Gear

Information on Hardware

I’ve been reading some great reviews about the new Nikon D3S released October 2009 and I’m in the market for a new camera, so I went to my local Jessops have a looksee.

The last camera I had a look at was Nikon’s 25mp D3X which I was unimpressed with due to the amount of noise in the resulting files. No-one mentioned that when the D3X was reviewed (unless I was testing a ‘Friday’ Camera(?)), so I approached the D3S with some trepidation.

I performed the test in exactly the same why as I did with the D3X and the D700. I set up the D3S to the same settings I have on my D700 although I may have left the D3S in matrix metering rather than center weighted (it was capturing images about 2/3 stop brighter than my D700).
Both camera set to RAW (is there any other format?) and lossless compression. I tested the cameras using my 14-24 @ 14mm ,24-70mm @ 24mm and 70-200mm @ 70mm
The main reason behind this was to see how the camera handled potential vignetting at each lens’ widest focal range.
I set the camera to aperture priority @ f/4 and ran them through the ISO range from Lo1 (ISO100) to HI3 (102,400)

I ran off the initial shots with the D700 then switched to the D3S

My first impression when I put it to my eye was how quiet it was. I’m used to the loud clatter of the D700/D3 shutter, but this was much more muted – similar to sound of the Canon 5dMkII.
1st image off so I checked the back of the camera to make sure I was exposing correctly and the second thing struck me …. 100% viewfinder

Before I got the D700 I convinced myself that 95% was ok and I just have to compensate to frame accordingly. But it’s been the one thing that’s driven me semi-nuts about the D700 . Lovely camera and a real performer, but every shot needs to be re-adjusted. Becomes a nagging thorn over time.

But now with the D3S we get Dust removal, 35mm sensor and 100% viewfinder coverage – Glorious

So I carried on with the test and left the shop with a wave and the shop’s number in my pocket. Back home to load up the files and after a quick upgrade to Lightroom 2.6, in they come.
The results are …… astonishing.
With High ISO NR off and Long Exposure NR off, the D3S created files at ISO6400 that are equal if not slightly better than the D700 at ISO1600. I expected it to be good, but it still caught me a little by surprise.

At 200%, you can see the images Have a slightly ‘botox’ plasticky feel to them which doesn’t seem to hold as much contrast or sharpness as the D700, but the overall result when viewed normally is nothing short of amazing.

Below is a sample @ 200% of the D3S at ISO 6400 and the D700 @ 1600

 

Here are the full sized images:

 

Do I want one, hell yes, but at £4200 RRP for the camera it’s too steep. I shopped around and found a best price, so called the guy back in Jessops. He was unable to match the proce and so unfortunately I didn’t pick it up from them.
In fact – as much as I like it, I’m not getting one(!)

The reason is simple, as with the D3, the D700 followed about 6 months later as being basically the same camera, but in a smaller body and 2/3 the price.
This is still silly expensive, but for me more than just the cost. One of the reasons I like the D700 over the D3 is because I put my grip on the D700 and I have the full size camera, but if I want to travel lighter or a bit more incognito then I remove the grip and I become just another ‘tourist’ ;)
Unofficially ;) …. the D700S  is out in March – I can wait ’till then :)

Contrary to the roumour mills – it will be the same 12.1Mp sensor and 720p HD video, not 16 or 18Mp and 1080p HD video (why would anyone bother with the D3S if it was a better spec?)
So until March ……

In case you want one now, here’s a link to the D3S in Amazon:

Got a whole bunch of new grip and lighting gear over the last few days and found a bit of time to do some basic testing in between paperwork to save my sanity before I go stir crazy. Managed to entice Prabha to stand in as model for the tests with promises of tea and cake as payment (she’s easily pleased 🙂 ) Here was the setup:

My impression of the ezybox is that it’s miles better than straight flash (obviously), but I prefer the feel and softer fall-off you get with shoot-through umbrellas. Overall though I was quite pleased with the results and I’m sure I will find a use for it when I want a slightly more sculpted shadow on the subject.

1 big downside. My SB-900 doesn’t fit into the ezybox coldshoe(!), so I had to use an SB-800. This is surprising considering that ithe ezybox is a newish piece of kit and the SB-900 has been available for quite a while.

<Correction: The SB-900 does fit, I just had to fit it on the other side of the coldshoe as it’s tapered to fit different sizes>

The Triflector is basically 3 small-med sized triangular reflectors mounted on a 3 legged bracket via rubber grips that let you position them in almost any direction. This gives an interesting catchlight in the eyes and give a more complete wrap of light around the subject.

Useful if you use just one light as I did here, and a viable alternative to clamshell lighting, although with the amount of coverage it throws back in the face it slightly washes out detail. I can see it being useful for muting the features of subjects with a lot of character in their face (think Gordon Ramsay), but that could defeat the purpose.

Overall I lean towards clamshell as a soft/beauty method due to it’s increase in control as well as giving slightly more contrast in the face. I can see the triflector will work well if I’m doing something corporate, so it will definitely have a home with me

Here are a few of the samples with Prabha so you can see the catchlights/shadow detail:

Seattle commercial/advertising photographer Chase Jarvis recently released a book and iPhone app which exudes the virtues of the popular Apple iPhone as a method of capturing better pictures than your regular smudgy mobile captures

The title is an incomplete part of the phrase “The Best Camera is the one that’s with you”. True to the statement that if you must take a picture and you’ve left your decent camera at home, then the one on your mobile may suffice.
But it’s more than that …

Chase’s iPhone app pulls together elements of different apps which he found useful and puts them in a single app. After having this for a while he opened this out to the public via the Apple Store to download for a teeny $3.
The app lives alongside the book with the book providing inspiration to the type of image you can take if you have an eye like Chase’s.

Below are the links if you’d like to check it out
Book:

The Best Camera – by Chase Jarvis

PocketWizard Limitation ……

If anyone can break the unbreakable, it’s me 🙂

PocketWizards are amazing peices of gear. 100% reliable (as long as the cables and batteries are good) with an unbeatable range of operation.
They’re the gold standard for remote camera/flash triggering. But …. I’ve managed to find a flaw.

I was doing some testing the other day and I’d set up 2 strobes and my camera on a tripod with remote shutter triggering with my Phottix wireless shutter trigger as I wanted more flexability than using my wired Nikon trigger.

After a few test shots I realised one of the flashes had stopped working. I hit the test button on the camera PocketWizard, but all was well. A few more shots and I realised that the Phottix trigger was interfering with the signal that the PocketWizard was putting out.

I set the camera to use the 2second timer and hey-presto – all the lights went off as normal.
The Phottix wireless trigger is a really handy bit of kit, but worth noting that it introduces reliability issues with the UK PocketWizards

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