I will be building this blog with pages for camera gear, computers and software applications that I hope people find beneficial. Do you need help configuring your gear for optimal results, could you use some tips in selecting a PC, software and setting up a work flow to get great results. How about single point versus dynamic area, SD versus CF cards, need to learn how to safely upload or load those images and create a web page. Not sure about how much memory, or which processor. Having a technical resource that can put those pieces together for you with suggestions is comming soon.
The goal of the forum will be to provide end to end help with camera, image post processing, as well as, displaying and selling your photos on a web site or blog. If you have questions about photography, you can always email me through the support address below. Just take out the spaces and use @ after support. I hope to have the blog ready by the end of December, but check my email on a regular basis.
Created on 11/24/2013, all content is copyright © 2010 by esp-sportsphotos.com, all rights reserved: http://www.esp-sportsphotos.com/Nikon-Talk/
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Well it’s not a D400, but it’s a pretty darn good DX body!
- It’s low ISO looks good, you can bring something under exposed by 5 stops and the image will still look ok.
- High ISO’s look pretty good too, in fact ISO 6400 is very useable.
- AF \ Expeed 4 is very good in my preliminary testing of one youth soccer match.
- Separate settings are now available for still and movie mode, Nikon still has the U1 & U2 settings of course.
- AE-L & AF-L button is more prominent and easier to use for AF on if you like to have that as an option.
- Hard to beat the MSRP price of under $1200 USD, it’s a good value!
- Nikon labeled the Pv and Fn buttons opposite of the D7000.
- The fps is nothing to get excited about, ok for some action, but not a true sports frame rate.
- Same consumer body, I wish it was more like the Canon 7DM2.
- To see histograms in play back, you have to turn that option on in the play back display option menu’s or they don’t work.
- Only Nikon Capture NX-D / NX-i will let you read the NEF’s for now.
- Still cannot change the aperture in movie live view, it does work in still live, but auto ISO will work during movies and in manual mode.
My first impression is the WB is better, and I think high ISO noise at ISO 6400 is slightly better in the jpegs compared to the D7000. After reviewing NEF’s in NX-D, ( it’s important to use the same tool for all photos), the D7200 is close to a stop better than the D7000 at ISO 6400. I would say that one should have no issues shooting this camera at ISO 3200, a few NEF’s and jpegs files can be found at the link below:
Initial impressions of AF performance are good. Shot a youth soccer match for 15 minutes, they were young kids 5-6 years old, but no issue with AF. All the frames were in focus using AF-C 9 pt, even with the little groups that surround the ball at that age. Post review really did not find any fault, if shooting mid day may want to back off on the exposure just a little, I set mine to -1/6. Also no issues with AF while shooting surf photos in harsh back light conditions.
In shooting video Nikon has add an exposure smoothing feature that basically leaves Auto ISO on all the time for video. The nice part is that Auto ISO does work in manual mode, it’s just that you have the option to turn it off there if you don’t want it on. You can change the shutter speed in live view, just not the aperture. Not sure why Nikon thinks you need to pay over $2K to get a feature like movie aperture control that is available on every Canon DLSR made, regardless of price.
The frame rate shooting with jpegs seemed less than 6 fps may be closer to 5 fps. I did not attempt to measure it, so just subjective feeling. I am using SanDisk Extreme Pro 16 GB 95 MB/s cards, no issue with the buffer and jpegs of course. I am trying to keep the frame count down for now until I finish evaluating the camera, so no test data yet counting large burst of NEF files. Apparently this camera will slow down to 5fps when shooting RAW at 14 bit, you need to be at 12 bit to get 6 fps.
In doing my AF fine tune I did notice that the camera AF system is more sensitive with a TC attached. If start out at the wrong end of the range like -5 and the correct value is +5 for that lens, it doesn’t hit focus at the long end of a telephoto lens on the first try when you switch quickly from something near to a faraway object to reset the focus for the next AF adjustment value.
Once you get the fine tune close to where it should be it’s not an issue, and the lens correctly locked on the target in one try. That phenomena did not occur when no TC was attached to either lens. Also, I had the focus limiter in the full position rather than the slightly more responsive infinity to X meters, which I normally use when a TC is attached.
I did the fine tune on three lenses, plus (the same) two with a 1.4 TC. Basically two without a TC were spot on, one needed +3 with out a TC and +5 with the TC on that lens. My 70-200 f2.8 VRI zoom needed -3 with a TC attached. So far much better than my D7000 with the same lenses, which always need a negative off set of -5 or more with almost every lens that I tried.
If you want a D7000 / D7100 style camera at a relatively low price to add some reach with out the FX penalty, and can take advantage of the DX crop plus the 1.3 extra crop in 18-12 mode. Look no futher the D7200 may be the right camera for you. If you really wanted a D400 and wonder will you be disappointed. In most ways no, when you look at the whole camera as a system, there are always trade offs. Sure it would of been great if Nikon made a D400 body with a Sony sensor.
Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen this calendar year, if it ever does. So if you really need a better frame rate look for a used D3s, they have really come down in price, or of course switch to Canon if the rest of your system is modest and you can afford to change. If I shot a lot of sports, I would probably run with Canon on DX and Nikon for FX. As it stands not, don’t do enough sports for a dedicated Pro DX body, and all my glass is in a Nikon F mount. While I could afford a 7Dm2, I don’t have the cash to be able to purchase the nice Canon glass I would want for the limited sports I shoot.
When you have been into one brand for a while and put together a nice set of lenses, flash, batteries and bodies that make up a system. It’s tough to sell that gear which is all interrelated because of developments in one area like pro DX. I can’t afford to tie up significant funds in lenses that work on only one body. If you have been with your system for some time, then your probably in the same boat as I am and will decide to live with the compromises that Nikon delivers at this price point. I have found no issues with the AF or ISO performance, and I can live with the result.
I’ll list a few recommended items on camera setup:
Active D-Lighting – Intended to optimize the dynamic range by preserving details in jpegs, where you give up some DR over RAW. Under decent lighting conditions, it’s better to turn this feature off and you will get a little better performance / higher continuous frame rates in many cameras.
AF settings – such as focus tracking with lock on should be set to less than three for most sports or shorter for most sports. This allows you to switch between subjects and have the camera refocus quickly. The only time you would use the long setting is if something predictable gets between the camera and the subject that you can’t avoid, and you want the camera to not react to that interruption.
AFC priority – set to release, I like this option because in AFC you are generally shooting more than one frame at a time and the AF system will continue to focus during the sequence, so you’re better to keep the frame rate up with most frames being in focus rather than missing the shot completely. In AFS priority, I would set priority to focus, because you are only taking a single frame and frame rate is not important.
Number of focus points – more can be better, but not always. More points means that the AF will track around a larger section of the view finder. However, if you don’t want the AF to be fooled by none critical elements you may want to reduce the number. Some bodies give you multiple options, on the D7000 it’s either 39 or 11, which ones really depend on how complicated the area is around your main subject.
Lastly AF fine tune is something to check for telephoto lenses, although sometimes even mid-range lenses can be off a little. Also if you use Teleconverters with your lenses, these can affect the AF as well. So it’s best to test how well AF is dialed in when you purchase a new lens. I typically find a stationary target at some distance of 50 to 100 feet that represents the average distance to your subject. Then shoot wide open through each AF off set (+10 /-10) to determine which one is the sharpest.
Note: On Nikon bodies you only get one adjustment per lens, so if it is a zoom you have to decide on the focal length most important to you.
Clearly your lens choices can make or break your photography. Having the wrong lenses, doesn’t help, and lenses can be expensive, so you want to invest the dollars you do have wisely and make good choices. The best lens is not the most expensive, it is the lens that is the right tool for the job. You can purchase good glass and not spend a fortune. Some times it means you may need to purchase used, or from a third party manufacture such as Sigma, or Tamron. Some of the lenses that I have used are listed below, along with a few comments on each:
- Nikon 10-24mm f3.5-4.5 G, this is a DX lens intended for DX bodies, it’s a great super wide lens. Remember that the equivalent FOV 10mm on DX is essentially 15mm on FX, so you have to go wider than you think. I look at third party options, but the Nikon is worth the extra money in this case.
- If you shoot FX the Nikon 16-35mm f4 is a great lens especially from 20mm to 30mm. Nikon now makes an 18-35mm that is less expensive and optically just as good. If I was buying this focal length today, I would probably just go for the 18-35mm.
- I am have always like 35mm, especially on film and FX bodies. My personal favorite is the Sigma 35 f1.4, it’s one of the best prime lenses at 35mm by any manufacturer. Its fast, doesn’t distort, and you can get great shots up close, or back up a few feet and get small groups.
- If you like people an 85mm is a must have lens, I have shoot with the 85mm f1.8D and 85mm f1.4D. I have heard that the 85mm f1.8 G is an extremely good value. It has the price of the slower aperture, but 98% of the performance of the 85mm f1.4. It’s a must have lens on DX or FX, if I was buying this lens I would go for the 85mm f1.8 G, unless I made a living with it. In which case I would pony up the extra money for the 85mm f1.4 lens.
- On mid-range zooms there are a lot of choices out there in both DX and FX. I personally would go with something like 18-105 or 24-105mm depending on DX or FX. Sigma, Tamron, Canon and Nikon all have options in this zoom range. None are perfect, but all are Ok walk around lenses.
- If you do sports, a 70-200 f2.8 is a must have along with perhaps another telephoto prime. If you a little short on cash, a less expensive option that gets the job done in good light is a Tamron 70-300mm. Now you give up f2.8 for f5.6 (which is two stops), but the lens will cost substantially less and if you can shoot at f8 with good light, it will produce wonderful photos.
- Longer focal lengths, can be use specific, and the cost go up dramatically if you need an f2.8 or f4 lens. At different times I have used a Nikon 200-400 f4, Nikon 300 f2.8, Sigma 120-300 f2.8 and all work well for field sports. The Nikon will get you out the farthest with TC’s and preserve most of the IQ. Sigma will give you the most versatility in that it is an outstanding zoom. All are bigger lenses, so the cost and weight play an important role in the decision, also these can be rented if you only need one a couple of times a year.
- Manual focus, Nikon has made some of the best MF lenses on the market. These can be used on most modern digital SLR cameras. The Nikon F mount has not changed in 40 years. Also because of the mount design, there are adaptors to use Nikon MF lenses on Canon bodies with the EF lens mount. These lenses are solid, will last forever if you can avoid fungus, and are a pleasure to shoot with when you can slow down a little.
Cameras and lenses are only a portion of the tools that you will need. Post processing your images with software tools are a major part of every photographers trade, just as much as the darkroom use to be in the past. One of the best software tools that I have in my collection is Adobe Lightroom (LR). This software greatly simplifies your post processing on images. It works with both RAW and jpegs, with jpegs you have the advantage in that the original file is not modified. Edits or changes that you make in development are saved as part of the LR catalogue, but since the original file is not modified, you don’t have to worry about compression losses degrading your image with every edit.
Since I have shot a lot of sports photos, by nature I shoot a lot of jpeg photos. I do use some in camera sharpening, and save the images to a non-system hard drive. I typically use Adobe Bridge to review the photos and video clips. I usually narrow the list to a dozen or so that I feel I really like, and import those into LR. I then edit those and export the result to a new file. In some cases I may need to work with layers and do more advanced editing in Photoshop CS5. However, most of the time the new features of LR 5 are sufficient to not require additional editing. One of the features I like most in LR 5.3 is the recent enhancement to the radial filter tool. It has been improved greatly and allow you to tweak exposure, sharpness, and highlights to a specific area of the photograph, or exclude a small section of the image.
Other tools that I have used include Nikon Capture and View, Adobe Elements, Photoshop CS5. I have also used PostWorkShop to add special effects. I have also used Neat Image Pro to analyze and reduce noise in images from older bodies at higher ISO settings. If I could only use one tool though, it would be Lightroom to perform most of my still editing. If your into video, you may want something, more elaborate such as Sony Vegas Platinum or Corel Video Studio Pro. If you just need to clean up the beginning or end of a video clip, LR can help with that too. There are free tools that also let you stich various video clips together into one continuous movie. You may want to recode it, and there are lots of recoding tools as well. Video recoding takes a lot of CPU, so a better computer will reduce the time substantially.
There are a lot of computer options to choose from, since I mainly work with Windows systems, most of my advice will be centered on that OS. I run Windows 7 x64 both at home and professionally, so I have not spent much time with Windows 8. A lot of people simply like the user interface with Windows 7, and while Windows 8 has some advantages, its learning curve is steep. Microsoft then came out with a free upgrade to Windows 8.1, and included the start button. There are also some hidden options that will make Windows 8.1 act more like Windows 7, but it is still not the same. A few third party vendors sell software to duplicate the Windows 7 menus more closely for those that don’t want to learn the new interface.
Does Windows 8 have some advantages, yes it does. Will Windows 8 run all Windows 7 applications, mostly yes. The drivers are compatible, but some applications may realize the OS is not Windows 7 and want you to down load or purchase updated software anyway. Some of the new features of Windows 8 are that it uses UEFI boot by default, which does decrease start up times. However, Windows 7 can also be configured to use UEFI for the same advantage. Both Windows 7 and 8 are fully compatible with SSD drives and use TRIM natively. Windows 8 does a better job of recognizing USB 3.0 devices without specific drivers. Windows 8 will recognize and work with touch screens, which is a plus for laptop users.
*Tips: If you want to install Windows 7 with a UEFI partition, there are a couple of requirements:
- The boot device for the install must have a bootx64.efi driver under the efi\boot\ path, if it is an USB drive and not a DVD.
- HDD disks often need an AHCI driver for the best performance, which should be loaded during the Windows 7 install under drivers.
- SSD drives may prefer the more general Microsoft AHCI driver, and will give you a warning during the install if you load the Intel f6flpy-x64 driver.
- Companies like Paragon offer tools to migrate your HDD drive to SSD. Samsung also offers a free imaging tool, but it only works on Samsung SSD drives.
- UEFI partitions include a 100 MB FAT 32 EFI system volume and a hidden 128 MB Microsoft Reserved Partition (MSR). A clone drive will need to copy these as well as the OS or the new SSD drive will not boot.
- If a clone tool recognizes UEFI and moves the boot partition, your original source drive will no longer boot, only the SSD drive. The source drive can become a secondary data disk, but if that is not your intention, be aware!
Regardless of the OS version you choose, I do recommend a SSD drive for new system with fast i7-4770 type processors, the performance limitation will most likely be your HDD, and not your video card or memory. On my system the Windows experience index went up from 5.9 to 7.9 with the installation of a Samsung 840 EVO SSD drive for the boot OS. What does that mean in real terms, well boot times go down from 30 seconds to less than 20 seconds to the log on screen. In addition to much faster read times (5X), you will also get with the newer second generation drives better MTBF and a longer warranty over HDD drives.
Yes, SSD drives still wear out over time, due to a finite amount of writes, but that should be several years for home users, as long as you go with one of the leading drives. The disadvantage for wide spread use is still cost, but if you paying over $1000 for a system, another $100 dollars for a SSD drives won’t break the bank and will definitely improve performance. It’s optimal to still use a large 1 – 2 TB HDD for storage and put the OS and page file on the SSD volume. If you do purchase a SSD drive make sure that it is at least 120 GB, because you need to keep about 25% free space on the volume for the best performance. On windows 7 and 8 systems TRIM is enabled by default.
If your system came with Windows 8 Pro, you may be able to down grade to Windows 7 Pro for free, but you should check with your system provider and / or Microsoft for all the down grade rules and restrictions. If you are allowed to down grade you will need the Windows 7 install disks, which are not provided with systems that came with Windows 8. In addition you may need a few unique drivers, the biggest one seems to be USB 3.0, but a few others for a chip set or card reader might also apply.
If you system builder offers the same system with both operating systems your drivers are covered, but if it’s only offered in Windows 8, you may not get everything working after the down grade. The other issue is, companies like Dell and HP may not provide software support on systems that have been downgraded so proceed at your own risk. If you’re not very PC savvy, your best bet may be you purchase the system with the OS that you want and not perform the down grade. One disadvantage though, seems to be systems that come with Windows 7 pre-installed do command a premium over the exact same system with Windows 8.
I will offer a few tips for Nikon cameras, and build on those in future post. I will leave the comment option turned on, and let people ask questions to prompt future discussions. I do ask that this section be limited to camera and gear topics. I will create another post for software and post processing tools:
- RAW vs. JPEG- Canon and Nikon both have their own names, but essentially JPEG’s are compress files that have some processing done in camera, they are smaller in size and ready to use out of the camera, provided the photographer has done their part with exposure and the histogram. RAW is often called a digital negative because it has the most data and the most dynamic range (DR). RAW photographs do have to be tweaked out of the camera in post processing. If you shooting is difficult light, with lots bright highlights and dark shadows use RAW. If you’re taking lots of photos in good light, JPEGS will probably be fine.
- FX vs. DX- I have written a separate post on just this subject. DX is generally favored by sports and nature photographers because you effectively can get more reach due to a different field of view on cropped sensor with a given lens. Landscape, portrait and candid photographer s like FX because they have less depth of field, tend to be less noisy, better high ISO performance and have the normal 35mm field of view that facilitates wide angle shots. DX lenses have been smaller and less expensive because they cover a smaller sensor. All big glass is pretty much FX, but in the normal and wide angle segment is where you will find the most selection.
- Nikon vs. Canon- Both companies have been market leader at different times. Nikon came out with some of the best manual focus (MF) glass in the 60’s and 70’s that are still used today. Canon developed the first AF lenses, to improve the chances for sharp photos in challenging conditions. Nikon is now known for better sensors with more DR, and until recently had a slight edge in AF systems. As I mentioned above Canon seems to be the leader in video, with the most options and accessories. Nikon introduced Live View auto focus (AF) first, but now Canon has a dual pixel CMOS sensor that provides better tracking and AF in video mode.
- Keep in mind that if you spend much time with photography, there are a lot of pieces that you acquire along the way. Those pieces become a “system” that works together and handles the complete imaging process. Once you have a system, it’s expensive to change later, and generally involves replacing almost everything to switch camps. So it’s best to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each system before buying into one too deeply.
I have mainly photographed with Nikon equipment since college, so that gear that I am most familiar with. Often across camps Canon and Nikon both have similar features, with a slightly different names, and menu options to find it. I can help translate those as well as provide specific suggestions for sports photography which is the area I am most comfortable. In the digital world Canon has a reputation for better DLSR video, and a few more lens choices. In the Nikon world their digital cameras are known for slightly better sensors, with more dynamic range (DR).
More expensive DLSR’s generally provide a better build with more buttons and features that simplify workflow on the shooting side. They typically also perform better at high ISO’s, or in very low light. Lower end cameras tend not to have a built in AF motor that can focus older Nikon D lenses; they also have more pre-programmed modes to help less experienced photographers shoot different scenes without understanding what parameters need to be changed. Lastly less expensive DLSR cameras tend to have less sophisticated AF systems, and as a result may get less “keepers” in sporting events.
• Stopping the D lens down to f2.0 adds a bit of the WOW to the photograph, and the two lenses are basically equal even when viewed at 100% crop.
• At f2.8 the two are very close again, but the AIS lens has just a touch more contrast and detail. I think the AIS version is actually best shot at f2.8.
Nikon AF 85mm f1.8D
MF 85mm f1.4 AIS
My initial impression is that the lens is sharp, and focuses faster than the 35-70, not quite as fast as the 24-70 f2.8, but close enough that the lens could be used for sports assuming f4 isn’t an issue, such as outdoors.
The lens is a bit bigger in diameter than I had expected, certainly bigger than the 24-70 f2.8 almost everywhere but the very front. If you compare the 24-70 at f2.8 to the 24-120 at f4 (both wide open) they are very close optically, including distortion at 24mm and pin cushion at 70mm. However, comparing these lenses at aperture f4, the 24-70 is sharper stopped down and has a little nicer brokeh. If you didn’t have either lens, it would really depend on what the main use was.
If you need a fast rugged lens the 24-70 f2.8 wins. It not only has a faster aperture, but it’s AF is faster as well. Fast is relative, given that the 24-70mm is one of the fastest focusing lenses that I have used. The 24-120 f4 is no slow poke, and is certainly faster than the Nikon 35-70 f2.8D lens. The 24-120 shines as a people, candid, wedding, and photo journalist lens. It’s lighter than the 24-70 f2.8, and has VR. In low light,when subjects aren’t moving much this is your tool of choice.
The photos below are comparing the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 to the 24-120 f4 at two focal lengths. It does very well almost everywhere, and can certainly be shot wide open when needed. You will get more contrast if you stop down to f5.6. I have read other reviews that indicated that the 24-120 was soft at the longer end. I am happy to say my copy is not at all soft between 70- to 120 mm.
The tough part is comparing one lens stopped down to one that is not. A fairer test might be with the 24-70 at f2.8 to the 24-120 f4, that way both lenses are wide open. In that scenario it is very difficult indeed to tell them apart, and differences are more in the position of the photographer and changes in light, than any real differences between the two lenses.
The shots on the left are the 24-120mm, and the ones on the right are the 24-70mm, both that within about 20 minutes of each other, and both shot at f4, ISO 400 in all the cases.
The center of the flower was the focal point. Again either lens pops a little more when stopped down a little.
I think the deciding factor can be summed up quickly. If you truly don’t need f2.8 for sports, and want a lens that weights 230 grams less, with a wider range, look no further. This lens has a lot of flexibility, and is very sharp for a 5x zoom.
I have read comments on line that indicate the lens is overpriced.
I think that is deceiving, because, the speed, build quality are not obvious at first glance. Just be careful to keep your plam / hand away from the focus ring when you zoom. It is a bit narrow and close to the rear mount (just opposite of the 24-70mm).
The distortion at 24mm wide open is more apparent in the 24-120mm at the short end , although if you stop it down it does seem to help. Also, it is more noticeable in the 24-70 when the same wall is shot at f2.8.
I will update this blog again with more photos, this is just a quick first impression. I also want to thank B&H Photo for their help in obtaining the equipment. They are a truly good place to deal with, and have excellent customer service, that will go the extra mile when needed.