Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nikon D3

The Nikon D3 camera continues to amaze me after six months of steady use. I've been shooting professionally for over thirty years. This camera is the best instrument I have ever used. The super-fast 9fps motor drive makes capturing models spontaneous expressions a breeze. I had all but given up trying to achieve fluid, candid movement with my models due to the slow motors and short burst rates of previous digital cameras. It seemed that the scene would just be getting good when the buffer would fill up and the camera would deliver its "busy" signal. Spontaneity lost!

The fast focusing lenses and easy internal focus system of the D3 make the job even easier. I am finding myself literally completing a scene with models in less than a minute -- often in just a few seconds. I have come to depend upon all images being sharp as the fast 70-200mm zoom -- my favorite tool for lifestyle shooting -- keeps every frame in focus. There are hardly any wasted exposures.

The other thing I find amazing about this camera is its image quality. For a 12+mp sensor it packs the quality punch of sensors over 20mp. I've done tests with it against my Canon 1Ds MkIII where both images are interpolated to 50mb size. The Nikon holds its own with equal detail and takes the lead when I begin to push the ISO ratings over 400. The Nikon takes a noiseless image up to about 800 ISO, and I have achieved professional results with some minor tweaking in the noise reducer, Neat Image, with ISO's of 1600 and even an occasional 3200. What is becoming apparent is that the most important determinent of image quality is not the megapixel number but the quality and size of the sensor.

I took the camera on my trip to Prague in June where I was photographing church interiors handheld with ISO's up to 800. This ability is becoming important as more and more public buildings ban tripod use.

At this moment I am awaiting the arrival of my new Nikon D700 from Karen at Samy's Camera. This camera has the same insides as the D3 in terms of sensor and quality, built into the body of a D300, which should make for a very portable travel camera. I purchased it specifically to lighten my load when traveling without sacrificing quality. The fast motor drive is missing from the D700, but I don't need it for travel shooting. I do have the extra battery adapter for the bottom that will kick the motor up to 8fps, which is still one of the fastest cameras out there. I'll report on this camera once I've given it a trial.

As everyone knows, stock images for traditional agencies need to be interpolated close to a 50mb standard size, whereas images for microstock agencies need to be kept to their native size and not interpolated at all. I find it best to up-res the images in Adobe Bridge at the time I am bringing it in from RAW, as opposed to interpolating afterwards.

Nikon introduced two new zoom lenses to coincide with the introduction of the D3. Digital sensors are much less forgiving than film. The angle of light hitting the sensor is much more problematic, particularly with wide angle lenses. The early full frame sensor cameras like the Canon 1Ds series suffered from a lack of acceptable wide angles. The edges were always soft, as these light rays land at the most extreme angle. The new Nikkor 24-70mm and 14-24mm zooms were computed specifically for the larger sensor size of the D3 and produce excellent edge to edge sharpness. Add to these the 70-200mm lens already in production and you have an uninterrupted focal range from 14-200mm. Impressive.

Since this blog is about stock photography, I will be reporting about other cameras and photo equipment from time to time in terms of how they affect the stock shooter.

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