Photography FAQ #5

In this fifth issue of the Photography FAQ series, I will answer some of the interesting questions from our readers that I thought would be beneficial for others. Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can.

  1. How can I get sharp images of moving people?
    Use a faster shutter speed! If you do not understand the relationship of motion blur to shutter speed, check out my “understanding shutter speed” article, where I explain what shutter speed does and how you can freeze motion.
  2. Is it worth buying UV/protection filters for Nikon 35mm f/1.8G and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lenses? Isn’t using a lens hood good enough to protect the front lens?
    I would definitely recommend to buy UV filters for both lenses, for one simple reason – it is easier to clean these lenses with filters! If you look at the front part of both lenses, you will see that these lenses have “layers” or threads of black plastic around the front lens element:

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX

    [Read more...]

Photography FAQ #4

In this fourth issue of the Photography FAQ, I will focus on Nikon-specific questions that have been sent by our readers. Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can.

  1. Should I enable Active D-Lighting on my Nikon DSLR?
    It depends on whether you shoot in JPEG or RAW format. If you shoot JPEG, then yes, I would certainly recommend enabling Active D-Lighting. Use “Auto” setting, if it is available. If “Auto” is not available, then use “Normal”, which should work well for most situations. However, if you shoot in RAW format, then enabling Active D-Lighting is only going to be useful if you use Nikon’s Capture NX software. If you use Lightroom or some other third party application for post-processing your images, then Active D-Lighting is a useless overhead that you do not need – it will only darken your images a little. The reason why this happens, is because Active D-Lighting is essentially a tone curve applied to a RAW image in Nikon’s proprietary format. Current Adobe products are unable to read this data, so they automatically discard such data as Active D-Lighting, sharpening, color saturation, etc.
  2. I have a Nikon D80 that I have been using for a while and I was wondering if the D5000 represents a step down from what I currently have?
    Yes. While Nikon D5000 might seem like an upgrade for a D80 user, it is actually a lower-class camera. Nikon D5000 is an upper-entry-level camera, while Nikon D80 is a semi-professional camera that has more features (almost twice as many custom functions) than D5000. If you are currently using the Nikon D80, then you should be looking at D90 if you want to upgrade. A more detailed comparison of features can be found in my Nikon D5000 vs D90 article.
  3. Do you have any information on when an upgrade to Nikon D90 is supposed to be released? Will it happen this year?
    I get this question a lot. If you look at Nikon’s release schedule in the past, then yes, there should be an update to Nikon D90 at the end of this summer. However, nobody can tell you for sure, because the information is kept in secret and Nikon makes select people sign special “non-disclosure agreements” (NDA) before they can see any of the unannounced products. I personally do have a problem with a possible summer update of D90 and I think that it is not going to happen. Why? Because Nikon has not released a new sensor on the professional DX line this year. Nikon released the D300s, but it uses the same sensor as in D300. This does matter, because historically, Nikon released semi-professional DX cameras only after a major update to the professional DX cameras (D80 came out after D200 and used the same sensor, D90 came out after D300, same sensor). So, if an update to D90 does come out this summer, would Nikon reuse the same sensor as in the current D90? I don’t think so, it just wouldn’t make much sense. Adding more features to D90 is also not a good option, since Nikon would not want to threaten the current D300s sales with a more capable D90.

    NOTE: Nikon D7000 has been announced, no D90 update is planned for 2010.

  4. What about an update to Nikon D700?
    Everybody was hoping for a Nikon D700s or Nikon D700x this spring, but it didn’t happen. Since Nikon D3s has a brand new sensor, a Nikon D700s would make the most sense. The Nikon D700 was released on July 1, 2008, so there could be a Nikon D700s announcement in July or later in the year (most likely November announcement for general availability before Christmas), but again, it is just a mere guess. There is also a possibility that it will not happen at all this year, due to Nikon’s financial situation. I hope Nikon understands that a lot of people are waiting for a D700s/D700x release – it will surely be a hot seller, especially in the wedding photography business.
  5. You recommend Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lenses for low-light situations. If I have a room lit with just candle light, can those lenses create good, acceptably sharp images?
    If you are shooting hand-held in a candle-lit room, then no, neither the 35mm f/1.8, nor the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 would help. Remember, there is a big difference between low-light and dark. Candle light is dark. What I consider low-light is your typical indoors light in your room, with one or more 60-100W light bulbs. Also, don’t forget that focusing with a camera in low-light situations is extremely difficult and even though you might get a camera shake-free image, it could be soft due to bad focus. If you have a camera with good high ISO performance like the Nikon D700/D3 or D3s, then you could certainly bump up ISO to a really high number and get acceptably sharp images, but you would once again have to watch for possible focusing problems. Having fast-aperture lenses does not mean that you can photograph night scenes by just hand-holding the camera.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Photography FAQ #3

Happy Friday! Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can. Here is the third compiled list of FAQs from the last two weeks:

  1. What lens do you recommend for architectural photography?
    If you are serious about architectural photography, you should get a tilt and shift lens like the Nikon 24mm PC-E f/3.5D, with an ultra wide-angle lens such as Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G. Both are superb for most architectural photography needs.
  2. I have heard so many stories about a thread problem and debris inside the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II lens. Is this something to be worried about? Also, how does the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II behave on older camera bodies such as Nikon D70s?
    Forget about the thread/debris problem in the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II, because it is NOT a problem. People started complaining about this so much that they made Nikon provide an official response, in which they are stating that the lens thread is normal, it will not release any debris inside the lens and the performance is not going to be affected in any way. Although the lens was released specifically for FX cameras, it will work even better on DX cameras, including the older Nikon D70s/D80/D200 cameras.
  3. Do you recommend the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G lens for landscape photography on a DX body?
    No, I do not. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G is wide enough for FX, but on a DX body is equivalent of 35-105mm lens, which is sometimes too long for landscape photography. If you are shooting on a DX body, the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G or the new Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR would work better, because they have a bigger field of view, which means that you can fit more of the scene into the frame. I love the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens and it is definitely one of my favorite lenses for landscape photography, but when shooting on FX.
  4. What should I buy, a lightly used Nikon D300 or a brand new Nikon D90 for the same price?
    If you know the person who is selling the D300 and know for sure that the D300 is slightly used, then get the D300 of course! Although noise-levels on the D90 on high ISOs are slightly better, the D300 is a solid professional camera with a better AF system, faster speed and tougher weather sealing (in addition to many other features) compared to the D90.
  5. Will Nikon be releasing a VR or f/1.4 version of the Nikon 35mm lens anytime soon?
    Rest assured that the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens is not going to get VR, at least not anytime soon. Adding VR would make this lens heavier/larger in size and would add to the cost. In addition, there are many other lenses that are due for updates. For example, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D needs an update, hopefully with VR. As far as an f/1.4 version of the 35mm, it is definitely long overdue and many photographers have been desperately waiting for an AF-S version of this lens.
  6. I am afraid to purchase the Nikon D5000, because it does not have an autofocus motor in it. What do you recommend?
    I do not know why this question keeps coming up, but stop worrying about having or not having an AF motor in the camera body. Sure, having no motor was a problem in the past, but Nikon has released so many new excellent DX and AF-S lenses that having no AF motor in the body is no longer an issue. Instead of wasting money on an old, used lens that you think is a bargain, just buy the cheap and excellent Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens and you will not regret it.
  7. What Nikon lens do you recommend for indoors and outdoors sports photography?
    For outdoors sports photography, it all depends on how far away you are from the subject. The Nikon 70-200mm VR II would be a great choice for medium range photography and you could add a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR for subjects that are further away. If the above lenses do not fit your budget, try the inexpensive Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens – it works great when there is plenty of available light. When it comes to indoors sports photography, the choices are limited to either expensive f/2.8 lenses or fast-aperture fixed lenses such as Nikon 85mm f/1.4, considering that you cannot change the lighting conditions.
  8. Will Nikon be releasing updates to current DSLR cameras this year?
    I honestly do not know, because I do not work for Nikon and manufacturers always keep camera and lens announcements in secret. But you can get a pretty good picture of when Nikon will be releasing an update based on the schedule of camera releases by Nikon in the past.
  9. Do you really respond to all comments by your readers?
    Yes, we do. At least we try. Sometimes it takes me several days to catch up with all the comments, but Lola and I do our best to respond to every single query. I am not sure that I will be able to continue responding to all comments going forward, because the number of comments has dramatically increased and I sometimes spend more time responding to comments than writing content for the website. But I promise to do my best.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Photography FAQ #2

Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can. Here is the compiled list of FAQs from the last two weeks:

  1. What is the best lens for child photography?
    Our readers with families love our family photographs (thank you!) and occasionally ask me what lenses work best for photographing children, especially indoors. Most of the family pictures that we have are taken with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens and we use it more than any other lens both indoors and outdoors. Photographing kids is a challenging task (even with fast lenses) because children often move way too fast. Having a fast aperture lens helps to focus a little better in dim environments and also does a great job in isolating children from the background. Another lens that we have been raving a lot about lately, is the Nikon 35mm f/1.8. While it is not as superb as the 50mm f/1.4, it is still a pretty darn good lens on a DX body and super sharp at only $200 brand new. One more thing – if you are planning to photograph your children indoors a lot, I highly recommend purchasing an external flash unit like the Nikon SB-600 or SB-900. You can get great results by simply bouncing the flash off the walls and ceilings of your house and freeze motion.
  2. Should I buy Nikon D3000 or Nikon D5000?
    Despite the fact that there is a $200 difference between the two cameras, I always suggest our readers to get the Nikon D5000 over D3000. Why? Because the sensor on the Nikon D5000 is superior and much more capable compared to the sensor on the Nikon D3000. The most important thing in a camera is the sensor and the sensor on the Nikon D5000 is identical to the sensor on the Nikon D90 semi-professional camera. So, the image quality on the Nikon D5000 matches the image quality of the Nikon D90 – the difference is only in features and body design.
  3. What is the difference between the older Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR and the newer Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II?
    Optically, both lenses are identical. Because the older Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR had a problem with lens creep (pointing the lens down would start extending the barrel and zooming in), Nikon introduced a lock switch that locks the barrel in place on the newer Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 VR II. Everything else is the same, including Vibration Reduction technology.
  4. Can I use Nikon SB-600 as a commander?
    Unfortunately, you cannot. You will need a Nikon SB-800 (no longer manufactured) or Nikon SB-900 to be able to command other flashes. Nikon SB-600 works perfectly as a slave though. By the way, if you own a Nikon D70/D70s/D80/D90/D300/D300s/D700 camera, you can use the built-in flash as a commander! Just go to your flash menu settings and set your camera flash as a commander and set your SB-600 as a slave and give it a shot – it works like a charm!
  5. How big is the difference between a 200mm and 300mm lens?
    Check out the focal length comparison article I wrote a long time ago that shows the difference between 200mm and 300mm. You can also see the difference between wide-angle and telephoto lenses there.
  6. Is the new Nikon 70-200mm VR II good for sports photography?
    Absolutely, as long as you are shooting from a close distance. If your subjects are more than 10 feet away, I recommend getting a longer lens instead. Keep in mind that due to a change in optics, the new Nikon 70-200mm at 200mm is more like a 135mm lens at close-focus distance. The problem goes away as you increase the distance between yourself and the subject, but it is still quite noticeable compared to the original 70-200mm lens.
  7. How does the Nikon 70-300mm VR compare to the Nikon 70-200mm VR?
    Well, the biggest difference, first of all, is the price – the Nikon 70-200mm is around $2K more expensive than the 70-300mm. Second, the 70-200mm lens is a professional-grade lens for sports and news photographers, while the 70-300mm is a consumer lens. Third, 70-200mm is a constant f/2.8 aperture lens, while the 70-300mm lens is a variable aperture lens (at 70mm it is f/4.5, while at 300mm it is f/5.6). Fourth, if you do a comparison between 70 and 200mm, the 70-200mm lens will obviously beat the 70-300mm in both sharpness and contrast. Fifth, due to a completely different optical and lens design, there is a huge difference in weight and size between the lenses. Lastly, the 70-300mm gives far more reach than the 70-200mm VR II at the long end. Overall, it is unfair to compare these two lenses – it is like comparing a Ferrari with a Toyota.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Have a good day!

Photography FAQ #1

Starting from today, I decided to start posting some of the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) by our blog readers. We get a lot of questions and feedback through comments and email, so I decided to post some of the shorter ones here. Let’s get started with the first part of Photography FAQ.

  1. I am having a hard time picking between Nikon D90 and Nikon D300/D300s. What do you recommend?
    Unless you are planning to photograph fast-action sports, action and wildlife, I would recommend Nikon D90 over Nikon D300/D300s, especially if it is going to be your first DSLR. Nikon D90 is a great camera that works great for occasional portraits, landscapes and other types of photography where the speed of the camera is not important. As can be seen in our Nikon D300 vs D90 high ISO comparison, Nikon D90 deals with noise in high ISOs a little better than Nikon D300. This is due to a slightly better sensor and a more aggressive noise-reduction algorithm on the Nikon D90. Therefore, if you were to compare the image quality of both cameras, Nikon D90 would have a very slight edge over Nikon D300. In addition, accessories for Nikon D90 are a lot cheaper than for Nikon D300/D300s (for example battery grip and remote camera trigger). So, unless you have special needs, you should buy the Nikon D90.
  2. Do you recommend using filters on lenses for protection? Do filters degrade image quality?
    Absolutely! I use clear filters on every single lens that I have for not only protection, but also for easiness of cleaning. Many lenses have round front elements that stick out and are somewhat painful to clean. In contrast, filters do not have this problem and are very easy to clean. If a filter gets scratched or damaged, you throw it away and get a new one, knowing that the front element of your lens is always protected. Now as far as filters degrading image quality, it all really depends on the quality of the filter. In general, filters do have a slightly negative impact on image quality – after-all, it is another glass element in front of your lens! However, if you get a good high-quality filter, it will have almost no negative impact on image quality. At least not something you will notice with a naked eye. I personally use clear/protection filters by a company called B+W and I use their B+W 77mm MRC Clear Filter on lenses with a 77mm filter thread. I buy the same kind of protection filter for all other filter threads as well. Always make sure to get an MRC (Multi-Coated) version of the filter. There are many other filter manufacturers such as Tiffen and Hoya out there, but I prefer to use B+W, because their glass is of higher quality.
  3. Is there a considerable difference between FX (full frame) and DX (cropped-sensor)?
    Yes, there is. Full frame sensors have a much larger sensor than cropped sensors and therefore have larger pixels that are more sensitive to light. When it comes to both image quality and low-light capabilities, FX has a huge advantage over DX. There is a 2-stop difference between low-light capabilities of FX versus DX. For example, shooting at ISO 3200 on Nikon D700 is comparable to ISO 800 on Nikon D300s. Check out my FX vs DX article on differences between these formats in much more detail.
  4. What Nikon portrait lens do you recommend?
    In my opinion, the best lenses for portrait photography are Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 85mm f/1.4D and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II (not cheap). I personally love the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and use it more than any other lens.
  5. I see that most of your articles are about Nikon. Are you planning to cover Canon gear in the future as well?
    We try to write most of our “howto” articles for both Nikon and Canon digital cameras. However, since we primarily use Nikon cameras and lenses, we feel that it would be wrong to write about gear we do not have much experience with. I personally shot with Canon Digital Rebel and 40D/50D/5D DSLR cameras in the past, but we do not own any Canon equipment at the moment. We are hoping to start playing with Canon equipment more in the future though, read why below.
  6. Are you planning to write more reviews on cameras and lenses?
    Going forward, one of the largest photography stores in the world (you can probably guess which one) will be sending us new equipment for reviewing and testing. We are honored and privileged to be able to do this and our review section will be growing in numbers fairly quickly. The only problem I have is time – testing, reviewing and writing about products takes weeks of hard work. But we are committed to our website and our readers, so we will work hard on making it all happen!

If you buy from any of the above links, we get some diaper money for our Ozzy :)

That’s it for now, more to come later!