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Hoping to enjoy photography again...

Discussion in 'Photography' started by JohnRice, May 28, 2014.

  1. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    This isn't news to a few of you, but I've found a good way to hate an occupation you previously loved is to study it, get two degrees in it, then work in that field for about 25 years.

    I've absolutely left photography behind as a profession now. My livelihood entirely comes from something else, though it does involve a small amount of simple product photography that I can do in my sleep. Now I'm itching to enjoy photography again. I wouldn't mind producing some new work to decorate my house and the offices of my business.

    I've also finally warmed up to the capabilities of digital. More accurately, digital has gotten closer to my expectations. That took a while. Moving from medium and large format film to early DSLR is largely what drove me out of the profession. The best that came out of the Fuji S1 (my first DSLR) was basically garbage, and merely suggesting shooting film, even ten years ago, would lose the client in no time flat.

    So, I know there are a few real photo enthusiasts here, and I thought I'd just see what suggestions anyone had. Remember, my knowledge level with general photography is extremely high. I just don't keep up with current equipment, which changes much faster than it ever used to.

    Here's what I have in digital equipment. I also have extensive MF (Bronica SQ-A) and LF (Cambo Master PC) systems, but I doubt they will do anything other than collect dust, unless I ever decide to shoot and process B&W film, which could happen. I won't be changing from Nikon, BTW. I'm not looking to invest that much time and expense. My hodgepodge of lenses is because some of it dates back 20 years to film.

    Nikon D200, Tokina 20-35 2.8 FX, Tokina 12-24 4.0 DX, Nikon 18-70 DX, Nikon 70-180 Micro(!) FX, Tamron 70-300 FX, Tamron 17-50 2.8 DX. Tamron 200-400 FX. A Panasonic LX7 is arriving tomorrow for carrying around.

    I'm wanting to upgrade to a new camera body. I figure that image quality must have improved quite a bit since the D200. I want to be able to use any lens, so it has to have a focus motor. I'm just not prepared to go full frame, due mainly to the cost to replace some lenses, so it seems the D7100 is pretty much my only option. I also want true, uncompressed Raw output. I also have Photoshop CS6, and keep up to date on that, as well as Lightroom, which I have never actually used. I hear it has nice image capabilities and may mostly be able to replace PS so long as I don't need to do layout or multi-layer things. Can it do things like multi-image panoramas and HDR?

    Anyway, I welcome any comments or suggestions.
     
  2. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    VERY cool John! Good luck. I am very happy using my D4 but that's probably not what you wanna hear. We are all waiting for a 'real' replacement to the D300s, maybe september?
     
  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    It seems to me the D7100 really is the replacement for the D300. I don't know what they would put between that and the D610. What would a D400 have that the D7100 doesn't? Isn't the construction pretty much D300 level?
     
  4. Scott Merryfield

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    John,

    Glad to hear you are getting back on the horse. While I love the craft as a hobby, I can understand how it could become a drag as a profession. Hopefully you will find a lot more enjoyment out of it this way.

    I cannot help with the Nikon body suggestions, as I shoot Canon. I'm sure that Sam and Cameron can help there. As for Lightroom, I use it for pretty much all my photo processing. It will not do multi-image panoramas or HDR, but it can handle just about any single exposure processing you will need. I have not gotten into HDR yet, as I've been focusing more on using my Lee filters lately, but I have heard lots of good things about Photomatix for HDR software. They have a free trial available for download. One of these days I plan to give it a try.

    The best advice I can think of is to find a subject matter that you really love and focus on that to bring back the enjoyment. For me, it is landscape and wildlife. I do shoot other things, too, but those are the subjects that give me the most enjoyment.
     
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  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    To me the differences are not insignificant. The D7100 beats the D300s on many specs, but misses a few that are important to me personally:

    Buffer size. 6 vs. 30. (sports!)
    SD vs CF or XQD
    1FPS slower on the 7100
    Pixel density (big fat pixels over having more of em)
    Bracketing advantage D300s (max 5 frames vs 9, tho I don't do much HDR....)
    Full magnesium body vice partial

    http://photographylife.com/nikon-d7100-vs-d300s
     
  6. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Why not go with the D610 or D800, and just keep on using your DX lenses on them, just know that your output won't be a fully realized full-frame exposure (still yields a solid crop-body exposure in terms of resolution with DX lenses), but still gives you options for FX lens acquisition for later.
     
  7. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Patrick, I've definitely been tempted by the 610, or even maybe a 600 that has had the shutter refurbished by Nikon. Last weekend Nikon had a refurb sale and if they'd had the the 600 in stock, it would have been $1,200. I might have jumped on that. The main thing that is stopping me at the moment is the cost of the body. I wasn't planning on spending upwards of $2K, or more for the 800. From what I read about the image quality on the 7100 is that it really is pretty outstanding. It and the 610 seems to be the current champions in the line, at least without getting too expensive. As far as the pixel size aspect, is the 7100 that much different than the pixel size in the 800?

    I do like the idea of full frame, and I only have a minimal investment in DX lenses. For those who have used DX lenses on FX bodies, how much usable image do you get? I know Man recently got an 800 and was planning on using the 1.2 (or 1.3?) crop for DX lenses.

    Another part of the story is, I went through several years after my divorce of very difficult times, which led to a lot of financial trouble. That should be behind me for good, but I am competely a "Cash" minded person now. If I don't feel comfortable paying for an entire purchase within 3-4 weeks of making it, I don't make the purchase.
     
  8. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    ...or I get a used D300S to hold me over for a while. Is there going to be a real image quality difference between it and the D200?
     
  9. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Now I'm thinking I really should just get a used D300. What are the differences between the 300 and 300S? Do they both have focus motors. That really is a must.
     
  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    They do. And yes, there is a huuuuge quality difference between the D300 and D200, especially at any ISOs higher than 800, if that matters to you. I havent used the D300s to tell how big a leap that is, but remember that even that is olllllld now =)
     
  11. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Yeah, once I realized the D300 is almost 7 year old, I decided against going that way.
     
  12. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I'd go with the most current model that you can readily afford, no use looking backwards unless your focus motor requirement gets in the way of buying a newer model.
     
  13. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Yes Patrick, that is the best advice and exactly what I have finally concluded, twice now. It's funny, because I sold photo gear, first retail and then as a Rep for almost 15 years before going into it as a profession. I'd see so many people go around in these same circles. That was with film cameras. It's 10x as bad with digital because the body really does determine the picture quality.

    I don't need heavy duty gear, but still, anything that dosn't have a focus motor probably would be flimsier than I want. A local outdoor gear shop has the only real camera dept left in the area, and they also sell my tea in the kitchen dept. plus I know several of the people who work there, from back in my own photo retail days. So, I'm going to at least see the D7100 in person tomorrow, and if I don't object to anything about it, that is probably the way I'll go. Despite the pixel cram, everything i read about the IQ is stellar.
     
  14. Michael_K_Sr

    Michael_K_Sr Screenwriter

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    I bought a refurb D600 and it's great. I was in the same boat last year trying to decide whether to go with FX or stick with DX (my previous D7000 went for a swim in the Merced River.) I rented a D7100 and thought it was an excellent camera...especially the auto-focus and improved low light performance. I borrowed a D600 and was impressed that it showed even less noise at higher ISO's than the D7100. Ultimately I decided to make the jump to full frame because I shoot a fair amount at wide focal lengths and the DX cameras are a killer at the wide end because of the crop factor...there just really aren't a lot of quality lenses at the ultra wide end on DX.
     
  15. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    I don't know. The D600 shutter oil/dirt issue would scare me a way (refurb or not). And I'm not personally convinced the D610 is enough of an upgrade over the D7100 for the price diff unless fullframe is really the only thing that matters (in comparing the two).

    Especially in your case, John, I'd say giving the D7100 a good spin yourself -- knowing that you'll buy it if it suits you -- is probably your best bet.

    Can't really think of anything about the D7100 that might actually bother you other than the perceived build quality perhaps -- it likely won't feel as solid as the D300 nor your D200. I'm assuming you don't really make use of the shooting speed (and buffer) of the D200/D300 bodies -- if you do, then you definitely want to test that out on the D7100.

    In choosing the D800, I've basically decided I don't want to consider another upgrade for a very long time, if ever again. I just can't get myself to spend the $$$ on a D610 knowing that the body is actually inferior to the D7100 in some ways (that matter to me), let alone the D800. I would've settled for the D7100, but there were just enough to nudge me over and up to the D800 -- still, they are mostly things that likely don't matter to you as much...


    Anyway, very glad to hear you're starting to enjoy photography again and getting back to doing it for your (original) love of it...

    _Man_
     
  16. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    Thanks for all the input everyone. It has been helpful to think things through and to be kept down to earth. I finally broke down and ordered what ended up being the last refurb D7100 that KEH had. It will be here Thursday.
     
  17. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I'm most anxious to experiment with multi-exposure HDR. A lot of what I see using it strikes me as very gimmicky, but I still see some that that really are stunning. Of course, I can do that with the D200, but the all around better IQ of the D7100 still makes it more exciting. I'm finally going to have to learn LightRoom, I guess.
     
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  18. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    _DSC0692_3_4_5_6_tonemapped-crop.png

    The D7100 arrived yesterday and I spent some time just getting acquainted with it, then this evening I went out specifically looking to shoot some HDR and test out the extremes. Here's the first one I did. I'm pretty happy with it. I think it is extreme without being garish.
     
  19. Scott Merryfield

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    Beautiful shot, John. What software did you use for the HDR composite?
     
  20. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

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    I used Photomatix Pro 5, then a tiny bit of touch-up in Photoshop. I probably fiddled with that image in Photomatix for an hour before I realized it wasn't capable of making the final little tweak I wanted. As I've looked at HDR images, I think a lot of them take things too far, especially with manipulation of color and saturation. I wanted to see what can be done with an extreme lighting situation without making it look too artificial. The bracket was pretty severe, 5 shots at 2 stop increments. It occurred to me later that it didn't really need a full +4 exposure, but probably could have used even more minus exposure. So, I should have set the camera to -1 EV, which should then have effectively given me exposures of -5, -3, -1, +1, +3.

    This is the first image I've manipulated in HDR other than a couple throw-away test shots I did just to get an idea how the software works. I'm still a total rank amateur at working with this software, so I'm sure I can produce an even better image from these shots. It's incredible how many nuances can be controlled. I first tried Photoshop CS6, but the results were completely unsatisfactory. The way it blends the exposures just doesn't give a very beneficial result. There was very little gain over working from a single raw file.

    I'm very impressed with the image quality of the D7100. I thought none of my lenses would hold up to what it can produce, but this lens, a Tamron 17-50 2.8 (non VR version) did incredibly well. This shot is remarkably sharp at f/11, just with some fall off at the extreme edges. The D7100 is very nice and I doubt I'll regret not going with a more expensive camera. One limitation it has which seems rather silly is the bracketing options. It goes to full stop increments above 1 stop and only shoots up to 5 frames. 5 frames should typically be enough, but I can see times I'd like to have an option between 1 and 2 stops. It'll do 3 stops, but I have to wonder how useful that is in the real world.
     
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