Saturday, December 30, 2017

New Year Feelings of a Nikon Photographer

January 2018 Update
Well, technically it's December 30th 2017 when I'm writing this, but that's not important right now. What is important is that I found this older article, from three years ago, and as I'm reading it I'm realizing nothing has changed. Perhaps a few models here and there (we're now thinking about the Nikon D7500 instead of the D7100) but that's about it. All the lessons described below are still very relevant, and they will continue to be. That's the reason I'm reposting this article, and that's the reason you should read it

Happy New Year 2018!

So, it's 2015. What's new (at least for a little while longer)? There are many interesting options on the FX front (the D750 and the D810 are, for different reasons, the most exciting products at the moment). Things look great also on the DX front, with many different bodies with very capable sensors (both resolution- and performance-wise) for not much money.

Let's have a cup of coffee and think of what the New Year brings!
How about bad news? Still no D400 (an update for the D300, that is), and still no DX primes (particularly wide-angle). I don't want to sound pessimistic for those (still) awaiting these, but I think the more time passes, the less possible either of these are. The reason is that both are related to a pro-DX line of products, and it seems obvious that Nikon decision-makers have departed from that strategy. Basically, if a D7100 body and existing DX lenses aren't enough for you, Nikon wants you to go FX.

More bad news: the Nikon 1 system (although great for very casual photographers), is just too underwhelming (both in terms of lenses/system as well as performance) for top-level work. Every single iteration of the J- and V- series is, in my opinion, yet another sign that the Nikon 1 series lacks a design and purpose strategy. It almost feels as if Nikon just wanted a piece of the mirrorless pie and rushed to produce some things without fully knowing what the future would bring.

But let's not talk about specs, cameras, and marketing.
Let's talk about photography instead.

You perhaps bought a little something for yourself this Christmas.
Or, you might have been given a nice photography-related gift.
The question is, how do you make good use of what you got?

You see, a bored, uninspired person with a Nikon D4s and a Zeiss Otus lens will show you (if anything at all) just that: boring pictures of his uninspired, non-existent artistic vision. A motivated, thrilled, interested-in-photography hobbyist with, say, an old Nikon D60 and the 18-55 kit lens, will show you way more engaging photos.

So, and admitting I might be repeating myself (but there is a darn good reason for it), let me emphasize this once more:

Reject the false notion that, unless you own the "latest and greatest", you are not getting the most out of your photography. A D3300 is a fine camera. The D3200 and the D3100 are also fine cameras. You know what? The D40 is also a fine camera, if that's what you have. Here's what a D40 with the 35mm f/1.8 (a combo you can nowadays find used for less than $200) can give you:

Click to enlarge. Happy enough with the performance of the "obsolete" D40 sensor?
Resist the suggestions of sellers or other photographers to "just get the best camera, you can buy good lenses later". In the DSLR realm, a camera is nothing without the lens. If you have an x amount of money to spend on getting the best possible deal, grab the cheapest camera you can get and put in front of it the best lens for your needs. If, for example, portraits are your thing, a D3000 with the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4 will blow out of the water a D7000 with the 18-55.

Finally, Rethink your photographic priorities. This is the hardest part, especially for non-professional photographers. I know what I need to have in order to get the job done, and it's easy because I'm a portrait photographer. If somebody paid me to take, say, product photos, I would have to decline. Why? Although I have professional experience with that kind of photography, too, I do not own the tools suitable for the job, and renting the entire set for only one occasion is not profitable. Now, think of the same issue from the amateur's perspective:
Could you afford (and even if you could, would it make sense) to own every single piece of equipment (lenses, flashes, diffusers, backdrops, tripods, etc. etc.) required for all kinds of photography? You must accept your limitations. If you want to try everything, sure, go ahead and do it: But trying macros (to name an example) means you go out to the garden (or, better still, your kitchen), you use what you have (even if that is your quasi-macro kit lens), and you take pictures. If you like it, continue. If you still like it and you see ways you can improve, advance, and get more rewarding photos, go for it. But don't rush in to buy bellows, expensive macro lenses, ring flashes and what not, thinking you might want to get into macro photography.

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