We’ve had a week of fog and unseasonably warm weather here in Southern Ontario. This Saturday I took advantage of the moody atmosphere to grab a few photos. The first two are from a walk at RIM Park with the D750 and AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 VR (a lens I’ll talk about soon).
The night shots are from the X100s. Lately I’ve been playing with the X100s in full manual mode (AF, shutter and aperture). It’s slowed down my shooting but I’ve enjoyed having full control and better consistency from shot to shot. My method is to first set exposure for the scene using the LCD in the view finder and then switch to the optical view. To focus, turning the focus ring on the lens activates the virtual split prism, where the centre of the image is magnified and superimposed with a split image generated from the AF phase-detection sensors. Focus is achieved when the split image is aligned.
This past August I had a break-in at my house, and the savvy thief stole most of my camera equipment. Gone were the D300s, D700 and D750. 18-35 f/3.5-4.5, 60 f/2.8 macro, 135 f/2 DC and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX. With insurance to the rescue, I set about replacing what I’d lost. The D750, 18-35, 60 and 135 were straightforward to replace directly. The Sigma 50, on the other hand, was tricky.
I’d picked up the 50 EX at BH Photo in Manhattan a few years ago and it was a bit of a mixed bag. Often, but not always, sharp but with incredibly inconsistent metering and AF. It was a beautiful lens on the D700 when it was on its best behaviour but with the higher resolution D750 (and when playing around with the D800 and D810) it just wasn’t that sharp at wide apertures. Now, the EX is no longer produced and couldn’t be found at any stores. The natural substitute was the newer, bigger and heavier ART version. Much bigger and heavier. Like huge for a 50.
The resolution from this lens is outstanding across the frame at every aperture. Focusing on just the eye gives a great effect for portraits and shooting wide open with a razor-sharp focal plane and creamy bokeh is no problem.
D750 f/1.4 ISO 720
AF accuracy has been a bit inconsistent but really not bad. Better than the EX but not as rock solid as Sigma’s 35mm f/1.4 ART. Unlike the old EX, exposure accuracy is no worse than the rest of my lenses (not counting the AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G, which tends to overexpose).
I tested the lens against my AF-S 50mm f/1.8 G and found it to be considerably sharper at open apertures. Out-of-focus highlights show less of a cat-eye effect but the overall bokeh isn’t much different. I shot the two lenses back to back using christmas lights as point source highlights. In the second image you can see that the ART is sharper at f/1.4 than the Nikon is at f/1.8.
Left: ART at f/1.4; Centre: ART at f/1.8; Right: AF-S G at f/1.8
Well, I haven’t posted in forever. To get myself back on the path to regularly blogging I’m going to try doing a few ‘Photos of the Month’ posts to recap the best images from the month. Most of these were taken with my pretty new Nikon D750 (I’m sure I’ll be writing about it soon) and the rest were with the X100s.
Well, I crossed off another item on the bucket list in April with my visit to the Grand Canyon. I woke up at 5AM at the hotel in Flagstaff and hit the road before the sun rose so that I’d get to the canyon in the early morning light. I probably don’t need to say a lot about the place. It was epic and vast. I was there early enough that I was totally alone in some spots, without a person in site. That all changed a few hours later when it was teeming.
I walked down the Kaibob trail about 1200 feet and experienced a 15-20 degree (Celsius) temperature change compared to the top. The hike down was easy. The hike up was strenuous and parching.
I stayed past dark and parked myself at Lipan Point for the sunset and night sky shots. Unfortunately I ran the batteries out in the D700 but the X100s was up to the task! The night sky shot here is a panorama of X100s shots. Here are my 22 favourites spanning 7AM to 10PM. D700 and X100s, AF-S 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G and Sigma 35mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8G.
In April one of my best friends, Mike, married Laura in Scottsdale, Arizona and I was lucky enough to get to fly down and shoot the wedding. After the wedding I hung around Arizona for another few days and headed north into the desert in a white Corolla. While the highlight of the trip was the Grand Canyon, the drive there and back was awesome as well! Here are my photos of Phoenix, Sedona and Flagstaff plus a few more from along the highway. Shot with the D700 and X100s.
As it turns out, two of my friends also own X100 bodies (Tibra with the original X100 and Carolyn with a brand spankin new X100t). We decided to get together this past weekend for some small body fixed 35mm rangefinder shooting in downtown Kitchener, and so began the Kitchener-Waterloo Fujifilm X100 Club. Here are my highlights from the day, all shot with the X100s except for the first (which was taken with my phone). For the most part these are straight out of camera, with just a few tweaks for brightness and colour.
As you can see from my last blog posts (here and here), I’ve really enjoyed the simplicity of traveling with a 35mm lens or at least a 35mm field of view. The problem is that the D700 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART make for a seriously heavy and bulky combination, not to mention something that screams “I’m a photographer!” What I’ve needed is a small, reasonably lightweight camera what won’t make me miss the D700 + Sigma 35mm combo while on a trip.
Well, as a birthday present to myself I picked up a Fujifilm X100S. It’s much smaller and a lot lighter than the big FX body. It has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens and an APS sensor, giving the field of view of the D700/35mm. It has a brilliant hybrid viewfinder that combines an optical rangefinder-style finder with a LCD via a beam splitter.
I’m really looking forward to getting to know this quirky camera and I’m sure I’ll put together a more complete review sometime in the near future. For now, here are some photos from my first weekend with the X100S (including a couple of in-camera panoramas). All were shot as JPG with various in-camera film simulations.
Last weekend I tried using my new background kit (stands + white seamless) to shoot some portraits of our cats, Gracie and Professor Noam Chomsky. For the key light I used an Alien Bee B800 with gridded beauty dish from camera right, somewhat close to the posing stool. A Paul C Buff Brollie Box on a 2nd B800 was the fill light, set back from camera left. Both lights were set to equal output power, so distance controlled the intensity on the cats. The background light was a 3rd B800 with barn doors to control the spill.
“Posing” the cats was an exercise in patience. While Gracie eventually chilled out on the stool and let me get a long series of shots, Chomsky had no interest. The lamb skin helped but I still only had 10 seconds after setting him down before he’d run away to the bedroom.
I shot withe the D700 + AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G on a tripod and cable release, allowing me to shoot from the floor between the camera and cats.
When getting ready for a work trip to Vancouver last week I must have re-packed my camera bag at least 5 times before settling on the Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Vancouver is a city with big views and as much as I wanted to simplify the travel kit I knew that there would be many occasion where a wide field of view would be needed. In the end I stuck with the 35 for its simplicity and beautiful optics and thankfully I had no regrets.
In the woods I shot at f/1.4 and ISO 1600. For epic landscapes I shot panoramas at tiny apertures. Again the focal length was perfect for capturing scenes just as I saw them.
All below are D700 + Sigma 35mm f/1.4. Some here are of my co-worker, Connor, trying to capture the perfect selfie. Others are of Clevelend Dam, English Bay and downtown Vancouver, Lynn Canyon, TRIUMF, and Granville Island.
I recently travelled to Toulouse for work and naturally had a tough time deciding what lenses to bring for my time off. Wide + tele came to mind and is something I’ve done in the past with the AF-S 18-35/3.5-4.5 and AF-S 85/1.8. Or just the wide, or maybe a 50/1.4. In the end I chose the Sigma 35/1.4 as the sole lens for 6 days.
35mm has a nice, natural field of view for travel and often captures a scene similarly to how we remember it. It’s not so wide that the framing becomes difficult and not so tight that information is left out. In the cases where a wider field of view is needed it’s not a big deal to snap off a quick panorama and stitch later at home. The Sigma version has excellent sharpness and contrast, even at f/1.4, and has snappy and accurate autofocus – something equally as important as image quality i situations where you need to capture fleeting moments.
Here are a few shots from the trip with the D700. The weather was absolutely outstanding and the city had just decorated for Christmas.