Monday, September 3, 2018

Nikon D750 Review

Image © NikonUSA


The decision was made March 2018. The decision that I didn't want to admit.  My D700 was not cutting it anymore.  Before you go all crazy on me, hear me out.   The D700 is a great camera.  It was the camera that got me into my first FX size sensor.  It used the same batteries as my D300, had the same layout and could use the same battery grip.  Everything at the time made sense.

I needed better low light performance. The D700 was newer than the D300, has a larger sensor and similar performance.  It did everything I needed it to do at the time. It was a revelation and it served me well for many years.  It never had a hiccup, issue or failed me in any way mechanically.

Time moves on, D300 could use an upgrade and it was replaced with the D500. we look at the D500 against the D700....and it doesn't sparkle as much as it used to.  IQ we are looking at something very comparable.  Let me repeat that a different way...the D500 APS-C (DX) sensor was performing on equal footing with the D700's FX size sensor.   On top of that, you also have newer imaging tech, better AF performance and more FPS for those times when you need that.

Still...that may not be enough to justify a D700 upgrade.  We head back to March 2018.   We are covering the Arnold Fitness Expo.  Hollywood Casino hosted boxing matches there.  Low and tricky lighting, a place where the D700 should excel.

To my surprise the D500 was out performing the D700 in those dark lighting conditions.  Why?  Metering.  It came down to metering.    The lights in the venue were often firing directly into the frame and the D700 was often fooled.   Depending on where you need to move and each scene being different from one part of the ring to the next, you need to be able to rely on the metering to help you out.  The D500 ate the D700's lunch here.

After that weekend event, I started looking at an upgrade. The logical place if I wanted to stay FX was the Nikon D750.

1/250  f/3.5   ISO 4000 @ 70mm
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC


Size of the D750 is just about right for me.  It has a great grip and handles the larger lenses well.
The grip is deep and allows for a confident grip, even holding on to it one handed with a 70-200/2.8 lens attached.

It is a smidgen smaller in all dimensions than the D700, and it is lighter as well.

I'm still not a big fan of the was you switch about AF modes, having to press in the side button and then turn the dials.   I'd rather have the old 3 position switch, but I've gotten used to it since that is the system used on the Df and D500.

All the buttons feel quality.  I wish that the D750 had the thumb stick on the back for adjusting the AF point.

The rear LCD is great for reviewing images. It is also articulating so it can be tilted at an up and down angle.  Great for those times when you want to shoot at unconventional angles above or below you.

The shutter mechanism also sounds different than the older Nikon DLSRs I have.  It sounds and feels more dampened but has a bit of a "twang" sound to it.  You don't really notice it until you shoot in a very quite environment.

1/500   f/4   ISO 100
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

Image Quality

While not a huge jump over the D700, the D750 metering is leaps above.  Shooting in difficult situations that are severely backlit or when light sources are coming directly into the camera, the D750 handles them more like the D500 does.  Thank you for that upgrade Nikon!

Base ISO is down to 100 now and the high ISO usability is now way higher.  You can get some great images at ISO 12,800 and 25,600.  ISO 6400 through is very clean in comparison to the D700.  I did not go over ISO 6400 on the older camera.

Dynamic range is also excellent and the files are rich in data so doing post processing has a lot of latitude, even in JPG files.

1/160   f/4   ISO 100  @ 52mm
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G

1/1000    f/4    ISO 12800 @ 200mm
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC

Auto Focus

AF here is basically the same as the D700 or D300.  That is not a bad thing.  The AF on those cameras is very good, predictable, rock solid.   It is not the phenom that is the D5/D500, but it is still going to get you where you need to be, just with a little more effort than the D500 requires.

One thing that I did notice is that I needed to auto focus fine tune every lens I put on the D750, except the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D.

The Nikon 35mm f/2, 24-70/2.8, Tamron 70-200/2.8VC all needed an adjustment.  Not much, between -2 and -5, but it needed it.

This is the first camera that I needed to use that feature.

In low light, the D750 also has an advantage over the D700.  It focus' more confidently in lower light, with less hesitation.  It also does not need as much light to AF.  Another great improvement over the older brother.

1/1000    f/4    ISO 100   @ 200mm
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC


You have a basic implementation of 1080p video here.  Nothing surprising.  It is there when you need it.   The camera includes mic input and headphone monitoring jack.

1/500   f/4   ISO 100 @ 200mm
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC

Battery Life

Powered by the EN-EN15a battery, it is rated at around 1400 shots per charge.  Plenty enough for all day shooting if needed with normal use.  I'm sure it is less with a lot of chimping or using the Live View or recording video.  This camera is so power efficient, it will last for DAYS!!

Other Misc. Items of Note

There are no regrets on upgrading the D700 to the D750.   It is an upgrade in all the areas that I needed it to be.   It performs well and the battery performance is phenomenal.  It doesn't hurt that it can also use the same batteries as the D500.

Right now, I feel that the Nikon D750 is the best affordable FX camera in the lineup.  The only way you could do better is spend the extra money on a D4 or D5.  If you are Ok with DX size sensors and need just that bit more AF performance and faster burst rates (10fps), then the D500 is where you should look, even though it has slightly poorer battery performance.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Jay Maisel and the Concept of Gesture in Photography

Back in 2013, I posted some of my thoughts on words of wisdom from Jay Maisel.    Ever since I first saw "A Day With Jay Maisel" on KelbyOne, I've been fascinated by Jay Maisel's work, thoughts and ethos.

So much of our thought processes are the same, yet he has a way of explaining it through his words and his images that just hit home with me.  He is one of those photographers that I go back and re-read and re-watch often when I am in a rut or need inspiration.

One of the things that I did not cover in the original post above was the concept of "gesture".   I think it had more to do with the fact that I did not truly understand the concept as Jay talks about it until recently.  Below is a link to a video where Jay explains the concept way better than I ever could.  I'm going to attempt to give my thoughts on it, but better that you get it from the man himself before I possibly butcher it or go awry through my attempt.

Jay Maisel on Gesture

Like many, I thought that "gesture" was something that only a human or living creature could possess.

For me, gesture is not only the way that someone moves, but the air they put off by the way they move, stand, walk or interact with anything.  That something unique about what they do, and finding a way to capture the essence of that in a single fragment of time - that one single photo frame.

If you watched the video linked above, you'll soon learn that gesture is much more than a human or living creature concept.  Just about anything can have gesture.   For me it is about the feeling that that object conveys to you.  A tilted leg on a table may give you the impression of unstable or imperfect.

Then you can take those individual pieces and possibly you can get lucky and have multiples of them in the same image. 

This concept goes way beyond the science and technology of photography.   Forget f-stop, shutter speed, aperture.   No longer care about the 12fps of your motor drive or electronic shutter.  Today, marketing is more important than ever and the public is fed that the camera or the lens that has the most technology jammed into it is the one that is "best in market". 


Best in market is the gear that gets out of your way to allow you to get to what photography is all about.  Best in market is what is best for you and you alone.  Capturing the "decisive moment", if you like to use the Henri Cartier-Bresson term.  Immortalizing the gesture of someone in that shot that will most likely never repeat itself again.  Sharing the feeling that you had at that moment or that the subject of the image had; finding out that a crack in a pane of glass, the color and shape of a vase in a specific lighting scenario can make you FEEL something.

I often wondered why after going through all the iterations of high tech DSLRs that for portrait, personal and enriching photographic activities, I reach for the Nikon Df or the Olympus PEN-F.  I won't make you guess, I will share it with you.

I know my photography basics.  The gear I pick gives me access to use some of Nikon's awesome legacy lenses.  The Nikkor 200mm f/4Q, 105mm f/2.5 just to name a few.  Put those on the Nikon Df/PEN-F and walk around.  Just me. A shutter release.  A manual focus lens.   So simple, so organic, so inexpensive now.  Much less between me and the subject and just a good, honest capture.

I look more for the color and gesture and shape of something.  How it makes me feel.

So at the end of the day, what does all this do for me, or for you?

Introspection, self improvement, learning.   All those things cause growth.  Growth is life, stagnation is death.   Finding the gesture in something is finding what makes it sing, gives it life and makes it interesting, what makes it unique to everything else out there.   That is not bullshit.   It is an epiphany or an awakening that every image maker hopes to have eventually.  Sadly, once you have the awakening, you can lose it.  We often lose sight of the vision we had.  We stop looking for what makes things alive and fall back to the shiny bells, whistles and lights of the newest thing out there.

That is when we need to pull ourselves back into introspection mode and ask ourselves, "why am I doing this?"  Start that journey of growth again and move forward.  It is a never ending cycle.

I love photography because it allows this once shy, awkward nerd from a small Pennsylvania town to share what I see and feel with others.  It allows me to go beyond what is in front of you and dig deeper into the world.    Nothing should ever be judged solely on the depth of its skin, but on a grander scale of the potential it has.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6. My FIRST DSLR Lens


Another trip into the "way back machine" and here we have my very first DSLR lens I ever purchased.   The Tamron 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6 Di.   After having just purchased a Nikon D50, I needed something other than my old Nikon N90s kit lens, the 35-70/3.3-5.6.

Just starting out in the photography game, you don't always have the money to get a matching Nikon lens, so Tamron again to the rescue with a budget friendly super zoom.

Thankfully, at the time, I had no frame of reference to know what better was.  Honestly, for years this lens kept me moving forward.  Kept me learning and started me down the path.  Even for all it's failings, I got to give it properly respect for being there.

1.3 sec, f/22, ISO 200 @ 28mm (tripod)
Nikon D50
0.4 sec, f/32, ISO 200 @ 85mm (tripod)
Nikon D50


This lens was built for 135 film camera, and just so happened to also be Nikon digital SLR compatible.  Even so, it is a relatively smaller lens considering the 28-200mm range. 

You also need to consider that the camera I was using it on, the D50 is an APS-C (DX) sensor.  SI your wife end is really a field of view of 42mm.

The zoom ring is smooth on this lens and it does telescope out, so you needed to be aware of that when using it near glass or people.

I don't remember it being particularly heavy either, so that is another plus.

I didn't really down lot with manual focus back then, but what I do remember is that the focus ring was a bit wobbly, but sufficient for adjusting as necessary.

1/400, f/6.3, ISO 1600 @ 200mm
Nikon D50

1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 28mm
Nikon D50

1/125, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 200mm
Nikon D50

Image Quality

The old saying that lenses are at their best clicked down a step or 2 hold true for this lens.  It is better side open on the wider end than the longer.

Plenty of distortion too, but nothing that post processing software could not fix.  It is not the best resolving lens, but given the target cameras it was placed on being 6mp (D50) and 12mp (D300) respectively, it was more than enough.

1/320, f/11, ISO 200 @ 28mm
Nikon D50

1/125, f/16, ISO 200
Nikon D300

1/200, f/8, ISO 200 @ 200mm
Nikon D50


The focus was always very accurate, but the speed was lacking like most Tamron lenses of that generation.  It would often hunt and rack focus, but when it locked in, it was plenty accurate.

1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800 @ 122mm
Nikon D50

1 sec, f/11, ISO 200 @ 28mm (tripod)
Nikon D50

1/320, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 75mm

1/800, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 130mm
Nikon D50

Bottom Line

What a walk through memory lane.  Not sure why I didn't this lens as a review, perhaps it was just to allow for some nostalgia, dig up some old pics and remember the simpler time of shooting without a bag full of lenses, a deadline of the stress of a paying client.

Given the quality choices that are available today, I do not see any compelling reason to use this lens but give us another 15 years and we just might be saying that about the lenses we have right now.

Anyway, just remember to sit back and review and remember how you used to do things.  Sometimes we leave behind techniques and methods that could benefit us, or remind us of the mistakes we made and to not make those again!   Learn from history.

Some additional images for your viewing pleasure!

1/200, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 200mm
Nikon D50

1/640, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 62mm
Nikon D50

1/320, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 58mm
Nikon D50 

1/80, f/11, ISO 400 @ 28mm
Nikon D50

1/125, f/5.6, ISO 400 @ 200mm
Nikon D50

1/125, f/5.6, ISO 800 @ 200mm
Nikon D50

1/160, f/6.3, ISO 200 @ 28mm
Nikon D50

1/400, f/7.1, ISO 200 @ 28mm
Nikon D50

1/80, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 60mm
Nikon D50

1/500, f/5.6, ISO 200 @ 40mm
Nikon D50

1/80, f/6.3, ISO 200 @ 200mm (tripod)

1/250, f/5.3, ISO 200 @ 100mm
Nikon D50

1.6 sec, f/11, ISO 200 @ 80mm (tripod)
Nikon D50

1/400, f/6.3, ISO 200 @ 200mm
Nikon D50