Thursday, September 18, 2014

Updated! Camera Gear Choices Late 2014 - Part 1

Well a lot has changed in the past year since I wrote my previous blog posts regarding my camera gear choices in January of this year. If there is once constant in the tech industry it is change. As a consumer of high end camera gear that constitutes a substantial dollar investment, I make it my business to keep up to date on the latest medium format camera introductions and prices. In August of this year Pentax introduced its new Pentax 645Z medium format camera with a 51 megapixel CMOS sensor. This new sensor is the same one used in the Hasselblad H5D 50c and the Phase One IQ 250. Both of these cameras cost upwards of  $27,000 (without lenses).  The Pentax 645Z costs $9000, with lenses ranging in price from a few hundred dollars used on ebay up to $5000 for a top of the line 28-45mm zoom.  I was very interested in the new 51 megapixel CMOS medium format sensor due to its higher iso capabilities. Previously, if there was wind or other conditions requiring a higher  iso to get a higher shutter speed, I had to rely on my Nikon D800E for those shots, as explained in my previous post on this topic. This is primarily because of the base iso of 50 in my Hasselblad h5D50 with CCD sensor. As technology is prone to do, the new CMOS medium format sensor leapfrogged the CCD sensor in terms of high iso capability and opened up a whole new realm of medium format photography. With the Pentax 645Z I can now shoot at much higher iso values (I have found up to iso 1600 usable for large fine art print reproduction). As an outdoor / landscape photographer this is very important for me since I am constantly dealing with the wind and blowing vegetation, which I want to capture without blur.

So, after trying out the new Pentax 645z in the field for a few weeks I decided to make the transition to the Pentax system and sell my Hasselblad gear and My Nikon D800e, since one camera can now do what those two cameras did for me. I have been a Hasselblad shooter since 2005, and have gone through many different body/back upgrades. I may have stayed with the Hasselblad system had the H5D50C not been priced at about $9000 more for an upgrade price than the purchase of the new Pentax. I do love the leaf shutter lenses of the Hasselblad system, but those are more critical for high flash sync speed photography and I do not do much studio or flash work. The Pentax 645Z body is much more durable and weather resistant, and a few of the new Pentax lenses are weather sealed as well. The main reason was a combination of price point (I always see my camera gear as an investment that may need to be sold if needed, so as to avoid taking a "haircut" on my investment), much better high iso capability, and better field durability. The constant is a large sensor that provides the megapixels and image quality I need for making large prints. One can find quibbles about the Pentax lens quality online, however my personal testing has determined that the lenses hold up well with the 51mp sensor, and most importantly, the image files hold up to making very large prints (up to ten feet in size).

I have taken my new Pentax on a backpack trip in the Sierra to capture Cathedral Peak at sunset, and it works well in the Clik chest strap system attached to my Osprey Backpack. I will be writing more posts about some additional observations and experiences, so please subscribe to my blog to be notified of new posts. I purchased my 645Z at B&H, and am a registered affiliate there, so feel free to use this link to check out the various lenses and gear I have for this new camera system.

Cathedral Peak Sunset - Taken with the Pentax 645Z & 45-85mm Zoom

Morning Star, Emerald Bay - Taken with Pentax 645Z and 28-45mm zoom

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Director of Photography & Creative Media Job opening

Check out this Job Opening for Photographer for California Landscape Architecture Firm:
I am posting this for a colleague in Sausalito, California who has an opening for a pro photographer - could be a dream job for the right person!

Also stay tuned to my blog, it has been inactive for a while due to my excessively busy schedule but I will be posting a review of the Pentax 645z soon!

Director of Photography & Creative Media
International landscape architecture firm, with 230 employees and seven offices, seeks  Photographer/ Director to oversee all creative, conceptual and execution work  driving firm's photographic and video imagery in the marketplace. The Director must have deep experience as photographer and videographer (8+ years experience) and a strong passion and talent with landscapes, urban spaces, and architecture. Must have a strong ability to collaborate with small in-house department, and leverage outside professional resources as needed. Experience within A&E industry desirable. Position is in Sausalito, California and requires travel. Please send resume, salary requirements, and web gallery portfolio of landscape/ landscape architecture projects, to

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My Camera Choices - Part 2 - Nikon D800E

In addition to the Hasselblad H5D I also use the Nikon D800E. I was very excited about this camera when it was introduced because I have always enjoyed Nikon Digital cameras and actually began my digital photography career back in the 90's with a Nikon coolpix camera (I think it was a whopping 2 megapixels!). I slowly progressed through the years with the new Nikon digital cameras as they were introduced and feel the D800 is at the top of the heap now with the Nikon digital camera evolution. This camera is an important part of my toolkit because of its excellent higher iso image quality when compared to the Hasselblad H5D (the H5D image quality noticeable degrades at iso above 100). I use an assortment of noise reduction tools such as Topaz De noise when I need to deal with high iso noise Below are my opinions and impressions from using both of these cameras. There are plenty of other websites that will get into much more technical detail if you want to do some pixel peeping. This article just covers my personal experience and opinions based on years of using both camera systems.

If I am shooting in an environment where I have to hand hold the camera or where it is very windy and I need to freeze motion of blowing plants, I will use the D800E. I still try to use the lowest iso possible to achieve an appropriate shutter speed for the situation. I do not like to go above iso 800 and prefer to be around iso 400 max. I can also get a much wider angle of view with the Nikon Camera system than with the H5D due to the lens selection. I often use the Nikon 14-24mm zoom for wildflower photography, where I have to deal with the blowing flowers and need for very wide angle perspective.

Spring Poppies shot with Nikon 14-24mm zoom

I also find better results when using the Nikon D800E in low light situations. My favorite July 4 fireworks shots were taken with this camera (this was taken with the 70-200 mm Nikon Zoom). This image was an 8 second exposure at F13.
Donner Lake Celebration

There are also times when I want to be more discreet and not have a giant Hasselblad camera around my neck, so I will take the D800E and put on a 50mm lens so I can be more stealth. This is often true for more urban types of environments. If there is a lot of fast action that is going on I also prefer to use the Nikon since handholding the camera is easier in an environment where things are changing and moving rapidly, such as when shooting hot air balloons at sunrise:

If the weather is really bad I also prefer to use the D800 since I do not want to risk damaging the more sensitive H5D. This shot of a blizzard in the forest was shot with my Nikon D700 (which I have sold and replaced with the D800):

Sierra Storm

So my decision on when to use the D800E primarily centers on the shooting conditions I will be facing, including the need to hand hold, the light level, amount of activity I will be shooting, the weather, and the need to be discreet with my photography. I have been very pleased with the quality of the images I can obtain from this camera. In order to get the best image file possible it is preferable to shoot with the same technique as the H5D: Tripod, Mirror Lock up (or live view), cable release, and optimum aperture to avoid diffraction (I generally try to not stop down to a smaller aperture than f16 on the D800E). That being said, often times when I am using this camera I am not able to do that, so I have to rely on higher iso ratings, bigger apertures, and faster shutter speeds to get a sharp image. I think the files from this camera can be enlarged easily up to ten feet in size if needed.  I use On One Perfect Resize 8 for all my up sampling. It is very important to shoot files in 14 bit RAW setting with the Adobe RGB color space enabled to get the best possible file quality for the D800E. I do RAW file development in Lightroom or Camera Raw in Photoshop

I selected the E version of the camera that comes without the anti-aliasing filter since I wanted to maximize resolution of the sensor and generally find I do not have a problem with moire in my images. After working with files from both the H5D and the D800E I have developed a feel for the capabilities of both camera systems. My opinion is that the D800E files when enlarged will fall apart and start to look more digital and smeary when up sampled beyond 56", and the H5D can handle enlargements up to ten feet without ever experiencing the digital smear look. At print sizes below 56" wide I can tell the difference between the 2 camera files but the average viewer would have a harder time differentiating at a normal viewing distance.  Because of the additional color information captured by the H5D I think I can pull a broader tonal range of colors from those files. The bottom line is that I can use the D800E to capture images that would be difficult to capture with the H5D at iso 50 or 100. Beyond iso 100 I think I can get better image quality from the D800E than the H5D. Because of the file quality at higher iso ratings I can make huge enlarged prints with D800E files that will be acceptable to almost any discerning viewer or collector.