More Nikon Df Images

I’ve had nearly two weeks of daily shooting on the Nikon Df to capture some images that, I hope, are worthy of your consideration.

Just remember what I always say:

  • If the images are crap, it’s the camera
  • If the images are good, it’s the photographer, not the equipment
Sunrise over the Alps and Fog (Click through any image for a larger view)
Colors in the Fog
Sunset over the Mountains Obscured by Fog
Landscape after the Fog Rolls In
Enjoying a Morning Break

Compact zoom for the Nikon Df?

One of the advantages of the Nikon Df is that it’s the smallest full frame camera with a proper mirror.

Therefore, everyone seems to think that the Nikon Df is only made for primes. I like primes too, but some occasions work better with a zoom.  Plus, I don’t own any wide angle primes because – and at f8, what lens isn’t sharp?

I’m not a grizzled Nikon veteran like some early adopters of the Df, so I’m not blessed with an extensive collection of vintage glass.  So I looked through my collection and came across the Nikkor 24-85 f3.5-4.5G.  Even though it’s just a kit lens with some recent bodies, I like even better than the 24-120 f4G.

It’s a very nice size on the Df, not too heavy, not too big – very nicely balanced.  Frankly, I enjoyed it on the Df even more than on my D800.

It’s sharp, focuses reasonably close, doesn’t “creep” or extend when hanging front-element-down in the sling.

My my most used lenses on the Dƒ:

Nikon Df Zoom-2From left to right:

  • Kit 50mm f1.8 SE
  • Nikon 85 mm f1.8G
  • Nikon 24-85 f3.4-4.5G
  • Sigma 35mm f1.4 “Art”

Here are some shots that I took while hiking this weekend.

Note: The EXIF reads D4 because I used Exifchanger (Mac app store) so that Lightroom would recognise them.  As always, you can click through to pixel peep if you’re so inclined.

So if you don’t have any compact and light classic zooms, and you’re looking for something modern that won’t cost the world and is nice to use on the Df, try it out!

I’m always on the search for the best standard zoom for all of my cameras, so if you have any recommendations, put them in the comments!

Thanks.

Nikon Df with the Sigma 35mm f1.4

Those of you who know me know that I’m a huge fan of the Sigma 35mm f1.4 “Art”.  See my long-term review here.

Of course now that I’ve taken possession of the new Nikon Dƒ, I knew that I had to try it out.

The weight wasn’t too front heavy, but it’s about the limit of what I would call comfortable on the Dƒ who’s grip isn’t very deep.  You’re going to want to have your left hand around the lens most of the time or your fingers on your right hand will get fatigued.

The size isn’t too bad actually, though the lens hood is coming off.

So how do the images look?  Of course if it’s great on the D800, this is going to be astonishing. Amazing.  Love at first pixel-peep.

Shot with the Nikon Df
Straight out of camera, unedited.  Click to pixel-peep.

The Sigma focuses positively and fast, and more accurately than on my D800. But, you know.

Overall, I’m very excited about this combo.

Update: The sigma won’t autofocus in live view.   Reported by Matt and I’ve confirmed it.

Nikon Df DSC_0001 and First Thoughts

It’s kind of a tradition for me to post my first DSC_0001 shots for each camera that I get, so I though I would take this opportunity to give my first impressions for the Nikon Dƒ.

Please note, it’s also my tradition to screw up the DSC_0001, so this one has the exposure adjusted.

Clicky for pixel-peeping.

Build Quality
The attention to detail and gloss and trim are really something to behold. It’s exceptional.  Yea, I know that someone is going to object and say “plastic front bits.” Ok, sure.  But you don’t see it, and you don’t feel it. When you have this in your hand, it has a very premium feel.  It shames the X100s.  In pure bling-factor, the D800 feels pedestrian.

Feel in the Hand
Not too heavy, not too light, in my opinion.  My eye went automatically to the viewfinder (same as the D800 as far as I can tell) and my finger found the shutter button instantly.  The locking exposure compensation dial is annoying, but the rest kind of make sense.  The grip is just ok – made for primes (and very small zooms).

Lenses
The Sigma 35mm f1.4 or 24-85 3.5-4.5G (yes, the cheap kit) zoom is about the maximum lens size and weight that felt comfortable to me. I’m a fan of 24-85 as well as the Sigma, so they’ll be on the camera a lot.

Shutter Sound
Butta!
If you’ve ever shot the D7000, it sounds similar with just a bit more pronounced “tick”.   The D800 is a smack in the face compared to this.  Quiet is very nice.

ISO Performance
What did you expect?  D4 sensor.  Pleasant noise and not nasty until well over H1.  H4 is colored sandpaper – emergency use only!

Focusing System
If anyone knows the guy who decided to put the D7000 focusing system in this wonderful camera, kick him in the balls, really, really hard, right now.

An example:  I took the 50 mm f1.8 that’s supplied with the camera (meh) and put the camera on H 0.3.  Aperture priority mode, f1.8. Then I walked around the house to find something with strong contrast that would give me a shutter speed of about 1/50.  Do you know what I was able to focus on?  Nothing.

Square in the balls. Really, really hard.

Strong contrast started to work decently at f1.8, 1/50th, ISO 12800. With no adjustments, all my lenses focused more accurately than my D800, so kick that guy in the balls too.

NEF Support
Nothing from Adobe yet, and I’d rather have my eyes gouged out while being kicked in the balls before I would use any camera manufacturers’ software, I’ve only shot JPEG so far.

Stay tuned: SOOC, unedited sample shots with the Sigma 35 f1.4 and size comparison mounted to the Dƒ.

First Impressions – Nikon 1 AW1

Here are my first impressions of the Nikon 1 AW1, which Nikon claims it’s the world’s first rugged, waterproof MILC.

Update: See some snowscapes here.

For me, the standout features are:

  • CX Sensor with 14 megapixels
  • Waterproof to 15 m
  • Shockproof from heights of up to 2 m
  • Freeze-proof to -10°C
  • Dust proof
  • Up to 15 frames per second
  • It shoots Raw (.NEF)

The use-cases that I expect it to fill are:

  1. Snowboarding
  2. Beach/Snorkelling
  3. Small Product Shots

Build Quality
Excellent.  It’s rugged and feels high quality.

(Click on any of the images in this post for high-res viewing)

For snowboarding and snorkelling, I was delighted to find that both doors are double-locked.  You have to unlock one lever before you can use the other lever to open the door.  The rubber seal around the lens makes putting it on a little bit harder than most mounts, but it feels reassuring and not difficult.

I think it’s an all-metal body, but I couldn’t confirm it with the specs.

The NIKKOR AW 11–27.5mm f/3.5–5.6 kit lens, likewise has a high quality, premium feel.  The zoom ring is a very quick throw from wide to tele, and no external parts extend on zooming – it’s water sealed after all.

The Nikon 1 AW1 comes in several colors, but I chose white because my girlfriend liked the way it looks with the orange protective cover, which I have on the way as well.

Looks?  Yes, it’s a “fun” camera, mostly and she’ll be using it as well.

Images
One of the reasons I wanted the AW1 is because the 1″ sensor, while small compared to a DSLR is actually pretty large for compact cameras – and the largest yet for an underwater digital camera.

One advantage of a smaller sensor (than APS-C or full frame) is that the depth of field is expanded a corresponding amount.  As one of the important use-cases for me was no-fuss deep depth of field product shots of small objects, I think this is going to work out.
The CX sensor will have less low-light performance than a D-SLR, but much better than your typical point and shoot.  My first images prove this out.

And, it shoots Raw!  I’ve been looking for years for a underwater camera that shoots Raw.  This is the “one” if you’ll pardon the pun. Thank you Nikon.  I was a skeptic, even a critic, but you finally enticed me to the 1 series with some really unique features.

As of this writing, Adobe Lightroom 5.2 doesn’t support the AW1 .NEF files.  There is some noise in the blacks, but I’m going to wait a bit to make my final judgement on image quality.
Nassim Mansurov reports that the beta 5.3 supports it.

As I predicted, I think this is going to work out well for quick product shots when I don’t want to mess around with shooting my D-SLR at tiny apertures and using focus stacking software.

Good guys wear white
(for the record, they wore white because they were the good guys)

Usage
It’s fast – faster to start and focus than my X100s.

The rear screen is pleasant, but I’m usually not a fan of shooting that way.  There is no option for a viewfinder, as you can imagine.

To retain the maximum waterproofness, it doesn’t have a lot of external controls.  It took me a trip user manual to find out how to get out of the scene mode and into aperture priority and again to learn how to turn off auto ISO.

The tripod hole is offset far to the edge, which will irritate some users, but I like it because you have access to the card and battery slot while firmly mounted to a tripod.

The flash is subtle and works under water also.

Conclusion
In conclusion, I think this is going to work out well.  It’s rugged, fast, decent image quality, the sensor is small enough for deep depth of field but larger than any other underwater camera on the market and it shoots Raw.

I can’t wait to hit the slopes!

Update!
Happy Thanksgiving to all the North Americans out there.

Thanksgiving with the Nikon 1 AW1

D800 – How much can you crop?

D800_24_120_front.low

People often talk about megapixels and the croppability of different sensors. Let me demonstrate with one of my images.

White Lion in Switzerland

That’s a beautiful portrait isn’t it?  Go ahead, click here and pixel peep. I won a contest with it. 

But this post isn’t about me, it’s about the D800.  If you’re like me, you enjoy your images mostly on the screen, share some of them online, print small sometimes and print large rarely.

As you see this image, it’s a bit over 2 megapixels.

This image was taken through a fence, an ugly white one, from behind another fence and I’ve made contact with a hungry alpha-male lion, so you “zoom with your feet” people please bite me.  I took it with the longest lens I own, a 300mm f2.8, which is an excellent lens, and I was being pretty careful with my shutter speed, so the shot is sharp.  I didn’t adjust much, just play with saturation and colors – because he is a white lion, not golden, although the original shot looks that way.  I also threw down a few gradients to try to mask the bars which are still visible to the trained eye at the top and bottom of this crop.

What’s the point of all this, you ask?

Step back, I’m going to reveal the man behind the curtain.

This monstrosity of thirty-six throbbing un-cropped megapixels of nasty is the same image you see above.

White Lion Orig. Crop

I knew when I took this shot that I was going to need to crop a lot. So now you know the answer to the question; the very question I was asking myself when I pressed the shutter: “how much can I crop on the D800” – lots.

Lots and lots.

UPDATE – Some Nikon Df Pre-Launch Reading

If you’re already considering the Nikon Dƒ, you’ve probably already seen the Nikon Dƒ first impressions review on DPReview, now updated with some sample test scenes.

The Dƒ user’s manual can be downloaded here.

Sam Hurd has his initial review up. Be sure to check it out.

“my first instincts are that it’s going to be a big hit for nikon fan”

The Three Guys first thoughts, the Beau Photo Supplies lunch with the new Nikon Df DSLR and finally, a full Three Weeks with the Nikon Dƒ from What Digital Camera.

Df_SL_50_1.8_SE_top.high

X100s – Six Months Review

After six months of using the X100s intensively, I though I would write a review.

x100s_Front_ITM-1

Summary: Beautiful camera, beautiful images, a bit fiddly. The images will not fail to impress.

Pros:

  • Classic, cool design
  • High built quality (except the back buttons)
  • Amazing out-of-camera images both JPEG and RAW
  • Very compact

Cons:

  • Almost too small, especially the lens is too shallow to comfortably fit both focus and aperture rings
  • Back buttons extremely fiddly, overly sensitive and cheap feeling
  • Slow to focus, slow to start, slow to write to cards.  Slow!
  • Overstated ISO leaves one wondering where the shutter speed went

It is very compact, light and practical, but the images – oh my god, the images. Sure, not as sharp as my D800 with Sigma 35mm f1.4 what is? The colors, stunning!

Build quality is a mixed bag.  The metal exterior is very nice and has withstood my abuse well.  It has mostly a premium feel, but some plastic parts, especially the back buttons are embarrassingly fiddly.

Focusing is alright, but you’re not going to shoot sports with it. I haven’t missed any feature yet, except for maybe HDR which I never use anyway.
I love having the optical viewfinder, it’s excellent. The clever hybrid information overlay inside the optical viewfinder is fantastic.

The electronic viewfinder has its purposes but it’s slow. Contrast is so-so, sometimes too bright, sometimes too dark and flares badly when the camera is first turned on. Focus peaking is one reason to use it – great feature, but I found myself using it less and less as the months went by.

Speaking of slow, I imagined that I would be shooting run-and-gun on the street.  Not so fast there!  The X100s is slow enough that you’re going to be planning your shots carefully.

I did find myself bumping up against the shutter speed limitation with large apertures (f2 = 1/1000) so thank goodness for the built-in ND filter, which I programmed to the Fn button.

The ISO does seem almost a stop overstated. On the good side, ISO 800 (say 640ish in SLR-land) is great and uses their automatic dynamic range thing which works well. I haven’t had the need to go higher yet, really, but I’ll report back when I have.

So, some further commentary with images attached below. Only one is heavily edited. Most are almost directly out of camera with just minor exposure and color tweaks. Images are usable right out-of-camera.

The built-in ND filter is a treat:

x100s_Samples_ITM-3

I shoot JPEG + RAW and keep the best.  The JPEG  colors are amazing. Much better out-of-the-box than Nikon colors. Yes, really!

x100s_Samples_ITM-10

Fuji’s RAW format (RAF) can be pushed almost as hard as Nikon RAW, but doesn’t need as much tweaking to make it look good.

x100s_Samples_ITM-2

It’s tiny but not cheap feeling. The size is stable even on a tiny little travel tripod. The optional hood is great, but expensive and allows it to use 49mm filter.   I leave the hood on all the time.

Still it’s very discreet for street photography.

x100s_Samples_ITM-9

The film simulation modes are excellent.   This image is straight out of camera on Velvia setting.

x100s_Samples_ITM-8

There are some rumors and it does seem that the ISO overstated. This photo has plenty of blur in it even though experience with my Nikons in this light would have me a faster shutter speed. Shot in aperture priority:

x100s_Samples_ITM-1

If you’re looking for the very best in compact image quality with a retro feel, this is your camera.  For me, despite the speed increases over the original X100, Fuji needs to increase the speed another order of magnitude before it can replace my SLR.