Archive for May, 2017

Nikon D3: The camera that changed everything

28 May

In 2007, after several years of lagging behind Canon in the enthusiast and professional DSLR market, Nikon was doing alright. Not spectacularly, but they were hanging in there. The D200 was a popular and capable enthusiast model, and the professional D2x was a significant advance on the muddled ‘h’ and ‘s’ releases of the past. But it was their biggest competitor that seemed to have all the momentum. While Canon had been using APS-H and full-frame sensors for years, none of Nikon’s DSLRs offered sensors bigger than APS-C, and Canon still ruled the roost in terms of autofocus1 and high ISO imaging capability.

But around that time, we had an inkling that Nikon had something big on the way. Not a company prone to grand gestures, Nikon invited the world’s press (and I do mean the world’s press) to Tokyo, in the sapping humidity of a Japanese heatwave for a top secret announcement…

The magnesium alloy-bodied D3 was as tough as anything that Canon ever brought to market, but offered a combination of speed, sensitivity and autofocus performance that the industry had never seen before. 

Ten years ago, camera technology was advancing continuously, and quickly. For quite a long time, it seemed like every new generation of digital cameras was better than the last in ways that camera buyers (and reviewers) actually cared about. Obviously, each new cycle brought more megapixels, but equally as important were the ergonomic and performance improvements that made each new generation of cameras easier to use, and more effective than the last.

Buzz Aldrin, in London to mark the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing.

Nowhere were these advances more obvious than in the professional DSLR segment. Compare the original EOS-1D of 2001 to the EOS-1D Mark IV of 2010. They look similar, but in terms of usability and image quality they’re worlds apart.

Let’s take usability, to start with. If we look at just the screen interfaces alone, in less than a decade, LCDs got bigger, and much sharper. Live view became standard, and, camera menu systems evolved from messy lists that looked like Windows ME error messages to friendly tabs and mobile-inspired icons.

My personal D3S, nestled alongside a D810 and several lenses in a Pelican case. It’s still great, and I still use it.

The 4MP Canon EOS-1D is still capable of turning out decent-looking images for web and limited print use, and it can do so impressive quickly (8 fps ain’t bad for a sixteen year-old DSLR). But the EOS-1D Mark IV offered four times the pixel count, better image quality across the board, including a far superior high ISO imaging capability, a faster continuous shooting rate, and a much more sophisticated autofocus system – plus live view and movie mode.

High Barn, not far from where I grew up, in North Yorkshire. 12MP might not be much by 2017 standards, but it’s enough for a high quality 13-inch print.

All of this is by way of preamble. The point (finally! He gets to the point!) is that even by the fast-paced standards of the professional DSLR market in the mid 2000s, the Nikon D3 was a major technological achievement. Arguably, (and I admit it’s a big ‘arguably’) the EOS-1D Mark IV and its successors might not have been quite such advanced cameras without the technological game-upping that Canon had to do in the years following the launch of the D3.

Nikon D3 Sample Images (2008)

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As a working photographer and photography writer at the time, the D3 was (and remains, actually) the single most impactful product to be released during my career. Before Nikon’s presentation in Tokyo had even drawn to a close,2 our industry’s expectations of what a DSLR could do had been shifted.

Until the D3, you could either have a fast cropped sensor DSLR, or a slow full-frame one – not both. Until the D3, the maximum ISO sensitivity setting that you might be able to shoot at was either 1600 or 3200 (depending on the model), and even then, not particularly confidently. Until the D3 (and its sister model the D300) came along, if you wanted the best autofocus performance, there was no question – you bought Canon.

Melody Gardot, performing in London. The D3’s shutter sounds like someone just dropped a cribbage board onto a marble floor, but the D3S introduced a fairly discreet ‘Q’ mode.

I was happily shooting with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II when the D3 was released. For the kind of photography I was doing at the time, the Mark II was one of the best cameras on the market, and did the job perfectly well – or so I thought. I felt the same way about the 1D Mark II in 2007 as I did about my Nokia 3210. Solid, reliable, and elegant in its own way. A useful and streamlined tool.

At risk of overstating the point, the D3 was to my EOS-1D Mark II what the iPhone was to the Nokia 3210: a paradigm shift.3 

Florence Welch, shot with the D3’s successor, the D3S. The D3S added some welcome tweaks over the D3, including in-camera sensor cleaning, and slightly improved high ISO image quality.

Using the D3, I could shoot quickly and without a crop factor for the first time. I could capture full-color images in light so low that my own eyes couldn’t fully discern what I was looking at (and the AF could usually keep up). I could shoot at ISO 6400, and marvel at the moderate film-like grain – a grain pattern that wasn’t distracting at all, and showed no banding. The D3’s autofocus system was at least a generation ahead of what I was used to in terms of tracking too, allowing me to reliably use AF-C, even with off-center AF points in poor light. 

Nikon D3S Sample Images (2010)

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In practical terms, this meant that I could capture images of performers in light so marginal that none of the other photographers working alongside me were able to get a sharp exposure.

A couple of times during my first few months of shooting with the D3 (when I had the camera for review, but before it was shipping in significant numbers) I found myself alone in the photo pit at a small venue, still shooting in punishingly low light after the other photographers had given up and left.4

But it wasn’t just performance photographers that were amazed by the D3. Wildlife photographers, too, were raving about this amazing new camera that let them shoot in full color, in situations where previously they would have been limited to infrared. Like I said, it was a paradigm shift.

The D3S has accompanied me on a few shooting trips in 2017, including a protest against the Trump administration’s attempted travel ban, back in January. 

So of course I bought one. I sold all my Canon gear, took a hit on the exchange, ate tinned food for a few months and picked up a D3 with a 24-70mm F2.8. I added more lenses over the following couple of years when I could afford to, and ultimately traded the D3 for a D3S. The D3S added in-camera sensor-cleaning (one of the D3’s few deficiencies), even better high ISO image quality and a basic HD video function. That was around the same time I started to write for DPReview, and about a year after that we moved to America and I mostly stopped shooting live music.

My life has changed a lot since then, but I still have my D3S and I still use it – mostly now as a second camera for event photography. And no, Dan Bracaglia – I’m not selling, so stop asking.

A still from a commercial shoot for a young singer-songwriter, Anna Sinfield, in 2008. She’s a producer, these days, for UK radio.

One last anecdote…

Not long after the D3’s launch, back in London, I spoke to a young Nikon engineer who had been heavily involved in the design of the new camera. He was visiting from Tokyo. He brought with him two sets of prints – one set from the then-current Canon EOS-1D Mark III, and an equivalent set from the D3. Pointing to the shots from the Canon, he said “in my opinion, these look like digital images”. Turning to the images from the D3 he said “but these look like photographs”.

That might sound like hyperbole, but the thing is – he was right.

1. Setting aside the much-reported and in my opinion overblown autofocus woes of the EOS-1D Mark III.

2. In addition to the cameras, the presentation was also memorable for a closing appeal from a very senior Nikon executive to the assembled US press. Please – he requested – please pronounce ‘Nikon’ correctly as ‘Nick-on’ not ‘Nye-con’ – a plea that was of course completely ignored by all concerned. That trip was also the first time I encountered a Geisha (it would not be the last).

3. If the D3 had come loaded with ‘Snake II’ it would have been perfect. Actually, given the amount of time professional photographers spend just waiting around, I’ve always wondered why simple arcade games weren’t pre-loaded on professional DSLRs. 

4. The Pogues – I’m looking at you. Or rather, I was trying to…

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


New startup ‘Binded’ aims to simplify copyright for photographers

28 May

How do you stop your images from being stolen? And if it happens, what can you do about it? Copyright disputes are among the most difficult issues that face working photographers, and in the US, registering copyright is time-consuming and expensive in itself.

Binded CEO Nathan Lands is pitching the service as an easier alternative to traditional means of registering copyright.

He has pledged that Binded will remain a free service, but one that creates a permanent record of copyright, which can be used in the event of a dispute.

‘Binded’ is a free service that aims to simplify the process of registering – and enforcing – copyright for photographers. When you upload an image to Binded, it creates a digital ‘fingerprint’ which serves as a permanent record that you own the copyright. This record is then written to the bitcoin blockchain. Binded will then monitor use of the image on the Internet, and automatically notify the copyright holder if it detects unauthorized use. 

For now, uploading an image to Binded does not count as an official government registration of copyright in the US. According to CEO Nathan Lands, that’s something that he hopes will be added to the service over time.

Previously known as Blockai, the startup has just raised an additional $ 950,000 in funding from investors, bringing total funding to $ 1.5 million.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

Learn more at

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


Film artist explains what’s wrong with new ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’ poster

27 May

There’s a new Spiderman movie coming out (yes, really – another one) and the most recent poster been generating a lot of comments. Mostly they’re comments about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.

While the film itself looks like it might not be terrible, the poster is a technicolor mishmash of disparate elements from the movie, thrown together with gleeful disregard for scaling or uniform lighting:

In an interview with The Verge, veteran illustrator Tommy Lee Edwards explains what probably went through the designer’s mind: “Here’s a bunch of references I got from the movie. Let’s put it all together and see how it looks.’ From there, you might be inspired to do a real poster. Instead, they just stopped at that point”.

Well, to be fair, nobody ever said graphic design was easy.

Read more at The Verge

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


How do you know you need a new camera?

27 May


For the vast majority of shooting I do, even on weddings, I find my aging DSLR is still more than enough camera for the job. After all, it’s the photographer, not the camera, right?
Nikon 35mm F2 D
ISO 200 | 1/1000 sec | F8

‘Do I need a new camera?’

Unsurprisingly, I get that question a lot. I also ask myself that question a lot, especially after working at DPReview for the last eighteen months. My answer has always been ‘no.’

Until now, that is.

You see, I shoot all my personal work on a Nikon D700. Why is that, you might ask? Well, I was handed-me-down a Nikon D80 way back, built up a collection of lenses, and followed the (questionable, these days) full-frame upgrade path. And once I got there, to my used (and abused) D700, I abruptly stopped. What on earth did I need more camera for?

I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of this D700 because a) it’s covered in tape to hold it together, so its ugly and therefore worthless to most resellers, and b) it’s been around the world with me and back again, and hasn’t missed a beat.

It still shoots 5fps, and that’s usually enough for weddings and events. Exposed properly, ISO 6400 is perfectly usable. It’s stood up to everything I’ve thrown at it (and accidentally thrown it at). And, most importantly, I’ve become familiar with all of its ins and outs, and how to work around its limitations. I am able operate it completely by muscle memory and, despite its aging tech, I’ve been confident that if I didn’t get the shot, it wasn’t the camera’s fault – it was mine.

With my flash and exposure set, focusing and grabbing this image of a soloing saxophonist on the dance floor didn’t pose much of a problem for the D700 and an 85mm F1.8 D lens I was using – but that wasn’t always the case.
ISO 6400 | 1/200 sec | F1.8

But as I was shooting a recent wedding, the Nikon D5 kept popping up in my mind. I was lead reviewer for that camera, and this nagging voice kept saying ‘the D5 could make this so much easier.’ And when a camera makes the task of capturing an image easier, my mind is that much more free to focus on composition, lighting, posing, and so on.

So am I buying a D5? Well, not without selling my motorcycle and my car, which would be a problem for getting to gigs since Nikon hasn’t included teleportation into their $ 6500 flagship. But now I’m finally looking at something a bit newer, and not just because I think it’ll make things easier for me.

Megapixels do matter

Sometimes, anyway.

For my own casual photography, for when I want to just take a camera along and document a camping trip, a friend’s barbecue or snap some photos at Thanksgiving, 12 megapixels is plenty. No one’s printing these photos big, and friends and family are just going to put them on Facebook or Instagram anyway. Maybe, just maybe, I might make some 4×6’s.

It’s for these sorts of wider group shots that I really came to lean on my second shooter’s higher megapixel cameras.
Canon 35mm F2 IS
ISO 100 | 1/1000 | F3.5
Photograph by David Rzegocki

Then my second shooter and I were wandering around the grounds of the University of Washington in Seattle with the bridal party, and shooting some more expansive group shots; shots that I knew that if people zoomed in to their faces on my D700 files, they could be disappointed. So I borrowed my partner’s 6D (or just let him frame up the shot) to make sure that, should they want to make some prints, or just take a closer look at their dresses and suits, they had the resolution they needed.

Now, I said they could be disappointed. There’s every chance that they wouldn’t care. But I’m reaching the point in my freelance career that it just wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.

‘What? The autofocus missed?’

Now don’t get me wrong – the pro-grade autofocus system in the D700, lifted directly from the D3, is still pretty fantastic. Most of the time. But I’m increasingly realizing that I want a system to be fantastic all of the time – there were a few strange autofocus mishaps I experienced that cost me a shot I was hoping to nail.

Surely it’s more about the mixed, dim lighting and old screw lenses than the camera in this case, right? On the contrary, I knew from my time with the D5 that Nikon’s newest autofocus system absolutely sings even with older lenses like mine, with a level of precision in marginal light that I’d expect from the D700 in bright daylight.

All I wanted a quick candid of the back of the bride’s necklace. It looks okay at 590 pixels, but zoom in any further and it’s soft, despite the lens being stopped down and the autofocus point having been placed over the necklace (so plenty of contrast).
Nikon 85mm F1.8 D
ISO 200 | 1/320 sec | F2.8

Lastly, as many times as I have insisted to our technical editor Rishi that 3D Tracking works ‘just fine’ on the D700, I shall now be unceremoniously cramming those words into my mouth. It was so unreliable compared to the newer models that I fell back on manually placing my autofocus point. I’d been doing this for years before I experimented with tracking on the D700, so my muscle memory came back pretty quickly, but I still knew I was taking a step backward and making just a little more work for myself.

Plus, that eight-way controller on the D700 is like an undercooked banana loaf; it’s just a mushy mess.

So what’s next?

Nikon 35mm F2 D
ISO 200 | 1/1600 sec | F8

I have officially sold one of my two D700’s (the one that’s in mint condition, not the one that’s dented and covered in gaff tape to keep the grip rubber on). And as for now, I’m not really sure what’s next – Nikon would probably be my first choice, as I still have plenty of lenses, but I’m totally open for some camera-brand soul searching.

One thing’s for certain, though. I’m going to take my time with this one. That’s because I want the next ‘main camera’ to be one that I can keep and be as satisfied with as long as possible, just like the D700. This may sound odd coming from a camera reviewer, but I just don’t want to upgrade all the time. I want to build up the same level of muscle memory I had with my old Nikon, and besides that, I have enough other interests and expenses that if a new camera won’t make a really measurable difference for my style of photography, it’s best to just skip it.

But then again – if I hadn’t had the opportunity to experiment not just with the Nikon D5, but also cameras like the Nikon D750, Canon EOS 5D IV, Sony a7R II, the Olympus E-M1 (original and Mark II), Panasonic GH5, Fujifilm X-T2 and many, many more, I wouldn’t have known what I’m missing.

Nikon 50mm F1.4D
ISO 6400 | 1/200 sec | F2

Now, for better (for my photography) or worse (for my bank account), I do know what I’ve been missing. After having so many opportunities to try out all those alternatives, I unequivocally know that a newer, updated camera could really benefit me as a photographer. And that’s how, finally, I know that it’s a good time for a change.

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Dell’s new 8K display is pretty amazing, but do you need it?

27 May

The video industry keeps telling us that we’ll all be using 8K displays in a few years. It’s true that once you see 8K video, you can’t unsee it. It’s really pretty amazing. Until recently, however, seeing one for yourself meant going to a tradeshow like NAB or CES, where you could use a magnifying glass to try to see the pixels. 

But that’s no longer true thanks to Dell, which is now selling a 32-inch 8K monitor for the not-too-surprising price of $ 4999. Just how good is it? In this video, Linus Tech Tips shows just what you’re getting when you buy one. It’s pretty impressive, but even Linus acknowledges that the difference between 8K and a ‘standard’ 5K display is “not as noticeable as you might think.”

Are you ready to go 8K? What would it take to convince you to take the plunge?

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


NanGuang launches three new portable LED-lights

27 May
The NanGuang CNB144 LED panel retails for £89.94 ($ 115).

Chinese accessory manufacturer NanGuang has launched three new portable LED lights that are designed for use with DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras and attach via the hotshoe. 

The CNB144 and CNLUX1600C are panel lights that come with an adjustable bracket to modify the lighting angle. Both lights offer a brightness output of 1005 LM at 100% brightness and stepless dimmer control. It’s also possible to lock several units together to create a larger light panel. 

The CNB144 weighs 225g and comes with a diffuser in the box. The color temperature is 5600K and can be altered using the included 3200K or pink filters. The CNLUX1600C comes with a bi-colour panel. Color temperature is steplessly adjustable from 3200K-5600K. The CNLUX1600C also comes with a diffuser and pink and blue filters.

The NanGuang CN8F LED fresnel light will cost you £239.94 ($ 307).

The CN8F LED Fresnel Light is designed for both on-camera or stand-alone use. It provides an illumination of 560 LM and a color temperature of 5600K. The fresnel lens can be adjusted to produce a light beam between 10 and 60 degrees. The light also offers stepless brightness control. An integrated frame holds up to three filters of 65 x 70mm size. Orange 3200k and blue 6500K filters are included in the kit, as well as a gelatine filter holder, barn doors and a carry case. The weight is 550g without batteries. 

All lights are battery powered and compatible with Sony NP-FH, NP-FM, NP-F series batteries, Panasonic CGR-D series batteries (using an included adapter plate) or Ni-HM or AA batteries. Optionally you can use an AC 100-240V power adapter. The NanGuang CNB144 price tag is £89.94 ($ 115) in the UK, the CNLUX1600C will set you back £119.94 ($ 154) and CN8F  fresnel light retails at £239.94 ($ 307).

The NanGuang CNLUX1600C LED panel will set you back £119.94 ($ 154). 

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


Sony still third globally but bullish about 2017 prospects

27 May
High value models such as the a7R II have boosted Sony’s income, despite falling unit sales.

Sony is the world’s leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it said in a presentation to investors.

The company says the move to higher value products allowed Digital Imaging’s operating income to maintain essentially flat, despite declining sales. It attributes these declines to a combination of a shrinking market and missed sales opportunities due to the Kumamoto earthquakes. Also counting against its 2016 numbers were adverse foreign exchange movements. The figures also looked bad compared with 2015, as the group had received a one-off insurance payment that year, following flooding in Thailand.

The company suggested its 2014 strategy of strengthening its ILC and lens ranges is bearing fruit. It also predicts a compound annual growth rate of 27% in sales of ILC bodies and a similar figure in lenses, for 2017. It says it expects the group as a whole (which includes broadcast and medical businesses) to see sales grow by around 10% and its operating income to rise by 12.7%. Part of this will be driven by the move to higher margin products and some by the ability to respond to pent-up demand, following the Kumamoto earthquakes.

The company says it currently has 14% of the ILC and lens markets, putting it in 3rd place, globally (the recent press release about being 2nd in the US market is as much to do with bouncing back after Kumamoto and second-placed Nikon not having released any high-end cameras recently, as anything else). It also says it has 23% of the compact market, putting it in 2nd place or 1st if you only consider the more valuable large sensor and long-zoom compacts.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (


How one photographer 3D printed this beautiful medium format camera

27 May
It’s named PK-6142016, aka the ‘Cycloptic Mustard Monster,’ and is a 3D printed medium format camera with a Kreuznach 90mm f/8 Super Angulon lens attached.

Photographer Paul Kohlhausen has created what he calls a ‘really precisely engineered box,’ the PK-6142016 ‘Cycloptic Mustard Monster’ medium format analog camera. Kohlhaussen designed the camera himself using Autodesk Fusion 360 and produced it via a 3D printer and SLS polyamide material. The Cycloptic Mustard Monster utilizes 120mm film and produces 6×14 cm negatives.

Kohlhausen detailed the camera on his website, where he explains that he used a Schneider Kreuznach 90mm f/8 Super Angulon lens designed for 4×5 cameras, with focusing being possible via fixed spacer brackets. Camera features include a viewfinder and a removable top plate for inserting film. In an interview with The Phoblographer, Kohlhaussen stated that he is considering launching the product on Kickstarter, but difficulties sourcing the aforementioned lens may be a hindrance.

Via: The Phoblographer

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Video: Portrait pro Tamara Lackey on self-doubt

27 May

Self-doubt and/or self-consciousness can get in the way of your photographic goals, especially when it comes to making pictures of people. Fortunately Nikon ambassador USA and portrait photographer Tamara Lackey has sound advice on the subject. Instead of seeking to overcome your self-consciousness, embrace it and use it as a tool to bring out authentic expression in your images. How? Watch the lecture and find out.

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Trippy Transformations: Makeup Artist Creates Unreal 3D Illusions

26 May

[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

Makeup artist Mimi Choy slices, disjoints, stretches, blurs and otherwise radically transforms her own face in stunningly realistic optical illusions using nothing but makeup. No templates, prosthetics or Photoshop go into the creation of her surreal photos – she freehand them all, often using standard cosmetics from brands like MakeupForever and Kryolan theater makeup. The Vancouver, Canada-based artist shows off her trippy looks on Instagram alongside her more standard everyday makeup looks.

Mostly using herself as a canvas for her optical illusions, Mimi says, “To be honest, I never thought anybody would be interested in following my bizarre late-night creations a few years ago because it wasn’t ‘on trend.’ But I continued because illusion art is challenging and I like having to push limits each time. Later on, I realized it’s not about creating looks that are ‘popular’ or would guarantee likes/follows, it’s about creating our own trend and breaking barriers.”

Mimi says she rarely even has a specific plan in mind when she starts painting – she just goes for it, and allows the result to come about spontaneously. Check out her Instagram @mimles for lots more wild and intricate makeup creations.

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[ By SA Rogers in Art & Drawing & Digital. ]

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