and Olympus body.

I got a couple of surprises from these simple tests. The first was that the two mirrorless systems both focused at least as fast as the DSLR, with the fastest usually being the OM5 (though both the Nikon and the Olympus occasionally went in for a little hunting.)

It took a little fussing around to view the images with the subject roughly the same size on my screen, but the results were interesting. The pictures themselves are pretty boring (and as I was photographing a window in a nearby flat perhaps an invasion of privacy) so I won’t include them here; the differences between the 3 camera/lens setups would in any case probably barely show even on enlarged small sections.

I’d expected the Nikon with its larger sensor and longer (equivalent) focal length to have a distinct advantage, but this wasn’t the case. The clear winner in these tests was Olympus, though the differences were not huge. It seemed a little sharper and to give just a little better gradation. Details in highlight and shadow seemed a little clearer. Even though I had to magnify it more it still more than matched the Nikon. The Fuji lens gave a nice sharp image, but the extra magnification it needed just about showed. But at any size I was likely to need to use the pictures any of the three systems would have done the job.

The D810 in full-frame mode gives images 7360 × 4912 pixels, compared to 4896 x 3264 for the Fuji and 4608 x 3456 for the Olympus. All more than enough for an A4 print – and if the images are sharp you can go considerably larger. Those extra pixels that the Nikon has to offer are very seldom needed.

Of course Nikon has newer and better telephoto lenses than the old model I own, the 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED AF Nikkor. The Fuji lens weighs 490g, not particularly heavy for its specification, but almost twice as much as the Olympus at 285g. Both essentially replace two of my Nikon lenses, and of course both Olympus and Fuji bodies are considerable lighter than the D810.

My Nikon 70-300 was made for film and is not really up to the demands of high-pixel digital cameras, particularly at its longer focal lengths, so I shouldn’t be too surprised at the result. It weighs 520g, only a few grams more than the Fuji 18-135, but its modern replacement, the AF-P NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E ED VR is noticeably heavier at 680g – and reviews show it to be a rather better performer. I don’t do a great deal with long focal lengths and got my lens second-hand at a bargain price, around a fifth of the cost of the newer model.

The tests showed me that the Olympus would do the job well and so I packed my bag ready for the following morning. But the following day gale force winds meant I had to cancel my journey. But at least I know for the future that I don’t need to carry the extra weight to use a long lens.

Christchurch vigil

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

There was a strong reason to hold the vigil for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks outside the offices of The Sun newspaper. Murdoch’s papers have for years led the promotion of xenophobic views on immigration, on Europe and of simplistic right-wing views around the world, along with the misogyny exemplified by its ‘page 3’.

As I wrote in My ‘London Diary’:

Increasing numbers of Islamophobic incidents are taking place in the USA, Nigeria, Palestine, China and the UK, fueled by extreme right groups who are encouraged and emboldened by Islamophobic articles in newspapers, across the whole of the right-wing UK press, but particularly The Sun and other Murdoch titles worldwide who have engaged in a long campaign of demonisation of Muslims, and on our major broadcast media as well as on social media.

My London Diary:
http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2019/03/mar.htm#christchurch

You can see many more pictures from the event there.

I had taken both my Nikon D801 and the fairly newly bought Olympus E-M5MarkII with me, and began the event working mainly with the Olympus, which coped well in the fading light. But when it got really dark I began to severely underexpose with the Olympus, largely I think because I was simply unfamiliar with the camera.

Given that the viewfinder image comes from the sensor, I had assumed that if the viewfinder image looked good, the pictures recorded would be OK. But it didn’t seem to work like that, or at least not on the camera settings I was using. Even after using the camera regularly for over 3 months I still find its behaviour rather a mystery at times.

Of course almost all modern cameras are greatly over-complex, overloaded with features largely driven by the advertising departments. Even though I find using either of my two currently working Nikons generally straightforward, they can still throw in the occasional oddball when using flash. But I have much greater problems with both Olympus and Fuji mirrorless cameras, though rather different with the two makes.

But the Nikon D810 performed without problems, producing all of the usable later pictures using the available light, mainly from the candles. Part of the reason it worked better was undoubtedly that because I was using a wider lens I was also using a slower shutter speed, around 1/15s though that did mean a few images were spoiled by subject movement.

Vigil and protest for Christchurch victims


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Vigil mourns deaths on our streets

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

It is appalling that we have so many people homeless and living on the streets in what is still one of the richer countries of the world. And even more appalling that so many of them are there as a direct result of government policies. While Labour didn’t have a great record on dealing with homelessness, since the Tories came to power (at first with the support of the Lib-Dems) in 2010, the numbers of those sleeping rough have increased dramatically as a result of benefit sanctions and changes to benefits, in particular the introduction of Universal Credit, which has led to a remarkable number of people being evicted from their homes, unable to pay the rent.

My wife volunteers to work part time in a food bank in a relatively affluent area, where before 2010 there was no need for food banks, and the great majuority of the people who are referred to them as needing assistance need it because of the deliberate failures and actions of the benefits system.

‘One death is one too many’ was the clear message on one of the banners – and on its reverse were the names of around a hundred people who had died as a result of benefit cuts – a very small sample of the many thousands who have met premature death – academic studies suggest over 100,000 since 2010.

The protest was organised by a number of groups who help people in desperate circumstances on our streets, providing food and where they can shelter – despite the response of some local councils wh have passed by-laws to criminalise giving people food on the streets. I think anyone with any humanity should be angry about what is happening here.

Nikon

Strictly from a photographic viewpoint, I was interested to see how my recently purchased Olympus E-M5MarkII compared with the Nikon D810 working in low light. Despite being on a major street, the light on the pavement is fairly low. The Nikon has a full-frame sensor while the Olympus is a Micro Four Thirds system camera, with a sensor area roughly a quarter of the size. It also has a rather smaller pixel count.

Olympus

The difference in the images taken at ISO6400 is noticeable when viewed at full size, and still apparent when I view them at roughly A4 size. But the Olympus still produces usable images, far better than I could have obtained using film. And as the grain of my Tri-X images seldom if ever bothered me, neither does the slight tooth of these digital images. But perhaps I prefer the Nikon colour, though as is clear in the top image (Nikon, no flash) there are several light sources of different colour temperatures in the frame.

I don’t like to use flash at events like this, as it seems rather intrusive, and it’s too easy to lose the atmosphere of the candle light, but I did feel I needed to take as least some pictures using flash, and as I had the Nikon SB800 with me, used this for some pictures with the Nikon D810. I think I got the light balance about right in most of them and you can see the difference the flash makes from this pair of pictures both taken at 1/40th, f5.6, ISO 6,400, -0.3EV

More on the protest and more pictures: No more deaths on our streets


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images