Monthly Archives: April 2016

Upcoming D500 review and some other issues

I am heading out for a small two day test trip this Wednesday, April 27th, for a session with the D500. The target area is a bird migratory spot to catch some of the birds returning from their wintering grounds to Ontario. It is a bit early as of yet, the main migration is expected to happen during and after the second week of May, however I have two good reasons to head out.

The first one is my curiosity about the real world performance of the D500. There are some early reports out there, positive ones, but I always like to conduct my own experiments and get to my own conclusions. That said, I am very excited about this new camera and expect it to be a very good tool for birding and wildlife in general. The second reason is that in about ten days I’ll get under the knife in form of a coronary bypass surgery. This is a kind of out of the blue development and it has put a kink into my spring schedule. So, I’d like to post a review with a few images before I’ll go to the hospital for the procedure. I hope I’ll be able to manage it since I’ll be quite restricted after the surgery for a number of weeks on doctor’s orders.

Other: the above mentioned medical issue will keep me away from the Grand Tetons workshop. I sent a note out to each participants a few weeks earlier stating that the tour will go ahead as scheduled. My good friend Richard will take my place, he is an accomplished guide, knows all the nooks and little gems of the area and he is also a very good photographer. I am very lucky that he was able to help me out with this tour.

My recovery will take some six weeks, after that I’ll be able to resume my normal schedule. Therefore, the summer Algonquin Park nature and wildlife workshop will go ahead as planned. I very much hope that I’ll be in better shape than I was any time before.

2017 Bear Photography Tour

Grizzly by creekNow that the 2016 grizzly workshop is fully booked I got some inquiries whether I have plans for  2017. The answer is yes, I am planning two trips to the Bella Coola River tributary in British Columbia. One of the most scenic areas of grizzly habitat with high rate of success for photography. The first is at the end of August early September the second one is in mid September. Both tours are planned for five nights, our base camp is in a nice lodge. I only take 4-5 people for both workshops. This is to provide the most for photography and group cohesion. We’ll conduct both land based and river based outings and will be accompanied by one of the best guides from the area. He is a friend of mine and that helps a lot.

The cost for each tour is $ 4,850.00 US, approximately 6,370.00 CAD as of April 06, 2016 rates. This covers pick up from the regional airport, accommodation, meals, two days of photography by floating downriver to get he best bear photographic opportunities, 4×4 vehicle transportation for the land based outings, photography instruction and reviewing-discussing the results. For exact dates and details contact me as soon as possible. Accommodation is to be booked over a year in advance since spaces are limited and in high demand. Bookings can be confirmed with a deposit of $800.00 per person, cancellation policy applies.

As of equipment I suggest to bring a good DSLR camera and possibly a backup too. The most used lenses, for FF DSLRs are: a 24-70mm zoom for scenery and close bear photography from the boat, a 70-200mm zoom also for photographing from the boat, a longer telephoto for more distant shots. For this latter a 300mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter is often adequate but you are encouraged to bring anything longer if you have. For Nikon users I have found the lightweight 300mm f4E PF telephoto very usable, with or without a teleconverter. The new 200-500mm f5.6 Nikkor zoom is another good choice to cover a wide range of opportunities.  My experience is that as long as the 24mm to 400mm range is covered one will have every chance to get great images from scenery to bears.


Nikon D5 – ISO and DR thoughts

The other day I dropped in to see an old friend of mine in his studio, just a social call. He was happy to see me and we sat down with a cup of coffee to exchange news and stories. Then Fedex arrived with a package, what a great coincidence, his D5 arrived. Long story short, we took a number of images with it immediately, both in the studio and outside.

This was an impromptu session, shot everything from a vase of wilted flowers to cars passing by on the road. I was curious about how real life ISO and DR worked hand in hand with the D5. So we shot images from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. We both agreed that this is the range that matters the most in the hands of working photographers. Yes, crazy high ISO is there if one needs it in a pinch but ISO 6400 is about the top for any real world assignments.

So, what is my opinion about the D5 in this range? Very good, as simple as that. We checked the images on a 4k monitor and they were all exceptionally good. We found that the DR under real life circumstances was absolutely adequate to produce images with good detail in highlights and shadows. I still compare DR to good old slide film standards. With slide films we had five stops to play with from highlight to shadow, anything beyond that was blown out on one end or the other. There are charts floating around now showing measured DR data of the D5 at various ISO settings. One would have to shoot roughly as high as ISO 20000 to slip down to the five stop EV range of the old slide film standard.

Between ISO 100 and ISO 6400 the dynamic range is about 9.4 to 6.7 and that translates to EV values of slightly over 11 stops to 6.2 stops. I used some rounding up here from data available from various resources. So, even shooting at ISO 6400 we exceed the old slide film range of 5 stops by 1.2 stop.

When I am out on the trail shooting nature and wildlife I hardly ever exceed ISO 1600, ISO 3200 is my maximum I’ve ver used. ISO 1600 with the D5 gives about eight stop usable range while ISO 3200 decreases only by half a stop. These numbers are extremely usable for the wildlife and nature photographer. Furthermore, given the tools available in our digital darkroom we have so much freedom these days.  With a bit of darkroom magic we can extend the DR of our captured images even further.

I have read some negative comments from, mostly amateur, users who declared that the DR of the D5 is a step backwards. I just smile and dismiss those comments. Those folks just do not put things into perspective and probably do not even comprehend how much freedom we have between our cameras and the digital darkroom. Anyone not being able to produce a decent 16×20 or even larger print for the wall with a tool like the D5 is not worthy of having such a tool. This camera is a wildlife photographer’s dream, I hope its little sister the D500 will also surprise us on a pleasant way.

Yes, there are cameras with wider DR than the D5. However, those lack other features and specs that the D5 has. If one’s criterion is the widest DR then the D5 is nothing but an expensive and unnecessary tool for that person. However, if one needs a robust, very fast camera that can produce excellent images in capable hands then the D5 is to go. It is not by accident that it is the flagship model in Nikon’s line up. It will not be long from now that we’ll see excellent wildlife and action images surfacing in increasing numbers that were shot by D5 users. I would put serious money on that no serious photographer would ever regret having the D5 as their day to day camera.