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Journey in a software world…

No More Slides, Welcome to Our Digital Overlords

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If you had a look to my About Me page, you know that one of my hobby is photography.

Until a couple of weeks ago, I was still doing analog photography with a Nikon F100 and the fabulous Fuji slide film: PROVIA 400X. This slide film) is the best I could ever use in my whole amateur photographic life, it has almost no noticable grain for a 400 ISO slide film and a wonderful respect of color.

But enough of this, on January 5th 2009, I left the analog world for the digital world with the help of a brand new Digital Reflex camera, the Nikon D700:

Nikon D700

Why this camera? The only reason I came for this one is because it’s the first full frame Nikon digital camera. I didn’t want to bother with DX camera as I have 5 Nikon lenses (although compatible I’m most familiar with them on 24x36 ratio).

Let me first say that Digital photography is a whole lot different than analog photography: I now have the freedom to take hundreds of pictures of the same subject varying, bracketing, and tuning settings. I never did that with slide film (especially because of the price of said films and process). That changes everything of course. That and the ability to see the image after you took it. With slide film on a tight budget like I was, you have to be sure you’re doing the right picture. I can’t count the number of time I thought I could have done better on some pictures I took.

Other than that, the Nikon D700 looks exactly like all my old analog Nikon cameras (from the F3 to the F100 passing by the F801) and I could use it almost without reading the manual: buttons didn’t change function or place. The D700 frame is nicely built with its Rugged magnesium-alloy construction with dust and moisture protection, like the F100. What is also noticeable beside the FX sensor and its very large range of sensibility (up to 6400 without too much noise), is the large and bright LCD screen (which allows LiveView, a mode where you shoot your photo through the LCD and not the viewfinder).

And the speed. My first concern about digital photography was the speed to take a picture. Back a few years ago when everybody was purchasing Canon 1D, I thought it wasn’t possible to live with a 250ms delay between when you press the button and when the picture is taken. Now, this isn’t an issue anymore at least on the D700 since the delay is almost not noticeable.

As I don’t really have lots of spare time (contributing to Puppet takes time) and the weather was not as nice as I wanted it to be, so I only could do two sessions of photography in January.

The first one was in Parc Javel André-Citroen) after it snowed. I was trying to understand the basic working of the camera, and see what I could get with it. I wasn’t disappointed at all: the piqué of the pictures is excellent. I should say that I combined the camera to a fabulous lens: the Nikkor AF-S 24-70 2.8G, which despites its weight is the most wonderful lens I had. Way better than my father Leica R5 lens…

Here is a sample of this session:

Lone man in Parc Javel-André Citroen

Balloon reflexion in Parc Javel-André Citroen

You can see the other shots in the Testing D700 gallery.

Then yesterday there was the Chinese New Year parade in Paris, in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement (which is since about 10 years, a place were there are lots of Chinese import/export shops). I’m usually not good at live report as I usually take my time to shot (did I say how I want each parameter to be fine-tuned and set as I want, especially depth of field?), so that was the perfect test for the autofocus (which I usually don’t use) and overall camera speed. And the camera passed this exam with success (or is it the photographer?).

Here is a few pictures from the session:

Chinese Dragons

Angry dragon staring at me

Cosplay ala Chinese

And if you want to see them all, see my Chinese New Year Smugmug Gallery.

What was frustrating with slide films was the efforts needed to digitize them and bring them online. Even though I had a Minolta Dual Scan IV slides scanner (of moderate quality), the powerful Vuescan scanner software, and some calibrated profiles for the Provia, the colors and contrast of the digitized slides were not satisfactory. And did I say it was time consuming? And removing dusts and scratches was also more than time consuming.

With a fully digital system, it is even simpler and fast to send your pictures online for broad view. In my case I chose Smugmug, mainly because the service seemed powerful, not expensive, but also because I’m reading Don MacAskill’s blog which contains lots of valuable information about MySQL, and/or server hardware.

To be noted also, that Nikon sells a really good picture enhancement software called Capture NX2. This software contains some really good tool (like the brush editing tool). I never used Adobe Lightroom nor Apple Aperture, and didn’t find yet an Open Source alternative, so I don’t really have comparison points. You can have look the Nikon screencast to understand why I think there are killer tools in Capture NX2.

To summarize, I think I did the right choice with this camera, and I do expect to post more pictures to my galleries (and you’ll see them in my Photostream).

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