It’s Full Of Stars


Moments in time don't just happen, there is an entire sequence of events, sometimes an entire lifetime, that lead up to them. A gentleman named Barry inadvertently sent me down the winding path that would lead to the moment I picked up a new D3.

I started with a film camera manufactured by Nikon. At first I was overwhelmed with the camera at first. Aperture, Depth of Field, ISO, telephoto, chromatic aberration, monochromatic, metering, dynamic range, motion blur and a plethora of other new ideas all rushed at me. It became quickly apparent to me that there was more to photography than I would ever understand.

My first fun piece of glass was the 28-105mm macro, which introduced me to photography up close. The lens has a 0.22m minimum focus distance from the film plane, which means that you can basically photograph things that are touching the lens. I love macro photography, and found that if my photos didn't look very good, it was because I wasn't close enough.

After some time, binders of film were filling my closet and I found myself strangely addicted to eBay. My auction sniping addiction led to the purchase of my first wide angle lens: an 18-35mm. I still hadn't learned at this point that certain lenses were sharper than others, and that the zooms never compete with the primes, but I did find that I love shooting wide angle even more than I liked macro photography. The natural distortion of everyday things that could be created using wide angle lenses swept me up, and has never let me go.

A few years later, some friends and I started experimenting with high speed photography, and a couple digital SLRs had started making appearances at our gatherings. I was dead set against it. The mainstream digital SLRs at the time used APS sized sensors. Mass produced, easy to QA and in absolutely everything. The problem being: an APS sized sensor cuts out the middle of a 35mm picture and as a result magnifies your picture by 1.5 times. As a result, by beautiful lens at 18mm on a digital camera would behave like a 27mm. Moving the lens out over a critical 9mm and rendering my superwide into a simple wide. I was steadfast that I would wait until digital would provide me with the wideness I desired.

I was broken within a year. Seeing the convenience my fellow photographers had when shooting digital ate at me. I still preached the superior quality of film, the larger dynamic range as well as the high quality resolution were facts constantly crossing my lips as I defended my still using the dated and much more expensive version of the art.

Late in 2005, Nikon announced the specificiations of the much anticipated D200, and I was only marginally disappointed that it again would sport a 1.5 crop factor. I knew that the Full Frame sensor would be showing up in the Professional line first, and as is par it would be 6-8 months before any store would have a D200 in stock, I started my digital foray with Nikon's Mark had purchased a D200 - 18-200 combination, and soon after Neil had an 18-200 as well. A single lens that replaces three that I have to support the same range, as well as built in vibration reduction made the lens unforgettable. Looking back I can see that part of me was convincing the rest that breaking my no-DX lens rule was an extremely good idea. The digital conversion was nice, and Nikon hadn't made any sort of move in ending Canon's 3 year control of the Full Frame digital market (Yes, I know about the Kodak, go away). In 2007, with a trip to Europe coming down the pipe, and my subconcious raging about not wanting to pack three different lenses, I followed a price reduction and purchased the 18-200 lens.

Not even a month after my purchase, Nikon comes out and announces the D3. I'm sure Lady Luck gets a lot of laughs at my expense.

As Christmas approached, I found the money in my camera fund, collecting dust, and I made a speculative play with the money, knowing full well that even as of December, very few D3 cameras had crossed into Canada. The risk payed off, and I had made a decent profit by the end of January, and in a delirious moment did agree to get my name put on a waiting list at The Camera Store. I was somewhere in the eighties at that time, and considering the going delivery rate was one or two a week, I figured it would be fall, or optimistically mid summer before I would have to decide if I wanted to honour the agreement.

I was surprised earlier this week when I received a call, ironically while taking photos at Flames Central, that after a slew of cancellations I was next in line for a D3. Thinking too fast, I told them I was out of town, and that I couldn't pick it up right away. I was told that they would hold it for me until midday on Friday, kicking off a week of deep contemplation, hand wringing, prioritization, and back and forth logic I have ever subjected myself too.

I consulted with anyone that would listen to me, and have never been so on the fence in my whole life. On one hand, I had been waiting for this camera for over five years, was prepared to receive it, knew that I wanted it, and on the other hand was a massive price tag. A price tag roughly equivalent to a dozen 14 inch bandsaws, 2 years of gasoline or my Buell Motorcycle.

The tipping point was during the monthly Calgary Photographic Society meeting. Kevin told us the story of how he got to where he is today. Mentioning that you need to do what you love to succeed, and that he once used a D70 but it didn't cut it lingered with me all evening, and I figured out while showering the next morning that I would be really pissed with myself if I didn't jump on this opportunity right away.

Leaving work a bit early to fight traffic, struggle with parking, verify with Visa and attempt to haggle; I managed to obtain my treasure. Excited as a kid on Christas Eve, my head was split in half with my smile. As soon as I was home, I had the box open and I was sifting through it's contents. But, my dreams of a full frame digital image needed to be put on hold, as my new digital camera had a new type of battery. A battery which needed to be charged before I could use the camera.

Longest three hours of my life.

Comments (1)

The wait is over…

Days of Film

My business partner will vouch that I've been waiting a long time for Nikon to get it's act together. I even established a fund into which I was storing monies in the hope that I would be able to purchase a Full Frame camera from Nikon. When PMA rolled by this year, I felt my heart drop when no new SLR was announced by Nikon. I was hurt so deep that I splurged my Nikon fund on something that isn't quite photographic.

Disappointments continued to roll around, and finally broke away from my 35mm only rule for glass, and purchased a DX format lens. I guess my break from my rule, started the fates in motion, and as much as I love my new lens, Nikon finally delivered on a dream years in the making.

This week Nikon announced two new cameras: the D300 and the D3. I was hoping that the Full Frame technology would make it into the D200 replacement, but I'm not surprised that it is not. I'm just glad that my 50mm F1.4 is one day going to be 50mm again. After the flurry of speculation, previews and initial impressions have settled down, I thought I would try to get my thoughts down.

I first noticed the resolution of the new sensor. The D3 weighs in at a pro level 12.1 megapixels, which is strangely less than the prosumer D300's 12.3 million photo sensors, it's predecessor's 12.4 and considerably less than the competators newest flagship. At first I was very disappointed, but after some questioning as to why Nikon made the decision I think I understand it. Nikon hasn't been in the Full Frame market yet because the difference between film and digital meant that with a full frame sensor has considerable light falloff on the edges of the sensor; sometimes the falloff is as much as two full stops of light. Early adopters to the Full Frame digital frame complained bitterly about this unnatural vignetting. Sounds like Nikon was listening because with the new sensor employing larger photosites, they can employ more aggressive microlenses to ensure that the light it hitting the sensor just right. The larger photosites also let Nikon get a handle on the noise that was a problem with the D2Xs. With the larger photosites, you can increase sensitivity without a gargantuan increase in noise. A good idea, because Nikon is telling us this new sensor can capture at an equivalent ISO of 25600. I also think that Nikon has someone in their building that isn't wrapped up in the megapixel madness. With the sensor that is now in the D3 you can make a 300dpi (magazine quality) print easily at 9x14 (bigger than magazine page size).

The next feature of note is the raw speed of the camera. Nikon has gone right crazy and put two compact flash card slots in the camera. Any computer geek knows this means the camera can employ a strip writing technique, alternatively writing on the two cards to remove the card's write speed from the bottleneck. The sensor has the capability of capturing nine frames per second at full frame, and eleven in the DX format. Say it out loud: "Nine, twelve megapixel pictures per second". You can fill a gigabyte flash card with pictures in under 10 seconds. It also means that with the auto-bracketing built into the camera you can make a 10 stop bracket for HDR in a single second. I think the dual flash card setup, as well as the lower-megapixel sensor both lend to Nikon's ability to deliver the crazy amount of pictures per second.

I also made note of Nikon's dedication to High Definition. The new D3 does not have a video out, instead it has a HDMI port to plug your camera into a television to preview the images. It only makes sense if you are capturing images in a high resolution you might as well look at it in a high resolution. Also, the LCD screen on the back is crazy. I've been keeping tabs on the LCD stats since I got Mr. Bennett's D200 in my hands and I saw what a difference a bigger and better LCD makes. The D3's LCD is just short of nuts. It's a 3" screen which is on par with the competition, but the crammed over nine hundred thousand pixels on it. That little 3" screen has more resolution than a 720p high definition television, think about that for a second.

Finally, no Nikon announcement ever happens without all the trolls (myself included) comparing what's new to the competition. Canon's MSRP is 60% higher than Nikon's, which I feel is a great blessing. Canon absolutely nukes Nikon in the megapixel war, having 75% more pixels on the sensor. Nikon's camera is 80% faster in continuous shooting mode, and for some strange reason has two more stops off either end in the auto-bracket mode. Canon's equivalent ISO range spans 50 to 3200 (options included), and Nikon's goes from an average 100 to a stupifying 25600. All these numbers are good for measurbators, but what really matters is how good are the pictures that it takes. How good is the dynamic range? How realistic and vibrant are the colours? The camera hits the stores this December, so we'll have to wait to see what kind of images it takes, but in the mean time, I've restarted my Nikon fund.


Give me my Camera Damnit!

Corona On Fire

For a very long time, I've been thinking about sensor size and photography. Last year, I went on a terror, when I heard the quote: "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough" - David Szymin, the only thing on my mind was getting closer. It was at this point in my life that I invested in a entry level macro lens that lets me focus to an amazing 21cm at 105mm. The problem with the macro world, is that if your subject is any bigger than a loonie, you can't get the whole thing in frame. Upon this realization, I knew that I needed to go wide.

Wide angle lens allow you to be really close to your subject and still take in the whole thing. Good for landscapes, group shots or anything where you want to show depth or distance. The problem that I'm facing, is even though I own a 18mm lens, I can only take 18mm shots with my film camera. My digital camera has a smaller sensor, which magnifies my lens and basically turns it into a 27mm. Pretty much what I had when I purchased my macro, and used it on my film camera.

I've been holding on to the fantasy that Nikon would realize that arch-nemesis Canon has a series of cameras that satisfy this itch, and retaliate with their own full sized sensor. As a matter of fact, Canon announced the EOS-1Ds over four years ago, and now have three cameras that offer full sized sensors.

Come on, Nikon, pick up your socks.

At last night's CPS meeting a fellow Nikonian and I talked about the full frame problem, and he is of the mind that Nikon won't release a full frame sensor camera any time soon, but I disagree. I think that Nikon has to make the move else they are going to lose a few of the very picky, myself included. I do, however, still have faith in Nikon, and with PMA happening in Vegas, right now is the time for the announcement to be made. I really hope my boys pull though.