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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ode to a Nikon D3X

Oh, Nikon D3X
How do I want thee
Let me count the ways

It's not just lust
I think

Ours would be a true love
Your beauty, my brains
We would make incredible photos together

I would cherish you
I wouldn't be just using you
I would care for you too

I would keep your magnificent body
in pristine condition
I would even save your box
and all your packaging

I would put a very nice lens on you
And you could keep it on all the time
You could use all my lenses
whenever you want

I would always have a spare battery
charged and ready for you
and plenty of memory cards too

We would be
the best of friends

Alas, I fear...
Ours is a love that cannot be

Your current Canadian price
is $9449.99 (plus tax)
Mrs. Ballard says if I buy you
Our marriage gets the axe.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Canon to Nikon: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Switch

My friend Brian Tao, a great photographer who's also one of the smartest tech guys I know, just switched to Nikon after years of shooting only Canon. He's graciously agreed to let me post the article he wrote about the switch, so enjoy!

That's Mihkel Fortey trying to help me decide between the 5D Mark II and the D700. I've been a Canon shooter almost all of my professional life, but for the first time, I felt Nikon might have a product that better suits me. I currently shoot with a pair of 40D's, so the first question was whether I needed to upgrade at all. If "yes", the second question was whether I stuck with Canon or switched to Nikon.

I've meditated upon this decision for many months now, aware of the costs of switching, aware of the "grass is greener" syndrome, aware that I had to balance my personal lust for new toys with the responsibility of running a business, and always remembering that none of my past clients ever expressed any concern over the type of equipment I used.

This will turn out to be a very long post, but I'm not going to type it all out at once, since I will undoubtedly forget to cover a point or miss a detail somewhere. So I'll just start with why I felt a decision had to be made, and the major influences of that decision.

It used to be that digital cameras suffered from poor battery life, slow response times, insufficient pixel resolution, a small shot buffer, unnatural colour, etc. One by one, the technical limitations fell away. Now, only two major ones remain for me: AF performance and ISO noise. I can never have too much of the former, nor too little of the latter. Problems with battery life, pixel count, colour rendition, and so on have all been more than adequately solved for my needs.

For the most part, I have been happy with the AF performance of my 40D. I used the center point 90% of the time, and kept a 580EX II in the hotshoe to help out in low light situations. Paired with the right lenses (notably my 135 f/2L and 17-55 f/2.8 IS), I was able to get good, sharp photos. It wasn't 100%, but close enough that no important shots were ever missed.

ISO noise was also quite respectable. I would often shoot at 1600 and, properly exposed, would get some great images. I like the noise characteristics of the 40D, with no visible banding or pattern noise until I'm reaching up to ISO 3200 pushed 1 or 2 stops.

But as I said, I can always use better AF and less noise.

The obvious successors to my 40D were the 5D Mark II and the D700. The 5D2 was the comfortable choice. Buy two new bodies, and away I go. Same lenses (mostly), same speedlites, same controls, same ergonomics. Yet at the same time, the reasons why I went with Canon over Nikon 7 years ago no longer held true. Nikon had caught up (if not surpassed) Canon on several fronts. I had always recognized the strong points of the Nikon system, but I think the introduction of the D3 (and then D700) was a watershed moment that allowed Nikon to finally take the final crown: image quality.

I'll skip the details for now, but I studied everything from the cameras themselves, to the lens lineups of both companies, to their product roadmap and their marketing strategies. I had plenty of hands-on evaluation with both cameras (thanks to many DWF'ers who lent me their gear). In the end, I had to give the D700 the edge over the 5D2, but perhaps not for the reasons most people would expect.

Image quality and AF performance were remarkably even. The Canon was better in some areas, while the Nikon excelled in others. It would have been a very difficult decision had I only considered those points.

In the end, I decided that switching to Nikon would be the best long-term move for two entirely different reasons: confidence in one's equipment, and the company's product development philosophy. I won't rehash everything here, but read Brett's thread about what happens when you can't trust your gear:

[private DWF link omitted] - {}

But what do I mean by "product development philosophy"? Both Canon and Nikon produce gear that is used daily by tens or hundreds of thousands of professionals. There is no arguing they know the business, and they know what it takes to succeed as an equipment manufacturer. But as an outsider, I suspect that these two companies go about things very differently.

I have long noticed that Nikon seems to introduce more useful features and functions that go unanswered by Canon, rather than the other way around. I'm not talking about video capability, Live View, AF microadjustment, high-res LCD screens, etc. Those are the headliner features, and both companies have developed them to stay competitive. No, I'm talking about the smaller, sometimes unnoticed things.

I'll expound more on this later, but the basic gist is this: there are more settings and configurable options on the D700 than on any Canon I've used, 1 series included. And for settings that are on both cameras, Nikon tends to allow more flexibility in the settings. I may not need all those settings, and I may not even understand the utility of some settings... but I appreciate that Nikon gives me more ways to customize the camera's operation than Canon.

The second part of the philosophy question has to do with their product lineup. Canon is very good at maintaining clear, distinct lines between their various camera models. They save the best features for the 1 series cameras, and remove features as you move down to the 5's, 10's and Rebel series. Canon does not believe in putting "pro" features in a "non-pro" camera... I mean, if they made the 50D too good, nobody would have a reason to go with a 1D Mark III, right?

Nikon seems to be less concerned about product differentiation. Are they crazy for putting the D3's sensor and AF module in the D700, then selling it for $1500 less? I know when I looked at both, I really couldn't see much justification to pony up for the D3. The D700 already has most of the important parts!

I think this is due in part to Nikon not "dumbing down" their cameras to fit a product line, the way Canon does. Example: why is the 40D limited to +/- 2 stops of bracketing in 3 shots? The 1 series can do +/- 3 stops with 2, 3, 5 or 7 shots. The D700 can do +/- 5 stops with 2 to 9 shots. The difference is only in software. Example: the D700 has a built-in intervalometer. None of Canon's DSLRs have that feature... oh, but their cheap point-and-shoots do! Again, that is a software feature... the hardware is perfectly capable of doing it.

And then you get into the more significant capabilities. Wireless commander mode on the Nikons is a perfect example. The built-in pop-up flash on the D700 can control multiple off-camera speedlites. That is an amazing feature! Now I can travel with one body and one flash, and still have the option of doing some quick off-camera lighting. With the Canon, I either have to pack two speedlites, or a speedlite and an ST-E2. That then requires a bag or pouch of some sort, instead of just hanging the camera around my neck and nothing else.

So in the end, I feel that Nikon's philosophy results in a better feature set at a lower price point than Canon. I can understand Canon's desire for product differentiation, but as a consumer I appreciate Nikon's approach more. With Canon, I feel they are deliberately crippling their cameras to "encourage" people to buyer a higher-end model than they otherwise need. Canon says "we would rather you buy a 1D Mark III instead of a 50D". Nikon says "it doesn't matter whether you buy a D700 or D3, we still get your dollars".

Earlier today, I called my local camera dealer and put in an order for a D700, 24-70/2.8, MB-D10 grip, a couple extra EN-EL3a's, and an SB-900. I'll start with that, and then decide how to outfit a second D700 later. I will be picking up everything except the lens tomorrow.

Brian also runs a RAW image file processing company called Raw Pudding. If you're tired of doing your own RAW processing and are looking for another option, check it out! Prices are reasonable and quality is excellent. Brian will basically analyze your "look" and "style" and process your files to look like you did them. How cool is that!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

La Guerra Mexicana by Brian L. Frank

Some fantastic images from Brian L. Frank in his photo essay La Guerra Mexicana.

This photographic essay documents the violence due to the drug war in Mexico in 2008. The story, was completed over a period of 6 months, mostly in the notorious barrios of Tepito and Nezahualcoytl in Mexico City. However, in October, I also visited Juarez where, with the help of local journalists was able to document just a fraction of the rampant violence that has turned the border town into a war zone.

Check out the rest of the article over at Vewd.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sharkwater... 9 year old Kayla wants you to check it out!

My 9 year old niece, Kayla Byers, saw Rob Stewart's documentary Shark Water, and she decided to spread the word to help save sharks by giving a speech about it at school. Not surprisingly, considering Rob's photographic background, there are some incredible photos and video footage over at the Sharkwater website.

Here's Kayla's speech...

Doonuu Doonuu daanuu..... the 1975 movie Jaws still to this day has cast fear into many beach goers, and has contributed to the misconception of sharks. Good morning teacher, parents boys and girls, I am speaking to you today about the movie the 2007 documentary Shark Water. Shark water is a Canadian documentary written and directed by Rob Stewart, Who also plays the lead role. Rob like most children was interested in sharks, However he was encouraged to stay away from then by his parents. As an adult Rob became passionate about educating the world on sharks before they become extended. The Move begins in the Galapagos Island, Where there is one of the only protected breading grounds for Hammerhead sharks.

At the end of one of Robs Dives he was horrified to find a long line fishing line. These fishing lines can be 6 miles line and kills anything that gets caught in it. Rob made it his goal to stop the slaughtering of e legal shark fishing industry. Shark fishing is done for the purpose of making shark fin soup. One pound of dried shark fin can retail in Asia for $300 or more. Rob takes his journey to the Coco Island in Costa Rica with Paul Watson and his Sea Shepperd conservation society. All of the member in board are aware if the estimated100 million sharks killed yearly for their tasteless fins. Among the graphic footage that Rob filmed the movie also show boat chases with the poachers and police, the Sea Shepperd ramming into fishing boats, hidden camera footage of a massive shark finning facility drying more then 1 million shark fins and Paul and Rob being forced to flee the country by gun point.

Suddenly Rpb comes down with Tuberculosis, Danga Feaver, West Nile virus and Flesh eating disease all at the same time he was hospitalized for over a month and was encouraged by his doctors to stop filming and not return to the tropical countries. Instead after Rob recovered he returned to the Islands to finish his dream the movie Shark Water.

Great job Kayla!

For those of you that aren't familiar with Rob Stewart, here's a little background info from his website Abandon Fear.

Before making Sharkwater, Stewart spent four years traveling the world as chief photographer for the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s magazines and as an award-winning freelance photojournalist. Leading expeditions to the most remote areas of the world, Stewart has logged thousands of hours underwater, using the latest in rebreather and camera technologies.

Stewart’s award-winning library of underwater motion and still images has been sought out by some of the most popular and well-respected media companies around the globe, from BBC Wildlife, Discovery Channel, ABC, Asian Diver, Entertainment Tonight and various GEO magazines.

While on assignment to photograph sharks in the Galapagos Islands, Stewart discovered illegal long lining, indiscriminately killing sharks within the marine reserve. He tried promoting awareness through print campaigns, but when the public didn’t respond, Stewart decided to make a film to bring people closer to sharks. At the age of 22, he left his photography career behind and embarked on a remarkable journey over four years and through 15 different countries, resulting in the epic: Sharkwater.

When Stewart boarded Sea Shepherd’s ship, Sharkwater took a turn from a beautiful underwater film into an incredible human drama filled with corruption, espionage, attempted murder charges and mafia rings, forcing Stewart and his crew to become part of the story. During filming, Stewart encountered every obstacle imaginable, including life-threatening diseases such as West Nile, Tuberculosis, Dengue Fever and flesh-eating Disease.

The film has been hugely successful, premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, and winning a “Canada’s Top Ten” award. Sharkwater has gone on to become the most award-winning documentary of the year, winning at the most prestigious film festivals around the world. Sharkwater recently made history as the largest opening weekend of any Canadian documentary and the third largest opening weekend of a documentary in Canadian history, second only to Fahrenheit 911 and Supersize Me.

Check out Sharkwater and check out Abandon Fear.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Project Nigeria - John Densky and International Bridges to Justice

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from John Densky, a photographer for The Canadian Press and Associated Press and an award winning documentary photographer from Southwestern Ontario.

"In May [John] will be heading overseas to shoot a photo essay on Nigeria's prison system. Currently somewhere around 65% of the prison population has not been tried, officially charged nor had access to legal representation. The last estimates from Amnesty place about 300-400 children currently in jail."

"John has close to 20 years of experience working for groups such as The Canadian Press, Associated Press and Mavrixphoto. John’s client list includes The City of Vancouver, Ville De Montreal, People Magazine, Aids Canada, The Unity Project, Care International and Macleans.

John’s work has been described as “deeply humanistic” and most recently “the best contemporary photography available” by National Geographic regular contributor Dr. Phil Devries."

John enclosed a press kit and some other information with his email which I've included throughout this article (click on the any of the images to see them full size). After reading through everything, I was impressed with John's courage and desire to help. There is obviously a real danger aspect involved in taking on a project like this, but it's people like John who are willing to help in the face of such danger that make the world a better place.

On behalf of Art of the Image, I was happy to help John out by donating a couple of EN-EL3e batteries for his Nikon D700 which he'll be taking on the trip (along with his Nikon D3 and Nikon D2Xs), but there are still a few other areas John could use help with. “While much of John’s security and in country travel and operating expenses will be covered by IBJ, the following costs will need to be donated for a safe and successful trip.”

Updated vaccinations specific to region (including malaria) – $400
Visa application – $85
Press visa application (in country) – $150
Robert Q to Toronto and return – $110
Airfare to Lagos (return) – $2,500
Airfare from Lagos to Abuja (in country press visa) – $750
Equipment and country specific health/life insurance –
Back-up camera system (fully weather sealed) – $3,000
Audio recording system (mic. and hard drive) – $380
Compact flash and SD memory – $200
Spare batteries – $200
Power converter – $60
Surge protector - $40
Secure accommodations – $1500
Visa and document body belts – $60
Mosquito netting – $35
Fixer (In country guide) – $600
Promotional materials –

If you or your business or organization would like to help, John can be contacted via email at, or you can get in touch with me here at Art of the Image and I'll pass it along to John.

IBJ is also "currently looking for a lead sponsorship role who will be guaranteed as much media recognition for their contribution that we can provide. Any publications and events relating to the Nigeria Initiative will be linked to the sponsors who have made it possible for the project to succeed.

Lead sponsors will also be provided with a library of images and 12 framed, signed and numbered prints to commemorate their commitment and contribution to the project. All future exhibits and book projects will be clearly branded with each sponsor’s name with preference given to the lead sponsor."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

AA Rechargeable Batteries, Chargers, and Charging

This week I took advantage of a special Dell had on and bought 6 packs of 4 AA Sanyo Eneloop rechargeable batteries. had them on for $14.99, a savings of $5 off the regular price of $19.99, so I stocked up (if you missed the sale, don't worry... Dell runs it regularly every few months so just keep an eye on their website).

For those of you that aren't familiar with Sanyo Eneloops, you should really check them out! Their biggest feature is the fact that they hold there charge for LONG periods of time without losing power.

Sanyo claims they retain 85% of charged capacity after 12 months, and while I haven't let a set sit for 12 months to test them, I can say from experience that they work great after several weeks or even a couple of months so I have every reason to believe Sanyo's 12 month claim is valid. It's so nice to be able to grab a few sets on the way out the door and not have to worry if they've lost their charge. Knowing your SB-800, SB-600, 580 EX, 430, Metz (whatever your flash or strobe of choice is) is going to fire is priceless.

I used to always top up my rechargeable AA's the night before a shoot to make sure they were fully charged. I'd rotate each set through the chargers to make sure I wasn't caught with a discharged set of batteries in the middle of a shoot. It's a huge PITA to be in the middle of a shoot, swap out batteries on an SB-800, and find out they're dead when the flash refuses to power up.

Which raises another point. When the above happens, as I'm sure it's happened to most of you, how do you know if the problem is just one battery or if all of them have lost their charge?

One of the reasons I just bought the new Eneloops is that I discovered some bad batteries during my routine "refresh and analyze" that I run on all my batteries after every 10 charges or so with my Maha MH-C9000 Wizard One Charger/Analyzer.

My Wizard One does the "refresh and analyze" as one of it's five standard operating modes. To quote from MAHA's website, the Wizard One "Charges the battery, rest[s] for one hour, discharge[s], rest[s] again, then recharges it." It has a "[s]electable charging and discharging rate[s]", and is "[s]uitable for batteries stored for more than two weeks but less than 3 month or those showing poor performance."

Basically, the Wizard One charges the batteries up, drains them down, and charges them up again, but the best thing is that it tells you via the Wizard One's LCD how many mAh (power level) each battery is at, and what each battery's voltage is.

You actually know what condition the battery is in, and if an individual battery is causing problems, or if it's the entire set. Battery performance is limited by the worst one, so if you have one bad or lower performing battery, it will effect the entire set's performance. The Wizard One makes things really easy when it comes to figuring out if there is a bad battery in the set that needs replacing.

The Wizard One has four other modes, charge, break-in, discharge, and cycle, all of which are very useful, and give the Wizard One a major leg-up on other chargers. I love this little charger! (I bought mine online here).

Over time I'll be replacing all my AA batteries with Eneloops, and combined with my MAHA Wizard One, I'll have total peace of mind when it comes to knowing my batteries will perform on the job.

Not having to worry about topping up batteries every night before a shoot is a huge relief and time-saver. Knowing that my batteries are at full power, and one of the set isn't going to cause my flash to shut-down just makes things that much better. :)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

“Without promotion something terrible happens—nothing.”

I saw this quote, and it got me thinking. So many people think that if they have a good idea, they can just throw up a blog or a website, and the money will come rolling in. Unfortunately, even in this virtual age of internet and technology, that RARELY happens.

As Mr. Barnum says, “Without promotion something terrible happens—nothing.” Even a website needs to be promoted. So does a blog. The promoting doesn't have to be paid advertising, but you need to promote somehow.

A lot of people would like to be landscape or nature photographers. They think how great it would be if they could just spend time outdoors and take great photos with really great cameras and gear. I mean, with a Nikon D3X and a AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR, you can't help but get good photos, right? (you should be able to hear my "tongue-in-cheek" tone here).

Problem is, even if you get the GREAT photos, put them on a nice looking website, and all your friends tell you how nice they are, you'll most likely still find yourself wondering why you've never sold a print. Promotion is everything. The big names in the business all promote there stuff. The really big names have the ability to promote there stuff without it even seeming like they're promoting anything.

Promoting effectively is a lot of hard work. It's not easy, and it's often VERY frustrating trying to figure out how to go about it effectively. But the thing is, “Without promotion something terrible happens—nothing.”

(by the way... I found the photo of P.T. Barnum over at Have a peek as it's an interesting tour).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nikon D5000

Well, the rumours were right! Nikon did announce a new DSLR today.

The Nikon D5000 hit the internet, and perhaps the most notable feature is the "vari-angle" LCD screen as Nikon calls it, making it a lot easier to shoot from a whole variety of angles and perspectives that weren't all that easy before.

The other big notable feature is the D-Movie Mode with sound, allowing the user to shoot video at 720p HD. The D90 is the only other Nikon DSLR to do this at the moment. At only $729 USD suggested retail, that makes the Nikon D5000 an interesting little beast.

Check out all the specs at Nikon here.

More on the Nikon D5000...

First Impressions After Shooting The D5000 For A Few Days

Shooting The D5000 At ISO 3200

Observations, Likes, and Dis-Likes After A Couple Weeks Of Shooting With My D5000

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Here's a pretty high profile photo project worth having a look at. I especially like the local level aspect of taking it into the classrooms and getting the kids involved at a hands-on level.


NEW YORK; MARCH 9, 2009 USA Network announces the launch of Character Project, an ongoing artistic initiative to celebrate the extraordinary people, from all walks of life, who make this country unique. Inspired by USA's iconic "Characters Welcome" brand, and with the support of the not-for-profit photography organization Aperture Foundation, USA assembled a team of 11 world-class photographers to capture the character of America during the summer of 2008. The artists' work will be showcased in the powerful photography book entitled American Character: A Photographic Journey, published by Chronicle Books. The book will be available beginning March 17 in retailers across the country and internationally, as well as at and other major online outlets.

Featuring each photographer's provocative perspective on our nation's most compelling characters, American Character celebrates the continuously-evolving mosaic of our country. The photographs from the book will be on display in a touring exhibition, co-hosted by Vanity Fair, beginning in New York City Thursday March 12 and visiting six additional cities: Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Character Project photography will additionally be featured in a national print, on-air and out-of-home campaign including a 12-page insert in the April issue of Vanity Fair.

The foreword for American Character: A Photographic Journey was written by best-selling author and former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw. Having experienced the innumerable facets of American character throughout his career, Brokaw brings his worldly voice to the introduction of the book. "I'm thrilled to work with USA on Character Project and to write the foreword for American Character: A Photographic Journey," says Brokaw. "This book is a fascinating study of and tribute to the mosaic of modern American character. From Alaska to New York City, you will see the changing face of a nation."

Character Project Photographers

The Character Project Photographers include legendary artists Mary Ellen Mark and Sylvia Plachy as well as Dawoud Bey, Jeff Dunas, David Eustace, Eric Ogden, Marla Rutherford, Anna Mia Davidson, Joe Fornabaio, Eric McNatt and Richard Renaldi. In an effort to create a thoughtful depiction of American character, USA allowed the contributors uncensored creative freedom to interpret the subject through their own eyes. Each photographic essay showcases a range of characters from musicians and local heroes to farmers and patriots, photographed at home, at work and at play in big cities and small towns across the country. Film for many of the eleven projects was kindly provided by Kodak.

Dawoud Bey: Photographed a diverse cross-section of young Americans near Chicago's Columbia College where he has taught for many years.

Anna Mia Davidson: Photographed portraits of sustainable farmers in Washington State.

Jeff Dunas: Shot a color series in and around Los Angeles documenting the American summer experience.

David Eustace: Shot portraits and landscapes as he traveled along the entirety of Route 50, one of the oldest transcontinental roads, stretching over 3000 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Joe Fornabaio: Photographed individuals at barbershops and salons in the New York metro area in order to capture characters engaged in a classic American ritual the haircut.

Mary Ellen Mark: Documented festivals, parades and summer traditions in one of her favorite places to photograph: New York City.

Eric McNatt: Photographed the "wild and wooly, quiet and intense, quirky and idiosyncratic spirit" of his hometown, Brownwood, Texas.

Eric Ogden: Shot portraits of captivating and charismatic American musicians who all hail from Michigan, including Iggy Pop, Andrew W.K., Bootsy Collins, Deastro, Andre Williams, and Detroit Cobras.

Sylvia Plachy: Captured the "spirit of the South" through a series of portraits and panoramas in Mississippi.

Richard Renaldi: Photographed the character of Alaska on its 50th anniversary as a US state.

Marla Rutherford: Shot portraits of individuals from around Los Angeles who had never before been professionally photographed.

A Celebration of Character in Local Communities

As part of a community affairs outreach program, USA Network will bring Character Project and the book to life on the local level via the following:

Character Project Local Curriculum: USA Network partnered with local educators to create a companion curriculum targeting high school students. The initiative includes character-themed lesson plans that consist of three individual yet complementary sections: Character, Connection and Capture. Each section will offer a variety of activities, including writing, reading, discussion and experiential, all of which will encourage students through self-reflection and discovery to consider the role "character" plays in their personal lives and within their communities. The study also offers tips for the students to create their own Character Project. The curriculum will be available online at and will meet national standards for education in English, Literature and Art.

Digital Photography Contest: High school students within each local market have the opportunity to submit photos that capture "characters" in their own city, neighborhood or school. USA Network will provide a "contest kit," which will be distributed by local cable partners throughout the school district. Winners will be selected based on based on originality, creativity and presentation. Local winners will meet a featured photographer and have their photos displayed at the Character Project exhibition in their market and on the Character Project website. Additionally, winners will receive a digital camera and a grant to support arts education in his or her school.

Field Trips to Local Exhibitions: As an overlay to the photography contest, up to three local high school classes will have the opportunity to attend their local Character Project exhibition. Students will have the chance to participate in a question and answer session with the Character Project artists.

For more information on the project, go to the official website at

Friday, April 10, 2009

James Rubio: Backlit Night Portrait on Strobist

David has a great read on back-lighting night portraits over at Strobist.

He discusses how Hawaiian photographer James Rubio shot the above image, and the different technical aspects involved.

You can see more of James Rubio work here.

You can read more of David's insights over on Strobist.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Upgrading your DSLR

Nikon D3X DSLR with lens

A recent question from an aspiring amateur photographer wanting to go pro got me thinking about the whole process of upgrading your gear. I'm as guilty as the next person for wanting the latest and greatest, but is the latest and greatest always neccessary?

The aspiring amateur has a Nikon D200, and had a Nikon D70 before that. I've owned both, and they were both excellent cameras. In fact, any good photographer can still make excellent photos with either.

The D70 even has an advantage over almost every current DSLR on the market. The D70 has a higher flash sync speed (1/500s if memory serves), and can also be tricked to go even higher if you're using wireless flash via Pocketwizards or something similar because the D70 has an electronic shutter.

Here's my response to the aspiring photog...

I've owned and shot both Canon and Nikon.

If you can't afford the current low ISO kings, the D700 or the D3, then a D300 or D90 is a great alternative.

As you can see over at DXO Camera Rankings, the top 3 cameras at the moment are the D3X, D3, and the D700.  Once you're into the lower priced bodies, you'll see that the D90 ranks higher than all the non-D Canon bodies, including the 5D.

Now, I switched back to Nikon from Canon when the D300 came out, and I still shoot with D300's.  I love 'em!  I was shooting a pair of 40D's before I switched back.  The 40D's were good, but nowhere near as good as the D300's over-all.  The 40D focus is hit and miss, especially in comparison with the D300's industry leading autofocus (same as the D3X, D3, and D700's AF).

The D90 came out after the D300, and it has even better high ISO than the D300.  It's a great DSLR, and if I was buying today, I might buy all D90's.

Check out Peter Gregg's 1600 Club Camera Rankings too.  He's got some excellent points in his 1600 Club articles, and uses a very logical system to rank cameras.

To sum up, I'd say a D90 and a 2.8 zoom (check out the Tamron or Sigma 2.8's if you're short on cash) or some Nikon primes (the 1.8's are excellent and won't break your bank account... 35mm, 50mm, 85mmm) will be your best bet.

Nikon D90 DSLR with lens

Yes, I'd likely buy a few D90's instead of my beloved D300's if I were shopping to replace my DSLR's today. Of course I'd love to have the D3X, but I just can't justify spending that kind of money on a body that I really don't need, especially at the pace DSLR's are coming out these days. There is barely an 18 month shelf life on most!

Now that said, I think we've also come to a point where technology has reached a sweet spot. Most of the current DSLR offerings are good enough for most photogs to be able to get the shot. There is less reason these days to up-grade than there used to be even a few years ago. There just isn't that much advantage to up-grading to every new body that comes out as there used to be.

Take the Nikon D100 for example... a great camera in it's day (I know, I owned one). The D70 then came out at half the price, and did everything better. There was good reason to up-grade, and I did.

Then the D200 came out. Again, there was good reason to up-grade, and I did. We got almost twice the MP's, an F100 like body with excellent construction and great AF.

After that, I switched to Canon as they offered some high ISO advantages I wanted.
I shot a 30D/20D combination for a while, and then I shot a 5D/30D combo with an XTi thrown in for a 3rd body. My final Canon combo was a pair of 40D's, which I loved. The 40D's offered better AF, an increase to 10MP (over the 30D), and some other great features that made them a worthwhile up-grade.

With the introduction of the D300, I returned to shooting Nikon with a pair of D300's, which is what I'm currently shooting with. They're great. They're 12MP sensors are very usable at ISO 1600 and even 3200, and 12MP is more than enough for just about anyone's needs. The D300 has the best Auto Focus system on the market today, the same one that is in the Nikon flagship D3X, D3, and D700, and one of the best body's on the market today. My D300's rock, and I'm in no hurry to up-grade.

I thought about a D700 when they came out. The SUPER CLEAN high ISO really is appealing, but it just isn't that much of an advantage to make me pony up $3K for. The body isn't any better (in fact it's the same), and FX is nice and all, but I don't mind the D300's crop sensor.

Now the D3X would be really sweet to shoot with, but $8K!!! Sorry, the divorce will cost me much more on top of that, making the D3X a no deal. I'm not forgetting the D3 either, but it never appealed to me. The D700 would be my choice at that sensor point.

I'm happy with my D300's. I'm making great photos with them, and they're paid for. By skipping this round of up-grades, I'll save plenty of cash I can use for other more important business decisions, and I'll feel fine about buying into the next round of up-grades which will likely be a significant up-grade to my D300's. The D3X chip will eventually appear in a D700 type body, and it will eventually be less than $3K. No, probably not this year, and maybe not next, but it will happen. Just look at the history of DSLR's. It's a given.

If you really want to spend some money (I know, we all like new toys), then consider some new lighting gear or instruction. Lighting, and being able to use light properly, will make more impact on your photography than a new DSLR ever will.

Until then, I'm happily making great photos with my fantastic gear. I'm going to do some shooting right now... you should too!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Life... new website with some great photo galleries

baby gorilla in keepers arms

Life has a new website with some great photo galleries. It's well laid-out, and you can take a visual walk through years of great images.

I love the big apes, and the above image of the baby gorilla made me smile. They actually have a whole gallery of baby gorilla photos.

Well worth a look through, especially the older black and white images!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

Everything search engine

Everything search engine

Ever find yourself looking for an photo on your computer, and you just can't find it no matter how you search?

Check out this awesome little utility, Everything search engine!

It's SMOKING fast, super small (i.e. uses hardly any computer resources at all), it's FREE!

Here's some info from the FAQ on the Everything site.

1.1 What is "Everything"?

"Everything" is an administrative tool that locates files and folders by filename instantly for Windows. Unlike Windows search "Everything" initially displays every file and folder on your computer (hence the name "Everything"). You type in a search filter to limit what files and folders are displayed.

1.2 How long will it take to index my files?

"Everything" only uses file and folder names and generally takes a few seconds to build it's database. A fresh install of Windows XP SP2 (about 20,000 files) will take about 1 second to index. 1,000,000 files will take about 1 minute.

1.3 Does Everything search file contents?

No, "Everything" does not search file contents, only file and folder names.

1.4 Does "Everything" hog my system resources?

No, "Everything" uses very little system resources. A fresh install of Windows XP SP2 (about 20,000 files) will use about 3-5mb of ram and less than 1mb of disk space. 1,000,000 files will use about 45mb of ram and 5mb of disk space.

1.5 Does "Everything" monitor file system changes?

Yes, "Everything" does monitor file system changes. Your search windows will reflect changes made to the file system.

1.6 Is "Everything" free?

Yes, "Everything" is Freeware.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Super Secret Spy Lens for your DSLR

Nikon DSLR,Super Secret Spy Lens

"Perfect for capturing the camera-shy, kids, and street photography"

Remember that very first time you went out with your shiny new SLR, determined to shoot some Pulitzer-worthy people shots? You know, real stuff. Candid shots of people just living their lives and doing real things completely unaware that they were on camera.

It's hard.

People have a sixth sense for knowing when someone's taking their photo. Especially so when you've got an SLR and a big lens pointed right at 'em.

Our Super-Secret Spy Lens is the answer.

It's the ultimate accessory for kids, the photo-shy, street photography or any time you want natural, unposed shots.

Meant to fit the end of your SLR's zoom lens, this guy has a secret cut-out on the side and a precision mirror assembly inside. In short, you can shoot left, right, up, or down (it swivels 360 degrees), all while appearing to shoot straight ahead.

The result? The picture-perfect candid shots you've always dreamed of.

I smiled when I came across this. Kinda makes you want to buy one, doesn't it. :)

You can buy them online at

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lilly's 1st Birthday

Lilly, 1st birthday, cake on face

Happy Birthday Lilly!

Yes, my daughter is an April Fools baby. Today she turns 1 year old! I can hardly believe it.

We had a family birthday party for her on Sunday, and she really liked her chocolate birthday cake!

(Nikon D300 @ Nikon 35mm f2.0)

Neil VanNeikerk on Canon & Nikon TTL Flash

Neil Van Niekerk, Canon 5DMk2 TTL, Nikon D3 TTL

left: -3EV FEC .. Canon 5Dmk2; Canon 580EX II
right: -5EV FEC .. Nikon D3; SB-900; TTL BL

Ever wondered why the same settings don't seem to produce the same results when lighting with flash. Of course, I'm talking about using to different brand DSLR's here, Canon and Nikon.

The above images by Neil VanNiekerk show the different settings he needed to get an image from a Canon 5DMk2 and a Nikon D3 to have similar results.

Check out Neil's latest post common wisdom - Canon's TTL flash vs Nikon's TTL over on his PlanetNeil website for some great insight on how these two flash systems differ and how to tame them for your own use.

Have a look through Neil's other posts while you're over there. Niel isn't just a fantastic photographer, he's a great educator and writer. Caution: You may want to sign up for one of his workshops or seminars. :)