Available light

Available light by ernestkoe
Available light, a photo by ernestkoe on Flickr.

That’s me in the reflection with the Nikon D700 and Zeiss ZF*2 35/2. This is just about the perfect lens on the D700 if you don’t mind slowing down and being one with a manual focus lens.

More on that in a bit.

After fooling around with the Olympus E-PL5 in the last couple of days, I picked up the Nikon D700 again, all 5 gazilliion lbs of it even with the relatively weightless Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G and was reminded how much I hated the injury inducing weight of this beast.

But, shooting with it is still an incomparably sublime experience. The bright optical viewfinder without the lag or headache inducing dynamic range limitations of a little LCD/OLED screen, the satisfying feel of a professional Nikon body and the magic that comes out of the 50mm f/1.8G all seem like forsaken luxuries.

Going small is going to be very, very hard. My wrist may be thankful but my soul is all-a-bitchin’ about it.

It’s hard to explain the difference between a competent small-ish sensor camera like the Olympus E-PL5 plus its kit 14-42mm compared to  a full-frame workhorse with a lens like the Zeiss 35mm f/2–even if said workhorse is “merely” sporting a 12 megapixel sensor. The Zeiss ZF*2 is a pricey, extravagant thing, but if you want to get a taste of that Zeiss microcontrast magic, here’s a tip, pick up the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G.

Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G Review

Have you seen the MTF charts on this sucker. It looked great, and I was super excited to get my hands on it. But alas, my copy had some very strange focus-shifting issues. It seemed like things were either front focused on back-focused depending on different apertures; I couldn’t put my finger on it until stumbled across this post at diglloyd.com. It’s a real bummer too, I was hoping for something to scratch my wide-angle itch.

Oh well. Amazon FTW!

The (Imminent) New Nikon Mirrorless Camera May Not Suck

nikonrumors.com posted specs on the rumored Nikon V1 and J1, compact mirrorless camera system recently.

The following thoughts are an expansion of a comment I posted to that blog earlier today.

I am kind of excited that this is pissing off as many Nikon fanboys as it is, as evidenced by the comments section on nikonrumors. It seems to me that it this is a pretty good indication Nikon is doing something right–that Nikon is leading with Design and not with technical specs first.

I don’t know how good this little camera is going to be, we will all have to wait and see. But what it does tell me is that Nikon is designing for a potentially new market and anticipating one that doesn’t really exist as the moment.

This is a good thing for Nikon, and a pretty radical thing for a traditional Japanese camera company.

If the lenses retract and are fully portable, it would be a very credible replacement for all point and shoots. Point and shoots are dead anyway, thanks to the iPhone. The only reason anyone will carry a better device than a smart phone with a built-in camera in the near future is if they want to get more serious with their creative energies. Right now, even the smallest big-sensor mirrorless cameras like the Olympus E-PL3(micro four-thirds) and Sony NEX-5 (APS-C) are still physically limited by lenses that aren’t really portable. The pancake lenses on the µ4/3 systems come close, but if you want fast zooms, forget it.

Additionally, if this is what I think it is, a pocket-sized Red SCARLET or close to one as the new rumored EXPEED 3 image processing engine suggests, this is going to be potentially revolutionary for the serious video and digital “film” market, which is a segment that is underserved and badly understood.

Think of the Apple iPod entering the crowded USB music player market; could be a similar thing happening here.

This isn’t as sexy as the Fujifilm X100/X10. But, I think the form factor is important,; the clean lines are important. They could be part of a larger design strategy. If this is all retro, it’d be more difficult for third-party players to build add-ons, viewers, finders, mounts, grips and other accessories to complement this camera.

The 1″ (give or take) sensor size means this can probably take a C-mount, cine-type lenses  with really nice follow-focus pulls. That’s cool. Already, it looks like it will take accept existing Nikon F-mount lenses with an adapter. Your silky smooth 28mm f/2 AI-S just became a sweet normal-ish video lens. Come to think of it, we’ll probably see adapters for all kinds of lenses in the future. Again, cool.

The key will be storage and how fast this thing can write to card. But with XC cards coming, this may make total sense, (http://www.sdxcs.com/).

Wedding photographers ditching Nikon to get 5DMkIIs may finally have something to grin about. Wedding photographers buying 5DMkIIs and IIIs in the future for its video may have a better option now. Imagine a really portable, creative instrument optimized for movies that can complement cameras and lenses optimized for stills.

As I said, let’s see how this thing does when it gets released. But, from this vantage point, I don’t look at this and say Nikon flopped. I look at this and say they are really thinking about what people want and need.

Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC

My Desk, originally uploaded by ernestkoe.

The Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC is an interesting lens. At today’s street price of $650 it is almost the cheapest standard fast zoom with vibration control (vibration reduction in Nikon speak) built in. I debated long and hard about getting this versus the traditional Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G which costs about twice as much without VR but the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the Tamron settled that question..for the moment at least.

I’ll be testing and thinking more deeply about this lens in the coming days. My initial impression is that this lens has exceeded by expectations, but, then again, my original expectations were probably prejudiced by the Tamron brand name. So far, it’s been a fun lens. Stay tuned for more.