Sunday, September 25, 2011

Nikon 1 - Good, Bad or Indifferent?

Last week Nikon announced the release of the Nikon 1, their first foray into the mirrorless camera market. Not the first company to market with this type of camera as at least 7 other companies have mirrorless models out already, but I would suspect that most spectators were thinking that it was about time that Nikon entered this race.

Typical of any launch by any camera company, there were a lot of unhappy people. Most of them Nikon owners with a lot of negativity directed towards the Nikon 1. Why? Well that’s the big question now, isn’t it? To hazard a guess, it’s because the Nikon 1 doesn’t satisfy the wants of those who seem to be complaining the most. That would be the current crop of D3, D700 and D300 owners who have been anxiously awaiting upgrades, and were hoping that the announcement last week would hail the next best thing to the DSLR market. So I think the anger and disappointment at Nikon for the lack of new DSLR model has be directed, rather unfairly, at the poor little Nikon 1. Truth be told, I’m one the folks waiting to see what the D700 replacement looks like, but alas, I have to wait a little while longer just like everyone else. 

It doesn’t take a lot of searching to find the mass of critics opining on how Nikon totally missed the mark on this along with the “what were they thinking?!?” type of comments. Critical breakdowns of technical specs, breakdown of sample images (a pixel peeper’s favourite pastime) all with the conclusion that the Nikon 1 is a piece of crap that should never have left the stable. Oh yeah, I should mention that most of these criticisms are coming from those who have never seen, held or shot with said camera. The main problem with this is that others begin to believe all of the sideline critics and this group think mentality perpetuates the negative opinions that are not based on any sound evidence. The real kicker is that most of those complaining are not the real target audience for the Nikon 1, and would probably have never considered buying one in the first place.

So what was Nikon thinking? They were trying to fill a gap in their product line between the advanced point & shoot and the high-end enthusiast / pro level DSLR; that’s where the Nikon 1 fits. They also introduced a pink model, which I can only assume was a result of some careful market research and a deliberate strategy to target a particular demographic segment. Pink says a lot, they are appealing to a female audience, at least with one of the models.

The reality is that the high-end DSLR crowd was not the target audience for the Nikon 1. If you’re waiting for a D4, D800 or D400, you’ll have to wait a little longer. The D3, D700 and D300 are all still high performers and can still rival anything else in their class. I suspect that the next round of high-end DSLRs from Nikon will be more than just a surface update, and I can’t wait!

So what’s the overall fate of the Nikon 1? I guess time will tell. At first glance, it doesn’t have anything that out shines the other top contenders in the market, but it’s also not a bottom of the barrel camera. At the end of the day competition in the market is great for consumers and I’m sure Nikon will have a lot of success with this. The Nikon 1 is not for everyone, and it would be dumb if Nikon tried to position it as so. However, if you’re interested in a mirrorless camera system you now have another choice, and choice is never a bad thing.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Black & White Monday

Took a walk in the woods yesterday... it was a beautiful day so I spent some time at one of our local provincial parks. I saw this path and fence and instantly thought about how it would look in black and white.



Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Day the World Changed - September 11, 2001

Ten years after we remember those who lost their lives on that fateful day. As well as the brave men and women who charged into the heart of danger and put their own lives in the line of fire to help others. This, we can never forget.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Learning from Other's Work and Experimenting

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I mean how may photographers have tried to find Ansel Adams' tri-pod indents at Half Dome? When you see an image that you really like, do you study it to figure out how they did it? How they composed it? What direction the light was coming from? How was the set-up done? I find myself doing this sometimes, and also thinking about how to recreate it. It's not so much about copying someone else's work, but rather a good way to challenge my photography skills and hopefully learn something new.

I remember a product shot that Scott Kelby did a couple of years ago for a pair of sunglasses that I thought was extremely cool. It was cool because the sunglasses were floating in the frame. Now, your first thought is probably that this was all Photoshop trickery, but in reality it wasn't. The sunglasses were rigged up to hang from a couple of light stands with fishing wire to get the floating effect. Then Photoshop was used in post production to remove the fishing line and clean up the overall image. I love this approach because it focuses on setting up the shot first, and using Photoshop, as a tool, to finish the image instead of relying on Photoshop to do all the work. The great thing about Scott Kelby is that he's a teacher through and through and in this case give you all the steps required to try this. Same with the entire team at NAPP and Kelby Training. You can see his original post about this from a few years back here.

(Nikon D300, 70-200 f2.8, SU800 commander unit, 2 SB900 flash units)

At that time I didn't have the gear or the ability to event attempt this. But now, with a little more gear, and a little more confidence, I thought I would give it go. Above is my original production shot of how I went about the set-up. A few years ago I made a light box out of PVC pipe (which was really easy and cheap) and used that to hang the sunglasses. That's a Lastolite Ezbox on the right with shoot through umbrella coming down from the top left. The rig was sitting on a sliver reflector so I could get a little splash of light underneath. Below is the RAW image right out of the camera (with thread and bad softbox glare).

It took a lot of little tweaks here and there between the camera level, focus, as well as adjusting the sunglasses so they were level. Again, I could have adjusted this is Photoshop to even it out after the fact, but there's still something satisfying about getting it right the first time, in camera. After a little post work and cleanup I ended up with the final image that you see at the top of this post. I also went an extra step and decided to see how it would look with a little reflection. This is the creative part of photography where you get to decide what the final output is going to be.

This was a great learning experience for me. So consider something like this the next time you're looking to challenge your skills. A little inspiration and some trial and error (and error and perhaps some more get the point, right?).