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Nikon D800

d800s
Review Date: Jun 19, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,999.00

 
Pros: 1) Fantastic image quality (near medium format) 2) Affordable price point 3) Superb ergonomics (for Nikon fanboys) 4) Available HD video capability
Cons:
1) Frame rate is low at 4 fps; no option to increase frame rate even with low quality..this is stupid. 2) Grip is ridiculously expensive

If you can find one and can spare the cash, you will be very happy!

This is no doubt the BEST camera I have ever used. This includes a long line of film bodies from Canon and Nikon, as well as Pentax 645 medium format and Canon's pro digital bodies.

The optical quality is so good that it seems impossible to make mistakes, particularly if you shoot RAW. The downside is that you can fill up your hard drive very quickly (with 40MB + file sizes for a single image), and you quickly learn to be more discerning. I have shot almost 5000 images since I got this body just 2 months ago!

Ergonomics is quite similar to the D700 body, which I absolutely loved. After years of shooting with Canon bodies, I made the switch because of the D700 body and it ergonomics (as recommended by no less an expert than Scott Kelby). In my opinion, these are the two greatest camera bodies ever produced (under $ 3000). Yes, I am including the venerable Canon 5D M2 in that list (optically wonderful, but not a pleasure to use)

From a value stand-point, I believe the D800 is a competition crusher, there is nothing even close with this quality of resolution (full frame 35 MP!!!) at this price-point. You can pay 10 times this price for Phase One medium format digital bodies ...etc!!!

The files are smooth, with buttery transitions between shadows and highlights. Colors are vibrant, your images literally jump off the page.

Unfortunately, the LCD display does not seem any better than the D700 (adequate, but difficult to view in bright sunlight). Also, the display does not articulate, it would have been a really useful feature and I would have gladly paid a little extra fro that benefit.

I have not commented on HD video (very good, if used properly with a tripod etc) as I am not a heavy video user and don't feel qualified to comment. It is perfectly usable (for those who are interested in pursuing this option).

Obviously this is not meant to be a technical review, this review is just my opinion. It is meant to help those who have not used this body and need some motivation to check it out!

For the benefit of those who want to see many sample images, I have created a D800 sub-gallery on my website, under the main gallery called Portfolio. Please know that all my images are copy-right protected and that you should NOT try to download.

www.tvphoto.smugmug.com

Go to my 'Portfolio gallery' and Sub-gallery is 'Nikon D800 gallery.' Enjoy!


 
Nikon 300mm f/4 ED-IF AF-S Nikkor

1909NAS_180
Review Date: Jun 19, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,369.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: 1) Optically clean, sharp and colorful 2) Nice ergonomics for a long lens, Quick AF and easy to handle 3) Great Bokeh for portraits, nearly as good as the f2.8 version
Cons:
1) Does not have VR (unlike competitor Canon) 2) Price has gone up to $ 1369 (from about $ 1200)

For many years I tried to get by with the 70-200 f2.8 and TC 17. On paper it is a more versatile option than the fixed 300mm F4 AFS lens. But I found that I did not pack the 70-200 as often as i would have imagined. After many sporadic evaluations of the 300 F4 over the years, I decided to bite the bullet and found a new US version from Adorama.

This lens is wonderful (optically) if you can use the focal length. It tracks birds effortlessly (like my beloved Canon 400mm f5.6L lens, which Art Morris called a great birding lens); it takes the TC without obvious degradation in quality but with some loss of AF speed. It is very easy to pack, handle and use for a lens of this size and quality.

It can take a 77m filter in the front (like other Nikon lens 16-35, 24-70, 70-200) and we can share filters, polarizers, ND filters etc. This is a nice feature of using the current version of this lens. Prior version has a drop in filter with an 82mm front element.

This current AFS version of the 300mm F4 has a rotating tripod collar which is detachable (unlike previous AFD version which has a non-detachable collar). That lens is also a good option optically. Others have complained about the tripod mount, but I do not see a need to upgrade with a replacement foot (rotating tripod collar) from RRS or Kirk and spend an additional $ 175 (approximately). The current Nikon foot seems quite adequate to me (perhaps Nikon has improved it recently? I am not sure)

In my opinion, this is a 'must have' lens for a pro or advanced hobbyist who wants to shoot outdoor sports (in daylight) or birds, concerts, political events etc.

The only downside is the lack of VR (does not bother me as I tend to shoot at over 1/300 sec and it is quite adequate for sharp images, particularly since we can crank up iso to over 3200 without any loss in quality with a Nikon D700 or D800 body). The other problem is it relative lack of availability.

What is Nikon thinking, a new VR version perhaps?

Bottom-line- the number of keepers from the lens is very high compared to the 70-200 coupled with a TC 17 (at a maximum effective focal length of 340mm).

I love this lens, and you may like it too Smile

Go get one if you can find one!


 
Nikon D700

D700
Review Date: Jan 25, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,600.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: The shooter's dream machine; a near perfect DSLR body; get the grip!
Cons:
High priced Nikon lenses

This review is meant to help Canon shooters who are considering the Nikon D3 or D700. I agonized over this decision for more than one year, as it was not a wise financial decision, having the complete range of Canon's best lenses (esxcept 500F F4L). Here is why I chose the D700 instead of the 5D mark II:

1) fantastic ergonomics- dedicated buttons for all important settings including iso, white balance, image playback & magification, shooting speed, exposure compenation (instead of menu changes)

2) great tactile feel; you wil love to handle this body once you pick it up; everything feels right inclusing the grip; the Canon grip feels like it will wobble and come off anytime.

3) intuitive shooting design; after 10 years of using Canon bodies including AE, Elan, 10D, 20D, 1D mark 2N and 50D, I am still not sure of what goes where and have to carry a flashlight to see what I am doing in the dark. After 1 day of usijg the D700, I am sure of all the buttons and settings. What a great design!!!

4) Auto iso setting (set max iso to 6400, yes it is absolutely noise free!!! set minimum shutter to 1/30 and fire away. Canon, try and beat this)

5) Metering accuracy and exp compensation: I need to change exp comp on all my Canon bodies; Nikon D700 is much more accurate.

6) Flash system: no comparison between SB 900 system and EX 550

7) Auto focus response: almost as good as my Canon 1D mark II N; that is setting a VERY high standard

I can go on an on about every button and setting, but you need to take a few test shots to get the idea. I have kept a few of my Canon lenses and am shooting with both systems for now. Just in case Canon brings out a killer body in the future. For now, the D700 is the Best DSLR in the world for the money (please dont compare with a $ 7000 body).

Hope this helps those sitting on the fence Smile Yes, get the Grip, it makes a lot of difference for vertical compositions.


 
Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8D AF

1963NAS_180
Review Date: Jan 22, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Built like a Rolex, sharp, fast, great colors, wonderful overall image quality...fantastic pro glass for about $ 400!
Cons:
None



 
Canon EOS 50D

50D_1_
Review Date: Oct 22, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,599.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Big beautiful LCD, clear menus, improved image playback, same grip and batteries as 20D, 30D, 40D, image quality, digic 4 processor, on switch is improved. Probably the best bang for the buck in the Canon line
Cons:
9 point autofocus compared to Nikon's 51 point, cheap feel (not robust) compared D300 or Canon 1 series. Not a pleasure to use like the Nikon D300 or D3 (feels competent at best)

1) My reason to buy: waited for 2 years to get the 5D upgrade and was disappointed with the 9 point AF system of the 5Dm2; the 50D promises similar feature set and image quality except for full frame and video (at half the price)

2) Compared to my 20D(about 25K shots): I detest the 20D, particulalry the LCD; the 50D beats the 20D in all respects at the same price point (at timne of release)

3) Compared to my 1D MIIN (after 25K shots): I love the feel and shooting pleasure of the 1 series; but it is heavy for everyday use/ travel etc. The 50D is lighter and more likely to be used for casual occasions. For sports etc the 1DM2N will still be my preferred body

4) I have shot about 600 images with almost every Canon lens; the balance is not close the the 1D body, particularly with long lenses. With the grip (from the 20D, which actually fits) it is much easier to use than without grip. Menu system is easy to use, auto iso is great (but only up to 1600), image playback is a drean compared to 20D and 1Dm2N.

5) I have not tried live view seriously and do not expect to use except in very low or high shots where viewfinder is not psooiblke to use. Focus in live view seems slow

6) Kit lens (28-135) is an imposition (feels like a toy though day time images are quite good) for those who are used to L quality, I bought the kit as it was not available without it.

7) A/F is not bad though it has no significant improvement. Metering is OK. In my opinion, Colors do not pop like in the Nikon D3 (have test shot D300 and D3 and made quick comparison). The Nikons are better bodies (a real pleasure to use) if you have Nikon Glass. Unfortunately, I am heavily invested in Canon glass and cannot switch witout losing thousands of dollars.

7) I am surprised that others have not reviewd the 50D yet. Except for 1.6 crop factor, it is a decent upgrade to the prosumer line. Probably the best bang for the buck in the Canon line.


 
Canon EOS 1D Mark II N

1d_mkii_n
Review Date: May 30, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,000.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Rock-Solid build and feel, Dependable Autofocus, Beautiful viewfinder, Joy to use... once you learn how!
Cons:
Cheap neckstrap, no wriststrap, terrible manual, heavy battery (need to discharge battery before recharging), huge battery charger

1) 5D or Mark II N- I spend almost a year making up my mind. Decided on M2N based on overall shooting pleasure.

2) The 5D feels like my 10D / 20D (over 40K shots) except for viewfinder and image quality. It took me 2 weeks to learn to use M2N and was very disappointed initially with results.

3) After about 1500 shoots and learning to set white balance, iso settings, autofocus points, I started seeing acceptable results.

4) The overall image quality is similar to 20D /30 D in my opinion, though the image files are larger. The number of keepers has gone up substantially.

5) After shooting with the M2N, the 20D (with grip)feels like a toy. Once you get used to teh 1 series, it grows on you.and I suspect I will not go back to prosumer bodies (except as a back up / second body).

6) Unlike others who complain about the weight, I love the size and feel of this machine. It feels just right in my hands (180 lb male with smallish hands) and the balance is fantastic, even wth the 70-200L.

7) I think white balance, autofocus, shooting lag, color accuracy, flash results & balance etc etc ....are far superior to the 20D/30D.

8) The 5D is probably a much better choice for overall image quality and landscapes, but I love the 1D M2N for event photography and for pure shooting pleasure.

9) The neck strap is an annoyance, as is the fact that battery needs to be discharged before recharge (memory degradation otherwise). Canon used this heavy old fashioned battery for required burst of power (8.5 frames per sec.)

10) Canon seems to have impoved size, weight and battery performance for the mark III which costs more (about $ 1500 more at this time, besides being unavailable)

11) This is an intuitive purchase for me; it is difficult to justify based on specs and resolution (compared to the 5D with grip-- with more resolution, full frame and maybe a 0.5 lbs lighter)

12) You got to shoot with the M2N to know how it feels in your hand -- CONFIDENT! SMUG & SATISFIED SMIRK Smile



 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: May 17, 2007 Recommend? | Price paid: $650.00

 
Pros: Sharp, Great Contrast, Color and Build, 'must have wide'angle for 'non-full frame' digital bodies, inexpensive for an L lens
Cons:
Not a fast 2.8 lens

Have owned this lens for almost 2 years. It is my second most used lens with the 20D. Fantastic build, almost perfect in every way. Easy to pack and use ...under all conditions. Works great with auto flash, for events such as weddings, group shots, or similar professional PJ applications.

I have used it extensively for product photography (very large manufactured items on a tripod) with great success.

The only downside is that is not an 'available light' lens with a large aperture (it is a very useful constant F4). On the other hand, the 2.8 L lens cost twice as much!

There is no other lens of this class, in this price range (including Canon Primes). One of Canon's great deals!


 
Sigma 24mm f1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro

24_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Aug 15, 2006 Recommend? no | Price paid: $320.00 | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Inexpensive & Fast Wide angle prime
Cons:
Lacking overall impact, sharpness, color

As a canon 10D / 20d shooter with crop factor, I needed a fast wide angle solution for low light concerts, weddings etc.

I am disappointed with hand-held results (without a tripod) in low light situations.

If the subject moves, even a tripod will not help. I would rather have an IS lens (or the 16-35 F2.8L at 4 times the price) and have the added flexibility to move about (and hope that you can get off shots when subjects are relatively still)

Yes, it seems inexpensive, but what is the use of an inexpensive lens that you do not use?



 
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

ef17-40_4l_1_
Review Date: Aug 9, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $680.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros:
Cons:

For digital shooters shooting group shots and landscape (with 1.6 crop factor) there is no alternative to this zoom lens under $ 1000.

I prefer working with this lens over the 20mm Canon prime lens & Sigma 24 mm 1.4 lens in all well-lit situations- color, sharpness, limited flare, 'pop' factor.

I have not had luck with indoor / flash shots despite thousands of shots and my best efforts. Perhaps I expect to much.

If you can afford the 16-35 f2.8 L (twice the price and one stop faster), I would bite the bullet and take that route.

Fantastic build quality, worthy of L siblings in every way.

Happy shooting.


 
Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 XR Di Zoom AF

28-75mm
Review Date: Aug 7, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Competes with Canon L lens (28-70 f2.8L) three times its price (also much bulkier)
Cons:
Erratic results wide open (color, separation etc)

Great bang for the buck;

best non-L alternative in this zoom range for Canon shooters.

Excellent ergonomics

Can give fantatic results in most situations, but fails in some tricky / backlit situations even after thousands of attempts!

Not for the most picky (and well heeled) shooters.