I bought my first “serious” Mirrorless camera three years ago when the Nikon Z6 came out. I bought it mainly because I like new tech and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Back then the mere mention of Mirrorless brought Sony to mind. Sony got a big jump on the industry. However, the handwriting was on the wall. Soon all manufacturers began their transition from DSLR to Mirrorless.
My former camera was the legendary Nikon D850. An amazing camera body and in my opinion one of the best cameras Nikon ever produced. Since I already had a D850 I chose to get the Z6 over the Z7. Again, I wasn’t planning on switching at the time. Nikon made it really easy to start using their Mirrorless cameras because they included an (FTZ) adapter that made it possible to use your existing F-Mount Nikon lenses with no loss in quality. This was probably the biggest thing they needed to do if they ever hoped to get people to consider or move to mirrorless. Bodies come and go, but people hold on to good glass (lenses) for years and years.
I started using the Nikon Z6 Mirrorless and I never stopped!
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One of my hobbies is critiquing and redoing user interfaces in my head. I have been slowly making a transition from my Nikon DSLRs cameras to Nikon Mirrorless cameras. I started with a Nikon Z6 and now use the Nikon Z6 II pretty much as my primary camera. I’m not quite ready to sell my Nikon D850 because it’s just so good! However, I can see the day in the future where I just shoot with mirrorless bodies.
I’ve never been a big fan of Nikon’s menu system
Although I have enjoyed shooting Nikon since 2007, If you were to ask me to name the things that are my least favorite, the menu system would certainly be high on the list. At least the new Z mirrorless models do have a touch screen. This makes moving through the menus a little faster as you can just tap on the option you want instead of having to arrow up, down, left, and right all the time. I have a suggestion I’ll share at the end that would make all the difference in the world, but that’s not why I’m writing this post. I’m here today to point out something that really pisses me off. I noticed it first with the Z6 and have run into it on the Z6 II as well.
You can’t use that feature and I’m not going to tell you why!
I got the opportunity to review the 2017 DSLR of the Year. It’s the Nikon D850. This camera is so hot that it’s still in short supply several months after it’s release. When Nikon offered to send me one for review (full disclosure, it was a loaner and has been returned. This was NOT a paid review. P.S. I don’t do paid reviews), I jumped at the chance. I wanted to do something beyond just listing specs and showing sample photos. I wanted to do a LIVE shoot, but let YOU the user experience the entire video in 360°. Here’s how it came out:
If you watch the above video you should be able to pan around in a 360° space and watch anything you want when you want. As far as I can tell, this is the first review of the D850 of this kind. If I’m not the first to do it, it’s still a first for me 😀
I gotta admit that I was suffering from DSLR fatigue. I haven’t been excited about a new DSLR for a long time. However, I had a wishlist for whatever my next DSLR would be have and low and behold Nikon built 99% of it in the NEW Nikon D850!
45.7MP FX-Format BSI CMOS Sensor
EXPEED 5 Image Processor
3.2″ 2.36m-Dot Tilting Touchscreen LCD (on my wishlist “tilting and touchscreen”)
4K UHD Video Recording at 30 fps (on my wishlist)
Multi-CAM 20K 153-Point AF System
Native ISO 25600, Extended to ISO 102400
7 fps Shooting for 51 Frames with AE/AF
8K Time-Lapse, Negative Digitizer Mode (wasn’t on my wishlist, but damn!)
180k-Pixel RGB Sensor, Focus Shift Mode
SnapBridge Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (on my wishlist)
Still missing from my wishlist: built-in GPS, sigh…, but at least I can still use my external one.
I’m traveling in Asia for the Adobe Create Now/CC Launch tour. My first stop was Auckland New Zealand and my hotel room just happened to have a balcony. Whenever, I have a private balcony that’s an added bonus when it comes to photography because it usually means that I can leave my camera setup for extended periods of time to shoot long exposures and time-lapse scenes. With a beautiful view of the harbor I decided to shoot a time-lapse. Since I don’t shoot time-lapse very often I Googled “best time-lapse settings”. Most of the result offered pretty much the same advice. For your time-lapse to look the best it’s better to use a consistent exposure and shoot in Manual mode as much as possible. This means setting a fixed exposure as well as shooting Manual focus. The reason for this is to keep your camera from changing exposure or focus in each shot, thereby creating a more smooth time-lapse video.
I learned the hard way that this works great except if your scene will change drastically during the shoot. For example, shooting a sunrise means that you will start out shooting in the dark and ending up in the light. The opposite would be the case for shooting a sunset as I attempted above. By keeping the same exposure throughout the scene it went from being properly exposed to completely dark. I salvaged it by combining it with a second one of the same scene after it got dark.
The lesson here is that if the scene is going to change drastically during your time-lapse it’s probably best to shoot it on Aperture Priority mode so that the exposure will be adjusted automatically over time. Learning from this mistake I shot another one in the morning and the results were much better:
The time-lapse above was shot in Aperture Priority and Manual Focus.
Settings and Gear
I took my Nikon D810 on this trip because I knew I’d be traveling to places I’d never been before and wanted to have my best camera with me. I also brought my Gitzo Traveler Tripod and Kirk BH-3 Ballhead. No matter which camera you have, you will definitely need a tripod. The camera will be shooting for several minutes or hours. This also means you’ll want a fresh battery. I wish I had brought my battery grip along to double my shooting time. If your camera can be plugged into AC that would be best. I used my Nikon 28-300mm lens. I shot using:
Capturing a frame every 5 seconds
Duration 40 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes depending on how long of a video I wanted at the end.
A note about Time-Lapse on the newer Nikon bodies. Shooting Time-Lapse used to mean shooting hundreds of stills and then putting them together in a video editing program afterwards. Starting with the Nikon D4 the Time-Lapse mode creates a video right in camera. Instead of hundreds of stills on your memory card you’ll have the single video. This is great because it makes the process much much easier and frees up all that space on your memory cards/drives. There was one thing I hadn’t figured on when doing my math. I was figuring video at 30fps. However, I had my D810’s video setting on 1080p 60fps. When I brought my first time-lapse into my computer it was only 8 seconds instead of 15/16 seconds. I scratched my head for a few seconds before it hit me that 60fps means that the time-lapse will be half the time. I stretched duration in Adobe Premiere Pro CC to 15 seconds and the results still looked good.
Here’s one that I shot in Hong Kong during the day. Since the exposure wasn’t going to change I could shoot it all in Manual as originally recommended:
The Bottom Line
Shooting Time Lapse videos can be fun. With newer cameras it’s easier than ever. If you’re in a situation where you can set your camera up for 30 minutes or more on a tripod and shoot a scene you’d be surprised by what takes place during that time. Enjoy!
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Speedlights are great for being able to light your subject on location. You get a portable, battery operated solution that with the right modifiers can be a great asset. The only problem is that the name brand speedlights by Nikon and Canon cost hundreds of dollars. This makes it hard to justify buying two or three of them. My main speedlight is a Nikon SB910 and it’s currently going for $546.95 at B&H. That price point puts them in the range of studio strobes.
At the end of the day you need a good light that works with the functions of your camera such as TTL, and doesn’t eat through batteries faster than normal or fail during your shoot. I had a chance to try out the Aperlite YH-500N during a portrait/fashion shoot that I did recently.
I used it with my Westcott Rapid Box 26″ Octa modifier as well as my Pocket Wizard triggers. I hadn’t had any time with it before the shoot. I took it out of the box and put my rechargeable AA batteries in it. Mounted it and started shooting. I was impressed with the output and recycle rate was also decent (3 seconds), but not super. The controls are very easy to use and the illuminated LCD is very easy to read. Actually had I spent a few minutes with it before the shoot I would have found out that it has partial support for Nikon’s Wireless remote mode. This takes it up a notch because I have the ability to trigger the Aperlite from the pop-up flash on my Nikon D810.
See it in action here
The bottom line
Chances are your Nikon or Canon branded speedlight is built better and may last longer, but here’s the kicker… the Aperlite is only $59.99! At that price you can buy 4 of them for less than the cost of the name brand basic speedlights.
Even if the Aperlite failed after a year’s use I could replace it every year for 9 years before hitting the cost of one SB-910.
It also makes my Westcott Rapid Box Duo 32″ Duo (which holds 2 speedlights) much more viable. I haven’t had any issues with it thus far and I’d definitely be much more willing to risk it in less than ideal conditions than I would my SB-910. If I had to do a shoot in the water or rain you better believe I’d reach for my Aperlite first. If you’re looking for a low cost speedlight, this is it.
I can’t believe how many times this question comes up. Usually it’s asked by new photographers or photographers that haven’t yet made a decision on which brand DSLR they’re going to go with. Last week I attended a photography meet-up at one of the local studios. Keep in mind that this was just a casual setting and I didn’t even bring my gear (in hindsight I wish I had as there were some shooting opportunities there with new models). Two of the photographers walked up to me and we started talking about photography and videography in general. One of them asked me “so do you shoot Nikon or Canon?” and I said Nikon, his partner high-fived me while he turned and walked away in disgust as if he had just lost another bet or something. It was all in fun of course, but I guess I find it odd that people are so passionate about what tools they work with that if you use a different tool it upsets them. Last night I got asked on my Instagram feed.
This one was obviously more looking for a recommendation than anything else and I respect that. It prompted me to write this post so that I can answer the question and of course point people to it the next time I’m asked 🙂 So let me get to the answer(s):
Why did I pick Nikon?
My first DSLR was actually an Olympus E20N. I started to take my hobby more and more serious and while I liked my Olympus camera, it had a fixed lens. It was finally time (2004) for me to upgrade to a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. Having watched the market I knew that I was going to go with either a Nikon or Canon camera. I want to make this part perfectly CLEAR! I had ZERO bias towards either brand (and still don’t to this day!) None of my close friends were photographers. I was making my own choice simply by my budget and the specs. I knew I wanted a camera with a fast start up time. Yes we take for granted now that we can just turn on our cameras and start shooting, but back then it “startup time” was a concern. My budget at the time was around $1,000. That put me in the price range of the 1st generation Canon Rebel. It looked good to me, but the only problem is that that model had been out already for almost a year and while I new a newer model was probably coming, it hadn’t come by the time I was ready to buy. On the other hand Nikon had just introduced the Nikon D70. It was new, and this 6.1MP beauty had all the specs I wanted and was in my price range. That was it. Plain and simple. I went with the newer camera by one of the two brands I was looking at.
Why did I continue with Nikon?
As almost any photographer will tell you, once you start buying lenses you’re not going to switch brands on a whim. There’s always a new Nikon and a new Canon camera coming out. So you’ll always be glancing at the other brand and latest new toys. However, there hasn’t been anything on the Canon side that made me say “I gotta sell everything and switch.” On the other hand for years Nikon has had a couple of features that lacked on the Canon side that made me happy with my choice. For one I was a heavy user of the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) and the ability to fire and control Nikon speedlights from the built-in flash. This wireless control is beyond just a simple wireless trigger and allows you to control the power and groups of flashes. The other long time advantage that Nikon had was built-in GPS support right in the menu of the cameras for years. While you still need to buy an external GPS module (when will you guys build these in as a standard option or least put them in the battery grips?), the support for them is and had been built-in for a very long time. I love having the geotag info go right into the metadata as a I shoot. Now these features that I’m sure Canon probably offers by now, but for years they didn’t.
Did I ever consider switching?
Yes there was a time. Well I’ll say that I considered ADDING a Canon DSLR back in the days when Canon was ahead on low light/high ISO shooting. Yep, I was drooling big time. I almost pulled the trigger on buying a Canon DSLR a couple of times just to have this capability. However, I waited and the next Nikon to come out had great low light performance and that was the end of my envy. I stepped up to a D700 (from the D300 that had replaced my D80 which had replaced my D70) and used it happily for several years before going to the D4 (D600 backup body, which replaced the D7000 and D5000 backup bodies before it) and now a Nikon D810!
Do I think Nikon is better than Canon?
I can see the eyebrows raising as I type this. Let me answer it this way. Both brands produce GREAT cameras and with any two things you’re going to have advantages in one area over the other. So yes, I think Nikon glass (lenses) are better. But keep in mind that’s just from my observations looking over the fence. I haven’t actually spent a lot of time shooting different Canon lenses. It’s just an observation and even something that I’ve had Canon shooters whisper to me on the side. I think Canon does and has done a much much better job with video than Nikon has. There’s no question about it. If you’re looking to do DSLR video then you should probably look at Canon first. Also Canon seems to have the sports shooting market all but locked up. You’ll see more Canon cameras on the sidelines than any other brand in professional sports. Since I never shoot sports this isn’t something that I consider. My Nikon D810 does a great job shooting video too. My primary use for my Nikon camera is shooting portrait work and for that I’ve been happy since day one. Never had a complaint about the quality and my work has been used in print. If you were hoping for a clear definitive one is better than the other. I can’t give you one. It’s because I think they are both great and both have advantages and disadvantages over the other. I never understand why some people feel that in order to be justified in their choice, the other one must suck/fail. It’s a lack of confidence thing I think.
Which one should YOU buy?
Believe it or not I really don’t care. Last time I checked neither Nikon nor Canon has paid a single one of my bills. So I don’t gain anything if you buy Nikon or if you buy Canon. The best advice I can give you is to buy the one that does what you need it to do. The one that’s in your price range and it probably wouldn’t hurt to buy the brand that your friends use. Huh? What do my friends have to do with it? Think about it this way. If you’re always shooting solo then no, it doesn’t matter which brand you choose. However, if you’re shooting with your buddies on a regular basis then having the same brand means that you guys can swap lenses, batteries and other accessories while you’re shooting. You’ll have a lot more fun and be able to focus on your photography rather than constantly glaring at the fact that he/she’s using something DIFFERENT. Both brands will allow you to capture amazing images, if YOU are up to it.
The Bottom Line
I’m not really into the whole Canon vs. Nikon war that so many of you fight (if you want to have a health RAW vs JPEG debate then I’m all for it – kidding…). I explained my choice above and most importantly I get the results I want from the investment that I made in my tools. I have friends that shoot Nikon. I have friends that shoot Canon. It’s all good (unless of course you shoot Sony! We just can’t have that at all! OMG YOU SUCK! —— Just kidding. LOL my buddy Frank Doorhof shoots Sony. It’s ok. No, really it is.)
Now you know Why I shoot Nikon.
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One thing that I’ve learned the hard way more than once is that if you travel to a beautiful location without a tripod, you’re really limiting your potential. If you want to shoot long exposures you need a tripod as they are impossible to shoot handheld. If you want to shoot HDR during the evening or early morning hours you’re going to want a tripod. If you’re going to shoot time lapse then you’re going to want a tripod. I have a GREAT Tripod for travel. I bought it years ago. While I love the fact that it’s carbon fiber and therefore light weight, I wanted to see if there was one that was shorter when folded down? My search lead me to Sirui. I had never heard of them before. However, the specs were what I was looking for:
Maximum Height of 56.9″
Load Capacity of 26.5 lb
8x Carbon Fiber Legs
Forged Aluminum Alloy Chassis
Short Center Column for Low-Angle Shots
Folds Down to Just 14.6″
Weighs Just 2.6 lbs
This one folds down to 14.6″ vs. my Gitzo which folds down to 16.7″. While 2 inches may not sound like much, it actually makes the difference of fitting in my suitcase horizontally instead of diagonally allowing me more room for my clothes and other gear. The maximum height is a little over an inch shorter than my current one, but load capacity is 50% more than my current one. This means it can hold my bigger bodies and lenses. The weight of the Sirui is only .4 lbs more than the Gitzo. Probably the biggest factor to compare is that the Sirui is less than half the price of the Gitzo.
The Sirui T-2205X 5 Section Carbon Fiber Tripod comes with:
Short Center Column
Padded Travel Bag with Shoulder Strap
6 Year Limited Warranty
The bag is really nice, but it’s really only designed to carry the tripod and the supplied accessories. Like most professional tripods this one does NOT include a ballhead. Once I added my Kirk Ballhead to it, it was a tight fit in the bag, but it did fit.
The Bottom Line
There are wide assortment of tripods out there are all different prices and capabilities. If you’re looking for one that is pro level, folds down very compactly and can hold heavy gear, this one will suit you well. This is definitely in the category of Best Tripod for Travel!
It’s always fun to get out and shoot on my free time. Now with the Periscope App it’s easier than ever to invite people to watch live. This past weekend I did a live broadcast from my sunset shoot at Piedmont Park in Atlanta Georgia. I had over 100 people watching my short broadcast. With Periscope the broadcasts can be uploaded for replay for a 24 hour period. After that they are pretty much history. Sure Periscope allows you to save the video to your camera roll, but that video doesn’t include any of the comments or interactions (hearts) you received during your broadcast. Not to mention the fact that it’s in vertical orientation which really tends to tick people off on YouTube. I figured out a way to keep the video, comments, hearts and reshare it in a landscape view:
1. Within 24 hours of your broadcast you can plug your iPhone into your Mac running Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10.x) and launch the QuickTime Player. From there you can choose your iPhone as the camera and audio source (see the details how to do this here). Now just press the record button in QuickTime and playback your Periscope broadcast from the Periscope App. This will effectively screen record your iPhone so that you’ll have a movie of all your Periscope interactions.
2. This still doesn’t solve the portrait vs. landscape issue. As of this writing the developers of Periscope are working on “landscape mode” but it’s not here yet. Therefore embrace it, don’t fight it. With Adobe Premiere Pro CC I was able to import my Periscope screen recording and then add other elements to fill up the space. Elements like still photos that I captured during the shoot and other videos such as drone footage.
Here are my results:
While it will be absolutely phenomenal when Periscope offers landscape mode, you can make due in the meantime.