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Hands-on with My Favorite Still Photography Camera

Hello camera geeks, gearheads and… well… those of you who just want the best tools for your trade. You heard right, I’m back with another unboxing, this time of the hotly anticipated Nikon D4s — generously sent to me to by my friends at DPReview for a hands-on first impression, and it’s available from my homies/gear partners at Adorama. So here goes…

First impressions: that familiar Nikon gold box looks pretty much like all the Nikon boxes I remember, going all the way back to the F5 (that was a film SLR – remember those?). In fact, the only time I can remember Nikon changing its SLR — “D” or otherwise — boxes was for the Nikon Df, which was flat, matte black, and kinda cool looking. This makes sense – as the chassis for all these top-of-the-line pro cameras have basically been the same or very similar for a decade.

Get past all of the standard straps, warranty cards, manuals and trinkets where… wrapped in cellophane, the D4s has the same heft as the D4 I’ve carried around for a few years now, just with that fancy new “s” after the name.

Nikon D4s and Nikon D4 comparison - front view

The “s” models are typically feature updates, not body or appearance changes, so the size and ergonomics of the D4s are basically identical to its predecessor. There are a couple of touch-ups; the control sticks on the back have a bit more texture to them and the battery door is shaped differently, but that’s about it. If you want to be super-picky about it, the D4s is 60g heavier than the D4.

Does that add up to new features? The short answer = a few nice upgrades that add value to the camera.

Power up this sexy beast and you notice right away that the screen looks a bit nicer than the D4’s display. That might be because mine’s been through a few knocks and bumps, but for those of you keeping an eye on specs, Nikon has added the ability to fine-tune the color on that LCD. Nerdy but nice to have when showing clients over your shoulder.

What else? Well, trigger that shutter and you might be able to detect one extra frame in that burst every second. Nikon has upped the max number of frames the D4s can take per second with autofocus active from 10 to 11. And the buffer is larger.

Nikon D4s and Nikon D4 comparison - rear view

And speaking of autofocus, Nikons says their focus algorithms have been tweaked to accommodate that extra frame per second, and is less likely to get distracted by objects crossing in front of the camera. There’s also something called the Group Area AF, where you can designate a cluster of 5 points to focus on, rather than just one. The guys over at DPReview have more details on this, but any improvement to AF is good news.

There are plenty more changes on the inside, but that new sensor is probably the one that’s got everyone’s attention. Nikon has redesigned the 16MP full-frame CMOS sensor and it’s now capable of — hang on to your pants, folks — a whopping ISO 409,600 in Hi4 mode. Daaaaaamn.

That is NOT a typo. I checked.

Of course, 409,600 ISO is going to be pretty noisy, but hey, you’re going to get those shots of the inside of your lens cap now!

For video shooters, that new sensor has one more trick up its sleeve; combined with the new Expeed 4 image processor, it can now deliver 1080p video at 60p. That’s right – slow motion has finally come to the Nikon flagship. At freakin’ last! Also, if you shoot timelapses, the maximum shot count has gone up to 9999 from 999 and there’s a new smoothing feature for you as well. I don’t even know what that means, but I’m told it’s an improvement. Let’s just go with it.

If you were hoping that Nikon would ditch the XQD slot for another CF or even an SD slot, you’re out of luck; the XQD slot is still there. One bit of good news with regard to storage, though; you can now record video to internal storage while at the same time capturing it via HDMI to an external recorder, something that wasn’t possible earlier.

So there you have it. These are the tweaks that caught my eye — there are, as I said in the video above, a handful of others. The guys at DPReview do the whole multi-page review shebang, so you should really check out their definitive review. I’m just a 15 year pro with a passion for great cameras, not a lab geek. Those guys can really get under the hood. Hopefully, a combo of their detail and my gut and experience is a balance that helps you decide if this upgrade is a worthy one for your hard earned coin.

Final thoughts: this thing is every bit as solid as Nikon’s other flagships. I like it when cameras get upgrades. This is not a revolutionary update — the “s” series don’t fall into that category — but it’s a solid update nonetheless. The internal improvements make it even more useful to speed junkies and videographers, and the insanely high ISO will continue to make it even more appealing to photojournalists, and the other little changes like the battery, buffer, and RAW size improvements are quite welcome too. I am adding 2x of these to my gear bags and relinquishing their predecessors to the camera heavens (actually to the used market ;) )

As always, thanks for watching and head to Adorama here for more info. And feel free to add your thoughts about what you saw in the comments below, on my Facebook page, Twitter, or Google+.

Essential Photo & Video Gear Review — My Detailed, Piece-by-Piece, Don’t-Leave-Home-Without-It Gear Breakdown

I skip 99% of the gear gabbing you’ll find on other photography sites, primarily because I’m more interested in the creative side but also because so many other sites already do it really well. I make the occasional exception, like when a new toy falls into my hands before anyone else, or when I feel some industry hype building around an imminent release that needs to be tempered with some realistic expectations.

I did this popular review of my entire kit and how to pack it for travel…um…but that was 6 YEARS AGO. So as you might imagine, a lot has changed. Between that older video post and the number of times I get asked to highlight my fav gear — I figured it was high time for an update in one single vid. Therefore, I present you dear friends & readers a complete breakdown of my essential “working” photo kit AND the kit that we use to make all our behind-the-scenes videos, plus a few extras. Hope you dig – questions / comments encouraged. I’ll be all over it like white on rice.

In this video, I broke my kit into four sections: Still photo gear, [behind-the-scenes] video gear, data management gear and gear extras. For both the still kit and the video kit, I always roll with two of each body (Nikon D4 and Canon 5D Mark III) and 8 additional batteries for each. This basically gives me enough juice to last a week.

On the data management side, you’ll notice we also double up on our drives, both for the road kit and back at HQ. [Side note: if you're traveling with two drives on the road, keep them separate -- separate vehicles, separate hotel rooms, etc. That way if one crashes and burns, you've got back up.]

For gear extras, we have a few supports to choose from (always carbon fiber), some choice audio gear and a real sexy slider from Rhino Camera Gear that’s affordable and quite portable.

REMINDER and to be extra clear…in both photo & video scenarios what we’ve shared is the BASE kit – the kit that goes everywhere without exception. This is gear I think is worth investing in if you are a working pro. It’s NOT my complete gear list and it’s not the complete solution for every gig –we almost always add speciality pieces for particular assignments– but I thought we’d get too deep into the woods and it woulda made a video that was an hour long if we reviewed all that non-essential, non-”core” stuff. So we kept it focused as we could. Here it is. The camera kit I have with me on 99% of the commercial shoots I do:

Nikon D4 – My go-to for stills since it first made its appearance in early 2012.

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Zoom Nikkor Lens

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Nikkor Lens

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S VR II Nikkor ED-IF Lens

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S FX Nikkor Lens

Nikon SB-910 TTL AF Shoe Mount Speedlight Flash

Canon EOS-5D Mark III

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AutoFocus Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Autofocus Telephoto Zoom Lens

Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM AutoFocus Wide Angle Lens

Promise Technology Pegasus J2 512GB SSD Thunderbolt Storage Solution, Up to 750 MBps Read Speed

Promise Technology Pegasus J4 2.5″ 2TB Thunderbolt Hard / Solid State Drive Enclosure

Zacuto Z-Finder EVF Pro 3.2″ High Resolution Monitor

Tiffen 77mm Variable Neutral Density ND Filter

Manfrotto MVH500AH Professional Fluid Video System, Carbon Legs

Manfrotto Kit with 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod and MH054MO-Q2 Head

Manfrotto 057 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod with Rapid Column

Rode Stereo VideoMic Pro On-Camera Microphone

Zoom H4n Handy Mobile 4-Track Recorder

Sennheiser EW122PG3A Wireless Kit

So that’s it. If you look through my BTS posts and videos, there’s a damn good chance you will see some combo of this gear in use. Time-tested; Jarvis-approved.

Special thanks to Adorama for helping me assemble my kit.

HUMANS OF NEW YORK [Best Photo Project Ever] Brandon Stanton on #cjLIVE Wed Feb 19th — Plus Win 30 Days w A Dream Photo Kit

chase jarvis hony humans of new york brandon stantonREMINDER: this show is TODAY at 11am Seattle time (2pm NYC, 19:00 London) and is broadcast LIVE at www.chasejarvis.com/live. Details below – tune in & come say hi.
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I’ve personally nailed several large scale photo projects in my career…Personal work that I grew to a large scale project. And I’ve witnessed hundreds of great photography-based projects come to life in every corner of the world…BUT there may be none better than HUMANS OF NEW YORK, by Brandon Stanton. Seemingly overnight he took a simple photo project from inception to a global phenomenon with a worldwide audience of millions, plus turned it into a #1 New York Times best selling photo book, while staying humble & hardworking through it all. In order to follow his dream, Brandon quit a well paying day job and followed his passion …. with a certain savvy that can be learned by us all.

Lucky for us, Brandon will be our guest AND our private advisor / mentor / coach / inspiration for 90 minutes on the next episode of chasejarvisLIVE this coming Wednesday, February 19th at 11am Seattle time (2pm NYC, 19:00 London time) at www.chasejarivs.com/live. Specifically, we’ll learn the key ingredients for pursuing your YOUR OWN PASSION, how to stand out in a crowded, noisy world, and how to turn your dream life/project/vision into a reality.

WHO: You, Me, Photographer Brandon Stanton + a worldwide gathering of creative people
WHAT: Interview, discussion + a worldwide Q&A
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb 19th 11:00am Seattle time (2pm NYC time or 19:00 London)
WHERE: Tune into www.chasejarvis.com/live. It’s free — anyone can watch and we’ll be taking YOUR questions via Twitter, hashtag #cjLIVE, and my the ChaseJarvis Facebook Page

***NOTE: if you are in Seattle or the PNW and can’t join us in-studio for the live broadcast, but still want to meet Brandon and have your book signed, we are hosting a reception / meet & greet / book signing immediately following from 12:30 – 1:30pm at my studio. There will be books on hand for sale. The address is 3333 Wallingford Ave Seattle 98103. Corner of Wallingford & 34th Street. Ground floor, Wallingford side of the building.

There’s a video at the bottom of this post that highlights HONY, but some more detail on what we’ll cover are here:
_How to conceive of a photography, art, or any project that matters to you
_What were the key steps to transitioning OUT of at 9-5 job and into a dream career
_How did Brandon teach himself to be a photographer?
_How to keep your dreams alive in the face of so much negativity and uphill odds

HELP US PIMP THE SHOW AND WIN THE MOST BOSS PRIZE EVER.
In order to reach the largest audience possible, we’re right now kicking off an amazing prize. To help jump start YOUR dream photo project, give you experience with the best gear in the business, or augment the gear you’ve already got, we’ve partnered with our pals at BorrowLenses.com to give you a chance to win a 30 day rental of a top professional camera body from Canon or Nikon, plus FIVE (5) amazing lenses. (details at the very end of this post). The equipment value is certainly more than 10 grand, and the rental value alone is more than $3000. The contest starts NOW and we’ll announce the winner on chasejarvisLIVE, Wed March 19th

To help wrangle this prize, we’re trying out a new widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (following on social channels, sharing, etc)

To enter just fill in your info in the widget below and follow along. Contest rules in the widget. And note: this giveaway is live all the way through 12 noon PST during the show on 19th February.

UPDATE: THANKS TO EVERYONE FOR ENTERING! The winner has been selected–give a holla for Courtney Zerizef. :)

JOIN US IN THE STUDIO!!!!!!!!!
Want to be part of the live studio audience AND/OR get photos + books signed with Brandon?? We’ll invite the first 40 people who send an email to production@chasejarvis.com to join us +1 guest if you’d like. You’ll receive a confirmation email with attendance details if you’re 1 of the first 40. Champagne, donuts, coffee and other stuff will be there too.

And then here’s a lovely video that Facebook made about Brandon’s project.

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The Camera Rental Package you could win is either….

Canon 1D X or a 5D Mark III
16-35 f/2.8L Mk II
24-70 f/2.8L Mk II
70-200 f/2.8L IS II

PLUS The 200-400 f/4L with Built-in Extender AND your choice between the 85mm f/1.2L or the 50mm f/1.2L Primes

OR ………..

Nikon D4 or a D800
14-24 f/2.8G
24-70 f/2.8G
70-200 f/2.8 VR II

PLUS the 200-400 f/4G VR II AND your choice between the 85 f/1.4F or the 50mm f/1.4G Primes

Whichever you choose, also enjoy a 1 year complimentary membership to BorrowLenses.com, which gets you 10% off rental orders, cancellations with no fees, and drop shipment of items you absolutely need even if they are out of stock for us. A $100 value and you get a t-shirt, to boot!

LENSTOPIA Part II – The 5 Top Lenses For Your Nikon Camera

Hopefully you caught this popular post last quarter. And so it continues here with another review of the top lenses – this time of the top Nikon lenses – my preferred weapon of choice when shooting stills. You already know I rarely write about gear since there are entire websites dedicated to that sophistry but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a top request I get from you, so the way I mitigate these divergent forces is by occasionally highlighting the tools that I actually use, lust for or have used extensively in the field…for years. The benefit of this approach is that I shoot almost EVERY camera brand for one thing or another. There is no brand loyalty here – just a loyalty to quality. Nikon for stills. Canon dSLR for video. Hasselblad for high end studio / fashion, GoPro for POV etc etc. So between yours truly, my video guru Erik, and my gear editor/research pal Sohail we’ve logged some real effort here to aggregate our thoughts on these lenses with the hope that you get at least 1 or 2 juicy takeaways. The images are Sohail’s since he is more of a gear “tester” – and wrangling thru millions of images to find one of my fav’s with each lens would kill me. So there you have it. Finally…a “top anything” list always stirs some debate – but that’s welcome and appreciated. Think we’re off by a lens or two? Let us know below – and why.

Oh and as a reminder – this isn’t a list of ‘the 5 lenses everyone should have’. It’s ‘these are the top 5 lenses in the Nikon lineup… Reminder you can rent or buy at very different price point ;)
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So here’s Lenstopia Part II: Nikon.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon makes a very nice f/1.4 version of the standard 85mm portrait lens, but for my money (and yours), the smaller, cheaper, and lighter 85mm f/1.8G is where it’s at. Aside from the small difference in aperture, this lens dominates its more expensive counterpart. This is one of the best portrait lens I’ve ever used, and I can’t speak highly enough of it. It boasts 7 diaphragm blades make for a nice, buttery bokeh, and the optics are simply outstanding, providing tack sharp images even when the aperture is wide open. We’ve all got friends who made their start as portrait photographers with this lens and continue using it well after they could have afforded the more expensive 85mm f/1.4.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Shot with a Nikon D800E and an 85mm f/1.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Shot with a Nikon D800E and an 85mm f/1.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G Lens

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G Lens

This lens needs no introduction. To say that it’s legendary is to hit it right on the mark. It is a veritable workhorse for me – when I ask for the “wide” from my assistant, he knows to hand me this lens, period. For landscape photographers, it’s always a tasty lens to have.

Another tasty bit that makes this lens remarkable is how incredibly sharp it is, corner-to-corner. Wide-angle lenses –especially those with the bulbous front element that this one has– often lose some of that sharpness in the corners. At 14mm, you’ll definitely see some distortion and there will be some vignetting at that range as well, but both are easily corrected in software. If you use Lightroom, it has a built-in lens profile to correct for those.

Canon users have a serious case of lens envy when it comes to this beauty. There simply isn’t anything out there in this zoom and aperture range that can come close to it in the Canon inventory; in fact, a number of photographers (including Sohail) have stuck this baby onto a Canon body to get the most out of both worlds – especially when shooting video.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Delta Farm. Shot with the Nikon D800E and 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Delta Farm. Shot with the Nikon D800E and 14-24mm f/2.8G lens. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Nikon 135mm f/2DC

Erik, Sohail and I rapped about this and two things came up. One: this is the sharpest portrait lens out there. It slays. And two: to the best of our recollection, Nikon and Sony are the only manufacturers that make these “Defocus Control” lenses. Simply put, they allow you to control the “look” of the out-of-focus areas (see this article for a good example of what that means), and that gives you an added amount of creative control over that aspect of your images.

#2 is a nice to have. For #1, this lens is the undisputed heavyweight champ of the Nikon line and perhaps the world. The Nikon 135mm f/2.0DC lens has pure rock-solid optics. Another bonus is the metal hood. The design is tops and helps us avoid those pesky (breakable) plastic ones that dominate the market these days. The only detriment to this lens making this list? It’s very hard to find. They are a limited-run lens and often out of stock. Rumor has it that a shipment is on it’s way to Adorama right now. Literally. If you have the means to pick one up you won’t be sorry. For the record, I don’t own this lens, but I wish I did and may get on this next shipment ;)

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Shot with a D800E and a Nikon 135mm f/2

Shot with a D800E and a Nikon 135mm f/2. © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII

This lens is the workhorse of the Nikon lineup. No lens has spent as much time on Nikon bodies – including mine – as this one, and every single one of my Nikon-shooting buddies swear by the 70-200mm. Version One of this lens was no less of a workhorse, but when the VRII came out around 2009 or 2010, Nikon upped the game considerably. Largely gone were any issues that plagued the version I – the vignetting at certain focal lengths, the slight softness at certain apertures, the chromatic aberration that showed up from time to time. This lens does everything the version I did, and then some. Focusing, btw, is legendary and almost bulletproof.

VR is better as well, giving you up to four stops of vibration reduction. Nikon also added nano-crystal coating to this lens’ elements and the lens is weather-sealed with compatible bodies. The focal length is useful for just about every kind of shooter (Sohail even uses it for landscape, as you can see below), and most wedding and portrait shooters will typically have this one on hand for important shoots.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Fog-shrouded Bay Area. Shot with the Nikon 70-200 f.2.8 VRII © Sohail Mamdani

Fog-shrouded Bay Area. Shot with the Nikon 70-200 f.2.8 VRII © Sohail Mamdani

Nikon 800mm f/5.6

Nikon 800mm f/5.6ED

Nikon 800mm f/5.6ED

Okay, let’s be clear; this isn’t a lens a lot of folks will be able to afford. It’s sweet if you are loaded and have one laying around to use at will – but confession; I do not own this lens (both you and I can rent it from our pals at BorrowLenses.com, though). But it does belong on this list, and here’s why.

Until recently, Canon’s 800mm f/5.6 lens has been about the longest lens currently in production by one of the big manufacturers. The longest lens on the Nikon side has been the 600mm f/4, which is a rather good bit of kit on its own.

Until recently Nikonians have had to put up with Canonites flaunting their 800mm. Well, Nikonians now have their own cannon (yes, pun intended) to play with, and oh, what a cannon it is! The 800mm f/5.6 is a beauty of a lens, and is certainly the finest super-tele optics I’ve had the pleasure of shooting with and perhaps tops overall. It IS the lens on this list that I have the least experience with, but I can confirm that it focuses every bit as fast as Nikon’s 600mm f/4 does, and faster IMHO than the Canon 800mm f/5.6. The optics are yummy, and you’re more likely to notice atmospheric distortion caused by focusing on objects far away than you are optical distortion – which is a feat of physics.

Again, this is not your everyday lense (or even every month) but when you gotta go long, this is absolutely delicious. While TC’s are not my thing, Sohail says if you throw on the included 1.25x teleconverter (now you’re rockin’ a 1000mm f/7.1 lens) this sucker is so powerful, it’ll give you a slightly uneasy feeling as you point it at distant building. From across the San Francisco Bay, standing on Treasure Island, you can take an image that will let you actually see into the windows of the top floors of the Transamerica Pyramid Building well enough to make out the green glow of an “Exit” sign, some art on the walls, and a doorway. Whoa.

Closeup of the Transamerica Pyramid Building © Sohail Mamdani

100% crop of the image of the Transamerica Pyramid Building © Sohail Mamdani

Creepy? Yeah. Cool as heck? Definitely!

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

That’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next installment, we’ll take on the best lenses Hasselblad has to offer.

Nikon Df Unboxing Video + Test Images + First Impressions While Actually Shooting Photos [gasp!]

When the Nikon Df arrived on the scene a couple months back, I tried to temper the hype (my own included) with a good dose of high expectations. Yes, it looked bad ass. Yes, it housed the same sensor as the D4. Yes, the optical viewfinder has 100% field of view.

But as a compact camera fiend and someone whose owned probably 50 cameras or more, I’m no pushover. So when Adorama shipped the Df to my door, I filmed the unboxing in old school 2006 internet style and wasted no time taking a test run (sparse couple images below).

To determine if the Df hit all the marks, let’s take a look back at those point by point…

From my original notes on appearance when the camera launched…. 1. Ergonomics. Roughly… “I like how all the dials/controls for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO give you the option of being really hands on with setting your exposure. Shooting this way really increases my connection with what you’re creating with the camera. The Nikon DF looks like it’ll do a nice job of recreating (or perhaps simulating) that experience of “making” pictures like the cameras of old… That feel helps me be connecting to the art just a little bit more–i.e. slowing down a tad– than some of my other tools in my shed.”

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on ergonomics having shot with this thing. I’m NOT happy with ergonomics. The dials are pretty cool and give you the retro feel, but they’re in goofy places and hard-ish to reach. The aperature dial on the FACE of the body at your right finger is bizarre. The shutter sound is nice. The grip depth is in no man’s land…not flat enough to feel retro and not deep enough to hold it like a “new”camera. Feels “plastic-y”. Which is easy to see why… because the shell of the camera is entirely largely out of styled plastic. The lens? Plastic.

Now my notes on The size. The size was a huge surprise – as you can see from the video. WAY bigger than I thought from the original marketing materials. WAY bigger. In truth I feel like the product shots were actually aimed to trick me into thinking this would feel like a little body. It doesn’t. Yes, it’s smaller than a D4 or pro body – but bigger than I want for lots of circumstances…similar to a D7000 of D600 or any pro-sumer higher end body. When I’m on a pro gig I use/need the pro body to lean on, bang around, pound nails and otherwise be tough and sturdy. But in this class of camera, I really prefer the portability. So what gives here? I dunno. They made up a nice advertising story about “back to basics” with a “real camera” but they among other things, it’s really just styled like an old camera. Also, rumor has it they couldn’t keep the guts cool enough to shoot video because mechanically that stuff takes up space. That’s probably why it doesn’t shoot video – not based on any “purity”. Jury is out. I like the purity angle, but it’s 2014…

I guess my reaction above says it all. There are good surprises and there are bad surprises. I think we know where that shoe dropped re: size.


3. The sensor. This is this cameras very best feature, bar none. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this sensor. It has the same 16.2-megapixel sensor as Nikon’s pro-focused D4, which is the best still sensor of all time IMHO. You can basically shoot this thing in the dark – can it focus in the dark? Not all that well it turns out. But I still love that they packed that sensor in this body. The images are buttery but not overly so like Canon 5d sensors.


MY ORIGINAL NOTES ON….4. Focus. It better be decent. Nikons have historically kicked everyones ass in this department. This better not be a let down. I hope the focus is fast and accurate. (Speaking of fast…we know it’s not fast in frames per second department. 5 ‘n’ change. Not bad. But not fast. Who cares really – that’s not what this camera is for.) We really do want the focus to be fast, however, if it’s to stand out from it’s peers. BTW, how is the manual focus mode? It better kick ass. I’m curious to see if there are any features to assist with this. There’s a lot of marketing around this camera pimping its ability to use all the old non-AI lenses, but the cameras from that time had focusing screens built for manual focus. Without tools like focus peaking, a split image screen, or a microprism screen, shooting with manual focus lenses might just be a pain in the ass. Let’s hope they get it right.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS on FOCUS having shot with this thing. It didn’t measure up. It wasn’t fast. It was pretty accurate, but it wasn’t fast and accurate, which is what I really wanted. I’m sure that Nikon would respond…”but it has the same x and y as the z so it will do …blah”. It’s a great sensor, but the focus isn’t as fast as other cameras in the compact/mirrorless class. Which is sort of a travesty if you love Nikon still cameras given that that is a huge advantage for Nikon in nearly every other case.

MY ORIGINAL notes on this… 5. Pro shit. I’m excited to see how “professional” the camera can be. Can I pound nails with this thing? Is it heavy and durable? We use a ton of different cameras for video, but the D4 is my go-to camera for EVERY SINGLE commercial photo shoot we do. Could the DF could come along on our shoots as a good BTS rig? Even in our BTS stuff we expect pro quality That would be nice if this delivered. I will always have a couple D4 backups, but for the solo photographer, the DF could potentially save pro photographers some weight and coin if (and only if) it can produce professional results in a pinch.

I can’t tell if it has an alloy metal chassis, but its exterior is plastic-y. That isn’t pro. This isn’t a pro backup camera. The images look really nice, a great sensor but it falls short in other categories.

OVERALL
This is a good camera. Actually it’s a great camera. It will make nice pictures. It’s just not the camera I thought I was gonna get. If you LOVE Nikon you should buy this body. You will not be disappointed if you take what I’ve said here with a grain of salt. I know they are selling like hotcakes so the world really likes this camera. I’m just a tad hard on it. Like I said above, the plus on this baby is the D4 sensor in a much cheaper body. Beautiful dynamic range and looks great in low light. Another plus is that Nikon is at least watching what other manufacturers are doing with their products. The negatives are that they don’t know what their consumers want. Generally speaking we are not posers. This camera’s appearance it trying too hard. And it’s too damn big. But like I said – if you’re a photog who loves Nikon – you might be pleased as punch – so take my words here w a grain of salt.

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df HERE

IMAGES
I did have a short day around our cabin making pizza with my pal Jeff and then taking a quick walk on the beach to grab a few snapshots for this initial post to you guys… I intentionally shot slow moving, simple stuff where I thought this camera could perform. It worked well for that – but I knew the limits. The below are just very very minimally processed jpgs. You can see the magic simplicity with this sensor. It just WORKS. (check out the one image with the white house, the open, dark garage with the lightbulb on, during the day. Crazy subtle. THATS the kind of camera I want in my pocket. Portable.

It also does a nice job with a completely flat scene on the grey beach on a grey day shooting photos of grey stuff. Again, quality sensor. Focus? it was a pain to shoot inside and nail the focus shooting at F2.2 etc. But overall you can tell this camera works. If you can take the gimmicky styling it’ll do you right. If you can’t, then you’ll need a different sword of choice.

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0203

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0173

ChaseJarvis_NikonDf_0220


Nikon Df camera in silver

Nikon Df camera from rear

Nikon Df camera side view

Bounce on over to Adorama to see the Nikon Df details HERE

DigitalRev TV uses a GoPro to Fake my Hasselblad Masters Photo

Each time I have the good fortune to work with DigitalRev TV and my friend Kai Man Wong something memorable happens.

For example, you might recall the time that Kai and DigitalRev TV dragged me around Hong Kong with a Lego Camera on one of their infamous CheapCamera Challenges. The highlights included surprise runway models, aggravated kung fu fighters and eating pig’s anus on the street. Most recently Kai and his hilarious crew parodied my Facebook profile photo for Fake A Big Shot. The resemblance was, um, striking?

I decided it was time to turn the tables.

I showed up in Hong Kong to give Kai and the DigitalRev crew a taste of their own medicine. A CheapCamera Challenge of my design: To re-create a photo I shot with the Hasselblad H3D. This was a $25,000 piece of equipment in 2007 when I shot the photo. I gave him 8 hours … and a GoPro Hero3PLUS ($399) to get it done.

Here’s how the the final product compares to my original. What do you think? Check out the video above to see how he did it.

Chasejarvis_DigitalRevTV

Thanks to Kai and the whole DigitalRev TV crew for working on short notice and being such great sports. Subscribe to their channel here.

10 Gifts for Photographers + WIN a Sexy Sony a7 Camera

UPDATE – Happy New Year to all who entered my camera giveaway over the last month…AND a big congratulations to MARK BEHRENS, the winner of the brand spankin new Sony a7. Thanks to everyone who participated and to our homies at Adorama + Sony. BTW, for those of you who signed up for my email list — I’ll be in touch with soon more exclusive content and opportunities to connect.

Good morning friends! I get lots of emails, tweets & Facebook posts from all over the world – husbands, wives, partners, girlfriends of photographers looking for gifts for the creative loved ones in their lives. I know the gift-giving paralysis that can come from not having a few solid ideas for the creatives / photographers (photofiles?) in your life….so in an attempt to be a help to my gift seeking friends and answer all those emails in one fail swoop…. I’ve wrangled a little gift list ranging from $20 to $4000 (yikes!). I’m not big on shopping events but I do appreciate some well-curated suggestions, so rest assured this list is focused enough that any one item won’t disappoint and broad enough that there are things for literally every photog.

Annnndddd… in acknowledging that buying cameras and gear can be expensive and painful (sometimes prohibitively so…), I wanted to offset that with an opportunity for you to win a VERY tasty new camera for free… Remember that super hot Sony a7 camera that I was ranting about last month? Well, thanks in large part to support from Adorama for hosting this, they are allowing me to give away one of these delicious Sony Cameras along with the 28-70mm Sony lens.

To help wrangle this giveaway, we’re trying out a new widget below. It does a few things really well:
1. manages all entries into a secure database and properly randomizes a winner
2. gives you info about how much time is left in the giveaway / how many entries there are etc
3. allows you to earn extra entries by participating more deeply in the community (watching vids, sharing, reading posts etc)

To enter just fill in your info below and follow along. And note: this giveaway is live all the way through the 28th of December. Feedback welcome on the widget if you have any.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens

This is a seriously great all-around lens for your kit. Don’t let that low price fool you. The 50mm 1.8 one of the best kept secrets in photo gear. The lens body is plastic, but it still kicks tons of ass. I have had this lens since it first came out – even replaced it with the same thing once when I dropped it into a lake.
Price: $109

SanDisk 32GB Class 10 ExtremePRO SDHC Memory Card

Another quality little stocking stuffer for any photographer. One can’t every REALLY have too many SD cards, unless you’ve got a collection of 50 1GB cards, in which case it’s really time to poke your eyes out consolidate. The Class 10 checks all those boxes that a photog is looking for in a memory card.
Price: $60.95

SanDisk ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 Memory Card Reader

For just a few bucks more, you can throw in this all-in-one card reader as a goes-with gift for the above. [If you want to get creative, pull the SDHC card out of the packaging and pop it into the reader before wrapping.]
Price: $32.95

PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver

A quality trasceiver is a must-have for any aspiring photographer. The freedom to move your flash around opens a lot of doors for more creative illumination of the shot. And at under $150, you’re not breaking banks.
Price: $134

Think Tank Airport Security V2.0

For the traveling photographer who wants a safe and secure way to transport all that gear, this Think Tank rolling solution should more than do the trick. Comes with combo zipper lock and the steam-sealed raincover keeps your gear bone dry.
Price: $364.75

Promise Pegasus J2 Thunderbolt 512gb

I love this portable thunderbolt drive. It’s about the size of a smartphone and it’s super fast on the read and write speeds. It will also run without the conventional power adapter, making it perfectly for off-the-grid shoots.
Price: $499.00

Joby Ball Head + Gorillapod SLR-Zoom

For playful but solid support on the fly, nothing beats Gorillapod with the Joby Ball Head. These are great little numbers for attaching GoPro’s and other smaller cams for a sweet little time lapse.
Price: $79.95

Sony Alpha a7 Digital Camera, with FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

I had the chance to play with the a7, and let’s just say this is a no-questions-asked, “I love you (or yourself ;) ” gift. No regifting or returns to worry about on this one, that’s for damn sure. Great design, great quality, compact and sexy as all get out.
Price: $1,998.00

Think Tank Retrospective 10-GR Small Shoulder Bag

Two Think Tank prods in one list? What’s up with that? Think Tank rocks, that’s what. THIS is how you carry your every-day camera kit around, people. Like the travel bag, this one has a nice rain seal on it for those infrequent Seattle showers.
Price: $165.75

Broncolor Senso Kit 22

This is a big-ticket gift, make no mistake. But there really is no price you can put on good lighting. I wouldn’t recommend this for the teenage son or daughter on a flavor-of-the-month kick, but it’s a no-joke upgrade for any aspiring commercial photographer.
Price: $4734.00

DJI Phantom

I’ve toyed around with the DJI Phantom quite a bit. The weight-bearing limitations do more or less count out super high end camera loads, but the aerial footage you can get with a GoPro will really take that budding videographer’s footage to the next level.
Price: $679

And always, if you’ve got some gift ideas of your own you want to share, sound off below – I may add your suggestions to this list.

DJI Drone Fail Over Iceland Waters – chasejarvisTECH

WARNING: CONTENTS OF THIS VIDEO MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME, ESPECIALLY PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO HAVE FELT THE PAIN OF GEAR LOSS.

In the days before my trip to Iceland, I had the chance to play with the DJI Phantom, an affordable, out-of-the-box quadcopter for budding aerial videographers. As I establish in that test flight post, the footage you yield from the DJI Phantom + GoPro combo may not be pro quality, but it’s perfectly serviceable for BTS material, AND it gives a person the opportunity to cut their teeth on a rig that comes in under a grand (or just slightly over, if you include the camera).

Ever the hacks, we tried to circumvent the GoPro limitation and mount a Sony RX 100 II, for three reasons:

1. The RX 100 II has image stabilizations (many commented on the shakiness of the GoPro footage on our first test flight).
2. It has a nice sensor and shoots RAW images.
3. Built-in Wifi. Our plan was to use the iPad Mini with the Sony app and control the camera shutter from the ground.

Seem pretty reasonable, right?

When you watch the video, know this: It brings us no joy to lose expensive gear, ever. I don’t encourage people to go out and perform needless hacks and unsanctioned upgrades, especially if you’re not insured, like we were. In our case we had a legit interest in yielding some higher end footage with a DJI Phantom we had invested in.

Couple UPDATE points… any assumption that i was just goofing around at tourist site just plyaing with my camera couldn’t be further from the truth. we had chartered the entire site for the shoot, been out on boats there at the site earlier – were working with the management there, paying high fees to be there with permits for very specific objectives. We also sought to potentially recover the unit out of concern for the environment but were discouraged from pursuing that option because of danger to divers due to swift current, big tides and huge floating chunks of dangerous ice.

Thanks again for going on this journey – and others – with me. And I hope you don’t mind my sharing all the stuff – even things like this that suck.

chasejarvisTECH: Three Timelapse Toys

Timelapse shots have achieved ubiquity, yet it’s still a technique I get asked about on the reg. I’ve touched on the timelapse How-To in past posts, but I’m touching base again with a new look at what has become must-have.

I love using timelapse in my work. Alternating between real time, slo-mo and timelapse contributes to the temporal tug on the viewer, which keeps them present and guessing. Cloud movements and dipping suns over beautiful landscape is the norm, so we’re always looking to change up our style and try something a little different.

Adding camera movement is one way to do that. In the vid above, we use a slider, a motor, and a 5D to pull back and reveal some stunning Icelandic beauty. Keep the last in mind as I break down the equipment we used, because I come back to this again and again: more than the gear in your bag, it’s your vision and execution that matter most. In our case, we had Iceland’s ridiculously photogenic land and light working in our favor. Scouting the site, we found a cool ice formation and decided on a shot you don’t see daily. I’d say the gear we use is secondary. Which is why I’m mentioning it second.

Anatomy of a timelapse:

_Kessler Pocket Dolly v2.0
_Kessler Elektra Drive – set to slowest speed in “continuous mode.” The Elektra drive is the motor that moves the camera up/down the dolly, giving the shot movement.
_Intervalometer – set to shoot a picture every 3 seconds. We let that baby go for about 20 minutes.

Add’l equipment:

_Canon 5D Mark III
_Manfrotto support
_Viking 12 oz

You can see how we integrated timelapse footage into our Iceland edition of chasejarvisRAW. If you want more Iceland in your life, check out some of the stills that convinced us to put Iceland in our list of 10 Spots to restore your creative juices.

Music by Small Face.

LENSTOPIA – The 5 Top Lenses For Your Camera, Part I: Canon

So you just dropped an entire month’s pay on a super nice camera body. Ok. Take a breath. That was a big jump, and we want you making smart moves going forward. Yes, the lens is important. And yes, you can spend 10x what you just spent on a body on good glass. But before you go cashing in that 401k to buy one of each (dear god don’t), soak in the knowledge below. We shoot almost EVERY camera brand for one thing or another. Nikon for stills. Canon dSLR for video. Hasselblad for high end studio / fashion, etc etc. So my video guru Erik, yours truly, and my gear editor pal Sohail decided to put together a little series of blog posts. Over the next weeks we will break down the top lenses from several manufacturers, with an eye on application. If you know what kind of photography you want to do [or are already doing], there’s a great lens or two for you.
—-

“Which lens should I buy?” is a question I get just about as often as “which camera should I buy?”, and in both cases, I respond with the same two words: “It depends.”

Yet despite that rote answer, there are a few standouts from each major manufacturers that can be cited as their “top” lens. We’ve had the (somewhat dubious) privilege of using pretty much all of them, and we’re going to present the five best lenses for each platform we use on a frequent basis. This is a four-part series, and we’ll be publishing them in the following order:

  1. Canon
  2. Nikon
  3. Hasselblad
  4. Mirrorless cameras, including Micro 4/3, Sony E-mount, and Fuji X-mount.
That said, we’re starting today with Canon – our default dSLR video rig but you can consider the below advice for stills too.

Canon

100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro

This is perhaps my favorite single lens of all time. When the folks over at DPReview did a review of this lens, this was the first sentence of their conclusion:

Just occasionally a lens turns up which delivers such implausibly good results in our studio tests that I have to go back and repeat everything, double checking all settings to make sure I haven’t done something wrong.

This lens really is that good. You start with a hybrid Image Stabilization system that compensates for horizontal and vertical shifts as well as lens direction, then throw in an 9-bladed rounded iris that makes for dope bokeh. Add optics that give you the some of the most razor-sharp images you can imagine, and you have a knockout combination.

And if you’re looking for a good portrait lens at the same time as a solid Macro offering, look no further; the 100 L Macro makes for an tidy portrait lens as well.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Image from a work in progress series of still lifes. Shot with a 5D Mark III and a 100mm f/2.8L Macro. © Sohail Mamdani

Image from a work in progress series of still lifes. Shot with a 5D Mark III and a 100mm f/2.8L Macro. © Sohail Mamdani

85mm f/1.2L USM

Canon 85mm f/1.2L

Canon 85mm f/1.2L

The “Magic Canonball” [sic] as it’s come to be known, is perhaps one of the most popular portrait lenses, ever. If you’ve got the coin to drop on it, the Canon 85mm f/1.2L has some of the creamiest bokeh we’ve seen. It’s also one of the largest 85mm lenses outside of the Zeiss or Canon Cine versions. That front element even makes the posers look like pros.

Sohail once wrote of this lens, “You could shoot a portrait in front of a dumpster and as long as you shot it at f/1.2 or f/1.4, all you’re going to see is some soft, blurry shapes in the background that give no indication that you’re in that nasty alley behind your local convenience store.” That’s completely true, but be aware of one thing: I’ve often gotten a subject’s eyelashes in perfect focus, while their irises are soft. Be aware.

Then why would you buy an f/1.2 lens? Because, to quote my homie Zack Arias, “The optics in faster lenses are ‘typically’ much better than in the slower lenses. f13 can still yield a better image from a pro fast lens than a slow kit lens. Not all lenses are equal once you get past f8.”

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Canon 24mm f/3.5L TS-E II

Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II

Canon 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II

Tilt-shift lenses are strange ducks, but they are, without a doubt, some of the coolest lenses to play with. I used to shoot action sports with them in the early 2000′s and it would blow the minds of art directors and editors everywhere. Get to know them well and you’ll find yourself using them for all kinds of things you didn’t know you could pull off with them. (But don’t overuse them or you’ll be “that guy/gal”

That said, it’s not the Canon 24mm f/3.5L TS-E II’s tilt-shift functionality that we love this lens for (though have used that extensively). We dig it because it is one of the sharpest 24mm optics that Canon puts out. And that makes it a go-to landscape lens on the Canon platform as well. It’s fun. Even wide-open, the lens is tack-sharp. Close the aperture down a bit and you’ll kill the tiny bit of purple fringing in your stars overhead, and sharpen up that image even more. Then use the shift functionality to ensure against converging lines and viola! You’ve got a killer combo in your hands.

One last thing to keep in mind here – this is a manual-focus lens, as most tilt-shift lenses are. Bad eyesight? Get glasses or pass on this sucker.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Taken with a 5D Mark II and 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II lens

Taken with a 5D Mark II and 24mm f/3.5 TS-E II lens

Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II

Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II

While it was certainly a workhorse, the original Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 was getting long in the tooth, and enjoyed a love-hate relationship with many a photographer. On the one hand, it was the ideal mid-range zoom, had a fast aperture, and was the first lens most photographers, pro and aspiring, bought. On the other hand, it suffered from less-than-stellar optics (compared to the current crop of lenses from Canon) and was notoriously soft in the corners. When Canon announced the new version of the 24-70, the first thing that hit most folks was sticker shock. The lens retailed for a groan-inducing $2300 (street price), far more than its original counterpart. Worse, there was no image stabilization included, despite the high price. Add to that the fact that Tamron had just introduced a 24-70 f/2.8 with Vibration Compensation for about half the price, and the photographic community was ready throw rotten tomatoes at Canon’s money-grubbing tactics.

After the fervor settled down and folks started to realize that the optics on this new lens weren’t “pretty good” they were “Superb, almost flawless -DPreview.” This was born out by even the simplest of tests – shooting an Edmunds resolution chart with the old and new models side-by-side. People began to rave about the build quality, the flare resistance, the quick and accurate focusing, and sure enough, Canon turned what could’ve been a liability into a new legend.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Canon 600mm f/4 II

Got about $13,000 lying around? That’s how much this baby from Canon is going to set you back (though of course, you could rent it for a lot less).

But for those needing a long, fast lens (wildlife photographers, for example), this is about as good as it gets in the Canon lineup. Pair it with a 1Dx and you’ve got what is easily one of the finest long lens combos we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with. It’s a good 3 lbs lighter than the Mark I version of this lens, which honestly does make a good bit of difference when you’re lugging this down a rough path to get to that perfect vantage point. Moreover, Canon has improved the autofocus speed and accuracy on this lens. On tests with the 1Dx and the 600mm Mark II, Sohail shot about six or seven bursts of between 8 to 17 shots each, and each time, I’d have no more than one shot out of focus. For someone who photographs birds more as an amateur passion, getting this sort of accuracy is nothing short of remarkable.

This is, no doubt, a specialty lens, and requires a few accessories to go with it, such as a sturdy tripod, a gimbal head, and a fast camera at the small end. But get all those in place, and the first time you fill your frame with a swooping bird as it comes in for a landing, or a tiny hummingbird hovering in mid-air, and you’ll find that it’s well worth the cost and hassle.

Buy it here.
Borrow it here.

Great Egret touchdown. Shot with a 1Dx and a Canon 600mm f/4 II

Great Egret touchdown. Shot with a 1Dx and a Canon 600mm f/4 II

That’s it for this edition of Lenstopia. In the next installment, we’ll take on the best Nikon has to offer.

Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

5 Crucial Thoughts on the New Nikon Df. Does It Deliver?

ChaseJarvis_Nikon DF_1
Wow. Two new cameras on my blog in one week (here’s the other one). I’ve never been a gear whore and don’t like dedicating too much real estate here to it, but I do like me some of these compact cameras. So here we go – quick like.

Nikon got the aesthetics right, that’s for sure. If it does nothing else, the new Nikon Df is going to make you look like a legit photographer from the 70′s. Even more so perhaps like a photographer shooting film (but you won’t be.)

Specs: Within the tasty leather, chrome, and gunmetal exterior of this Nikon Df hides…

// the legendary sensor from the Nikon D4 – my favorite still camera sensor of all time
// Nikon’s latest + greatest Expeed 3 processor
// Optical viewfinder with 100% field of view (thank god – not having this sucks)
// Full wireless capability [requires WU-1 wireless adaptor].
// We’re still waiting on the side of french fries, but this full-meal of a camera may just satiate even the hungriest of critics.

Yeah, but does it deliver?

Before we can answer that question (because I can’t – haven’t used it), I want to set my expectations. Because they are (were?) high for this little bugger. But when the hype is this big, the goods had better follow. So here’s what it has to do to get my five stars:

1, Ergonomics. I like how all the dials for shutter speed, exposure compensation, and ISO give you the option of being really hands on with setting your exposure. Shooting this way really increases my connection with what you’re creating with the camera. The Nikon DF looks like it’ll do a nice job of recreating (or perhaps simulating) that experience of “making” pictures like the cameras of old… That feel helps me be connecting to the art just a little bit more–ie slowing down a tad– than some of my other tools in my shed.

2. The size. The size is nice. Or rather, the size is nice compared to a D4 or pro body. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m on a gig I need the pro body to lean on, bang around, pound nails and otherwise be tough and sturdy. With this little guy? I prefer the portability, sorta. It’ll make a great vacation camera for jet setting photographers….unless you also like to capture video of your travels like I do. If you want video you need another camera, or an additional camera, and then the whole compact selling point is thrown out the airplane window with no parachute. So what gives here? I dunno. They made up a nice advertising story about “back to basics” with a “real camera” but rumor has it they couldn’t keep the guts cool enough to shoot video because mechanically that stuff takes up space. Jury is out. I like the purity angle, but it’s 2013…

3. The sensor. It has the same 16.2-megapixel sensor as Nikon’s pro-focused D4, which is the best still sensor of all time. There, I said it. It has ISO range up to 12,800 and expandable to ISO 204,800!! You can basically shoot this thing in the dark – let’s just hope it (or you) can focus in the dark. What good is the sensor if you can’t pull the trigger in focus?

4. Focus. It better be decent. Nikons have historically kicked everyones ass in this department. This better not be a let down. I hope the focus is fast and accurate. (Speaking of fast…we know it’s not fast in frames per second department. 5 ‘n’ change. Not bad. But not fast. Who cares really – that’s not what this camera is for.) We really do want the focus to be fast, however, if it’s to stand out from it’s peers. BTW, how is the manual focus mode? It better kick ass. I’m curious to see if there are any features to assist with this. There’s a lot of marketing around this camera pimping its ability to use all the old non-AI lenses, but the cameras from that time had focusing screens built for manual focus. Without tools like focus peaking, a split image screen, or a microprism screen, shooting with manual focus lenses might just be a pain in the ass. Let’s hope they get it right

5. Pro shit. I’m excited to see how “professional” the camera can be. Can I pound nails with this thing? Is it heavy and durable? We use a ton of different cameras for video, but the D4 is my go-to camera for EVERY SINGLE commercial photo shoot we do. Could the DF could come along on our shoots as a good BTS rig? Even in our BTS stuff we expect pro quality That would be nice if this delivered. I will always have a couple D4 backups, but for the solo photographer, the DF could potentially save pro photographers some weight and coin if (and only if) it can produce professional results in a pinch.

All this said, I can’t wait to get my hands on the Df and take it for a rubber-burning test drive. Good pals like McNally are oogling over it, but Joe would have to use a Nikon mobile phone if they had one, so take that with a grain of salt. Anywhooo. Stay tuned for a more meaty pile of feedback when I get my paws on this thing.

The Df is available for pre-order in four options. Check out the goods here:

/// Black body w/lens
/// Silver body w/lens
/// Black body
/// Silver body

ChaseJarvis_Nikon DF_1

A Hot Minute Hands-on Review of the Sony A7r

The field of affordable mirrorless cameras is widening, even as the gulf in quality between said cameras and DSLRs narrows. I’ve gone so far as to call them DSLR-killers in the past. A little tongue in cheek there, but wrapped in a nice dose of optimism. On the whole these rigs are lighter, more compact and pack a decent punch. They’re definitely the bomb for for street photographers and the kick the shit out of any point-and-miss er…point and shoot that is…without a doubt.

To that end, the not-yet-released Sony A7r [or Alpha 7r] and A7 magically fell into my hands last week prompting a brief but meaningful walk/shooting/note-taking session with my crew, the results of which I’m sharing here. Given that this little beauty doesn’t hit the market until December, what you’re about to read is one of the first true hands-on reviews. I can’t go into hand wringing detail about everything w the camera (save that for others), but this is rather my first quick impression. (And seeing as the bulk of my time was spent with the A7r, I’ve limited my notes below to that model.)

FIRST, THE UPSIDE:

1) The Tactile. The ergonomics are great and the grip is the perfect size. I carried it the whole time without a neck strap and never worried about it slipping out of my hands. Camera ergonomics are vastly under-appreciated IMHO – really important. I’m a stickler for it and this camera delivers on it.

2) Presence. The A7 is light, but not cheap feeling. It feels similar to the Olympus E-M5 in weight and dial placement, but easier to grip with better spacing in the button layout. Good lines.

3) Design. I dig the placement of the exposure compensation wheel. I could make adjustments easily and intuitively without taking my eye away from the viewfinder.

4) Focus. Focusing speed is acceptable but nowhere near groundbreaking. Norton’s E-M5 and Erik’s Panasonic GX7 a both seem to focus faster (this might be different on the A7 vs the A7r).

5) Image quality. Image quality is really nice, though we were only able to view and edit the Jpegs since Lightroom doesn’t support the A7′s raw files yet and only had the camera for a qwik spin. (also we can’t share our images since the camera is technically a pre-production model…sorry) The shallow depth of field on the 2.8 lens is dreamy. Getting a nice shallow depth of field in a camera this compact feels like cheating.

6) Looks. Aesthetically, the camera is very inconspicuous. In a short walk in a part, people stopped and commented about Norton’s silver retro looking Olympus E-M5, but nobody asked about the A7r. The murdered out black finish on the A7/A7r is stealthy for sure. This will be a nice nod for the street photographer in you, but will work against you if you’re one of those kooks who is trying to be …er…”impressive” with gear.

NITPICKS ON THE NEGATIVE:

1) Shutter. I’m not crazy about the shutter button. This is super nit-picky, but it’s sorta gummy. It takes a little too much pressure to fire the shutter. It feels to me like it’s likely to cause unnecessary camera shake, which could hurt photos taken with a slow shutter speed. AND…speaking of the shutter…it’s damn noisy. This camera is not sneaky.

2) Battery. The battery life is wack. I only had one, and I had the feeling right away that it wouldn’t last. I had to keep turning the camera off between shots, and that’s no fun. Hopefully Sony addresses this quick-like.

4) Boot-time. The start-up time overly slow. I seriously thought the camera might have had issues when I first turned it on. (this might be because the camera I was using might be a preproduction model???)

OVERALL SIDE OF THE EQUATION:

Anybody thinking about getting into the world of mirrorless cameras, or even mid-range DSLR’s, should take the Sony A7r and A7 into serious consideration. If you by chance have a NEX-7 then this upgrade is really really desirable since your glass can migrate with you.

Both models are available for pre-order here and here.

Scroll down for a more detailed look at the Sony A7r:

Underwater iPhoneography – The Gear I Used to Find Nemo

While in Belize a couple months ago, I took the opportunity to field test a new iPhone case designed for action sports photography + video. (I’m a big fan of field testing new tech/gadgets; see my out-of-the-box successes with the DJI quadcopter—> here).

Without getting in the weeds here, let’s be honest. We’re not aiming for the Oscars with this footage, but I’m not gonna lie… I quite frequently need a little breather from all the high end work that I’m focused on doing. Not everything needs a $150,000 Phantom camera to be good or fun. You with me? Good. Then ENTER—>The Optrix XD5 — a waterproof housing for the iPhone 5 that gave me a nice 175 degree wide-angle lens and control functionality while coasting from reef to reef. It couldn’t have been easier or more chill to use… I’d recommend this to family vacationers and pros alike who dig the occasional goofing around with some gear. Watch through the end of the video to see a few super basic stills I was able to take on one very very short swim about the reef.

Note: the video above was shot on an iPhone housed in the same XD5. Totally passable, in my opinion. And an idiot-proof design, as the video reveals.

Check out the Optrix line of iPhone housings.

For more behind-the-scenes action from my Belize assignment, you can go here, here + here.

Music by Small Face.

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