Photo Notes

August 14, 2012

New Camera!

I hope you’ll check out my books: Photographing Architecture and Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting. I hope you’ll get copies if you haven’t already. Of course you know that one reason for this blog is to sell the book and get you to consider one of my classes at BetterPhoto.com: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio Getting Started in Commercial Photography If you’re in the Indianapolis area there are other opportunities as well. I’ll be giving a Photomicrography presentation on August 23 at Black Dog Books in Zionsville. Call 317.733.1747 to reserve a space. I’ll be teaching a class in commercial photography next spring at Ivy Tech.

I’ve been spending time learning to work with my new camera, a Nikon D800. Since I haven’t had a new digital camera in about 8 years there are a few things to catch up on. My previous camera was a full frame camera that used Nikon lenses, so I can use the same glass, but I needed to make several up grades to work with the 36 megapixel images. I’ve had to get larger CF cards and a faster card reader, as well as a portable hard drive for location work.

One of the upgrades I am most excited about is the Eye-Fi card. This is an SD card that transfers the image files wirelessly to the computer. I have long been a proponent of setting up your lighting while looking at the image on a laptop. On my last camera the only way to do this was with a cable that ran between the camera and the computer. Most wireless systems are very expensive: Nikon makes a Wireless File Transmitter, but it costs about $740. The Eye-Fi card is about $80, but there are a lot of considerations about using it. First it is only appropriate for small to medium sized files. This would mean that I really couldn’t use it, but the D800 has two card slots, one for a CF card and another for an SD card. So you can set up the camera to put the RAW file on the CF card and put a smaller jpg file on to the Eye-Fi SD card. There are some definite challenges to setting up the network, but I got everything to work. One thing I am still trying to find is a program that will display the most recent image.

One of the keys to getting comfortable with a new camera is to play with it. I spent several days in my office playing with micro lenses (check out the earlier blog entries for info on specialized micro lenses. Look at the Micro Photography Category). I made a lot of bad images, and few that are passable. The key is that I leaned a lot about how the camera sees. I also did tests on resolution, long exposure and high ISO settings. It is important to look at the files in detail.

It is also very important to be willing to make mistakes. So I need to play with the buttons and the settings. I don’t need to memorize every function of the camera, what I need is to make choices about every function of the camera. For instance I don’t think I’ll use the photo editing functions of the camera, but I will use the custom white balance settings.

Yesterday I went to the Indiana State Fair, which was a great place to play with the camera. I made a lot of shots, which helps me to test my workflow. I got to play with long exposures, which didn’t work very well with the last camera. I also experimented with shots at high ISO. One of the biggest problems with the old camera was that the maximum usable ISO was 160. I can now shoot at ISO 6400, which is really remarkable. The shots I’m attaching are from the fair.

I have to say I am very impressed with the camera. The files are remarkably crisp and saturated. The camera is very quick, by my standards. I particularly like how quickly the camera turns on. I think the camera might be a little lighter than my last camera. Certainly the camera is a little smaller, but the LCD is a lot larger. I’ve done a few experiments with my strobe and everything works well there. I’m not done playing yet, but I am ready to use the camera on a commercial job.

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