George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Mallard in flight

A Visit to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary

Today I paid my first visit to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary located near Ladner, BC.  It's a great spot to spend a few hours and I'll definitely go back more than once to see what species of birds visit this park.  Cost is $5 to get in, well worth it.  Here are some of my photos from the day.

My first shot was actually taken in the parking lot, this girl was walking around in the grass right behind my truck (Mallard Duck).

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Mallard Duck

Not sure what this guy is, someone needs to help me identify it.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Duck

Napping while standing on one foot, showoff (Canada Goose).

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary Sleeping Canada Goose

I think this is a Northen Pintail, beautiful birds.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Duck

Just a common blackbird, but a break from the waterfowl photos.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Blackbird

The ducks are everywhere.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Ducks

I like how this guy shows up in camo, even a camo lens coat, and there are kids running around in pink and purple yelling.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: camo dude

Managed only a couple of good action photos.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Mallard in flight

 

And the geese are all over the place too.  You certainly don't need a big zoom lens to get some good shots of birds here.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Geese on path

This guy was constantly hissing at me. Come to think of it, must be a female :)

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: goose hissing

Spring is here, flowers are popping up.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: flowers

The first time I have ever been this close to Sandhill Cranes

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill Crane

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill Crane

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: Sandhill crane closeup

Not the most graceful creatures when they take off though.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill crane flying

 

 

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill crane flying

The Sandhill fly-by, they almost look like jets.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: sandhill flyby

Out of nowhere, a duck fight breaks out.  It was a ball of white water and feathers accompanied by a lot of noise.

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This little guy was collecting all of the bird seed the visitors left for the ducks.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: squirrel

And what landed in the water the carp would clean up.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: carp

On my way out, I had to stop to take a few shots of these Snow Geese.  There were hundreds of them.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: snow geese

I had to stop one more time as I was heading into Ladner as I saw these tow Bald Eagles in the tree.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good angle on them.  More eagle photos can be seen from my visit to Brackendale.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagles

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle

They didn't stick around for long.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle flying

I had my lens on manual focus as it was having a very hard time getting the eagles among the branches.  Unfortunately, when they took off it didn't make for a good shot.  Too bad, this would have been nice.

George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary: bald eagle


Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

A Day in Amsterdam

Back in December 2011, I had to travel to the UK on business. I took the opportunity to route my flight through Amsterdam instead of London and I had to pleasure of spending an afternoon in this great European city. I'm finally getting around to posting some of the photos I took during my short stay. I definitely need to go back and spend more time in this city, it was a lot of fun.

Most of the photos here were shot while on a photo tour with Photo Tours of Amsterdam.  I booked this tour after reading positive reviews on Trip Advisor.   Things didn't start well as my flight was delayed.  Rather than arriving at 8:00am which would have given me plenty of time to get to my hotel then meet my guide at the 1:30pm start time, my flight arrived at 12:30pm.  I rushed to the hotel, dropped off my things at the front desk and didn't even check in.  I just grabbed my camera and tripod and jumped in a taxi to head to the meeting spot.   There, I met Jonathan who turned out to be a fellow Canadian currently living in the Netherlands and discovered I was the only one on the tour that day.  This allowed Jonathan and I to just explore the city and go where wherever we wanted to go.   Jonathan was a good photographer, and also knew a lot about the city.   I didn't get a lot of good photographs during the day, it was a gloomy and flat winter day.  Things were better at night, and I'm happy I brought my tripod along for some shooting.  Overall, Jonathan spent more time than he needed to with me and was a great guide.  I learned a lot about the city and brushed up on my skills as well.  I would definitely book another tour with this company if I'm in one of the cities where they offer tours.

Some of the photos from that day, it was raining on and off and mostly overcast skies.  I love European cites, there is so much more history and culture compared to things in North America.  It's hard not to appreciate the architecture on display everywhere.  This is one of the markets many markets we found just walking around.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 market

A three shot HDR, not my best work but I love the buildings here.  Also, Amsterdam has a lot of pubs :)

Amsterdam Dec 2011 pub hdr

I didn't process many in black and white, but I likely will as scenes like this lend themselves well to such processing.  The canals in Amsterdam are fantastic, and are the reason why it's sometimes called Venice of the North.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal black and white

I love graffiti, and there was plenty of it in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti

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Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 graffiti 1

No idea what this is, but it was an interesting courtyard.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 courtyard

The Hermitage.  I wish I had time to visit.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hermitage

Throughout the city you will find a lot of houseboats in the canals.  Some are beautiful, or at least interesting.  Others are complete trash heaps and detract from an otherwise beautiful city.  In another life, I would like to live on the water in one of these boats.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 boat

Jonathan told me what these little critters were, but for the life of me I can't remember.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bike

Youth Hostel, I got a few shots of this, I'm sure it looks great in the spring when the vines are covered in leaves.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 hostel

Some guys saw me taking photos and started goofing around.  The people I met in Amsterdam were friendly and helpful.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 clowning around

Dutch cat, seems content in his bed.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 dutch cat

So many of the buildings have interesting details like this.  They just don't build them like they used to.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 building detail

Jonathan showed me a good spot to practice my panning technique.  There is certainly no shortage of subjects zipping by and you don't need to wait long to see some interesting characters.

panning 4

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 3

The Dutch carry everything on their bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 2

Amsterdam Dec 2011 panning 1

Amsterdam is know for diamonds, but I didn't bring any back for my wife on this trip.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 diamonds

The Theater.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 cool theatre

I had no idea there were going to be this many bikes in the city.  They are literally everywhere, of all shapes and sizes, and locked to any stationary object available.  I saw entire families on one bike, or people hauling a substantial amount of goods using special bikes.  There are multi-level bike parking garages which hold thousands of bikes.  It really is great to see, I'm sure it cuts down on the number of cars on the road.  Oh, and there is a hose in this photo too.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 horse and carriage

The only thing there may be more of than bikes is bongs.  Imagine if every coffee shop in Vancouver were a bong store, then double it :)  I also found out that you don't go to a coffee shop to get coffee, they sell weed.  If you want coffee, go to a cafe.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bongs

This liquor store had the coolest bottles I have ever seen, sadly it wasn't open when I was there.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 3

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 1

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bottles 2

More bikes, bikes, bikes.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 Bikes

The train station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 main train station

Interesting bridge detail.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail

The Magere Brug, or "Skinny Bridge".  Well lit at night, and one of the more famous bridges in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 bridge detail (magere berg)

None of the buildings have elevators, so they set up these contraptions on the outside to move things in and out.  Also, you can see big hooks at the top of the buildings in some of the photos.  These were used to attach pulleys to winch stuff up to the higher levels.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 elevator

Electric car charging station.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 electric car plug in

The city looks great at night.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure hdr

Amsterdam Dec 2011 canal hdr

This is on the edge of the Red Light District.  Down that alley, you can see red lights on the side of the building marking windows where guys can take their pick of women.  It's actually a very trendy area, with a lot of tourists visiting pubs, restaurants, or doing some shopping . The alleys are right in the middle of everything, and everything seems to be clean and safe.  As you can imagine, they don't take kindly to tourists taking photos in front of said windows.  I didn't press my luck by trying it.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 red light district

Some long exposure fun while Jonathan kept watch on the traffic.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 night long exposure

One of my last, and one of my favorite, photos from the day.  I set up on a tiny island in the middle of an intersection.  I had a view of a tram coming right at me, and veering off to the right.  This was my first attempt, and the best of the bunch, I actually thought the tram would hit my camera, but it turned out well.

Amsterdam Dec 2011 long exposure train

 


20120310-Shelter Dogs March 10 2012-6712-MKH_mini

Shelter Dogs March 10 2012

Another set of dogs from Vancouver Animal Control, you can see others here.  As always, you can see the animals available for adoption from this shelter by visiting their PetFinder page or just drop in at the shelter.

My favorite dog of the day, this hyper little puppy Spotz.  He can't sit still for more than two seconds, so it's amazing I got any decent photos of him at all.

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This one seems a bit sad, like he is waiting for someone to come and adopt him.

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Coming in for my closeup :)

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Monty, he likes to give hugs.

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Give me a hug.

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Finally, the two little husky puppies. One has freckles on her nose.

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Didn't like it...

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Nikon D800 D800E side by side

Why I chose the Nikon D800 over the D800E

I have been waiting for an update to the Nikon D700 for the better part of a year.  During that time, I have sold some DX lenses and bought FX lenses in preparation.  The delays were many and I almost picked up a D700 on several occasions and even looked around for a used D3s.  I wasn't in a hurry and still happy with the images my trusty D90 was producing.   In the end, the wait was worth it as the D800 looks like a fantastic camera.  I think the official specification surprised a lot of people.  36 megapixels, the fancy autofocus and metering from the D4, top notch video, and two models to choose from.  I did a rundown of the features I like and don't like in a previous post, suffice it to say it's mostly good.

Nikon D800 Angle 2

The latest camera announcement from Nikon produced two new bodies, the D800 and D800E.  For the first time ever, Nikon has produced a digital SLR camera without an optical lowpass filter, also known as an anti-aliasing (AA) filter or blur filter.  This is far from the first camera to ship without the filter though.  The Leica M8 and M9 (possibly others) don't have it, nor do many of the medium format bodies.  The two-body strategy has created some turmoil on the various internet forums and blogs as people are confused about which model to buy.  I was also confused, and flipped back and forth on which model to invest in until I settled on the D800 (with includes the filter).  I'll outline some of my reasons for the choice, maybe it will help someone else make their decision easier.

First, let me say that I'm an amateur photographer currently shooting a D90.  I have enjoyed the hobby for a number of years and plan to continue learning to improve my photography.  I have never shot a camera without the AA filter so this announcement threw me for a loop. My initial reaction was to jump on the D800E.  Everyone was saying how much better it will be, sharper, more contrast, etc.  I got caught up in the "sharper is better" mentality and put a deposit on a D800E.  I often shoot in RAW and before exporting to jpeg I always apply some sharpening (if you shoot jpg the camera does some sharpening for you), so I thought that I wouldn't have to do that if the camera was capturing a sharper image to begin with.  I also thought, by proxy, that the D800 would be soft and not give me the level of detail I wanted.  Those moiré issues won't bug me as I shoot landscapes and nature. In the end, a lot of assumptions and not much critical thinking and looking at how I will use the camera.  The gadget geek in me wanted the D800E, but in the end the more practical me won the argument.

Below are the reasons I have decided to get the plain ol' D800 but before I get there I would like to point out that the D800E still has some type of filter, but the effects cancel each other out.  If you are producing both types of bodies, this is likely necessary to maintain the integrity of the optical path to the sensor.  In the image below, you can see that the light gets split but then re-aligned in the D800E, unlike the D800 where it is split twice.  One can assume that this is not the same as removing the filter completely, but doing so would likely mean a slight re-design to the body which makes no sense from a mass production point of view.

Nikon-D800-vs-D800E-Low-Pass-Filter

An objective look at the D800

Suppose there was no D800E, we would all be saying how great the image quality (IQ) is on the D800 and comparing it to other models on the market.  We would be thrilled with the increased resolution and level of detail this camera will provide.  Everyone who was planning to get the D800 would by happy.  Nikon threw a wrench in the works with the D800E.  I think their plan was to provide a camera that appeals to the medium format (MF) crowd.  The high resolution and lack of AA filter certainly has a draw for that crowd.  The D800 is a much smaller package compared to the MF offerings and would be considered fast by comparison.  Many of the MF shooters are working with one frame per second, so 4?  WOW.

The availability of the D800E does not make the D800 worse.  It will not make softer images or produce results that the vast majority of shooters would not be thrilled with.  The sheer resolution of the sensor will make images that were not possible with previous Nikon bodies (save for maybe the D3x).

All other Nikon DSLR bodies have an AA filter

I have seen a lot of stunning images shot with Nikon cameras in the past and never thought that things looked bad or were lacking detail.  Images shot with a D3s, D700, and even DX cameras are all shot with the AA filter in front of the sensor.  No one was complaining that the AA filter is destroying quality then, and shouldn't now.  Even the new flagship D4 has an AA filter, and I'm sure that will produce fantastic results.

Depth of field

When you are shooting with a fast lens wide open (low f-stop), the plane of focus is not very big.  Depending on your distance to the subject, it may be just a sliver.  The sharpness advantage of the D800E is only in the plane of focus.  The areas that are naturally blurred by the lens are not sharp anyway, so the lack of the AA filter does not come into play.  In fact, it would be interesting to see if the lack of an AA filter has any effect on bokeh.

You can increase the depth of field (DoF) by stopping down your lens, though this is not an option for every shot from an artistic point of view.  If you do stop down the lens, the plane of focus is wider and the sharpness advantage will increase over the D800, however there is a limit to this.  Thom Hogan suggests that f/8 is the aperture where things start to get less sharp due to diffraction.  Beyond f/8, diffraction actually reduces the effective resolution and the more you stop down the greater the effect of diffraction.  Both models are affected by this, but I speculate that the gap in sharpness is closed between the models as you stop down beyond f/8.   I have no scientific basis for this, but it makes sense in my head.  We need real-world testing to prove or disprove this.

Look at the D7000

The pixel density of the D7000 is very similar to that in the D800.  The D7000 has the AA filter, and produces the best images I have ever seen from a DX camera.  They are sharp and have a lot of dynamic range and contrast.  The D800 has newer sensor technology, a larger sensor area, and slightly bigger pixels so the results will be even better.

I spend enough time in post production already

When shooting in RAW, processing your images is just part of the workflow.  I already spend plenty of time preparing my RAW files for export and I don't want to spend even more trying to fix moiré problems in my images.  They may not crop up all the time, but when they do you will be forced to spend time trying to get rid of it.  I have watched several videos online and read many tutorials on the removal of moiré and it isn't easy.  It also affects the quality of the resulting image, possibly more than shooting with an AA filter in the first place.  Capture NX2 is supposed to have tools to help, as is Adobe Lightroom 4, but they will not be perfect.  I have tried the tools in LR4 Beta and they help with color shifts but don't do a good job of removing the strange patterns that are introduced.

The D800 is going to be my only DSLR, I most of often shoot landscapes, architecture, and nature.  Of those, architecture is the most problematic because of the repeating patterns but moiré can certainly come up anywhere.   Inevitably, I will also be shooting pets, friends, family, vacations, and more.  I want the camera to perform well in all situations and don't want to risk the color shift and banding effects that shooting without an AA can introduce.

Video

The D800 introduces some fantastic video features that I'm eager to try out.  My D90 has video capability, but it is pathetic.  The D800 is likely going to be so good that I may actually try shooting video from time to time.   I would have a hard enough time removing artifacts from still images but wouldn't even know where to begin to remove them from a video clip.  I'm sure if I had access to Pixar's systems and software it would be possible, but I'm a video newbie and prefer to avoid problems than try to fix them after the fact.

Note: I'm not 100% sure that the moiré issues affect the video output, but given what I have read they will.  If so, the D800E may not be a good camera for video capture.

What is the real difference?

I have seen a few samples of the D800 and D800E at 100% resolution and there are visible differences between them.  Of course, these are Nikon samples and I have yet to see the RAW files from the two bodies showing the same scene, same lens, shot at the same time.  It is difficult to compare what the real-world performance will be once these are in photographers hands.  Certainly, the difference will not be dramatic as some expect it to be.

The final output of the image is also a factor.  If you take 36 megapixel images form either body and shrink it down to a 800x600 jpeg and put it in your blog it's unlikely you would see any difference.  The jpeg compression alone would likely kill any of the minor details captured with the D800E.  If you print, I suspect the difference will be minimal or invisible at 4x6, 5x7, ... ?  I honestly don't know how big you will need to print an image before differences will be visible.

On screen, when viewing the entire image, the difference will be invisible or subtle.  Pixel peepers who view things at 100% on 30" screens will see the difference, most others will not.

Lens selection is still key

A better lens will make a MUCH bigger difference to overall  image quality than removing the AA filter.  The D800 will resolve more detail than any other body in the lineup, combined with a quality lens the results will be stunning.  Anyone thinking they can use a lesser lens on a D800E will quickly learn that the lens quality is the difference maker.

Technique

Having the extra sharpness of the D800E means nothing if your technique is not able to make use of it.  To truly extract that last bit of performance from the E model you need to know what you are doing.  If your tripod is not solid even the slightest breeze may soften the results.  Understanding of diffraction effects, hand holding steadiness, and your subject are all going to play a part in the final image sharpness.  The less you get right, the less difference you will see from a D800.

Conclusion

I was eager to get the D800E but it's not the best camera for my shooting needs.  I will rarely print massive photos, I want to try video, and I will likely shoot a variety of subjects.  Also, the 'if it's good enough for a D4 it is good enough for my D800' argument is valid.  I'm not planning to test lenses for a living or spend hours shooting test charts and looking at my images at 100%.  I want to shoot and have fun, the D800 will let me do that better than a D800E.  The fact that I get it three weeks sooner and spend $300 less is just icing on the cake.


D800 Banner

My New Camera, the Nikon D800E

UPDATE Feb 14, 2012: I'm no longer getting the D800E but the regular D800.  I have outlined the reasons for doing so in a different post.  I'm sure both models will produce great images, if you have any thoughts about one model or the other feel free to leave a message in the comments.

I have been waiting impatiently for a new, affordable, full-frame camera from Nikon for over a year.  I have been shooting with a Nikon D90 and it's a capable camera but I knew I wanted to make the jump to FX.  Over the last few years, my lens selections have definitely been with a future FX body in mind.  I could have bought the D700, which is certainly a capable camera but the next model was 'just around the corner'.   From what I have read, the new D800 was to be released in the first half of 2011, but mother nature doesn't always cooperate with corporate schedules.  First, the earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Japan disrupted the Nikon plant in Sendai.  The plant makes the high end bodies and lenses and that put a quick end to any chance of a D800 release.  Nikon was well underway with repairs when the heavy flooding in Thailand hit.  Nikon's plant there was underwater, which stopped production of their very popular D7000 among other bodies and lenses.

Two major disasters would cripple any company, and Nikon did their best to keep production up and repair the damage.  Schedules were delayed, products in short supply, but Nikon seems to have handled the situation very well and pulled out of the mess and started 2012 off very strong.  First, they released their flagship D4, a camera packed with the latest technology from Nikon.  It has received a great welcome, and should be a good performer when it starts shipping in late February or early March.  Second, they finally announced their compact full-frame model, the D800.  They surprised many with two variations of the same camera: with anti-alias filter (D800) and, for the first time from Nikon, one without the filter (D800E).  I have put a deposit on a D800E and hope to have my hands on one in April.  It will be a long wait.

I won't go into the specifications of the D800, there are plenty of good links and preview articles out there (Nikon D800 pagedpreview, Rob Galbraith).  I'm excited by the new technology in the camera, 36mp sensor, new autofocus and metering system (same as the D4), top notch video features, and much more.  I plan to shoot with this camera for the next few years and continue to learn about this great hobby.

Once I get the thing in my hands, I'll post some sample images and an update.

Camera Size has the D800 in the database now, see how it compares to the D90 (my current camera), D300S, and D4.

Nikon D800 Front

Nikon D800 Angle 1

Nikon D800 Angle 2

Nikon D800 Back

Nikon D800 Top

Nikon D800 With Grip


Puppies & Bunnies

I took another trip to the Vancouver Animal Control shelter today to take photos of their dogs available for adoption.  Photos from my previous visit can be seen here.  As always, you can see the animals available for adoption from this shelter by visiting their PetFinder page or just drop in at the shelter.

 

I don't think this black lab will be there long.

 

Cute little Boston Terrier, he jumps around like a maniac.

 

My favorite dog of the day, a blue heeler.

He kept trying to climb into my lap.

 

Hound dog.

 

They don't always want to cooperate.

 

The fuzzy Rottweiler.

 

Funny dome head, but cute.

 

Almost every dog was black, the hardest to photograph!

 

Fuzz face puppies, so cute! 4 of them, they look like little Ewoks.

 

And a few bunnies too, even with fancy hair.


VanAquaJan12 Fav 9

A Trip to the Vancouver Aquarium

I visit the Vancouver Aquarium several times a year and always enjoy it.  They recently expanded and also have bioluminescence displays which were great to see.   A friend of mine stole (ok, borrowed) my favorite lens for my visits to the aquarium, the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Micro VR, so these are all shot with the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8.  Since everything is hand held, the VR is actually quite useful.

One of my favorite tanks showing the Pacific Sea Nettle.  I feel very relaxed after watching it for a while.
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A shrimp in the west coast exhibit.
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It was divers weekend (discount if you bring your cert card).  Lots of interesting info for divers.  Here, coast guard divers prepare to dive in the big tank next to the entrance.
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I caught the dolphin show from the underwater viewing gallery.  These animals are amazing, incredibly fast and agile.  Here, one of them makes an entrance after some acrobatics.

Part of the bioluminescence display.  Preserved deep sea fish that use lights on their body to attract prey.  Wouldn't want to run into this guy while swimming in the ocean.
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This little guy seemed quite interested in me.
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Leopard frog taking in the rays.
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The colours on some of these frogs is just amazing.
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Not my wife's favorite.
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Hangin' out, looks nice and relaxed.
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You see a lot more than fish at the Vancouver Aquarium.
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Rays, another favorite.
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The Arapaima, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.
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Looks like this guy just finished molting or is about to.  Great looking snake.
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And the rest of the images from the day.

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Nikon D4 Zoom

Nikon D4: The New And Cool Stuff

I wrote a short post previously on how the D4 stacks up against it's closest competition (Nikon D3s and Canon 1D X). It covers at the features photographers will look at most often when comparing bodies, things like sensor resolution, frame rates, buffer size, and low light performance. In this artile, I'll go over some of the new things Nikon threw in there that make the body interesting.

Nikon D4 guts

Video capability

The D4 can record 1080p Full HD video at 30/25 or 24p in H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format.  Full HD video is available in three formats: FX-based, DX-based (1.5x) or 1,920 x 1,080 (2.7x) crop movie format. It can also export its uncompressed video footage via HDMI.

Nikon was the first company to add video to a DSLR in the D90.  Having used a D90 extensively, I can tell you that the video feature is weak and almost useless.  Canon nailed a home run with the 5D Mark II, and even Hollywood caught on and started using the camera in some scenes.  The 5DII sold well, Nikon missed the boat and lost customers.  The D4 addresses all of the previous problems and, for now, puts Nikon at the top of the DSLR video heap.  It's not perfect but it's a video monster that will please almost everyone.

For those of you that think video doesn't belong in a still camera... get over it.  Video is here to stay and almost everything with a lens these days can take stills and video.  People want it so the companies are going to include it.  I don't think it affects the still photo capability of the camera, the D4 is looking like Nikon's best still camera to date.  The only drawback is likely a higher price, but I guess that is progress for you.

Here is a sample video shot with a D4. Looks good, even compressed for the web (available in 1080p)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZZMIo7Zfys

Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX AF sensor module

51 AF points, with all 51 (15 cross type) points of the D4 are usable with every AF NIKKOR lens of f/5.6 or faster. AF detection is fast and accurate down to an impressive -2 EV. 15 cross-type sensors in the central area and 11 focus points compatible with f/8.

The D4 keeps the same number of AF points as the D3s but just makes everything better.  One of the big things here is the ability to use lenses with minimum f-stop of f/8.  You find this when using some of the big telephoto lenses (such as the 200-400 f/4) with a 2x teleconverter.  You can now have a 400-800 f/8 lens that will autofocus for a change.  No other Nikon body will do this, so you were forced to use fast telephoto lenses like the 400mm f/2.8 or go without auto focus.  This should be good for sports or wildlife shooters that commonly use these lenses.

Exposure Meter and AF Improvement

The D4 is fit with a 91,000 pixel RGB sensor for metering. This is a massive improvement over the 1,005 pixel sensor in the D3s. Because of the increased resolution, the D4 now offers face detection autofocus and can account for up to 16 human faces in the frame even when using the optical view finder. Previously, face detection was only available in live view because you were using the entire sensor and contrast detection autofocus.

The D4 also adds scene detection. The 3D Color Matrix Metering III metering mode compares metered scenes to a large in-camera database of scene types, before determining exposure variables. To me, this seems like a gimmick and reminds me of Clippy from the old MS Office programs: "It looks like you are trying to compose a sunset shot, let me bollocks that up for you". On a camera targeted at professional shooters, do you need this?

Remote Operation

Remote viewing and operating of the camera for stills and video from your laptop/iPad/iPhone in real time. This is built into the camera, and just damn cool. No extra software needed, but you do need the wireless adapter (WT-5A) which isn't cheap at almost $900 US. Once it's up and running though, you can see the live view image, adjust most camera controls, trigger exposures remotely and view the captured image. This means you can mount the camera somewhere where it may not be easy or safe to be during an event to capture images. In other settings, clients can immediately see captured images on a big screen as you are shooting. I'm sure there will be a lot of creative uses for this, a nice feature.

Watch the video of the ipad control in action.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0DnEoqm-wc&feature=player_embedded

Improved exposure bracketing

The camera will allow 3, 5, 7, or 9 exposures in either 1/3, 2/3, or 1 full stop (plus 2 stops and 3 stops) The possible dynamic range capture for very difficult HDR situations has been massively increased! The D4 also features a quick HDR feature that makes an in camera file based on a overexposed and normal frame. I don't think the in camera HDR feature will be that useful, but the extra bracketing options is going to be great for HDR shooters.

A few minor items

Illuminated buttons, a very nice addition when you are shooting in low light (which is certainly where this camera will get used).

Time lapse movie creator will compile multiple exposures (based on your settings) into an HD movie but it does not retain the images so may not be useful for most.

Improved rear LCD.  3.2" 921,000 dot with expanded color gamut and a sensor to detect ambient light levels to automatically adjust brightness and saturation.

 


Nikon D4 with body

Nikon D4 High ISO Sample Images

Mircea Bezergheanu has been posting some sample images from the Nikon D4. These are the first images I have seen that are not from Nikon or part of the Nikon advertising campaign.

I'm not sure what type of post processing is involved, however the images do look great even up to ISO 12,800. I think some post processing would make them look even better.

Until we get side by side comparisons of the D4 and the D3S, shooting the same subject in the same light, it will be tough to compare the two bodies directly. Right now though, the D4 is certainly looking good.

View the images on Mircea's Smugmug page.


Nikon D4 Front 220

Nikon D4 Versus the Competition

Now that the Nikon D4 is official, we can compare specifications with its closest competitors.  To me, the two closest competitors are the Nikon D3S and the soon to be available Canon 1D-X.  I'll throw in the Nikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IV and Canon 1Ds Mark III as they are all pro bodies with similar capability.  I don't consider the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D Mark II direct competitors to the D4 so I'll exclude them here.  They can certainly be considered competitors for some applications and are themselves excellent cameras but they primarily target a different market.  I'll also exclude the Sony Alpha A900, it's a full frame camera but it has been discontinued.  Sony is rumoured to be developing a new full frame shooter, but no word on when it will be available.  Also, things like the Leica M9, Pentax 645D, or even more expensive models from Hasselblad are not direct competition.  So let's compare the D4 to five of it's closest competitors.

Sensor

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
Effective Pixels16.218.112.124.516.121.1
Sensor Size (mm)36 x 23.936 x 2436 x 23.935.9 x 2427.9 x 18.636 x 24
Max resolution4928 x 32805184 x 34564256 x 28326048 x 40324896 x 32645616 x 3744
Pixel Size (µm)7.36.958.455.945.76.4

Looking at the table, we can see that the odd-ball in terms of sensor size is the Canon 1D Mark IV which does not have a full frame sensor but one slightly smaller and what Canon calls the APS-H.  Prior to the 1D-X, Canon's high speed pro camera used the APS-H sensor and their slower, high resolution camera used a full frame sensor.  The 1D-X is a blend of both, full frame, high speed, and 18MP.  On simple spec alone, the D4 is nothing special.  It's not not highest resolution and Canon's latest flagship is 2Mp ahead in the 'megapixel race', if you are counting.  Pro shooters realize there is a lot more to image quality than megapixels, but it's worth to note.

Resolution is only part of the story, the size of the pixels affects sensitivity and as you cram more pixels in the same amount of space those pixels get smaller and thus less sensitive to light.  The D3S still has the biggest pixels in the list, which makes sense as it's the lowest resolution.  The D4 increases resolution but claims one stop better low-light performance over the D3S.  It remains to be seen if that claim holds up, but one can assume that the new generation of sensors are better than the old so this may be true.  Time will tell.

Performance

Canon EOS-1D XNikon D3SNikon D3XCanon 1D Mark IVCanon 1Ds Mark III
ISO Native100-12800100-51200200-12800100-1600100-12800100-1600
ISO (boosted)50-20480050-204800100-10240050-640050-10240050-3200
FPS10 with AF/AE, 1112, 14(JPG)9-111-5105/3
Autofocus points516151514545
AF f-stopf/8f/5.6

The benchmark for low light performance for the last several years has been the Nikon D3S.  It was one to two stops better than the already good D3 and well ahead of anything from Canon.  The D4 is said to improve on the already impressive D3S by at least one full stop but no real-world testing and comparisons have yet been completed.  The new Canon 1D-X is a wild card here, on spec alone it looks better than the D4 but I personally don't think it will match the performance.  Nikon has had the edge in this department for some time and once both models are available for side-by-side testing I think the D4 will come out on top.  It may be even possible to get relatively clean images from the D4 at ISO 12800 which will be boon to many types of shooters.

In terms of speed, the D4 will shoot at 10 frames per second (fps) with full autofocus and metering in RAW.  The 1D-X has an edge here, shooting at 12fps.  Honestly, I doubt any Nikon shooter would make the switch to Canon for 2fps but if you have no investment in glass and are looking to buy a pro camera it may sway some to Canon.  For my shooting needs, I don't need anything with even 10fps so it's a moot point.

Nikon has enjoyed an advantage in autofocus performance for some time.  Some Canon shooters may disagree, but I see it in review after review that the pro Nikon cameras just focus faster and more consistently than their Canon rivals.  The 1D-X has more focus points and more cross-type focus points but one of the big new features of the D4 is the addition of 11 autofocus points that work down to f/8.  This should mean even better autofocus performance in low light, and combined with it's expected performance at high ISO this should translate to great shots in available light (weddings, concerts, sports, etc.).

At the end of the day, both the D4 and 1D-X are the top of the DSLR pile in terms of features and performance.  The D4 has potentially caught up to Canon in video performance and Canon to Nikon in autofocus and low-light performance.  There is no doubt that both models will make their owners very happy and saying one is clearly better than the other is not possible.  The new D4 is clearly an evolution in Nikon's lineup but not a revolutionary camera.  I'm looking forward to hands-on reviews and sample images in the months to come.

There are a lot of other features worth talking about, but I'll leave that for another post.  Now Nikon, please release the D800!

 

Visual comparison of the Nikon D4 and Canon 1D X

Nikon D4 Front

 

Canon-1DX

Nikon D4

 

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent

Nikon D4 High Res Back Transparent


Nikon D4 Logo

Finally! The Nikon D4 is Announced

Nikon did not have a good year in 2011 as they were affected by two major disasters. The earthquake in Japan and following tsunami forced the shutdown of their plant in Sendai.  This plant produces their professional line of cameras and lenses.  Later in the year, the flooding in Thailand submerged the Nikon factory at the Rojana Industrial Park.  This plant produces many of their consumer cameras and lenses.  Because of these disasters, their entire product line-up was affected and shortages of equipment were common.  Nikon planned to introduce a few new camera models and lenses in 2011 but all announcements were postponed while they worked to rebuild their facilities and solidify their supply chain.

Towards the end of 2011, things were looking up and production was getting back on track.  Nikon did make one product announcement, the SB-910 Speedlight but the year ended with no significant products for us to drool over.  The good news is that 2012 has started off with a bang.  Leading up to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Nikon has announced a new flagship digital SLR camera, the D4 (official press release).  Along with the new pro camera, they announced an 85mm f/1.8G lens and a wireless transmitter.  A big announcement to start the year and I expect more to come in the coming months.  The rumoured D700 replacement, the D800, is very likely the next body that will be announced but when that will happen is anyone's guess at this point.

Nikon D4 on Nikon's website

Nikon D4 brochure (PDF)

Nikon D4 full specification

Nikon D4 High Res Front Transparent

Nikon D4 Back

Nikon D4 High Res Top Transparent


Nikon D4 Trio

Nikon D4 Leaked by the French

The rumours were flying around for months and the mill was in high gear for the last few weeks about Nikon's new flagship camera, the D4.  Official announcement is likely to come on Friday, Jan. 6th (late Thursday in Canada/USA) but a French magazine spilled the beans early.  A scan of the article can be seen here.  Looks like a great body, and should compete well against the new Canon 1DX.

Specs:

  • 16 megapixels
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 50-204800)
  • 51 autofocus points
  • 100% viewfinder coverage
  • 10-12fps
  • 91000 point metering system
  • 1080p video recording
  • CF/XQD card slots
  • 1.34kg weight
  • €5,800 (likely to be about $6,000 USD)

Full details when officially announced by Nikon later today.

Nikon D4 Front

Nikon D4 Left

Nikon D4 Back


Nikon 1

Nikon 1 System Preview Preview

Digital Photography Review has just posted a preview of Nikon's newest cameras, the J1 and V1. There are a few image samples and comparisons to the competition. Worth a look if you are interested in these models. Me, I'm still waiting for the D800.

http://www.dpreview.com/previews/nikon1system