Photoessay: Urban form

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Just as the previous photoessay focused on the distilled shapes and forms of the organic, today’s does the same for the inorganic. Hard shadows play off hard lines and angles and deep blacks create a sense of spatial discontinuity that turns the unknown into a solid anchor, intentionally inverting perception. Sorry, sometimes I forget I’m not writing for a society art critique. Most of the time, I just like the shapes. MT

This series was shot with the Nikon Z7 and contains SOOC JPEG images using my custom Picture Controls, available here. Similar results are available with other cameras by following the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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Photoessay: Park form

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A walk in the park can sometimes be more than easy and better than creative – a refreshment of the mind and eye, and some good light to make things interesting. I’ve found myself working increasingly in monochrome these days to focus on forms and shapes and remove the distractions of color; there’s a time and place for it but the color really has to carry the story. In a high-density and high-contrast environment that’s monochromatic anyway – taking away the color pushes the eye towards the core of the story. MT

This series was shot with the Nikon Z7 and contains SOOC JPEG images using my custom Picture Controls, available here. Similar results are available with other cameras by following the Monochrome Masterclass workflow.

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By popular demand: Nikon Z7 and D850 JPEG picture controls and ACR profiles

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I’m giving in to the large number of people asking me for Z7 and D850 Adobe Camera Raw profiles that are compatible with Workflow III. Now available is a supplementary pack that includes these profiles, as well as a bonus: what are arguably the best SOOC JPEG profiles available at the moment for the Z7 and D850. I’ve been looking at ways to make my own workflow more efficient for the majority of cases where I don’t need perfect files, so I can spend more time shooting (or doing other things) rather than being stuck behind a computer. Inspired by the results from the PEN F, I spent some time using Nikon’s byzantine picture control management software to make a set of curves that plays nice under the majority of situations. The monochrome picture controls were calibrated specifically for velvety rich shadows and smooth highlight rolloff; I think of it as ‘Acros Plus’ with a light orange filter; for some odd reason getting monochrome right was much more difficult than color – I put it down to the sensitivity of Nikon’s curve implementation.

Included in this pack are:

  1. Nikon Z7 ACR flat color profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  2. Nikon Z7 ACR flat monochrome profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  3. Nikon D850 ACR flat color profile, for use with Workflow III and PS
  4. Nikon Z7 monochrome picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  5. Nikon Z7 high contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  6. Nikon Z7 low contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  7. Nikon D850 monochrome picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  8. Nikon D850 high contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)
  9. Nikon D850 low contrast color picture control (SOOC JPEG)

The profile/picture control pack is available to purchase here for $60.

All sample images in this post were shot with the Z7 and one of the three picture controls; PS was only used for batch resizing. More samples and notes after the jump. Expect an email from me after purchasing, within half a day at worst in case I’m not at the computer.

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Long term thoughts on the Nikon Z7 and system

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I’ve now had a few months, a few assignments and what I’d consider a decent amount of time with the Z7: long enough to be familiar with its various peccadilloes and figure out exactly where it fits in my arsenal. Think of it as an extended field test, and perhaps more important than the initial review that people seem to expect me to produce within hours of a camera’s announcement. Truth is, you don’t really know a camera until you’ve had a chance to use it as you normally would, for the kinds of subjects you normally shoot, for an extended period of time – it’s just not physically possible to cover that many scenarios in a short test. Trouble is, not many of us have the time to do that (and especially not sites that have dozens of cameras to cover every month). It also requires consistency in the way one works to provide a baseline of expectations. As usual, I preface my thoughts with the caveat that not everything will apply to everybody, and validity of course increases the more similar your photographic style is to mine. I may not cover some things that matter to you, and I may obsess over other things that are trivial. With that, and assuming we have a mature audience, let’s move on.

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Guest review: the 2018 Nikon Z6

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MT: Today’s thoughts on the Z6 should be thought of as an accompaniment to my Z7 review and are courtesy of the man behind the scenes and one of the partners in my watch venture, Praneeth Rajsingh, who’s the one keeping me organised and pointing in the right direction these days. I tried to get him to buy the Z7, but he knows his sufficiency threshold…

Hello! While I’m usually involved behind the scenes, Ming thought it might be interesting to have me share my thoughts on the new Nikon Z6 – which I recently acquired. As an amateur photographer who only buys gear to meet his needs (and budget), my review will not be the comprehensive and in-depth coverage that MT excels at, but I hope some of you find it useful.

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Full review: The 2018 Nikon Z7 and Z 24-70/4

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Executive summary: the last bastions of mirrors have both joined the brave new world. Nikon’s effort feels like a D850 and an E-M1.2 met in a bar and had an illegitimate child. Yes, it’s expensive; yes, for the most part, it performs pretty much how you’d expect. It doesn’t feel like a first effort except for a couple of relatively minor things (as it shouldn’t given how long Nikon took to release it) – if anything, they should be commended for releasing it when ready rather than as soon as possible. And yes, I bought one.

I’ve now had a couple of days to do shoot my production/ retail Z7, 24-70/4 and FTZ adaptor, and my thoughts follow. More images to come as I have time to shoot with the camera; I rushed this out in the middle of a family vacation – the first one since before I started photography professionally.

Updated 23/10/18 after extended battery testing.

Updated 28/10/18 after long distance testing of the 24-70.

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A question of value, accessibility and medium format…

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Let’s say you’re in the market for a new camera – which face it, most of us find ourselves in frequently, often for reasons of our own doing. It has to be something reasonably exciting, and having played this game and gone through this cycle many times, for argument’s sake, it’s probably going to be at the higher end of the spectrum. We have a lot of choices. What I’ve shown above represents the full spectrum of choices, from the best of conventional high performance DSLR, to the top end of mirrorless, to entry level medium format, to something a bit more unconventional. Figure on spending say ~$12k by the time you’re done – body, a lens or two, and the usual plethora of system-specific accessories.

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Review: The Nikon D5500 (or, a solution to the compact 50-e problem)

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Yes, it still balances. Not taped up because I hadn’t gotten around to it at this point.

I’ll be the first to admit this is an unusual camera for me to bother reviewing, and an even more unusual one for me to land up buying and using fairly extensively. But I think all will make sense by the end of the post. The D5500 is the fifth and latest in the line of consumer-grade articulating-screen Nikon DSLRs, starting with the D5000. It has a single control dial, a fully tilting and reversing touch LCD, the 24MP AA-less Sony sensor of its senior D7200 sibling, 5fps 14bit (compressed, though) shooting capability, and the lightest, smallest, most compact body of any Nikon DSLR to date. Did I mention it has a carbon fiber monocoque to keep weight down and rigidity up?

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Long term lens review: the Nikon AF-S 24-120 f4 VR G

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Yes yes, I know I’m late to the party. Very late, in fact. The AFS 24-120 f4 VR G has been available for a good four years now, replacing the much-maligned AFS 24-120 f3.5-5.6 VR G. By a curious coincidence, I’ve actually owned and shot extensively with both versions. And even more curiously, my experiences have been fairly similar with both lenses. You could say you’d be glad you had them if you did, but you could also probably do without if you didn’t. And then there’s the 900-pound (or $1700 dollar) gorilla in the corner: why not just buy the 24-70/2.8 and be done with it?

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Nikon 300/4 VR: anybody else seeing double images?

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100% here.

So I attempted to buy the new Nikon AFS 300/4 PF ED VR today, for the third time. This seems like an odd thing to write, so please hear me out. Every sample of this lens I’ve tried, on every D810 body (now three of each) produces very strange double-image artefacts only with VR on. With VR off, the optics look consistently excellent. With VR on, I couldn’t get a single sharp image regardless of drive mode, shutter speed, EFC on/off, tripod or handheld. The funny thing is that I did not see this on any other body than the D810: the D800E was just fine with VR on, as were the D3, D4 and D750. I initially ruled this out as sample issues or QC, but now that I’ve tried several lenses from different batches and from different country stock with a range of bodies, I think there may be something much more serious afoot. I have reported my findings to Nikon and they are investigating…

I can only hypothesise that there is some very strange interference going on between the VR mechanism and the D810’s shutter unit. It appears plenty stable in the viewfinder – perhaps moreso than any other lens I’ve mounted – but the results are unusable. Is anybody else seeing this with their lenses, or is it just my bad luck with every sample and body?

There is a folder of full size samples here on dropbox.

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