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Thursday, 02 October 2008


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Well, I certainly HOPE I like mine that much. It arrived Wednesday, and due to things like working with a friend to repair the upstairs furnace before it gets cold, and work, I haven't done anything vaguely serious with mine yet. This weekend will be busy!

It's messed up my lens lineup a lot to go back to FX, which I wasn't expecting to do ever (let alone this soon). But the low-light performance got me.

I'd like to add a couple of counter-points, not to knock Chris' experience in any way.

Ergonomics I think are a personal thing. Personally I find a power button by the shutter release a distraction, adjuster wheels on the front of the camera fiddly and in particular the location of Nikon shutter releases uncomfortable. Partly that's experience but every time I've put a Nikon in my hands I've hated the control locations. As I say, a personal thing.

Point 2: getting results immediately from modern cameras. I've recently bought a couple of cameras. One, Canon 40D, I've not done any real shooting with in 2 months. Reason: I found on even a few test shots that there are so many settings that affect image quality and/or judgement of exposure that I actually need to spend time testing it to feel comfortable getting results. It's a curse of digital cameras - in camera settings are like choosing film, except you've got to test a whole new set of stock with each new camera.

"I have shot as high as ISO 25,500 and while an image taken at that setting would not be publishable as artwork,..."

That depends on your definition of artwork. Personally I don't subscribe to the view that excessive grain or noise disqualifies a picture from consideration as 'art'.

The one thing I don't like is that Nikon insist on placing the focus mode switch tucked in under the lens. It may be consistent with every other Nikon SLR, but it's consistently awkward. Otherwise, love it.

"I have created one that mimics Tri-X."
Oh boy. Another emulation or simulation of Tri-X in digital. I wish everyone who did this would just USE Tri-X already! Support Kodak so the real thing will continue to be available to the rest of us!

I primarily shoot macro, and I have been pleasantly stunned by the photographs I have gotten out of the D700.

When I first received the camera, I took some photos without turning any of my lights on -- just using the dim ambient light of my studio. I was just getting comfortable with the controls, and expected to toss the images immediately. To my surprise, the results were excellent: the color spot on and the noise nearly non-existant.

And the LiveView mode has saved back! Instead of crouching to peer through the viewfinder, I can now sit comfortable behind my camera. I have found that LiveView is useful enough to let me focus with great precision.

After years of working with the Kodak SLR/n (the VW Van of cameras - it'll get you there, if you can deal with an oil leak or two), I am quite pleased with the overall usability of the D700.

Choices, choices. There are times I wish I had put off the purchase of my D300 and waited for the D700, but who knew? Besides, one thing the D300 does (as does the D700, for that matter) that my old D70 didn't do is to meter through my old AI-S prime lenses. Another benefit of not having waited: I'm in the market for a new printer, and the difference in price between the D300 and the D700 is about what an Epson 3800 costs.

By the way, I highly recommend the South Pier Inn, which is at the right end of the Duluth Lift Bridge, just behind the fireworks burst. Rooms on the canal side are equipped with binoculars for watching the ships go by.

I don't have the D700, but I have the D3 and the D300, and Thom Hogan describes the 700 as a kind of merger of the two...and I can't decide which of the two I like better. They're both terrific, and since they give you different fields of view with the same lenses, they make a great combo. I've often thought that Canons are a kind of everyman's pro camera -- good in every way, but sort of homogenized, too. Nikon people tend to like Nikon specifically, not so much for any definable image qualities, but because they simply fit so well, both physically and psychologically. And some people don't like them at all, as we've seen here, and so go to Canon or some other brand. (Leica and Olympus also seem to have fans who buy for fit, while others disdain them.) This matter of image quality is one of the reasons I dissed the new Sony a few weeks back -- I suspect the sweet spot for resolution, dynamic range and noise control (essentially, ISO) for full-frame DSLRs, with current and foreseeable technology, is somewhere between the Canon's 21mp and the D3's 12mp, and the Sony's 24mp was purely a PR decision ("We've got the most.") It's hard to imagine that ultimate image quality could be much better than the D3's, but fans of the 1DsIII and the new 5DII say their cameras are better, and maybe they are. We'll see, I guess. What a great time this is for cameras.


"For example, I have created one that mimics Tri-X."

This gentlemen figured out how to get 12 stops out of a camera that delivers about 8.5? ;-)

I also have a D700. Brilliant camera. Very much the digital equivalent of a F100.

Full frame, ultra low noise at high ASA, weather-sealed, manual focus lens support, fast and relatively compact.

Amazing piece of gear. If it really did deliver 12 stops, instead of the 8.5 it actually does, I would have a good excuse to stop shooting film (just kidding).

So, for the moment I pretend it's loaded with Kodachrome, with a stop of headroom.

My first thought was also that art should not be equalled with absence of noise, i.e. clean look.

Also the review is very biased to jpeg shooters, concerning controls and image processor.

And saying that the EXPEED image warp drive engine provides "superior image quality" - honestly - sounds like a marketing phrase.

What is art? As far as I am concerned it is as irrelevent as discussing and pondering what I ate for supper last night when pertaining to this article.

My thanks to Mike for publishing this article. I have written a response to some of the commentators as well as an update based on a solid week of shooting with the D700. You can read it at http://writtenbythelight.blogspot.com/2008/10/back-on-line.html.


Is it fair to compare TRI-x film to the resolution of a 14-bit NEF from a D700/D3?

From Thom Hogan: he expects about a 9 stop range, where the "best" film gets about 11 stops. I believe he goes on to say that other reviewers increase these ranges to 11 and 13, respectively.

Whatever.... that's a lot of technical gerrymandering to be sure.

I've shot reels of TRI-x in my day and unless you are dedicated in the darkroom with your own process you're losing 2-3 stops + a lot of risk of user error. Leave it up to a lab and you're the fool to blame.

At least with NEFs you aren't backed into the cul-de-sac of processing.

Meanwhile, if you're shooting TRI-x-- how much DR are you expecting to get from a general buearue's printer? I'm guessing the Epson 3800 gives you maybe 9 stops. 10 if you are really anal and Gretagging the entire process.

I'm not trying to criticize. I'm simply trying to put things in perspective: are 11 stops really an improvement over 9 in real-world conditions? I'm not entirely convinced they are.

Best, f9a

Its critical to know what your needs are prior to shopping so many selections. I found its best to write down what are we looking for then when your shopping you know immediately what make and model fits your criteria.

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