Nikon D4, Nikon WT-5A, ShutterSnitch, and the iPad ... Winner!!!

Many of my clients like to be able to see the results from a shoot real time, which is great by me because I can get real time feedback on the shoot.  I used to have to take my laptop and a long 25 foot USB cord to hook my camera to the laptop.  Between the cord and the laptop it was kind of clumsy.  I like to move around on a shoot and being tethered doesn't help.  I often shoot outside, and here again, the cord and laptop just got in the way and the laptop was hard to see in bright light without some kind of cover.

I read an article about an iPad app called ShutterSnitch that allowed a photographer to easily acquire images from his/her camera over WiFi.  Many photographers use the Eye-Fi card, but it only comes in SD format and my Nikon D4 doesn't support that.  You could use an SD to CF card adapter but I read about a lot of problems with weak signals and slow transmission.  Then there was the Nikon WT-5A Wireless Transmitter which is designed for use with the Nikon D4 D-SLR camera.  At $553 dollars at B&H it was a major investment vs. a $69 SD Eye-Fi card.  As I always tell my kids, when you GO CHEAP you PAY MORE. 

How many times have you bought something that was cheap and supposedly just as good as the best solution, only to have to deal with all the frustration and lost time, and at the end of the day you finally end up buying the best solution anyway.  And when I am with a client I don't want to be fumbling with unreliable equipment.

The WT-5A fits like a glove on my Nikon D4.  It was fairly easy to configure, and the connection to my iPad was fast and reliable.  The ShutterSnitch app is very intuitive.  It acquires the photos quickly, it allows you to rate and sort the files quickly.  Customers love to flick through all the photos and rate them real time.  

On a portrait shoot I use to put the proofs from the shoot on my website and have my client pick their favorites when they got back to their office.  Because the iPad is so easy to use and setup, I find myself using it on portrait shoots and I allow my client to pick their favorites before they leave and I can go right to retouching without the intermediate step of putting the proofs online.   This saves time, disk space, and my clients get their images faster.  The $553 for the Nikon WT-5A was money well spent!

 

Nikon D4, Nikon D3S, Nikon D800E, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 in Action

I spent two days photographing the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute in Alexandria, VA.  I really enjoy shooting this event, but the lighting in the hotel meeting rooms is horrible. Some of the the sessions are presentations, but most of the sessions involve a large amount of movement and activity with trainers jumping, running, stretching, etc.

So here you are with poorly lit rooms and the need to stop action.  I get about 10 to 20 minutes per session and I have to move onto the next session.  There is no time to setup lighting, and in most cases there is no room to setup lighting and you can't risk a trainer tripping over a light stand.  About half the time I use my on camera flash with a CTO filter and bounce some light off the ceiling and walls to up the lighting about a stop in the room.  Most of the time I am shooting at ISO 3200 when I am using a flash in this manner, and if I don't use a flash I am between ISO 3200 and 12,800.

I brought four cameras: the Nikon D4, Nikon D3S, Nikon D800E, and the Olympus OM-D E-M5.  The D4 and D3S are the BEST low light camera on the planet and are my go to cameras to capture action in low light.  I have three prime lenses, the 24mm F1.4, the 50mm F1.4, and the 85mm F1.4.  I also use three zoom lenses, the 14-24mm F2.8, the 24-70mm F2.8, and the 70-200mm F2.8.  I wasn't sure how I would use the D800E. It has too many megapixels for what the client needs.  I take a few thousand photographs over these two days and I don't need a ton of 36MB files to process.  

I found myself using the Nikon D800E in DX crop mode with the Nikon 85mm F1.4 lens.  This gave me an effective 127mm lens at F1.4.  The D800E is about one stop less sensitive than the D3S or D4.  After a couple of days with a couple of heavy cameras around my neck, the D800E with an 85mm is a lot lighter than the D4 with my 70-200.  And the big benefits is that the DX RAW files are only 16mb vs 36mb.  The other thing I love about this combination is that the 51 focus points cover the entire frame.   I tend to put a focus point right on my subject's eye and this gives me the ability to frame my subject how I want and still have a focus point over the the eye. 

I also brought my Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera with three lenses: the Olympus 14 F2.5 pancake lens, the Panasonic 25mm F1.4 lens, and the Panasonic 100MM - 300MM lens.  I tried to use the Olympus for some of the low light, action situations but it wasn't up to it.  Because of the action I need great auto focus, though the Olympus is good, it can't focus like the Nikons when it comes to action photography.  I also need to be comfortable taking photos with an ISO of 3200 plus.  The Olympus is  a good two stops worse in low light than the Nikons.  I did find one thing that the Olympus did that the Nikons couldn't, I put the 100-300 on my Olympus which gave me an effective 200mm to 600mm range.  I found that the rooms in which there were just presentations were better lit, and little action (primarily just a speaker, and the attendees sitting at a table). I could pull out my Olympus with my effective 600MM lens I could get so close shooting from afar.  The other thing that was surprising is that when you marry the image stabilization of the Panasonic 100-300mm lens with the built-in images stabilization of the Olympus OM-D you can hand hold a 600mm lens at 1/125 with no problem.  

Here is a sample photo shot with my Olympus OM-D, 600mm, ISO 6400, 1/125, F5.6 - not bad considering:

 

I tried to take some action shots with the Olympus at ISO 6400 with no flash.  It was slightly underexposed and I got a very noisy image.

 

As expected, the Nikon D3S (and D4) were amazing in low light. The next image was shot at 1/250, with a Nikon 24mm F1.4 at F1.8 using ISO 6400, very clean!  

The next image was shot with a Nkon D4 at 1/250, with a Nikon 24-70mm F2.8 at F2.8 using ISO 9,000, very impressive!

And here is the Nikon D800E with my Nikon 85MM F1.4 shot at ISO 4000, F2.0, 1/320.  I shoot the Nikon D800E in DX crop mode, making my D800E about at 16MB camera vs the mega 36MB native full frame FX format.  It gives me better reach and a more usable file size.  Not as clean at the Nikon D4 or D3S, it is about a stop worse in terms of noise.  



PocketWizard TT5 Problems with Nikon D4

I was trying to use the PocketWizard TT5 with the Nikon D4 with my Paul Buff Einstein Strobes and the PowerMC2 and I noticed a slight delay when I hit the shutter release button.  It was about a one second delay.  I changed up to my Nikon D3S and I had no such problem.  I have sent an email to PocketWizard to see if they know of this problem and see if there is  a fix on the way.

Here is their response:  (net ... net ... it will be a couple months ... July 2012 or so).

Thank you for your inquiry about the D4.  There is a lot of new and exciting equipment hitting the market from both Canon and Nikon and we know many of you are hoping to use them with your PocketWizard ControlTL radios as soon as you can.  Like you, we’ve been waiting patiently for them to show up (yes, we have to wait for them just like everyone else).

Once they arrive, we start the process to make our system compatible with the new gear.  This requires reverse engineering the signals coming up through the hot shoe of the radio, followed by lots of compatibility testing.  This is a complex process that can take a fair amount of time and testing depending on how different the new equipment operates compared to earlier models.

Adding compatibility requires a new version of the ControlTL firmware.  We are trying to include the D4 compatibility in a future firmware update.  With so much new equipment coming out, this may take a couple months and require a few revisions of firmware. Each revision will be released as a beta version that is available to the public first. 

We will announce the availability of beta versions and official firmware releases via our Facebook page and

Twitter feed as well as on PocketWizard.com.  You may also find some feedback from other photographers who have experimented with the equipment, as many have posted their results.

 Here is the link to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pocketwizards

and our Twitter page: http://www.twitter.com/#!/PocketWizard

 

I sold my Nikon D7000 DSLR

I bought a Nikon D7000 DSLR Camera back in November.  I was hoping to use it for video, some home family photography, and also for some professional shoots when I wanted a lighter, smaller camera.

- I found the video capability hard to use.  The shallow DOF looks great, but it also makes it very hard to keep in focus when your subjects or you are moving.  The video autofocus system was slow and hard to use and if you used the in-camera microphone, which I did, you could hear the lens focusing in the sound track.  I went back to using my Canon S90 and IPhone 4 for video.

- It took some great photographs of my family.  But it isn't that much smaller than my Nikon D700 and I use the D700, Nikon D3, and Nikon D3S for my professional work.  These three cameras are almost identical operationaly.  The D7000 is smaller than these cameras and it just didn't feel right in my hands.  I can use the other three Nikons with my eyes closed, I had to think too much when I switched to the D7000.

- I have read some reviews that believe the D7000 is a better camera than the D700.  If your a professional photographer and are focused on picture quality, fast and accurate autofocus, and responsiveness, the D700 is a better camera.  I tried to use the D7000 a few times while on assignment.  I found the autofocus not to be as responsive in low light as the D700.  A number of times I filled the camera's buffer and I had to wait for it to clear before I could take pictures.  I don't remember the last time that happened with my D700. 

For the money, the D7000 is a great camera.  It is half the price of the D700 and is probably the best APS-C sensor DSLR camera on the market.  And of course, the D7000 does video, the D700 doesn't.  But for me, since I already had a D700 which I love, it just wasn't a fit for me.

Pocket Wizard FlexTT5 for Nikon Review

I just received three Pocket Wizard FlexTT5s for Nikon.  I have been waiting two years for this technology ever since Pocket Wizard announced their offerings for Canon. Photographers who use Canon's E-TTL remote flash system or Nikon's i-TTL CLS flash system know the limitations of having to have your flashes in line of sight and within close proximity. Even when I would be inside within close proximity, I would have to make sure that the sensor on the remote flash was pointed back at my camera.  With my style of shooting I quite often move the lights all around my subject and having to re-align my flash to be sure it was pointing towards the camera was a real pain.

I tried the Radio Poppers but they were just too fragile for my purposes.  The RadioPopper PX transmitter box that was attached to the camera flash was held on by Velcro with a flimsy antenna sticking up in the air.   I move around a lot and quite often carry two cameras.  The Radio Popper transmitter kept getting bumped and would move or fall off the flash.  They also were very unreliable unless the batteries were very fresh.  I could barely get one photo shoot out of a set of batteries.  

I bought three Pocket Wizard TT5s vs getting a one Pocket Wizard TT1 and two TT5s because I didn't see much advantage other than size and $20 of getting the TT1.  The TT5 takes AA batteries vs a CR2450 for the TT1.  I don't know about you, but I have a lot of AA batteries laying around but not any CR2450s.  And, of course, the TT5 can act as a receiver and transmitter where the TT1 is just a transmitter.

They seem well built and I REALLY like the standard 1/4"-20 thread. I didn't even know that it had it until I received them.  I like to simplify my setups as much as I can.  The fewer parts that I have to put together when I get to a photo shoot the better.  I can mount the FlexTT5 right onto my light stand with the Manfrotto Swivel Umbrella Adapter.

One of the features of the FlexTT5 is the ability to tweak the flash sync speed beyond the 1/250 second  (they call it HyperSync). I have a Nikon D3S, D3,and a D7000.  I was able to sync all three cameras up to 1/400 using a Nikon SB800 as the remote flash before I went into Nikon's High Speed Sync.  I can sync up to 1/4000 of a second with my Alien Bee AB1600 but the light is so inconsistent over the sensor that you would never use it.  I couldn't get a clean, consistent flash with my AB1600 any faster than 1/320, 1/400 was usable but there was some shading going on.   My TT5 Sync delay on -200 when I am shooting with the AB1600. 

Testing them around my home (inside and outside) they seemed to work flawlessly except for one thing, when I used my Nikon D3S with a lens that had VR on I got flaky results. Sometimes the flash would work only if VR was off and sometimes only when VR was on.  It happened with both my Nikon 70-200 VR and my Nikon 105 Micro VR.  It didn't happen with my D3 or D7000.  I called the company and they said that VR can cause some problems and they hope to have it fixed in a future release of the software. 

You have to remember to take a few test shots to allow the TT5s to sync up, but once they do that they seemed to work fine.  I used the TT5 on the camera with and without a flash (SB900) attached.  Without the flash I put my camera in Manual mode and used the camera's exposure compensation to adjust the output of the flash.  With the SB900 attached, I was able to control the remote flashes from the SB900 controls just as I normally would without the TT5.  The remote flashes stay in TTL mode (not remote mode) and the switch on the Pocket Wizard TT5 allows you to designate which flash is in Group A, B, or C.

I hooked up my Pocket Wizard Plus IIs to one of my flashes and they went off when I fired my TT5. Of course, you can't control the flash output, but you can trigger a flash just like you have always done with PocketWizard Plus IIs. 

I hope to use these transceivers this weekend on a photo shoot.  We all know situations where things work great in your studio and you take them on location and nothing works.  I hope that won't happen here.

Here are my settings for my three TT5s.

                   Config 1                      Config 2

TT5/D3         Sync -240                   Sync -200 (used when I trigger Alien Bee AB1600)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

TT5/D3S       Sync -170                   Sync -170 (HSS Disabled)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

TT5/D7000    Sync -110                   Sync -200 (used when I trigger Alien Bee AB1600)

                   HSS enabled 1/500      HSS - disabled

 

MORE TO COME.......

Nikon D3S DSLR Review

I have had the Nikon D3S for about two months.  I have used the Nikon D3 for over three years and I really love it.  I was also using the Nikon D700 as my second camera.  The Nikon D700 is basically identical to the Nikon D3 in terms of picture quality and  autofocus.  They share the identical technology inside the two cameras.  The Nikon D3S adds another stop and a half to the ISO as well as video capabilities and sensor dust removal (which the D700 had but the D3 did not).   All three camera (Nikon D3, D3S, and D700) are 12.1 megapixels.  For me the big thing was the reduced noise at higher ISOs.  The two pictures were shot in a dark church and a dark reception hall in natural light.  They were shot at 10,000  and 8,000 ISO.  If you have a D3 you will be right at home with the D3S.  The controls and handling are the same.  The Nikon D3S is THE BEST camera on the market for photojournalists and wedding photographers or any photographer that needs to work in low light.

Nikon vs. Canon DSLR Review

Here we go.  There is nothing that can stir emotions among photographers like the debate as to which professional digital SLR is better - Canon or Nikon.

I started using Canon DSLRs back in 2002.  I plunked down $5000 for a 4 megapixel Canon 1D.  It was worth every penny.  It was fast, rugged, great autofocus and the picture quality was outstanding (relatively speaking for 2002).  The Canon lenses were all top notch.  I bought the 16-35mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 200mm F1.8 (what a great piece of glass), 85mm F1.2, 100mm F2.0, 50mm F1.4, and the 24mm F1.4.  All great lenses and combined with the 1D bodies they really created some great photos with the help of the photographer.

I bought the Canon 1DS, the Canon 1D Mark II, the Canon 1DS Mark II, and the Canon 1D Mark III.  These were all great cameras for their time and Canon was the clear leader over Nikon for low noise, high ISO images and they were the only manufacture with a full frame 35mm camera with the 1DS models.

Nikon had the 1.5 cropped sensor, and their high ISO performance was always a step behind Canon.

In 2007 everything changed.  Nikon introduced the 12 megapixel, full frame, high ISO (low noise up to 6400 ISO), rugged, great autofocus Nikon D3. 

During this time Canon introduced the Canon 1DS Mark III which took the pixel count over 21mp and only slightly improved the high ISO capabilities of the Canon 1DS Mark II. The Canon 1D Mark III was a great camera ... 10mp, 1.3 cropped senor with respectable high ISO up to 3200.  Many users reported autofocus problems with the Canon 1D Mark III, but I never really experienced that.  Many Canon users started using the Canon 5D ... a full frame 13mp camera in a pro-sumer body.  The problem with the 5D was its autofocus system.  It was basically the same system as found in the consumer level Canon 40D model.  The focus points were tightly bunched in the middle of the finder and they weren't as sensitive or accurate as their Canon 1D big brother, leading to a lot of out of focus shots.  In good light this camera produced great images, but if you were photograping moving subjects in poor light you were in trouble.  Canon then came out with the 5D Mark II which took the pixel count over 21mp and improved the high ISO performance, but the autofocus system was still pro-sumer and the 21mp was overkill for what I needed.

As a photojournalist and wedding photographer 12mp is the sweet spot for resolution.  The images are big enough to allow you to enlarge photographs up to 24 x 36, yet small enough as not to fill up CF cards and hard drives quickly and take longer to process on my Mac.

I bought the Nikon D3 for $5000 in 2007 to replace my Canon 1DS Mark II.  The Canon 1DS Mark III was $8000 and 21mp (overkill for me) and the ISO performance was two stops worse than the D3.  Then I bought the Nikon 14-24 and the Nikon 24-70 lenses.  Both lenses were newly introduced and were amazingly sharp.

I used the Nikon D3 along side the Canon 1D Mark III for about 6 months.  When Nikon introduced the Nikon D700 in the summer of 2008 I made the switch to Nikon 100%.  I bought the  70-200mm F2.8, 50mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4, and the 16mm fisheye to go along with my other 14-24mm and my 24-70mm lenses. The D700 was about $2,700 and had the same exact full frame image senor and autofocus system as in the D3 in a slightly smaller and lighter body. 

I also bought a few Nikon SB800 flashes and later the SB900 flash.  I have no hard core testing on this, but the Nikon flashes seem to be more accurate and the iTTL system seems to work much better and easier than the Canon wireless flash system.

After I switched to the Nikon system the number of keepers for a wedding went up by 25%.  My in-focus and properly exposed shots were much higher with the Nikon.  Maybe I became a much better photographer, but it seems like quite a coincidence. 

Come forward to 2010 ... Canon has introduced its 15mp, 1.3 cropped sensor 1D Mark IV with better high ISO, but still a stop or so worse than the new full frame, 12mp, Nikon D3s that was introduced in late 2009. Canon doesn't seem to get it.  Give your customers better ISO and a full frame camera, and stop trying to cram more pixels into a cropped sensor. 

Nikon has introduced a new 70-200mm F2.8 that is just amazing.  I shoot it wide open and it produces wonderfully sharp images.  Canon also introduced a new 70-200 that I am sure is also excellent.

In terms of lenses, both Nikon and Canon have a great lineup ... you won't go Canon or Nikon because of the lenses.

If you doing landscapes or in-studio portraits, you can't go wrong with either system.  If your on the go and working in low light conditions, Nikon, IMO, gives you the best option.