Category Archives: Gear

Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used

Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.
Refurbished cameras are inspected by the manufacturer and usually carry a 90-day warranty. The savings can be significant over an unopened item.

Digital photography is an expensive hobby, and we all want to find a good deal when buying gear. Now that the Internet makes comparison shopping easy, it’s hard to find deals and specials beyond what’s already out there.

The other approach to buying camera equipment has been to utilize the used market. The trade-off for getting a cheaper price on pre-owned equipment has always been the risk of not having a warranty should that gear malfunction. When you consider that modern DSLRs and lenses are more computers than machines, it’s no wonder why we can be hesitant to purchased used gear. If you’re going to purchase used equipment, you want to avoid scams and know you’re getting what is advertised. As the saying goes, if the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. I generally try to avoid the auction sites and Internet sales forums for that reason alone. Continue reading Buying Used Gear That Isn’t Really Used

Nikon Announces new 500mm and 600mm Nikkor Lenses

The new 500mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor weighs in at under 7 lbs.
The new 500mm f/4E FL VR Nikkor weighs in at under 7 lbs.

Nikon has announced updates to its 500mm and 600mm f/4 VR Nikkor lenses. The new lenses replace the original VR versions, which were announced in 2007. These new big Nikkors use fluorite glass elements to significantly reduce their weight. The 500mm f/4 E FL Nikkor weighs in at 6.8 lbs, and the 600mm f/4 E FL Nikkor is 8.4 lbs. That makes them currently the lightest 500/4 and 600/4 lenses on the market for 35mm format cameras.

Nikon has also updated the VR system in these lenses to add 4-stops of effective shutter speed, and introduced a “sport” VR mode, which should theoretically improve AF tracking of moving subjects. The lenses also gain electronic aperture control, which is intended to improve exposure accuracy during high-speed shooting, such as with the D4s DSLR.

Feature Comparisons

I’ve put together a simple table comparing each of these new lenses to its predecessor. Major differences are highlighted in green.

The new 500mm and 600mm f/4E Nikkors compared to their predecessors.
The new 500mm and 600mm f/4E Nikkors compared to their predecessors.

Continue reading Nikon Announces new 500mm and 600mm Nikkor Lenses

Review: Metabones Speed Booster Nikon F to Fuji X-Mount Adapter

If you are transitioning to a Fuji X-mount camera system, there may be times when you want to use your existing glass. For this, you need to get a lens mount adapter.

While a lens mount adapter lets you use your Nikon (or Canon) lenses with the Fuji X-mount bodies, there are some major limitations. You will have to use manual focus and set the aperture using a ring on the adapter barrel. Vibration reduction (VR) will not function, either. In my opinion, the reason you get one of these adapters is because you have a particular use for one of your existing lenses. In my case, I like to be able to combine my infrared-converted Fujifilm X-E1 body with my Nikon glass when traveling so that I don’t need to pack two sets of lenses. I have two adapters that I have tested with my Nikon lenses. Continue reading Review: Metabones Speed Booster Nikon F to Fuji X-Mount Adapter

New DSLRs from Nikon and Canon

The new Canon 5DS cameras have 50 megapixel resolution. That ought to up the ante for landscapes and fashion photographers.

There have been a couple new cameras in the news lately. For Canon shooters, the new 5DS and 5DS R models deliver 50-megapixel (8688 x 5792 pixel) full-frame (36x24mm) images. I know many Canon shooters who have been waiting for something to get them over the 20 megapixel barrier, and these two cameras should do the trick. Canon is doing something similar to what Nikon did with the D800/e variants. The “R” model uses a software cancellation trick to eliminate the effect of the optical low-pass (anti-aliasing) filter.  Both models are expected to be shipping by June 2015.

My take: I know many Canon shooters who have switched to the Sony system not necessarily because they wanted a mirrorless camera, but because they wanted to use their L-glass on a 36MP camera. With the aggressive price points of the 5DS (under $4k), the competition just got going again between Nikon and Canon. I’m very interested in seeing how well Canon has done increasing the dynamic range of their sensors, which has been fairly stagnant for the last few years.

Nikon also announced a new D810 variant for astrophotography, the D810A. This camera has the same sensor as the normal D810 (36MP), but offers a different kind of filter over the sensor; one with an Infrared cut filter. The idea here is to allow for better astrophotographic captures of nebulae, as the filter lets these unique wavelengths of light (H-alpha reds) through (see image samples from Nikon). The D810A also offers more flexibility in manual exposure for capturing long exposures (you can set times up to 15 minutes).

My take: This camera is a specialty item, designed for amateur and professional astronomers. The new camera offers great features for astronomy, but it isn’t at all suited for general-purpose work. I think it’s great that Nikon has the resources to release a camera such as this, because it means that they are doing well enough elsewhere to warrant the production of a specialty camera. But man, I still hope to see a 20+MP camera capable of 8fps for my birding work!

Nikon 500mm f/4 VR: Hands-on first impressions and images

Male house finch, Fountain Colorado. Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR lens and Nikon D810. 1/1600s @ f/4.5, ISO 360.
Male house finch, Fountain Colorado. Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR lens and Nikon D810. 1/1600s @ f/4.5, ISO 360.

Spring is still a ways off here in the Rockies, but I did take advantage of some recent nice weather to field test my new Nikon 500mm f/4 AFS G VR Nikkor telephoto lens. In case you missed it, I switched to this lens recently after selling my 600mm f/4 VR. You can check out my podcast to hear about my rationale for switching.

I hit up the local nature center, where numerous bird feeders are set up. We don’t get much in the way of colorful birds here at this time of year, but the small ones are out in force, including chickadees, house finches, juncos, and the occasional woodpecker. Continue reading Nikon 500mm f/4 VR: Hands-on first impressions and images