Sunday, December 31, 2006

Edinburgh Torchlight Procession

Passing St.Giles Cathedral

Procession passing St.Giles Cathedral - Sigma 18-50 f2.8 zoom @ 18mm or so.
The Sigma zoom is a bit soft at the corners wide open, but it's so lightweight and
compact that I will actually carry it all the time.

On the way home from town the other night, after a meet-up with Graeme Reid, (a regular of my other blog), I was cut off from home by the annual torchlight procession - and with only my Fuji E550 compact, my SLR and three lenses to hand! What could I do but keep shooting until my cards were full?

Looking Towards The Castle

Luckily, I was carrying my old 85mm f1.8 lens, which is an excellent fast telephoto, except that it's prone to internal reflection from bright light sources - note the green ghosting from the torches in the top quarter of the frame.

Because I normally carry a fast mid-range zoom and a fast prime telephoto, I could shoot in the available light coming off the torches - it was bright enough to handhold even the 85mm lens at ISO 800, which gave usable results without needing noise reduction.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, with the Walter Scott monument behind the big wheel.

Even a hard-hearted old techie like me can be touched by the spirit of the season, so here are some Christmassy photos taken on and around Princes Street this season. Merry Christmas!

The clock tower of the old North British Hotel building behind the ferris wheel on Princes Street.

Composite panorama showing Edinburgh Castle and the illuminated trees on the mound.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Samhuinn 2006 in Edinburgh

Samhuinn Fire

80-200mm f2.8 zoom handheld in available light

I was invited to come out and photograph the Samhuinn celebrations in Edinburgh by fellow Flickrite Sibelian, who's taken part in the ceremonies in past years; it's a big theatrical pagan event, enacting the overthrow of the court of summer by the court of winter.

I got into a rather poor position for the main event, jammed into a crowd so tightly packed that I couldn't get into my rucksack for my telephoto lens until late in the proceedings. As a result, I didn't get a record of the whole thing (I also forgot to take establishing shots again), but I did get some good single shots, including the dramatic bonfire shot above, and some good individual portraits of interestingly painted people in the procession down to The Mound.

Summer Vs. Winter

80-200mm zoom with SB-24 flash in manual mode

Girl With Pumpkin And A Knife Through Her Head

18-50 f2.8 zoom @ 18mm, f8, focus pre-set at about 10ft, SB-24 flash in auto mode - exposures were pretty reliable

Blue Ladies 3

18-50 f2.8 zoom @ 18mm, f8, focus pre-set at about 10ft, slow-sync flash with SB-24 in auto mode.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stuff That!


Nikon D50 & Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 EX Zoom

I've been getting a bit stale recently; shooting a lot of stuff to test new cameras, but not really getting down to any serious (or frivolous) photography. Since moving to central Edinburgh, I decided to revive an old project by re-shooting some of my portraits of stuffed animals on better-quality digital (my first tries were in 2001 using a Canon G1, a camera not best suited to low-light work.)

Sketching Fox

Nikon D50 & Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX Zoom; obligingly, she wore headphones,
so I could practically stick the camera in her ear
without her noticing the shutter click.

The faster response of my new cameras has meant that instead of just concentrating on the exhibits as I did the first time, more candids are creeping in too. I'm looking at extending the project out into the rest of the museum and maybe to others in Edinburgh too.
The existing images are on Flickr; just click on the pictures here to get to the set.

More E550 Candids

Rob & Curry

Johnny REM in Bradford, September 2006

Since moving to Edinburgh, I've not been getting out to shoot as much as I'd like, but I've managed to collate some more shots from my Fuji E550 into a Flickr set.
Despite it not being quite as nice and jewel like as my old Canon S50, I note that it's become my first choice carry-everywhere camera. Noise at 400ASA is much better controlled than with the Canon, and the battery life using NiMh rechargeables, which I was a skeptical of, is pretty impressive.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Using A Manual Lens With The Nikon D50

Buster (100E Test 2)

"You've attached what to your Nikon D50?"

As part of my ongoing project to hamstring my Nikon D50 digital SLR, I tried it with my old 100mm f2.8 E series manual focus lens. The series E lenses were plastic-bodied AIS lenses designed for the budget Nikon EM SLR back in the 1970's; I bought one years ago for my manual Nikon FM camera, as snobbery among collectors about the plastic construction meant you could get these excellent lenses at knock-down prices second-hand (the lens elements are all glass, of course, and very good too).

The first effect of fitting a manual lens to the D50 is that the metering system is completely disabled; without the CPU inside even the oldest AF-Nikkors, you get nothing, neither matrix metering, centre-weighted nor spot. The aperture readout on the top plate LCD and in the viewfinder reads "--" and none of the automatic exposure modes will work. You have to switch to Manual exposure mode, and, unusually for the D50, set the aperture via the aperture ring on the lens.

For a metered exposure, you'd need either a handheld incident meter or a second camera. Luckily, I'd used an old non-metered Rolleiflex TLR for a number of years, and had got used to 'guesstimating' exposure. A great advantage of digital is that I could take test shots and adjust accordingly. Much to my satisfaction, my guesses were mostly within about a stop of the right result.

Plant (100E Test 1)

My original estimated exposure for this was only one stop over.

Focussing is, naturally, manual, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the D50's electronic rangefinder still works; this shows a green dot in the left-hand corner of the viewfinder when the subject in the focussing brackets is sharp. You can go a bit cross-eyed trying to keep the centre focus brackets in position while monitoring the in-focus dot, but it works well enough; sadly, the D50 doesn't possess the useful direction triangles (telling you which way to turn the focussing ring) that were present in the finders of my old F4 and F801s. Given the speed and accuracy of the D50's AF, I can see why this is; I only use MF as a way of locking focus or when setting focus to a given distance for depth focussing* - either way, I almost never fine-focus manually.
I had thought that the focussing screen for the D50 was fixed, but since Katz Eye Optics make a split-prism screen with microprism collar for the D50, I guess it must be interchangeable. I'm not sure if Nikon make a compatible manual focussing screen, but there evidently is a third-party option if you were thinking of using manual focus a lot.

Teeth (100E Test 3)

Grab shot - it was about 1 2/3 stops under, but rescuable in Photoshop - like slide film, digital images respond better to slight underexposure.

So results; well, it wasn't as convenient as shooting with an AF lens, obviously, but it was a lot easier than I'd feared. Although it was a bit awkward to use, having the electronic rangefinder for reassurance made a big difference. I was surprised that I managed to get decent shots of a moving target like my mum's cat, and even a grabbed candid (above) using this camera/lens combination.

Not being able to meter the exposure slowed things right down (having an incident meter to hand would have made a lot of difference) but given a bit of experience and the ability to make test shots, it was surmountable, to the extent that if you predominantly shot static subjects (i.e., still life or plants) under reasonably controlled conditions, you might not even miss having a meter. If you were shooting at night with (auto) flash and a pre-focussed wide-angle manual lens, you could also bypass focus/exposure issues.

The D50 obviously isn't intended for use with manual focus lenses, but, depending on what you shoot and how you shoot it, you might be able to keep on using an old favourite. A couple of caveats though; bear in mind that the D50's chip is smaller than a 35mm film frame, so multiply the focal length of your lenses by 1.5 to get the new angle of view - in practise this means that your wide-angle lenses will become less wide-angle, in fact even lenses as wide as 28mm really stop being wide-angle at all.
Secondly, not all old Nikkor lenses can be attached to the D50 - in particular, there seems to be a long list of exclusions among the teleconverters, bellows and PC-shift lenses. I'd strongly advise checking lens types and serial numbers with Nikon (or seeing if your local dealer will let you look in the back of a D50 manual) before buying.

*setting the focus for a given distance with a reasonably small aperture and using depth-of-field to keep subjects within a given range in focus.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Animal Experimentation With The Fuji E550


Don't worry, it's only artistic experimentation - dogs in the post office, Gijòn

I first noticed the Fuji Finepix E550 after checking out the shooting data for Dr.Beef's excellent cat pictures on Flickr, wondering how she got such spontaneous shots of her furry friends. The answer came a few months later when my friend Irma Page showed me her E550; she was taken with it for its high resolution, I was astonished by the speed with which it powered up and took shots. I was using two Canons; a PowerShot S50 and a PowerShot G3, both excellent cameras, but not the fastest beasts on the block.

I'd been looking to upgrade my S50 for a while, but when I discovered you could get a Nikon D50 SLR body for less than the compact I was then considering, the Canon S80. The chance to use my old Nikon lens collection again was too much to resist, so I gave up on upgrading from the S50. But then, while talking to Irma, she mentioned that E550s were being sold off very cheap (probably due to the introduction of the E900), so I had a look on eBay, and here we are...

I won't bother with a detailed description of the E550 as those nice people at DPReview have done a much better job of it than I ever could; the short version is the E550 is a just-about-pocket-sized, rather boxy and unlovely-looking camera with full manual control, a 32.5-130mm (35mm FoV) f2.8-5.6 zoom and 6.3 megapixels that can be interpolated in-camera up to 12.3 megapixels using Fuji's "Super CCD" system.
It runs, usefully, off AA-sized batteries; I use NiMh rechargeables, but it will take ordinary alkalines if you're caught short. It has a built in discharger to help prevent battery memory problems.

Button Portrait

You lookin' at me?

So, how did it perform? I'd had it for a while when I decide to really test the shutter-lag (or lack thereof) and continuous shooting against visiting cat Button, who was being steadily driven kill-crazy by the swarm of dragonflies flitting around our garden this afternoon. The first challenge was to see if I could capture a simple portrait - often tricky as a cat will usually look in any direction except at you when you're pointing a camera at him. My usual experience with cats and Canons was of sitting there like an idiot, making a variety of squeaking, whistling, clicking and popping noises until one of them finally piqued the cat's interest, at which point I'd be rewarded with a fleeting glance, which I'd miss by 1/8 second due to the camera's shutter lag.
No such problems this time - lots of squeaking and clicking, true, but two out of two glances caught successfully, of which the one above is the best.

Button Flipping

Believe it or not, he's heading out of the frame here...

Next came the attempt to capture Button in action. Whenever a dragonfly strayed within range, Button would go for it by leaping backwards and up, so that he performed a complete backflip. Seen out of the corner of the eye, this gave the impression someone was hurling him across the garden like a boomerang.
It was hellishly difficult to capture because the leaps came suddenly and at random, though usually in pairs, followed by long periods when the cat would be getting his breath back. Button also tended to leap farther than I expected; this meant my first few shots consisted of random bits of kitty anatomy poking in from the edge of the frame.
The important thing to note, though, is that I was getting the cat in mid air; my reflexes and panning skills might not have been up to tracking a pinwheeling furry maniac, but the camera was keeping up with both of us.
I decided to try the continuous shooting next, and that was my downfall. Because the Canons were so "laggy", I'd developed the technique of continuous shooting from just before I thought something was going to happen, in the hope that the frame burst would catch what reflexes could not. The E550 has two continuous modes; one takes four shots at 3fps, then stops to write the pictures to the card. The other mode will capture an apparently limitless number of frames, also at 3fps, but only save the last four pictures shot. This allows you to keep shooting until you see the shot you want, rather than having pre-empt the action and hope it will occur during a limited shooting burst. Furthermore, that 3fps is pretty scorching for a compact - in fact it's better than my D50 SLR can manage.
I set the E550 to the latter continuous mode, then waited for Button to spring. Up he went - perfectly centred in the finder for the only time that afternoon - but then, much faster than I expected, another four frames went through the camera and my perfect shot was lost. I was left with four frames of a cat landing on a lawn (which looks not dissimilar to a cat crouching on a lawn, and not at all like a cat hanging in mid-air over one, perfectly centred in the frame.)

Button Charging

Button flees my belovèd, the startling Dr. F.
Why, I don't know; I'm the one who trod on him...

Since Button's bursts of motion were so short I decided to try the more usual "shoot four and save" mode - this worked much better, as you can see above. I think this was originally frame two of a set of four.

So, on a first quick try, the E550 does what I bought it for; catches the moment quickly and discreetly. There's stuff I don't like about it - the macro mode is poor, the zoom has trouble focussing in low light at the long end, the JPEG compression options are limited and it's possible to wipe the XD card by carelessly disconnecting the camera from your computer - but as a carry-anywhere candid digital camera it's the best thing I've found so far, especially for the (second hand) price.

Focus Tracking Tests With The Nikon D50 And Older AF Lenses

(The photographs shown here are uncropped and uncorrected. I've posted them on my Flickr account at full size, so you can download them to examine if you wish.)

After being held up by work, I'm finally getting round to writing up the tests I did with my D50 and my telephoto lenses. The D50 has a useful focus mode called "AF-A" - this defaults to single-shot AF, but will switch automatically to continuous focus (focus tracking, in fact) if the subject it's locked on to starts moving continuously towards or away from the camera.

I was a bit wary of this setting, but it works like a dream; it doesn't seem to cause focus lock problems in single-shot mode, and the transition to continuous focussing is pretty reliable (though it does work better the longer the focal length of the lens - it seems happiest at 85mm upwards). I now leave my D50 on this setting all the time.

Lenses and settings

28-85mm @85mm
85mm prime lens
80-200mm @ 80mm
80-200mm @ 200mm (3 sequences)

All are pre-D Nikkors, the 85mm and the 80-200 zoom are the old type with the locking pin on the aperture ring.

AF was set to use the central focus point. Mode: AF-A.

The D50 controls aperture via a dial on the camera body, so the aperture ring on the lens has to be locked for all modes, even aperture priority and manual.

Details of the focus tracking tests

On our local high street, I tried tracking approaching cars moving at 20-30 mph from a set of road markings about 100m distant, until they passed me.

28-85@85 05.JPG

28-85@85 11.JPG

Sample first and last frame from a test sequence taken with the 28-85mm zoom at 85mm (click on images to see full size version)

With each lens, the D50 managed about 7 shots in the same distance. I couldn't time the tests and also shoot, but I'm guessing that the camera was shooting a little below its maximum burst rate - what you'd expect, given it was focus tracking at the same time. Focussing at 80mm (FoV 120mm) was accurate and also consistent, despite the differences in maximum aperture and the physical bulk of the three lenses. The D50 has no trouble driving the big 80-200mm zoom.
At the 200mm (FoV 300mm) setting, accuracy started to suffer - of the 25 shots I took at 200mm, 5 were unsharp, one unusably so (the camera had focussed some distance behind the target car). But to put that in context, 58 out of 59 shots were as good as or better than I'd have expected to manage by the only other technique available - pre-focussing on a spot in the road and waiting for the vehicle to pass.

More problematic was the tendency for the shutter speed in Aperture Priority to drop as the approaching car filled the frame; sequences starting at 1/350sec would drop to as little as 1/60 sec by the last frame, resulting in camera shake. I'd expected the matrix metering to compensate for this, and it's possible that a D-type lense might cope better. It's worth noting that it 's better to use manual exposure mode for this type of shooting.

80-200@200  7.JPG

80-200@200  8.JPG

Sample shots affected by camera shake - but if you look at the seam line on the bonnet, they're still in focus (click on images to see full version)

It still has to be said, these results are significantly better than I expected, and better than anything I've achieved with my film SLRs. I never considered focus tracking to be a serious tool before, but I'll now be using it, particularly with that conventient AF-A mode.

80-200@200 B8.JPG

Sample shot from 80-200 zoom, this time without camera shake

The fact that the 1gb SD card on the D50 will routinely hold 360 images at JPEG Fine (83 more than the counter suggests when the card is empty) makes me willing to use the "motor drive" much more than I ever would have when shooting film, though I'm not sure if that's actually a good thing or not.

Recently I had a chance to repeat the tests with an AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 D lens; the D specification had no effect on exposure, though it did routinely manage one more frame per sequence than any of the non-D lenses. While it's no surprise that it could focus faster than the bulky 80-200 zoom, I'm surprised at it out-performing the fast 85mm prime. At the 200mm setting, the D lens focussed more accurately than the 80-200mm, the lighter construction presumably offsetting any disadvantage from the smaller aperture.

70-300D@200 09.JPG

70-300D@200 28.JPG

End shots from two sequences taken with the AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6 D Zoom - note the camera shake still present in the first shot due to shooting in Aperture Priority mode with a dark-coloured car filling the frame.
The second shot is was taken in Manual exposure mode with a shutter speed of 1/800sec - this was the last shot from a prodigious run of 13 consecutive frames, all in focus.
(Click on images to see full size version)

I thought this would be where any cracks in the D50's performance would appear, and I was happy to be proved wrong. I'm not saying that the D50 will give the ultimate in performance when fitted with an old AF Nikkor lens - I'm sure a new G-type zoom would give better results (as, for that matter would a D2X) - but the fact remains that if, as I am, you're trading up from an early-90's film SLR and you don't want to ditch your old AF lenses, you can be confident that the D50 will give at least as good a performance as your old camera, if not slightly better. What's more, the D50's FoV conversion factor of 1.5 means that your telephoto lenses all effectively become longer - so my 80-200mm zoom now gives the same field of view as a 120-300mm zoom on a 35mm camera, and my 70-300 zoom acts like a whopping 105-450 zoom. Not bad for a budget solution.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Unusual things happen when you don't expect them

Transcendant, originally uploaded by The Glass Eye.

The thing about the really good shots is, they never happen when you go out to take photos. The number of times I've set a day aside to go "trawling" and come back with next to nothing... even in promising locations like the V&A or the British Museum.
But here I was last night, rushing with my girlfriend for a dance class we're already late for, and as we cross the centre of Nottingham we hear the sound of blues guitar from one of the city centre regulars, but there's also this middle-aged guy in big heavy boots dancing his soul out on the zig-zag brick paving.
I often wonder why I persist with candid photography when most of it is fruitless waiting and the remainder is usually frustration at missing the shot - that and the embarassment of confronting people, risking upsetting them for nothing more than a passing whim.
I suppose I should blame a book called Shots From The Hip by "Alias Johhny Stiletto," an advertising copywriter who claimed to shoot three rolls of film a day, mostly not looking through the camera. Shots From The Hip contains more good anecdotes than photographs, but there's one paragraph which is still my photographic mantra today:

"Photography isn't two weeks' holiday in Spain. It's carrying a camera with you when it would be easier not to, a pocket that's always out of shape and a pair of eyes than never stop looking. Unusual things happen when you don't expect them; that's what makes them unusual. If you use your camera when everybody else uses theirs, you'll end up with shots that look just like everybody else's."

And that was why, fourteen years later, I happened to be carrying an SLR while rushing to a dance class, and was able to capture this moment of magic.
Look at the guy dancing; he's completely lost in the music. The expression on the guitarist's face is priceless too, though I can't work out if he's worried about why I'm photographing him with such a big camera, concerned that I'll take a shot that undermines the dignity of the guy dancing, or just afraid that I'll break the spell.
In the end, we were only ten minutes late for the class.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Semana Negra


Nikon D50, Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 EX Zoom

Just back from a trip to Spain for the Semana Negra festival in Gijon - took the D50 along with me and it held up well, though after all my banging on about old Nikon lenses I shot mostly on my Sigma 17-50 f2.8 EX zoom for convenience sake.
My first batch of shots from the Semana Negra are on Flickr here. Those are shot on a variety of lenses plus my Canon S50 compact.
I've sorted out another set shot purely on the Sigma 17-50 for anyone interested in seeing how that lens behaves. EXIF information and full-resolution versions available.

Semana Negra Book Rush

Oh, and after all my complaints about the slowness of my Canon compacts, best candid of the trip went to my S50 (above)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fresh Chucks

Fresh Chucks

Fresh Chucks, originally uploaded by The Glass Eye.

Call me a slow learner, but it never ceases to amaze me what great results you can get with some of these tiny compact digital cameras; this was taken with my old Canon S50, which isn't as tiny and compact as some, but does have all the manual and auto options you'd expect from a decent SLR. I used it for this shot so that I could use my feet to fill the shoes out while holding the camera at arm's length to get the right framing and angle in the rear LCD.
Taken using daylight coming through French windows, f5.6 @ 1/160th, ISO 100/21º*, 27.3mm (FoV 105mm) Aperture Priority & AF. The rather dull oatmeal carpet was selectively darkened in Photoshop to push the shoes forward.

*several reviews put the measured sensitivity of the Canon S50 ISO 100/21º setting at 160/23º

Saturday, July 08, 2006

28mm Candids

Girl & Stone Beekeeper

AF-Nikkor 28 f2.8, Program Mode. I was pleased at how close in
I managed to get for this shot; it's not cropped.
If you click on any image, you can view the original on my Flickr site; clicking on "all sizes" will give you access to the full-resolution file

On a Nikon digital SLR, a 28mm lens ceases to act as a true wide angle; its FoV is 42mm, which turns out to be quite a pleasant "wide standard" focal length, taking in a little more than the standard 35mm (FoV 52mm) lens, but not offering noticeable wide angle distortion when used close-in.
My old AF Nikkor 28mm f2.8 is, like most of my lenses, pre D-type, so I was out to see how it would perform in terms of focussing and exposure. Results were good on both counts; the focussing was fast and accurate (particularly impressive on the shot of the stripey couple which was a real whip-round grab shot) and the reduced matrix metering the D50 uses with pre D-type lenses performed well even with difficult backlighting.

Daleks By The Back Door

AF-Nikkor 28 f2.8, Program Mode. The reduced matrix metering coped well with the backlighting; I printed it very hard but there's bags more highlight detail in the original JPEG.


AF-Nikkor 28 f2.8, Aperture Priority @ f8. I saw these two pass me, belatedly noticed the stripes, turned and fired; The D50 focussed in the time it took to depress the shutter release.

Old Lady & Dog

AF-Nikkor 28 f2.8, Aperture Priority @ f8. The camera didn't hesitate but I did;
I missed the optimum shot with the dog looking back at the old lady.

Despite the handiness of zoom lenses in general, prime lenses seem better suited to shooting candids. Partly, they tend to be smaller and make the camera less obtrusive, but also, in circumstances where you have to shoot very quickly, a prime lens gives you one less thing to worry about. If you work with the same lens for a bit, you quickly learn to place yourself at the right distance to get the shot. The pictures above are shown in reverse order of shooting; the first two I took had to be cropped a little, but by the last two (the old people in the buggies and the girl with the beekeeper) I was placing myself well enough so that a step forward or back would get me the framing I was after.
If you don't have a prime lens, you can get the same discipline by setting a focal length and then popping a bit of tape over the zoom ring to fix it in position.

Friday, July 07, 2006

More Street Shooting

Splash Bike
Splash Lady

Nikon D50 with Sigma 17-50 f2.8, zoom setting 24mm;
pre-focussed at 10ft, aperture f8, cropped.

Had a quick go at shooting with pre-focussing while out shopping the other day (yes, I'm sad enough to carry a D50 round the shops). Because the D50's sensor is smaller than a 35mm film frame, depth-of-field should be a bit better for any given angle of view/distance combination. This was where I really felt the benefit of using an SLR; my Canon G3 couldn't have started up in time to catch the boy on the bike (top).
With the second shot of the lady, I aimed away from her so she wouldn't try to veer out of shot, and watching out of the corner of my eye, waited until she was in position before turning quickly to shoot.
I shot these at 24mm (35mm FOV), but I had to crop a bit; 28mm or 35mm would have been better.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

D50 with old Nikon lenses part one


Fun with vegetables and the Nikon D50

I've just finished retyping the first part of my review of how my Nikon D50 has coped with my old AF lenses. It turned out so long that I've posted it as a separate web page here.
The continuous focus test still has to be written up, but that will have to wait for a bit.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Getting Something Back

Upper Parliament Street, Nottingham

This isn't much of a shot, I have to confess - It's not symmetrical enough, there are too many people with their backs to us, and nobody's doing anything interesting - but it retains a special place in my affections nevertheless.
Anyone who knows me knows that I always, but always carry a camera. Ten years ago, I really was rabid about it, I tried the whole Cartier-Bresson living your life with a camera in hand, and my reflexes got pretty good. I then had a nasty bout of something glandular-fever like that laid me out for a few months, and somehow I never quite got the edge back afterwards. Then a couple of years ago, I switched to digital, but the compact cameras I was using, small, silent and operable from waist level as they may have been, were too slow for real serious candid work.
So cue yesterday when I went out "on the trawl" with my new camera for the first time... the D50 isn't that big for a modern SLR, but compared to my compacts it feels like you're levelling an artillery piece. I kept seeing shots but not having the nerve to raise the camera.
Then I came our of a shop and saw this window with the reflection and suddenly the old reflex kicked in and up came the camera and twist-turn to switch on and steady the shot and Tchap! it's taken all before I really had time to think about it.
Didn't manage it again all day, mind, but at least I know something of the old spark is left...

Grab Shot

Candid with D50 and Sigma 18-50 2.8 - she was wrapped up in her work and the shutter was quiet enough not to disturb her. Focussing was also very quiet, even though it's not supposed to be a silent motor.

I had my lens review 90% written and then lost 2/3 of it to a freak cut n' paste error - that'll teach me to compose really long stuff in Blogger.
Overall news is positive - all my lenses seem to work at least as well on the D50 as they did on my old film cameras. The detailed stuff will have to wait until I can find a couple of hours to write eveything up again. Maybe next week.
I've posted some focus tracking tests on Flickr - they might not make too much sense without the text, though.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Back With A D-SLR, Boys

So, after several years of using Canon compacts (mostly PowerShots G3 and S45/50), the price of digital SLRs dropped to the point where it was cheaper to buy one than upgrade to a Canon S80... and my collection of old Nikon lenses was sitting there, staring at me, accusingly...

Grab shot with D50 and sadly-defunct 35mm f2 AF-Nikkor

I had also been trying to get back into candid photography, and like most digital compacts, the Canons suffered from achingly slow startup times and annoying shutter lag.
(Incidentally, if anyone out there has dope on compacts with fast startup/low shutter lag, particularly the almost suspiciously low-priced Fuji E900, I'd like to hear from you.)

So I went for a Nikon D50, which, after a couple of days, I'm still astonished by... SLR design sure has moved on in the 13 years since I bought my trusty F-801s. I've used the old professional Nikon F4, and the D50 is as fast and responsive (in focussing terms), plus it has multiple focus points, built-in flash, 1/500sec flash sync(!)... I really thought I'd have to compromise to afford a D-SLR, but I remain gobsmacked at what Nikon have put into their bottom-of-the-range model...

When I was researching the D50 I couldn't find much information about its performance with older pre-D type AF lenses, so I'll do some tests with mine and post them here.