Everyone has heard everyone say that equipment doesn’t matter. Yet everyone drools over every new camera that is announced. The drool is only part pavlovian response to enticing key marketing terms. Another reason to drool is the frustration of having a camera or lens that finally starts to limit what you are trying to accomplish. I’m a Nikon guy. For close to 10 years, I shot with a 12 mp D300. It took great photos, and I learned a lot from it. I’ve sold many prints of its output. But….
A ways back, someone wanted a 4 x 6 foot print of a cropped image of mine. I spent a month’s worth of beer money on the print, she looked at it from 6 inches away, and said – nah. We all know that looking at a print from 6 inches away is kind of stupid, but it is what it was. Modern software has made it much easier to up-res, but at some point you will be limited by your camera’s ability to capture enough megapixels. (If you are just shooting for web images or small prints, 12mp is all you need, and today’s entry cameras are superb.) I’m not rich, I opted for a refurbished Nikon D810. No problems whatsoever with the refurb. I love this camera and its 36mp for land and seascapes.
Modern Nikons have also come a long way in their ability to capture dynamic range (DR). No cameras can match the human eye’s DR. Your pupil continually adjusts to expose for what you are looking at. Add in an optic nerve with attached brain, and the ability to squint, and things are literally looking good for us. We can take in visual information over a large range of light intensity. For example, when it is very bright outside, we can not only see the stuff thats nice and bright, we can also see useful information in the shadows. Cameras have a hard time capturing that wide range of light intensity within one image. Cameras have only been evolving for a short time, they have a lot of catching up to do. But they are indeed catching up. The D810 is pretty amazing compared to the old D300. By the way, always shoot RAW. Period. Don’t argue. Modern software like Lightroom and Photoshop can pull amazing detail out of the shadows of a RAW file.
Another area where newer cameras have come a long way is high ISO performance. ISO is basically a way to make your camera more sensitive to light. At higher ISO’s you don’t need as much light to get a good exposure. This enables you to use faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures (larger Fstops) when there is not a lot of light. Think shooting fast-moving sports in dim light. (The downside of this is that images start to get noisy, and you lose some DR.) While the D810 is pretty damn good at high ISO, there are better cameras out there when it comes to high ISO performance. Seems every new camera body that comes out these days has better and better ISO. So, yeah, I’m drooling for a second body, just for high ISO and higher frames per sec.
Advice: Camera bodies keep getting better and better. If you are just starting, or on a budget, they are all good. Camera lenses, on the other hand, are a better investment. You’ll hold on to a good quality lens forever, as the camera bodies come and go.
I’ve recently acquired an Aquatech splash housing, (pic from catalogue). Taking your camera in waves is very fun and a great excuse to get back in the ocean! To do that when the water is cold, I use a Hyperflex Voodoo 5/4 wetsuit, with 5mil gloves and boots. I really do stay warm.
Michael Witten is a science-educated geek turned photographer. Based in Babylon, NY, he enjoys the Ocean, a north wind in summer, moonshine on his sails, microbrew craftiness, and sharing his lens on beauty.
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