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ericbowles

Member Since 05 Dec 2013
Offline Last Active Feb 17 2019 05:36 PM
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#259506 Photographing the Lunar Eclipse with the Z6

Posted by ericbowles on 05 February 2019 - 01:45 PM

Like many of you, I photographed the lunar eclipse - in my case with a Nikon Z6 and a D850.  My lens was the Nikon 600 f/4 AFS VR - and for a few shots also with the TC14E III teleconverter.  For the Z6, I used the FTZ adapter.

I had a strong preference for the Z6 over the D850.  I used Pinpoint AF, and through the viewfinder found it was much easier to achieve sharp focus and check focus.  With the D850, the OVF was dim during totality and it was very hard to accurately focus without LiveView.  LiveView was a bit grainy and slow to focus.  In comparison, focusing with the Z6 and the EVF was fast, accurate, and easy.

Exposures were using Electronic Front Curtain Shutter and Exposure Delay Mode at 3 seconds.

One of the key questions for me was the point at which subject motion - the earth's rotation - caused blurring of the image.  The Z6 and D850 have remarkably low noise at high ISO levels, but when you start recovering shadows and cropping deeply, the noise is more pronounced.  With high resolution cameras, we can get sharp images and view them at 100%, so rotation of the earth is a factor.

I tested shutter speed down to 1/5 sec, and ISO levels up to 1600.  I could have gone a little higher with ISO, but ISO 1000 to ISO 1600 seemed to be the sweet spot.  With shutter speeds of 1/8 sec I had obvious motion issues turning stars into short lines.  I could get away with 1/8 sec. with modest cropping at 600mm, but with the teleconverter and effective 850mm, 1/8 sec had clear motion impact seen in stars.

Here was an eclipse image during totality.  This was with the Z6 at 1/8 sec, f/4, ISO 1250

 

Attached Images

  • Lunar Eclipse_1-21-2019_293588.jpg



#259272 Interesting Mirrorless Article

Posted by ericbowles on 28 January 2019 - 02:48 PM

I read the article and like most of you - I consider it click bait.

 

In terms of Nikon's strategy, I think they missed the point.  Nikon's mirrorless strategy is first and foremost about the image.  That's why people buy Nikon gear over other options.  Sony and the 4/3 companies marketed the idea of buying mirrorless to save weight - which was really the only option because they could not compete on image quality and were not going anywhere in the DSLR market.  Four companies or so created the mirrorless market - and one is surviving or thriving while the rest are maintaining or hanging on.

 

When Nikon looks at making great images, they considered what could not be done with the F-mount DSLR.  The tough part was fast lenses and wide lenses - not the long end.  So the lens lineup for the Z series is providing sharper lenses across the frame, and faster lenses.  While they are at it, they are also providing some light lenses but only with better optics and image quality.

 

So a 58mm f/0.95 Noct demonstrates remarkable quality and a very fast lens.  The 24-70 demonstrates better across the frame quality than the f/2.8 F-mount versions - and you can see the difference.  The 35mm f/1.8 is sharper than the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 that we have raved about.  The upcoming lenses are filling out the wide end of an f/4 suite where it matters, or delivering fast and sharp pro level lenses for a pro suite.  By early 2020, everything needed for either approach will be available.

 

Meanwhile Nikon is still doing a good job with the F-Mount.  The 500mm PF f/5.6 is an excellent lens if you can find one.  The longer lenses work very well on the F-mount, and can work fine on the Z-mount with the FTZ.  Cameras that use the F-mount longer lenses will continue to be important so expect to see DSLR cameras released.  Someone can take their pick of DSLR or mirrorless cameras and have good lens options.  

 

I did not expect to see much switching to Nikon, but I have seen some due to the Z.  There are a surprisingly large number of people who were using Nikon and Sony or Nikon plus Olympus, Fuji, etc, and now they are falling back to Nikon only.  The suggests Nikon has stopped the erosion and built a path for people to stay with them.

 

All this suggests a pretty well thought out strategy - and one that continues to invest and make money while producing some great gear.




#258950 Review - Birds in Flight with Nikon Z6

Posted by ericbowles on 13 January 2019 - 07:49 AM

I was out earlier this week to photograph sandhill cranes using the Z6. I took 1005 images over a span of 4 hours and has 17% of the battery remaining. Subjects were a mix of in flight and on the ground, but for this I've emphasize in flight or landing. Lighting conditions were mixed with about 75% clouds but some nice blue sky and good light periodically, so manual exposure was a struggle without Auto ISO. I ended up using a combination of Aperture Priority and Manual with and without Auto ISO. 
 
I used a shutter speed of 1/1000 for the 300mm + TC images, and 1/1250 for the 600mm images - both about twice the focal length. ISO was as low as 140, and as high as 2500 as light dropped. Apertures were f/5.6 with the 300 and teleconverter, and f/5 to f/4.5 with the 600mm - pretty close to wide open.
 
The subjects were mainly sandhill cranes - at a distance of 150 to 300 yards. That's a lot longer than I wanted, but you can't control the birds. After all, they do allow hunting of the cranes in the area with permits.
 
I used AF-C the entire time. Generally I used Wide Small area mode, but also used Dynamic for few images. Single was used for a few shots, but in general just did not make sense unless the subject was perched in a difficult area. Both Dynamic and Wide worked pretty well. The one disappointment with Wide was I found it did lose focus more than expected and would sometimes hunt when the target should have been easy.
 
My frame rate was High Extended almost the entire time. While there was a small chatter across the frame, I had no problem at all keeping the AF point on the subject. It was almost too easy.
 
I started with a 300 f/4 AF and TC14E II teleconverter shooting handheld. The combination is not as sharp as some other lenses, but was light and easy to use handheld. Tracking subjects in flight was generally very easy. I was able to keep the focus dot right on the subject and had no problem keeping the square on the subject. Frame rate was excellent and I got a number of good passes. Hunting was generally on very distant subjects that were small in the frame, or subjects that were moving very quickly.
 
About half way through, I switched to my 600 f/4 AFS VR. This is a very sharp lens, but big and heavy so a tripod and gimbal is required. The lenses is faster to focus, but when you lose focus recovery is not very good. I should have used the focus limited but did not. 
 
Overall, I found the Z6 to be excellent for perched or standing subjects, and pretty good for in flight but not as good as my D850. For flight, I'd rate it about 80% of my D850 but equal to my D800E or D810. For perched subjects I'd rate it equal to my D850 or possibly 20% better. There were some images I got that required manual override, and with a function button programmed for 50% zoom, I was able to quickly adjust focus and get the shot. The frame rate of the Z6 is faster than my D850, so when I was tracking a bird in flight I got more frames and wing position options. 
 
The Function Button programmed to Zoom is a major advantage for bird photography. I used it several times to identify distant subjects. I could quickly press the button, identify the subject and get a quick ID shot, then return to my normal photography. I was identifying birds at distances of up to 800 yards or more and capturing ID images in flight. It also provides for immediate zoom viewing on playback.
 
All these images are cropped anywhere from near 50% to 100%. All were processed in Lightroom.
 
Overall my take is the Z6 is certainly usable for birds in flight. It takes some practice to remember to activate the EVF when you see the bird - not when the camera comes to your eye. I hope to see some improvement in Wide AF with a firmware update. As Thom Hogan has alluded, it's not consistent enough in picking up the closest subject and the positive of hte D500 and to a lesser extent the D850 and D5 is that the miss is never picking up the background with Group AF. I was missing and picking up the background or hunting a bit more than I expected, and if that was resolved the Z6 could be my preferred camera.
 
 

Attached Images

  • Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge_1-8-2019_292471.jpg
  • Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge_1-8-2019_292589.jpg
  • Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge_1-8-2019_292946.jpg
  • Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge_1-8-2019_293186.jpg
  • Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge_1-8-2019_293314.jpg



#258735 Rumoured Nikon Z Lens 2019 Release Schedule

Posted by ericbowles on 31 December 2018 - 06:37 PM

The wide end and light lenses are the obvious places mirrorless pays off, so these lenses fit that strategy.  I don't see long lenses or macro lenses for a while since the adapter allows F-Mount lenses.  The other pretty obvious strategy is to target wedding and portrait shooters - groups where lighter and smaller gear is important.

 

The 14-30 f/4 looks pretty good as a light travel and landscape lens, but for me it's very hard to justify unless the Z becomes my primary camera.  I have four current F-mount lenses covering 20mm and wider.  




#258248 Nikon 24-70 f/4 S

Posted by ericbowles on 09 December 2018 - 10:23 AM

Here is a link to Thom Hogan's review:

http://www.sansmirro...-f4-s-lens.html

 

The conclusion from Thom - "...this is an excellent kit lens." and "...when bundled with a Z6 or Z7 camera is a very modest US$600. At that price, this lens is a clear bargain."

 

I've been using the lens on the Z6 for about two weeks and it is excellent - sharp, easy to use, light, no significant optical issues - and probably as sharp or sharper than my Nikon 24-70 f/2.8.




#257931 Backcountry Gallery - The Secret Power Of Crop Modes

Posted by ericbowles on 27 November 2018 - 11:15 AM

Good article.

 

With a DSLR, the FX viewfinder does not change so a DX crop mode uses a smaller portion of the viewfinder and the subject may still be hard to see.  You effectively have a smaller viewfinder view by about 50%.
 
In comparison, using the mirrorless cameras - the Z7 and Z6 - when you choose a crop mode, the image in the new size fills the viewfinder.  So a DX crop is larger or more magnified than an FX size image.  In addition, you can still zoom in through the viewfinder for a closer view - all the way to 100% if desired.  That can be useful for precise focus or for critical timing of a distant subject.  With mirrorless, even though the viewfinder may magnify the image with a crop or zoom, the AF sensor coverage or size is unchanged.  The Z7/Z6 have pinpoint AF which does allow a smaller AF point and with precision of zooming through the viewfinder, can be useful.



#257695 First Z7 Firmware Update

Posted by ericbowles on 16 November 2018 - 03:53 PM

There is a second update now.  Still just bug fixes.

 

https://downloadcent...ts/492/Z_7.html


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#257496 Scary Thought - The Future of the DSLR!?

Posted by ericbowles on 07 November 2018 - 05:14 PM

I would be worried about having to use reading glasses to focus on it, to make sure the correct part of the photo will be in focus. If the screen is large enough it might not be an issue.

 

I handled the Z7 and Z6 today.  The EVF is much better if you use reading glasses.  You just adjust the diopter if needed, and everything you can see on the LCD is visible through the EVF.  There is no more taking reading glasses on and off.  I hate using LiveView because I have to put on my glasses - but with a diopter adjusted EVF, you can see clearly without glasses.




#256952 Scary Thought - The Future of the DSLR!?

Posted by ericbowles on 12 October 2018 - 08:50 AM

Art makes a great point. For the advanced/pro market, image quality is a huge benefit of the bigger mount - and mirrorless facilitates a bigger mount.  For the amateur market - and for the volume markets - small size and light weight with good ergonomics is important.  For some of that market, a consumer camera is the entry point for a future advanced/pro customer.

 

The D3500 body is still 38% lighter than the Z7/Z6.  The D3500 only weighs 21 grams more than a Sony A6000 mirrorless - less than the 31 grams of change in my pocket or my 37 gm car key and remote.  But the D3500 is 10% cheaper and newer technology.  I can't imagine a consumer would understand the difference - or care unless they are buying based on marketing rather than specs and real world use.

 

I think a consumer will consider choosing Nikon or Canon based on high end image quality, but the photos they produce are still consumer level.  So what they really need is great software in the camera to overcome mistakes and make their photos look better.  That's the big thing that the iPhone cameras have done.  Full Auto mode with default settings needs to be exceptional - and overcome the dozens of potential novice mistakes without a lot of complicated scene modes.  I can't tell you the number of times I've stood next to someone with a D850 and had them remark their iPhone produces a better photo.  They know why - and can make the edits needed - but the average consumer buyer might not understand or care.




#256894 Scary Thought - The Future of the DSLR!?

Posted by ericbowles on 11 October 2018 - 07:57 AM

I can't think of anything you said that is far off the mark.  Maybe the timeline as I see a bit longer life for DSLR cameras, but that is more related to lens needs rather than fundamentals.

 

I see the big advantage of mirrorless in two area - optical performance and software.  Light weight is coming, but could be delivered with a DSLR and is not unique to mirrorless.  Optical performance is more at the wide end than the long end.  The new lens mount allows faster lenses with better optical performance across the frame.  With longer lenses - 100mm and longer - the difference is much smaller since the field of view is smaller and light is already more directly entering the lens.  Software improvements are much more important with an EVF.  The ability to zoom tighter through the viewfinder for precise timing and focus is a big advantage.  The EVF is better in low light.  Expanded Dynamic Range is likely to be delivered with RAW images.  The heads up display aspect of an EVF is already making its mark with focus peaking, but could go further with focus and exposure.

 

I expect to see the consumer DSLR line shift to mirrorless in the near future.  The DX camera line could shift in the same time frame, but could take longer due to the D500 and the crop factor benefits with longer lenses.  It's very hard to justify 3-4 sets of interchangeable lenses, but there are cost and price advantages for DX lenses compared to FX.  But either way, you need a consumer or economy lens lineup for the Z-mount.

 

The Coolpix lineup seems to be a slam dunk for mirrorless.  


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#256854 Durango & Silverton Train

Posted by ericbowles on 09 October 2018 - 09:53 AM

Thanks, everyone!

 

Gary - you're right about the rainy image.  It was right before arriving in Silverton.  There was an unmarked dirt road heading back toward my shooting location.  I found it from the edge of the road high above a little before the train arrived.

 

The nice thing about this train is that it travels on a regular schedule and there is just one train track.  If you are in the area, you can follow the train or figure out the approximate times.  I was able to get pretty good photos in 5 locations along the route.




#256834 Durango & Silverton Train

Posted by ericbowles on 08 October 2018 - 09:30 AM

I just returned from leading the Nikonians ANPAT to western Colorado.  One of the activities was a train ride on on a steam train from Durango to Silverton.  I dropped off everyone in Durango and drove the van to Silverton to meet the group at the end of the ride.  The benefit was a chance for some great train photos along the way.

 

The day started in bright sun with light clouds, but by the end of the ride three hours later, we had hard rain, sleet, and a little thunder.

 

 

Attached Images

  • Colorado_10-4-2018_284497.jpg
  • Colorado_10-4-2018_284387.jpg



#256631 Tiger Woods at PGA Tour Championship

Posted by ericbowles on 28 September 2018 - 06:12 AM

Nice work Eric.

 

 

Did any of the news feed use your pics?

 

Hi Dennis

 

I was shooting for the tournament and the PGA - not for media.  So my photos will be used in promoting the event and for volunteer communications for next year.

 

This photo from last year's event was in the fan guide.  I had another photo that was provided as an autographed promotion for ticket sales.

Attached Images

  • PGA Tour Championship_9-24-2017_251505.jpg



#256577 Tiger Woods at PGA Tour Championship

Posted by ericbowles on 25 September 2018 - 12:54 PM

I just finished a hectic week photographing the PGA Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.  This is the culmination of the professional golf season, and Tiger Woods won it with wonderful play.  Huge crowds followed him in person and on TV - more than double normal crowds.  The Sunday broadcast with his win was the highest rated FedEX Cup event ever.

 

Here are a few photos from the 18th hole and the awards ceremony.  I was using a Nikon D850 with a 24-70 f/2.8 and a Nikon D500 with a 70-200 f/2.8 VR II plus the SB-910 flash moving between bodies.  The biggest photographic challenge was they left the trophy stand and risers in front of the people and they really got in the way.  The fast frame rate was great for action - both Tiger coming out of the crowd and him hugging his caddie lasted just 2 seconds or less.

Attached Images

  • PGATourChampionship_9-23-2018_282813.jpg
  • PGATourChampionship_9-23-2018_282849.jpg
  • PGATourChampionship_9-23-2018_282865.jpg
  • PGATourChampionship_9-23-2018_282909.jpg
  • PGATourChampionship_9-23-2018_283159.jpg



#256365 Nikon has Updated Capture NX-D - Ver 1.5.0 includes Control Points

Posted by ericbowles on 13 September 2018 - 01:14 PM

Nikon has released updates to Capture NX-D and View NX-i.  The new version of Capture NX-D has brought back Control Points - essentially the same feature that was in Capture NX2 developed by Nik and known as U Point.
 
Here is a link to combined updates for both programs:
 
 
I've downloaded the program and done some quick testing.  It works quite well.  As before, it's not the most intuitive program and edits are maintained in a proprietary sidecar, but you can always export to other formats and continue using a TIFF in LR, Photoshop, or other programs.
 
You open the Control Point Panel and click on the Control Point icon on the right side of the panel to activate new control points with a click of your mouse.  You can right click to duplicate or delete control points.  You can also right click to show the areas affected.
 
The control points cover more than just Hue, Saturation and Brightness. You just need to click on the small arrow below the sliders (for advanced controls) to expand the adjustments to include all eight sliders - Hue, Saturation, and Brightness plus Contrast, Red, Green, Blue, Warmth.
 
You can adjust the size of the control point and how much area is impacted. It works fine even at a 100% zoom or more.
 
As with earlier versions of Capture NX2, you can apply a neutral control point to prevent adjustments spilling over into unwanted areas.
 
I've been avoiding NX-D, but control points are excellent and easier to use than Lightroom adjustment brush for some edits.
 
The Retouch Brush in Capture NX-D has a nice feature in that you can go over the same area multiple times to improve coverage. Sometimes it works nicely while other times you need the adjustments of Lightroom or Photoshop.
 
This update is a big improvement in the free software.  It's definitely worth giving NX-D a try and using it when appropriate.