Blog: Camera Gear
Gregory Gross

Blog: Camera Gear

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The Nikon Z f

September 26, 2023

Permalink  |  Tags: Camera Gear, Photography

About a week ago, Nikon announced something that had been widely rumored and that I had eagerly been waiting for: the Nikon Z f, a full-frame mirrorless camera with styling reminiscent of the company’s FM2 film camera of the 1980s.

The articles on DP Review soon flowed forth: first their preview article, then their first-look video, then their pre-production sample image gallery, and finally their hands-on slideshow.

When the Nikon Z fc came out two years ago, I was immediately smitten by its styling, and I thought the camera body would look great connected to my Questar telescope. My growing interest in film photography only added fuel to the fire.

But rather than jump in and buy one, my reluctance to plow hundreds of dollars into what felt like a redundancy—I already had a cropped-sensor camera in my Canon EOS M50, and I found it hard to justify getting yet another cropped-sensor camera—I held off. I also felt that I would feel foolish if I bought the Nikon Z fc when what I really wanted was a full-frame version of that camera.

As time went on, I grew to appreciate the virtues of my Canon EOS M50, and I began to doubt whether or not I really wanted a full-frame version of the Nikon Z fc.

When it finally materialized in the form of the Nikon Z f, the price tag that I feared would be very high was indeed very high: $2000 for the body alone.

Ouch. At that price, I’m not sure I would even be comfortable taking it out of the house and into the wild.

But more importantly, if the price is not the thing that would hold be back from buying a Nikon Z f for myself, the real thing that would do so would be a more philosophical objection. The seeds of that objection appeared in my opening post in this DP Review discussion thread, where I wrote:

If I’m going to shoot digital..., shouldn’t I just use a modern digital camera in its modern native form, boring as it may be, rather than a digital camera that tries to mimic a film camera? If I want that fully manual film experience, shouldn’t I just go for the real thing and stick with the Nikon F I already own and love using?

I still feel this way. In fact, I feel this way more and more.

What really killed my interest in going down the Nikon full-frame route, though, was the only thing that should matter at the end of the day: image quality. I downloaded Nikon’s NX Studio, the company’s free software for editing raw image files generated by Nikon cameras. In a nutshell, I was completely nonplussed after I had a chance to play with some sample raw image data I downloaded from DP Review’s sample image galleries for various Nikon mirrorless cameras. I felt NX Studio’s capabilities paled in comparison to Canon’s Digital Photo Professional, a piece of software I could already use with my images I produce with my Canon mirrorless cameras.

I’m not sure if I should feel disappointed about this or if I should feel thankful that I avoided spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on something I might ultimately come to dislike.

No, I’m am sure. I feel thankful.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind down the road. But at this stage, I have arrived at the realization that I’m kind of a Canon guy.

In spite of the appeal of Voigtlander’s manual-focus lenses for Nikon Z-mount cameras, Canon’s Toyota Camry-like product design aesthetic, and Canon’s refusal to open up its R mount system to third-party lens manufacturers, I just like the image quality I get out of my Canon cameras. After all, modern cameras are meant to produce images, not be imitations of the camera gear of the past.

New (to Me) Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 Lens

August 21, 2023

Permalink  |  Tags: Out and About, Film Photography, Photography, Camera Gear

Today was the first time I got out with my new (to me) Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens. The one I had worked well enough. But the perfectionist in me frowned upon the dry and scratchy focus action. It’s a good user lens, but I wanted something nicer.

My new (to me) Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens
My new (to me) Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Having resolved to myself to buy not one more lens unless I can evaluate it in person, I found that something nicer at National Camera Exchange in Minneapolis. I’ve done business with them in the past, and I trust them. That’s something I can’t say about many of the sellers I encounter on eBay.

The example I got was in exceptionally good condition. Its focus action almost feels like it was recently lubricated. The aperture ring has nice and firm clickiness, for lack of a better way to describe it, the glass is clean, and the lens body’s finish has few if any blemishes or other signs of use.

It was an added bonus that the lens was on sale. I was prepared to spend twice as much for a good example as what I spent on this. And I don’t think I could have found anything nicer.

There’s a nice stretch of sidewalk near my house that always makes for a great photograph. I captured this image with my new (to me) and first-rate 50mm Nikkor:

Neighborhood sidewalk
Neighborhood sidewalk. Nikon F with Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 lens, Ilford FP4 Plus 125 film, 1/125 sec., f/2.8.

Camera and Lens Ponderings

August 12, 2023

Permalink  |  Tags: Out and About, Camera Gear, Photography

Yesterday after I came back from my photo walk, I took the time (or made the mistake?) to write what ended up being a rather lengthy opening post for a DP Review discussion thread in which I asked a question: is the Nikon Z fc the right camera for me? The nub of the issue boiled down to whether the benefits of a $600 on-sale refurbished example of that camera and a used $329 example of Voigtlander’s 35mm f/1.2 lens—benefits including a manual-focus lens that communicates with the camera body and a camera/lens combo that just looks cool—warranted the cost.

With that question still in mind, I pondered which camera and lens to grab for my walk today. Feeling the heat set in—we’re due for a heat wave this coming week, and it’s already getting hot today—I didn’t really want to carry around my heavy Nikon F. I also wanted some hands-on time with my Canon EOS M50 and my one and only modern autofocus lens, if anything, as a gut check to see whether I ought to buy for a better lens for that camera, namely Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 lens. What better camera to grab than my Canon? I used some masking tape to mark the exact point of the 30mm focal length on my zoom lens, and out I went.

I walked around town shooting various compositions that are familiar to me.

Neighborhood sidewalk
Neighborhood sidewalk. Canon EOS M50 with Canon EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM zoom lens, ISO 100, 1/125 sec., f/5.6.

It slowly dawned on me that having a fully modern camera with auto-everything adds the most to my arsenal of camera gear. Sometimes I love the fully manual experience while other times I just want to point and shoot and let the camera take care of everything. Film and digital are complementary, after all.

I came back from that walk thinking that the cheapest option, the Sigma lens at $290, may be the best option. I said so later in that DP Review discussion thread, and I’ll say it here: I like my Canon EOS M50. It’s been a great camera, and I’m reluctant to give it up or even push it aside for a sexier camera that may very well fail to give me much more than what I already have.

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