Nikon tales from a die-hard Canon shooter

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Nikon D7000 and AFS/17-55 2.8 Lens, SB-900 Flash

Wow! how do I even start this? For those of you who know me, you know that I shoot from the hip. I tell it like it is. I’m not going to sit here and give you techno babble, and megapixel BS… I’m just going to give you my honest impressions.

I’ve been a die hard Canon shooter since I was given my first Canon AE-1 in 1978.

I currently own a Canon 1DS Mark III and Canon 20D, with all of their best glass. I’m the Product Manager here at Vistek and, as such, get to try out a lot of cool gear. When it comes to camera gear – evaluation definitely needs to be hands-on.

Last week Profusion 2011 took place and I was given an assignment at the last minute to capture the event, and shoot as many images as I could (on top of all of the other things I was going to be doing at the show.)  I asked our rentals department to provide me with the Nikon D7000 because I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for this camera for the last few months.

The show got underway Friday but,  along with some other trade show confusion, my camera ended up not arriving at the Congress Centre. No worries, though – I simply grabbed my 1DS Mark III out of the camera bag (along with my 580 EX II) and shot with it the whole day.

I made sure to set the flash exposure compensation on my camera + 2/3 because  I’ve always found that flash exposures are off whenever I shoot event photos  with my camera; this usually fixes the issue.  I shot most of my photos at ISO 400. When you’re working at events, you want to think about your shot and expect your camera to function properly and give you correct exposures every time. The Canon 1DS Mark III is a great camera, but in this respect I’ve always found that I have exposures that are just not bang-on when I get back home to process out the images. And I usually expect a few hours of work to make the flash exposures just perfect. At the end of the day my shoulder was hurting me pretty bad and I was longing for that lighter camera. I also had to replace the flash batteries about mid-way through the day, with a fresh set of NIMH re-chargeables.

Above shot with Canon 1DS Mark III/24-105 F/4L, 580EX II

My Nikon D7000 showed up as I arrived, at 8am, ready for Day 2 of Profusion to get underway.  I spent 15 minutes setting it up. I opted for the AFS 17-55 2.8 lens because it converts to a 25-82 with the conversion factor, and I thought it would be the perfect lens to walk around with for the day – despite its weight.

I dropped 2 SD memory cards in there, opting for RAW files in slot 1, and an EYE-FI 8GB in slot 2 so that we could preview images on my iPad 2 as I was walking around the show. I caution you all:  if you’re going to shoot with an EYE-FI card all day long, have a spare battery at the ready as this really drains your camera battery quickly.

I popped the SB-900 flash on top of the camera (along with the diffuser that Nikon includes with the flash) , strapped on a Black Rapid strap, and I was off. I did a few test shots on the show floor and determined that to get the correct ambient exposure I needed to be around 1/80 of a second. I wanted a little depth-of-field in case I did any group shots, so in manual mode, my final exposure settings were 1/80 @ 5.6-F8 for most of the day. Using these settings I set the main focus point on the camera to the center, and put my flash in TTL mode. I started to walk around and take some test shots. My images were coming out flawless,the color looked amazing, the flash exposures were bang-on & I didn’t have to adjust my flash, or camera in the +/- position at all.

Above shot with Nikon D7000/17-55 2.8 AFS/SB-900 Flash

At the end of Day 2, I had managed to shoot over 250 images at the show with this little gem. What stood out for me as the single best part of the experience for me was using flash, and fill flash. I had started following Mark Cleghorn (I’ll do another blog post about Mark later) around, and wanted to capture some of his behind-the-scenes seminar action, and when I arrived at his location, I didn’t have much time to think. I put the flash on and changed the mode to TTL-BL, for Back Light. I set my shutter speed to 200 and shot around F-6.3. I, honestly, didn’t have time to really think about it too much, and the camera performed amazingly well for fill flash.

Post processing these images took me all of 5 minutes (really – all I did was import them, make my selections in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and than started uploading them to the web.) The SB-900 performed flawlessly. Personally, I’ve always just loved shooting with a Stofen Omni Bounce, and Nikon includes their own version of this with the flash; if you master it you will  always have great flash exposures at events. I used one set of batteries the entire day, and there was still juice left in them.

Video shooting: I didn’t get to play with this too much, but I did turn it on once, and what was really cool was that it auto focused and used face detection – all at the same time. This will need some further investigation, as this is something I would like to do more of in the future.

Want to see some of these images? I’ve included two above, no post processing on these. I found a few similar ones from Canon/Nikon that I put together for comparison from Mark Cleghorn’s class. There is a mix and match of Canon and Nikon files at my public Facebook gallery.

Am I a convert? I will be placing an order for a D7000 this week, and I will put my Canon 20D up on eBay. Then I will be anxiously awaiting the D700 replacement as I think this will be the full frame camera that I will want to own. In which case,  there may be a Canon 1DS Mark III up for sale with a few very good lenses.