Tag Archives: Nikon

The “ByThom” D7000 review is out

Thom Hogan’s much awaited review of the Nikon D7000 body was posted on his website last week. If I was only going to read one review of the D7000, that would be the one (although in reality, it’s smart to read a variety of reviews, no matter how good you think one of them is). Overall, it’s a very positive review, but more importantly, I think it helps to cut through some of the hype and rumors surrounding this camera body. Given the advertised feature set, and the low number of people who were able to initially obtain one, talk about it basically ran wild, with everything from people suggesting they were going to “upgrade” their D300s bodies to the D7000 (truth: that would not be an upgrade, although it’s true that the D7000 does exceed the D300s in a few respects), to people panning it due to “overexposure” or “hot pixels”, neither of which represent actual, real-world problems with it. As far as the exposure issue goes, the D7000 does seem to carry on in the footsteps of the D80 and D90, namely, when matrix metering is being used, additional “weight” is assigned to the active focus point, although not to the degree found in the D80 (and whether it occurs also depends on what settings you are using), but aside from that, the overall metering performance of the D7000 seems to be a big step up from the previous mid-range Nikons. The hot pixels issue seems to appear only in extreme circumstances, and, on the other side of the coin, there are some areas in which the D300 and D300s both substantially surpass the D7000, the most notable being the buffer.

I could go on for quite a bit, but what would be the point when someone else, specifically an expert who actually has access to a D7000, has done it already, and more thoroughly than I would anyway? Just go ahead and read the review.

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A new D7000 review

Shutterfinger blog has posted an excellent, brief, two-part review of the Nikon D7000:

Part 1, Part 2

There are some particularly interesting tidbits of information in Part 1. For these, he’s talking about changes he’s made compared to the default camera settings:

Moving focus activation from the shutter button to the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of the camera.

This is very cool. Not only was I not aware that the D7000 had this capability, but it’s one of the key features I came up with a couple months ago when I was questioning whether a D300s body would be worth the extra few hundred dollars. Having autofocus separate from the shutter release button would come in very handy on landscapes and scenics—it means that, basically, the camera is in manual focus unless I press the button. The primary drawback of the D7000, with respect to my needs, is therefore eliminated. (I should also check and see if my D40 can do this. Who knows! Maybe I’ve been a dumbass all this time, wearing out the focus switch on the lens to accomplish the same thing!)

Changing the release priority from focus to shutter. In its default mode, the D7000 will allow the shutter to release only if something is in perfect focus.

Another little bit of trivia which may turn out to be very handy at some point.

Then, continuing on to part 2:

My experiments indicated that matrix metering tends to be overly influenced by heavy shadows, with the result that skies and clouds are overexposed.

This is unfortunate. I have the same problem with my D40. In fact, if I had to make a prioritized list of stuff I don’t like about the D40, this problem would be either #1 or #2 (with poor focusing performance being the other). However, it is possible that the D7000 does not exhibit the problem to the same degree as the D40, and the review also goes on to discuss ways to work around it. In practice, it doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable problem, but I’ll have to remember to keep an eye on other reviews to see if other people notice it as well.

One commenter also discusses the metering issue:

[T]he one thing I always hated about Nikon still remains, then: matrix-metering that doesn’t understand simple 1+2 or 1+4 sky:landscape compositions. It was for that reason I *always* shot my D200 in manual+spot mode.

I know there’ve been many Nikons passed under the bridge since then, so I’m surprised it’s still an issue.

So am I.

There’s more, of course. He’s particularly complimentary regarding the responsiveness of the camera.

It’s a good review, well worth reading for anyone interested in a D7000 body, and substantially more readable than, say, a Dpreview.com review. ;)

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D7000, more

Dpreview.com has published their official review for the Nikon D7000. This is basically a must-read for anyone remotely interested in this camera body. Their reviews, while pretty oriented towards the tech side and focusing a lot on empirical data more than user experience, are nevertheless among the best available online.

I just wish there was an option to read it in “black-on-white” instead of their typical “white-on-black”, which I tend to find pretty eyestrain-inducing.

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D7000 or D300s?

I’ve been meaning for a while now to upgrade my camera body (a Nikon D40), and had pretty much decided on a Nikon D300s body. Then the D7000 body was announced, and the specs turned out to be so close to the D300s that it raised the question of whether the extra few hundred bucks for the D300s would be worth it. Prices on the D300s seem to have come down just a tad since then (or maybe that’s my imagination), and the D7000 body is still hard to get a hold of if you don’t want the kit lens. I had actually been leaning towards the D7000, since it does have some nice features that seem to improve on the older body, such as higher ISO capability, and better video function. This was in spite of the fact that right now I make do with a camera with a practical limit of ISO1600, and that I know nothing about video at all.

So it was a welcome development today when I encountered this review which is actually somewhat critical of the D7000. There’s a lot there worth reading, including the comments. In particular, this comment, does an excellent job of cutting through all the hype and bullshit surrounding the newer camera, taking it down to just a quick, simple summary of the advantages of each body.

What it boils down to is that the D300s is better built, has a better grip, a better autofocusing system (in fact, its CAM3500DX system, shared with the D700, is considered an industry leader at this point), “more professional buttons” (in particular, the AF-ON button, which I think would be useful for my purposes), and can use compact flash cards. The best points in favor of the D7000 are better metering, and better high-ISO capability. It’s also lighter. On the other hand, there has been some question surrounding the shutter release button on the D7000, with some claiming that it’s too sensitive, and can’t be used with gloves. This is important, due to the fact that I do a fair amount of outdoor shooting in the winter, and have no desire to freeze my fingertip off. :) Some have also criticized the grip, saying it’s too slippery, and smaller than earlier cameras like the D90.

Anyway, it’s some food for thought. I wonder how the D300s replacement (D400?) will stack up? Rumors are that it’s due for release sometime next year. In theory, it should blow the D300s out of the water, but things like ergonomics and button-pressure are precisely the sort of changes which really can’t be predicted. In those respects, the newer camera may not be as good as the old. (In general, technology is like that. “Upgrades” always focus on marketable characteristics, and not on vague, fuzzy concepts like “actual usability.” This is why I gave up being a gearhead. It was too frustrating.)

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Camera geekery of the day!

This is why I read Ken Rockwell:

Nikon D3100, D40 and D3 High ISO Comparison

Who else would even think to do something like that? And it’s a genuinely interesting comparison, too, not just because I am a D40 user, but for a more substantive and technical reason: If you do the math, it turns out that the individual photosites on the D40 and the D3 sensors are pretty close to the same size. That means what you’re seeing in these photos, if you compare strictly the D40 and D3 shots, is a pretty good comparison of how Nikon improved its sensor noise handling technology between those two generations of cameras. It’s really a striking illustration of how dramatic the improvement was, at ISO1600 and beyond.

It’s also a pretty good exemplar of how well the D40 handles itself at ISO 400 or even 800. (The colors do tend to be a little duller on the D40 shots, but I’m guessing that’s because the D3 and D3100 have Nikon’s Picture Control feature, while the D40 doesn’t. That would mean the D40 is using different JPG conversion parameters, so it’s not surprising that the colors look different.) The D40 ISO800 shot looks almost as good as the base ISO200 shot. This matches my own experience: I’ve found that ISO 400 is quite usable when an extra stop is needed for wildlife or what-have-you, and I can even use ISO800 to get acceptable results if I need to. Yes, there is more noise at that sensitivity, but as Rockwell says, it’s not just about the noise. Noise can be dealt with. The level of detail retained in the photo is the key issue, and it appears to be roughly the same at ISO400 and 800, with ISO200 having a bit of an edge. This supports my belief that, in terms of bumping up the ISO sensitivity, the D40 is the best of its generation of cameras (namely the D100, D70, and D50). I would also guess it handles those speeds better than its immediate successors (namely the D40x and D60…not so sure about the D3000, though).

Pro-D40 ranting aside, the other interesting thing about that page is how clearly it demonstrates that the D3100 is a step up from the earlier generation of camera. It’s only at ISO6400 that the D3 begins to look significantly better than the D3100. Compare this to the D40, which is essentially crap at ISO3200–in fact, it doesn’t actually have a proper ISO3200 setting, it’s actually “HI 1”, and it can’t shoot at ISO6400 at all.

Now if only the D7000 was out so it could be included…

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Dry spell

Winter is now underway in earnest, and I’ve been in the midst of some photography blahs lately. The problem started when there wasn’t a single sunny day in the entire month of December, except for days when I was at work and couldn’t go outside. All others were cloudy, without exception. With sunrise being so late and sunset happening well before I get out of work, this was a pretty discouraging state of affairs. Even taking four days off around the Christmas holiday didn’t help—not one of them was sunny. Of course I took a stab at getting out with the camera anyway, on days when the roads weren’t clogged up with new snowfall, but I wasn’t exceptionally happy with the results.

Now that we are into January, the weather pattern has flipped and sunny days are much more common. As is typical, though, this means colder weather. Due to some car issues this year, I’m a little nervous about getting out into the middle of nowhere and leaving my car parked when it’s so cold out. A couple weeks ago it wouldn’t start due to an electrical problem. That issue has apparently been fixed now, but since then there have been some random instances of the blower shutting off briefly, or even refusing to start. Obviously I can drive the car without the blower, but it’s not pleasant when the heating system isn’t fully functional in the dead of winter. (And not being able to defog the windows in the morning is a real pain in the ass.)

I’m also getting discouraged about my new Flickr account. I had wanted to have all my old pics reposted over a month ago already, but I’m still dragging my feet. In fact, I haven’t made any progress in a while, except for deciding that there are definitely going to be some photos which will be skipped this time around. I’ve also realized it was a mistake to delete my old Flickr stream. Aside from casting off a lot of useless group subscriptions, I don’t think I’ve benefited from the switch in the least.

The final problem is more simple: I’m just not feeling all that inspired right now.

So for now, I’m amusing myself by trying different themes for this blog. I also want to take a look at the categories, because they seem like they could use some updating. There are also a bunch of draft posts that I should either finish or delete. Probably the tagging needs to be reviewed too. (Actually I hate tagging, but it is useful enough that I keep trying, as frustrating and imperfect as it is.) That’s also the main reason for this post—just to get myself doing something here, so I don’t let it slide completely, like I’ve pretty much done with my old Blogger blogs.

Speaking of which, I actually did take a quick look at my other blogs recently. Right now I have no ideas about what I would write on them, but there are at least two of them (out of four) which I would like to keep active. One is my SG-13 blog here on WordPress. I was reading some of my SG-13 posts last night and realized I’m very happy with a lot of what I did on that blog. I definitely want to get started on it again, if I can find the time.

Anyway. That is what has been up lately. :)

Oh—I believe Nikon is going to be coming out with a D90 replacement model sometime in the near future. I’d have to check but I think February was the time I heard mentioned. Sounds exciting! For a long time I considered the D90 to be the obvious choice for my next camera body. I even had the plan of purchasing one right around the time that the successor was announced, that way I’d get the D90 for a really reasonable price. Well, that time is now! And I am not ready to spend that kind of money just yet—I have credit card debt I’ve been dragging around since 1993 which is within two or three months of finally being paid off, so there is no way I’m spending $800 on a camera body until that is taken care of. However, this may not actually be a problem, since I have lately been thinking that the D90 successor might have some features that I could appreciate, in which case there is no rush. The other choice, of course, would be a D300s, and there is no rush on that either.

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New equipment day

No, not new equipment for me, new equipment for Nikon. This was expected, at least for anyone “in the know”, or anyone like me who checks the Nikon Rumors site on a daily basis to see what’s up. :)

The new D3s camera body is a nice announcement, but not really relevant to me, as I doubt I’ll ever need a pro body like that. Of more interest is the announcement of a new 85mm macro lens. It’s a DX lens, f/3.5 and will supposedly cost $529 once it’s available.

I’ve been wondering what to do about the macro problem for a while now. Strictly speaking, I don’t need a macro lens, which is generally considered to be a lens capable of 1:1 magnification of the subject on the sensor. But I do find myself wanting something that’s good for photos of flowers and the occasional insect.

My original solution was to use the D40 kit lens at 55mm. This worked better before I lost autofocus capability on that lens (and is the main reason I am even bothering to think about getting it fixed at all). While I’ve been doing some recent experimenting with manual focus mode on that lens, I find that it’s generally pretty hard to focus it closely at 55mm, where the tolerance is so fine that slight waverings of my body as I stand can easily throw the subject out of focus.

The other alternative I currently have is to use my 18-200mm zoom at 200mm. It doesn’t magnify as much as the kit lens, but it’s adequate in some situations. Image quality is not as good as the kit lens, though.

All of this leads me to think that maybe a dedicated macro lens would work better, even if I don’t entirely need the 1:1 magnification. The problem is that the main offerings available for my camera were not exactly what I would have wanted. Nikon’s 60mm AF-S micro is a bit shorter than I would prefer (yes, it’s actually longer than my 55mm option, but doing macro work at those short shooting distances is not optimal—I’d prefer more distance). Nikon offers a 105mm AF-S micro which by all accounts is a pretty nice lens…except it costs $900, which is out of my price range for such a specialized application. The remaining micro lenses, prior to today, were not AF-S lenses, which would mean manual focus only. Sometimes autofocus really does help, such as one occasion recently when I was laying flat on my belly photographing a caterpillar. Caterpillars move surprisingly fast, when viewed from the perspective of keeping a macro shot in focus. :)

In any case, there is now a new AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR lens to consider. If the price manages to drop below $500, it’ll end up being a very appealing choice. It won’t be at the top of my “want” list, but it’ll be there, probably right below the 10-24mm zoom and above the 10.5mm fisheye. :)

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