Sunday, May 09, 2010

A new beginning

ISO 6400 isn't that bad after running noise reduction through most softwares.

After a frustrating week, I received my new workhorse yesterday. I opened the box with awe and trepidation. Big is indeed beautiful. It heralds a new phase in my photographic journey, with exciting new possibilities (as well as some limitations), and I which I feel compelled to share with some of you. I took out the extremely thick manual and read through all of the features in an hour just to get the hang of it.

No flash? No problem !

Though its not the leader of the pack in terms of ISO performance (it was recently superceded anyway), having ISO 12800, or even 25,600 at your fingertips for difficult situations (eg. no flash, or to freeze motion) is indeed always welcome.

Some geeks today claim 12 megapixels isn't enough (which probably isn't if you're doing lots of studio work). Even though its resolution is almost the same as my 10 mega pixel Olympus E-3, the images still look quite detailed (despite not having the 5D mark II's or Sony a900's 20++ mp), giving better balanced noise reduction capabilities with film like grain compared to canon's more apparent chroma noise. And with today's software (Noise Ninja etc.), you can make an ISO 6400 image look several stops cleaner than it really is. The dynamic range is also pretty good if you can afford the space for 14 bit RAW files.

The skin tones aren't fantastic compared to Olympus' or Canon's but they're usable for now in my opinion. And no, I don't think the D2 colour profiles aren't making that much of a difference.

As for metering, the 1005 pixel RGB metering sensor is pretty accurate despite underexposing in certain situations (eg. white object, white background), but applying exposure compensation is not a problem at all. Of course when in doubt, using manual mode is always best. I still haven't tried the active D-lighting feature which recovers shadow detail and prevents highlights from being lost, but I guess it shouldn't be much of an issue. So far, Sony's Dynamic Range optimiser impresses me the most, albeit it makes the image look more flat because of less contrast between highlights and shadows.

There was almost no supplementary light outside of the bar, and I had to rely on some fill flash and ISO 5000 to light the image up. Otherwise it would be pitch black!

Like an F1 formula car, it is primed for speed. The moment the switch flicks on, it is ready to go at an incredibly fast frame rate suitable for sports applications. 5 frames per second on the E-3 still quite admirable, but the lag from one frame to the next makes you miss some moments if you don't time your shutter releases properly. I'm not saying I'm intending to be a sports photographer (thought it would be nice to be one), but having this feature can be a life saver at times.

No in camera Image Stabilisation ? Not a problem. I think the issue for me was that I was trying so hard to freeze moving subjects at lower shutter speeds so keep the ISO values low, that in the end, the slight movement from the subjects blurred the image anyway. The ability to use higher ISOs (hence higher shutter speeds) helps to freeze motion yet still retaining the sharp images that we all desire.

But speed is no use if its inaccurate. Some users say that the 1D mark IV's autofocusing is better (yeah.. Nikon users always lust for Canon, vice versa), but for me, I had very little issues focusing in low light conditions, and autofocus was spot on. The times where I did miss was because I used a large aperture that limited my depth of field, hence the apparent focus error. The large viewfinder without the clutter of any AF point etchings makes it easy to view whats in your frame.

For its price range, the E-3 is a hard wearing piece of brick capable of performing in the harshest environments. This kit should do the same, but of course I'm not going to waste my precious resources to test it out by putting it under the shower head as some of my friends have done.

Viewing images is also a very beautiful experience with a 920k LCD, but the problem is, your images look more beautiful in camera than compared to your computer screen. Of course I pixel peep at times. At a glance, the images look sharp, but when viewed at 1:1, some I noticed some blurness due to the 'slow' shutter speed that I selected.

While power consumption wasn't an really an issue with SWD lenses, my batteries quickly wore out even with the HLD-4 attached. You can supposedly stretch your battery capabilities to 3,000 shots (if you don't chimp and shoot JPEG instead of RAW for example), but a good conservative estimate would be at least 2,500 shots (which is 4 times the capability of batteries used for most cameras). The camera menu even shows the charge percentage remaining, its age, and can even be recalibrated if necessary.

Some readers have expressed why I've their concerns why I've changed camp. I like to assure those concerned that I have not. I am merely supplementing it with something more capable for the type of jobs that I am involved with. Coming from an Olympus background has made me aware of certain issues that some Canon or Nikon users ignorant about (eg. skin tone and faithful colour reproduction), and I am going to use this knowledge in my workflow to make me a more efficient photographer in the future.

If you'd like to follow my blog and my exciting new journey with this new kit, please stay tuned.



XuenPhotoz said...

Your new Nikon D3/D700? What lenses you use currently.

By the way, nice photos. Enjoy you newly acquired gears.

brandon said...

Hi Xuen. I got a D3. I'm currently using some fast primes to take advantage of the thin DOF and its low light capabilities. Cheers.


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