LESSONS: my first D200 shot: imprecise auto
white balance. I hadn't noticed before that the frame is full 35mm format
2:3. This was the only thing in my office I could focus
near darkness. Date set one day ahead (Photoshop says I shot it tomorrow
— easy time-travel.
23, 2006: I
got my new digital camera today. Not hardly my first digital camera;
that was 15 years ago. This is my fourth digicam. There's a
history somewhere, with illustrations
about the cameras I've owned and used. This is the best one yet, by a long
It is a Nikon D200. I forget what the first one
cost. It was 640 x 480 black & white — I should say grayscale,
only. The second and third ones were color and each cost a little more
than a thousand dollars with
and batteries. This one cost nearly twice that.
My first and second D-cams each had about a third
of a megapixel, well before that term came into use. My last camera, which
still works, has five megapixels. It also had a lot of automatic and manual
controls the first two didn't.
This one has gobs more. The stiff learning curve
is one of my attractions to the D200. Posters (people who post messages)
Photography Review were clear about that. They said I would
learn more about photography by taking this one, expensive
step than I ever have before. I know a lot about photography, nearly got
a Masters degree in it, have taught it and showed my work in galleries,
museums and art
centers, been published in newspapers, magazines (including Life)
I'm going to miss many of my now five-year-old
Sony D707's features. I loved looking in the viewfinder and being able to
adjust the exposure directly and immediately. The D200 offers only an optical
viewfinder, which means I'll look through a lot of dots and circles etched
in glass, past exposure infobits and out into reality as we know it.
I have to trust the camera to expose correctly.
Well, that, and the nice, big 2.5-inch LCD I can play back everything I
shoot. From the couple dozen photographs I've shot tonight, I know that it
it right. Nope,
I'm going to have to think for it, often.
Wire Heart in room light at night
1/3 @ f/5.6 aperture priority
5:23 pm, auto exposure
LESSONS: it is possible to focus, but only
narrowly; I want the sun back; f/5.6 provides slightly more depth of field,
not not enough; auto white balance is closer; I need to get this sucker out
in the daylight;
I'm already excited by the possibility of using
high ISO (called "film speed" in pre-silicon days). My D707
would only shoot as high as ISO 400. Tonight, most of what I shot was
At 400, my aging Sony prosumer camera rendered images with what looked
like the same golf-ball sized distortion we used to call "grain" when
of silver halide pressed onto plastic (the real film in the equation)
to record light. When film was "pushed" to higher film speeds
by extending its time in developer or using more sensitive silver, the
to clump together.
Digital doesn't work the same, but in some cameras
(even some new ones), the result looks very similar. Now it's called "digital
noise" and is often visible in broad, flat-colored areas, even at low ISOs.
Many of the newer, higher megapixel prosumer cameras have too much digital
never been a big fan of using flash's bright but unnatural light with over-strong
to make photographs (although I have to sometimes). Using much
higher ISO sensitivities without the
fear of grain will be a liberation from flashes and from not being able to
record the shot.
1/2 @ f/5 iso1,000 tripod Manual
exposure Pattern metering (before I knew where the dial was)
LESSONS; My first art shot. That's art
in the middle and a painting at the edge. We're not sure if the flat, iron
frog is art or not. I just assume he is. The gold-leaf painting is by
Glenna Park, who now does art and political cartoons in Washington D.C.,
but she used to live in Dallas. I have not adjusted the rather bleak exposure
any here. This is pretty much waht I shot and what I got. My 17th image
on the new cam. Considering that the walls of my living room are deep Parrot
Green, this is pretty good color rendering. It looks right on target. I
would rather have had it a little brighter, but there's always Photoshop.
It's even in focus.
I'm going to the
lake tomorrow. There, assuming the sun comes out (it didn't today), I'll
shoot at low ISO. Probably around 100, the lowest ISO the Nikon uses. Images
recorded at ISO 100 should look substantially
at ten times that.
The other thing I did a lot of today was research
on new lenses. The only lenses I now have are from my days as a film photographer.
I was a staff photographer for the Dallas Times Herald when there was one
of those and Dallas was a two-paper town. Now Big D only has one daily newspaper.
Luckily, the last lens I bought was an automatic
focus 180mm f/2.8 telephoto. It was my first and only auto-focus lens, and
it was — is — a great lens. All my other lenses are manual focus, which I'll
still be able to use on the D200, but not as easily.
It's a little unwieldy, because it's such a long
lens. Because the image size on 35mm film was 24x36mm (larger than the
digital sensor on my new Nikon), my old, already pretty long telephoto lens
is now the equivalent of an even longer 270mm lens. Besides which it's
and about as big as my new camera. It's a lot like carrying a club.
I have lighter lenses, but they don't focus automatically.
Gradually, I learn how to use them on this camera, too. But I want my first
baby-steps to be easier. Then, as I figure this new camera
— I am still learning about my Sony F707 after five years — I'll buy new
In anticipation of that, I've been researching
lenses for much of today. I have a good wide angle lens, a great telephoto,
and some pretty good lenses in between. What I really want and need (!) is
a wide-angle to short telephoto zoom lens.
Carnations (Thanks, Anna) - vertical crop
from horizontal frame in near darkness
1/13 second @ f/4.5 - ISO 1,000, tripod
LESSONS: tripod won't hold D200 with 180/2.8
steady enough to shoot verticals. I need to learn various focus possibilities
— spot, full frame, specific areas. Here, focus is soft. But earlier shots
of same scene were too bright, so I closed down some and switched to Manual
One of the problems (issues) with the D200 is
that, because it is a dSLR (digital single lens reflex), every time I
change lenses, there's a good chance I'll accidentally let dust into the
where it might settle on the image sensor. So it's a good idea either
to change lenses less often (the whole purpose of having a single lens reflex
is that you
can change lenses) or only do it in a dust-free zone.
Zoom lenses help this situation out by providing
various magnifications of that reality we sometimes think we know about,
without changing lenses. My first big professional outing with my new
camera may well be my girlfriend's daughter's wedding in March. This is February.
That same lens would probably be just about perfect
for wandering around art galleries taking photographs of art, which I do
a lot of. For me, a lens in that wide to short tele range would be a great
"walking around" lens. So I've been looking in the DPR D200 forum, at Björn's
website (he tests Nikon lenses), the Nikon site and at a lot of camera stores,
in Dallas and online.
I've narrowed my search down
to these. All are Nikon lenses, and either Björn or
members of the
D200 forum on Digital Photography Review says they are among the
|amazing lens, good macro, long tele, nearly perfect
but hard to find, so far
ED IF AFS
So far, it's a toss-up between the 18-70 and the twice as expensive
(or more) 18-200. The 18-200 is stellar and VR (but hard to find or over-priced.
Nikon says $700, but even
VR is vibration reduction. My
hands shake sometimes when I hold cameras, and I need something
that will help stabilize my
hand-held shots. VR is Nikon's version. In the list above, the VR lenses
are in bold.
DX are lenses specifically designed
for Nikon's sub 35mm film-sized digital sensor. Because they project
the image onto a smaller
sensor, their components are smaller, and the lenses are comparatively
cheaper. Non DX lenses were made for 35mm
They are older, and sometimes that means they're not as expensive,
although they may be more difficult to find new, since Nikon has announced
except for a precious few professional models, they're getting out
of the film camera business.
Pamela Nelson's paper bird shot at an angle
1/10 @ f/5.6 on tripod
@ ISO 1,000 tripod
LESSONS: Very shallow
depth of field with 180/2.8 at short focusing distance, closed down
to f/5.6, which Björn says is its optimum aperture. The lens' sharpness is
very apparent in the full-size version of this shot.
Zoom lenses with shorter zoom ranges tend to be
smaller. I want a lens that's easy to carry. More important, I'd like
a lens with a wider maximum aperture (literally, the hole in the lens where
light gets in) — what is often called a "fast" lens.
Or at least faster. What I love about my big
now is that it's a fast telephoto lens.
It's not a zoom. It's not light. But it automatically
focuses itself (eventually, although I think I could do it quicker),
and it's maximum aperture is wider by at least a half stop than any lens
does not diminish as it is zoomed into telephoto. It's already well
telephoto. But it would be very difficult to photograph crowds (like
families at a wedding) with it, because I'd have to back up farther than
I could shout
The major stops are: f/1 1.4 2 2.8 4 5.6
8 11 16 22 32 45 64 90 128
A math wiz will note that each second number
is a double of the first. And photographers will note that these numbers
are expressed as fractions. I.e. f over that number. The deal is that an
f/1 lens (which supposedly lets in all the light that hits it) lets in twice
as much light as an f/1.4. An f/2 lens lets in half as much light as an f/1.4
and one-fourth as much as the f/1. Etc.
I used to drill this sequence into my students,
but if you leave your camera and lens on full automatic it only matters
the time, and many who take pictures haven't a clue about any of this.
If, however, you use a camera that shows the
working aperture, it will eventually make sense that
larger numbers mean more objects at different distances can be in focus.
Imagine each spot in view
creating a cone of light (light reflects out in many directions,
only a few of which
hit the lens, cutting it down to a cone). The rays then refract through
the lens to form a smaller, reverse
cone focusing [literally] to a point. If there's a flat plane of film or
digital sensor intersecting at that point, it is the image of that spot
Rock and Prism 1/5 @ f/5.6 iso1,000 room
Priority (thinking it was A for Auto)
LESSONS: Showing that by frame 35, I could
at least focus. The picture is a tad yellow. I doubt I even knew then
how to set the White Balance at all. The window frames are just about that
exact color, though, and so are the plants. The rock is just a rock. The
prism is a Captain's Prism, supposedly sucks outside light in one end and
refracts it into the Captain's Quarters on an early ship. I think of it
as a lens.
matters, because the bigger the number, the smaller the fraction,
so less light gets through. Smaller apertures tighten the cones,
yielding more depth of focus (depth of field indicates
range of distances in focus in front of
the camera; depth of focus is the
range of distances behind the lens the image [or parts
of it] will be in focus). Tighter cones make smaller circles so more's
cones come through the lens at once, of course, so the closer to the same
"film" plane the important spots are, the more likely they'll be rendered
Any basic photography instruction book can explain
this multi-dimensional phenomenon in a lot more words than I just did.
Trust me, it matters, and I know why it matters, and because of all that,
I want as fast a lens as I can put up with, because I love to shoot in low
light and nearly no light; I often have no choice; and I'd prefer to avoid
I love my 180 f/2.8, even though it's big, heavy
and club-like, because it's a long telephoto that lets in a lot of
light when it has to, and it's at its best in the lower register of f/stops.
It's got reach and will let me take closer-up pictures of Pelicans than ever
before. And because the Nikon has twice as many megapixels as my F707,
look better and make better prints.
To shoot art and weddings and people and scenics
and landscapes, I also need a shorter, lighter, zoomier lens.
The Nikon lenses I already have [listed
just below] are why I bought a Nikon instead of an Olympus (Their
new E-330 EVOLT (and thei identical Panasonic DMC-L1) has both EVF and
viewfinders, just for one instance), or the popular Canon or a newer Sony.
I figured I could use them
to learn with till I figure out what else to get.
I got them all well back into the last century.
The 180 is the newest. It's only 17 years old. The others are from
assume they'll still work. We'll see when I finally get over using the 180
My old Nikon lenses as used on the D200
||fine lens and grand fun
|| very difficult to focus
||focuses very very close, grand fun to shoot
||very very sharp, easy to use
||fabulous lens, sharp, fast, long reach, amazing wide aperture
Except for the 20mm, all are listed
among Björn's Best
of the Best Nikon Lenses, so we're talking
some serious glass here.
[All shots taken with the
Nikon 180mm 2.8 AF lens.]