|© Mark LaMonica. All Rights Reserved.
|Why I continue to use Nikon gear
|Here's a short version of camera layout/functions that are important to me.
These are some of the reasons why I use Nikon cameras in this digital age of photography.
Lets start out with the fact I work in all kinds of uncontrolled situations which includes severe weather. My old all manual film cameras didn't have rubber seals all over the place and they worked fine since there was either no or limited
electronics. Today weather sealing is the top criteria for any digital camera I look at. After that, the following applies but in no specific order of importance.
Since I'm a film era photographer I grew up toting around a lot of filters with my camera gear. I had to filter for different types of light (tungsten, fluorescent, daylight, mixed, etc). Today, you have White Balance which does the same
thing automatically if you want it to. If I was using Velvia 50 and doing an interior shot, I would have to calculate for reciprocity failure and add more exposure time plus use color correction filters to get the picture to come out correctly. It
wasn't unusual for me to be doing 5 minute or 4 hour exposures. It's important to note that digital cameras/sensors are just the opposite. They are much more sensitive to light even at low ISO settings and require either the metered
exposure time or less time.
Since this is all built into digital cameras, I look for the ability to be able to dial in white balance, color correction and feel (feel being equal to a specific look relating to a specific film). Of course I use NEF (RAW), so many of these in
camera adjustments are not transferred to the NEF file and they can be done in post processing. The only filters I use now are Neutral Density, Graduated Neutral Density, Haze HD from Tiffen and Circular Polarizer. That's a lot less
than the 60+ filters I had when I was in my 20's.
Dynamic Range - This is a subjective area where everyone knows Nikon has a wider dynamic range which helps tremendously when recovering whites/highlights or shadows.
Color true to life - This can make or break a commercial project, so the camera sensor combined with the post processing software has to record true color if viewed on a monitor or printed out because everything has to match the
Flash - Back in the film days I didn't do polaroid tests prior to doing an assignment. I had to be fast and accurate and I didn't have the luxury of doing flash/lighting tests. I assessed the situation, calculated ambient exposure and flash
exposure and went with it. I never had any issues with blown out or under exposed pictures. I did a wedding using my F5 with Fujichrome 400X slide film and pre-wedding formals with fujicolor pro 160S all lit with SB28 speedlights.
My first digital wedding was with the D80 and 4 SB800 speedlights. So yes, flash and the ability to control that is important to me.
Body layout - This could be a long one, but I'll simplify it. I could never figure out why the multi-controller was low on the body. I would use the first joint on my thumb to move focus points around. It's nice to see that the new D5 and
D500 bodies have added a new controller higher up that is more in-sync with the natural way your hand holds the body. Aperture and shutter control on the Nikon is more natural than with other manufacturer bodies. They are in a
natural position for quick access and use. The Function button at the lower right of the body down from the shutter button serves as my spot meter. Since I used large and medium format cameras when I was young, I'm a hand held
meter user from the film days. Since Nikon has spot metering linked to each focus point, I can get a specific reading fast on a small portion of my subject or scene. I still had my Sekonic cine/photo meter when I stopped using my F6.
The AF-ON and AE-L/AF-L buttons are not on all Nikon bodies but are an important part of my custom settings. I use the AF-ON button as my AF Lock. If the camera doesn't have an AF-ON button I'll use the focus mode selector switch
to go from AF to Lock by switch to MF (manual focus). I use the AE-L/AF-L button to lock my exposure.
Still backwards compatible - Although this is becoming something that isn't important with many newer photographers, it is nice to be able to use vintage Nikkors. The Df is by far the best film user to digital camera I've used that just
looks and functions extremely well with vintage Nikkor lenses and equally as good with newer ones.
The basics of setting up my camera - Here's my standard method, in short, when I get a new camera. The first thing I do is (and this is obviously after setting the language/time zone) . . I go right into the menu and start customizing
everything to my personal way of shooting. This, of course, is all based on the fact that I used film. The transition to digital means the camera should be able to function like my film cameras did. The biggest problem I find with
workshop students is they buy a camera and never change anything. They use all factory defaults and auto mode (that little green camera icon on the top selector) because as one person said "learning how the camera functions is a
hassle" but that same person complains about their results too. Read your manual and go over each page with your camera in hand. You'll find it easier to understand the content and be able to try different settings.
Nikon color depth and overall image quality - I get a lot of compliments on how my pictures look and that's a direct result of customizing the camera and good batch processing. I say batch processing because I shoot like I'm shooting
film. I like shooting it right in the camera and use minimal adjustments in my post processing software. I shoot, upload and export. It's rare that I have to do any major adjustments.
The new camera manufacturer battle is video. Not having silent AF tracking in some Nikon DSLR bodies for video is not an issue for me. I have my own quick set and record method that works pretty well in those un-controlled off the
hip clips. I tested this on Emmy's son Westin and it seems to be ok as long as he isn't moving towards or away quickly and I get sharp results. *I do a fast AF lock in photo mode, then switch to MF (using the focus mode selector on
the body), switch to movie mode and record. I can do this in a few seconds because of how the body is laid out which goes back to the why Nikon is the best choice for me thing.
Optical viewfinders are still the best means of a real view of your subject and having knowledge of exposure and watching the meter beats an electronic view. Save weight go mirroless (not that I want to keep gnawing on that bone) . . .
but . . . . . The digital era has really packed in a lot of features beyond film and I actually am able to carry less weight in the field (no film/not as many filters) where I can get the maximum amount of image quality out of the sensor using
a traditional SLR type digital camera that has been customized. If I want smaller/lighter then I reach for a DX body and DX lenses.
Now of course if I was under contract with Nikon and not allowed to use other brands . . . all of this would be seen by many people as just another Nikon Promo by a Nikon user who is biased. I used digital DSLR cameras from
Canon, Leica, Pentax and Sony. I used mirrorless cameras from Fuji and Sony so I have a real world working knowledge of all those systems and how they feel and work. There's just no camera body out there as fast as a Nikon body
in terms of being able to work it quick and I will even go further to say that the Df despite its old school layout is blazing fast to operate if you set it up right.
There is so much more to this that the best way to really understand it and get the most out of your Nikon camera is to take a workshop on setting up your camera and using custom settings.
|Please continue to page 2 for more information and pictures of Nikon camera controls.
Cinematic and Photographic Ethics - I provide cinematic and photographic services to a variety of clients using the best equipment suited to the project at hand.
I do not engage in "setting up images" by means of staging. There's a difference between creating an advertising campaign and actually catching life as it happens.
All digital pictures are processed like film pictures. They are captured in RAW/NEF format, then uploaded and exported in a RAW/NEF file converter like film in a developer.
I do not alter/manipulate pictures. I prefer that they look just like what I saw when I pushed the shutter button. If I alter/manipulate an image, it is clearly marked as such.
|Function and Speed