Back to Nikon: Week One

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So long to old gear.

That middle finger? It’s not a Nikon vs. Canon thing. It’s about old gear. Nikon and Canon are comparable systems with some of the best cameras ever made in their current lineups. If you’re a good enough photographer that one would be better for your situation, you already know it. Otherwise buy a camera that feels right, has decent reviews, stop reading and start shooting.

You will judged by your photographs, not what you shot them with.

I put all my old gear into a box and turned it in. The decision was made by my employer: I’m switching from Canon to Nikon. I couldn’t be more excited. Using outdated, inferior equipment for so long has been a wound. (For the record: I started with Canon, switched to Nikon, switched to Canon, now to Nikon again.)

Here’s what I’ve learned in the first week with the Nikon D4.

New gear is no magic wand, turning everything into an amazing photograph. First night I went out on a walk expecting to come back with a ton of amazing photos. Didn’t happen. You need good subjects and good situations to make great photographs, not just great equipment. All I got out of that walk was the proof that my 24-70 is razor sharp…

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6400 ISO, handheld at 1/25th of a second

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Here’s a 100% section of the above image

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And I learned that I could now shoot handheld even in the dark.

Day two I shot a couple of assignments and played around in the park. Lesson learned – the 70-200 is also razor sharp.

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detail below

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And a 100% blowup. The sensor is clearly amazing.

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These from a walk after my shift, with a 35/2.0 lens I bought in 1998:
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Day three

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Self-assigned this shot before another assignment

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Cathedral choir rehearsal

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Then ran down to catch the Jazz win their first game.

At left is the Nikon D4, at right is the same angle showing what I was getting with the Canon Mark IV and my 2005 era 70-200. Big difference in clarity and color, and focus tracking much improved.

Day four:

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This with a 14mm, which is much too wide for just about every situation.

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200-400 for football. Figured out that it’s much more effective to put your left hand over the top to zoom with that lens.

Day five:

Self-assigned this one.

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Here’s a 100% detail from it.

Day six:


This was the kind of pouring rain and snow that in the past would have forced me to manual focus. The D4’s autofocus never seemed to miss a beat.


Right now my complaints are either common to the D4 or personal preferences I’ll adjust to.

1. LCD screen is not accurate – and green. A known, unfortunate issue. Good thing I shoot everything RAW.
2. No SD card slot. Ouch – I had a great workflow with SD cards, using my MacBook Air’s internal SD reader so I wouldn’t have a card reader dangling off my laptop. I’ll have to figure a good alternative out.
3. Zoom lenses zoom in the opposite direction of the Canon zooms. Even after nine years zooming the other way, it only took a week to train myself to reverse zoom. Working a basketball game was key. The reverse thing on Nikon gear has always been bizarre to me. In second grade I learned the number line, with negative numbers on the left side of zero. Don’t know why Nikon lenses and cameras often put the smnaller numbers on the right.

I think this is going to work out. It’s still early on. It takes time to learn a new camera’s strengths and weaknesses.

Anything Helps

man asleep on grass

people with signs looking for help from passing cars

people with signs looking for help from passing cars

street people crossing the street

Shooting through the windshield was never an option before. I was a photographer interested in sharpness and clarity. I spent my food money on sharp lenses I couldn’t afford and then put them through meticulous tests. I wouldn’t even wear sunglasses, just so I could see the world as the camera did.

Now I’m embracing the distortions of the cheap glass, performing extreme crops, and dragging Lightroom sliders in attempts to recover contrast and color. Perfect technique is sitting in the backseat this year while content is riding shotgun.

Look clearly at what’s going on around you. And welcome to America.

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