First album of the year

Made a short trip to Sin City with some friends for Chinese New Year. Surprisingly, it wasn't as crowded, most likely because it was the middle of the week. The weather was nice, but not warm enough to hit the pool.

I tried to get a good seat on the plane going to Vegas, but unfortunately I was stuck behind the engines. I also picked the wrong side as the sun came up and reflected my yellow shirt in the window. I did manage a few good shots as the plane circled the strip.

The 10-30mm worked fine throughout the trip. I could be wrong, but it looks sharper than it did before (it's considered one of the weakest in the CX lineup). I'm happy to have the lens back as it's a good walk-around lens, and indispensible for videos because of VR.

I didn't manage to ride the High Roller. One of these days. No night shots either, but then that's not really the V1's forte without a tripod.

Hit rate: 44/274, or 16%

When is too many lenses a bad thing?

When you don't use all of them and you're running out of cabinet space. I've been cleaning out my camera storage and finding some stuff that I haven't used in some time. Some of them have been quick sells on craigslist (makes me wonder if I'm pricing them too low), and some have been torturous (all these questions from buyers who haven't heard of Google). So far I've managed to sell three lenses in the span of two weeks. That brings my count down to 15 active lenses between two systems (CX: 5 FX: 10).

Now I'm thinking that I still have too many lenses. There are four that I know I haven't used in a year: 

1. Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye
2. Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5~5.6 AF-D
3. Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AF-D micro
4. Sigma 12-24 f/4~5.6 HSM

Why haven't these lenses seen much action? They just don't suit my shooting style, or have a focal length duplicated by other lenses.

But... I'll miss them if I sell them (well, not so much the 28-105mm). There will be that one time that I need a macro lens, or a fisheye, or a really wide rectilinear. That's why I still own them.

Except maybe the 28-105mm will go on craiglist soon.

The D3 at ISO6400

I've had my D3 for a little over 7 years now, and I'm still amazed by its high ISO capabilities. I usually limit the auto ISO setting to ISO3200, which is easily processed by the noise reduction software that I use. Of course I'm still trying to sell it as it's just too big and heavy now (getting older is tough).

Shooting the Dia de los Muertos parade in San Francisco is a challenge as it's city streets at night. I went to my first one two years ago, and I decided to let the ISO go up to 6400 as I needed high shutter speeds to get sharp pictures with the 50mm f/1.8G. I still got some blurry shots (damn all that caffeine as a child!), but I am surprised at how workable the photos are for posting on the web. The colors are a little washed out, and there is noise, but not that bad. The lighting is a challenge, with the white balance dropping down as far as it would go.

I should have processed these images before attending the 2014 event, as I limited the ISO to 3200 last year. There's something to be said about being prompt in your processing (or at least chronological).

 More images can be found here

Hit rate: 28/130, or 22%

Nikon service and a new toy

My 10-30mm VR is back from Nikon service. It took two weeks from the time they received it to the time it was shipped back. In those two weeks, I only received one email from Nikon saying it was received, followed by a snail mail letter a few days later. I have yet to receive any message from them that the lens was shipped back. If I didn't check their service site regularly, I would not have known that it was the lens was fixed. The last time I had something repaired by them, they sent me an email saying it was coming back on the day I received my item.

I've been trolling craigslist for a D5200 and managed to snag one at a decent price. It's not clean (LCD protector has a small chip) and it's missing some important stuff (batter, charger, caps, strap, manual) but nothing that I don't have extras (batter is the same as the one on the D3200). I'm lucky to have brought a battery to test the camera, otherwise it would have been a no go.

The one drawback of this bargain body is the smoke smell. I didn't notice it when I tested the camera, but it's bothering me now as it's strong when I bring the camera up to my eye. My fingers also have a lingering smell after using the camera and lens. I've got them in a bag with activated charcoal, which hopefully will do the trick. If that doesn't work, time to grab some baking soda.

So far the camera works. It has the same backfocus issue as the D3200, so out came the hex key to get it close to acceptable. I don't know what Nikon is doing, but they should consider equipping all bodies with AF Fine Tune (oddly enough I've never had to do it with the D3, which has the feature). The swiveling LCD screen is fun to play with, and reminds me of my old Coolpix 990 (great camera for candids because of the swivel).

I did notice that my 35mm DX still backfocuses even after calibrating the body. I wonder if it's the lens? I don't have any issues with the V1 and 35mm DX, but the AF system is different (on chip for both phase detect and contrast detect) and doesn't suffer from back/front focusing.

Nikon has some rebates going, and coupled with a cash back offer from Discover, I've placed an order for the 35mm f/1.8G FX. Yes, it's bigger than the DX and my old 35mm f/2 AF, but it would be nice to replace two lenses with one. It's on back order, so it may take some time before I get to try it out.

Now, does anyone want to buy a D3200?

Update: I took some pictures with the two versions of the 18-55mm on the D5200, and both have trouble focusing at 18mm unless there's a good target in the center. The D3 doesn't have that problem, but the V1 has shown this issue with the 10mm. Something to keep in mind. The activated charcoal has reduced the smoke smell, which is great.

I'm still looking for a buyer for the D3200.

Cars under the bright sun

I only made it to one Jimmy's Old Car Picnic, and it happened to be the last one. No, I didn't kill the event. Sad to see it gone as there were a lot of sweet cars parked in Hellman Hollow. Some were in concours condition, some had more than a few rust spots.

It's the latter cars that are more interesting, because you can tell that they've been used hard, and yet are still loved.

I had the 35mm f/1.8DX mounted on the V1 when I started taking photos. This was my first outing with the lens, and it's not the ideal length for car shots on a CX body as it's a bit long. It helped that this was an outdoor event with some space, but it make for tough framing. You do get that nice fade to OOF with this lens.

Outdoor car shows are brutal because of all the polished chrome, shiny panels, and other reflective surfaces. It didn't help that the sun was pretty high up in the sky and shining brightly. Dark colors and highlights are a challenge for the V1 as the sensor's dynamic range isn't as good as a DX or FX body.

The flare on this Buick Riviera is interesting because of the inverted points. So far this is the worst case I've seen, and a reminder not to shoot into the sun with this lens. I do like the little touch of the picnic table in the background, gives the shot that '60's feeling.

Chromatic aberration is a bit of a problem with specular highlights and the 35mm DX. Proper NEF processing will reduce it a bit, but there's still a lot more than with the native CX lenses.

The V1 and 35mm DX combination did a lot better at Bayline 2014, aided by the overcast skies. The two did a stellar job when I used them at Super Hero Festival. The 35mm DX is my poor man's 32mm f/1.2, at least until I can afford the 32mm.

I eventually switched to the 10mm f/2.8 to be able to frame a whole car in the viewfinder. Who says you can't get subject isolation at 10mm on CX? And yes that's me reflected in the radiator, yet another problem of shooting closeups with cars.

Hit rate: 191/328, or 58%

My first Nikon recall

The aperture on my 10-30mm VR would stay fully stopped-down after taking one or two shots. I thought it was the viewfinder going black, until I looked at the lens. The camera wouldn't take a shot since it couldn't AF (I didn't try it in manual mode though). Powering the camera down didn't reset the aperture; the lens had to be remounted for it to work. Of course one or two shots later it would close up again.

Off to Nikon with the lens (two years into the five year extended US warranty). Nikon received the lens, and states "TO GWO LENS COMMUNICATION PROBLEM-VF & LCD GO No Charge/Good Will Repair."

At the same time, a service advisory has been released for the lens:

I would recommend sending yours in even if it's working, as it's bound to fail. Plus you'll get a spiffy black dot. My timing is just right as I'll skip the mad rush of kit lenses coming in for repair.