Shout Outs: Michael “Nick” Nichols, Field Test, assignment of a lifetime

Photocrati is excited to give a huge shout out to our dear friend, National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols. On assignment in Tanzania, Nick is fulfilling his decades-long dream of covering lions in the Serengeti.

Nick Nichols is working with a micro-copter, an adapted toy helicopter, to photograph lions in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. Photo courtesy of National Geographic Magazine.

“Nick, who always pushes the limits of what the camera can show, had a vision. He wanted to show lions as never seen before. Remote-controlled micro-copters and cars with cameras, night-vision goggles, infrared cameras, and state-of-the-art camera traps allow him to get closer than he—or anyone else—could imagine,” National Geographic Magazine, Field Test.

Working closely with the Serengeti Lion Project, Nick will spend the next year (along with writer David Quammen) documenting the huge cats, their natural habitat and their interactions/conflicts with the humans in the area. His final project will be published by National Geographic in 2013.

In the meantime, photo fans can keep up with Nick and his crew via his Field Test posts on the National Geographic site. Nick’s regular updates offer a steady glimpse into the trials, struggles and successes of a wildlife photographer in the field.

Pentax K-x Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Jack Neubart gets a taste of a sweet compact 12.4 MP CMOS APS-C DSLR with a suite of features.

Pentax K-x body, white version. Photo courtesy of Pentax.

Pentax K-x body, white version. Photo courtesy of Pentax.



I approach each new camera with a degree of skepticism. Unlike many out there, I’m not as easily swayed by all the media hype and promotional gobbledygook. I’m from Brooklyn and we need to see that something actually works. So when the Pentax K-x arrived, I looked at it, pleased that they sent me the “white” version, only because it reminded me of the Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars (would have been a great fit). I unpacked everything, mated the lens to the K-x body, installed the lithium batteries that came in the box, then added my own SDHC card-none included (also takes standard SD-but why hamper the machine out of the gate!). And I started to play with it.

Hmm, not bad, I thought. But let’s see how it performs in the real world. So, intrepid explorer that I am, I ventured outside. It may not be a tropical rain forest, but it is an urban jungle out there rife with photographic opportunities. [Read more…]

Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Review: Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests this affordable 12.3 MP DSLR with variable-angle LCD, D-Movie mode and sophisticated Nikon technology

n d5000 Product

Nikon’s most affordable enthusiast-level DSLR-the 12.3 megapixel D5000-is positioned between the D3000 and the D90 and offers the best of both worlds. The D5000 is as easy to use as the entry-level camera and provides even more Scene modes but it employs powerful technology and advanced features developed for the larger prosumer-grade model.That includes D-Movie mode in Live View, although the LCD screen is slightly smaller and provides lower resolution when compared to the D90. [Read more…]

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III Review: Field Test Report

Still the EOS to beat.


Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - front. This is a rugged camera, with everything needed to deliver top quality images from day one. Granted, the heavy-duty battery gives it a large footprint and considerable heft, but still this is one camera you'd be proud to be seen with. Copyright ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

I’ve been working with Canon EOS single-lens-reflex cameras since they burst upon the scene. Well, actually, since shortly before, when I and other members of the photo press were introduced to the very first one-the EOS 1-on a top secret junket in Bar Harbor, Maine, many, many moons ago. Back then the photo press consisted entirely of print publications and cameras were analog, or as we simply liked to call them, cameras.

Fast forward to the digital age-and the full-frame EOS 1Ds DSLR. The 1-series continues to be the ranking member in the EOS lineup, designed for every imaginable professional application, with durability, functionality, reliability, and consistency at the forefront. And you’ve no doubt heard of the EOS 1Ds Mark III (MkIII, for short), the current flagship. While not the newest EOS on the block, like the 5D Mark II, it shares a 21.1 megapixel CMOS sensor.

But more to the point, it maintains the longstanding tradition established by its progenitors. And since Photocrati is a new site, we thought we’d take this camera out for a spin and round out our experiences with the EOS, with newer cameras to come under our scrutiny when available. In the meantime, here goes. Oh, and at the outset, at roughly $7,000, we should also point out that this is not the cheapest camera out there. But you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck and a camera that will probably outlast you in the field. [Read more…]

Comparative Digital SLR Lens Review: Fast, Wide Aperture Lenses

Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests five lenses with great light gathering ability: the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro, Tokina AF 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX and the Sigma AF 30mm f/1.4 EX HSM DC

Because most digital SLR camera owners demand compact, lightweight lenses, the vast majority of zooms feature a small maximum aperture. A typical kit lens is designated as f/3.5-5.6 indicating that the maximum aperture is quite small at the short end and becomes very small at longer focal lengths. In practical terms, that translates to moderate light gathering ability. The larger the numeral the smaller the opening in the lens and the less light that will reach the camera’s digital sensor.

A wide aperture lens is ideal for fast shutter speeds in low light conditions when you cannot use flash or a tripod. Shooting at f/2.8 allowed me to get many sharp photos at 1/125 sec. during a stage performance, using ISO 1000. With a more typical (smaller) aperture, much higher ISO levels would have been required for the same shutter speed and the images would have been seriously degraded by digital noise. (Nikon 17-55mm at f/2.8.) (c) 2009 Peter K. Burian

A wide aperture lens is ideal for fast shutter speeds in low light conditions when you cannot use flash or a tripod. Shooting at f/2.8 allowed me to get many sharp photos at 1/125 sec. during a stage performance, using ISO 1000. With a more typical (smaller) aperture, much higher ISO levels would have been required for the same shutter speed and the images would have been seriously degraded by digital noise. (Nikon 17-55mm at f/2.8.) (c) 2009 Peter K. Burian

[Read more…]

Nikon D700 Review: Field Test Report

Peter Burian tests this remarkably fast, rugged professional DSLR with full frame sensor and over-sized pixels for stunning image quality

7-product-nikon-d700

Combining the best features and technology of the D3, the Nikon D700 is far more compact/affordable and 9.6 ounces lighter. This new professional model shares the fast EXPEED processor and full-frame 12.1 megapixel CMOS chip and it’s nearly a rugged as the D3 thanks to a weather-resistant magnesium alloy body. The primary differences are a slower (but still fast 5fps ) continuous drive speed, reduced viewfinder coverage (95% vs. 100%) and only a single CompactFlash card slot. But the D700 gains a built-in flash (great for wireless remote flash control) and an automatic sensor cleaner. Add the optional MB-D10 battery grip and it can fire long bursts at a blazing 8fps.

[Read more…]

Canon EOS 40D Review: Field Test Report

product-eos40d-f
Canon’s enthusiast-level series has included the EOS 10D, 20D and 30D, each boasting some improvement over its predecessor. The most recent DSLR in this range — prior to the EOS 50D — the 10 megapixel EOS 40D definitely qualified as a substantial upgrade over the 8 megapixel EOS 30D. Aside from higher resolution, the EOS 40D benefits from a great deal of new technology, such as an improved CMOS sensor, a faster DIGIC III processor plus a huge buffer (temporary storage bank) that allows for taking numerous shots at a blazing 6.5 frames per second. Several other amenities also make the EOS 40D more desirable than the earlier EOS 30D, including an automatic sensor cleaner, an Auto ISO option, a larger/brighter viewfinder, a 3″ LCD screen, and Live View. [Read more…]