Really Right Stuff keeps making our lives better and photography easier. Their new LCF-14 200-400VR replacement foot is real slick. Cuts down the weight and lens profile. Using their B91B Flash Arm makes the package complete. Get yours at www.reallyrightstuff.com.
RRS must have burnt the midnight oil to get this out so fast. It makes shooting with the D70 just that much better. As you can see, it fits like a glove, is a work of art and allows access the to D70's side panel.
You can order yours from www.reallyrightstuff.com or call them at 805.528.6321.
I *really* like this new foot! It brings the profile of the 70-200VR back down to factory specs, slips flawlessly in and out of a Arca-Swiss style clamp, is 3.2oz lighter than the Nikon foot with plate. Another great accessory!
You can order yours from www.reallyrightstuff.com or call them at 805.528.6321.
There is one thing we stress at our Digital Landscape Workshop Series, and that's providing your camera a stable platform when shooting verticals. This requires the camera body to be directly over the tripod head and not leaning off to one side. Accomplishing this easily can only be done one way that I know of and that's with a Really Right Stuff L plate. They have just come out with the BD2-L for the D2H and man, is it a work of art. More than that, it works beautifully. With the BD2-L in place, you can still easily access the USB compartment as well as battery compartment. It's beautifully engineered to give you full support and functionality. To get yours, head to www.reallyrightstuff.com.
Nikon D70 Users Report
This camera’s cool!
My first shooting experience with the D70 was just a few weeks ago during the Nikon Safari at PhotoShop World. While shooting in some of San Francisco’s more scenic and exciting locales, I got to know the D70. It’s a great camera for just this type of application. Since I didn’t have the instruction book I had to set up the camera based on my knowledge of the D2H. Other than one small surprise, it was a snap to have the D70 running with my preferences, making photography easy and fun. That’s probably the one thing about the D70 I like best, it’s just a simple fun little camera.
Read the complete Nikon D70 Users Report.
200-400f4 VR AF-S
This is a gorgeous lens! Yeah, you could say I like it!
Targeted to the “nature” photographer market, it takes very little imagination to see the 200-400f4 VR used by any number of photographic genres. I've just finished shooting two weeks with one and I'm very excited to be able to add it to my camera bag!
Does the VR work? Well, the instruction book states that when using the 200-400VR on a tripod, the VR should be turned on. In the beginning, I wasn't really excited about using the VR, I didn't see any better image quality when shooting at 1/20th. Using standard long lens technique did a fine job in delivering sharp images. That was until a few days later when I was shooting in an awful wind. Long lenses were chattering something fierce. The VR really proved itself then producing very sharp results at slow shutter speeds.
Read the complete Nikon 200-400f4 VR AF-S review.
Fortress – a fortified place, to protect valuable interior with strengthened exterior. It's been a killer week of shooting! I have over 11GB of images edited, filed, numbered (using DigitalPro of course) and ready to be added to my digital library back on the network. Up until this trip, I've used a couple of methods to cma to make sure my images got back to the office safely. While only "backups", still, if I ever had to access them because the main files were lost, damaged or stolen, the back up would be worthless if not done right. And how I dreaded the day I would ever have to hassle dealing with my make shift backups, getting their valuable contents onto the network. I'm glad that's now all in the past!
My Dell (knock on wood) has never failed me, it has always gotten all my images back to the office safely. I worry more about things like my notebook being dropped at airport security or stolen from my hotel room and my hard earned images disappearing that way. I've always protected myself by backing up my files back onto the CompactFlash cards I shoot with. But lately, I've not had enough cards for all of my images. That's why when my good friend Vincent introduced me to the Fortress at our DLWS, I was instantly hooked. I couldn't wait to have one!
I got my hands on the new 70-200VR and I'm glad I did! Now that lenses have every letter in the alphabet except Z to describe them, are they that good? Does the new 70-200VR "beat" the old 80-200AFS? Does the new VR in the 70-200 work? I hope in this brief review I can answer these questions for you.
The 70-200VR is slightly longer than the 80-200f2.8AFS, has the same front filter size and weighs .8oz more. The focal length is nearly identical, so it's only natural there is going to be a lot of comparison between the two. I've shot them both and for some reason that I cannot quantitatively express, I like the feel of the 70-200VR best. It's probably the smaller diameter of the lens barrel and balance on the 70-200VR that I prefer. I'm not a big fan of the new lens barrel texture Nikon is using, but the shooting "feel" of the 70-200VR makes it pretty darn easy to shoot.
One big improvement over the 80-200AFS for many will be the new tripod collar design of the 70-200VR. The 70-200VR does not have a removable tripod collar like the 80-200AFS. This makes the tripod collar on the 70-200VR have a much more secure feel for those who takes pictures as they rotate the lens. My complaint with the new tripod collar is I cannot remove it and so its weight. Where I could reduce the weight of the 80-200AFS by 8oz, you can only remove the tripod collar foot on the 70-200VR. While it's a really cool design, only being able to reduce the weight of the lens by less than 2oz is a drag.
When it comes to focusing speed, you'll find no difference between the two lenses. You'll also find no difference in image quality. Both lenses produce tack sharp images with or without teleconverters. Both the 80-200AFS and 70-200VR accept the TC-14e and TC-20e teleconverters. With their fast f/2.8 speed, focusing speed does not suffer from the use of an attached teleconverter. I think you'll find the same is true for image quality as well.
What about image quality using the VR function? There are two modes of VR on the 70-200, Normal and Active. VR lenses only work on bodies with five AF sensors as the AF sensors are part of the VR formula. The Normal mode is for use when basically handholding the 70-200VR. The instruction book is rather unclear about using Normal with the lens mounted onto a tripod. Shooting the 70-200VR on a Gitzo 1548 with a Wimberley head in a 15mph wind on Normal didn't work. The lens was not happy and I had to turn the VR off. It's hinted in the IB that you can use the lens on a tripod in Normal under certain circumstances but I was disappointed that it wouldn't work with wind bouncing the lens.
The 70-200VR has an Active VR mode. I have to tell you that when I read the description for this mode in the IB, I was skeptical. The IB says this about this mode "The vibration reduction mechanism reduces camera shake when taking pictures from a moving vehicle." I guess the paparazzi has Nikon's ear! I couldn't for the life of me figure out the need for this mode except perhaps it meant to say boat and not vehicle. Anyway, I had to see for myself if active mode really worked. While in Kansas, we flushed up a Golden Eagle that was perched beside the road. Driving at 10mph on a Kansas dirt road at 200mm, I captured the photo above. While photographically nothing special, you will notice the image is sharp. That's impressive! (I can't wait to use this lens photographing Sea Otters and pups this May!)
The 70-200VR has M/MA mode which is critical for me. It works beautifully. The 70-200VR has a new lens shade design which is so so. The 70-200VR does come with the new lens cap design that I do like and can't wait until they are available separately.
I really like this new lens! While still not a big believer in the need for VR, the feel of this lens when shooting is really good. My problem right now is, I'm not sure how I'm going to make this fit in my bag. I guess I'm going to have to go out and find some projects where I must have this lens!
I just received the new Really Right Stuff D100L plate from Joe (the new owner, who accepts credit cards!). It's a beaut!
In my 2003 tour teaching folks how to get the most out of their D100 and digital photography, I remind folks we need to start with our gear. The D100L plate is the perfect compliment for the D100! The D100 is the perfect landscape and macro digital camera and landscapes scream for verticals as well as horizontals. But cranking the head over to go vertical creates an unstable platform, especially for long exposures in the wind or on loose ground. The RRS D100L plate permits one to easily go vertical while keeping the camera directly over the axis of the head thereby providing maximum stability!
The D100L plate is a beautiful sculpture! The end section of the D100L has been sculpted out so the end connection panel of the D100 is fully accessible without taking the plate off.
There's no hiding the fact that I've always been a RRS fan. Joe had made some changes so now it's even easier to get RRS products which is a good thing because you need the D100L and the other great stuff coming out!
Are these times, which in a chart don't really look that impressive, worth the upgrade and card price? If you're shooting any type of action, I believe it is. This increase in time in card writing along with the better performance of the D1H, which is what I shoot, brings my firing rate to nearly 6fps rather then the 5.5fps the D1H delivers from the factory. While seemingly only a slight increase, it's enough for me to take the plunge in order to better odds at capturing the image!
Should you buy now? Maybe not, depends on your shooting schedule. Lexar just
announced a 40x card reader, this might be signaling 40x cards soon to replace
the 24x cards. Most assuredly these 40x cards will depend on WA technology, so
you'll need your camera's firmware updated to make the most of them. With my shooting
schedule, I've already replaced a couple regular 24x cards with WA cards because
I like the better performance. All I can provide you is this trivia, you'll have
to decide if you want to act on it!
I LIKE THIS LENS!
You might have noticed I've not reviewed many lenses lately. That's because none have really grabbed my imagination. I don't tend to change lenses much because I get my favorites and stick with them. In this range my favorite has been for years the 28-70f2.8AF-S. Well…the 24-85G did it in!
The 24-85f3.5-4.5G EDIF AF-S (need a damn web page just for the name!) is the coolest little lens I've shot with for a while! When I say little, I mean as in only 2 ¾" long and it only weighs 14.6oz! When compared to the 28-70, it's really tiny in size but just as big in image quality (and nearly ¼ the price!). I first shot with the 24-85 back in June and I was just amazed at the quality of my first quick grab shots. I've now gone through my own usual testing and find the 24-85G to equal the quality of the 28-70. Since I can get the quality I need in a smaller package and even though I'm loosing a little lens speed, I'm more than happy to switch (not to mention the slightly greater range you gain)!
A big reason why I even gave the 24-85G a look is the fact it's an AF-S lens. Being an AF-S lens it has the M/A switch which I find so important for my photography (which is why I've not switched to the smaller 18-35 over the 17-35AF-S). Being able to compose and manually focus is necessary while not having to turn off the AF to do so. The focusing speed is instant and the noise non-existent. The 24-85G has ED glass and is IF which part of its formula for excellent quality in such a small package. The 24-85G is also a "G" lens.
A G lens means the lens has no manual aperture ring. For some older camera this can cause problems. But Nikon is moving forward in lens design and while the first G lenses were in the low price range, there are many benefits to removing the aperture ring. Smaller size and lower prices are the most obvious. Being a G though in no way signifies a lower quality lens (the new 70-200f2.8VR AF-S is a G lens) Since I've not used an aperture ring since the F4, having it gone works for me.
The 24-85G comes with a bayonet shade and the new LC lens cap series (pictured above). The lens cap is killer as you can remove or attach it with the shade in place. At this time this style cap is not available in any other size but hopefully Nikon will come out with a full set for us. The 24-85G is the first Nikon lens with a 67mm filter size. That's a pain since Nikon makes no 67mm filters at this time, but that's insignificant compared to what the lens has to offer.
So in conclusion…. I like… I bought…. I'm happy!
Admittedly, the announcement of a "smaller - prosummer" DSLR didn't light my fire. I knew from the price point and physical size, compromises would have to be made in its design and construction. I knew the new DSLR would be cursed by all the web rumors (mostly very inaccurate, again) slanting the public's perceptions of the camera before it was ever released. This just makes my mission even more difficult in trying to cut through all the smoke and getting folks focusing on photography. So when one of my favorite Nikon reps put the D100 in my hands for the first time, to say I was more than impressed is an understatement. All of the prejudices I had quickly vanished and when I previewed my first image, I knew Nikon had a winner in the D100!
(Before proceeding, I want to give you something to think about when you read this review. A successful photograph is the culmination of lots of elements: subject, lighting, technical expertise and finally equipment. Each one of us sees and communicates differently photographically. The D100 has some great features unique to its design. In some aspects, you'll find it's "missing" features found in other bodies while it incorporates radically new ones. It is the exclusion or inclusion of these features that make the D100 unique and are the factors you need to consider in deciding if the D100 captures and delivers your vision and communicates it to others! This review is just that, a review and not an in-depth report. Our upcoming eBook has a whole chapter devoted to using and getting the most out of the D100)
First and foremost, the D100 is not a N80 with digital components crammed inside. Nikon did use some of the winning features of the N80 when they designed the D100, but other than a similar looking prism and built-in flash, the likeness of the two ends there! Many have wondered about the ruggedness of the D100. I have now shot with one for 3 weeks straight. Because of the time factor and wanting to get a review out to folks, I've been "rougher" on the D100 than normal which includes making my own rain storm to test the camera (there ain't no real rain to be had in the west!). The D100 performed without a hitch in 114 degree temps to an artificial Zero (freezer), dry or wet.
One of the most amazing things to me in the beginning is the D100's battery. When I received the camera the EN-EL3 battery was fully charged, but I didn't receive the battery charger. I was concerned just how far I was going to get with shooting and playing and learning on one charge. This little battery just goes and goes! The best I've done is 1867 captures on one charge (shooting AF-S lens, little to no chimping) and the worst just over 700 captures (in the beginning with all of the playing). In fact, I shot for 4+ days on the first charge before the charger showed up and I still had plenty of battery power to spare! This is a really good thing, because on pg.5 of the instruction book, is says have a spare battery ready. Since buying a spare battery is going to be a challenge for a while, having one that lasts is important!
It's nice to look through the D100. While technically it has the same numbers as the D1 Family, the "tunnel" effect you have looking through the D1 Family viewfinder is not as apparent in the D100. The D100 has the same "digital cropping" effect though as the D1 Family so there is a focal length "gain" of 50%. You only see 95% in the viewfinder and 98% of the image captured on the monitor.
(And a personal rant for a moment. For those complaining about the 50% focal length gain and wide angles, may I suggest you try an old technique. Back in the old days when photographers didn't have ultra wide lenses either because they weren't manufactured or not in one's budget, to capture wide angle shots, photographers would BACK UP! While not applicable in all situations, you might be surprised how this old technique can work well with digital!)
The autofocus in the D100 is not as fast as you will find in the D1 Family. The combination of the Multi-CAM900 (compared to Multi-CAM1300 in the D1 Family), battery and processors, the D100 just isn't in the same league. This speed difference for many subjects when shooting with AFS lenses is nearly unperceivable but in lower light situations with non-AFS lenses you'll see the difference.
When it comes to picture quality, the D100 delivers big! In all honesty, this is really the measure of a good digital camera and the D100 does not even fall short here! The giant 6.1MP CCD does a great job with image quality and color! What really impresses me is the Noise Reduction built-into the D100. The Color Noise Reduction which is always active does a great job with the smaller pixels of the 6.1MP CCD. The optional Long Exposure Noise Reduction (CS#4) is simply stunning! I've taken a lot of 30sec exposures already using this feature and the noise is basically not present! I've had fun showing some of these 30sec images to folks and seeing their reaction when they see the quality!
The D100 provides every digital photography a great set of file types/ quality settings. You have 14 file types / image quality settings available with the D100. The D100 offers the RAW (NEF), RGB-TIFF and three Jpeg formats. All but the RAW can be sized to Large, Medium or Small files (the RAW can be compressed or uncompressed). The Large is 3008x2000 pixels; Medium is 2240x1488 and Small is 1504x1000. This is an impressive array of options that surely will make every digital photographer happy. Personally, I shot everything in the FINE Jpeg Large or Medium. These are 3MB/1.7MB files that open up to a gorgeous 17.3MB file.
In the short time I've had shooting with the D100, it has done a marvelous job with every shooting condition I've put it through. The color (using Cloudy-3) has been stunning, the exposures right on (shooting in Matrix Metering) and the final images are knock-you-down gorgeous when printed up! (D100 has the same problem with whites in lower light levels as does the D1X/H). I didn't find it radically "better" in color than the D1 Family. I could best describe the color as perhaps a little deeper (which I'm sure most folks can get out of the D1 family with PS).
The D100's processors while very powerful for their size and for the files they are processing, just aren't as fast as the D1 Family cameras. The D100 has a firing rate of just 3fps with a maximum of 6 frames for Jpeg and TIFF and 4 frames for RAW. Using the Lexar 512 24x CF card, once the buffer is full you can shoot the next frame after 1.2 seconds shooting FINE, Large and 6.7 seconds when shooting RAW (uncompressed).
The chart numbers were derived using a freshly charged EN-EL3, 50f1.8AF lens and Lexar 512 24x card. (for testing method, refer to TDG pg.242). For optimum speed and captures, be sure CS#4 if OFF.
I about about the D100's write times in June. To be point blank honest with you, the slow write times while shooting FINE L & M has driven me nuts! I had to generate images with the D100 in a short time, but in my attempt to do this, in conjunction with the action at hand, I would often switch out to the D1H so I could get the image. I simply got that frustrated waiting for the D100 (I won't go into the flash sync speed)! The write times are such that, once you fill the buffer, things just slow down in the camera even though the action continues on.
The White Balance settings in the D100 haven't changed, they are basically the same as you'd find in the D1 Family. So the vast majority of my shooting was done at Cloudy -3 (I tried A and while it's better than A on the D1 Family, I personally didn't like the results for my photography). Nikon did add to the D100 White Balance bracketing. This is kinda cool! For those wanting to learn more about White Balance and what works best for their workflow, this is a great learning tool. By using Custom Setting #11, the D100 captures two to three images and brackets the white balance as per your settings. This not only quickens the process compared to manually trying to set different white color balances, but encourages you to experiment and learn!
The D100 has a new image preview "zoom" feature. When you preview an image you've captured on the LCD monitor, you can zoom in on that image nine times! The area of the image is increased so you can see exactly what you did or didn't capture in one area of your image. You can also "scroll" around on the image once it has been magnified using the AF Sensor thumb pad. Where you can't really edit for sharpness with the D1 Family monitors, you sure can with the D100. You'll have no problem determining if an image is sharp with this feature!
One equipment feature of the D100 could be linked to the N80. You can "turn on" grid lines in the viewfinder (CS#19). But the D100 has a really cool twist to this that I personally really like. The AF sensors as well as the grid are either black or red, depending on the ambient light level. When shooting in regular daylight, these are black and in low light levels, they turn red. What a really cool feature!
The D100 permits you to enter "comments" to your images. By using Image Comment in the Set Up menu, you can enter up to a 36 character phrase. This comment is recorded on each capture (as long as it is activated) into the image's EXIF file (the comment is not seen on the image itself). I entered my name for the comment so each capture is then tagged with my name. This is really a functional feature for the working photographer!
One of the biggest weak points of the D100 comes from the CF compartment door. A plastic door attached with two small, plastic hinges that has to give way to insert the CF card on a slant. If you're in a hurry, wearing gloves or have big fingers, watch out! This door is going to break off! The door has no contacts so if it does break off, you can keep working until you get the camera repaired.
Another of my D100 pet peeves is the shutter release and the AF sensor thumbpad. The shutter release is "sloppy" in that it takes more than the standard touch to activate the meter and then fire the camera. And having to stick my finger up my nose to change the AF sensor which sticks out and is real stiff, is painful! While they both function correctly, they are not as smooth as the D1 Family.
Another REAL big weak point for me is the flash sync speed of 1/180. One of the biggest reasons I would switch back to the D1H from the D100 is because of this limitation. Shooting with flash fill, this barrier messed me up a couple of times until I got into the mind set of checking the darn shutter speed all the time. The D100 can be used with the SB-80DX in wireless mode. This gets confusing, so first let me explain the Nikon way of making this work.
Using the built-in flash and Custom Setting #23, you can set the D100 to Manual Flash which turns off the Pre-monitor flash enabling wireless operation with the SB-80DX. This is what the instruction books states. On the other hand, I've been able to fire TTL wireless with up to 4 SB-80DX flash units with the D100 CS#23 set to DTTL. But this doesn't always work right. I've just spent a very frustrating 10 days with the SB-80DX and TTL making sense of the IB and reality and if you want to learn what I learned on how to make this all work, you'll have to buy our eBook. You can make it work, but...
Where do I rate the D100? I think the D100 is a great little camera! Is it a replacement for the D1X or D1H? Not by any stretch of the imagination! Does the D100 work for my photography, nope! But this doesn't mean the D100 is no good. The D100 does a great job and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for the vast majority of camera buyers it's designed for. For many, it will make a great "back up" body even though the controls are totally different. And if you're shooting everything except action, its slowness won't effect your picture taking ability. But those using flash, the 1/180 sync will hamstring you in a heartbeat. Those shooting action, the AF speed in combination with processing speed will cause you to miss images (you'd be much better off with a used D1 and copy of The D1 Generation then a D100 for action).
This is by no means a slam on the D100, I really like the camera! But like I mentioned at the very beginning, it's a tool and as such, you'll have to decide if it fits with your shooting. For me personally after shooting hardcore with it for 10 days, I can tell you it won't make it for my wildlife photography. But keep in mind, I'm capturing an average of 1000 frames a week. That's not what the D100 was designed to do. If you're into RAW, computer darkroom and scenics, this is the perfect camera for you! The D100 delivers on every penny you spend on it, you just need to make sure you understand your own photographic needs to get the most out of this great little camera!
I'll have a complete chapter on the operation, strengths/weaknesses/goofies, of the D100 in our upcoming eBook due out by September 1st.
Moose's D100 Settings
Custom Setting Menu
Set Up Menu
The AP-452, 553 & 652 Adapter Plates
There are many reasons, the first being the most important. Lowering the center of gravity of these lenses when attached to a tripod head, especially the Wimberley Head, makes a steadier unit which translates to sharper images. This improved performance from better balance you will notice as soon as you attach your lens to a tripod! Other reasons of interest is the weight loss. The tripod foot of the 600f4AFS with plate weighs in at just over 1lbs. The Wimberley plate is just 6.3oz!
Another benefit I truly appreciate is that the lower foot profile makes the 600f4 fits super clean in the Pro Trekker and the 400f2.8 cleanly in the Nature Trekker. While it's only just an inch gain, that's enough to really make a difference!
You need the AP-452 for the 400f2.8AFS & AFS II and 600f4 AFS II. You need the AP-553 for the 500f4 AFS & AFS II and the AP-652 for the 600f4 AFS. For $79, you receive the plate, all attaching screws and wrenches. The switch out takes seconds but will probably be some of your best time spent!
Hoodman Hood to the D1 is out, and even though it's a little funky looking, it
works like a charm! It's real simple, it's a collapsible rubber hood that fits
over the Hoodman LCD cover. It smashes flat when shooting and pops out when you're
not shooting. It eliminates light from hitting the LCD so you can see your images
perfectly even in broad daylight. You can order yours at Hoodman
When I heard of these "new" AF-S lenses coming out and their "lighter" weight and closer minimum focusing distance (MFD), I wasn't really too excited. Personally, I hadn't used a 300f2.8 for many years so it wasn't a lens that solved problems for my photography. I'll be straight with you, I didn't plan on buying the new 300f2.8 II. But that all changed!
I have two projects coming up where I need a "fast" aperture wise telephoto that can focus close (my subject is smaller than house cat). I'm working in the dark woods of No. California where eking out any kind of shutter speed is a challenge. Further more, I'm on either snowshoes or going up mountain sides, smaller is definitely better! The 300f2.8 II beside being a beautiful lens, solves my problems to a "T"!
The 300f2.8 II is nearly one pound lighter than the pervious AF-S version. It is as physically big though as the previous AF-S version. This loss in weight without a reduction in size comes from the incorporation of magnesium in the barrel and internal workings. This lighter weight but stronger metal makes a big difference to the lens designs!
The MFD improvement though is where I'm really excited. Dropping the MFD from 10' to 7.5' (AF) is a big improvement! Keep in mind that I'm using it on a D1 which increases my focal length 1.5x. This makes the 300f2.8 AF-S II a 450f2.8 lens that focuses down to 7.5'! And when I attach the TC-14e, I have a 630f4 lens that focuses down to 7.5'. All of this with the quality and speed of an AF-S lens! It was pretty much a no-brainer putting the 300f2.8 II in my camera bag.
You're probably wondering when I'm going to get to the sharpness question. There is no difference in optical performance between the 300f2.8 AF-S and 300f2.8 AF-S II, they both deliver killer images! If you're main tool in photography is the 300f2.8, you'll have to decide if the smaller MFD is worth the money because you're not going to gain anything optically.
Along these same lines, Nikon introduced at the end of April 2001, three news AF-S II lenses, the 400f2.8, 500f4 and 600f4. I've not seen these lenses, so don't have much to report. Here is a chart though for these four new II lenses so you can compare for yourself the two new features important to the new design.
If the new three AF-S II lenses perform as nicely as the 300f2.8 AF-S II, there are going to be come mighty happy photographers creating some beautiful images out there sometime in the future!