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Archive for the Photo articles Category

Spekular – versatile continuous lighting kit

I use a range of continuous lighting in the studio – it is essential for video of course, but even for stills, it is sometimes easier to work with continuous lighting than flash. There’s a way to control the light for more nuanced effect because with continuous lighting, what you see is what you get. When the Spekular LED lights (affiliate) hit the market, they caught my eye. What makes them unusual is that the kit comes as 4 LED bars which can be hooked up as a panel, or in any number of shapes up to 8 bars. The Spekular website shows some of the options. This kind of flexibility makes it a versatile continuous lighting kit.

I have other LED panels that I have been using on location and in the studio, and I love them. But for a larger light source, I have to rely on the Spiderlite continuous lights, which aren’t as powerful as I sometimes need them to be. That diffuser panel eats up a lot of light. Hence my interest in this new Spekular set – it is very bright! Now, all this versatility in how you can configure the strips, and the power of the light, don’t mean much unless the lights have a high quality of light, i.e., can deliver a pure white. The Spekular is guaranteed to be 94+ CRI and 96+ TLCI. This is also discussed in a previous article on buying a video light for Photography & Video.

For a first test in the studio, I set three of the kits up as large hexagonal lights:

Camera settings & photo gear used during this photo session

Being spread out as hexagons turned these into relatively large light sources, even though they aren’t a singular panel of light. Consider this as if the light comes from a larger area now, instead of a narrower strip.

Using this as a ring-light, you can imagine already that the catch-light in the eye would be hexagonal. Interesting.

 

You can purchase the Spekular kit and accessories from these affiliate links

 

Summary

So far I am impressed with these lights, and the concept behind them – the multiple ways you can configure them in. Ultimately, I think that using them as a panel, or as a ring light would be the most useful (and common) ways of setting these up. More to come – I hope to have a longer review up shortly.

 

Related articles

 

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5DayDeal – A bunch of photography goodies for a low, low price

Yes, it’s coming our way again – the 5DayDeal – where a bunch of photography related goodies are available for a heavily discounted price of $117

It’s a mixed bag of educational material and … well, just scroll down below to the screen captures of what is included. Or click through on the 5DayDeal link and have a look!

A portion of the proceeds go to various charities. Then there is an add-on that can be purchased for $24.97 which would increase the amount given to charity. For even more, there is the Pro Add-on for $12.47 with even more added. Details in that link.

 



 

 

 

 

 

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Noelia H. helps me test the Mamiya 28 MF.

An interesting conundrum for portrait photographers. I got a call a while back from an engineering company that needs 24 portraits done. They would like to do the portraits at their headquarters building here in Austin (no problem) and they would like the images to have a consistent look (no problem) but the issue I'm grappling with came later, after we'd struck a deal and were moving forward...

The client had used a different photographer in the past and that photographer, who is more focused on a PPofA portrait style (which works well for families, and kids), used a custom painted canvas background that is now impossible to source and also looks (to my sensibilities) a bit dated. I have scoured the web to see if I can find a close match but at the same time I'm more inclined to go back to the client and discuss alternatives that would benefit them.

I find detailed backgrounds (and the previous photographer obviously believed in f16 as an optimum portrait aperture) distracting; especially when the primary use of the images is in a website gallery with dozens of other small images. My first choice would be a steel gray background with no texture and my second choice would be a gray canvas background with minimum texture. Also, I like to through backgrounds out of focus so I like to shoot FF cameras at f4.0 and m4:3 cameras at something like f2.0 or 2.8.

One way or another I'm scheduled to shoot one week from now so I feel that I have to go back to the client today and discuss how we'll proceed. I think I'm going to suggest my preferred style but I'm also researching with a couple of good, local retouchers, the cost (in bulk) to take the existing portraits currently being used by the client and have them drop out the backgrounds and replace them with a clean image of my chosen background. That's a hassle and the it's likely to involve some compromises in some of the images.

My other suggestion is that they consider the new background as a standard going forward and work over time to re-photograph the people who were photographed in the previous style.

Has anyone else had a similar situation arise? Suggestions most welcome!

Which image resolution should you use? 72 dpi /ppi, or 300 ppi / dpi?

I feel that as modern photographers who shoot with digital cameras, there are a few basics which we absolutely need to know and understand. Some concepts that are so intrinsic to the digital format, that we have no excuse not to grasp the basic tenets. One of these things would be the resolution of images – the image size. Not in kilobytes or megabytes (since this is rooted in a more archaic form where images were scanned) – but image resolution as in pixel dimensions. Megapixel size. That kind of thing. The confudled question often then also hinges on which image resolution should you use? 72 dpi or 300 dpi?  (Or also, 72 ppi vs 300 ppi.)

It is a topic that has been discussed here before:
Image size & Resolution – 72 dpi or 300 dpi

But if that is something you don’t understand and you’d rather not deal with in your workflow … I’m offering a new service to photographers – I can change your images from 72dpi (or ppi) to 300dpi (or ppi). I can also change them back. Either direction. As often as you want.

This is for the low, low fee of 25c an image. There is a bulk rate of 10c an image.
After reading some threads in various photography groups on FB, I see there is an urgent need for this. I think this could be a real boost to your workflow if you’re stuck.

But before anyone showers me with easy money, let’s go over this 72 dpi / ppi thing …

The first thing we need to be aware of – ‘dpi’ is for ‘dots per inch’ which is a printer option. We will usually work with ‘ppi’, which is for ‘pixels per inch’. For our work, this is the definition we will most likely work with – how many pixels per inch we need.

When you export your RAW file to JPG (or TIFF), then the Save Options menu will give you an open choice as to what you want your resolution to be. How many pixels per inch. The reality is that you can just leave it at any default option in that box. It doesn’t matter … unless you start working with dimensions in inches or centimeters.

Let’s say you have a 24 megapixel image: 6000 x 4000 pixels.
If you multiply that, you will see you get 24,000,000 which is 24 million. In other words, 24 megapixels. So far, so good.

Now, whether you export that 24mpx RAW file as 72 ppi or 300 ppi (without resizing), you will end up with an image that has the same pixel dimensions. It will remain 24 mpx. Nothing lost, nothing gained. Try it. Have a look and see for yourself. You end up with exactly the same size image.

Ergo, the choice in ppi has no real bearing here. It does not matter. Your image remains the same size.

Now, if you should resize the photo as a specific size (in width and length) in inches or centimeters, then we need to know how large the image can print, or will appear on a website. Then we need to know how many ‘pixels per inch’ we need.

Largely though, the choice between various resolutions are immaterial.

This is also an instant give-away that someone is clueless about digital photography – when they request full-resolution images as “72 dpi” images. That measurement there has no relation to the digital image you have … until you start measuring image size in inches or centimeters.

Similarly, if you are requested to send someone images at 1200 px wide (at 72dpi), then you know they have no idea what they are asking for.

You could just as easily send them images at 999 ppi …

… because the image size in pixel dimensions will be exactly the same as any of the other ppi settings. (Unless of course there are actual inches and centimeters involved in defining image resolution.)

As mentioned at the start, this article also covers the topic: Image size & Resolution – 72 dpi or 300 dpi

 

Summary

Again, if you’re still not sure about all of this, do try it out on a test image. See for yourself. As a digital photographer, you owe it to yourself, your clients and the world, to understand this.

In the meantime, if you need to convert images from 72 ppi to 300 ppi, (or vice versa), then hit me up. I need the cash.

 


 

Camera gear (or equivalents), and lighting gear used in this photo session

The light was from a single Profoto D1 studio flash (500 Ws) (B&H / Amazon), but the important part of the lighting setup here is the Profoto 1’x6’ gridded strip-box (B&H / Amazon). A gridded sjtripbox gives an interesting light on any subject – soft, but directional. Dramatic, but not too contrasty. Also, this long (gridded) softbox gives a unique light fall-off when used close to a wall. I love how I can scallop the light, and either have some of the light fall on the wall … or not. On the right-hand side you can see the white V-flat that was used to reflect some of the light back as fill light.

 

Related articles

 

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Singing in the rain interviews from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Here is the video I mentioned last week. I shot all of it on a GH5 and edited in Final Cut Pro X. There is absolutely no color grading or post production on the actual video for either interviewee. I was happy with the files straight from camera. This piece was shot in 1080p. Its intended use is on the web, via YouTube and Vimeo.

I am happy to mix my stills with the video. I think it's a fun way to get in lots and lots of content.

Added on 10/10: Let's talk effectiveness for a moment. I did the video as an exercise for a non-profit client. I have a 30 year history with Zach Theatre and love the work they do. At any rate I handed off the video to them yesterday afternoon. Four hours after they posted the video file on their Facebook page they had gotten over 1,000 views. Now, about 16 hours later they have 4200+ views of the video on their Facebook page. A live theatre review site picked up the video file (with permission) on their homepage and the video has gotten another 1,500+ views. My blog has delivered several thousand views (but most are from out of the state of Texas....). These all occurred in less than 24 hours. I am guessing that targeted videos are a good resource....

Added later on 10/10: We have now published (yesterday) my 3,400th blog post. Google tells me that 23,250,000+ sets of eyes have come and read material directly on the blog since its inception and that 82,000,000 total page views have occurred, which includes referrals. It's kind of fun....




As readers of my blog may have surmised, I love to swim. I've been doing it since I was six. I swam in high school and college, and for the last 20 years I've gotten up most days and happily dragged myself (I've never been an exceptional "morning person") to the Rollingwood Pool (AKA: Western Hills Athletic Club) to swim at 7:00 am with the WHAC Masters. It's a masters team comprised of former Olympians, All Americans and just regular vanilla swimmers like me. Some of the folks in the workouts are relentlessly chasing some demon or other; some swim to stay in really good shape while others, like me, swim five or six times a week so we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want it and still fit into the pants we bought in 1982...

The pool has been a great comfort to me in periods of stress and anxiety. The camaraderie has been priceless. The consistency of the practice helps to anchor most of the rest of my day-to-day life and add structure to a relatively unstructured freelance existence. And in good times and bad I have never winced at coming up with the $100 bucks a month to pay my dues.

In the middle of the Summer the pool manager sent out an e-mail telling us that the board of directors for the club decided that they had deferred major maintenance for as long as they could and that the pool needed to be closed for a period of time to effect repairs. They decided that the last day the pool would be open would be Sunday, the first of October. After that all the masters swimmers would have to fend for themselves, find other programs or hibernate until sometime near the end of January.

We swimmers consider our pool special. Its water is chilled in the Summer and heated in the winter. We've swum during heatwaves and snow storms. We've collectively watched the steam from the warm water melt snow flakes a couple inches above the pool in January and February. Many of us also run at the hike and bike trail about a mile away and, after a run in 100+ degrees, it's become a habit to finish the run at the pool, diving in just before the onset of heat exhaustion (kinda kidding, but not really...).

Our workouts are coached and supervised. Some of our coaches are former Olympians. One was the world champion in the Ironman a while back. Some of the workouts are brutal. Others are fun. Oh heck, even the brutal ones are fun.....as long as we survive them.

So I am in my first week of real, agonizing withdrawal from the familiarity and comfort of my swim club; my pool. At first I thought I would follow our pack to a different, competitive pool or head over to the 5:45 am workout at the University of Texas at Austin. But I chose a different path and I've been frequenting the Deep Eddy Pool. It's a 33 and 1/3 yard, deep well water fed pool (no chlorine or chemistry) and it's been an Austin landmark forever (1915). In the Summer it's too crowded to swim laps in (for me). But starting in October the recreational swimming crowd winds down and the water temperature of the well water starts dropping. Right now it's about eight degrees cooler than my beloved WHAC pool.

I thought I'd be averse to the colder water but I have a discipline streak that tends to ignore the odd discomfort in the pursuit of raw yardage; after all, there is still chocolate cake and Champagne to be savored...

I've hit the pool almost everyday this week, trying to get in two miles a day. I'm recalibrating from a 25 yard pool to a 33-1/3 yard pool and it's actually working.

Why do I swim? Well, I hit the doctor's office last Monday for a yearly physical. According to their measurements I have a body fat ratio of about 11%, a resting pulse rate of 54 and, even though I love coffee, a blood pressure of 115/65. Considering the weird profession I pursue I'm happy with all those little metrics and consider them a benefit to my work. My doctor suggests that I not in bad shape for someone about to hit 62. And swimming also keeps me in shape for hauling around gear.

Best of all, I found an old punch card for the Austin city pools that I had not used up. I've got just enough remaining swims on the card to get me through October. The admission to the pool is free from November to March. A net cost savings of $600 from now until March 2018.

This morning six or seven of the WHAC crew showed up at the Deep Eddy Pool around the same time I did. Old habits die hard. We got in a an hour and a half of swimming and then we met, as we have for several decades, at the local coffee house to socialize. I'm happy to see that the universe provides for those who grab their suit and goggles and head out the door.



I was making some headshots for a nice actor named Celeste and at the end of the session I asked if she would sit for a few minutes and be the subject for a series of lens tests. She agreed.

Lately, I've been thinking that, with some projects coming up which require a number of images with narrow depth of field, I should buy a couple of fast lenses that I could use wide open, or close to wide open, and still get good, sharp results. I've played with a friend's 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron and I also had my eye on the Voightlander 42.5mm f.95 lens. Both get great reviews and seem to be what I'd need.

But, I have the drawer here at the studio that has some ancient Olympus lenses. They were originally made for that company's half frame film cameras; circa 1960s-1970s. I've always enjoyed using them but thought they may not hold up well given the higher resolution of the newest m4:3 cameras...

I decided to actually test the lenses I already owned rather than just reflexively dish out $800 or $1400 dollars that might be better spent elsewhere.

I made the tests as life like as I could. Real model. Real light. On a tripod. Absolutely wide open. The fast apertures.

The image above is from the weakest of the three lenses I tested. It's the Pen FT 70mm f2.0, shot at 2.0. It may be the delirium speaking but I think it's pretty good wide open. I haven't post processed the images from the 60mm f1.5 or the 40mm f1.4 yet but I spot checked sharpness, just to be sure, and found them just a tad better than the 70mm. All need a bit more contrast right out of the camera but all are sufficiently sharp and I actually like the color a lot.

I think I'll save the cash and use this 37 year old glass. I don't think I've gotten my money out of it yet...

Sorry, nothing commercial to link to....

Bigger file:




Rain : ZACH THEATRE from Kirk Tuck on Vimeo.

Panasonic GH5+Olympus 40-150mm Pro.


I haven't really discussed much about the Panasonic GH5's video performance yet, instead, I'd like to write in more general terms about how I've been using my cameras. Not just Panasonics but also Sonys. When I sit down to evaluate a camera I'm no longer looking at a camera as a "single use" device that will just deliver a great photograph. I want a camera that will hit well above the bar for image quality in still photography use but I also want a camera that will do very good 4K video. And I want to spend no more than $2,000 per camera body. My basic criteria includes: a microphone input jack, a clean HDMI output, the ability to manually control audio levels and a useful and logical menu for setting all my camera controls. It's a given that the camera will have a high enough resolution for still photography (16 megapixels, min.) as well as the ability to make RAW files and also to make pleasant Jpegs which are usable right out of the camera. 

Why the $2,000 price limit? Because I like to buy my primary cameras in pairs and doubling prices gets uncomfortable quickly. Since cameras in the ascending age of video are still changing rapidly (as far as processor speed and video features) I want to be able to switch out cameras more frequently than we used to so I can take advantage of the new tech (HDR video anyone?). 

But why this fascination with cameras that swing both ways? Some interesting studies from the advertising community are revealing. Seems 70% of internet users get their daily dose of content entirely, or almost entirely, from their phones. Additionally, while reading lots of type on a phone is a pain in the butt for most people watching short videos has become as easy as breathing. Every marketer I know is rushing to provide more and more video content for not only their websites but their YouTube channels and their many social media feeds. Just last week, at a three day corporate show for WP Engine, I was asked to make photographs as well as video. At the same show we fed a stream of images to the social media managers from the company so they could upload content from the show in progress. You may want to resist working in this new way but I'm pretty certain that clients' expectations are not going to regress back to a slower, more stationary methodology. 

What I want to write about today is how I've been using video and photographs together for my theater client, ZachTheatre.org. I've been providing them with interviews of actors, directors and choreographers for their main stage shows. The idea is to invite the online audience to look behind the scenes and get a more nuanced understanding of how live theater works. How a production comes together.

I start my process by reading about the plays or musicals the theater is producing. Once I have the story line figured out I like to go to an early rehearsal to get an idea of the director's vision. Since I'll need good b-roll for cutaways, and to spice up the interviews, I always want to go to a tech rehearsal, with actors in costume, close to the opening date. By the Sunday before a Tuesday or Wednesday opening the costumes are pretty much finished and the stage set has received its last touch ups. Without an audience in the house I can spend time finding the right angles. I'm already familiar with the pacing and action since I've been to earlier rehearsals.

There are things I know I'll want to capture and weave into our video edit. For Dancing in the Rain I knew I wanted to get good footage of our lead actor actually dancing in the rain. Just 20 or 30 seconds of him tap dancing through the onstage downpour. But I also wanted to capture video snippets of each of the other main actors in character. You never know until you've finished an interview exactly who or what the interviewee will mention!

For Singing in the Rain I wanted to interview both the director and the choreographer. I arranged through the public relations director, Nicole, to reserve the V.I.P. lounge in the main theater space. It's a great place to shoot interviews because the room is modern and neutral but also because it has an entire north-facing wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Nice lighting if you can get it! But outside light fluctuates so I also set up a big, soft main light from the same direction to establish a base so passing clouds don't mess with my exposure on the talent.

Once I had my angles mapped out for shooting and lighting I got to work on audio. I killed the power to the bar refrigerator (too much noise) and put up a few baffles on stands to try and kill the air conditioner noise (not turn off-able, non-negotiable in parts of Texas....). Then I put up my favorite two hyper-cardioid microphones at the end of a boom pole and hung them about 18 inches from the interviewee, just above the top of the frame and angled down about 45 degrees, aimed at the talent's mouth.

Since I had the PR director assisting me on this shoot I was able to ditch the tripod and try working with the GH5 camera on a monopod instead. In concert with the image stabilization system the footage looked quite good with just enough movement to keep from looking too static. I was able to do this because I had the PR director actually asking the interview questions. 

As soon as I finished both interviews the choreographer and I headed to the stage where he demonstrated the on stage rain effect by.....tap dancing through the pouring rain. I set the camera for the stage lighting WB and exposure and then handheld about three minutes of dancing while trying different compositions and framings. 

During the tech rehearsal I mostly shot photographs but would switch the camera over to video settings if I anticipated a dance number or a comedic moment upcoming. It's a lot of extra work to make multiple trips to the theater to catch different stuff that may never make the cut but the trade off comes late at night when you are editing and you remember you have just the right three to five seconds of tight video of tap shoes splashing through stage lit puddles.

When I finish recording the videos and photos and the interviews I come back into the studio and start making little virtual stacks of content. All the interview footage goes in this folder, all the b-roll video goes into that folder. I open Lightroom and put in all the photographs and look for sequences I know I'll want to use. Since I'm heading for a video edit all the stills I decide to use get cropped to 16:9 and sized for the file type I'll be using. Since this project was going to be edited in 1080p I made the files 2198 on the long side. That gave me a little breathing room within the overall frame so I could crop in where I felt it would make the presentation stronger. 

When I finally sat down to edit I listened to both interviews a couple of times, taking notes about stuff I liked and other stuff I wanted to cut out. Then I started assembling a timeline with the good content. If I felt the interviewee's delivery was too rushed I'd look for natural pauses and drop a half second or a second of black into the gap to make a pause from one thought to the next. Of course I would need material to visually cover the pauses but that's why we shot all those photographs and b-roll to begin with, right?

Once I get everything from the interviews laid in like I want it I make a pass to see if I can cut out "ums" and "ahhhs" and distracting word fluff. It's best to really stretch your timeline way out when making these kinds of audio adjustments because it allows for exacting work. 

When the interview timeline is more or less locked I start looking for little chunks of video or photographs that correspond to what the interviewee is talking about. For example, the choreographer, when asked about his favorite scene from this production, discussed a scene with a character named, Cosmo, who does a great song and dance number. I didn't have any video of that part of the play but I was able to reach into the photography folder and pull out twenty or so images that were a close reflection of what the choreographer was discussing. With a series of fast, one second cuts the images worked perfectly to add strong visuals to the narrative.

When the director discusses the challenges of making it rain on an indoor stage I had fast paced video footage of the main character slipping and sliding and tapping across the stage in the rain. It was the perfect visual to play over the director's conversation. 

And here's the thing about having a camera that can do both parts well; if all you need to do is change to the video setting and change the shutter speed to work with your fps, then the color and tonality of the video and the stills will match and intercut with each other beautifully. While the lighting on the interviews will be different the overall feel of the files will come through as a consistent element. 

It's an intangible but I can feel the work hold together better when it all seems to come from a unified source. A matching visual style.

There's a perception that all video work gets done on a big tripod with a fluid head. That the camera needs to be nested in a collage of pre-amps, cages, monitors and geared controls. But really, when shooting live action on the stage I'm happy to have two identical cameras, set to the same WB. One with exposure set for stills, one with the exposure set for video. Each dangling on their strap just waiting for me to move from one to the other, grabbing it up, making a last adjustment and then holding it as steady as I can --- regardless of file type. As clean as making snapshots. 

Your mind changes from making one-off masterpieces to making serial frames that can work in either modality. That's the promise of a "bi-lingual" camera system. 















































review: Nikon D850 camera

Cameras have become such complex and nuanced machines that it is difficult for one single review to encompass and test everything that a camera is capable of. With that, this review of the Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon), is split into two parts. The first part – review: Nikon D850 high ISO test – is where you can see and download files shot on the Nikon D850, as well as the Nikon D5 and D810 and D750. You can download the files there and compare yourself – needs and requirements differ for everyone. In that vein, this (main) part of the review of the Nikon D850, is based more on my own user experience, and my expectations and need of certain functions in a camera.

Sports shooters and landscape photographers will have different requirements than an event or portrait & wedding photographer like myself. What do I need? A responsive camera that delivers files in the 20-24 megapixel range. A camera that gives superb, clean high ISO images. A camera with intuitive controls. At this point, the Nikon D5 (B&H / Amazon) is as close to a perfect camera as I have ever used … with a few minor annoyances and one major flaw.

There are a few things that bother me with the Nikon D5 – such as the ‘Quality’ button is right in the middle between the WB button and the Drive button. Barely any better than the D4 bodies where the ‘Quality’ button was right next to the ISO button – nicely placed for you to adjust your RAW file setting to small JPG, if you aren’t careful in adjusting your ISO! The Nikon D5 barely improved on that. Also annoying with the Nikon D5, you can’t change the Flash Exposure Compensation while there is an image on the LCD preview screen – the dedicated flash control button is gone.

The major flaw for me with the Nikon D5 – if you enable to silent shutter, you end up with a 7 megapixel JPG file. This is useless for my work. In fact, it is useless for my personal photography too. The feature that I had hoped would allow me to shoot silently at corporate events and weddings, turned out not to be possible with the Nikon D5.

And that’s what I need in a camera right now –  a responsive camera that delivers files in the 20-24 megapixel range, with superb high ISO images … and a silent shutter if needed. So I have been been increasingly tempted by the Sony A9 (B&H / Amazon), which offers exactly that. However, switching systems isn’t easy – I’ve done so twice before. It’s not just cameras, lenses and flashes – I have drawers-full of Nikon doodads and accessories. So there is strong inertia here.

Then Nikon announced the Nikon D850, and my interest was piqued – there was the possibility of shooting medium RAW (25 mpx) files, with silent shutter mode if necessary. Holding the camera in front of me like a tourist when in Live View mode … I could live with that, if it made my camera not sound like a Gatling gun. On top of the silent shutter feature, the literature says it offers the same AF abilities as the Nikon D5. While my demands for AF aren’t as tough as they would be for a News or Sports shooter, I do need that responsiveness to nail sharp images.

But how does the Nikon D850 stack up in all this?  On paper, the specifications of the Nikon D850 clearly makes it a class-leader, and possibly the best DSLR available on the market right now. By the way, there are links to various RAW files further down in this review article that you can download to check out and play with and compare.

 


 

A photo shoot with the Nikon D850

If you’re here, reading this, you are most likely familiar with the leading-edge specifications and features of the Nikon D850. If not, instead of me listing the long list of additional features and tweaks and improvements, you can find them on B&H’s website (affiliate link), or on the Nikon USA website. Instead, I would like to touch on the most noticeable points which would affect my photography and way of shooting. My first test run with the Nikon D850 was with a photo shoot with Lise Liu and Rafal, two models in New York.

 

  • 45.4 megapixel resolution: 8256 x 5504

The most prominent feature of the Nikon D850 is the sensor: 45 megapixels resolution, which is a massive amount of detail. Nikon also claims outstanding dynamic range for this sensor. For greater sharpness, Nikon omitted the conventional optical low-pass / anti-aliasing filter. Even though The Nikon D850 has no anti-alisising filter they say there is little risk of moiré. I didn’t notice any moiré patterns on Rafal’s waistcoat in the images we shot. That kind of fine pattern easily shows up that disturbing artifact, yet in this shoot at least, I didn’t notice any.

The photo shown here is a square crop of the larger, horizontal  composition, yet we still ended up here with a 21 megapixel image. Still a huge file that would make a huge 15″ square print at 300 dpi, without any need for resizing.

That is the obvious appeal of a camera with great resolution – it allows you great flexibility in cropping in afterwards, or making huge prints with superb detail.

Details for the photo above:

The pull-back shot to show the position of the off-camera lighting. Lise’s exact positioning with each jump wasn’t predictable, and since I needed a super-wide framing, I simply had the light nearly over-head from me.

 


 

 

Features & Camera body design

The feel and handling of the D850 are really good – the grip is ‘deeper’ than the D810, and similar to how the D750 is, but less small. For my hands, I need a large camera. The D5 type bodies feel good in my hands; the D750 felt too small. The D850 feels good. The weight of the camera by itself is 2.01 lbs / 915 g – this also helps in giving the camera a solid feel, but it’s not unduly heavy.

The layout of the buttons make sense if you are accustomed to Nikon cameras. The ISO button moved from the top left cluster (where it was on the D810), to the same position as on the D5. This makes it easier to change ISO without looking away from the viewfinder. Similar to the D5, the buttons on the camera are illuminated – invaluable for when you work in the dark and need to see your camera controls.

Just like the D750 and D5 now, you need to push one of the buttons to the side of the LCD preview … and this is a button that doubles up as the zoom button. This means you can’t change the FEC while an image displays. Mildly annoying when you expect a dedicated control for that.

Overall, if you love the D810 and the D750, this camera will feel very good in your hands.

 

  • 3.2″ 2.36m-dot LCD touchscreen 

The LCD screen is now a touchscreen for live view shooting, playback, and menu navigation – wonderful for scrolling through images fast, and to zoom in on an image. Another improvement from the D810 / D5 bodies – the LCD preview can be tilted. This makes viewing at odd angles more comfortable. It can’t swivel to the left or right though – just an up/down tilt. This ability to tilt is also a great boon if you shoot video, where you are especially less likely to shoot from eye level.

In Video mode, you can focus by touching any point on the screen.

 

  • Silent Shutter
    In Live-View mode, you can select the Silent option, and the shutter truly is silent. There is not even the slightest sound. Perfect for times when the sound of the mirror and shutter would be a huge distraction. You do have to hold the camera in front of your face, instead of comfortably looking through an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), but that’s a compromise I can live with if I get to keep all my Nikon lenses.
  • Viewfinder Coverage 100%
  • The view inside the viewfinder offers 0.75x magnification, and gives you a clear and realistic view of the scene you are photographing. The D850 has an optical viewfinder with 0.75x magnification (the highest among all Nikon DSLRs), 100% field of view coverage and a good 17mm eye point.
  • Card formats:  XQD + SD (SDHC / SDXC)
  • Focus Shift Mode benefits working with focus stacking techniques by automatically recording a series of images at up to 10 different focus steps. Up to 300 individual frames can be recorded within these 10 steps, with the D850 automatically shifting focus between each shot to achieve an extended depth of field. The sequential images will be saved within a unique folder on the memory card in order to keep each series of exposures segregated for a faster and easier post-production workflow.
  • 4K Ultra HD video recording,
  • Slow motion video up to 120 FPS, when shooting with 1080p resolution.

 


 

  • Flash

There is no built-in flash. For me, this is no great loss, especially if it helps with weather sealing. You also don’t need the pop-up flash to trigger a wireless flash, since you can add the optional WR-R10 Controller and WR-A10 Receiver, along with the SB-5000, for proper wireless flash shooting that doesn’t require line-of-sight like the optical system would.

The max flash sync speed is 1/250 which is standard for the pro-series Nikon bodies. Of course, the Nikon D850 allows high-speed flash sync with dedicated flash units.

 

 


 

Autofocus & Focus enhancements

The Nikon D850 offers several new features (for Nikon), as well as some improvements to the AF capabilities.

The D850 sports the same Multi-CAM 20K AF system as the Nikon D5, but I still felt the D5 was more responsive, especially in lower light. With a sequence like this, where the two models are jogging towards the camera, the D850 easily kept up. I did not get to test the D850 vs D5 under more demanding conditions. For the photography work I do, this is about the level of movement I regularly deal with.

Even though the D850 and D5 have the same AF hardware, this might be the same case as what I experienced with the D700 vs D3. Even though the D700 and D3 had the same AF hardware, the D3 had noticeably more robust auto-focus than the D700.

All that said, the D850’s auto-focus capabilities exceeded what I would need.

From the literature on the D850:
“Complementing the rendering capabilities and speed of the image sensor is the robust Multi-CAM 20K AF system, which features 153 total phase-detection points, including 99 cross-type sensors for improved subject recognition, and 55 of the points are selectable for greater compositional freedom.”
“Benefitting the sensor is the EXPEED 5 image processor, which affords a wealth of speed throughout the camera system, including the ability to shoot continuously at 7 fps for up to 51 consecutive 14-bit lossless compressed raw files in a single burst.”

So there is some serious hardware and software at work here.

Furthering the versatility of the focusing system, different AF-area modes can be selected to support varying types of subject matter:
– Single-Point AF: The camera uses a single point to find focus.
– Dynamic-Area AF: Available with 25, 72, or 153-point selections, this mode uses a primary single focus point to lock onto focus, and then makes use of the surrounding points for maintaining focus while tracking erratically-moving subjects.
– Group-Area AF: This mode treats smaller groups of AF points as a single point for a wider field of recognition, and is well-suited to tracking faces or other detailed subjects.
– 3D-Tracking: Using a subject’s color information, this mode utilizes all 153 points to maintain focus on a moving subject while half-pressing the shutter button.
– Auto-Area AF: This mode makes use of all 153 points to quickly identify the main subject, and then prioritizes recognized faces as portrait subjects in any AF servo mode.

There are also other features:

  • Auto AF fine-tune function

The AF fine-tune function can be used to ensure the best possible focus for every lens you use. Rather than relying on photographing distance charts, this function lets you achieve precise focus manually in live view, and then have the AF system calibrate itself to the fine-tuned focus position in order to alleviate front- and back-focusing issues.

 

  • Focus peaking

Focus Peaking can be used to benefit manual focus control and a Zebra Stripes option is also available to help detect over-exposed areas within the frame.If you need to focus accurately and fast with manual focus, and don’t have the time to zoom in to check focus accuracy, then Focus Peaking is something you’d love. A clearly visible red outline to everything that is in focus. You can of course change the color of that, but red really helps.

 


 

 

Nikon D850: large RAW vs medium RAW and small RAW files 

In offering three different RAW file sizes, it would make the D850 appear like a 3-in-1 camera. Select the resolution you need.

As stated before, I don’t need a 45 megapixel camera for 95% of my work. I need workhorse cameras in the 20-24 megapixel range. Or 25 megapixels. That’s what had me excited about the D850, along with the silent shutter. The improved auto-focus over the D810, as well as the improvements over the D810, make seem to make the D850 an unbeatable camera.

Then while doing Nikon D850 high ISO tests, I noticed that the medium RAW (mRAW) files looked a little too soft for my taste. There just wasn’t that crisp detail in the eye-lashes. For me, like many other wedding and portrait photographers, that’s where I notice resolution – the detail in the eye-lashes. That’s kinda my on-the-spot resolution chart.

For both sequences I used a light-weight tripod, and shot around 1/60th @ f/8 with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 … but you can see all that info in the EXIF data anyway. The first image has a lot of detail in the building facade. The second image might allow you a better idea of shadow detail and highlights.

Here is a 100% detail comparison between the 25 megapixel image, and the same scene with the 45 megapixel image, scaled down to 25 mpx.

 

I saw this result in every test I did. The medium RAW files are a touch too soft for my taste.

  • Similarly, I did several tests with the 20 megapixel Nikon D5 compared to the 25 megapixel mRAW of the D850 – download RAW files here.

The D5 files Are somewhat sharper than the D850 mRAW down-rezzed to 20 mpx. Similarly, the D5 is even sharper than the D850 mRAW if you uprez the D5 to 25 mpx. I’m conflicted. The difference is there, but it is small.

I think in practical terms, no one would really ever notice. If I delivered the processed JPGs from mRAW to a client, they would NEVER come back to me and complain about it.

For me, it is a confidence thing. The Nikon D5 fills me with confidence – the high ISO images are superb. The files look great. The autofocus is unbeatably fast and accurate. I can pull back details out of under-exposed high-ISO files like crazy. The Nikon D5 is a responsive beast that helps me overcome whatever is thrown at me in any situation. It fills me with confidence that whatever they throw at me, I can handle (with the Nikon 24-70VR), and Profoto lights.
So this mRAW thing is more a chink in that confidence armor.

I was hoping the Nikon D850 would be that camera, but with some extra juice that I need in my work. So this was disappointing.

For more info on how the Nikon D850 sensor works, and how the medium RAW file is processed, check out this authoritative article on the PhotographyLife website.

 


 

 


 

 

Summary

The Nikon D850 (affiliate), is a magnificent camera that is clearly in the top range of what is available right now. I would highly recommend it, with the caveat that you should make very sure that the medium RAW files are something you would either not need, or that the (mild) image softness is something that wouldn’t bother you.

Ultimately, the Nikon D850 is just not the camera that I needed it to be. I sold mine already, and I am looking at another D5, or perhaps, perhaps that Sony A9. Then again, Nikon is going to release a mirrorless camera in 2018. Maybe I should hold off for a while on any big decisions.

 

Related links

 

The post review: Nikon D850 camera appeared first on Tangents.


All the images in this gallery were taken for Zach Theatre for their current production of

We used two Panasonic GH5 cameras and two Olympus Pro series zoom lenses; the 12-100mm f4.0 and the 40-150mm f2.8. All images were shot at either ISO 800 or ISO 1600 and both 
lenses were used at their widest apertures. 

Shutter speeds ranged from 1/30th to 1/500th of a second. 

The camera was set manually and color balance set for the basic stage wash before the start of the show. Post processed in Adobe Lightroom and delivered online via Smugmug.com.









































review: Nikon D850 high ISO test

This article is an adjunct to the main review of the Nikon D850, and here we only look at how the Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon) stacks up against other full-frame Nikon DSLRs in terms of high-ISO noise. How the camera performs at higher ISO settings might be of less interest to Nature photographers, but for event and wedding photographers, it is one of the essential factors in considering a camera. In this test, we’re going to look how the Nikon D850 compares specifically to the Nikon D5, D810 and D750. To make things interesting for everyone, there are RAW files you can download, at the different ISO settings, starting from 800 ISO onwards.

Of course, we are up against a challenge here in that all four these cameras have different resolutions, so we need to equalize for that.

If you are curious how some of these cameras compare at higher ISO setting with previous Nikon models, check out these links. There are downloadable RAW files there as well.

To keep this review fairly concise, we’re only going to look at 3200 ISO in the comparison photos shown here. For me, that’s about the most regularly used high ISO setting before we start working with the crazy-high ISO settings. We should be able to get a good idea of how the cameras compare when we look at that one specific value. Again, if you are interested in the other settings, and want to test for yourself, there are RAW files you can download. The file names should be obvious as to which camera and ISO setting (and resolution) they are.

Summary of the high-ISO comparisons

In short, the Nikon D5 (B&H / Amazon), shines in terms of the look of the high-ISO noise in the images – the grain is even, and not as distinct as in any of the equivalent ISO settings of the other cameras. That said, the Nikon D5 has an anti-aliasing filter, so the images are less crisp than those of the Nikon D810 or full-resolution Nikon D850. Still, the D5 falls well into the “plenty sharp” category for my professional and personal use.

The Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon), might be marginally ahead of the Nikon D810 in terms of high-ISO noise. Or, said in another way, the D810 holds up surprisingly well, and will be a camera with fantastic capabilities for many years to come, compared to other cameras.

The Nikon D750 (B&H / Amazon), holds up remarkably well for high-ISO noise, as well as sharpness. So if you’ve been using a Nikon D750, I don’t think there is much motive to upgrade yet, unless you need specific features of the D850.

Now this is where disappointment set in for me with the Nikon D850 medium RAW files – while they have reasonably controlled noise (compared to the D750 for example), the mRAW files of the Nikon D850 are soft. This article on the PhotographyLife website explains the technology behind the D850 sensor and the different sizes of RAW files.

This softness of the medium RAW files are also discussed in the more full review: Nikon D850 camera. While every other aspect of the D850 is mouth-watering state-of-the-art image-making machine, the lack of a decently sharp medium RAW file is disappointing. Since the vast majority of my work doesn’t require more than the 20-24 megapixel range, that’s where I would use the D850 most of the time.

Again, please download the RAW files for yourself to test if you need to. Remember to resize the images for comparison. Don’t just compare a D5 file at 100% with a D850 file at 100% … they will look different. You have to equalize them in some way to give yourself a sense of how they might print or appear on a screen.

 


 

 

 

Here is an example where you can clearly see the 25 megapixel medium RAW file of the D850 is softer than the down-sized 45 megapixel file. The camera was on a tripod and set to manual focus.

 


 

 

 

The Nikon D750 holds its own!

 


 

 

The Nikon D5 file at 1600 ISO compared to the full-resolution D850 file, sized down to 20 megapixels. Once you resize the D850 files appropriately, they look remarkably good in terms of the high-ISO noise.

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

The Nikon D5 image has smoother high ISO than the D850 full-resolution file scaled down to 20 megapixels, but due to the anti-aliasing filter of the D5, the D5 image is less crisply sharp.  The D850 noise at this size looks pretty good for 6400 ISO though, even if the D5 beats it.

 


 

The lighting setup for this test sequence

I had to figure out a work-around for the very high ISO settings, since this would push the shutter speeds really high if I start at 800 ISO. I set up these two  Litepanels Astra EP Bi-Color LED Panels  (B&H / Amazon), to bounce against two white V-flats to give as soft light as I could. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem like there were any (or much?) flicker present at these high shutter speeds. The Astras are meant to be flicker-free, but I am not sure the manufacturer meant that they would be used at very high shutter speeds. Still, the images looked consistent to me. Hopefully consistent enough for a valid test.

All images were shot at f/8 except for a few images at very high ISO settings, where I had to go to f/11 when the shutter speeds maxed out.

 

Summary

I hope these tests have value for you, and give you a better idea of how these cameras might perform in low light and high ISO settings. Let us know in the comments what you think.

 

Related links

 

The post review: Nikon D850 high ISO test appeared first on Tangents.


I'm slowing winnowing my way toward minimalist gear status, when it comes to camera equipment. Rightly or wrongly I'm making the assumption that we're moving away from the "precious item" concept of photography to a different understanding of photography altogether. A period in which the photographic and video content and style are much more important than the ultimate qualities of traditional presentation. Now, whenever I say this a big swath of people get their panties in a bunch and tell me that they practice making beautiful and majestic prints as their art and don't give a rat's ass which way the trends bend. I try to gently remind them that my blog is not entitled, "The Leisure Photographic Life of Retired and Semi-retired Old Guys from Other Professions" rather it is called the Visual Science Lab and it's very clearly about the styles, times and trends that impact current commercial image making and multi-media. If you love making 20 x 30 inch prints, with inexhaustible detail and grandeur, of the "found objects" that catch your eye then that's what you should do but, unless you are the indefatigable Peter Lik,  I can pretty much assume you won't be making a living selling them....

My kid has one more year of college that I'm paying for so I make business decisions based on trying my best to read the hieroglyphics on the internet walls and adapt my business posture to at least sustain profits. 

In my latest shift (hopefully shifting with the market) I've purchased two GH5 cameras and a smattering of really good Olympus Pro series lenses (and Panasonic/Leica lenses) and have started using this system for pretty much everything that comes into the job queue. 

I never really feel comfortable writing about cameras until I've put in at least my first 10,000 shots so I've been relatively quiet here on the blog about making GH5 pronouncements. But looking at the image count across my two cameras over the last month and a half shows me that we're closing in on the 20,000 frame mark, and that doesn't include the work
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I'm photographing a three day show in downtown Austin and here's the technical ask from the client:


"We want really nice, big, juicy raw files of our speakers, the panels, the breakouts and all the rest of our corporate event stuff for the three days of the conference but we also want to be able to upload ample selections of images in almost real time in order to share them on our varied social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). So, we want you to also be able to deliver small (1,000 pixel) jpegs from each session to our social media guy ---- who is in another city. The best possible scenario would be to shoot a session until you know you have good stuff and then to head to the media room to upload the images while the session is still.....in session."

I read the manual for the GH5 and found that I could customize how I use the card slots. I have identical 128GB V60 cards in every SD card slot. The #1 card is set to receive raw files while the #2 card slot is set up to receive much smaller Jpegs and video files.

I pull the #2 card out of the camera once I feel a session is well covered, stick it in my laptop and upload all the new Jpeg files to a Smugmug Gallery dedicated to my client's event.

The social media guy checks the gallery for new stuff and incorporates the images into the social feed.

Finally, a rational, real world reason for the existence of dual SD card slots on modern, reliable cameras!

Redundant back up? Naw, this is not rocket surgery...