Nik and Erin’s Wedding at Honsberger Estate

Nik and Erin’s wedding last month was beautiful from start to finish. The setting was a winery in the heart of the Niagara wine country, which is already a great start, and their tasteful decorations complemented the natural beauty wonderfully. The good looks of the wedding party and guests helped too! Highlights of the day included the horse and carriage ride from the Inn to the Estate, outdoor games, and a few Estonian wedding traditions… not to mention that I was seated with a lot of good friends of mine.

DSC_1406_stitchNow, I can’t say that everything went smoothly. This was my first event with the new (to me) D700 and as much as I thought a week of constant shooting beforehand would bring any problems with the camera to light, I was sure wrong. Right in the middle of shooting every overlay feature in the viewfinder turned on and stayed on! This included all the AF points and the DX crop, blocking out most of my view. Nothing I did could make it go away, and I tried everything. Fortunately, being the overly prepared worrier that I am, I had brought both my D300s and D7000 along and I managed to switch pretty seamlessly to the DX kit for much of the rest of the day. I still used the D700 in non-critical situations. I’ll post soon about the ongoing saga of the broken D700 and its recent resolution.

Back to the shots. Mike Portt did a great job second shooting, giving some excellent candids and details. Overall, a fun day full of photos that I’m proud of. Thanks, Nik and Erin!

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A Quick Comparison of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX on the D300s

As promised, here is a side-by-side comparison of the absolutely wonderful Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art and the well-respected Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX on a cropped sensor camera. What I found amazing is how close the two lenses are in sharpness.  The bokeh, distortion, fringing, chromatic aberration and vignetting are clearly better in the Sigma but the Nikon really does hold its own.

Do I regret buying the Sigma? Absolutely not.

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The Nikon definitely shows more fringing in extreme contrast.

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The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art

Finally! Ever since I gave up shooting with Pentax and switched to Nikon I’ve yearned for a lens like the FA 31mm f/1.8 LTD. That Pentax lens was staggeringly good and I hadn’t found anything to match it in the F-mount system… until now with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4.

I’ll start this post with a reminder that I shoot with DX bodies (at least for the time being) so the field of view (FOV) of this lens is more like 52.5mm, acting like standard prime. I’m not going to dwell on technical details in this review. Other sites do a far better job than I’m willing to do, with analyses down to the pixel level and direct comparisons to other lenses (here and here, for example).

Here is my current fast prime lineup, all cover FX lenses in case I ever decide to go that route. From left to right: Sigma 35mm f/1.4, Sigma 50mm f/1.4, Nikon AF-S 60mm f/2.8G Micro, Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G. This is a great combination for FX, and pretty good for DX. A wider prime would still be needed but for now the 17-55mm f/2.8 fills that roll.

DSC_1250Being an f/1.4 lens, I’ve naturally focussed mostly on the wide aperture capabilities. I’m amazed at how sharp it is at wide open. Not only is it sharp but the contrast is quite high, making the in-focus subject pop. Stopping down does sharpen the image even further but really, I find the lens sharp enough at all apertures. It even shines on the D7000, a body I’ve found extremely sensitive to most lenses. Here are a few wide-open examples from the D300s (first two) and D7000 (the next four):

DSC_2807 DSC_2782DSC_1174 DSC_1181 DSC_1206 DSC_1225The effect of shooting at f/1.4 is dramatic, even on a DX sensor. I demonstrate this below with a couple sets of images with a range of aperture settings. The first set of images has minimal post-processing, while the second has one of my ‘fade’ presets applied (click on the images for larger versions).

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The bokeh is nice. It’s not the best but far, far from the worst. I have no complaints here.

I was, of course, expecting the Sigma 35 to be optically excellent but I am surprised at how accurately it focuses on both the D300s and D7000. The performance contrasts my other fast Sigma, the 50mm f/1.4 where I find the focus to be inconsistent, especially on the D7000. In single-point AF, I find that I am the weak link, not the lens-body pair.

Do I have any negative comments?

Well, it is heavy at only 100g lighter than the 17-55. That’s about it. I’m really looking forward to giving it a workout at my next wedding shoot. I’ll end this micro-review with some more photos.

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ObG Thursdays – An old man, a bike, an alley and snow.

This week’s oldie-but-goodie is a simple, straightforward and totally spontaneous photo taken on a walk to the grocery store. It’s also a perfect example of why I try to take my camera everywhere with me.

Street photography is an art form that I (and many others) romanticize. From Henri Cartier-Bresson (the father of photojournalism, according to Wikipedia) to the recently discovered of Vivian Maier (who I recommend every green, experienced or even jaded photographer study) to the modern hipster photographer, I have this romantic vision of a confident, passionate and skilled artist. They turn everyday life into images that I can stare into for hours.

Street photography is an art form that I try to succeed at but rarely do. I’ve tried to “shoot from the hip”, by setting the camera to a small aperture and wide field of view and causally holding it down chest level. Usually what I get are out of focus images of people’s shoulders or store fronts. I’ve tried standing way back with a long telephoto and taking sniper shots, often getting the ‘why is that guy with the massive lens taking my picture?’ look.

Generally, the best images have come from confidently and casually approaching an interesting scene. I make myself and the camera visible. I smile. I say thanks. Hiding the camera or hiding myself just doesn’t work as well. This method helped me get some of my favourite street shots during last year’s trip to China.

So… the photo. As I said, I was walking to the grocery store with the D300s and Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 DX. This lens has a near-normal field of view and is small, light and unassuming. As I crossed the entrance to the alley the man rode past me on his bike. I turned, followed and took 3-5 shots. I didn’t have to edit the shot much, just a black and white conversion and some contrast.

D300s with AF-S 35mm f/1.8 DX, f/7.1 1/650s ISO 200.5236619258_af9e382417_o