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All posts in Photographic gear

11 Feb 2012

New Nikon D4 and D800

Amazing New Cameras from Nikon

 

On Wednesday of this week, I was at an Nikon Professional Services event to launch the new D4. It is always worth attending these events as there is a camera clinic and you can have your camera checked and cleaned while you attend the presentation. I was really looking forward to seeing the new D4 which is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary upgrade to the beloved D3s that I use. The day before the trip to Edinburgh Nikon launched another camera the D800 to the world’s press in London and other places across the world. I knew it would be a talking point but I did not expect to see it one day after the release.  However it was very exciting that there was a D800 there so those at the workshop were among the first group of photographers in the world to handle this amazing new camera.

The ground breaking news is that the D800 has a full frame 36.3MP sensor. High resolution is usually delivered at the expense of high ISO performance but this new D800 can still perform amazingly at 3200 ISO or even 6400. It cannot compete with the 16MP flagship D4 in this area, as it can virtually "see in the dark" and goes to an insane 204 800 ISO but it does have twice the resolution. Most photographers are taking the view that the D800 will be the logical choice for the commercial, studio, and wedding photographer while the D4 with it’s ability to work in very low light and it’s speed (up to 11 frames per second (compared to 4or 6 of the D800) will be the natural choice of the press photographer. I would expect to see lots of D4’s at the Olympics. However I do not think we can make a decision until we try the cameras and see the files.

It was great to see and handle both cameras along with the full range of Nikkor lenses and I cannot wait to properly test them both.


This is me in Edinburgh on Wednesday with the D4 and D800

As the cameras were pre-production models, the memory card slots were taped up. However someone in our group (who will remain nameless for fear of repercussions) managed to sneak a memory card into the D800. Although I cannot open the raw file as Adobe are not supporting the new cameras yet, a jpeg shot with available light at 3200 ISO is below. The "male model" in the shot is Charlie Stewart of Royale Photographics.

A small file on a blog post cannot convey the resolution and quality of this jpeg straight from the camera but it certainly looks very impressive. However, Nikon has made a selection of sample images available for download on its official site for the new cameras. As always, these are compressed JPG files – we will wait to see what the RAW files of these cameras can produce before we can even begin to really judge the quality. Still, interesting nonetheless.

Nikon D800 Sample Images

I have not went into any detail on the specification or even mentioned video as there are hundreds of opinions, and detailed technical reviews on-line (I have probably read them all) and all the specifications can be obtained from Nikon or DP Review.

There is already huge debate over which is the best camera. However they are both fantastic tools and both will yield amazing results – it is a very exciting time to be a photographer.

10 Feb 2012

The Professional Photographer’s Compact Camera

The Fuji X100

I have been taking lots of images with this Fuji X100 compact camera and have been rediscovering taking photographs for fun. This small fixed lens compact has been the subject of lots of hype, and was one of the most anticipated cameras released in 2011. There is no point in repeating all the technical details and specification which can easily be found on-line.Visit the Fuji X100 website for details.

Some of the comments and reviews have been amazing

"Let me get this out of the way… The Fuji x100 is the greatest digital camera ever made and may just be the greatest camera I have ever owned……"

"Couple always-fantastic images with the world’s smallest real camera, and you can see why I love it so much….."

"The images I get from my Fuji X100 are nothing short of amazing. Photographing my fast-moving kids and family under every lighting condition from desert sun to dim restaurants to moonlight, my Fuji X100 makes skin tones look better than from any other camera. The X100’s ability to tame difficult light under unscripted real-world conditions automatically, which is what’s most often encountered everywhere except inside a studio, is amazing…."

"I would go so far as to say that the X100 is the most enjoyable and satisfying camera I have ever used…"

So what makes it so special

  • beautiful retro styling reminiscent of a Leica
  • Great build quality
  • Traditional dials
  • Superb 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • Amazing colour straight from the camera
  • An APS-C size sensor – nothing is more important in a digital camera than sensor size

It has been called the "Professionals compact" and this is because it has a great blend of size, quality, and traditional dials. It is certainly not perfect and some of the menu controls are badly thought out, the manual focus is useless, the start up time is slow, and after a DSLR, the focussing is slow. To master this camera takes some time. I bought from Amazon, the Photographer’s Guide to the Fujifilm FinePix X100 [Kindle Edition] and after reading it, I am completely comfortable with it now. There is great pleasure in using it that is hard to define. It feels great in your hand, the main controls – shutter, aperture, and exposure compensation are traditional dials that take me back almost 40 years when I first developed an interest in photography. I am enjoying the fixed lens as it forces me to think more about my shots and composition compared to having a bag of zoom lenses covering all focal lengths.

An evening shot taken hand held on the X100 and although I have been asked if HDR was used, this is a jpeg created from the raw with no localised adjustments.

An evening shot taken hand held on the X100 and although I have been asked if HDR was used, this is a jpeg created from the raw with no localised adjustments.

However despite the retro styling, it has all the features and more that you would expect from a modern digital camera – Raw files, 5 frames per second shooting, auto ISO, auto bracketing, auto dynamic range, amazing fill-flash, and the killer feature – the hybrid viewfinder. The Hybrid Viewfinder combines the window-type “bright frame” optical viewfinder found in high-end film cameras, such as 35mm or medium-format cameras, and the electronic viewfinder system incorporated in fixed single lens or mirrorless digital cameras. While traditionalists prefer the clear, sharp view of an ‘optical’ viewfinder, modern electronic displays, giving data like shutter speed, aperture, white balance, exposure correction and ISO can aid photographers tremendously. The new Hybrid Viewfinder on the FinePix X100 aims to give the ‘best of both worlds.’

Taken at Cove, this file is direct from the camera and highlights the great dynamic range and colour from the X100

Taken at Cove, this file is direct from the camera and highlights the great dynamic range and colour from the X100

One feature that I fully expected to ignore was "Motion Panorama" – a mode that lets you move the camera horizontally following a yellow line in the viewfinder while the camera takes several images and stitches them together to create 120 or 180 degree panorama jpegs. The example below was taken at Cove using this mode and apart from some level adjustments, this image is direct from the camera.

Taken at Cove, this 180 degree panorama was created in the camera.

Taken at Cove, this 180 degree panorama was created in the camera.

I am currently involved in giving training to beginners on how to get the best from their DSLR or mirrorless system cameras and it has been useful for me to go back to basics taking photographs with a new camera, learning it’s features, reading the manual, all things I am "preaching" to the course delegates. In the process I have had a lot of fun with the Fuji X100 and although much larger than my Canon S95 point and shoot (now replaced with the S100), I am taking it everywhere with me instead of the Canon. It is not for everyone and I would not recommend it over a DSLR or if you only have one camera but if you already have a DSLR and are an enthusiast, then I am sure you will love it as much as I do. Of course if you have £10 000 or more to spend, a Leica M9 and M lenses is still the ultimate and this week, I am getting to borrow an M9 and I am very excited about this and I will have a blog post on this next week.

9 Feb 2012

Jill and Pepe at Norwood Hall

Wedding on Sunday, 22nd January

 

Finally back to blogging and hopefuly in 2012, I will have much more regular posts. I am delighted that my first post for my first wedding in 2012 is for a friend's wedding. As well as being the photographer, Sandra and I were guests at the wedding of Jill and Pepe (Guiseppe) on Sunday 22nd January.

As a regular client of the Ciao Napoli in Bon Accord Crescent (the best Italian restaurant in Aberdeen), Pepe and Nino (Pepe's brother) have become close friends, and I was delighted to be the photographer at the wedding.

It was a nice sunny day but was very very cold. Everyone was very cooperative and braved the cold to let us get most of the shots taken outside in the nice winter sun. I was using a new Nikkor 180 f2.8 which has a fantastic bokeh and I am looking forward to using it this year. Pepe is a keen photographer and has some nice Canon equipment so he will appreciate the quality of this lens.

 

 

The slideshow above is a nice way to view a selection of images and we often create this and give them to clients for their iPads, Smart phones, and laptops, but there are also images to view.

 

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Norwood is an excellent venue and it was a great wedding. I took the formal groups and bridal portraits and David took over and photographed during the speeches and dancing, while I joined the party. Pepe is a big music lover and he had booked a fantastic Soul band from Glasgow  – A-Side Soul. Visit their website to hear how good they are.

© aberdeenphoto.com

It was a great day and an excellent way to start 2012, which is already guaranteed to be a busy year.

26 Jan 2011

Photography of the Brentwood Hotel

Photography for Website and Marketing

Yesterday (Tuesday 25th January, 2011) I started on the photography for the Brentwood Hotel, a very popular and busy hotel on Crown Street, Aberdeen. A complete set of photographs are required to show the work done refurbishing the hotel, and the facilities the hotel can offer. The first shots taken were a conference room set up, private dining, the dining room, the lounge, and a selection of the different bedroom styles. For the conference set up shot, we added the hotel logo to the TV, and text to the whiteboard (better than my handwriting) using Photoshop – see the before and after above.

For the private dining shot, I added an image to the TV screen.

For this dining room shot, I framed it with the mirrors which "leads" you into the shot. This shot and most of them were taken using a Quantum Trio on the camera, and 1 or 2 radio triggered Quantum Qflash T5DR. This set up is superb as wherever you place the lights, they fire every time. Apart from a much better quality of light, and more power, the radio triggering is so much better than the infrared line of sight Nikon CLS system.


The Brentwood has 66 very nice and well equipped bedrooms and I photographed a few of the different bedrooms so guests can see the different sizes and layouts.

I am back tomorrow evening to take shots of the bar and restaurant areas while it is busy, and then again on Monday to photograph the reception, food, the chefs at work, and a range of detail shots.

The shots taken yesterday can be viewed by clicking here.

9 Dec 2010

New Macbook Air (2010 Edition)

New Macbook Air

I have just taken delivery of the new 13 inch Macbook Air with 256gb flash memory, the upgraded processor and 4gb ram. I had sold my previous Air as I thought the iPad was a replacement for it but much as I love the iPad and use it a great deal, I realised that I missed the Air. My main machine is a very high spec. 17 inch Macbook Pro connected to a 30 inch Cinema Display. It is a great machine and is portable enough to take on an assignment or trip but if I am out during the day, I tend not to take it with me.

The Macbook Air (MBA) is so light, it is very easy to have it with you always and where I prefer the iPad for viewing photographs, reading books or magazines, or browsing the web, the Air is much better for email and documents. The iPad is fine for reviewing  e-mail and I am much more likely to reply than I am on my iPhone, but I would not sit down and deal with a large volume of Mail on the iPad and this is where the MBA comes into it’s own.

The other use for me is for tethering to my camera and using it with Lightroom connected to my D3s is a great way to work especially if the client is with you. Being so  small and light, it can be in my camera bag and the option is always there.

The new one is not a huge change from the previous model but the increase to 256gb allows me to copy everything from my main SSD drive on the 17inch MBP as it is also a 256 SSD (it also has a 500gb internal drive and I can copy this to an external if I need this but generally this is not the case). The increase in speed is noticeable but not a huge improvement. The second USB port is a big plus. However there is one big drawback – no illuminated keyboard. This is a real inconvenience as a lot of the places I use my Air – on the sofa watching TV, dimly lit coffee shops etc., it is a real miss – so much so I have ordered a USB keyboard light. I do not often criticise Apple but I think this is a big mistake on a machine that is likely to be used in a lot of dimly lit places.

9 Dec 2010

Interior photography

Property Photography

I was commissioned to take photographs of two properties for Express Estate Agency and the first one was in Maud. Many years ago, I took photographs for most of the agents in Aberdeen and a lot of the national companies but a lot of them started taking their own photographs and the rates for this type of work dropped drastically. I have photographed several properties for brochures over the last few years (look out for a blog post on  property photography) Photographing interiors is probably one of the the things I enjoy most.



The 14-24mm Nikkor is a perfect lens for interiors. Many "experts" think this is one of the sharpest and best lenses on the market (click here for review). It is far better than anything Canon produces, so much so, Canon users go to great lengths to get adapters to use this Nikon lens on their cameras. You have to be careful not too get too much distortion but using the virtual horizon option on the D3s and the spirit level on my "Really Right Stuff BH55" tripod head makes sure this is controlled even at 14mm. The only other thing to do is to balance the flash and available light and use bounce flash (as used here) or the appropriate light modifier.

My client was very happy – see email received

Hi Neil,
Just had a proper look at these photos and we are really impressed. Wish we could commission you to work for us Nationwide. Fantastic work thank you
Regards,
Frances Williams
Listings Manager
Express Estate Agency

Gallery

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20 Sep 2010

Busy weekend for David

A day in the life of an assistant

David was working with me on Friday and Saturday and I was at Pittodrie House Hotel on both days. On Friday it was the wedding of Robyn and John at Our Lady of the Garioch and St. John the Evangelist, Fetternear, and reception at Pittodrie House.  On Friday David was taking the informal photographs but also assisting me on a wet and windy day. It is very useful to have someone to hold the dress in place until the last minute and then dive out of the shot. Once it is in place, I will take several photographs in quick succession and pick the best one. My D3s can take at an incredible 11 images per second (yes 11 high resolution photographs in 1 second!). In the shot below (and several others) David has been captured diving out of shot. Click here to see the formal shots and here for the informal.

Watch the Birdie

On Saturday, it was the wedding of Kay and Rick at Chapel of Garioch and then to Pittodrie House again. David was assisting but when the display organised by Kay and Rick, by North East Falconry Centre, took place he could not resist getting out his camera and we both took photographs of the guests getting entertained by the birds. As you will see, one of the Falcons decided David made a good perch!

It is very useful to have an assistant, not just to set the dress but also to act as a model. On Saturday, it was raining and we needed to work as quickly as possible so David and I went and set up where we were going to take the photographs and get the lighting set up so that when Kay and Rick got there, we were ready to shoot. As you will see the shot above has too much flash and I obviously adjusted this before photographing the Bride and Groom. Click here to see Kay and Rick’s wedding photographs from Saturday.

 

8 Sep 2010

Beautiful photographs with new Nikkor 105DC lens

Great images with the best lenses 

I just got delivered yesterday yet another lens to add to my extensive collection. This is a rare lens and is rated as one of the sharpest lenses that Nikon have ever produced. At f2, it is a very fast lens but the unique feature is the DC which stands for Defocus control. This allows for the background to be the softest, smoothest washes of color you’ve ever seen. I already love to work with my lens "wide open" for close ups and if you use the best quality lens, the bokeh (a Japanese term to describe the out of focus areas in an image – it comes from the Japanese word boke (暈け or ボケ), which means "blur" or "haze") is beautiful and can be controlled on the lens.

Two quotes fron the reviews that persuaded me to buy this lens are below

"The Nikon AF 105mm f/2 DC is Nikon’s, and arguably the world’s, greatest portrait lens and is also Nikon’s sharpest 105mm lens, and an extraordinarily great lens."

"In fact, the 105 DC gives a true stellar optical performance and is one of the finest Nikkors ever made."

8 Sep 2010

Q Flash Trio – better light and better wedding photographs

Great Light for better wedding photographs

I have just added a Quantum Trio to my lighting kit. Although like most photographers I use the manufacturers flashguns and have several SB800 and SB900 flashguns along with the SU800 commander. They have got better and better and with the correct light modifiers, they are great tools. However they cannot compete with either studio lighting or portable units such as the Quantum units. The main benefit of the Quantum units is the quality of the light – the parabolic reflector and the range of modifiers and the bare bulb option lets me have a choice of lighting or fill lighting. I have already got 2 Q flash units and the Freewire radio control system but I tended to use this kit when I needed more power or light from off camera. A lot of time I am using my flash only as a fill source on the camera and tended to stick to the Nikon SB-900 for convenience. The Nikon CLS system is a means of triggering and controlling additional flashguns but it relies on line of sight which I have never found reliable especially at a wedding on a bright day.

The new Trio offers a much better quality of light, more power, and a has a built in radio transmitter that works with my Q flash units up to 500ft away, and all from a flashgun mounted on my camera. It does need a bulky Quantum battery pack (I use one mounted on the camera) but I used this with the SB-900 to reduce the recycling time so apart from it being slightly larger, I do not know much difference carrying this much better light. I used it on the 28th August at Jennifer and John’s wedding at the Lodge on the Loch in Aboyne and it was an ideal test for it. The setting was beautiful but there was a very strong back light but with the Trio I could expose for the sky and keep the drama of the clouds but still light the bride and groom.

I could vary the light to give me different effects and could have added the even more powerful Q Flash if it had been required.

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