So, I have one of the finest photographic tools available, now what?
The First Frame. After wracking my brain, in attempts to quell the butterflies in my stomach, I decided to make my first frame in the digital 35mm equivalent world, full circle and nostalgic. A few years back while honing my skills at UDub I shot 35mm film at a gathering just like this, capturing Jan and her best friend Brie deep in discussion and wine. Felt it was only fitting to try and re-create it.
Let the Testing Begin!
Here’s where I begin to put Ken Rockwell’s well detailed and scientifically straightforward approach to answer the burning question, “Why is a Full frame sensor better than Crop Sensor?” in his post The Full-Frame Advantage.
So, I have an obscenely expensive Full-Frame camera now, so in theory I should be able to produce sharper, less noisy, and more colorful images with less expensive lenses.
Since I already have a few fast primes that can be used on my DX D300s and the D4, for now, I only needed to fill the mid-range zoom spot that I have used quite a bit in the past. I had my eyes on the tried-and-true Nikon 35-70 f/2.8 that Kenmore Camera has had several copies of, over the past few years from anywhere between $399-499, depending on condition. So, it wasn’t going to be as wide as I was used to with my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC lens that but it was Nikon glass and there wasn’t really anything else in the price range that I had my heart set on, new or used.
Irony and coincidence rear their ugly head on the day of the big purchase. I take the D4, new Tamrac Evolution 8 bag, and used 35-70 home, only to realize that the zoom on the that copy of the lens sticks pretty bad. I called Northwest Camera Repair who said it wasn’t worth the cost of the repair and it was fairly common for those old slide-zooms to fail in that respect.
So, I returned it, and since they had no other copies of it handy, I went with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 thinking my DX Tammy has gotten me this far in the mid-range zoom game, let’s give it a shot. Hah, Pun totally intended. On the way home I realized that for only $100 more than the used Nikon I got a new FX version of the lens I’d been using. 17-50 on DX = 25.5-75mm on FX, just minus the VC. Tamron has recently released a 24-70 f/2.8 with VC for $1299. It was a moot point because Kenmore A. Didn’t have it in the Nikon mount, and B. If I am going to be spending over $1000 on a lens I might as well spring for Nikon glass. Plus at that focal length and the low-light capability of the D4, Vibration Control is unnecessary for the shooting I do. Just control the shakes the old fashioned way, using at least 1.5 times the focal length in shutter speed.
Without further adieu, the sharpness Test 1: I-5 Signs
(I may, or may not have been driving while taking these and I don’t condone this behavior for others.)
So…yeah, I’d say this $500 lens is quite sharp and does the job nicely.
The Dynamic Duo: D4 and Lightroom4
Below are a few examples of what blows my mind about how the new processing engine in LR4 and how well the D4 sensor handles extremely blown out highlights and non-existent blacks.
Ahhh, the token U District street shot. Now if you’ll notice these people are totally back-lit so you should not really be able to see their faces or anything that would normally be shaded very well. But, thanks to LR4′s new White/Black, Highlight/Shadow sliders this is easily remedied. Honestly it took a little getting used to because compared to what I could do previously, this seems almost like HDR. It’s much easier to just expose for a specific area of your image and if the rest doesn’t turn out the way you had envisioned adjust the sliders accordingly.
Here’s an extreme example. Luna, and most of the background was totally blown out. I was able to pull this down about 4 stops, and tweak the sliders to get this decent result from a totally overexposed image. Would I consider this a usable image, no. The composition is pretty weak, and not at all what I was going for, but I did get an extreme example of how big of a sweet-spot I have now. The idea of how many more useable shots can be brought back from the dead is staggering.
One odd thing to note that throws me off a little bit in LR4 is that whether you nail the shot or have to move the sliders at all and then check your little Blacks/Highlights upside down triangle indicator (you know those little buggers that usually turn grey respectively) that you mouse over or click on to show you the affected area of your images. Well, I don’t know if it’s a glitch in the program or what, but I notice that more times than not the Black arrow will stay lit but it wont show little Blue specs at all. Weird.
Welcome to FX Wide Angle!
The overall feeling I get shooting full-frame can be summed up in one word: Richness. There’s just more to these files it seems. More spirit, more depth, more character than on DX. Then again, maybe it’s just me.
So that’s what 300mm really looks like, not 450!
Seuss, my 300 f/4 performs really well on my D300s, it’s absolutely stunning on the D4. I don’t have to stand 572 yards away to get something in the frame anymore, it’s an odd feeling. My theory is it’s a little bit lighter than the 70-200 and I prefer to shoot at a little greater DOF than 2.8 anyway and I get 100mm closer with out having to use a teleconverter, plus the D4 has no problem making up for 1 stop less light.
12,800 ISO…yes it is totally useable under the right conditions.
Shooting Shows & Events:
Enough with the dogs and cats already, I know! Here are some of my faves from the FLE (Friends Like Enemies) show at the historic El Corazon in downtown Seattle. All of these were shot at somewhere between ISO 6400 and 1/60-1/125th at f/2.8. Just wanted to see what this lens could do with only about 8 crappy stage lights, 4 of which were red.
Now for something a little more charitable.
Thanks to Michael Berg I got connected to the local Volunteers of America office because they had some events coming up that needed to be covered. I agreed to shoot their NALC’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive at the main post office in Everett, WA.
The camera is amazing, and this new XQD Card is super fast! I will be even happier when it comes back to me repaired because it’s quite possible the CF Card slot was DOA! It never recognized any card, regardless of size, brand, or speed. Hope to have it back before the 16th…I have a wedding to shoot!