Happy New Year to Everyone!
I receive many emails from people seeking photography advice. While I do not have the time to respond to each one of these individually, I will post responses to them on this blog when I get the chance. This post deals with some questions I have received on the Nikon system and its performance relative to Hasselblad.Question 1: I am planning to
purchase a Nikon d700 and noticed you use this as one of your cameras. I want
to make a wise choice with lenses and the options are a bit overwhelming. Can you
advise me what your favorites are for this format of camera? Also, do you publish any instructional
books or books with photographic details on your photos?
Question 2: I see you mainly use a Hasselblad, but you mention that you also use
Nikons as well. Can the Nikon digital FX cameras produce the kind of
images that you get from the Hasselblad? Or is the difference extremely
significant? I currently shoot with a Nikon D700 and have some of
their finer lenses. While I'd currently have to describe myself an
enthusiast, I really enjoy both the shooting and the processing on the
computer. My hope is to someday write photo / essay books on various
landscape and travel subjects. I'm just wondering if you think there's
a reason to move to medium format cameras or if I should continue to
develop my Nikon equipment?
I currently use a Hasselblad H3D-39 megapixel medium format camera as my primary system for most of my photographs. I just put in an order to upgrade this system to an H4D 60 megapixel system, which hopefully will be available in March of 2010. The reason I use the Hasselblad system is that the image quality is second to none, particularly when very large prints are made. The majority of fine art prints I sell are larger than 20x30". I regularly do prints that are 72" wide and recently did one that is 10 feet high. I have a commission to do a mural that is 150 feet long (I will stitch together multiple images for this one). There is a wonderful crisp and pure look to the Hasselblad prints that I cannot duplicate with any other camera system. I have tried enlarging Nikon D3, D700, and event D3x files and find that they do not hold up well to the pixel abuse I can subject them to through these enlargements. They can make beautiful 20x30" prints but start to get very "painterly" beyond that size. The Nikon files (as well as Canon files) work well for book size prints and prints up to 20x30" if you upsample with Genuine Fractals. The Nikon D700 and D3 work really well in low light conditions and for handheld photography. All the poppy wildflower images in my new book were taken with a Nikon D3 handheld in windy conditions. I was able to use a small aperture for max depth of field but also use a fast shutter speed by cranking up the ISO to 2000. My favorite lens for the Nikon is the 14-24 mm wide angle zoom - it gives a very dramatic perspective and is wider than I can get with Hasselblad medium format. I also like the Nikon 80-400mm VR zoom.
The Hasselblad system cost really does not make sense as an investment for people not making a living from their photography, unless you are independently wealthy and want the joy of working with the best money can buy. There are also limitations with the Hasselblad system, namely low-light hand held performance, very high ISO performance, and the safety issue of traveling with an extremely expensive camera system.
Nikon and Canon DSLRs have so many great features these days, along with HD video, that it makes sense to make an investment in the lenses for these systems. There will always be a need for a DSLR in your gear bag even if you eventually move up to a medium format system. If you are in the market for a new Nikon check out: http://nikonrumors.com - it is a bummer to buy something and have it be upgraded a week later.
As far as photo instruction books: I am looking forward to the possible release of a tablet such as a hi-res color Kindle (It looks like a new one will be released early this year by Apple). When small indy publishers like myself can release books in a digital format that can easily be downloaded and read (iphone is too small), and bypass the printing process, I will put more time and effort into putting together an instructional book on landscape photography. Of course large format "coffee table" books are a different matter, since they are designed not only to read but as home & office decor. However I think the right digital reading device could even make digitally published large format photography books possible...