Friday, 31 August 2007

Walking with 50 - Gold

You didn't win silver. You lost Gold.

Sunday, 26 August 2007


Well, I use RAW because I want more freedom while shooting pictures. I really love that I can worry about WB after I take a picture. If it was only because of WB, I would still shooting RAW. What about exposure? You can easily correct exposure in post production without ruining your picture. OK, if you blow your highlights, you can't do much about it. With JPEG you must be very careful in post production, since "post production" is done, when you squeeze shutter release button. There are some geniuses, who will like you to think, that using JPEG is for ones, that know how to use their camera. Rubbish. Next statement is, that using JPEG is like shooting with slides. But with slides you did get better image IQ and selecting right settings is a must. It's not an option. Maybe they will also throw in that you will spend less time in post production with your pictures. Of course you will, since you done that in the field! Oh, really. But let's be honest here. Shooting JPEG does not mean, that you are done with post production. True? But what about those pictures, that are "keepers" and they turn bad, because you choose wrong settings or conditions were changing without you noticing it or simply you didn't have time to change your settings? You could spend a lot of time trying to rescue only one ruined picture. If you could rescue it at all! But, who told you that you will spend a lot of time with editing RAW pictures anyway? You can change WB and/or exposure with only one move for as many pictures as you want! After you done, simply select as many pictures as you wish and click on "batch conversion" and program will export those picture as JPEGs, while you can take your cup of tea. I now I do less editing now, than when I was using JPEG. Why am I so "pro RAW"? I owned KM 5D before and I was shooting exclusively JPEG. I was listening to one of that geniuses, and I was editing like crazy! Don't believe them and don't believe me either! Try it for yourself. Choose one simple but reliable RAW converter and shoot some pictures in RAW and then decide. I didn't mention any details and IQ until now. When you will open those RAW pictures and see all those details, you will realise, what did you throw away with every press of shutter release button on your expensive camera. With how many Megapixels?

Here are some examples. All the pictures were taken with Nikon D80 and Sigma 50-150 f/2,8.
Left pictures are RAW, right ones are JPEG out of the camera, with these settings: WB auto, sharpening +1, tone compensation -1, color mode IIIa, saturation enhanced, HUE adjustment 0. No post editing was done with JPEGs. We are saving time, aren't we?

150mm - ISO400 - f/2,8 - 1/250sec
I could play as much as I like with RAW picture on the left, but I like it this way. It's impossible to correct WB or colours on right one-JPEG. Best way to correct it is to convert it to BW...

What about that purple fringing? Click on picture to see it in full size. Difference is obvious. Needles to say, that left one is RAW. Anybody said sharpness?

Below are 3 sets of pictures, showing difference in details and sharpness. Click on 1:1 crops to view it in full size.
- Set1
Below 1:1 crop. Click to see the difference in sharpness and details.

-Set 2
Below 1:1 crop. Click to see the difference in sharpness and details.

-Set 3
Below 1:1 crop. Click to see the difference in sharpness and details.

Well, it's up to you to decide, but I want to get what I have paid for. Whit JPEG I certainly don't.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Nikon D80 improvements

Now, when Nikon space models are released, and euphoria is over, let's get back to earth. I own very "earthly" Nikon D80. It's a very good camera and I like it a lot, but there is always place for improvement, isn't it. And here are few »improvements«, which I would like to have in next Nikon D80 firmware. Not in new camera, in new firmware.

- Top control panel. It's nice that Nikon D80 still have one. There is almost complete data on it. Also an »EV« compensation indicator. But just indicator, not how much or in what direction did you compensate EV. When turning main command dial while searching for »neutral« position, you can skip »neutral« position very easily and end up turning that dial in both directions, not knowing, where that »neutral« is. Of course, you can look in viewfinder, where those little lines do tell you, where the hell you are! Annoying.

- Let's say that »preview« mode is on and we want to take few shots one after another while looking through a viewfinder. While doing that, you need to change aperture or/and shutter speed. You start turning main or sub command dial between shots, but instead of changing desired parameters, you and up scrolling between stored photos. Of course, you(again) forgot to half-press that shutter release button, which cancel preview and allow us making those changes.

- AUTO ISO. Excellent feature. But why we can choose only 1/125sec as "min shutter speed". Why not 1/500sec? I would like to have usable AUTO ISO also when using 300mm lens. Why not 500mm lens? I have explained how AUTO ISO is working in my Nikon D80 review. Read it, if you still don't know, why it is good for.

- ISO value. Why not showing it in viewfinder all the time? Common now Nikon! You do not expect to sell less Nikon D200/D300 because of that, do you?

- Bracketing. Why you can't do it with self timer mode? Why must we press shutter release button for each »bracketing« separately? If anywhere, than in bracketing we do not need shake ones. They must match perfectly!

- Matrix metering mode exposure. I didn't want to put this on a list, because I don't think that this is an issue. But make it a little bit less sensitive to darker-than-middle-gray areas in the centre, and problem will be solved. Just a little bit. I do like bright pictures, but let me decide, if I want blown highlights.

That's all. That's my Nikon D80 "don't like" list. My Nikon D80 " like list" is longer than that. Much longer. Much much longer.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Sigma 50-150 first impressions

I have it on test and here are my first impressions of this lens. It's small and I like it! I also like 50-150mm zoom. If you would like to make a comparison in FF world, closest match would be 70(80)-200mm lenses. Same reach as on FF, but a lot less weight and bulkiness. So far I like it. Here are some pictures:

150mm - f/2,8 - 400ISO - 1/200

98mm - f/2,8 - ISO200 - 1/125sec

Click on picture above for full size 1:1
98mm - f/4 - ISO400 - 1/250sec

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Sigma 100-300mm f/4 review

What lens to buy for nature "all around" photography? I owned Nikkor 180mm f/2,8. It is an exceptional lens, but 180mm it's a little bit short. There are few options, but what to choose? I didn't want to go on "consumer tele " path, since on 300mm I want to have f/4. So all those 70-300 were out. Yes, f/2,8 is better option, but we are talking budget here! At the end, there were only 2 lenses left. Nikkor 300mm f/4 and Sigma 100-300mm f/4. Original or third party lens? Prime or zoom? I was comparing photos and specifications for both those lenses on the net. I called some people, checked prices and finally I decided. Sigma 100-300mm f/4. Or Sigma 100-300mm F4 APO EX IF HSM . This is how it's called officially. It's very well build (EX), focus and zoom rings run smoothly, front element does not rotate (IF), focusing is fast, silent and you can override AF manually whenever you want (HSM). At last but not least, length of this lens does not change. Nice, ha? Optically it's very good, it's sharp at f/4 from 100-270mm. Between 270-300mm sharpness and contrast get a little bit worse, but usable without any hesitation. It come with a removable mount tripod collar, nice padded bag for carrying around and huge lens hood. Size of front glass? 82mm! It's large! Polarizing filter cost a fortune. It is quite a big lens too. It weights 1,4kg. It has 16 elements in 14 groups. I use lens hood all the time. Not because of flare, but for protection. Hey, the front glass is big! And it does reduce flare. I do not know for how much, but lens hoods do that on all lenses! More on technicalities here Sigma 100-300. How does it perform? Very good! This is MHO, but even other friends of mine agree, that this Sigma 100-300mm and Nikon D80 (my review of Nikon D80) are very well matched. It's sharp, contrast is good and it's fast. There is no competition for Sigma 100-300 in this zoom range regarding price/performance. I liked it a lot and would happily recommend it.

Click on 1:1 crop below, to see it full size.

300mm - f/5,6 - ISO 100 - 1/400sec

270mm - f/4 - ISO 100 - 1/400sec

I am satisfied with this lens. Would you be? Try it and see for yourself.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Or Toscana. However you want it. What can I say when everything had already been said? To put it short: It's beautiful. Amazing. I could not believe it. I thought that everybody who has been there exaggerate a little bit. But no. It's really that beautiful.
So we (me, my wife and daughter) decided to spent a week of our vacations in Tuscany. But where to go and where to stay? I gamble a little bit and did the search exclusively on net. You know that Google is your friend on Internet, don't you? But, what to do with zillion pages and hits that you get? Nothing. I checked it out randomly and try to find "Tuscany home page". I did and I continue my a search there. I stayed away from "luxury B&B" and "Russian language flag" sites. Do I need to say why? After hour or so I had enough of that. I sent an e-mails to a dozen of farmhouses (agriturismo) and I wait. Not for long. I did eliminate ones that didn't respond the same day. That narrowed my selection to 5 farmhouses. A little more e-mails and I booked my vacations in "Agriturismo La Poggiarella ". It's "strategically" placed in a middle of triangle of this towns: Firenze (Florence), Sienna and Pisa. It's in village Coiano. Excellent. We decide that one day will be for excursions, next day for relaxing by the pool. Oh, what a hard life. We visited Florence, Sienna, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Vinci and some beautiful places around farmhouse. Photography? I did some. I didn't went there to photograph Tuscany, although that was my secret wish. I went there on vacations. Big difference. But I did take quite a lot of photos. Some good, most of them average. I brought with me all my photo equipment: Nikon D80,Tokina 20-35 f/2,8, Nikon 50mm f/1,8 and Sigma 100-300 f/4 (not that much, ha). As you can see, I don't have any "travel" lens. Mistake. I would give my left kidney for Nikon AF-S 18-200VR. Or some other 18-200 lens. So, I choose a Tokina as my walk-around lens. I did take some portraits with Nikon 50mm and a few birds pictures with Sigma 100-300. But I could happily left Sigma 100-300 at home. If you are planing to go in Tuscany on vacations, take with you 18-200 lens and enjoy yourself. Which one? Take a pick. If you will go there just to photograph this beautiful country, take all your equipment with you, borrow some and leave your family at home!
Here are some pictures:

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Is Nikon FF camera a must have?

Let's get those, who need or want better IQ, brighter and larger viewfinder, less DOF, real wide-end, and own high-end primes and zooms, out of the picture. They are not part of that question. There is a lot of buzz on the net, regarding new Nikon pro camera. Would it be FF or not? Well, what do I care? I don't need one. Really. I don't. I am satisfied with my Nikon D80. Why? Well, for starter, all lens weaknesses are more visible with FF sensor and on my Nikon D80, most of that weaknesses are gone. Am I prepared to pay much more for lens, only to receive same IQ? No, I'm not. Don't tell me, you plan to mount that under 1.000€ standard zoom lens on FF body? Do I really need less DOF while shooting with tele lens? Nope. Or do I need less DOF at all? Sometimes. Maybe we should ask Peter about this. Am I prepared to pay really big bucks to reach that 400m or 500mm at f/4 for a hobby of mine? I am not. I can't, to be more correct. For me, IQ from Sigma 100-300mm f/4 HSM or Nikkor AF-S 300mm f/4 is all I need in crop world. In FF world, what would equal this? That same Nikkor or Sigma with 1,4TC. Or how many mm prime? Oh, that much. Of course you can always crop FF pictures, but would be quite a crop.
What are my wishes? Well, camera with 12-14MP 1,5 crop sensor, with better or at least equal high ISO noise as Nikon D80, improved dynamic range. I really don't need FF camera. Maybe, just maybe 1,3 crop. I believe that would be a nice compromise. Maybe...

Pictures below were taken today at Lj ZOO.

250mm, f/5, ISO 800- no crop

300mm, f/5, ISO 800-no crop

With FF camera tiger will be a lot smaller.

Nikon 50mm f/1,8 as walk around lens?

Yes, I believe it can be. With some limitations of course. Here are some "general" photos with this little gem.

But I do need a wide lens, don't I?

Nikon-Nikkor 50mm f/1,8 review

Well, it's not a classic review. It's more or less my impressions of this lens. Yes, it's a lens. Yes, it's small. Yes, it's cheap. But what a small cheap lens it is! Metal mount, DOF scale (Canon 50mm f/1,8 users, eat your heart out!), fast focus and reasonably well made. Fast focus? Yes. It is a fast focusing lens. It takes approx 1 sec to focus from infinity to min focus and back! For me this is fast. Is it for you? Sharp? You bet it is! At f/1,8 I don't hesitate to take a portrait. Of course, you can't expect to have sharp corners here. But on min DOF portraits, this is an advantage, not a weakness. For me at least. If you shoot a lot of resolution charts with this lens at f/1,8, you can be disappointed with corner sharpness and CA. But, than again, why would you do that? Shoot a lot of charts... It's my lens of choice for walk-around and it's happily mounted on my Nikon D80 (you can read my review of Nikon D80 here). I know it's not wide enough for street-photo, but which lens with f/1,8 or less would you recommend?! Oh, would you? And price for this lens is....? Now, don't get me wrong here. It's far from perfect, it has limitations, but it's hard to beat price/performance ratio for this lens.Would I recommend this lens? Without any hesitation.

Take a pictures and decide for yourself.

Corner "no-sharpness" is advantage with min DOF portraits.


Colours ain't bad either

Guess what? If you put Raynox DCR 250 on it, you get pretty good 1:2 macro lens.

Again, nice little lense. It's a must have.

Nikon D80 review

A little of everything and AUTO ISO explained

I hear you say " old news,why another one, we know everything about it, ". Well, do you? I don't think so. Why another review? Because I am pretty sure that after week or two of "extended" testing nobody can write a complete review. I know I can't. I own Nikon D80 for 2 months now and I did take over 4000 photos* with it and I still don't know what to do in every situation that can pop-up. That's why I shoot in RAW (just kidding. But I do use RAW). And the reason why my review is different from other reviews that were published shortly after the camera was launched is: "It's mine, I use it every day and I paid for it !" So it better be good. That's a big a difference. I will not explain every single function on Nikon D80. There is too much for explain, but I will point feature or two that I like.
*It's an old post. It's like 8 months now and cca 16.000 pictures taken.

It's smaller than D70 and bigger than KonicaMinolta 5D. KM 5D? What is this camera had to do with Nikon D80? Well, before switching to yellow camp I owned a KM 5D. It was (and still is) a damn good camera. Back to Nikon D80. If you do not have palm of your hand as big as shoe box, it will fit just fine. The little finger will find a support. If you do have palm of your hand big as shoe box, buy a battery grip or D200. Both options are OK. In short, body will be fine for most of you. It's fine for me anyway. Position of buttons and dials is fine, but use of some buttons is not that straight as I would like (and I am used to). For example, on Nikon D80 you must use both your hands to change ISO. With left thumb you must press ISO button ( it is on the left side of the body) and with right thumb you turn Command Dial to change ISO value. On KM 5D ISO button was on the right side and you could look through the view finder and set ISO with one hand using index finger and thumb. Nice, a? And WB Dial on KM 5D was just fantastic. On Nikon D80 you can change main functions with buttons and that is very good. The worst thing on body are battery doors. They are just too loose. Biggy ha?

Buttons&dials /where are they and how to use them
Mode dial.
You need one and you have one. On my camera most of the time it's in A or M mode. There are also useful Point& Shoot modes; auto, portrait, landscape, macro,... . If you find yourself shooting most of the time with these modes, you should think about buying Point&Shoot camera, which is also smaller.
Main and sub-command dial.
You have both of them. This is very handy (and not every 10MP DSLR has it). In "A and S mode" you can "program" main dial to change EV. Nice. With sub dial you change aperture. There is no need for changing EV in M mode, so with main dial you change a shutter speed. There is more to it, but this is important for me.
for almost every feature you need. For metering mode, shooting mode, auto focus AF, ISO, EV, Qual (RAW or different JPEG settings), WB, bracketing, AE-L/AF-L and Func button. Of course, there is also a Multi selector. You can even format your SD card if you press 2 of those buttons simultaneously(marked with red sign). And all these features you can change also in Menu.
Well, I could write a novel to describe each and every feature you can change, set or do in Menu. Hey, you have a little digital dark room in there ( crop, lightening of dark areas, changing colour photo to B&W with filters!,...), you can see how many shots did you take with battery, status of the battery, you can change tone, colors, contrast,... . On top of that there is a Custom Setting Menu where you can change over 30 settings; It' just too extensive to write about it. But, there are 2 features that I really really like. First one is my favourite and is in Custom Settings Menu. AUTO ISO. I just love it. Since ISO is issue no more with Nikon D80 (even at ISO 1600) it s very useful. But more important is the way that is implemented. In AUTO ISO you set max ISO value and you set min. shutter speed. It would be wise, that you use mm/shutter speed rule (i.e. 100mm lens-1/100sec shutter speed).
Let's look how it works. In short, correct exposure is done by camera changing ISO value. We are in digital era, aren't we, so we don't need to be limited with ISO films no more. Right?
In A mode you select desired aperture, shutter speed is chosen by camera and is limited by AUTO ISO (it's not fixed and could change). Camera will set correct exposure by raising ISO first and only after max ISO is reached (one that you have set in AUTO ISO) shutter speed will be lowered below your chosen min shutter speed (also set in AUTO ISO). Clear? No? For example let's say that in AUTO ISO you set max ISO at 1600 and min. shutter speed at 1/125 sec. For correct exposure D80 will first raise ISO until ISO 1600 is reached and only than will start to lower your shutter speed you set at 1/125. Where can you use this? In situation where you need constant aperture and shutter speed. It's excellent way to reduce blurry photos. There is a limitation. In AUTO ISO you can set min shutter speed at only 1/125sec (why Nikon, why'). So, if you use lenses longer than 125mm ( I am sure that you do) you could get blurry photos any way. But there is a trump card! M (manual) mode. Regardless of what shutter speed did you set in AUTO ISO, camera will over-ride it and choose one set in M mode. But there is no free lunch. You must take care not to over expose, since when min ISO is reached, camera won't lower shutter speed or increase aperture and you will and up with over exposed photo. It would be very nice if Nikon would add higher shutter speeds in AUTO ISO. Maybe with next Firmware? In my opinion AUTO ISO should be an "ISO priority mode" on Mode dial.
Second feature that I also like very much is relating to spot metering. When you select "spot metering", metering is done in AF point that you will select and not in central AF point. You get focusing and metering in one point.
There is a lot to like with Nikon D80. And there are few things that I like less. Like when you take a shot and pre-view is on by turning a Main dial you start to list a photos on LCD monitor. You must half-press a shutter release button or wait until photo disappear from display. There can be some blown highlights in Multi-metering mode. But you can correct this in "Shooting Menu-Custom" with "Tone Compensation" by selecting " Medium low" or "Less contrast". I shoot in "Central weighted" mode and have no problem with that. Even here you can choose 3 different settings: 6,8 and 10mm where camera is metering. Some features Nikon even didn't bother to market as a selling point. Like anti-static coat over a sensor to reduce dust issue. Also AUTO ISO and spot metering in AF point weren't talked about. But I am glad that they are there. As I wrote before, there are so many different settings that is really almost impossible to use every one, since we stick with settings that we know well and can predict a result-a good picture. Would I recommend Nikon D80? Absolutely.
A picture can speak a thousand words. So here are few of my taken with Nikon D80. If I believe there is something to explain, I will.

f/2,8 - 1/25s - ISO 1600 - 65mm- 1:1 crop-click for 100% view
You still think that ISO1600 is a problem? Think again.

AUTO ISO - Spot metering on the eye. f/4 - 1/800sec - ISO 125 - 180mm

100% crop from above photo- click to view 1:1

These 2 photos of tiger are interesting. They were taken one after another, but difference in exposure is obvious. I believe it's caused by spot metering on different spots.

AUTO ISO - spot metering - f/4 - 1/125sec - ISO 180 - 180mm

AUTO ISO - spot metering - f/4 -1/320 - ISO 125

AUTO ISO - spot metering -0,7EV - f/4 - 1/200 - ISO - 180mm

Back lit and (I believe) nicely exposed.

central weighted - f/4 - 1/320sec - ISO 100 - 180mm

If you would like to know more about Nikon D80 click on this link
Digitutor Nikon D80