Thursday, February 17, 2011

Leica X1 - Part II

Office Building - JPEG

The main reason I got the Leica X1 was because it is an affordable Leica camera with the Leica colors and not because of the "Red Dot." The link bellow are samples of what I call: "Leica Colors:"

So far, I have been unsuccessful.  However, as the  linked sample images posted above, from someone that knows what he is doing, indicates that it can be done - it is a matter of time.

I had been shooting in DNG format only, since Lightroom is the RAW converter for Leica.  It is actually bundled with the Leica cameras.  I did not like the the results I obtained with my first serious shoot with the X1.  I believe that the photos were affected by the lack of a UV filter.  The images had a hazy "film" that I had to correct in Post-Processing using Nik Color Efex Pro.  However, I was not able to completely undo the effect:

X1 Photos of South Coast Botanic Gardens 

I ordered the Kiwi lens adapter or tube that encases the camera's telescoping lens and accepts 49mm filters.  I also ordered the B+W 49mm MRC UV 10 filter and the B+W 49mm wide angle and retractable rubber hood, which I already got. I took the X1 to the Wayfarers Chapel for another serious test run:

X1 Photos of Wayfarers Chapel 

The filter worked great but the hood proved to be a problem. It partially blocked the view of the external viewfinder and  also some of the available light.  The pictures came out too dark or underexposed.  I had a lot of Post Processing to recover the shadows.

I started shooting with JPEG superfine and 12.8 MB (photo of building above.) I do not think that LR3 does a very good RAW conversion (I might be wrong.) Therefore, I’m letting the camera do the conversion.  Yes, I know that JPEG degrades every time it is modified and the changes saved.  I’m treating the JPEG files as my digital negative.  I send the images straight to CS5 in TIFF 8-bit format and it is the TIFF files that I modify.  

Friday, January 28, 2011

My First Impressions of the Nikon D7000

To say that the D7000 exceeded my expectations is an under-statement; it blew me away.  I just cannot stop playing with it.  It is a bit heavier than expected and the high ISO performance is not comparable to the D700.  However, everything! The controls and ergonomics are very nice - a hybrid between the D700 and the X1, imho.

When I first handled the camera at Best Buy, I thought that the viewfinder was very poor compared to the D700, but I forgot that my D700 had the DK-17M Magnifying Eyepiece. Therefore, I also installed a concussion of the DK-21m Magnifying Eyepice with the Hoodman Eyepiece that I had with my old D5000.  The viewfinder is now almost as large and bright as with the D700 and the Hoodman eyepiece acts as great pressure point to stabilize the camera.

I am also very impressed with the kit lens, the Nikon AF-S DX f/3.5-f/5.6G VR lens.  It is excellent and for the price ($300) a tremendous bargain, imho.  There is no question that I prefer it to my old 16-85 VR, because of the extra reach.  It is a tremendous compact travel lens (27mm-160mm in DX format.) The only problem with it is the speed - too slow.  On the other hand, it is slightly faster than the 16-85.  I also got today, from my local dealer, the AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G.  This lens together with the 18-105 is all I need for my travel-kit with the D7000: 

The only problem with the 35 1.8 (~52mm in DX format,)  is a bit too long for my normal lens.  The ideal for me would have been 28mm (42mm in DX format.)  The only other lens  I was interested in was the AI-s 28mm f/2.8 - excellent.  However, it is 1 1/3 of a stop slower than the 35 1.8 - a huge difference.

I did not want any more DX lenses, but 35 1.8  was "made" for the D7000 and just under 1/2 lb.  The D7000 with the DX 35  is a flashback to my film days of the Canon A1 or AE1 with the 50mm 1.4 mounted on them - similar size and weight. I do not know when it is coming off the camera.  

Will I get  any more lenses? Only if Nikon releases a DX 28mm 1.8. If so, I will trade the 35 1.8 for it, but I very seriously doubt it. I have reached my self imposed limit of 10 lenses and I'm basically done not only with lenses but also with cameras.

The Leica X1 has taken a backseat to the D7000. It was always an irrational and emotional purchase, because  I wanted a Leica all my life. On the other hand, I do not have very expensive cameras like the D3, D3s, or D3x or very expensive lenses like the 200-400, 500, 600 or even the 70-200 VR-II or the 14-24.  The X1 is my only "extravaganza."  I will keep it even if the only use for it is as a display item in the curio - it is just gorgeous to look at. However,  I have taken the X1 out of the "equation" of cameras and lenses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Nikon D7000 Kit

Nikon D7000 kit with 18-105 VR
I just ordered the D7000 kit and did the thing I was adamant against: getting a DX lens.  I had no choice if I wanted the D7000 sooner rather than later.  I did not know when the D7000 (body only) would be available; it could very well be tomorrow or two months from now. There is nothing wrong with DX lenses, but since I have the D700, I just want FX lenses and not have a 2-lens system - FX and DX - to be fully compatible with both the D700 and the D7K. 

I was tracking the availability of the camera in four places: B&H, J&R, Adorama, and Ritz.  Everyone except B&H had the D7000 Kit with the AF-S 18-105 f/3.5-f/5.6G VR-I ED IF.  This Morning, only J&R had the kit available.  I thought that the kit was the predecessor to the body only option, but I no longer think so. Therefore, I ordered the kit from J&R.

Nikon AF-S 24-85
I do not care that much about the 18-105 VR lens.  It is slow, not that well built, plastic mount, and barrel distortions.  On the other hand, I had a used copy of the AF-S 24-85 f/3.5-f/4.5 ($270) coming - I will return it.  It is not that I'm shelling out $300 more for the kit - same amount of money.  In other words, the only thing that was keeping me from the D7000 was a used copy of the FX 24-85 instead of a new DX 18-105 VR.

I was not that happy with the 24-85, in the first place.  It is a bit slow, no VR, and it is a used copy - no warranty.  The 24-85 is not that simple of a lens; many things can go wrong.  It is the only mid-range zoom, non-DX, that is light weight.  On the other hand, the 18-105 is not significantly inferior to the 24-85. Actually, they are almost identical in performance, size and weight with the 18-105 being .6" thicker. I crossed the proverbial bridge  when I asked myself the following question: "Which one of the two would produce the sharper images?"  No doubt that the 18-105 would, because of VR - camera shake.

Nikon 18-105 VR
I  think that I might keep the 18-105  even though I do not want DX lenses. It does not make any sense to sell the lens at this time, since the market is flooded with brand new "white box" lenses (broken-up kits.)  The lens sells for $350 new, which I got for $300.  However, I might  only be able to net ~$150.  It is a good and light travel lens, which I did not have. I prefer it to myt old 16-85 VR because of the extra reach; they are both slow, imho (DOF - subject isolation) and the main reason I stopped using the latter.  I'm not as down on the 18-105 as I was yesterday; it is not that bad :) . However, I would not have gotten the 18-105 if it did not come with the D7000 kit.

For my tenth lens (self-imposed limit,) I am always looking for a third FX zoom with VR.  However, there is nothing that Nikon makes (or a third party) that interests me.  The 18-105 VR will do until a new zoom is introduced by Nikon or a third party. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

My First Serious Camera

My first serious camera was the Zeiss-Ikon Supercontaflex, a hand-me-down from my father.  I had an Agfa rangefinder before the Zeiss that I had to use a separate  light-meter and telemeter.  I can no longer remember what it looked like.

I had Super-Contaflex model, but same looks as the picture, though.  It was a consumer grade camera that competed very successfully against the very expensive Leica M2 and M3.

The Contaflex was a very interesting camera and I believe the first of its kind. It was an SLR, with a leaf shutter, and  without an up-and-down or rapid return  mirror. Therefore, only the front element could be interchanged. The advantages were a smaller and quieter SLR. The main disadvantage was that the lenses focal length ranged from 35mm - 115mm. 

The Zeiss Tessar 50mm f/2.8  was a very sharp lens.  I used to blow the slides up on a massive screen and they never lost resolution.  On the other hand, when I "upgraded" to the Canon A1 and AE1 system, in the mid 70's, the photos taken with the Canon 50mm f/1.4 , projected on the same screen, lost resolution, they were not as sharp, and the color rendition was not the same. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Last Equipment Purchases?

Nikon D7000
I was set to purchase the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G ($1,700,) because I considered it to be the "twin" to my 24 1.4 and an excellent travel companion.  Before doing so, I cleared my last hurdle by looking into the Sigma 85 f/1.4, just to make sure that I was not making a mistake. The latter is half the price of the Nikon and just as good.  However, I have decided to get neither; I will purchase the Nikon D7000 ($1,200) instead, when it becomes available. 

The more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I am so sure about my decision that I already placed the order for the extra battery and the Arca-Swiss camera quick release plate.

I was very reluctant to get the D7K because it will cut into the use of the X1, a very expensive camera, which I love. The D7K seems like a needless duplication.  However, I have to look at this in the long-run.  IMHO, my future three cameras will be classics: the D700, the D7K (out of stock, at the present time,) and Leica X1 (out of stock, at the present time.) I strongly believe that I do not need to upgrade anyone of them.

The main and only reason I got the X1 was because it is a Leica and the only Leica I'll be able to afford; it has been a dream of mine since I was small.  Unfortunately, the Leica was always beyond my means, until now.  I fully realize that that the Fujimon X100 is a better camera at half the price, but it is not a...Leica. Regardless, I only live once. I should not include the X1 in the "equation of lenses and cameras." :) It was not a rational purchase and I know it.

One thing I will not do is to get DX lenses, again.  All my lenses will have to be fully compatible for both DX and FX formats. Therefore, I will not get the Tokina 11-16, Nikon 16-85 VR, any Fisheye, etc. This is a self-imposed constraint that I will not waive.  If I make the exception with one, why not two, three, four, or five? I am adamant against having a two lens systems- DX and FX.

There are many other reasons for getting the D7K:

Leica X1
The only pressure to upgrade the X1 to the X2, is if the latter comes with a 24mm f/2 instead of f/2.8. With the D7K, I have the Nikon 24mm f/1.4 (~35mm DX format - my favorite focal length.)  In addition, with less use of the X1, there is less need to upgrade.

The only motivation for upgrading my D700 is the form factor.  The D80/D90/D7K are my favorite body size.  I believe that, sooner or later, Nikon will introduce a Full-Frame camera with the D7K body size.  If I have the D7K (16 MP DX censor,) there is no reason to upgrade the D700.  Conversely, having a FF frame camera, there is no reason to upgrade the D7K.

I have 150,000 actuations left in the D700, 150,000 with the D7K, and ~ 75,000 with the Leica X1.  In other words, I will have ~ 375,000 left with all three cameras - a lifetime!

I had a hard time selling a perfectly good lens (the Nikon 85 1.8) for another slightly better and only 2/3 of an aperture faster. With the D7K it will be a better lens, because of the APS-C censor, at ~ 130mm, and a working distance of 3.6' - no reason to sell it.

Nikon D700
I will also use the D7K as my street photography camera together with the X1.  I have the ZF 50 f/1.4 (.81 lbs,) Nikon 85 f/1.8 (.84 lbs,) and the Sigma 50mm f/2.8 (.71 lbs - 7" minimum focusing distance.)  I might get a used copy of the Nikon AF-S 24-85 f/3.5-f/4.5G, because it is very light (.91 lbs.) I also wanted to add a third zoom lens - too many primes and not enough zooms. All these four lenses are an excellent match for the D7K, imho. The other lenses are well matched for the D700.

The only problems with the 24-85 is the speed - a bit too slow (DOF) and no VR. However, it is FF, very light for a FF zoom, very sharp, specially for a DX censor, slightly faster than the 16-85 VR, and it does not extend as much, which makes a big difference for street shooting. The focal range for DX format (~35mm-130mm) is optimum, imho.  For street shooting, I do not need less than 35mm, but 130mm is a must.

Another incentive for the D7K is if I do not get the camera, I will eventually get a major prime or two. I prefer, without thinking about it, the D7K.  With the purchase of the D7K, I have discarded from consideration the Nikon or Zeiss 35mm 1.4, the Sigma 85 1.4,  the Nikon 85G, a future Nikon 135mm f/2 VR, the Nikon 180mm f/2.8 VR, and the upgrade of the  OS version of the Sigma 150mm Macro, at least. However, the biggest purpose of all is that I will duplicate  the number of lenses because of the 1.52 crop factor for the APS-C format censor:

Nikkor AF-S 24mm ED N f/1.4G (~ 35mm 1.4 - my favorite focal length - no need for the 35mm 1.4)
Zeiss ZF Planar 50mm T* f/1.4 (~ 75mm 1.4 - no need for the 85mm 1.4 and 1.5' working distance)
Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8D (~ 130mm 1.8 - no need for the 135mm f/2, but no VR)

Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4G VR-II  (~ 24-50mm f/4 - with the ZF 50 = 24-70 with VR.)
Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S VR-II (~ 42mm-450mm - enough said.)

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG  (~ 75mm - 7" minimum focusing distance)
Nikkor AF-S Micro 105mm f/2.8G VR-II (~160mm VR-II and a 12" minimum focusing distance - no need for the future 135mm f/2 with VR or 180mm f/2.8.)
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro EX DG (~ 320mm f/4 macro with the TC 1.4 - no need for bellows and no need to upgrade to the new OS version of the lens.  It is over 2 lbs and the 105 VR @ ~160mm in DX format, will do splendidly. )

Motorola "Dyna"
Some final thoughts.  I am a strong believer that technological advances mean smaller, lighter, and faster products and not the other way around.  We all remember the Motorola "Dyna" cellphone.  I have not seen anyone using it, lately.  Digital cameras went through a fast technological innovations phase in the early days, which slowed down in the last three years or so.  However, imho, it will heat up to an even more furious pace in the coming  year or two with the further introduction of new and more technologically advanced mirror-less cameras (the so-called EVIL system with electronic viewfinders.) Nikon is due to introduce their version in March-April 2011. Leica is also talking about a professional level mirror-less  "Evil" camera, in the next few years.

Mirror-less cameras mean smaller cameras and a different lens mount with smaller lenses.  It does not mean that they will not be Full-Frame.  I am sure that we will be able to use our present F-Mount lenses with an adapter, but it does not make sense.  Eventually, many of us will convert to the new mount lenses, slowly, imho. With the X1, D7K, and D700, I do not have to embrace the new technology - I'm covered. I cannot continue to upgrade photographic equipment every year, especially perfectly good working cameras with a "zillion" actuations left in them; this "madness" has to come to an end. In addition, my beloved D700 is the best camera I've ever had, by far. I will never sell it, no matter what happens in the future.

In the short run, it does not make that much sense to have three cameras, but I strongly believe that I do not have any reasons not to get the Nikon D7000.  I have no doubt that the D7K will prove to be a tremendous bargain in the long-run - I am done with cameras and lenses and really mean it. In other words, I am freezing new equipment purchases - cameras and lenses - for good.

The Purpose and Reason for My Blog

I really do not know why anyone but me is interested in reading my blog,  on a regular basis, because it is a very self-centered collection of ramblings.  I think of it as my "Electronic Diary." In addition, I do not believe that I'm qualified enough to present meaningful and objective reviews.  

The real purpose for my blog existence is twofold. Firstly, I use it as my home page.  I have all my links that I can access from my main computer, Netbook, or any other computer away from home. Lastly, it is the place I write articles or explanations of what I do and the reasons for it.  I always refer to my blog's articles when I participate in the different forums.  In this way, I only have to write it once and above all, I will not go off-topic in the other forums.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Mental Breakdown?

Yes, I did have a mental breakdown and ordered the Nikkor AF-S 24mm f/1.4 ED N and yet, I do not have an ounce of buyer's remorse.  This is the lens I really wanted since announced, but the price! It is not issue free:  it vignettes from f/1.4-f/2 and many users have reported serious auto-focus problems with their copies.  This has been verified by Lloyd Chambers, who is on top of the problem.  He believes that it is a batch problem and not something endemic with the lens.  If my copy has this problem, needless to say that it is going back - I really hope not. 

I really do not know, before getting and testing the lens, if the 24 1.4 is a keeper or not.  The photos taken with the lens, on the Internet, are not that convincing.  There is only one  way to find out.  Either way, I would take the purchase of the 24 1.4 out of my system.  At this time, whenever I buy any equipment, the first thing that pops in my mind is, "I should had saved that money for the 24 1.4.  

If I keep the lens, then I would have the following main lenses:
  • Nikkor AF-S 24mm f/1.4 ED N
  • Zeiss ZF Planar 50mm f/1.4 T*
  • Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.8D
  • Nikkor AF-S 16-35mm f/4G ED N IF VR-II
  • Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S G ED VR-II 
    I'm still crying over selling my beloved 14-24, but it was very heavy to haul around (not to shoot with - very well balanced) and only f/2.8.  Why did I sell it, if I did not  get the 24 1.4? Now, with the 16-35 f/4 and 24 1.4, it makes a lot of sense. I got lighter and faster from my days with the "three kings." I still do not know what got over me to get the "monster lenses" - lack of choices then, I guess.

    I would be set with lenses and equipment except for the Nikon 85mm f/1.8D.  I got the lens as a stopgap (or permanent choice) until I decide what to do with that focal range.  The problem is that I'm not too happy with the 3' minimum focusing distance.  It limits what I can do with the lens.  I can get closer shots with the ZF 50 1.4, which has a 1.5' minimum focusing distance.

    I would love to have the 85 1.4G, but it all depends on how much I use the 85mm focal length.  For close-ups handheld, I use the Nikon 105 VR Micro a lot. Therefore, to spend $1,700 just to have a third 1.4 prime (only 2/3 of stop difference) does not make any sense, if I do not use the 85mm lens that often. In that case, the 85 1.8D is more than enough.  On the other hand, if I use the 85 1.8D a lot, there is no question that I will upgrade it to the 85 1.4G version.  I have more than a year to make up my mind.  If I get the 85 1.4G, it won't be before the middle of 2012. 

    There is another reason that I'm talking about the middle of 2012 besides money, which is reason enough.  I'm also waiting for alternatives like the Nikon 135 DC f/2 with VR.  If the lens comes with a minimum focusing distance of 2'-3', depending on the size and cost, I will get it instead of the 85G.  Another alternative is a new lens that Nikon might come out with, which might be a surprise in the  focal range of 85mm-135m.
    I am ecstatic with the number of main lenses, the speed, and spread of my main primes: 24/50/85.  I went back to my roots - my film days.  Yes, I did push my long range plan one year ahead than originally planned.