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  Reviews by: jgfranks  

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Nikon D3

Review Date: Dec 29, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,995.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: The low light capabilities of this camera are amazing; no hype, no exaggeration, amazing. The 51 point AF is tremendous. Camera is a real speed demon. FX, DX and 5:4 via FUNC button roll of the dial is very nice feature even with reduced resolution in DX mode. Ability to blast birds at 11 fps in DX with big glass is a real plus when going for action captures. Ergonomics are just right for me, I am a big guy with big hands. The LCD is gorgeous and an unexpected feature is the Info display on the LCD, this is great when working from tripod and you just want to quick check the shutter speed or aperture when light changes without having to put your eye to the viewfinder. Build quality is excellent and start up time is instantaneous making this the perfect action shooter's camera, especially sports in low light venues. I also see this as a great camera for event and wedding photographers because of its low light capabilities and the extremely clean images it produces all the way to ISO 6400.
Seems to collect dust on focusing screen, similar to other Nikon DSLRs. Even though haven't encountered any problems with scratches or marrs on the LCD it makes me a little nervous not to have some protection there, undoubtedly the aftermarket suppliers will fill this gap.

Final thoughts; this DSLR is a tank and I don't anticipate any service related issues. In many ways Nikon finally answered the bell and got back in the race with Canon. Canon pro bodies have a very well deserved reputation for exemplary performance and image quality at high ISO. I am convinced that this offering from Nikon will compare most favorably and the D3x, or whatever the next model is tagged, will be a higher resolution offering around the 20 MP range. However, as this camera is configured it is a real winner and will offer camera buyers wanting a full featured pro body with a FF sensor a reason to pause and seriously contemplate which of two excellent offerings from two great camera makers to purchase. Considering where Nikon was three months ago, much ground has been covered indeed.

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF

Review Date: Feb 17, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Ability to hand hold (light weight relative to focal range), great focal range, VR works well, 77mm filter thread, good price for the focal range
Slow AF, Not AF-S (lens telescopes for longer focal lengths), AF is not always as precise as I would like, lens hood is archaic in design, can not use new generation teleconverters from Nikon (forget using any teleconverter on this lens, image degradation is unacceptable), tripod collar and foot sucks (replace with Really Right Stuff collar and foot)

OK, this is not a perfect lens, but is a very useful lens with very good optics that has a couple of flaws.

First flaw is the AF is screw driven; it is not an AF-S lens. Therefore, as you would expect, it is slow compared to my 70-200 VR or 200-400 VR. This is annoying, because I have expectations commensurate with the aforementioned lenses; however, I can walk through the woods hand holding this lens and shoot all day. I cannot say that about the 200-400 VR. The 70-200 VR with a 1.7 teleconverter would be a reasonable alternative, but the fact is the 80-400 VR is a better choice for hand held shooting at or near the 400mm focal length.

Second flaw is the tripod collar and foot; terrible design (same issue exists with the 300mm f/4 Nikkor) yields unsatisfactory image sharpness quality when shooting from a tripod. Honestly, for me this is not a big issue because if I am shooting from a tripod I use the 200-400mm f/4 VR Nikkor. However, the fix is to replace the collar and foot with Really Right Stuff's custom collar and multi-lens foot. Personally, I use this in hand held shooting only.

If you need a hand held lens with this focal length and don't plan to shoot sporting events in low light with it, this lens is a very good choice for certain types of photography. You must be able to accept that you may need to manually focus the lens to ensure sharp images. However, for the nature photography (especially birders) who need to be able to move to vantage points and have a lens with enough reach to get frame filling captures that are sharp and have great color and contrast then this is a great lens.

Gitzo G1548GT Mk2 Carbon Fiber

Review Date: Dec 30, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $759.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Stability, height and storage size.
A little heavy for a carbon fiber, but to be expected for height.

This is my second Gitzo, my other is a 1325 which I love for almost everything I use it for. Only problem is that I am 6' 2" tall and the 1325 is just a tad short of optimal height for me.

The 1548GT is ideal paired with my Wimberley gimbel and Nikkor 200-400 Zoom. It is also excellent for getting above the subject, used with a step ladder, or getting above blocking terrain or obstruction.

The build quality is first rate, no complaints, this thing is rock solid, a real tank and the most stable support platform I have ever used. Don't go for a center column, you will ruin the stability and you just don't need it with the 1548GT.