About two weeks ago Sony Belgium asked me if I was interested to test out their RX1 for a couple of days. I’m all for manufacturers who are not afraid to try out new ideas and concepts instead of just copying a camera from the competition and squeeze a couple more megapixels in it. A full frame compact camera with a high quality fixed 35mm prime, certainly qualifies as “different”. But different doesn’t always mean “good”, let’s see where the RX1 stands.
The RX1 may be rather large for a compact camera but for a full frame camera it’s tiny. A decent size coat pocket can hold it and the option of having a full frame camera with a fast prime in your pocket certainly will appeal to a lot of people. It has a sturdy feel and weight to it without being too heavy. But for one handed use it may be a bit on the heavy side, mainly because there’s no real grip on the front of the camera. Buttons and dials are rather well placed and easy to operate. Especially the exposure compensation dial is a pleasure to use. The aperture ring on the other hand could use a bit more grip.
The camera I reviewed came with a stupid USB charger with an even more stupidly short cable. If you can get a dedicated charger with a 100 EUR point-and-shoot, you should be able to get one with a 3100 EUR camera. On the other hand, the RX1 comes with the best lens cap and neck strap that I’ve ever seen included in the box.
Kudos to Sony for making this camera easy to use for everyone. The automatic features make it easy to take pictures even if you don’t know a thing about photography. At the same time the experienced photographer can easily access and adjust pretty much every parameter. Most buttons are easy to reach and logically placed. The menu system is also very clear.
I had hoped the autofocus would be a bit faster and better but it’s pretty much on par with most mirrorless cameras. I liked the face detection AF, but when shooting (near) wide open it’s a bit hit and miss because of the shallow depth of field. Sure there’s usually a part of the face in focus but often not the nearest eye. I’d like to see a more advanced version of this technology called: near-eye-face-detection-AF. Maybe I should patent it.
A full frame sensor coupled to a dedicated Zeiss lens takes care of images that will satisfy every pixel peeper. I had expected a bit more from the high iso performance but in my totally unscientific opinion it’s not better than the smaller sensors used by Fuji and some other brands. But in the lower and mid iso range, the images really shine. There’s also quite some dynamic range to play with and the lens clearly is a Zeiss masterpiece.
Value for Money
On the internet, the RX1 is a pretty popular topic. That seems logic since we gearheads love the idea of putting a full frame sensor in a compact body. People love to talk about that but they like to talk about the RX1′s pricetag even more. 3100 EUR is a LOT of money for a compact camera. And if you want a viewfinder for your RX1, you better have deep pockets. But at the same time 3100 EUR is not that much money for a full frame camera and and excellent Zeiss lens. It all depends on what YOU need.
It’s definitely not a camera that I would buy. I’d rather get the new Fujifilm X100S. It’s flatter so it fits better in a pocket, it looks way better, and you get a viewfinder build in for way less money. So for me it’s a no brainer to choose the X100S over the RX1. Others will choose differently depending on what they value more.
If you shoot all the time with a full frame DSLR and a 35mm prime because you love the unique look of a full frame sensor and a fast prime and if you would like all that in a smaller body, the RX1 might be an excellent choice for you.
The RX1 is in my opinion an excellent niche product and an interesting link in camera development. It’s one of those cameras that may not sell in huge numbers but will probably be pretty influencial in future technology. I don’t think it will be the last compact full frame camera we’ll see.
On a cold wet school holiday, the conversation at breakfast went like this:
Kobe: “Daddy can we go take some pictures today?”
Me: “Sure, what kind of pictures?”
Kobe: “portraits outside”
Me: “pretty bad weather out there, why don’t we shoot in the studio?”
Kobe: “Cool. Maya do you want to join us?”
One sandwich later:
Maya: “Can we dress up?”
Maya: “And do our own make-up?”
Kobe: “Only if we use a lot”
Noa: “Can I push the button of the smoke machine?”
Kobe, Maya, Me: “Great plan!”
Ninety minutes later and I have some more pictures that I can show to their girlfriend/boyfriend in a couple of years.
Just a quick thanks for all the info, offers, suggestions and ideas on funding my hunting project. As you can see in the picture below I even found a way to do some product placement for my own business
Seriously, I received a lot of things to think about. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. By mid January I hope to give you guys more info on the project and it’s practical implications. For now, here are some more hunting pictures that I shot earlier this week:
(EDIT: added a little project description to this post)
Since the first time I’ve posted about my hunting project I’ve not been able to satisfy my curiosity about the subject. On the contrary, attending a couple more hunting days, reading magazines and books and talking to many people, have only sparked my curiosity even more. For a couple of years I’ve been dreaming of doing a long term documentary project and I’ve finally found a subject that fascinates me and could use the delicate personal approach that only a long term book project can offer.
The prospect of really doing this project excites me big time but when I took a good look at the planning, time, budget and scale of such a project I got a bit scared. I fought the urge to scale the project down because if I’d do that, the project would loose the subtlety it needs. I just need to figure out a way to make it possible but I’ll need your help and ideas on how to overcome the practical hurdles.
Read on to learn a bit more about how I see the project and how you can help me.
“Hunting in Belgium” is the working title of a photo documentary project in which I use my camera to tell the nuanced story of the complex and often misunderstood ecosystem of hunting in Belgium.
As a modern internet age city boy I never thought much of hunting. If pushed to state an opinion, I would have probably categorized it as an unecessary barbaric tradition that has no place in our modern Belgian society. It was only after a long conversation with one of my best friends, who is a hunter, that I realised how little I knew about something that’s way more complex than I could have imagined. I started to research the subject of hunting and found out that there is very little information available. The hunting community is very discreet and closed, probably under the pressure of the general public opinion.
I decided to use my camera and an open-minded curiosity as my passport to dig deeper into the hunting world in a long term photographic personal project. My goal is to offer an honest unbiased view on hunting. I’m not after changing people’s minds, I just hope to offer a broader view on the nuances of what hunting is about so the reader can form it’s own well informed opinion.
The book will cover the most common forms of hunting in Belgium, wildlife, the traditions and it’s relation to the natural habitat. The chapters will be supplemented with a series of portraits (in pictures and words) of people who have a relation to hunting: hunter, game keeper, chef, taxidermist, gunsmith, … These small personal stories will give the reader a better understanding of the big picture.
The final result of this project will be an exhibition and a coffee table book that combines artistic imagery with text. Covering the subtleties of the subject will require a lot of time and research. So I don’t expect to finish the book before mid 2014.
Let’s make it clear for the start: I don’t have a hidden commercial agenda with this project. It’s all about a complicated story that I want to discover and then translate into a book. It’s also a creative dream challenge for someone who has always seen documentary photography as the most relevant form of photography. To turn the dream into a real book, I’ll have to be realistic: This project is going to take a shitload of time and a considerable financial investment. This will put a lot of pressure on both my business and my family and to be brutally honest, I’m not sure if I can currently afford this project.
I’m perfectly fine with investing the time in this project. It will make me grow as a photographer and that’s all the reward I need. I’m also fine spending some money on it but I’m not sure if I have enough of it to tackle the project the way I want.
I’ll probably be able to recuperate part of the production cost of this project once it’s finished. The problem is that I figure it will only be finished at earliest around mid 2014. In (my) reality that means either slowing down the project in order to fund it with my own means or finding external funding.
You might be thinking: “What costs?”. After all, I already have camera gear, a car, … And that’s exactly what I was thinking … until I did the math on what I’ve spent already on the project and what I expect to spend on it over the next 18 months. It’s not about any big costs, but it’s about a whole lot of small expenses:
- A raincover for your camera? That’ll be 50 EUR please.
- Oh you want a protection filter for your lens too? That’s only 30 EUR.
- The stunning scenery of the Flemish Ardennes offers great photographic backgrounds but driving up and back costs me around 30 EUR in gas per outing.
- So last time you could hardly keep up with the trackers because your feet, were wet and numb from the cold, just get yourself a pair of 150 EUR boots and 25 EUR socks and you’ll be all set.
- Yes the hunting world is very closed but if you can make it to the after hunt diner, you’ll get to meet some people that might be very interesting for your project. But these dinners are a bit more expensive than a Big Mac menu.
- To really understand what hunting is all about, it may be a good idea to follow the official hunting course, 250 EUR is a steal considering you’ll get to spend every Wednesday night for five months learning about it.
I’m only scratching the surface here but I’m sure you get my point.
I’m not going to whine about all the costs, I’m going to do this project anyway. But I am going to try to get some funding for it. I’ll slow it down if I need to but I prefer to try to cover at least the day-to-day expenses by searching for funding. Looking for funding is completely new to me. I have some ideas but no clue if they will work or how to implement them. And I hope you guys might help me out with your opinions on my ideas or even your own ideas. Let me outline the options that I currently see.
Finding (a) Book Publisher(s): The most important end result for the project is a book, a real book. I guess it would make sense to try to find a publisher for it although I’m not sure if I want to go with a traditional book publisher. First of all, I doubt I’ll find a publisher who is willing to pay an advance on the book to cover my expenses. I also want to publish the book in Dutch, French and English which might complicate things for traditional publishers (who are often geographically restricted). And then there’s the question of control, how much of it will I have to give up? But this is all speculation of my part as I’ve never published a book. If any of you has experience publishing a book or works in the publishing business (or knows people in it), I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.
Fine Art Prints for the People in my Pictures: I got very good reactions from the people I shot during my hunting outings so far. Maybe I should try to sell them fine art prints of themselves and their dogs doing what they are so passionate about. There’s a bit of an ethical thing here. These people not only allow me into their world, they are going to extremes to inform me and help me make better pictures even if that means lowering their hunting chances. Giving them the pictures feels like the right thing to do to thank them for their coöperation. On the other hand media coverage about hunting usually doesn’t have space for subtlety or the big picture. And these guys seem to appreciate that someone is willing to invest in telling a more balanced story. I might give them the digital files as a thank-you and offer fine-art prints to the ones who wish to support the project. What do you think, appropriate or not?
Sponsoring: A lot of my expenses are gear related. I might need to rent some specialized gear to capture some images of the game itself. I hope I can count on my friends within the photo industry to help me out with photo gear. I will also need camo gear, better clothing and lots of small bits and pieces in order to work close to the hunters. If you happen to know someone in the hunting gear industry who would like to help, please let me know. Sponsoring will be very helpful but can only happen on one condition: a sponsor has no editorial influence on the project whatsoever. But of course they’ll get exposure and I’d be happy to work with them to create added value for their customers. If you are working for a company that might want to support the project, let’s talk.
Articles and Essays for Other Media: While the project is ongoing, I’ll be gathering content that might be used in articles for magazines. I could do a reportage for a hunting magazine or maybe some kind of “diary of a personal project” for a photography mag. Some of the content could also fit into general magazines or a newspaper’s weekend edition. If you have better ideas or if you could pitch this to an editor, I’d really appreciate it.
Crowd Sourcing: Being a social media minded guy, crowd sourcing might be a viable option. Sites like emphas.is offer a platform to get photo journalism projects funded by anyone who would like to see the project materialize. Funders could be rewarded with prints, pre-order of the book or access to a behind-the-scenes blog. What would it take to make you back this project?
Other Crazy Ideas: I’m sure you guys have other ideas like fundraising pancake dinners or autographed pigeon feathers. Let me know!
I’d really appreciate it if you could think about it and let me know your ideas and thoughts on how I can make this project happen. If you don’t know how you can help yourself, maybe you know someone who can. Hit the comments!
One evening last week Erika came by the studio. We ended up chatting most of the time but we eventually we did a short improvisation shoot.
I’ve shot Erika many times over the years and writing this blogpost made me wonder when it all started. In my archives I found what’s probably the first picture I shot of Erika. (below on the left). That was before I got into photography. Kobe was only one year old at that time, so that was back in 2004. I did my first photo shoot with Erika in 2006 (picture on the right).
Erika has had (and still has) a big impact on my photography. The total trust between the two of us has always allowed me to push both my technique and creativity further. Her pictures have gotten me clients and she even got me one of my regular clients by stating that she would only be their model if they hired me as the photographer. She’s also a great sales incentive for my Motivational Light DVD and the GF1 Guerrilla CPXL video. But most importantly, she’s an amazing friend with whom I’ve shared many great conversations, laughs and who has picked me up when I was down on more than one occasion.
Before I become to0 mellow, here are some of the results from our 30 minute improvisation shoot.
All images were shot with the X-Pro1, X-E1, 35mm and 18-55. The first picture in this post was lit with the pilot light of an Elinchrom RX300 with a medium softbox and a reflector. We then moved on to double halogen work lights.
For our final set of images we used only a single 40W lightbulb in an unfinished part of the studio that’s currently only used to store junk.
Maybe I should do a book in a couple of years: “Erika, 10 years in front of my lens”
A few days ago I received my Fujifilm X-E1. As exciting as receiving a new camera may be, I was even more excited about the lens that came with it: the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS. Because I was hoping and expecting this lens to make my Fujifilm kit more flexible and all round for those times when working with primes might be too slow. Yesterday I joined another group of hunters for my “hunting project” and I decided to shoot exclusively with the new lens to give it a challenging workout in the field.
The 18-55 works perfectly fine with the X-E1 and the combination is easy to handle. But I found the lens to handle better on the slightly bulkier X-Pro1. The lens doesn’t have the typical cheap feel of a kitlens. It feels sturdy and well build. The zoom action is smooth and the other controls work fine too. I’d just like a bit more friction in the aperture ring. It’s easy to accidently change the aperture without noticing it. Because this is a variable aperture lens (from f2.8 at 18mm to f4 at 55mm) there are no aperture markings on the lens like the Fujinon prime lenses. It would have been nice off course to have f/2.8 over the whole range but that would have made the lens a lot bigger, heavier and more expensive. I’ll have to get used to it but I can live with it.
The Fuji’s made me rediscover the joys of working with fixed focal lengths and I intend to shoot most of my future work with those fine primes. But sometimes you get in situations were your movements are restricted and you just can’t zoom with your feet. Other times time pressure or dusty/wet conditions prevent you from changing lenses. Standard zoom lens to the rescue. Variation is often key in keeping clients happy and offering a wide AND a close shot of the same scene within seconds can definitely buy you some good karma from editors and designers.
You know that this blog is not the place to read about resolution charts and corner performance. But I trust my eyes and I see that the Fujinon 18-55 produces great images which are sharp and clean with no obvious flaws. And I wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond to use this lens for any job within it’s focal range. Colors, contrast, bokeh seem pro-level to me.
I don’t shoot wide lenses a lot but sometimes I just need something wider than my 35mm, usually to establish the scene or when it’s physically impossible to back away to get everything I want in the shot. I like the compact Fujinon 18mm f/2.0 prime lens but didn’t buy it knowing the 18-55 was on it’s way. I might still buy the 18mm eventually but for now the 18-55 covers my wide angle needs. It’s only a stop slower than the fixed 18mm and the image stabilization more than makes up for that one stop in many cases.
For now the 18-55 will also cover most of my slight tele needs. The Fujinon 60mm lens is a nice lens for portraits but with a maximum aperture of f/2.4 it’s not exactly very fast for a prime lens and the focusing isn’t very fast either. In 2013 there will be a 58mm f/1.4 and I’m going to wait for that lens. In the mean time the long end of the 18-55 is a good alternative.
A lot has been set about Fuji’s autofocus performance but since the latest firmware updates on the cameras and lenses it isn’t bad at all. Accuracy is great and once you know how to use the system best it locks focus almost all the time. And when it comes to speed, I started thinking the focus motor inside the lenses might be the limiting factor, not the camera. The 18-55 has a new linear AF motor and seems to prove my point. It seems to focus a lot faster than any of the primes. On top of that it’s almost completely silent. With the 35mm I know by feel and sound when AF is achieved. With the 18-55 you can’t really feel or hear the focus motor doing it’s work. I even had to turn on the focus confirmation beep to have a better idea about focus confirmation.
Both the X-Pro1 and the X-E1 have a focus assist light to help out with close range focussing in low light. I prefer not to use it if not needed because it attracts attention but sometimes it can come in handy. Unfortunately most of the emitted light is blocked by this lens (even without using the lens hood).
The lens has image stabilization (OIS) and it seems to work like promised. It sure helps when shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds.
The weather wasn’t exactly good during this hunting day. Now, I won’t advice to use the non-weatherproof X-Pro1 and the 18-55 in the rain but they performed without a glitch despite getting pretty wet at times.
This was a driven hunt for many hours and kilometers through rough terrain with mud up to my knees. A small versatile camera kit really makes life a lot easier in these situations.
I missed some shots due to not paying enough attention or twisting the zoom ring in the wrong direction. But give me a bit more experience with this lens and I’m sure I’ll be fine.
The 18-55 does everything I could reasonably expect from it and even exceeds my expectations. Let’s hope Fuji can continue like this and give us many more great lenses in the (near) future.
After a long periode of reflection, I’ve finally decided to sell the bulk of my Canon gear. Simply because I hardly use it anymore.
In perfect working order
Price: 850 EUR (new price was around 1400 EUR)
There are worse places to spend your weekend than Paris. Certainly if you are surrounded by fun people with a true passion for photography. I was asked to do a half day workshop by a French photography store called Lovinpix. It’s a young company that aims to offer not only equipment but also technical advice and workshops. Their website is only in French at the moment, but they are working hard on an English version.
I’m more of an outdoor person than a city guy but I’m always happy to make an exception when it comes to Paris. I just love the vibe of this city. On top of that Paris has been the place to be for photography, pretty much since the invention of the photographic progress. The guys form Lovinpix really want to mix this heritage with a modern approach and I’m happy I could be part of one of their first initiatives.
The workshop was about down and dirty guerrilla style photography in the streets of Paris. We started out with a little exercise on mixing flash with ambient light. My French is not too bad but I have very little experience teaching photography in French so that was a bit of a challenge in the beginning. Luckily I was assisted by Nicolas Vallet, who co-founded a French website dedicated to off-camera flash, called Strobi.fr. He helped me finding the right words and his knowledge of the area was very helpful too. Niko is an excellent photographer and has great teaching skills, which was a great advantage for the participants and for myself.
This dull grey day provided the ideal situation to understand the need to take lighting into your own hands when needed. If there’s no good light, make it yourself!
Hard light can be hard to get right, but with a talented model like Emélia, it’s easier to pull it off. Despite getting really cold by the end of the workshop, she kept working her poses and expressions.
We also played around with my famous shower curtain to create soft light.
And back to hard light for a strong look that might not be flattering to the model, but I like the power and intensity.
On our way to another location, I’ve spotted a petanque court made from light sand. We used the sand as a reflector to bounce a flash and produce a natural soft kind of beauty light.
By the way, the making-of pictures in this post were all shot by my 9yo son Kobe who was my second assistant on this workshop. I assigned him to make some behind-the-scenes images and I think he did great.
When we started losing the natural light, we played around with a CTO gel to shift the colors of the background to drama-blue.
We ended the workshop by the Seine and bounced a single speedlight off a concrete wall for natural looking soft light.
Big thanks to the whole group for a great workshop. I hope to head back to Paris soon for a full day or maybe even multi day workshop.
My style, my clients and my way of working have changed a lot since I started out as a professional photographer about eight years ago … and so has technology. Therefor I started a major gear bag audit a couple of months ago. I thought I’d share my thought process with you in a couple of blog posts. In earlier post I’ve talked about my main camera system: X-Pro1, and my three part review of the X-E1 (part 1, part 2 and part 3).
The Fujifilm kit does everything I need for the majority of my work but there are some gaps. In the future I want to own less gear and rent whatever I need. That means that I don’t need to own my current big DSLR setup but I’m not sure yet if I can NOT own a DSLR anymore. There are practical issues and then there’s the fear of getting rid of a lot of stuff that I’ve used for so long. So why do I want to get rid of (most of) my Canon stuff in the first place? It’s already paid for, right? Let’s get this straight: there’s nothing wrong with my Canon kit and it still works perfectly fine. Selling it would free up some cash to make new investments that I currently can’t / don’t want to do. I’m not the kind of big shot photographer that can just buy whatever he wants without repercussions. Another thing is that I want to work less and live more. I’m sick of working just to buy new gear, so I promised myself not to invest in any more gear unless I sell something else. I just need to be sure that I got the gear to do the job and that’s why I wanted to test the Nikon D600 with the Nikor 28-300 lens.
This is not a general review, it’s very specific for my situation and needs. I’ll talk you through my thought process and findings between the next pictures.
The people from Nikon Belgium were so kind to borrow me a D600 and the 28-300 for a couple of weeks of testing. I picked it up on my way to Kobe’s football practice and decide to put it to the test immediately. It’s not even a fair test because I was shooting with an unfamiliar camera and a compromise lens, handheld in a situation that would even be challenging for top of the range equipment. The lowest possible ISO I could use was 6400 and as soon as the last natural light was gone, I had to go up even higher. To my surprise the D600 + 28-300 produced usable and consistent images in these challenging circumstances.
By the way, that’s not noise in the image below. It was just pouring rain and this was shot in almost darkness.
Being a long time Canon user, I had to adapt a bit to working with a Nikon but that went pretty fast and easy. After a week, I was quite comfortable with operating the D600. The thing I struggled with most is that the zoom ring on Nikon lenses works inverse compared to the Canon lenses. But all-in-all the transition was pretty painless. The D600′s body is on the small side but it sat good in my hands. All the buttons and dials are logically laid out just like the menu system. And the whole thing seemed pretty rugged and sturdy.
The major things I’m missing in the Fuji’s is the availability of long lenses and fast action (continuous) autofocus. So I focussed most of my testing on those two things and shot two of Kobe’s football games as these provide plenty of fast action and usually it occurs quite far from my position. If I were a sports shooter, this camera/lens combination wouldn’t be my choice but I’m not a sports shooter and I have no intention to be one. It’s just that I like to test gear in a more challenging conditions then I will generally shoot in. If the gear holds it’s own in a worst case scenario, I’m sure it will be great in the actual conditions I will use it in.
The autofocus performed really well despite the fast moving subjects and a lens that’s not really build for speed. Sure I missed some shots but not too many. I would have liked to have the focus points to be spread out over the whole frame instead of being concentrated around the middle but it didn’t bother me too much. But the AF is snappy and accurate even in difficult lighting situations.
So why the hell would I like to test a 10x super zoom? About everyone will tell you that super zooms are always a compromise in optical quality, focusing speed and maximum aperture. On top of that they are usually not build very well. I completely agree that the laws of physics always make a super zoom a compromise but the question is: Is it an ACCEPTABLE compromise?
Of course, it will all depend on your photography and the job. So keep in mind that:
- Most of my work is done with the Fuji kit which has great lens options for the standard focal lengths
- My budget is limited
- I don’t want to carry around more gear than I need
- Most of the time this camera/lens will be used during workshops or personal work
- I can rent pretty much any pro Nikon lens only 15 minutes from where I live at affordable rates thanks to Nikon’s Catch and Release rental service.
A couple of years ago I don’t think a super zoom would have been an option but technology evolves and opens up new possibilities. The maximum aperture (3.5 – 5.6) of the 28-300 definitely makes the lens slower that my L-zooms. With my 5D mark II and L-glass I usually had enough light for handheld reportage photography without flash. I would go up to iso 3200 when really necessary. But in the mean time high ISO capabilities have definitely improved. My completely unscientific research (actually it’s just my gut feeling) indicates that the ISO capabilities of the D600 (and the newer Canons too) are around two stops better. Which basically cancels out the issue of a slower maximum aperture of the 28-300. Sure you could squeeze out even better images out of the D600 with a 24-70 or a 70-200. But when I should need it, I can rent those lenses.
For the fans of a shallow depth of field (consider me a member of the fan club), a slower lens is definitely not ideal but I got my fast Fujinon glass for that. And at 300mm and f/5.6 you don’t have that much DOF.
The Nikor 28-300 is pretty well built. It feels like it could handle some serious (ab)use. It may not be as sturdy as L-glass or the equivalent Nikor glass but it’s definitely not cheap stuff. The lens extends quite far when zooming in and the shift in balance caused by zooming in and out was a minor distraction but I guess you get over it after a while. The lens hood doesn’t attach very well to the lens and it fell off a couple of times when I had the camera hanging around my shoulder.
You definitely get vignetting and distortion with this lens but the standard lens profile corrections in Lightroom seems to handle those issues very well. In most images I even had to ADD some vignetting. So I personally think this lens in combination with clever software produces more than acceptable results in most situations. The image stabilization (or VR) works as expected and definitely makes the lens a lot more usable in low light.
Extra bonus points for the D600 + 28-300 come from the fact that Stacy likes shooting with it too. She’s not an experienced or trained photographer so I wouldn’t rely on her as a second shooter (although I rely on her for many other things). But she has a good eye for capturing moments and since she sometimes comes with me as an assistant anyway, she picks up a camera every now and then. The metering on the D600 is pretty good, so she can get away with it in Aperture Priority mode. Everything she captures is a nice bonus. Although in the case of the next picture, the word “bonus” might not be the best way to describe the picture.
The RAW images out of the D600 might not be as crisp as those out of the Fuji’s but they are really nice and give you quite a bit of latitude in both the highlights and the shadows. Take a look at the picture below. On the left is the image straight out of camera. On the right is the same image with a couple of Lightroom adjustments.
So I’m pretty positive about this camera/lens combination. However, sometimes there’s some really weird distortion going on:
The main idea behind considering getting a D600 with a super zoom is a question of safety. I just want to be sure that I have all the equipment with me to do the job right. Most of the time I know what I’m getting into and I know I can cover it with my Fuji kit. If not, I can rent whatever else I need. But sometimes you just don’t have a clue what you will walk into. And it’s for those (granted, rare) cases that I consider bringing a small but versatile DSLR kit. Like on the first shoot of my hunting project, last Sunday. I had never joined a group of hunters before, so I only had a vague idea of what to expect. The other thing is that I didn’t want to be scaring away the pigeons. A super zoom is handy in those cases. I would have been very happy to work with two Fuji bodies with a standard zoom on one body and a long lens on the other. The problem is that these lenses aren’t available yet. In the mean time a DSLR is my only choice.
I’m not much of a landscape photographer but the beautiful scenery and dramatic light in combination with the 28-300 made it easy to make some halfway decent shots. Shooting at f/22 is something I almost never do, but I did for the above picture and noticed later that the sensor was incredibly dirty. I spent at least 10 minutes cloning out the dust bunnies. The guys from LensRentals.com have found that the D600 seems to be more sensible to sensor dust than the higher end Nikon DSLRs. The camera I was using was a test camera and those are often so abused that you can’t really compare it to normal use so I can’t comment on how bad this “issue” is. If I should decide to get a D600, it certainly wouldn’t be a deal breaker. I’d just check for dust a bit more often than usual.
I like working with prime lenses because they force me to think and work more deliberate. I’m pretty flexible and don’t mind zooming with my feet. But sometimes you can’t just move wherever you want. These hunters spend a fortune on green clothing, camo nets and are willing to hide themselves in muddy corn fields only to get the pigeons to come close enough for a shot. You will understand that me moving around all the time would not help their hunt. So I tried to stay out of their way, after all, they are the ones with the guns.
I’m still not sure that I will buy a D600 with the 28-300. It is still a big investment for a camera that I would only use occasionally. I don’t even know that I will still keep a DSLR. But that has little to do with the D600 nor the 28-300 lens. Both perform exceptionally well, certainly if you take into account that they are pretty affordable. To me the D600 isn’t just an entry-level full frame camera. I think it’s perfectly ok as a professional camera for general use. I wouldn’t buy the 28-300 as my main lens for professional use. But I could certainly live with 2-3 great primes in my most used focal lengths and a 28-300 to fill in the gaps.
I still have lots of questions to answer before I can finalize my new gear setup but at least I found the answer to one question: Renting Nikon gear is a viable option since it works pretty well for me even after years of shooting Canon.
DISCLAIMER: The world of hunting fascinates me both visually and from a deeper existential point-of-view. It’s something that I want to explore more, over a longer period of time. The topic of hunting is a much debated one with strong opinions on both sides. For the moment, me nor my pictures will takes sides as I don’t feel knowledgeable enough about the whole thing. I only know it’s a very complicated matter that I would like to understand better. I intend to use photography as my passport to explore this unknown territory. Eventually I hope to be able be to form a well informed opinion but until then I’ll just share some pictures and impressions as I go alone
Yesterday I joined a group of people who are relatively new to the world of hunting on a pigeon hunt. The stunning scenery of the Flemish Ardennes sculped by the ever changing dramatic light made me immediately forget the long drive to the location after a heavy party and only two hours of sleep.
After a short briefing, about fifteen relatively new hunters were taken to their shooting positions by experienced hunters who know the area well. These guys also helped the novices with tons of tips about shooting, animal behavior, best locations, …
I got a tour of the area by the organizer while trying to drive the pigeons in the direction of the shooters. This turned out to be very hard since we hardly saw any pigeons. But that didn’t make the long walk any less enjoyable. The cool fresh air, the large vistas and observing other wildlife in the distance. Having someone with you to tell you more about the area and wildlife, is definitely a big bonus on a walk like this. It made me realize once again how much I love the outdoors but how little I know about nature in my own country.
At lunch time everyone assembled at the hunting lodge. Time to tell lots of strong tales that in some cases seemed like excuses for the meager turnout so far. The few pigeons shot so far were also used to teach the “young” hunters more about the animals and their differences.
A pigeon that is just shot may not look much like what you can buy in the supermarket or what you find on your plate in a fancy restaurant. I thought it was surprisingly touching how the hunters show respect to the animals they harvest.
After lunch we headed back out, this time to another corner of the hunting area.
I joined two really young hunters. Despite all their efforts to hike up a very muddy field, place decoys and camouflage their shooting position we didn’t see any pigeon action. But we enjoyed a good conversation about hunting, the outdoors and life in general. I was impressed with the maturity of these guys’ attitude and look on things.
The other guys (and women) were also pretty unsuccessful in the afternoon hunt but nevertheless they al were in very good spirit. Being out with these people made me see that the success of a day of hunting isn’t only about the number of animals killed. It’s also about nature, friendship and slowing down.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
- I need new warm and waterproof boots and while I’m at the outdoor shop I should probably pick up a set of green trousers and a jacket too. A little stool could come in handy too.
- Ear protectors are a must if you want to work close to hunters without damaging your ears. I got myself a set Howard Leight ear muffs. They performed well and as a bonus kept my ears warm too.
- The X-Pro1 performed great for this kind of photography. Traveling light and fast is an absolute necessity if I want to shoot pictures without disturbing the hunters in their shooting. However, just the 35mm is too limiting when it comes to focal lengths. Zooming with your feet is not always an option in the field. I had a Nikon D600 with a 28-300 lens with me for testing (I’ll post the review soon) which turned out to be a good all round combination every time I was too close or far. I’m not sure how I will cover future hunts, I do hope my X-E1 with the Fujinon 18-55 will be delivered soon.