Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One lucky shot - It pays to have your camera with you

It was late afternoon. I was coming out of a movie theater when I saw this scene with the light hitting the Empire State Building and all the vertical lines working together to form a strong, vertical composition. Fortunately, I had the Fuji X-T1 and 18-55mm lens with me and was able to capture this one shot. It's times like this I'm glad I always travel with a camera, and a compact package like a Fuji X-camera and the short zoom offers both the convenience, the quality, and enough versatility for most grab shots. The camera was set to 16:9 crop mode, which helped accentuate the vertical lines in the composition.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Exploring Assateague Island National Seashore with the Fuji X-T1

On my recent trip to photograph in Assateague Island National Seashore and nearby Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge I had two camera outfits with me: the newly released Nikon D750 -- the subject of my last blog post -- and the Fuji X-T1. I used the XT-1 primarily to take photographs for later conversion to platinum prints in my art portfolio. A Fuji X-camera is my favorite for this purpose. I set it to record in both jpg and RAW at the same time. I also set it to record in black and white. This results in a black and white jpg, but a full color RAW leaving the jpg for reference when I process the RAW. One thing I like about the X-T1 is that when it is in this mode it shows a black and white image in the viewfinder so I can see the actual monochrome values, which can even be modified with contrast controls from the Fuji "Q" menu. 

The kit for the X-T1 consisted of the 18-55mm zoom, 55-200mm zoom, and the 14mm lens -- small and compact and a complete relief to carry when I switched over to it from the Nikon kit. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Assateague Island National Seashore photographed with the Nikon D750

Earlier this week I went to photograph in Assateague Island National Seashore and nearby Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to put the new Nikon D750 through its paces to see how well it would do as a travel and landscape camera. I had four lenses in the kit, the Nikon 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 zoom, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 zoom, Nikon 24-120mm f/4 zoom, and the Nikon 20mm f/1.8. I have reviewed all of these lenses in addition to the camera and provided links to these reviews by clicking on their names above.

For the long shots of wild life I primarily used the 80-400 zoom, and for most of the landscape shots the 24-120mm.

A 20mm view lit by the setting sun and taken at f/7.1. It is images like this that had be really loving this lens by the time my trip was over. 

A 400mm view of a heron fishing along the wetlands at sunset. 

Wild ponies grazing on Assateague Island photographed at sunset with the Nikon D750 and 80-400mm  lens at 320mm and f/5.6.

This sunset was taken at 24mm with the Nikon 24-120mm lens. 

Sunset photo of a Grey Heron with the 80-400mm lens at 320mm, f/6.3 and ISO 200

Sunset in the wetlands with the 24-120mm zoom at 28mm

Clam left by the receding tide photographed with the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 lens.

Big dipper over Chincoteague Island taken with a Nikon D750 and 24-120mm lens at f/4, a 15 second exposure with ISO 1600. The glows on the horizon was caused by lighting from towns in the distance.

Vegetation along the seashore taken with the 20mm lens at f/10.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

First signs of autumn photographed with the Fuji X-T1

I woke up this morning to a misty, chilly day. The  leaves had begun to turn, and, for the first time, it felt like autumn had finally arrived. I had the Fuji X-T1 with me, plus the short 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms, which is what I used to take the photos below. I kept the apertures wide open to keep the backgrounds out of focus.

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Here's lookin' at you kid..."

Some studio shots of champagne done with the Fuji X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8. All were photographed with apertures in a range of f/2.8-f/5.6 depending upon the depth of field needed. The scene was back lit by both window light mixed with a tungsten spot and the color balance was kept on the warm side to enhance the champagne color.

I will be travelling for the next few days and will try to post from the road with my laptop. I am going to Assateague Island in Virginia to photograph the wild ponies -- something I have always wanted to do. I will have both the Nikon D750 and Fuji X-T1 systems with me. Should be interesting.

Did this one at f/2.8 for the bokeh in the bottle highlights.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Going gritty with the Fuji X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50mm macro

I have been photographing stock photography for a very long time. The other day I was thinking how interesting it is that the actual subject matter of stock images has not changed over the decades. Sure, technology has advanced and brought new products into the mix, but by and large the conceptual subject matter is the same now as when I started. What has changed, and is constantly changing at a more and more rapid pace, is the stylistic treatment of the subject matter.

One of the more popular styles today is what I call "gritty". By this I mean it has a more candid look, as if someone had grabbed the shot spontaneously with a cell phone -- blocked up shadows, blown highlights, lens flare like crazy. Everything we used to think was "wrong" is not "right". In the past I might have carefully stacked some dollar bills, all looking newly minted and perfectly aligned. Today I am looking for wrinkled bills in random patterns.

Below are some samples I did recently in the studio of typical subjects where I wanted to refresh the style to make them more current.  I photographed this series with the Fuji X-T1 and Zeiss Touit 50mm macro. The X-T1 is nice to work with because its electronic viewfinder can be set to show me exactly what I am getting, something important when I am blasting out the hightlights and need to know where the blow-out is occurring and how much detail I am loosing in the subject. The Zeiss Touit 50mm macro has become my favorite macro lens. It is a perfect focal length for me with a auto-focus accuracy that is rare for any macro lens.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Nikon D750 -- a hands-on review

The D750 is positioned by Nikon at the head of what it terms its "Enthusiast D-SLR Cameras", but its new features really place it as an all-around professional grade camera much closer to the D810 and D4s. It fills a much missed gap in the lineup that has long been left vacant with the demise of the D700. Not only does it share many of the newer improvements of the D810 and D4s, but it comes in a smaller, lighter package that is comfortable to hold and carry.

At $2299.95 -- about $1000 less that a D810 -- the D750 will most likely become the pros favorite back-up camera, and, for many, their main camera for professional shooting. I know I have already incorporated it into my work flow, replacing a lot of what I formally did with a D4 and D810. The 6.5 fps motor, though not the race horse of the D4s, still packs plenty of speed for most situations, while the 24.3MP sensor is becoming a de facto standard size preferred my many pros including me. It leaves plenty of wiggle room for cropping without compromise, and keeps the image sizes smaller than the D810. Wedding, editorial, travel and lifestyle photographers are going to love this camera.

The D750 not only borrows many of the advanced features of both the D4s and D810, it even goes beyond. It has the same EXPEED 4 processing engine and AF with Group focus points as the D4 and D810 while taking these features a step further. In low light the D750 extends its AF detection range down to -3EV, while the D4s and D810 hit their limit at -2EV.

The D750 is the only FX camera in the Nikon lineup to have a fully articulating LCD. It can be positioned to 90° up or down.

The information screen on top of the camera has been down-sized compared to other models, but with all the information so readily available on the LCD with the convenient push of the "info" button, I don't see this as a detriment. 

The D750 is the first FX camera with built-in WiFi capability for both taking photos and transferring them to a smart phone or tablet. The interface is rudimentary when compared to the sophisticated software of the Fuji X system. Basically Nikon's Mobile Utility will take the photo from the device, but doesn't allow any changes other than moving the focus point. It shows you the aperture, shutter speed and condition of the battery. If you have ever used the Fuji WiFi software where you can change the shutter speed, aperture, ISO and other niceties from the remote interface, you will realize that Nikon has a long way to go on this.

The Nikon Mobile Utility allows you to click the camera shutter remotely and to also view and download photos. 
The D750 is the lightest of all Nikon FX cameras due to its new style body frame. It nudges our the D610 by only a few ounces, but considering the new additions to the D750, such as the tilting LCD mechanism, this is really more than a casual accomplishment. The camera body is made up of magnesium alloy on the back combined with a carbon fiber for the front -- durable, yet light weight.


The first thing that hit me when I looked through the D750 viewfinder is that the focus grid appeared different that the D810 and D4s. There have been some suggestions that, although it still has 51 points, its over-all spread is smaller.  I can see why this rumor started. The focus spots of the D750 have become rounded and a bit chubbier giving the illusion that the over-all grid is smaller because the spots appear to be closer together. My own measurements show that this is the case, and the focus grid of the D750, although deceptively listed as having 51 focus points, does not cover the same area as that of the D4s and D810. For me, this was a disappointment.

The image below shows a comparison test between the D750 and D810 focus grids. The photos were taken with a macro lens looking through the actual viewfinders of each camera (which explains the vignetting), and shows the grid pattern relative to an FX frame. The blue lines outline the grids. The D750 is obviously a smaller grid. I measured its size to be 92% of the D810 grid. The blue lines also show the D750 grid to be off center towards the top.

Despite the size difference in the focusing grid, the D750 does pick up some of the niceties of the new AF system in the D4s and D810, and in some cases even goes beyond.  The D750 has both the 5-point Group focus and the 3D focus. An illustration of the 3D focus is below.

I placed the initial focus point on the lower left where it picked up the plane as soon as I hit the shutter. I kept the shutter pressed as the plane moved across the picture frame and the focus points in 3D mode followed the plane as it traveled from lower left to upper right. 
Another feature the D750 inherits from the D4s and D810 is Auto ISO. This is especially handy when you need to maintain a fixed aperture while the scene is changing in brightness. In film making, as the camera moves from an interior scene to an exterior scene the changing ISO will smooth the transition by compensating for image brightness while maintaining the same depth-of-field. The auto ISO is customized by setting a maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed.

The D750 comes in a smaller, lighter package than any other FX camera. A redesigned grip preserves comfortable handling of the smaller sized camera.

Compared to the D810 on the right the D750 is a smaller, more compact camera similar to the D610.

One of my favorite tests for resolution is the Empire State Building on a sunny day. There is plenty of detail in the building and especially the tower. Taken at ISO 100 with the D750 and Nikon 70-200mm f/4 zoom set to f/8. JPG image made from a RAW capture.  Click here to download a high res version of this image.
The D750 may be the new low light champ in the Nikon system. Not only can it focus down to -3 EV, but it's noise control at high ISO ratings up to the 3200 range is excellent, and at 6400 and 12800 it is usable in a pinch for certain situations and smaller prints. 

The interior of Grand Central Station with its myriad light sources is a place where I like to test high ISO's and control of chromatic aberration in the windows. 

Taken with the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 lens at f/5.6 and ISO 200.   Click here to download a high res version of this file.

For this studio shot I switched over to the D750 from the D810 because I wanted the faster 6.5 frame rate to capture more images on each pass of the little boy running. The boy is running right at the camera, which is the hardest action for an AF system to follow focus especially with a lens set to f/1.8 to create a very shallow depth of field. This is where the 3D AF comes into play. I can maintain the composition and no matter which way the boy moves, the focus point follows him.

D750 with Nikon 80-400mm zoom.

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/13 second, panning with the traffic. 

Photographed with available light and no fill. The scene is a mix of strong daylight from the window and the natural tungsten lights from the stove area. Taken at 1250 ISO and f/2.8 with the Nikon 24-70mm zoom. In the days of film cameras a shot like this under these circumstances would have been impossible. With todays crop of digital cameras, like the D750, we take this kind of shooting for granted

24-120mm lens at f/8 and ISO 100.  Click here to download the high res version of this file.
The Intrepid aircraft carrier taken with a 24-120mm lens at f/8 and ISO 100.  Click here to download the high res version of this file.

In this scene I wanted to put the D750 through a low light focus test. The scene is lit by one 600w tungsten light in the window opening behind the model. The model herself is lit entirely by the candles in front of her.  To make the situation even more difficult smoke was added to the scene. This lowered the contrast of the scene.  Even with all this, the D750 consistently kept focus on the model's eyes. The photo below shows the actual scene as it appeared to the camera.

A variation of the scene above. This time the model's face is lit by one candle. ISO 800, f/2 with the 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor lens on the D750.

Old railroad bridge photographed with the D750 and 24-120mm lens at f/7.1 and ISO 100.  Click here to download the high res version of this file.


I have no doubt that the D750 is going to be a very popular camera. The shared features it has with the D810 and D4s are going to make if popular with pros. Its smaller size and reasonable price is going to make it a handy second camera. Its compactness will appeal to any of us who are getting tired of carting around tons of equipment. On top of that, its 24.3MP sensor is just the right size for most applications. 

Amateurs, too, are going to see the D750 as an affordable way of bumping up to real pro-level gear without the heavy cost. 

I already traded in my D610 for a D750 and am wondering if I even need my D4 anymore, except for very specialized uses where the super-high frame rate and huge buffer are needed. 

Nikon chose wisely by making their 24-120mm f/4 zoom the kit lens for the D750. Before I even knew this I had coupled the two and thought the pair made a perfect all-around pro level camera. The kit of D750 including 24-120mm lens is selling for $3596.95.

Whether the D750 will ever have the cache and enthusiastic following of the D700 remains to be seen. As it stands, the D750 is one of the best pro-quality cameras out there, loaded with great features, at a reasonable price, and capable of delivering images second to none. What's there not to like?  

If you are planning on buying this camera, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by clicking the link and purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Nikon D750 camera body can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon   
The Nikon D750 camera with 24-120mm f/4 lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo  Amazon