I received my Nikon D850 24 hours ago and can comfortably state that this is the best all-around camera Nikon has ever produced. It excelled at every single situation I threw at it. Nikon makes other cameras that specialize at specific aspects like frame rate (D5/D500), high ISO performance (D5). But nothing combines all the features (resolution, dynamic range, high ISO performance, frame rate, autofocus, buffer depth, ergonomics, image quality) like the D850.
During the last 24 hours, I’ve put it through a pretty good representative sample of outdoor photography situations including:
– Macro (focus stacking)
– High dynamic range panoramas
– Black and white conversions
– Architecture at sunset
– Night football at ISO 25,600
– Cross country meet
Here are photos with captions to show some background information and exposure details.
Here’s all you need to know about the new Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 DI VC G2 lens: It is an excellent lens for a very attractive price.
Seriously, I have never used a Tamron lens this good in my entire career. I’ve owned three Tamrons over the years and have always been disappointed with something about them. My previous Tamron lenses suffered from low image quality, build quality, feel, function, flare, chromatic aberration, color fidelity, or a mix of each. This new 70-200mm G2 lens from Tamron is truly excellent, and that’s coming from a long-time Nikon die-hard.
There’s been quite a bit of buzz about this lens in the photo media, so I felt I had to try it out myself. I purchased my own copy from Adorama.com and have been using it for the last two weeks at school track meets and in my hometown of Gig Harbor, Washington.
The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 is available in Nikon and Canon mounts. For this review, I tested a Nikon mount version and used it predominately on my Nikon D500. It is a full-frame lens and works seamlessly with full-frame and cropped-frame cameras. My Nikon version is fully compatible with cameras like the D5, D750, D810, D7500, D7200, D610, D5600 and so on.
One of the biggest things going for this lens is its relatively low price. At $1,299 it is less than half the cost of the $2,800 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR. For this price differential, you can buy the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 and the new Nikon 200-500mm lens ($1,400) while still having enough money left over for $100 of Starbuck’s lattes. That’s at least a week of coffee for us Washingtonians!
On my Nikon D500, the autofocus performance of the Tamron is truly superb. It is snappy and accurate and among the best-performing autofocus lenses I own. The silent wave motor is truly silent and effortlessly tracks moving subjects, no matter how fast they are moving.
I took the lens to two track meets and shot over 3,500 photos of athletes in motion. Of those images, I estimate only about 150 to 200 shots to be unusable. Half of the unusable shots were my fault for mistakenly twisting the focus ring rather than the zoom ring while shooting.
This AF “hit” performance is a big improvement over all previous Tamron lenses I’ve used and matches up with any of my pro Nikon f/2.8 lenses. Really, I was very impressed.
I just finished writing my new book; Nikon Autofocus System 2nd Edition and I wish I had this lens during the writing process. I definitely would have given Tamron a shout out in my lens section of the book as a high performing 3rd party lens.
Vibration Compensation (Image Stabilization) Performance
The VC (vibration compensation) mechanism on this lens is excellent. I’ve found that mode 3 works the best for my hand-held sports and action work, as it is designed to be the most aggressive.
There are three vibration compensation modes:
Mode 1 – This is a basic mode that tries to strike a balance between finder-image stability and vibration compensation performance. This mode isn’t as aggressive as Mode 3, but is a good all-around VC mode for when you want to “see” the VC effect through the viewfinder.
Mode 2 – Panning mode. Use when panning left or right with moving subjects.
Mode 3 – Prioritizes vibration compensation performance, compensating only at the moment the shutter is released. This is the most aggressive setting and Tamron claims it compensates up to 5 stops. I haven’t fully tested it to see if their claims are true, but I have found this mode to be “best” during my testing. When I have more time, I’ll try to hand-hold some 200mm shots at 1/15 second or 1/8 second shutter speeds to see if it is truly possible.
Minimum Focus Distance
The lens focuses down to 3.1 feet (0.95 meter), so at 200mm, it has a 1:6 reproduction ratio. This is definitely sufficient, but doesn’t focus as close as the Nikon (1:4.8) or Canon (1:5) models. If I were using this lens to do macro work, then I’ll add an extension tube to improve its close-focusing capability.
Handling and Ergonomics
Handling is very good and the lens feels solid. The zoom ring is at the front of the lens, so depending on what previous lens you were using, you’ll have to get used to holding the lens at the front of the barrel.
My first two days using the lens was a bit frustrating because I would rotate the focus ring by habit, thinking I was rotating the zoom ring. Not a big deal, but some of you Nikon and Canon shooters will have to spend time learning new muscle memory.
Tripod Foot & Lens Collar
A very nice touch is the tripod foot on the lens collar. It is designed with the Arca Swiss plate architecture built in. That means if you are using a RRS or Kirk or Arca Swiss quick release system, you won’t need to purchase an additional plate.
The lens collar is solid and stable. It is designed so you can quickly and easily remove it from the lens barrel for more comfortable hand-holding.
What Needs Improvement?
Lens barrel switches
I regularly and inadvertently toggle the lens barrel switches on/off while taking the lens in and out of my camera bag. There are four lens barrel switches:
– VC (image stabilization) mode: 1 – 2 – 3.
– VC on/off
– Focus distance limit: Full or infinity to 3m
Over the last two weeks, I’ve had all four switches turn on or off as I brought the camera out of the bag to take shots. Sometimes it is the AF/MF switch, which turns off autofocus. Just yesterday I accidently turned off the focus distance limit switch. I was shooting a close up of a crab on the beach and couldn’t figure out why the lens wouldn’t focus closer than about 10 feet. I pulled the camera away from my eye, and quickly diagnosed the problem … SWITCH!!!
The switches on Nikon lenses are much lower-profile and therefore don’t get inadvertently moved while using the lens in the real world.
The lens caps work “fine”, but they are a bit clunky. The front cap works better than the rear. My problem with the rear cap is that it doesn’t mount/dismount as easily or quickly as the Nikon OEM caps.
The Tamron rear lens cap works with my Nikon lenses, but it doesn’t easily snap into place like I’m used to with the Nikon cap. The solution is easy though; I’ve decided to use only Nikon lens caps! I have enough of them, so I’ll be using the Nikon caps from now on.
Overall, I give this lens two big thumbs up. I have decided to keep the Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 G2 in my camera bag as my primary pro 70-200 lens. I’ll work around the minor issues I detailed above because the cost of the lens is so much lower than the cost of the Nikon. Auto focus performance is among the best I’ve seen and the resulting images are top notch.
Tamron has come a long way and if this lens is any indication of their commitment to excellence, I’d say Nikon and Canon better keep upping their game!
Additional Sample Photographs
I’ve been shooting with the Nikon D500 for a couple weeks and have to say that Nikon has truly created a beautiful camera. I’ll write up a more-detailed review in our next newsletter, but so far, I am exceedingly impressed. The things I’m liking are:
1. Autofocus performance is top-notch
2. Frame rate at 10 FPS is addictive
3. High ISO performance is excellent
4. Ergonomics are best in class
5. Rear flip-screen is very useful
6. Image quality is excellent
The camera “only” costs about $2,000, so I consider it a true bargain. It fundamentally has all the professional tools of the Nikon D5, packed into the smaller body of the D500. The size of the D500 is almost identical to the FX format Nikon D750 and the ergonomics/handling are excellent. I can guarantee you are going to love this camera for sports, action and wildlife. It is a killer camera.
I just received notice from Adorama that the D500 (and D5) are in stock and ready for sale. Here are my affiliate links:
Nikon D5 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body (CF Version)
$6,496.95 with free shipping
Nikon D5 FX-Format DSLR Camera Body (XQD Version)
$6,496.95 with free shipping
Nikon D500 DX-format DSLR Body
$1,996.95 with free shipping
Nikon D500 DX-format Digital SLR Body with AF-S DX Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR Lens
$3,066.95 with free shipping
Here are a few more photo samples from the D500.
Nikon announced a bevy of new compact cameras for CP+ 2016. The cool thing about the higher-end models is they are large-sensor compact cameras. It is clear that Nikon is listening to their user-base and offering professional quality cameras that don’t weigh as much as a DSLR.
In my opinion, two of the cameras are very enticing and worthy of your attention: The DL18-50 and the DL24-85. Both of them have a f/1.8-f/2.8 fluorine coated lens and the 18-50 has the Nano coated lens to help reduce lens flare at the wide-angle settings.
The DL18-50 and DL24-85 have a compact form and are small enough to fit in your pocket. Nikon is claiming the DL cameras have DSLR functionality, which includes fast/accurate autofocus, a blazingly-fast frame rate of 20 FPS, 20.8 megapixel 1″ sensor, and 4K video. If these specs hold up in real-world shooting situations, then these little powerhouse cameras will be tremendous for travel photography, street photography, and multi-media story telling.
As a prolific user of Nikon’s wireless flash system, I was happy to see that these cameras support the Nikon CLS (creative lighting system). I’m looking forward to testing out these enticing little cameras.
Check out these early reviews from Nikon shooters Steve Simon and Drew Gurian:
Steve Simon DL Review at ThePassionatePhotographer
Drew Gurian DL Preview at DrewGurian.com
Purchase Links here:
Nikon DL18-50 F/1.8-2.8 Compact Camera – $846.95
Nikon DL24-85 F/1.8-2.8 Compact Camera – $646.95
Nikon DL25-500 F/2.8-5.6 Compact Camera – $996.95
Peter Hurley is an icon in the portrait photography world and has made a name for himself by specializing in a specific type of portraiture called headshot photography. In his new book titled The Headshot, Peter explains his process for creating his own iconic and timeless headshot portrait.
His book is chock-full of beautiful photographs showing off his skills as a headshot photographer. The book is designed to outline the entire process from start to finish on how to set up studio lights to how to work with models to how to get the facial expressions that make the shot.
I think one of the best things about his book is his detailed description of how to talk to clients in a way that helps them produce the most compelling look. Peter talks a lot about how uncomfortable clients can be and how our demeanor as photographers impacts the flow of the photo session. After many years of experience, Peter has perfected the art of banter with the client so that they are able to put their best look forward.
Peter makes it clear that the key to getting great portraits is developing a strong rapport with your subject as fast as possible. To that end, he spends a large portion of the book describing different ways to keep the banter flowing during the photo shoot. Peter even includes an entire chapter at the end of the book titled Hurleyisms. This chapter full of different phrases you can use to elicit various expressions from your subject. He uses a ton of photographs demonstrating the different expressions people come up with after he makes a statement like, “Give me a look like you are impersonating a blowfish on crack.”
Not that I necessarily want to copy other photographers but when another photographer has a solution that works then I might as well use it. I’m going to steal some of Peter’s best lines for my own work. Thanks Peter!
He covers a great deal about the elements of a good portrait and has multiple chapters on specific posing methods. For example, one chapter is focused on working with posture, another chapter on perfecting the smile, and another chapter on producing his famous squinch. Towards the end of the book, he dedicates a full chapter on how to put everything together in what Peter calls “The Hurley System”.
My favorite posing tip in the entire book is what Peter calls “holding the sub.” Holding the sub is a wonderful slimming method for women and yet it is super-simple to implement. You’ll have to read the book to find out what holding the sub means, but it is really a great idea and I’ll start using it immediately.
Peter talks a lot about a process he uses called Sherlock Holmesing. Basically every portrait customer is a problem that needs to be figured out. What makes this person tick? What’s the best side of the face? Where are their flaws and how do I hide them? How do I draw out their personality? He makes it clear that there is no single answer in setting up the perfect pose; rather every person’s face needs to be figured out independently.
The big part of his book is learning how to get the perfect expression and Peter lays it out fairly clearly by explaining that the perfect portrait results from a combination of confidence and approachability. He calls this the C&A approach – confidence and approachability. Every great portrait shows off the subject’s confidence, while also displaying their approachability.
Peter makes it clear that the photographer’s role is to own the subject’s expression for them. It’s not good enough to just create a technically sound photograph. You have to capture the C&A look, so you need to work hard to get exactly the right expression. He says that we are our subject’s mirror and we have to tell them exactly what their face is doing while continually tweaking their expression until we get it just right.
I have to admit that I am a technical guy and I really gravitate to diagrams, figures, and gear. You won’t find a lot of tech in this book because so much of great portraiture stems from the relationship you create with your client. Understanding how to deal with people is just as important, if not more important, than the gear you use in the studio. Peter advocates spending copious quantities of time getting the technical side correct so that it doesn’t get in your way during the shoot. Once that is done then the remaining part of your photography is finding that perfect expression.
Peter uses a lot of funky terms and one of them is SHA-BANG. He uses this word throughout the book to describe the scenario when everything comes together. For example, he’ll say, “… SHA-BANG the absolute crap out of the shoot.” or “Shabangin’ the shot makes you want to stare at that sucker.” His enthusiasm and passion for headshot photography is evident, and you won’t be bored reading his book.
The Headshot is an excellent book for photographers who want to specialize in this specific genre of photography. The Headshot is laser focused on this one specific portrait technique and Peter Hurley is truly the master of this domain. If you’re looking for techniques on a multitude of studio photography methods or a book on a myriad of posing techniques, then this is definitely not the right book for you.
If you want to read the master’s thesis on headshot photography then look no further. The Headshot SHA-BANGS it out of park!
The Headshot, The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits is 223 pages and printed in full color. Buy your own copy in paperback or Kindle format here:
Like many of you, I’ve been using Adobe Lightroom for years. Since I also teach and write about Lightroom, I’m always excited to learn new hidden features of the program that I’ve never used. In order to satisfy my desire to learn new things, I sat down last week to delve into Scott Kelby’s new Lightroom Book titled the Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers, published by New Riders – Voices That Matter.
Next Book in Series
This is the latest in Scott’s long-running series of Lightroom books that began with Lightroom 1 back in 2007. At 16 chapters and 559 pages, this book is hefty in its weight and its coverage of the topic. It isn’t the type of book you’ll sit down with for one evening. Rather, you’ll want to give yourself ample time to fully digest the plethora of tips, techniques, and methods that Kelby outlines in great detail.
Book Layout and Design
Every topic in the book is laid out by an easy-to-follow system of steps. Step 1: do this. Step 2: do that. This approach to writing is very helpful for learning and puts all concepts into bite-sized chunks that are easily digestible. Each page is perfectly laid out with the main steps on one side of the page and the corresponding screen shots on the other side. This format makes it easy to read what you should be doing, while simultaneously seeing what you should be doing. This is a great way to learn Lightroom CC and follows the exact same approach I use when teaching the program.
Each chapter ends with a page or two of Kelby’s famous Lightroom Killer Tips. These are quick tips that highlight some of the features of Lightroom in a rapid-fire way that gets right to the point. Be sure to read all of the Killer Tips for hidden gems that you might otherwise miss.
One very nice touch is how the book is designed with the Lightroom module layout in the header. The purpose of the header is to show the reader what part of the program they are currently studying. This simple, but effective technique is extremely helpful to new users of the program who might otherwise be lost in the program. Scott’s design and layout team is very good and I give them major props for incorporating the module headers into the layout of the book.
Most Useful Chapters
No matter what level of Lightroom user you are, I guarantee you will learn something new in this book. However, I’d like to highlight a couple chapters of the book that I think will be especially useful for readers to fully understand the full capabilities of Lightroom CC/6.
As you know, everything is migrating to mobile technology and Lightroom is no different. Lightroom CC has a fairly robust integration with mobile that allows you to incorporate your smart phone or tablet with the desktop application. Kelby’s section on the new Lightroom mobile app is well written and he clearly illustrates how to successfully use Lightroom with your tablet or phone.
The chapter that I think will be most helpful for people is chapter 16 where Scott summarizes his workflow from start to finish. He uses a real-world example of a portrait session to show how to use the powerful features of Lightroom to maximize the efficiency of your photo session. This chapter is a nice way to end the book and synthesize everything Scott wrote about in the previous 15 chapters into one concisely written chapter.
The Adobe Lightroom CC Book for Digital Photographers is well written, easy to understand, and elegantly designed to help you learn Lightroom CC/6. This book rocks. Two thumbs up. Nice work Scott Kelby.
Chapter 1: Importing, Getting your photos into Lightroom
Chapter 2: Library, How to organize your photos
Chapter 3: Customizing, How to set things up your way
Chapter 4: Editing Essentials, How to develop your photos
Chapter 5: Local Adjustments, How to edit just part of your images
Chapter 6: Special Effects, Making stuff look … well… special
Chapter 7: Lightroom for Mobile, Using the mobile app
Chapter 8: Problem Photos, Fixing common problems
Chapter 9: Exporting Images, Saving JPEGs, TIFFs, and more
Chapter 10: Jumping to Photoshop, How and when to do it
Chapter 11: Book of Love, Creating photo books
Chapter 12: Slideshow, Creating presentations of your work
Chapter 13: The Big Print, Printing your photos
Chapter 14: The Layout, Creating cool layouts for web & print
Chapter 15: DSLR: The Movie, Working with video shot on your DLSR
Chapter 16: My Portrait Workflow, My step-by-step process from the shoot to the final print
Buy your own copy here:
Profoto asked me to review the new Profoto B2 off-camera flash system so I put the B2 AirTTL system through its paces shooting some outdoor portraits and photographing kids playing on a trampoline. For this test, I used the Profoto B2 250 AirTTL Location kit, Profoto OCF light shapers, a Nikon D750, the Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8.
Here’s a video I put together for the Profoto B2 AirTTL OCF system.
I currently own a set of Profoto D1 Air studio strobes and think that Profoto makes some of the best studio lights on the market today. The B2 flashes take the Profoto technology and shrink it down into a small, battery-powered location kit that you can take just about anywhere. Like everything else in the Profoto lineup, the build quality of the B2 system is top-notch. Also, the quality of light is excellent when used with the OCF (off camera flash) light shapers.
The OCF system uses a battery pack to power the heads. This battery is small in comparison to other location power-pack systems and weighs just a few pounds. It is small enough that you can easily wear the pack with a shoulder strap while shooting events and outdoor action sports.
The heads are 250 watt-seconds each, so they pack about four times more power than a Nikon or Canon speedlight. They also recycle much faster than dedicated flashes, making it easier to photograph action with the B2 system.
The B2 battery pack is designed to hang from a light stand or over your shoulder with a longer strap. Power runs from the battery pack through cables to the B2 heads. These heads are small, lightweight and compact and mount to just about any light stand. The heads work with any of the Profoto OCF light shapers. They also work with the traditional speedrings from other Profoto systems like the D1, D2, etc.
Profoto sells a wide variety of OCF accessories including softboxes, octas, umbrellas, snoots, grids and extension cables so you can move the heads farther distances away from the battery pack. The OCF light shapers are lighter weight than Profoto’s studio light shapers. The OCF material is made out of a reflective silver-coated rip-stop nylon and is constructed very well. It is all designed to go out on the road and perform in any environment.
The AirTTL system allows full remote control of two B2 heads. It mounts on the camera’s hot shoe just like a dedicated flash. The difference is that it communicates with the B2 battery pack while allowing for full TTL control or full manual control of the flash heads. You can control the flash power from the battery pack itself or from the remote control.
The B2 system has built-in modeling lights. These are useful for studio work indoors, but the modeling lights aren’t quite bright enough to use outdoors. The modeling lights could also be used for video lighting in a pinch.
The B2 flashes are powerful enough to use outside on a sunny day. I used them with bright sun in the background and was able to shoot at f/8 and ISO 400 with a rapid recycle rate. Not bad for a small flash system.
Since the B2s are really lightweight, they can be mounted on a flash bracket attached to your camera. You’ll still use the supplied B2 battery with cable, but instead of mounting a typical Nikon dedicated flash like a SB-910, you’ll mount the B2 head to the bracket. Additionally, you can use any of the OCF light shapers while the B2 head is mounted on the flash bracket. The advantage of using the B2 this way is that you can shoot events while getting lots of power, fast recycle rates and lots of shots before the batteries run out.
The entire B2 location kit fits in a small bag about the size of a classic Domke F-2 shoulder camera bag. This means that you can take the B2 OCF system on location just about anywhere in the world and produce high-end results.
My hat is off to Profoto for innovating yet another killer product. The B2 AirTTL Off-camera Flash system definitely gets two thumbs up from me.
Buy your own B2 AirTTL OCF system here:
B&H Photo Video: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit
Adorama: Profoto B2 AirTTL Location Kit
Check out our May 2014 Visual Adventures Newsletter for great articles on photo technique as well as updates on our trips.
In this Newsletter:
– Stuff I Like This Month
– May GOAL Assignment: Shoot at High ISO
– Photo Techniques: Three Steps to a Beautiful White Background
– Digital Tidbits: Analog Efex Pro 2
– Photo Techniques: Telling a Simple Story Through Photos
– Workshop and Business Updates
Retro looking digital cameras are the new design aesthetic in the camera industry. Companies from Fuji to Nikon to Olympus to Leica have all taken a stab at this burgeoning market and each has had various levels of success. Some are doing it very well, like Fuji’s X-T1, while others are playing catch up. Nikon’s entry into this world is the new Nikon Df. Designed to look just like a film camera from the 1960s and 1970s, it attempts to strike the difficult balance between old-school feel and modern functionality. How did Nikon do? Read below for my thoughts and a video.
After shooting with the Nikon Df for a while, I realize that I’ve come to the exact same conclusions that everyone else in the industry has. Neat concept. Excellent image quality. Flawed design. That said, I still give the camera a thumbs up, but only for people that know what they are getting into and only for those who have an extra $3,000 to spend.
The Df is a camera made up from elements of other successful Nikon cameras. It takes the imaging sensor from the Nikon D4/D4s, the autofocus from the Nikon D600/D610/D7000 and the design cues from the Nikon FM/DE/FM-2. Nikon put all these parts into a high-tech blender and out came the Df.
Holding the camera in your hands is much like holding the older film cameras from the 1970s. The all-metal body feels substantial and the metal dials are refreshingly simple. Because many of the features of modern dSLR cameras have been omitted or have been moved to these outside dials, the menu system is significantly more limited than other Nikon cameras. I consider the simplified menu to be a good thing since menus have become bloated over the years and are difficult to navigate. If you are setting up your own Nikon Df, then be sure to download our Nikon Df Setup Guide.
The autofocus system has been the brunt of much criticism from other reviewers, but I haven’t found it to be as bad as they are saying. True, it isn’t as fast or accurate as the Nikon D4s or the D800, but it still works very well. It is the same AF system as you’d find in the D600, D610 or D7000. I used it to photograph an indoor soccer match a few days ago and was impressed with its ability to track action in the dimly-lit soccer arena. Using the autofocus outside on a sunny or cloudy day is no problem for the Df and it is my opinion that most people won’t have issues with the Df’s AF system.
Image quality is excellent as you would expect for a $3,000 camera. The CMOS sensor design is taken from the Nikon D4/D4s series, so it is one of the best in the business. At 16 megapixels, its strength is more towards low-light exposures than it is for high resolution details. I took quite a few landscapes and travel pictures with it and was pleasantly surprised with the overall image quality. I also created panoramas sequences and HDR merges from the files with great results. Dynamic range is very good so I was able to pull out quite a bit of detail from deep shadow regions by using Lightroom 5 and Nik Color Efex Pro software.
All of my Nikon lenses were compatible with the Df including my older manual lenses and my new autofocus and VR lenses. No issues there.
I found that using the Df in the real world helped me to slow down and think through my process a bit more. Because the camera isn’t as fluid to operate as the other Nikon dSLRs, you are required to be much more deliberate with your settings and camera operation. In general, I consider this a good thing, but if you are trying to move quickly (sports, racing, weddings), then the camera might get in your way.
Nikon Df Video
Here’s a video describing the things I like and the things I don’t like about the Nikon Df.
Things I Like
Image Quality. Just like the Nikon D4 and D4s, the Df produces stunning images.
Low Light performance. Shooting regularly at ISO 3200, 6400 and 12,800 and shots look wonderful.
Live View. The Live View screen clarity is excellent. New grid overlays are very helpful. Artificial horizon is newly designed and well implemented.
Memory Buffer. I shot 23 RAW in a row before buffer filled up. Used a middle of the road 90 MB/sec SD card.
AF-ON. Dedicated AF-ON and AE-L/AF-L buttons just like the other professional cameras in the Nikon lineup.
Look. The camera is beautiful. People love to look at it and talk about it when I’m out shooting.
Things I Don’t Like
Ergonomics. Leave something to be desired. The partially molded hand grip is nice, but doesn’t come close to the fit and finish of cameras like the D7100, D610, D800 or D4s.
Dial controls. Even though you can set your shutter speed from the top dial, you can still override it with the front or rear command dial. This resulted in numerous mistakes from not being clear about what the shutter speed really was.
Exposure compensation. I’ve come to really rely on exposure compensation as implemented on all Nikon cameras since the N8008. Push the exposure comp button by your index finger, and rotate your command dial. Very easy to do with one hand. However, with the Df, you have to use your left hand to rotate the exposure compensation dial. Almost impossible to do without taking your eye away from the viewfinder.
SD Card. The camera only has one memory card slot. I don’t know why Nikon would do this to us photographers. Two SD slots makes good sense and is relatively standard for high end cameras these days.
Is It Worth It?
So, the big question at the end of the day is whether or not the Nikon Df is worth the price? My answer is yes … for the most part. I say yes because the truth is that the Df is a nice camera. The person who should buy this camera is one who already owns a modern Nikon dSLR such as the D610, D800 or D4 and wants another camera with a little personality. If you don’t fit in that category, then I wouldn’t recommend this camera. There are other cameras such as the D610 or D800 or D4s that are better tools for photographers. If you are looking for one single camera to own, then the Df isn’t it. It needs to find a way to fit in with the rest of your kit as a tool to inspire your creative muse. A tool to help you slow down and enjoy the purity of photography.
One final note, I’ve added the Nikon Df to our Nikonians Academy workshops beginning in April 2014. Check them out here: www.nikoniansacademy.com.
A few weeks ago I took a brand-new prototype hiking photo backpack from Naneu Bags on trek into the Northwest forest for a field test. As I previously mentioned in a blog post back in February, 2013, I found a Kickstarter campaign by Naneu for their brand-new K5 V2. I contacted their headquarters and asked the owner of the company if he would send me a prototype for testing, and to my surprise he happily agreed. The Naneu K5 V2 is specifically designed for photographers who go on multi-day back-country hiking trips with a full complement of camping gear and camera gear. In my mind, the K5 V2 seemed too good to be true. I’ve been going on back-country adventures for a long time, so I was a bit skeptical that a backpack would be able to do it all. By “all” I mean be big enough to hold both my camera gear and my hiking/climbing equipment.
After receiving the prototype and taking it out of the shipping box, my heart skipped a beat. Seriously. This bag is the real deal. I couldn’t wait to get it out on the trail, so a few days later, I took the pack out for a hike to test it in the real world. I stuffed the backpack with about 40 pounds of hiking gear, then loaded the camera bag in the front with a Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, and 14-24mm f/2.8. To my surprise, everything fit just fine! After a few minutes of setting up the suspension and straps, I set off for a few miles on the trail to see how the system performed.
It became evident right away that the K5 V2 is incredibly well designed and that quite a bit of thought went into every pocket, seam, strap, and zipper. Everything about the backpack is fully integrated and modular which allows you to reconfigure it for the type of trip you are taking. For example, the front camera bag will nest fully inside the main backpack if you don’t want to carry the camera gear in front. Alternately, the camera bag pouch can be repurposed into a small backpack (see below).
Everything on the system is adjsutable from strap lengths, to waist belt, to suspension height, to chest strap. I do a lot of outdoor and adventure photography and have been using technical backpacks for decades now. I’m really pleased with the technology Naneu put into the K5 V2. The materials are top-notch and everything just works. Also, since the backpack has a capacity of 80 liters, it is big enough to hold a giant load for multi-day back-country adventures. My estimate is that it is big enough for hikes lasting between 7 – 10 days.
One of the neat features on the K5 V2 are the small pockets on the waist belt. I found these very useful as they are the perfect size to hold batteries and memory cards while hiking. Also, I used these waist belt pockets to hold a smaller point and shoot camera, the Canon S110.
The camera bag portion of the K5 V2 is the perfect size to hold a pro DSLR and three f/2.8 lenses. If you travel with a smaller camera system, then you can use half of the camera bag for food/drink and the other half for camera gear.
I placed my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod in one of the exterior side pockets (see first photo), but the K5 V2 also has a dedicated tripod pouch that attaches to the back side of the pack.
As I mentioned above, one of the neat features of the K5 V2 is that the front camera bag can even be repurposed as it’s own small backpack. You can see how the setup works in the two images below of my wife. This mini backpack feature is helpful for when you’ve arrived at your base camp and want to go out exploring with a tiny day pack. Additionally, the camera bag portion ships with a shoulder strap so you can use it like a traditional around-town shoulder bag.
I don’t have any vested interest with Naneu other than the fact that I wrote the owner of the company and asked if I could test out their prototype. That said, I’ve since returned the K5 V2 to the owner, but I can’t wait to get one for myself. Seriously, it’s good. Very good. I’ve been looking for a pack like this since I started my serious pursuit of photography in the early 1990’s. The K5 V2 will hold all my hiking and climbing gear for a week-long trip, while also holding just the perfect amount of camera gear.
So, what are the downsides of the K5 V2? Well, from a design standpoint, I found very little to nit-pick. Honestly, I think the only negative is that the overall weight when loaded with all my gear is going to be too much to handle! A week’s worth of back-country gear easily weighs 40-50 pounds, then tack on my pro DSLR gear with another 10-15 pounds and the total pack weight is quickly up to 50 or 65 pounds. I take this much gear with my traditional backpacks, so it is hardly a “downside” for the K5 V2. Maybe the difference is that the K5 V2 makes it too easy to bring along my f/2.8 lenses, where before I would bring my all-in-one zoom lenses because I didn’t have the space.
Since the Naneu K5 V2 is currently in the prototype stage, you won’t be able to purchase the bag just yet. The developers are in the final phase of design and should have bags ready for the market in August/September 2013. Right now, the plan is produce two colors of the K5 V2 in dark blue or black. Head over to their website here to see their other excellent products while also keeping up to date with their progress on the K5 V2: https://www.naneubags.com. This backpack gets a very high recommendation from me and I know it will get used in my mountain adventures.
Here are a couple of additional pics from my test hike with the Naneu K5 V2.