Learning the Nikon D7100 and D7000
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My Nikon D7000 Journal — Learning the Nikon D7000 SLR

Stories + Photographs by J R Compton

May 30 2013

This is just a link to an online movie that I've already watched twice and probably will watch some more. I've been a fan of Jay Maisel's photography for many years. Last time I saw a pic of him he was young. Like me then probably. It's down the page a bit, the May 28 2013 blog entry for a page I often visit.

I like it a lot better full-screen, where it still has lots of detail on my 20-inch iMac. This is the best iteration of his work I've seen in a long time, and I suspect a lot of it is recent, but I don't care. I also didn't even look close to see what camera he was shooting. I think you'll love this, too.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/blog_index.html

Enjoy.

May 15 2013

 American Avocets Flying Close - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American Avocets Flying Close in Sunset Bay of White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas

I've all but abandoned my D7000. My favorite Nikon repair guy, who used to be an Authorized Nikon Repair guy, but isn't anymore because Nikon required them to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of specialized equipment that they'd never needed or wanted, so now he's just my favorite Nikon repair guy. Anyway, he said if I could find the part, he'd attach it for $25. But I can't get parts any better than he can get authorized Nikon parts, so the silly D7k is just around.

Sometimes I use it, but if I put my heavy 300mm f2.8 lens on it for very long, I'm in serious danger of bending the mount out again. When it's bent, it throws focus off, so I can only use it with smaller lenses, but the smaller lenses aren't as good as the 300mm, so phooey on that.

My most recent — and best yet — replacement was a Nikon D800E that I rented from Lensrentals.com for one week. A couple years ago, I rented a D7000 for I think ten days, and they were very easy to work with, and I figured if I rented another camera, it'd be from them. Renting the D800E wasn't cheap ($250 with insurance), but it was a lot cheaper than buying one then finding out I didn't like it.

But I loved it. The camera fit right into my hand, and I already knew more about running it than I could have guessed, because I've operated the D7000, D300, D200 and all those Nikons and Nikkormats in the last century that used film.

All the photographs from May 7 through May 14 on my Amateur Birder's Journal, including the American Avocets that visited Sunset Bay earlier that week and all my Galveston Birding pictures from the week before, were taken on it, and I loved everything but the part where I repeatedly tried and failed to focus birds flying at any distance where they did not fill or nearly fill my 600mm frame.

I never liked Nikon's newer focus-mode adjustments that aren't one-thumb adjustable on the lower back like on my D200 and D300, so I also didn't like the one-finger-on-each-of-two-hands adjustment on the 800E, and I especially did not like the front-of-the-cam, sideways button needed to initiate that process. The lower left front button on the D7000 is actually superior (easier to find and push) to the one on the 800E, which is not comfortable; it's not obvious; and the process is not simple. But it's the way Nikon now handles focus modes on their not- (D7000 and D7100) and almost-professional (D800) cameras.

The D4, which is a fully professional camera but only has 12 megapixels, costs $300 less than double what the D800E does. And like I keep saying, the D4 has been described as having "clairvoyant fast focus," which sounds alluring.

I've since explored some tutorials on YouTube and learned some of the focusing stuff I really could have used on my trip, but what I really need may be my own Nikon D800E to practice what I think I might have learned. Or perhaps I should settle for the D400, which may never be produced.

First couple times I Post-Produced some 800E images in Photoshop, I was startled and amazed how well a 36-megapixel sensor could render my photographs — in way more detail with a much longer tonal range. Wow! Naturally, I wanted one of those. I'm thinking I could finally break through my 20-inch tall print barrier and go into really big images for art shows, even if I'd also have to buy more big, gnarly multi-terabyte hard drives to store those big image files on.

Or maybe there's stars in my eyes ...

D800 Reviews from my favorite review sites give me plenty to think — and worry — about:

ByThom HoganPlus, Intro and The Autofocus Problem
Digital Photography Review

Imaging Resource
Nassim Manurov's D800 review

April 13 2013

 my two kits - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

My Two Kits   Panasonic Lumix G5 and Nikon D7000 shot with G2 and that kit zoom
 

I was in my office futzing with pix I'd shot that day. I had both kits with me that day. Usually I only use the one I was going to use. Most of the day was art stuff, openings, shows, an open-studio with art all over the place. That's a G5 game. Lots of white balance challenges dealt with immediately, almost without thinking.

And I wanted to do a few shots of birds. Whatever I found worth shooting. I tried for owlets, but settled on one Wood duck in Sunset Bay. I'd been waiting for him for about three weeks. That's a Nikon D7000 game. When I got back to my office, I parked both kits on the end of the desk, pulled one after the other of the memory cards, and mostly ignored the two dark chunks sitting there waiting for me to put them away.

Back from getting some diet root beer from the kitchen, I happened to look down and see them next to each other, the size differential startling. I was impressed with the obviousness of what I've been trying to say about each and both in this and my Panasonic Lumix G5 Journal, and right there staring up at me.

The big chunk on the right is my D7k and the 300mm lens. They belong to each other, so I don't separate them for weeks at a time, although sometimes I use the 2X extender for farther-away birds. With the extender it's slower to shoot or focus but with twice the reach, and with just the d7k + 300mm it is amazing near-instant focus and follow-focus and quite good reach for birds, whether it's shooting straight up into a tree with an owl up near the top or something winging fast and low across the lake using the ground effect to go even faster and coast longer.

It's great combo for birds in flight. When I'm thinking telephoto — and I usually do — it fits my way of seeing. I only rarely have to think about which lens to use. Almost the same feeling on the little G5. I used one of my short, dark zooms on the G2 on a wobbly old tripod to shoot the pic above, but on my G5, I do most of my shooting with the 20mm f1.7 pancake.

Fifty years ago, just to see if I could do it, and I did, I only used one lens for a full year. That was film, and my fave lens was an f1.4 Nikkor 35mm lens. It was perfect for most of the shooting I did then, and a little imperfect for some others, but it's what I used for all that year. And that lens was only a silly 5mm shorter than the Panasonic 20mm that I use all day every day shooting art events, art, artists and family reunions.

One's a big, heavy, fat peg leg chunk of heavy metal and glass that's through and through professional with a capital P. And the other is light, easy, direct, no guessing about exposure or white balance or over or underexposure.
 

April 5 2013

Horned Grebe Close-up - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Eared Grebe Close-up

It's a big chunk of metal and glass to be carting around even without the 7-ounce doubler, but I figure it's needed exorcize though I often (3X a week) work out at the Y before I bird at White Rock. I was walking around Winfrey Point, which is actually more of a round than a point, but I was just thinking I usually find something interesting worth shooting for my bird journal, when I sighted two of this exotic-looking but not rare birds. Actually, I see them every year or two. Once I saw three of them, but usually just one pair.

One had a crown that stuck up like this one, and the other had a comb-over, so I figured they were a pair, including one male and one female, but I don't know much about Eared Grebes, and none of the sources I researched told much more. Unlike most birds, including the coots they were swimming with, they did not scatter when I hove into view with my big honking lens. They just didn't mind.

Which made it much much easier to grab a shot good enough to blow up to show these salient details. I'm using the 300mm with my elderly D7000 more and more for birds, because my also-treasured Panasonic Lumix G5 doesn't follow focus any better than any of the other micro-four thirds cameras, which is to say hardly at all.

The d7k's sensor is half again larger than my G5's while the whole kit is probably four or five times the weight. The 300 is a heavy lens, but it's also amazing sharp even wide open, so now that the camera works again — I never figured out why it did, then it didn't for a month or so, now it does again, and I'm being very protective of the lens and the cam, supporting it with the strap while using the much lighter less delicate (to an undiscovered point) camera to aim and fire with.

Some rare times I still insist upon trying the little G5 and its not-all-that-good 100-300mm zoom (with its 35mm equivalent angle of view to a 200-600mm zoom) for birding, and occasionally I can pull the feat off with aplomb on a quality result, but usually not. The D7100 isn't substantially better than the D7000, so I'm not planning to upgrade till Nikon finally gets off its duff and provides semi-pro birders everywhere with a D400 with more better megapixels, fast shots-per-second and a big buffer cache, I'm sticking with the D7k for birds, but not quite for the birds.

By Thom Hogan has a great definition of what the D400 ought to be and when we should get it on his April 8 2013 Nikon commentary column that'll disappear into his archives by the end of April.
 

March 30 2013

Open-eyed Barred Owl - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Open-eyed Barred Owl

It's like I got my old best friend back, now the D7000 is my new best friend. It works, and I've been using it. Sometimes I still drag along my Pany G5 and lens kit (as opposed to the kit lens, of which I now have two of the exact same model, and I rarely use either), just in case the d7k excruciates me back through the same screeching metal parts along the barrel of my 300mm lens and nasty focus issues.

After entering a Photography Life contest to possibly win a new D7.1k, by liking a facebook page I don't think I even had to access and a B&H one, too, I bumped into some cam techy stories on focus, specifically What is Focus Shift?, Use Nikon Lenses on Canon DSLRs and How to Quickly TEst Your DSLR for Autofocus Issues, all of which seemed especially pertinent to my more recent thought trains, most of which are listed in recent entries down this page.

The owl looks like it's staring directly out at me, but it's actually looking down those 60 feet my EXIF info indicates. I tried not to make any sudden moves, and I liked something watching me from above.

 

March 28 2013

 Great Egret Flying Through The Trees - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret Flying Through the Trees   f8   1/800   iso 800   EV - 0.33

Flying through the trees with the greatest of ease.

I'd been avoiding using my D7000 and my 300mm lens, because I was afraid the lens was broken. I've been photographing birds in the various places around Dallas I generally do that, but with my Panasonic Lumix G5 instead of a Nikon, and it's been working well enough (Check my Bird Journal for proof.), but I'm not confident I could photograph an egret flying through the trees with the G5. I just don't know.

So I'm glad I'd brought my D7000, which, like the lens, acquitted itself perfectly today. Since I'm doing journals on both cameras, I'll probably switch back and forth often. But today, everything was hunky-dory with my latest Nikons.

I doubt the egret above was flying full speed — which makes me wonder how many flying speeds they do have, but it wasn't going slow, either. The lens didn't make ugly twisting metal springs noises and most of my shots, often carefully tiny-ball (what it looks like on the camera top readout thingy) focusing through branches and trees and bushes, were in sharp focus.

I did pan along with the egret, but I think the Nikon camera in cahoots with the Nikon lens made this magic work. I'm largely aware of the settings I've set on my Panasonic Lumix G5, since I've been giving that new camera a lot of thought, but the d7k is however I left it when last I updated all those specs. No telling, really.

I should probably scrutinize all that stuff, but when it works this well, why bother?

It's got follow-whatever's-been-in-focus mode. Surely it must have. All my Nikons this century have claimed they could stay focused on objects (like Great Egrets) without refocusing all the time. My Pany G5 doesn't do that, even if I could tell if the exposure is on-target easier and more directly by just looking through the EVF.

Today, this camera/lens combo just worked. I overexposed some shots, then adjusted, and readjusted when necessary, but since I'd been shooing still egrets in the woods, the cam was already set for exposing something flying through it well, and it continued to do so.

I still need practice photographing egrets in flight over the rookery, but in many ways, this short sequence is better.
 

March 20 2013

er um focused or not Sandhill Cranes - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Manually more or less focused Sandhill Cranes in Arlington   D7000   300mm f2.8 lens  

I no longer believe it's the D7000's fault. That possibility was introduced by the guy I usually take my physical-object Nikon issues to, and I subscribed and resubscribed to it. I won't mention his name here, because he's rarely been wrong, and I want to keep getting his help. And for all I know, my d7k may still need a new front bayonet mount.

But the lens behaved erratically today on the D7000 and the D300, and it behaved superbly on my D7000, D300 and D200 (Nope, never-mind. That one just stopped working, and all but one of my old batteries for the D200 and 300 don't work anymore). I'm beginning to think that it just gets tired of any specific camera after awhile.

 Red-tailed Hawk Against the Sun  - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red-tailed Hawk Against the Sun   D7000   70-300mm zoom   

Using the 2X extender only seems to make it worse. Sometimes these things cure themselves, but usually they just get worse. I'm up for whatever I have to do. It's been awhile since I used my 70-300mm zoom. That's what I grabbed today after the other 300 wouldn't focus the cranes. And it worked amazing well and quick when that same Red-tailed Hawk flew me over against the sun.

Sandhill Crane Takeoff - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Really Really Out of Focus   D7000   300mm f2.8 lens  

I far prefer the D300's interface to the D200, and the d7k to either, but I'm going to leave the lens on the D200 for awhile just to see if it misbehaves on it, too. I suspect it will. It's my oldest digital SLR DX, but it's never been nor required repair. The D300 had its innards and outtards repaired and/or replaced last summer, so I still think it's in pretty fair shape — new shutter mechanism, new skin, new doors and some other stuff I don't remember all of which. They did not repiar or replace the focus mode switch, so of course, that's what went next, but I can work around it, somewhat.

I did finally get a couple half-way decent shots of the owls, so I can finally stop trying that.

 

March 19 2013

Owls in Nest - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Owls in Nest — Sharpened to my Max Allowable

I even brought my D300 this morning to the Fort Worth Drying Beds near Legacy Park in Arlington, Texas, forty five minutes west of Dallas, but I was so sure of my D7000 I didn't use it, because it worked so superbly yesterday without the 2X telextender. Stupid move. My d7k works well with my 300mm tele lens, but not with the 2x telextender.

All of today's shots with the extender were as blurry as this one (smart sharpened) or worse. The above shot was the best of the bunch. So, it's not the extender (That worked fine yesterday on my D300), it's not the lens (ditto). It's the D7k. More specifically, it's the front bayonet mount. The same one that Nikon "fixed" late last year.

So who to blame? Me, probably, for buying the amateur (though comparatively cheap) D7k instead of a D800E for $3,100 (not yet available when I was deciding); D4 at $6,000 or a D3s for $6,800 — Nikon's best-guess best cameras from Thom Hogan's "Perceived Best Nikons" list from his most recent Monday column.

Until a couple weeks ago, I had never seriously considered getting a full frame digital camera, although in my film days, I would never have considered getting a half-frame film camera. Now the full-frame option is beginning to make sense. Only one of my Nikon lenses is strictly DX, and it is an un-VR heavy chunk of a 17-55mm zoom. For that kind of shooting, I usually use my micro fourth-thirds Panasonic Lumix G5.

The 35.3-megapixel D800, especially the E version, is the most appealing and least expensive, but it shoots slower than my D300, which is one of the reasons I was waiting for a Nikon D300/D300s replacement, which has not yet arrived — may never. Both models of the D800 have reported left-side focusing issues. But there have been no reports that it has been fixed or even worked at.

 The Blurry Owl Family - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The Blurry Owl Family   D7000   300mm lens with 2X extender

The less expensive full-frame Nikon 24.3 megapixel D600 ($2,000) splatters oil on the sensor every time the mirror bounces for the first several thousand exposures (although there may be a new version soon that doesn't splatter). Nikon has yet to acknowledge that is a problem — for them. They're still selling as many D600s as Nikon suckers will buy.

Nikon has adopted a strict Tar-Baby mode. They don't say nuffin' 'bout no new camera issues. They lost money big-time in the dSLR biz last year, and they think they can't afford to acknowledge any quality issues with their best-sounding new cameras in years.

I'd rather use a quality camera than a broken amateur one I've already paid to have Nikon repair. But they didn't fix it. So the idea of buying yet another damaged Nikon camera is less appealing. Till they fix the D600 or D800 or introduce the D400, I'm going to continue to use my D300. And if that goes bad, I'll use my D200. I already have too many Nikons.

If I didn't have that wonderful, beautiful, amazing 300mm f2.8 lens, I'd finally switch loyalties to Canon.
 

March 18 2013

 Full Frame of the Shot After the Best Shot - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Full Frame of the Shot a Fraction of a Second After The Next Image

At last. Today was my Great D7000 Focus Test, and it passed with flying colors. Tomorrow, I will probably try it with the tele-extender, but so far, very good indeed. This image probably sums it up better than any of my bird and lake shots today. This is the full frame version of the next pic down. So you can tell just how much it was enlarged to get here. And how much it was blown up to still retain remarkable focus, sharpness and naturalness.

Male Northern Shoveler - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Northern Shoveler Heading for Landing At Some Distance   D7000   300mm f7.1   1/1600   ISO 640

The rest of today's D7000 Focus Test Images are on my today's Amateur Birders Journal. [After April 1, this will be the link.] They're all pretty sharp. Of course, it helps to have one of Nikon's all-time sharpest telephoto lenses in play here, the D300 f2.8 (the latest one with VR III). None of my micro Four-Thirds lenses could still render an image this sharp blown up from such a small portion of a frame. The 50% larger sensor and superior glass and exposure system really help, heavy as all that is.

I still like my D300, but I know it's not as good as the D7000 or the newer D7100. Newer sensor technology really helps this camera. But I had worried it wasn't focusing well, and for a couple weeks it wasn't. I now have the "camera" strap on the lens instead of the camera, and that helps, no matter what. But I was glad to have it when I thought the D7k was failing me.

But why is it full sharp today, and the same combo didn't focus well then … I don't know. I may never know. I'm not sure, but I kinda hope I never find out …

I'm just glad to have a full focusing camera back. Nice that's it's got better sensor tech and those other improvements. Tomorrow or soon I'll try it with the 2X telextender. That should be interesting.

Guess I don't need to badmouth Nikon for awhile longer.

 

March 17 2013

White Rock Lake Landscape with Iris - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

White Rock Lake Park's Dreyfuss Point Landscape with Irises   D300   300mm

For lazy reasons, I didn't want to wait till I got my D7100 strung up with a camera strap, so I went out today with my D300 instead. Then realized what I should have done was to attach the strap to the 300mm lens instead of my camera, which means I could have used my D7k easily. Sitting in my car between found landscapes, I easily unattached my camera from the strap and almost slid it onto the lens instead. Sometimes I think I'm so smart. Sometimes I know better, and eventually I have to do the right thing anyway.

This was shot from my car, and if I knew the name of the street I'd tell you, but it's shooting westerly down into the area known as Dreyfuss Point from the road that rims the park along the down slope to the lake itself past the back of the Bath House Cultural Center. There's a series of Martin houses (now empty) on the lake side and rich residences on the other.

The problem has been that I have one less camera strap than cameras, but now one of the straps is on the lens instead, I can switch out cams easily, and the D7k is attached to the strap that's attached to the lens.

I'd have to think way too far ahead to use the doubler for landscapes, although now I've conceptualized it, I may have to try it. The big problem with the doubler — besides 7 more ounces and fulcruming the weight even farther forward, making the kaboodle more difficult to balance and use — is that I have to store it somewhere when I take it off.

Canon has a 300mm, I believe, with a 1.4X extender built-in and that sounds wonderfully intelligent.

Thus is born my Super-tele Landscape series. Landscapes at 600mm real and 900mm effective.  More something to keep in mind than to actively pursue. I am attempting to actively pursue far less lately. But I will be a birding this week and the next and beyond that. My latest art story just wore me out. The lake was far too populated today on Saint Patrick's Day, but tomorrow ought to be back to a dull roar. I like it better when there's fewer people or when the weather is less-than.

 

Ken Rockwell has a page of D7100 pix, specs and charts, including parts like
the magnesium exoskeleton stripped bare. That image is shot from the back,
but the lens mount area does look a little tentative, though I have not seen
big Nikon bodies bared, although maybe KR does that.

 

March 16 2013

Another Fire-breathing Dragon - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Fire-breathing Dragon   stainless steel   approximately 6.8 inches long
D7000   180mm lens   f8   1/80   iso 250

Okay, with help from another fire-breathing dragon, let me attempt to prove a point. A sharp point, if we're lucky. And we are. I wouldn't exactly call it perfect lighting — one electric lamp on the right and one handheld white gator board on the left looks very good. Of course, high-contrast lighting's apparent sharpness differs from actual sharpness, but I think this has both.

I'd planned to use the even lighter 50mm f1.8 Nikon G lens, but it doesn't focus close enough to take in this whole dragon, so I tried my 20-something-year-old 180mm, then backed it and the tripod back into the hallway to frame the dragon tightly.

I'd say that was plenty sharp. Magnifying its many scratches in Adobe Bridge, it looks very sharp indeed. I have updated my Freaky Friday journal entry down a little. It's not the camera's fault. I bought the silly thing to use till the D400 came out. Hardly the d7k's fault the D400 never arrived. Something about floods in Thailand and Japan glowing in the dark.

 Doctor Bonner's - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Doctor Bronner's   D7000   50mm   f8  0.6   iso 250   at .5 meters

I figured this looked enough like a Resolution Chart that it'd be a decent stand-in, so I stood it in. Now I know my supposedly damaged D7000 can handle a very light lens and a welterweight lens. Next I'll try a heavyweight lens, then a heavyweight lens with a telextender that makes it fulcrum even heavier and probably more likely to bend its bayonet mount while attempting to focus. If there's an issue, that should show it off nicely.

It worked, so I've had to eat some words. Again. At least they weren't soapy words. I love Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, and I especially like the smell of the almond version, but tasting it is not on the menu.

 

March 15 2013

 fire-breathing Dragon Boy - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Freak-out City with the Fire-breathing Dragon Boy

D300   300mm lens with 2x extender   f11   0.7   iso 200

Let's call it Friday. All day I've been freaked out by the seeming fact that no matter what camera or extender or lens I use, it'll be out of focus. So kinda like I did the night before last with my Panasonic Lumix G5, I've devised a little test to see if it's me, the camera, the lens or what that is causing what I have been perceiving as out-of-focus shots.

I probably should note that the camera here was, all day, my elderly Nikon D300 and not the D7000 at all, although I'm to do the same thing with that cam tomorrow (bright light) just to see if my D7000 has the focus issues I think I've been perceiving. Or if I'm just out of whack lately.

Crossed Epiphay Lights - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Crossed Epiphany Lights   D300   180mm lens   f5.6   1/500   iso 800

All these shots have been prepared like I usually prepare images for publication online. Wide ones are 777 pixels wide. Tall ones are 555 pixels wide. All were Saved For The Web at 100% quality. After reducing their sizes, I sharpened them my usual Nikon standard 23% in Photoshop. All today's images were shot with either my 180mm f2.8 or my 300mm f2.8 telephoto lenses. One of the 300mm lens shots was shot with the 2X extender. Other. Both lenses are reputed to be very very sharp, and that's been my experience, too.

The above image was made while I was sitting on my front porch. All the others were made by daylight but inside the house, where I can always find something interesting to photograph. Those I call my Home Still Lifes Series.

Cut Glass - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mexican Decorator Bottles   D300   180mm lens   f5.6   1/125   ISO 200

I did a similar test at the lake this afternoon after a particularly strenuous workout, and I noticed that my hands were often shaking, and that I had a lot of trouble holding the big camera and lens steady, and probably because of that and other issues yet unknown, few of my shots were as sharp as I usually manage. That adds to the worry and freaky-outedness.

Royal Feathers - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Royal Feathers   D300   180mm lens   f8   1/125   ISO 200

I like using back-lighted feathers for focus tests, because they have these tiny veins that are very visible when the shot is sharp and not when it's not. It's a simple test. At full-size and full resolution, this white feather is very very sharp. So's most everything else in this shot, and I must admit I really like proving myself wrong about my perceived mis-focusing issue.

South Window Details - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

South Window Details   D300   300mm lens   f11   1/60   ISO 200

I found a couple stories online that deal with today's focusing issues. Nasim Mansurov's How to Quickly Test Your DSLR for Autofocus Issues and the much more technical Lens Calibration Explained are, as Mansurov notes, "for uber geeks only!" But I had thought they might help. Then I decided to shoot the sorts of images I usually shoot instead of flat resolution charts, two of which Mansurov links, and one of which I printed out before I realized I really would not know how to evaluate a res chart, but I have decades of experience with these kinds of images, and I think I'd know if they weren't sharp.

I should note that not all of today's shots were sharp. As is true almost every time I take pictures, some were out of focus. Once I calmed down I knew that if I got any in better-than-average focus, it was neither the camera nor the lens at fault. It's the photographer's fault. Which seems to be the case.

I have found that so-called "High Stress Vitamin B" pills generally help me calm down and often eliminates hand-shake (Your mileage may vary; mine does.) So I should probably tuck one in my pocket next time I work out before I go photographing. Or go photo-ing first.

Big Fire-breathing Dragon - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Big and Little Fire-breathing Dragons   D300   300mm lens   f8   1/4   ISO 200

I was so careful to place the focus target on the big drag's nose, I never even realized the little dragon's in the same frame. And it's in sharp focus. Overall, very comforting.

I actually scatter shot pix outside today, too. At the lake, and off my front porch. The front porch shots were all done with the tripod, and they're rock solid steady and sharp, but essentially boring, because I didn't feel need for subject or composition. I just wanted to know if I could get anything in focus, and I could.

Cactus Sharp - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cactus Sharp      D300   300mm lens with 2X extender   f8   1/45   ISO 200

I managed to seriously overexpose the left about half of this frame. Apparently, I tend to focus my eyes upon what I am attempting to focus my lens and camera on, and miss such things as bright white bottles in the background when I got the exposure just right for this growing focus tester.

This shot is especially reassuring. First I thought something was wrong with my Nikon super-duper telextender. Then I thought it was my 300mm lens. Eventually I worried it was everything, including my D300 camera. Now I wonder whether there's anything really wrong with my D7000. That's really a scary thought, but I probably won't have to use up nearly this much time tomorrow to figure out if its true.

But first I had to eliminate the lens and extender as cause for my mis-focusing. Now that I know and acknowledge that neither of those items interferred with sharpness all of the time, I can try the D7000 again.

Its bayonet mount may actually be sprung loose from using that huge, heavy 300mm lens with the 2X extender on it. So, if I try with my circa 1991 180mm f2.8 — which may be one of the world's slowest auto-focusing lens, as well as one of the first — and it makes sharp images, then I'll try the D7000 with my 300, and if that still works sometimes, I'll go all the way to the 300 with the doubler, all when used on a tripod, of course.

We'll see.

 

March 14 2013

shaddows on the bathroom floor - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Shadows on the Bathroom Floor   shot with my trusty Panasonic Lumix G5

I haven't written anything lately, because I thought my D7k was screwed, because its front is too weak to mount my large Nikon telephoto lens. The bayonet mount that Nikon just fixed late last year, is sprung again, and I can't decide whether it's worth fixing. Because that's the main lens I'd be using on it, and if the camera body isn't strong enough for that one purpose, I don't really need the stupid thing.

When I use that lens now, I mount it on my elderly D300. Nikon may or may not ever produce a D400. That's the long-rumored camera I'd really like to have. Failing that, I'd get a D600 or a D800, except those models are bunged with stupid Nikon mistakes that they're just barely willing to acknowledge, but they're not fixing. I sure don't want a camera box Nikon knows is bad but refuses to fix.

My choice of Nikon was dependent upon them making quality cameras, and they don't do that anymore. Ask a Canon owner. They look at Nikon customers like dirt.

The only reason I can think of to fix the fool thing is because I still have lenses that fit it, simply because it's learned a lot about noise-suppression since 2008, when I got my D300.

But I'd love to have a full frame Nikon with my 300mm lens on it. I haven't shot FF since last century, and now I'm thinking I should have bought into Canon instead of the D7000. At least when one of their cameras start slinging lubricant on the sensor (D600) or the left side of the frame won't focus (D800) they admit it and fix it.

I'd curse Nikon, but I think they already are.

 

February 23 2013

Nikon D300, My Personal Replacement for the D7000

Nikon Rumors has posted a page of quick videos about the D7100, some of which are obvious hype, but the one from Gordon Laing of Camera Labs is more helpful and honest about the new Nikkormat (He doesn't call it that; I do.), because it is not the semi-pro camera the D300 was — and mine still is, and it is definitely not the D400.

I think I can trust Gordon. I've been reading him for a few years now, and his site is among my "trusted camera testers" listed on some of my photo-related pages, especially, my How to Photograph Art page.

The new D7100 is, Gordon says, weatherproof; it doesn't replace the D7000, which remains in the Nikon lineup; it is not a semi-pro DX model, and it is not the D400, which, he says, "kinda implies to me that maybe Nikon has given up on the idea of a semi-professional DX camera. They're saying, if you really want that step-up in quality and features, you need to go for full frame. … It does feel lighter and smaller, but the build quality is very very good. The grip has been improved. The mode dial now has a different texture on it." and etc.

Gordon Laing has also written an extension to his video preview, which lists the changes, compares it with the D600 and the D300s (the video update to my D300). He also lists US and GB pricing. I checked out his 300s review, which camera is stronger, faster, and — well, we'll see — than Nikon's new D7100. Not surprising, Gordon's findings for the number of JPEGs that can be fired off before the D7100's memory balks, is considerably short of the 100 Nikon is advertising.

I use my 300mm lens on my D300 often. It works fine. It focuses and everything. My D7000 popped its bayonet mount completely off when it fell about two feet onto a rug with that lens attached and an orange cat quickly separating. I was happy the camera broke and saved my lens, which is a great deal more valuable and expensive. Nikon repair (Is that an oxymoron?) said they fixed it, but I have my doubts, but since I can't use it, I might as well have them try to fix it again. Either they did a lousy job the first time, or the camera just isn't strong enough to hold the big tele.

The major drawback with using my elderly (born 2008) D300 is all the improvements they've made on the sensor in the last 5 years. High ISO images were much cleaner on my D7000, and I miss that. But I'll have to miss it about another month, till I can hopefully get someone to refix my front bayonet mount — that's the part my Nikon Repair Guy said to get so he'd fix it.

Meanwhile, I am contemplating getting a full frame (FX) camera. The only lens I have that is DX-only is my clunky, heavy, non image-stabilized 17–55mm f2.8. I think my 300mm tele would prefer to be on a D800E or the D600b (b for when they finally fix the oil-splattering problem).

Each of the videos on Nikon Rumors note that it's got a magnesium alloy back and top, although one reviewer says top and bottom, but apparently it's not so strong in front, where my D7000 droops a heavy Nikon lens with extender a few fractions of a mm, popping out the bayonet mount, which is just another proof this is not a pro or even a semi-pro camera. And I may have to go to full-frame, which Nikon is desperate to sell us, even though the D600 still has that nasty problem of splattering oil on the sensor.

They all point out that the 7100 is an Enthusiast's camera, which is to say amateur. Maybe advanced amateur, but amateur nonetheless. Much like back in my younger days, when Nikon had Nikons for professionals and Nikkormats for the amateurs, — although I always preferred Nikon's less expensive and usually lighter and easier-to-operate cams.

There's a lock on the mode dial on the 7100. I've often been annoyed to see mine had accidentally turned to the wrong mode, so I can appreciate that. I am disappointed the front of the camera is not magnesium alloy, too.

Meanwhile, I'm way too busy learning my new Panasonic Lumix G5 micro four-thirds camera to even bother thinking about which Nikon I'll get or keep using (D300) to shoot my 300mm tele on, with or without the extender. TMI on my contemporaneously updated G5 Journal.

 

February 21 2013

Nikon D7100

It Is Not The D400.

Even though I've been reading about it for months and months, I was excited when I read Amazon's page on the new D7100 after reading about it early this ayem on Nikon Rumors. It does sound like it might actually be the successor to the D300 as well as the D7000. I've been awful busy doing other stuff, but I found its most salient features for me, "24.1 megapixel image sensor" and "Shoot up to 6 frames per second for up to 100 continuous shots." Although it would be nice if its bayonet mount could stand to be attached to my heavy Nikon telephoto lens without popping off. And I really hope it has more interesting and more easily set focus modes than my D7000.

Has. I tend to think of my D7000 as dead, because its bent bayonet mount keeps my favorite lens — the lens I bought the D7000 for till the D400 arrived (ha!) — This apparently is the D400 — from focusing sharply. None of my other lenses sag like that. They just also do not quite focus.

It does say it will have "ultra-precise autofocus and metering." But more to the point about my questions, Amazon has a box near the bottom of their D7100 page, where we can ask questions, so I asked, "Will the bayonet mount be strong enough to hold a 300mm f2.8 telephoto with 2x extender? My D7000's bends when I mount that lens." and "Does it have the three separate focus modes that the Nikon D300 had — the nine-point, 21-point and 51-point Dynamic AF Areas?” or close equivalents.

Those were my most important, off-the-top-of-my-head concerns, and those and everybody else's questions are quoted on the page to be answered via email. Right now (1:04 AM February 21) my questions are the only ones listed. I wonder if I was the first to ask? Or everybody else's were already answered. No telling. I am eager to learn all about it.

I later read that it builds upon the D300s's focus capabilities yada yada yada as my mind blurred with empty hype. At least my d7k batteries will work in it.

As usual, I'll wait several months till the Nikon Forum guys find whatever's obviously wrong with it, Nikon fixes those. Then they and the Thom Hogans, Luminous Landscapes, LensRental and other real photographers learn and tell about its deeper issues and the long-standing problems that still haven't been addressed. Then Nippon Camera Company fixes enough of those — and the price comes down.

I guess I'll get one, unless I go for one of the FX Nikons instead, but the D600 is still suffering from oil splattering on the sensor from the slapping mirror (which Nikon acknowledges but has not yet fixed) during the first 3,000 mirror slaps, and both it and the D800 have the same shot-to-shot speed as the D7000, which is nothing to write home about.

Imaging Resource has a very intelligent hands-on preview of the 7100 — without the usual hype.

I would still rather have a D400, and until I can get either a professional DX or FX Nikon, I'll stick with my half-decade-old D300.  

 

February 9 2013

Airstream Jetstream - Photograph Copyright 2013 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

"Airstream Jetstream" from my Amateur Birder's Journal — it doesn't look bad here and works fine in online's 72-82dpi low-res, but making as big a high-res print as I'd like — 20 x 30 and up, and many of its out of focus secrets would show, big time. Addlepated Nikon D7000 with 300mm lens

I was so often repeating myself in this journal, I quit adding to it, while I waited and looked and hoped for a camera to replace my D300. The D7000 is truly an amateur camera that I bought for just until Nikon gets around to replacing their D300, which I love. Turns out I cannot use my heavy (6.4 pounds) Nikon 300mm f2.8 lens — especially with Nikon's 2X extender (7 more ounces to a total of 7 pounds) with the 7000, because either just all that weight and length bends the Front Bayonet Mount when I do not very carefully always hold it by the lens. Now I get just barely out of focus images no matter which lens I use.

And because Nikon has been making several other new cameras — and selling lots of them — that have various fatal flaws, the Nikon repair facilities are struggling to keep up, and worse, keep sending supposedly repaired cameras back to their owners unifixed, so they come back again, destroying any notion that I could get My D7000 repaired anytime soon, so I could use it with other lenses.

Except, of course, I use my 300mm lens about 90% of the time, so I desperately need another camera. But all the cameras Nikon makes are deeply flawed. I know, I know, I am repeating myself again. So I'm stuck.

Lately, I've been using my week-old Panasonic Lumix G5 with my Panasonic 100-300mm zoom (focal lengths are doubled when recording on a micro fourthirds sensor, to achived the same angle of view as a 35mm lens), with remarkably good results. See my G5Journal for results and links to other results.

So I've been thinking about upgrading to a full-frame (Nikon calls the FX) camera. A D600 that didn't splatter oil on the sensor would be great. It's not awfully expensive. Nothing like the D800 that makes huge image files, turns things a little green, often does not focus on the left side and costs another thousand or so dollars than the D600.

All my Nikon pro lenses are FX, even though I have not been for about 30 years. I could still crop that 50% larger frame, so it could help alleviate my issues with sometimes not being able to back off far enough using the D300 with or without the 2X, and it would net me a lot more resolution — for those big prints I want to make.

My favorite local Nikon repair guy (Archinal Camera) could not afford to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Nikon repair machines and equipment recently, so he could not remain an official Nikon Repaor person, so he can no longer buy Nikon parts (That all happened late last year, part of Nikon's incredibly stupid everything else (Their profits and their stock value fell 19% last week.

I always take my Nikon problems to Archinal, and he diagnoses them and tells me how to deal with them. He said I need a professional camera to mount that big, heavy, professional 300mm lens. He's been right every time, but he won't take money for those sessions unless he actually does some repair work, so I keep hoping to help keep him going by having him fix one issue or the next or the next.

He says he'll replace my D7000's Front Bayonet Mount for $25, if I can find one on EBAY, which so far, neither he nor I have been able to do.

So I've been exploring other Nikons (I'd love to use Canon, except all my lenses are Nikons), since Nikon still has not updated their DX camera line. I keep hearing rumors that instead of a new D400, we're going to get an update for the D7000, which is an amateur camera etc. etc. that's simply not strong enough to hold 7 pounds of telephoto + eXtender. Meanwhile, my D300 just back from Nikon Repair's Auto Area AF mode flat does not work anymore. That's the mode I have almost always had the very best luck with shooting birds flying agains a otherwise empty sky with the D7k, D300 and D200 cameras.

It is possible that the D7000 and D300s replacement could have what I want. All there are about it so far are rumors. I'd rather think of it as the replacement for the D300s, which shoots fast and has focus modes I could change by just flipping a switch, which happens to be right where my right thumb usually is while I'm using a camera. But my D7000's implementation of that trick involves pushing a button on the front of the camera while turning a dial somewhere else with the same hand that's holding the camera, so it's always a balancing act. I like simple over a balancing act, any time. But I don't always get my choices.

So here I'm stuck with a fairly expensive 300mm lens and no camera to mount it on, except my aging D200, which I've tried and found barely adequate, but way behind for low noise — especially low noise at high ISO — and for more detail with a better than 2008 sensor. The reason I settled for the D7000 is that it could — or so I thought — handle my lenses, which always includes a longish telephoto.

Before I got the Nikon 300, I had a Stigmata 150-500mm, which didn't weigh as much, but neither did it render anywhere near as high image quality. The 300 2.8 is sharp sharp sharp and practically cries for a high definition sensor, but it's just going to have to wait.

 

September 28 2012

Great Egret Landing Near an American White Pelican - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

A Young Great Egret Lands Near an American White Pelican   Panasonic Lumix G2

I shot birds with my Panasonic G2 — while seriously thinking about buying a G5 — today, and was disappointed to relearn some of the reasons I usually do not attempt that particular brand of regression therapy. Tomorrow I'll take my D7000 and the 300mm lens instead of my little micro four-thirds camera and its slow f5.6 100-300mm lens that's supposedly the equivalent of a 200-600mm lens.

I missed being able to follow a bird flying as I shot image after image in quick succession. The G2 doesn't do quick succession — and the G5's quick succession is a lot slower than the d7k's (I don't shoot raw very often, because that would slow the 7000's usual [JPEG] succession down to a lifeless blur), and because it has a Electronic Viewfinder instead of an optical one, it blacked out a lot longer than the almost imperceptible D7000 mirror flip.

It was very difficult to follow a flying bird with the G2. I did accomplish it from time to time, but only by going up to an ISO high enough that anywhere but in the very low resolution place called the internet, would have looked like the bird was caught in a sandstorm of visual noise.

The light was fading fast, and the only telephoto lens I have (or is available) for that cam was way too slow. I usually use long zooms at their longest zoom, and that almost always was at least f5.6, meaning my shutter speed was usually limited to 1/125, if not a lot slower. Just to make it a fair fight, I'll use my f2.8 tele under similar low-to-no light tonight. It might be educational.

But I've done that in Sunset Bay fairly often, and I always come back with something interesting.

When light is more plentiful and shutter speeds substantially quicker and ISO lower, the G2 is either almost good enough for flying birds or actually good enough.

 

September 16 2012

Great Blue Heron Flying Left - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Blue Heron Flying Left After Quick Take-off
ISO 800   1/640th   EV +1.67   Aperture Priority

I used my Nikon D300 long enough to determine that it was not the problem. That it was, in fact, that Focus Lock switch on my 300mm lens. Everything seems okay since I turned that off. Today, while it was still raining, I shot this and several others in a quick sequence that are now on my Amateur Birders Journal page [link now]  September Birders Journal [link later] using my D7000, which seemed perfect for the occasion, especially since it was right there with my 300mm lens and a 2X telextender, nearly perfect for these shots.

I'm not sure exactly which of the silly bunch of focus modes it was set for, probably the 20# cannonball, but I did keep the focus point on the bird as much as possible refocusing with the shutter button as as the heron quickly flew away from my prying eyes and camera. I try to remember to set the D7k set for 3D focusing, but I really don't know if it was just then.

I still prefer shooting my D300 for BiF (birds in flight) shots, but it is comparatively lousy for high ISO settings, which for that cam, ISO 800 qualifies as. I'm sure if I doctored the image more in PP, I could get its face and especially those eyes lighter and sharper. But for quick, no preparation shots while I kept it on my car's window sill, not bad at all.
 

September 14 2012

Feather Focus Test - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Feather Focus Test

I've been having troubles with focus. My camera, not my eyes. Well, more like my favorite lens. Though it could be one of my cameras. Not sure yet. Every time I think I have it figured out, it is revealed that I haven't. So I've been running focus tests.

I shot 410 images Sunday morning at the Fort Worth Solid Wastes (That's just exactly what is sounds like.) Drying Beds attempting to photograph birds. But 409 of them were out of focus. Soft. A little mushy. I could probably identify the species, but they aren't critically focused enough to even use in online's very low resolution. I knew something was wrong but could not figure out what exactly. I changed various settings, took the doubler off and put it back on, but the focus just wasn't there.

There, in the field, at the end of our shoot, as it was getting too hot, I flipped a switch on the lens that turns on the focus lock. I don't ever use that feature, because I don't know how, even if I've read the instructions several times. Plus I don't know why I would ever want to use it.

I tried to think that issue through. Tested it most of that next day. At home, where I shot this, because it's handily inside my home, lit by the sun outside and it doesn't move. Used a tripod, so I couldn't shake it like I think I might have at the beds. See that incredible feather detail — especially the most brightly-illuminated part? That's sharp focus.

I took pix with other lenses and other cameras, and kept changing combinations.

I know this is a D7,000 page, but I've been using that and my D300 almost interchangeably since the D7k came back from Nikon Repair — right after my D300 also came back from Melville, New York (recommended by Nikon repair persons in the know over their Los Angeles shop). Sometimes I had issues, sometimes not, but figuring which did what was complex. I started a test page — writing down which combination lens and camera netted either focus or not focus.

Then after about forty minutes of concentrated spelunking in that bit of darkness, I suddenly (We always say "suddenly," even if it took all day to get to where suddenly started.) I discovered at least one of the major issues wrong with my optical focus issue.

After swimming at the Y, I drove me, my camera, iffy lens, lens gizmo and tripod to the lake and photographed some birds, checking for focus nearly every time. It seemed to be working, except when the camera just would not or could not, which happens a lot in real life anyway. The vast majority of those shots were in sharp focus. Like normal.

I drove toward home. Passing the lower spillway, I noticed a Great Blue Heron I thought would be fun to photograph on the Lower Spillway Steps under the Walking Bridge there. I wrangled the camera plus lens around a bit, then finally got it so I could carry it right with my little blue folding stool in my left hand, walked over to the Walking Bridge, and I could not get the camera to take a picture.

It seemed to open the shutter but not take the picture. I knew something was wrong but not what. I turned the camera off, changed easy settings, tried again. Same thing.

When I twisted one particular glorified little camera dial back to where I knew what was going on again, I thought I had figured it out.

It was the Live View I treasure so much in my little G2 camera. There it's a way of life. On the Nikon it is a mistake I've only ever used twice, and I didn't like it either of those times, so I didn't recognize its effect, which was to sound like it opened the shutter (actually did) without taking a picture. I thought it was somehow broken. But just my misunderstanding of it was.

That had baffled me most of the afternoon while I skittered from task to task not being bored. At first I thought I'd twigged it all out, but I only solved one of several issues. A physical one. The metaphysical ones were still weaving their weary way through my mind and deeper.

When I figured out that implausible adjustment hadn't stopped me from getting more than a hundred bird photos today that were mostly — I never get them all — sharp and in focus, I think I solved most of my problems, and now that I've thought through that tiny tick of a physical issue I may have finally fixed, I may have scrutinized the issue enough to find a path to track down the rest, too.

I still have check what else might be wrong. Attach one camera and lens and lens gizmo to my tripod, aim it at something that won't move (like the feather, jars and shadows above and the pieces of broken tail lights below, and others I've got saved up for further entries down this page) and go click. Write down that combination and what happens, then try another combo.

If they all work, I'll be back in camera+lens business, and maybe even have a mind that does that, too.

top

 

September 9 2012

180mm f2.8 resolution.

Nikon 180mm f2.8 lens resolution as tested by Photozone

Lately, I've been thinking about other telephoto lenses. Then I realized I have what some people call one of the best Nikon lenses ever made, the 180mm f2.8, so I looked it up on photozone.de to see what it could see, and it sees very well indeed. I should note that I bought the 180 f2.8 when it first came out, sometime in the last century, so mine is not the updated version they used in their test. That one focuses adequately fast. Mine is notoriously slower— I'd rate it quicker than using the 300mm f2.8 with a 2X extender, which I also do fairly often, and I have used it to photograph small, flying birds, but it's a booger, because there's so much waiting involved.

So I'm considering using it for awhile, especially in the mornings (if I'm still up) or evenings or other times when the light is likely to be low. With the DX Nikons I have, that would be the supposed equivalent of a 270mm lens.

I'll post a result or two when I try that. But first, I'll show you Photozone's resolution results on top of this journal entry. I should note that, even for a prime lens (one that does not zoom), this is very very good. They have not tested the Nikon 300mm f2.8, perhaps because it is so expensive, but it, too, is amazing sharp, especially used with the 1.4X or no extender.
 

Resolution for Panasonic 100-300mm lens

Panasonic 100-300mm zoom lens resolution at 200mm as tested by Photozone

Just for comparison, here's the 200mm (close as I could get to 180mm) results for the Panasonic 100-300mm (equivalent of 200-600mm) lens I've been using for birds this last week or so. Of course, zoom lenses always render lower resolution, but it's just a comparison. I'd guess the Pany focuses about as fast as the Nikon lens.
 

September 6 2012

Red & Yellow Flowers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Red & Yellow Flowers for Another Project   Nikon D7000

I got my D7000 back from Nikon repair today. Packed competently, but of course, no warning it was coming or that it was fixed or any of that communicative stuff. They're really not very good at dialogue, but they are busy. I've learned to always include a copy of my original purchase invoice with the camera's serial number — to show I have a USA warranty — and to send a check soon as they ask for it or before, even if I have to overpay (they sent back change). I fill out all their online forms.

I have attempted to contact their phone line, but their people are either rude or stupid, hard to tell which. When I checked its progress online a couple days ago, they indicated it was still in the shop, even though by then it was more likely going through their exit bureaucracy.

When they first notified me they had received the camera, they said it was a D5100, but at least they had the serial number correct. Seemed like that should have told them the right camera, but …

They only charged $142.76 to fix what was broken [below]. Now I'm wondering what to do with the repaired camera. My slightly less recently repaired Nikon D300 that Nikon replaced the shutter mechanism, all the rubber around the body that was sagging and distorting, several of the doors and buttons, etc. and a bunch of other things, is like a new camera. A much better camera than the d7k.

Nikon Repair usually takes about three months to turn a camera around, and that's what this one took. I'm happy enough about it, especially the price. I am especially pleased the lens tore important parts off the camera, not the other way around.

The d7k is essentially an amateur camera. The D300 less so. The big differences are the focus modes, shots per second and higher ISO image quality:

I can change the d300's focus modes while I'm still shooting, because I know where the switch is, and where it points. I have to hold the d7k down to push the silly two-handed button and dial sequence needed to change focus modes and watch the grayscale LCD on top of the camera to indicate what's changing. I haven't figured out how to do that while following a bird still flying.

I can set the D300 to focus on a precise point or just whatever the focus area encounters out there first, which is perfect for birds in the air above intervening trees. The 300 has one more focus mode, but I've never figured out what it does, so I don't use it unless neither of the other two modes work.

The d300 shoots and shoots and shoots, but the d7k stops after 12 shots, then shoots sporadically. For photographing birds in flight, that's a nuisance. Both cameras continue to adjust focus with moving objects. I have to stop my Panasonic Lumix G2 from firing, let it re-focus, then continue rapid firing each time the bird changes distance, which is often unless it's hovering.

Newer sensors give better image quality, especially at high ISOs and in low light. Nikon often puts its latest tech on even its amateur cameras, so the D7000's high ISO images are substantially better and noise is lower than on the D300. If subjects won't move and the light might be low, the D7000 is better than the D300 (except as noted above), although my micro four-thirds Panasonic G2 with a sensor that's 2/3 the size of either of the Nikons is even better in low light.

If there's plenty of light, the D300 is great. So I think I may have one amateur camera too many. Odd man out is the D7000, which I'll probably keep for backup, which is essentially why I bought it.
 

August 3 2012

Oldest & Youngest Persons Present - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Oldest & Youngest at the Reunion: My father, who is 98, and Laila Kate Reinfelds,
eight-months-old child. The page of my best shots of this reunion, which is somewhat
similar to my older page of photos of a much-earlier Clare Reunion, is now complete,
but almost all of its images were shot using my Panasonic Lumix G-2 camera.

Not surprisingly, my D7k repairs will not be "done under warranty," since I dropped it. But to get the $1,100-something camera back to factory specs by allowing it to hold lenses again, will only cost $176.32 plus tax, which is eminently worth it, even if the renta D7000 turned out to be less than worthwhile — nice enough camera, and very familiar; I just didn't really need it.

Turned out I used my Panasonic Lumix G2 for most of the people shots, and my Nikon D300 for the majority of birding. When one cam wouldn't focus quick enough, I switched to the other.

Not that the G2 always focused quick enough or at all, just that it being so small, and the always-important fact that it almost always shows me the color balance and very close to the exact exposure immediately, before I even shoot it, and that wide-angle-ish 40mm's f1.7 lens was an amazing combination is stellar.

Of course, I'm getting my D7000 fixed. And I'll be studying up on the still-rumored D400, which might finally get announced in September. And the Panasonic G5, which has been announced but not yet delivered to these shores. I'll watch both cam's progress, flaws, fixes, issues and repairs, then when all that dies down, and the camera is pronounced wonderful by my trusted camera reviewers, and the price goes down a little, I'll buy one.

I'm more sure I'll buy a G5 than that new Nikon. Faster and surer focusing, as promised in the new model, is a biggie, but I used the heck out of that little camera over our Reunion Tour, and those improvements, if true, will be major for this candid people photographer.

I did not plan for the hands that have entered the image frame in this shot. They just showed up, and I lover their presence
 

July 15 2012

Extra Sharp GBH In Flight - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Extra-sharp Great Blue Heron in Flight — shot with Nikon D300 using its
unique "whatever's first out there" focus mode that the d7k doesn't have
 

I got a renta D7000 while mine's in the shop, and I'd been shooting my old D300 for several weeks and had reaccessed much of what I used to know about that camera. Each time I switch for awhile, and gradually relearn what I should already know — but switching cameras throws me off, I favor the camera I've been using over the other one. Then when I start in with the other, other one, I begin unlearning the first other, and learning the one I'm using.

Maybe in all this is the fact that, either one is fine, because a lot of research goes into most of my camera-buying events. It may always be that the tool I'm using most is the tool I use best.

I know I had set my D7000 to focus fast and accurately, but yesterday out shooting birds with both cameras — very confusing an undertaking — I could not get the rentacam to focus that way I'd got mine to. Some forgotten setting, I assumed, without quite remembering which one. Then I read the manual the renta company sent with the cam. What a brilliant move — sending it. Reading it should be a no-brainer, but when I'm without mine sometimes, it becomes difficult. If I only had a brain.

So I read it, and right there in the chapter on focus, the secret revealed itself. Push the little black button oh-so-carefully located so nobody could do this rigmarole while aiming the camera at something worth shooting (like the D300 can be) AND knurl the knob on the top right front of the camera, and I get the focus area I want, from pinpoint to wide area, but that is only revealed on the little LCD on top of the camera. Again to prevent us from changing the settings while actually engaged in photographing something.

Oh, that's how I did it. Good thing to know. Will sure help all my subsequent shots. On my older D300 it's a switch on the back of the camera, where I can thumb it as I'm following a subject. A LOT easier, quicker and more practical. But that cam cost more. It was a semi-pro, and the D7000 is for advanced amateurs.

A lot of recent technology has been rolled into the d7k, but not that one.

I'm beginning to understand that a matched set of cameras — both the same model — would be much more professional. Except that I far prefer to use one camera and one lens for most shoots. The bazooka for birds; the 17-55 f2.8 for people; I long for a 35-42mm equivalent lens like the 20mm (40mm equivalent) for my m43 Lumix G2 that I use often and oftener, and if the G2 focused faster, I'd use all the time.
 

July 3 2012

 Little Blue Herons About to Mate - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Little Blue Herons Ready to Mate   San Antonio, Texas   April 2012   D7000 w 2x 300mm
I usually can't tell males from females, but here, the male is on top.
 

I miss my D7000. I miss its gorgeous, higher-res and sharper images, (I usually set my sharpening in Post-Production Photoshop to 41 or more with D300 files. With the d7k it was rarely more than 25, often less.), contrastier and more intense colors, much quieter (less visual noise) high ISO images, easier to use and a 20% lighter body.

I got a project coming up that would benefit from a camera that makes sharper images (as if there were projects that would not.) I have been considering renting a D7000, and the best place to do that (LensRentals.com) wants just under $300 for 21 days including insurance. Not bad. I'm tempted. A new one is about four times that.

But I have my elderly Nikon D200 that's really clunky to interface with, and my recently completely reupholstered (refurbished by Nikon Repair, who actually installed a new outer layer on the whole camera, making its rubberized skin much tighter — the torque of my single-handed-holding that heavy camera seriously sagged its original skin.) that also got a new shutter and a bunch of other new internal parts.

I used to think the D300 was wonderful, but the D7k puts it to some shame, especially in the high-ISO image quality department, even if the 300 keeps shooting long after the d7k's buffer fills up and refuses to fire again till it flushes, which takes many long seconds while birds or people are doing fast and fascinating things that need photographing.

What to do? Use my already-paid-for old cams or the renta D7000? I finally stopped daydreaming about renting and rented, which means I'll have to stock up on both types of memory card — Compact Flash (CF) for the D300 and SDs for the D7000 — to keep them both fat, happy and ready for anything.

I prefer SD over CF. I'm not sure why. Until recently CFs were faster, but I've read that faster cards are just faster unloading (camera or card to computer), not shooting, because that is supposedly controlled by the camera's buffer and brain. The D7k holds two SDs, and the D300 one CF. It'd be simpler if everything was interchangeable, but I'd rather lead with the 7000 and use the 300 for action, including birds flying fast, and general back-up.

The Nikon D7000 manual's "Approved Memory Cards" page lists only SanDisk and Toshiba in capacities up to 32gb in SDHC and only 64gb in SDXC format and recommends Class 6 or faster for video. I wondered about getting 128gb cards but will settle for two 64s. The camera supports UHS-I. Good thing I stumbled on this info before I bought cards.

So I thought. After reading too much about these cards, I figure I'll be lucky if they work. What's printed on their labels means nothing. Cost is no guide. Buy it from somebody who'll take it back, is the best advice I can offer. Turns out, I'm already using cards not on Nikon's approved card list, and they work well enough. I don't test cards, because I notice they get radically different numbers. On Amazon, the same reviews appear on completely different products, so those can't be real, either. I say, pick a price, hope what's printed on that card has some relation to reality, and try it.

I had plenty experience with the d7k until about a week ago, but I'm being careful to use my D300 daily and reading the manual and instructions, guides, reviews and all the other D-300-specific clutter I've collected. One of the 300's more important features is being able to switch focus modes among, auto (the camera decides what to focus on. Some writers insist it's always right. I've noticed that it is not.), precise (focus point moves in the frame) and Whatever Is Closest (great for birds flying).

It's a bit of adventure using a camera I've had since October 2008 and remember fondly — even if it's never quite as amazing as I thought I remembered, but I'm not sure how well that balances having clearly improved images in less-than-perfect light. Different, not necessarily better or worse.

I briefly considered buying a new d7k, except then I'd have two, when my broken one is fixed. What I really want and have been saving up for is the still-rumored D400 (which will have to go through four to eight months of trial and tribulation, with all the pixel-peeping forum posters and early adopters finding things wrong that will need factory fixing before it's right enough for me. Thank goodness for early adopters; they pay more, too, so they support all the new features I want.

I bet the 400 will have a more-than-adequate buffer, and focus between rapid-fire shots, as well as the improvements that have already accrued to the d7k, and some new ones. Luckily, my Nikon lenses will all work on any of the bodies I am considering.  

 

June 19 2012

Mild CU of d7k lens mount after accident - coPhotograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Close-up of D7000 Lens Mount After Being Violently
Separated from My 300mm Lens. Luckily, the lens won.
 

When my cat knocked my Nikon D7000 attached to my 300mm f2.8 Nikkor lens off my desk, I quietly accepted the facts as I didn't quite know them yet. But when I learned from my Nikon repair guy — who has yet to repair any of my Nikons, but he's always given great advice — that only the camera was damaged, I was greatly relieved.

Once he delicately removed the ring shown from both sides [below] he tried the lens outside the front door of his Richardson shop, and it worked fine, focus and everything. I'd already determined there were no rattles, like broken glass rattling around in there, and when I looked through the lens, I could only tell that it needed cleaning, so I did that. It took Archinal Camera Repair's Robert Ferraro to point out that the circular chunk of chrome metal that had got itself attached to the lens, belonged to the camera.

OUT and IN side of the d7k Camera Mount - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

OUT and IN- Sides of the same D7000 Lens Mount
 

Since the lens cost several times more than the d7k, I didn't mind sending the cam off to Melville, New York to be repaired instead of my big glass. When I sent my D300 there — after being advised to do so by Archinal Camera Repair — all its errant parts were completely replaced. I got new skin that had begun to creep every time I held it, of course the new shutter that had altogether quit shuttering, and lots of little parts I don't exactly remember. But it looked better and, perhaps more importantly, it felt better. It worked.

I've never been as pleased with the d7k as I was with the D300. That was especially noticeable during what I thought might have been the last time (yesterday) I used the D7000 — to photograph a Snowy Egret chasing a Tricolored Heron around the Lower Steps of the White Rock Lake Spillway. Those photos are on my Amateur Birder's Journal (link).

Quick-walk Down the Beach - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Quick-walk Down the Beach — Fluffed-up Snowy Egret chases Tricolored Heron
 

Not bad as action pictures of fast-moving birds go, but if the camera would have fired more often with less time waiting and watching very interesting action between shots, I could have captured more interesting photographs. But the D7000 does not fire fast, for very long or as consistently as the D300 did. There was a lot more going on than I could keep up with the slow D7000, which is one of the reasons I call it an "amateur" camera.

The main drawback to having a large buffer cache, so more shots can collect into it before they're flushed to the storage card, is that the photographer has more images to go through to pick the magic-moment shots. An issue maybe, but I'd rather have more to go through, thus more to have to throw away, than not having enough to capture the really WOW moments. In that shoot, I missed a lot of wow images when the camera would not fire, because it was still busy flushing shots I'd already fired through its tiny cache.

That's why the D7000 — and the new, much sought-after, full-frame D800, which has the same cache and shutter mechanism (8+ frames per second) — just aren't good enough for fast-moving sports or birds. And why I'm still waiting for the Nikon D400, which will probably have a bigger buffer. Meanwhile, in his D7000 review, Thom Hogan says, "I think you have to pick the D300s if your camera handling is going to be abusive and rough, the D7000 if you value image quality and performance (other than frame rate and buffer size) over ruggedness."

I think I've proved the D7000 is not as rugged as some lenses. Now I get to find out if the D300 is as good as I think I remember it being. Last time I tried that, I was disappointed and went back to d7k. Guess I'll have to reread Thom and Ken on D300 (no s) settings.
 

June 1 2012

Male Baltimore Oriole Eying the Photographers - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Male Baltimore Oriole Eyeing the Photographers
 

I experienced an intriguing but noticeably different photo shoot yesterday. A friend emailed saying they knew of a Baltimore Oriole nest that was easily photographed on the edge of the lake somewhere (We don't divulge nest sites.), and was I interested to join in photographing it. Yes, of course, I was there in a half hour and we watched the oriole pair take turns feeding their two or three remaining young.

Great visual treat, and of course, I brought my Nikon D7000 with the Bazooka — Nikon 300mm lens with 2x telextender = 600mm handful of lens. My friend used a tripod and gimbal, I hand-held as usual, although a tripod sure would have been nice, although I may have had more freedom since each new parental visit was a new experience. Rest camera down, see a yellow bird, drag it up and hope for focus and keep shooting.

The rest of the story: Link now. Link after June 2012..
 

May 23 2012

One Sharp Killdeer - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

One Sharp Killdeer
 

I've been needing to write about my new lens. It is considerably sharper a lens than the one that it replaces. Very sharp lens. Very heavy lens. But a fairly fast-focusing lens on its own. Add a 2X telextender, which I often do, though, and it is a very slow-focusing lens. After using it for awhile, I understand more about the differences between a 300mm lens with a 2X telextender and a 600mm lens.

Doubling a lenses' focal length from 300 to 600 with this particular lens and this particular telextender does not terribly affect the sharpness of the lens. But it does terribly affect the speed of focus. Without the doubler, it's very fast to focus. With it, it's very slow. And heavy. Even heavier than without the doubler, but only by about seven ounces (I think.)

I thought that getting the 300mm lens and a doubler would be the best of all possible worlds. But it is what it is. A compromise. Still very sharp. But sometimes it will not only not focus fast, it will not focus. Too many times I've tilted this whole mass of metal and glass back to try to photograph a bird flying over, and I never did make those photographs, because the camera and lens never did focus on the bird or birds. Very disappointing.

But entirely my fault for not figuring all that out before I bought the whole kaboodle.

It's still possible that I will learn how to focus the 300 with the 2X extender (doubler) on, but not quickly. The main difference between an actual 600mm lens and this doubled 300mm lens is weight I thought I could not manage. I can barely manage holding the 300 with 2X now sometimes. It's more fun to use when it focuses as fast as the lens itself can focus, and a big drag when it never does focus, but I don't think I could quite manage holding (or carrying) a considerably heavier lens that would probably focus a lot faster — and be as much as twice as expensive (or more).

The 300mm f2.8 Nikkor telephoto lens is not cheap. But it's incredibly sharp, even when doubled. So most of the time, I just make do. And when I cannot, I call it more practice.
 

March 15 2012

Forster's Tern - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forster's Tern Heading Down
 

The 300 f2.8 is much faster and more likely to focus a wobbling, fast direction-changing bird without a telextender, I just have to wait for the birds to come closer or be willing to enlarge the image more. I attempted capturing their flying antics at 600mm on my D300, but no matter how I set the focus, I only rarely captured anything remotely reminding me of an image in focus. But at 300, oof, wow. It worked the vast majority of clicks, although I still did not capture it falling flailing through space sharp.

Forster's Tern in flight- Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forster's Tern with Small Fish
 

I followed two Forster's Terns back and forth, up and down and all around Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake, wholly enclosed inside the City Limits of Dallas, Texas, to get these, with whole great parts of the bird rendered sharp, even that little fish it's carrying, though I couldn't even see the fish as I followed it around. Perfect would have been to see its eye lost in that black patch, but near-enough was pretty darned good.

Dive, Dive, Dive - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dive, Dive, Dive
 

Shooting a Nikon D300, focusing the fast-flying Forster's almost never worked, but with my much-newer D700, it was far better. The dark diagonal is a telephone pole.

 

March 4

Great Egret Fly-by - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret Flyby
 

I felt guilty about it, but I brought my D7000 today instead of my D300, which I've been using extensively for the last couple weeks. Before adopting that older camera as my standard camera to photograph birds and whatever else turned up, I had what now appears to be the mistaken notion that the D300 focused faster and better, in addition to being a better focusing camera. The lens portion of the program is the same I've been practicing on for the last month — a Nikon 300mm f2.8 with a 2X telextender, making a nominal 600mm lens projecting on an APS-C sensor.

 Intervening Branches - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Intervening Branches
 

But using the D7000 today was a treat. Not a single time after I set the focus pattern to the bigger, filled-pixel, solid circle, did I experience trouble focusing. The lens snapped into focus and rarely even wandered from it, except when branches intervened. I had set the C-for-continuous focus for Release Priority, despite contrary recommendations from supposed experts. Meaning even if it didn't focus, I could still shoot, which I have found to be far more reliable than insisting the poor camera only fire when it decided it was absolutely in focus.

Great Egret Wingspan - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Great Egret Wingspan
 

The big difference between the two settings is that Focus Priority means the camera hunts focus far more often than if I set it for Release Priority, even though that whole gambit is anti-logical and somewhat absurd. I'll keep at the camera and mode comparisons, but I am far happier now that I got my d7k instead of messing with my recently repaired d300, although I am still certain that getting the d300 fixed for only about $250 was a bargain.

 

February 27

Eventually I got it right - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Forester's Tern — Eventually, I got it right.
 

My mediate — not final yet — conclusion is the D7000 is essentially an amateur camera with great sensor firmware inherited from other cameras, but still not as good focusing as their more expensive boxes. (I should probably note that the D300 is also an amateur camera that shoots faster and more shots in quicker succession but its sensor renders considerably less noisy images at anything higher than iso300.) Not that I haven't always enjoyed Nikon's cheaper big cameras. I never cottoned to the F series, either. Too big and complicated. I loved my FE and FM bodies. Add a good lens or two, and unless you have to or want to photograph fast-moving objects, you're set.

I developed this proclivity as a staff photographer for the Dallas Times Herald, back when Dallas actually had two daily newspapers. I didn't care for sports, so I didn't need a speedster, and I rarely photographed using much of a telephoto. Just after that stint, I photographed a whole year with only a 35mm f1.4 lens, and sometimes I miss the simplicity. The 35 might suffice for my art photography (although I have better lenses for that now), but for birds, I've found great value in telephotos. Longer is better.

I'm still waiting for Nikon's eventually upcoming D400, and though I got upset at my D300 for eating through a freshly-charged battery just because I left the fool thing turned on (I'd got used to the d7k. It doesn't care whether it's on or off.) I'm going to try the D300 again for little while — and either carry a spare battery or pay attention.

My usual — and admittedly — in some ways slightly wasteful, and other ways very helpful — method for photographing incoming pelicans or anything else moving fast, was to get the bird in the frame then start shooting, usually within a couple shots, it starts focusing. Which reminds me I should take the 7k off focus priority in AF-C (continuous) mode but leave it parked on focus for single shots.

That way I can shoot something erratic like that tern I kept attempting to photograph today when my 7k was still set to focus priority on. Gulls ride the air in a continuous, only slightly undulating swoop, so they are easier to follow and focus. The tern was all over the place, up and down. He'd stall, falling quickly — stooping — just when I'd finally get it in frame. Then it was gone again. I actually saw the camera focus it twice, but by the time I pushed the button, it was out of already.

Maybe, if I could follow the frame along with it, holding the button down, it would eventually catch up with the flip-flopping bird. It's worth trying, and that's how I've got it set now, but first I'll play with the D300 for a couple outings.

The D300's may focus faster and let me focus on whatever's out there closest, while the d7k just attempts to focus on something, but the firmware in the d7k is spectacularly better at rendering high ISO than the D300 ever was. So switching back and forth, I lose some and I win some.
 

February 9

Pelican Landing with Cormorants - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Landing, with Cormorants
 

Leave the d7k turned on and nothing much happens. No big deal. The effect on the battery is the same as if you had turned off the camera. But leave the D300 on, even if it's not doing anything but sitting there, and the battery goes on vacation. It's easily enough recharged, but I bet it takes longer than the d7k's. It's a difference worth paying attention to. I thought I was going to photograph more birds this afternoon. No such luck. The viewfinder was gray, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. Letdown, but at least I know about it and might remember next time.

When the battery still had plenty of juice I spent about a half hour playing focus games. I wanted the D300 to be better at it than the d7k, but I'm not convinced. Each time a new pelican materialized in the outer bay, flying toward shore, the D300 could not — or would not — focus till it filled at least 20% of the frame. I tried all three focus configurations. I'll have to re-research them in Ken Rockwell's D300 Users' Guide before I learn which mode is which again.

I might thumb-switch the focus mode lever from center to follow focus while the pelican — my usual practice target — is flying in low and outside. I remember trying that when I first figured out the focus modes for the D300 many moons ago, but I don't remember being very successful at it. The closer the subject is and the less confusing the background, the more likely focus is. Mostly just like the d7k.

As deep is the deja vu all over again feeling, I may actually be making progress. Maybe one more day in a row with the d300, then I'll try the d7k again. Maybe by then I'll have a greater appreciation of the newer camera, even if getting the D300 back only cost me $224, and the d7k was more like $1,200.

February 8

Invisible Hawk - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

No Camera or Lens Would Have Got This on Auto Focus
— Even Manual Focus Would Be Very Challenging
 

So my Nikon D300 finally got back from the Nikon shop in Melville, New York — recommended by a Nikon repair person who said they'd do a better job than their Los Anglees location, or get it back quicker, or something. I dallied sending it back, but the recommender said it would take three months, and when I finally sent it to Melville, it did take almost exactly that long. But they didn't just replace the shutter mechanism the repair person told me about. In fact, they did a great long list of fixes:

The shutter mechanism had started wrecking every twentieth exposure, then gradually ruined down to every fifth or sixth shot, then every one. And that's when I finally sent it and a check for $300, which they either ignored or destroyed, and they requested I fill out an online form charging me much less, $224. They also replaced the aperture operation (probably associated with the shutter), base plate, bayonet mount, rubber grip (it had long become loose), rewind side rubber (no idea what that means), CF cardholder rubber, cleaned the CCD, did a general check & clean. All for $224.

What I got back yesterday was enough like having a new D300 that, at first, I thought perhaps I should not have bought the D7000. After some practice, however, I can see and feel a great many smaller differences, and I'm less sure about that. I have, for example, become a great fan of Auto ISO.

One-third Width of Full Frame - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

About One-third of the Width of a Full Frame — and Still Plenty Sharp
 

Then I took it out today to see how it ran. It focused on everything but a hawk hiding behind a bramble of branches, usually very quickly, and showed me where it decided to focus with series of brightly colored boxes. I hadn't known to miss that, but I did. Only just now, as I write this, did I realize the one way I might have focused the hawk would have been if I'd switched the focus to manual and dialed it in. Of course the hawk didn't perch there that long.

At first, the only issue I missed from the D7k, was auto ISO, but gradually I noticed and remembered that the older D300 still does not render higher ISOs as cleanly at the D7k. And when the hawk that hid behind the branches flew from tree to tree, it did not focus quickly on its fleeting form. I probably won't get to try that on the d7k, but I doubt one focuses a lot quicker than the other, and I'm not really willing to test the comparison.

I was very pleased with the D300, however, and soon, my fingers had remembered many of the techniques my mind had all but forgot. I should probably weigh them both to see which is lighter. I suspect the d7k is, but the d300 felt very light in my hand when I hefted it. It's like having an old friend come back into my life.

February 6

Frightened Pigeons - Photograph Copyright 2012 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Frightened Pigeons
 

I am using the D7000 more than ever. Right now it's attached to my 300mm f2.8 tele lens, and just yesterday I hefted the clunk and the camera around downtown for about three hours, discovering fatal flaw after fatal flaw in this silly camera. Because the lens is so difficult to handle (weight + ungainly balance + no-easy-way-to-hold-it or pick it up), it's now even easier than before to accidentally bump controls, thus changing, say, the top left, mode dial, which I did at least a half-dozen times that cold afternoon. It likes to settle on M for Manual, baffling me with shots at the last exposure setting I set. That day, those were all waaaay overexposed.

It also often reset the aperture I'd set repeatedly. I have three manuals for this fool thing, and I keep thinking I might have learned all its spastic tendencies, but I don't think I'll ever catch up.

I may finally have got used to bumping that dial, so I check it more often. But normal handling should not so easily change the controls. Even Nikon's semi-pro cams don't do that.

My Panasonic Lumix G2 is as easy to bump and mess up the dials, too, but it was a whole lot cheaper than the D7000 behemoth. It's also way lighter and easier to adjust, not to even mention that I don't have to guess at exposure as often. If that little camera focused and shot as fast as my D7000, I would never have needed the 7000, even if the G2's sensor is only 2/3 the size of the D7000's.

But I still miss my Nikon D300, which is still in the Nikon shop. It'd been there a couple months already when they finally billed me for it, even though I'd sent them a check with the camera, early in the last quarter of last year. They charged me for it around Christmas, and I am still waiting. The local Nikon repair guy (not Garland) said it would take about three months.

It would — and it (and the D200) was the only camera I've ever known that would — allow me to set it to focus on the first thing in its line of sight. Take these scared pigeons. The D300 would focus on the closest bird, not the huge building behind them, like this D7000 shot did. Usually it does better. But it's not dependable. With the D7k, I had to wait for the pigeons to fly out to a place where there was no building immediately behind them, so I could focus on those tiny specks of birds.

I have a D200 that, like the D300's controls, don't easily bump, but the D300 was so much easier to use, I tend to avoid using my D200, even though it far outlasted the D300 that I bought at least two years later. I probably should have settled on my D200 and not bought the much-more-amateur D7k and instead waited for the D400, for which I am still waiting. Not sure what I'll do with the D7k then.

Meanwhile, I absolutely adore my 300mm, even if it weighs as much as a small elephant.
 

December 8

Cormorants & Pelicans - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Cormorants and Pelicans Racing for Fish
 

I'm getting better. Using the little, difficult-to-get-at or push, button on the Auto/Manual Focus switch near the bottom of the lens now allows me to choose how much of the image I want to focus on. The smallest, dot target for birds like these swimming somewhat far away. Switching to the wide swath across the middle of the viewfinder when they're closer. Not something I can easily alter while I'm shooting — nor is there any feedback in the visible image that is bounced through the lens, off the mirror and through the pentaprism. I have to look at the info window on top of the camera.

I also have to look there to see the aperture actually change when I am in A for Aperture-priority mode, which I understand is not actually an aperture-priority mode. It's also where the Exposure Compensation works, and I can only see that in the top-of-the-camera window. It does not show in the viewing window — well, actually, it does show, but it is always wrong. Contradictions like that still pile up and baffle the living dickens out of me sometimes when I am trying to use this camera instead of think about it. But there's been noticeable progress in some important areas.

Selecting the precise area of focus in this image made it possible to focus on the birds, not the background — and to have that choice. Both were far away from my perch almost in the cold water on the rocky edge of White Rock Lake not more than a couple miles from my house. I've come a long way in using this camera, but still every time I go out with it, I miss my Lumix G2's Electronic Viewfinder.

My focus has improved, but my exposure, which I can always see directly on the G2, is elusive. Visible only in the LCD. And to look at it, I have to stop what I'm doing. I wonder whether Nikon will ever incorporate an EVF in one of its professional cameras.

Not that the D7000 is one of those. I still expect to buy a couple steps up, to the Nikon D400, when they finally catch up with their production next April (projected) after the factory floods in Thailand and the Tsunami and nuclear fallout in Japan. Otherwise, the D400 might have been rumored early enough that I would have got it instead of this.

Trouble is, now when I go out with my G2, I miss the d7k.

I loved my D200 and I cherished my D300, which was a significant improvement over my D200, as well as the D7000. Then my D300's shutter disintegrated way before its time, and I moved over to the m43 (pronounced micro four-thirds) format Lumix G2, with a sensor about two-thirds the size of my DX Nikons. And sometimes I dream of having a full-frame FX sensor again.

I've heard that soon we'll be able to view electronically what our camera's sensors see, with a standalone device or one mounted inside my glasses. I can't wait. I didn't wait, but now I have to. Switching back and forth between the D7k and the G2 is very confusing. At first the G2 was what my fingers knew how to do, without being interfered with by my brain. Then, gradually, my new Nikon took over. Now I have to try to rethink it, every time I use the G2, and the D7k is beginning to feel ordinary, understood, quick. Except where it still baffles me.

Odd transition.

I even sometimes use Live View on the Nikon, although I always used it on the Panasonic.

November 18

Adult Nonbreeding Ringbilled Gull - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Goofy © notice, but first RAW shots in a while
 

Oh, it's a Ring-billed Gull looking almost saintly. Shot at ISO 1600 or more, but shot RAW in the latest version of Photoplop I loaded couple months ago, then avoided like the plague, because I didn't think I knew how to run it. Still don't know a lot. Used to say I only ever bought every other version of those things, then I went two full versions before tuning back in.

Female Northern Shoveler - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

The amazing and beautiful Female Northern Shoveler

Anyway, so I loaded the CS5 version of Photoshop, avoided it till this camera came along, then today, I shot RAW (and JPEG, just in case. Don't need to do that again, thank goodness, dealing with both versions is way too confusing. Tried that yesterday. What a mess.) and processed just the RAW, and it looks just so good to me.

Thick-lipped Tree - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Thick-lipped Tree with just the right colors and tones

Tones are right again, colors not so much today, because the light was mostly dark, and I was shooting at least 1600 ISO, but running the really good images through dFine filter to kill the really big bumps of noise, which I've always done, just this camera is gentler about showing high ISO noise than anything else I've ever shot.

Wood/Metal Man - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Tin Wood Man standing in a yard

Feel like I'm just getting into something really good for my photography here. Really pisses me off when I can't do what I want with a camera. Has been very frustrating the last week or so. I know the d7k will do stuff, but I just didn't know how to make the camera do what I wanted it to do.

Squirrel - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Blue-eyed Squirrel with a Purple Forehead

Got me kinda excited. Need to read some more of the Thom Hogan guide, though. Got to a point last night that I just couldn't absorb any more information. Glazed over. Had to sleep, so I could think it deeper. I never photo squirrels. But it was perched there staring at me, it's cute little hands holding that morsel of food. Its tail laid nearly flat on the ground. Very uncharacteristic of me. The wood metal man, too. Just a passing notion. Of the visual kind.

Will probably open my ography up a little now.

November 17

Barred Owl Ready for Release - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Barred Owl Ready for Release   Nikon D7000   Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 prime lens

I've just got Thom Hogan's Complete Guide to the Nikon D7000, which I ordered from him (only place you can get it), and I've already learned several things that I thought I knew differently. Some of that is the difference between what Ken Rockwell claims and what Thom Hogan says. I am also understanding more hidden details that I had all wrong.

I keep hoping he'll get to the focusing part, because that is the part I am still most confused about (as well as the part of Nikons D200 and D300 I was most corn-fused by), but there seems to be an order in Hogan's presentation, and I'll go along with it. I skipped the parts about "if this is your first digital camera" and other basics, but I am applying myself to understanding as much else as I can. I've just changed several camera setup parameters, and I hope they show in increased image quality.

I watched Kathy Rogers of Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation release this Barred Owl and several other owls into the wild out behind the Trinity River Audubon Center in complete darkness. I got my flash to work this time, but not at all when they were released, because I didn't know how to make it fire when the camera would/could not focus. Very confusing flash implementation.

November 10 2011

Mallard Pair Landing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Mallard Pair Landing   Nikon D200   ISO 1600   f/6.3   1/500   +1.67 EV   Sigma 150-500mm

I almost sent my D7k back to Amazon, because I was having so much difficulty figuring it out — and because it won't format SDHC cards, a major failing (I was wrong about that; I was doing it wrong.) in a camera (There's a firmware update that's supposed to address the D7k's failure to recognize some memory cards, but it won't work on my computer. I checked out my Nikon D200 (above) and hope to send my Nikon D300 with its disintegrating shutter back to Nikon to get it fixed.

Meanwhile, I'm saving up for a D400, which so far, has only been rumored. I never buy new cams till they've been thoroughly vetted by all the pixel peepers on Digital Photography Review and others' Nikon Forum members, who may not all do that much in-the-field photography, but they sure know how to find flaws in new cameras. And by then — usually six or eight months into a new camera's life — the price will come down some. Waiting is a win-win proposition, but boy do I wish I could get my hands on a D400 today.

I found an extremely detailed unboxing of it online, to have helped me rebox it. I saved all that stuff. Never used most of it. The strap is pristine, because I far prefer The Crumpler. I don't know how many shots I've taken with it, but most of them were out of focus or over-exposed, problems I rarely see with my Panasonic, although they are very different beasts. With my Panasonic Lumix G2, I'm looking at the same view the sensor sees — same exposure, aperture, shutter speed, light balance, EV compensation, etc.

I'm always flying blind on the D7k. Still wish I could meld the best parts of each camera into one.

Using the D7000, I miss the big buffer and fast continual shooting on the D200 and D300. When I use any of my Nikons I miss the Panasonic G2's ability to "see" the scene just like its sensor does, in the shooting colors, exposure and shutter speed. And I can't put any of those cams in my pocket, like I can with my Canon S95. So many cameras, so many distinct camera personalities …

October 2011

Day 4

Egret Landing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Egret Landing on the Far Side of the Pond — significantly overexposed
 

Okay, I read the manual — PDF version, and will again. Learned stuff about how to set the camera and noted pages to go back to to fully figure out what they are saying or what I want and can choose among. You may not see much difference between yesterday's taking off pelican and the day before yesterday's landing pelican. But for one thing, yester's pelk was correctly exposed to start with, and the day had lots of well-exposed and correctly-focused images to choose from.

I even set the EV controls backwards, so when I go between the d7k and my G2, I don't stay confused.

Ambitious notion that. All it really did was work backwards. I dial this way, and it moves that way. Not the same thing at all.

Little things that really help. The big thing continues to be that the d7k focuses, focuses fast, and focuses accurately. I haven't had the opportunity to try to focus on a small bird on a vertical perch yet, but it will happen, and I strongly suspect my results will vary remarkably from my maddening G2 experiences.

Some camera concepts are settling in. Some remain baffling. My fingers do not yet know the way. I am extraordinarily lucky my Rocket Launcher lens works well with this camera. It's not nearly as good as a $7-12,000 Nikon telephoto lens, but my fingers know their way around it, and I don't usually have to think much about those details. For web work it's fabulous and plenty good enough. I suspect I could get away with images printed as large as 16 x 20 inches.

After seeing their images on my monitor, I wish I could print several of my bird shots — I got this lens to photograph birds with — larger than my standard 777 pixels wide.

I haven't figured out the intricacies of focus yet. I'm getting plenty-good-enough images, I just don't understand how yet, and I don't know how to make it do what I want to all the time. That'll take doing and reading about it. I'm working on both. I usually photo birds in the morning or around noon, depending upon when I wake up. I'm up till just past three ayem today, so it'll be early afternoon before I get out there and photo more birds. Maybe I can find something besides pelicans, for a change tomorrow (later today).

Many more images are on my Amateur Birders Journal (current link) or [link after October 2011]. D7000 images only after October 18.

Day 3

American White Pelican Airborne - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Take-off
 

I'm so excited. I got a couple nice, sharp images of fast-moving birds yesterday, but today, under the nearly noon sun, I got almost all sharp shots. I've got every release mode set now to focus first, not shoot first. On my D300 I had to let it release first, I forget why exactly, except that way I got to shoot faster, and the D300 usually kept objects in sharp focus anyway. But with the d7k, it seems better to always insist that it focus first.

I still got a few shots that it was hard to find where the camera had focused, but the vast majority were right on. I remember playing as I photographed a group of two dozen American White Pelicans, playing the focus points in and out of the crowd, first on this individual bird, then on its immediate neighbor. I couldn't always match little black, rounded squares showing where the camera wanted to focus, to where on the scene I wanted it to, but I usually could. And quickly.

I miss the focus point I had on the D300 that I could move around with the thumb-thingy or even the focus point on my Panasonic G2 that I can finger around on the LCD, but I know it's available, I just don't yet know where on the D7000 I can set it to do that. I'm learning pretty fast, but there are still big holes in my understanding of this camera. Even after eight months with the G2, there are still vacuous holes in my understanding of that camera, so I'm not worried. Nikon's better at almost everything camera, so I'm learning this one much faster than that one.

It helps that I've learned other Nikon digital cameras in the last few years, but I've yet to read the manual, and I suppose it'd just about time for that, although Ken Rockwell (especially his extensive D7000 User's Guide), Thom Hogan (esp. his review and commentary), Digital Photography Review's review and even Nikon's own smarmily over-generalized tutorial have subtracted significantly from my learning curve already.

But right about now I should attempt to plow through the Nikon D7000 Manual. So nice of Nikon to post a PDF of it online, so I can blow it up big enough for my elderly eyes to read what in the actual manual is often too-tiny print.
 

Day 2

Pelican Flying - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelican Angling Down for Water Landing   D7000
 

Getting a little better at this camera, already reading the rumor mills that the 7100 is on its way to retailers, but then Nikon does have two 7000s and one 7100 already, the two that aren't this camera are littler, somewhat less expensive, camera for amateurs or non-enthusiasts. Somebody might be confusing that other 7100 with an update to this one, but there's nothing I can do about it, if Nikon makes and sells a 7100 while I'm still learning the 7000.

Coot Skittering - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coot Skittering   Nikon D7000
 

I waited more than a year to buy a camera, what do I expect? This shot was over exposed by a stop, yet still worked out pretty well. It's a fast-moving pelican almost filling the frame of a 500mm lens that did not work well with my other Nikons, yet it's action is stopped and it is in focus. I like this camera already.

Most of today's other shots did not fare that well. I'm still learning how to set the camera. I have it set on auto iso, and I don't know how to change things in that lofty notion yet. But I will learn. Am learning.

Two Pelicans Watching - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Pelicans Carefully Watching a Kayaker in a Kayak Named Pelican   D7000
 

These, however, worked out very well indeed. I'm pleased how well these best-of-the-bunch turned out. Everything important is sharp and everything else is blurred out. I think I can see distrust in their eyes. The woman in the Pelican walked her and her boat over to the edge of the water very near where two dozen actual pelicans were standing minding their own business, plopped the boat into the water, then blithely paddled right toward the real pelicans, who scattered across the bay, till she'd definitely gone, then they returned. I wasn't still there when she came back, but I suspect she never even noticed their existence. Dumwad.
 

Day 1

Dip-adjusted Flight - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Bird in Flight and Very Nearly in Focus     D7000
 

I haven't given up on my G2 and I'm still looking forward to Panasonic's rumored upcoming professional model maybe next year. The camera acquitted itself very well on our recent trip to California, even rendering a couple birds in flight in focus, but it did not focus on most of them, so I kept wishing for something more intelligent with focusing. Since most of my lenses, still, are Nikon, that was the obvious choice. I've been waiting impatiently far too long for the D400, but it has not been and probably will not be forthcoming any time soon with Nikon's factories either glowing in the dark (Japan) or under water (Thailand), so I "settled" for their rather remarkable little D7000.

Which I am learning by studying online (Nikon's Digitutor and Ken Rockwell's review of it and Guide to it) as well as blindly using the thing to photograph the things I shoot most. Art, art and birds. Capital A Art is the stuff of DallasArtsRevue, my biggest site. Little a art is everything else and sometimes including birds that I shoot, and birds, well birds are birds, and I shoot them here in Dallas and wherever else I am.

Coots Scootin' - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Coots Scooting (the correct term is "skittering")     Shot with my Panasonic Lumix G2
 

Last week I was in California summer (?) vacationing from Texas, which continued to be hot until we got back. My bird pix from there are dribbling into my Amateur Birder's Journal, along with more shots from White Rock Lake inside the Dallas City Limits. All of the shots from California were shot with my G2, and only a smattering of newer White Rock pix are from my newer D7000, which I have not quite all figured out yet.

I'm doing an Art Shoot this afternoon for whom is essentially my only ongoing art shoot client, Kathy Boortz. I've tried to use new cameras I didn't quite fully understand on shoots of her work before — we go back several years, so I know better than to try that again. I'll use my G2, which is now a little confusing, only because its controls are nearly polar opposite those of the D7000.

I will continue to use the smaller, lighter Panasonic Lumix G2 for art purposes, for my client or for my DallasArtsRevue.com website (where there are thousands of my photographs of art). There may be another art photo client coming to me via emails to a friend of a friend, and I will continue to shoot other people's art (OPA) from time to time. But I'm not sure which camera I'll use for each specific shoot.

Pelican Bathing - Photograph Copyright 2011 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

American White Pelican Bathing     Shot with my Panasonic Lumix G2
 

Probably the G2 for awhile till I'm fully up to speed on my latest Nikon again. Then the D7000's 50% larger sensor and simplification of complex controls will make that choice nearly a no-brainer for shooting OPA. For everything else, it'll continue to be a quandary. The G2 is smaller, lighter and easier to know focus and exposure, since its electronic viewfinder is so wonderful for all those things, and the D7000 will always make me guess.

I was surprised how small and light the D7000 is. Not as tiny as the G2, but not the behemoths my Nikon D200 and tragically discombobulated Nikon D300 are. The D200, so far, has far outlasted the D300 I bought three years later. Its shutter fell apart, and I'm not sure I want to fix it, even though at one time, it would only have cost $300. I don't know if it would still only cost $300 and three months without it, but it's no longer the APS-C (Nikon calls it DX) champion, and the D7000 has all but eclipsed it. I lost faith in Nikon with my D300, making my m43 decision all that more likely.

since October 18 2011 counter since february 21 2013