Monday, April 21, 2014

Nikon D4s - Just a comment

Nikon D4s - Just a comment

I have been a bit busy, but I felt that I would be doing a disservice to people if I did not write something brief about the D4s.

If you have even thought about upgrading from the D4 to the D4s, do not wait. The D4s is nothing short of amazing when compared to the D4 as far as ACCURATE and FAST AUTO FOCUS, color accuracy, color depth, and straight to JPEG shooting. Yes, the 2.7 crop video is beautifully sharp as well. If you shoot primes like the 35, 58, 85, 200, do not walk, run to the nearest store and swap your D4 for the D4s. It is truly amazing. The focus locks on moving subjects and is dead on. This is the best auto focus that I have seen on any camera ever.

There are plenty of reviews out there from people who have merely unboxed the D4s and never shot with it. Those who have can't help but rave about it.

Example comments:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nikon 58mm 1.4g

Nikon 58mm 1.4g

Bottom line: Impressive lens. It is a Nikon prime lens like the 24, 35, or 85 and as a prime it does not focus as fast or as "accurately" at 1.4 as one of the Nikon 2.8 zooms do at f 8. See my previous article on the prime focusing speed.

IF you are having trouble with AF accuracy on a Nikon 58mm 1.4g , I recommend that you send it in for warranty service and explain the problems that you are having. After sending the original lens in that was used for this article it came back:

(Yes that is how control was spelled on the sheet.) The lens works better than ever. It is now spot on for eye focus for portraits without any AF Fine tuning. I plan on experimenting with optimum distances for the best look.

Advice(please read below): For portraits, using eyes as the focus point, using the center AF point, I shoot it at AF Fine tune +20, saving RAW+JPG , with the JPG set at maximum sharpness on the D4 and have the center button on the multi-selector set to zoom medium on press during image review so that I can check the focus on the shot.

As usual, when a new piece of hardware comes out, there are many different initial opinions written on the spur of the moment with little actual use of the new item. That is the case with the Nikon 58mm 1.4g
The naysayers have taken to two issues. The sharpness wide open at 1.4 and the inconsistent focus. I felt like I had heard this before. Well, I did. When the Nikon 24mm 1.4g came out there were the same complaints.Ah and the Nikon 35mm 1.4g as well. So why are some people attacking this lens? Enh - who cares. With any new piece of photography equipment there are always opinions. I recommend that you rent it, give it a try with your camera setup the way you use it and if it works for you, ditch the 50mm 1.4g and use this in its place.

I got the chance to do a quick test on this lens the other day. If you are concerned about any AF front focus or back focus issues, you can look at the below images. The lens was focused on the book to the left of the ruler. The 20cm line was even with the plane of the book.
Nikon 58mm 1.4G at 1.4 on a D4 full sharpness  (crop at 6ft)

Nikon 58mm 1.4G at 1.4 on a D4 no sharpness (crop at 6ft)
This test was more of a check for myself to see if there are any front/back focusing issues with the lens that I tested. This does not determine how well the lens will focus on subjects, especially low contrast of moving subjects.

I found some good advice on on AF Fine tune that I figured I would quote:

"The fine tune adjustment is also dependent on the focus distance, and may also be dependent on the aperture and color of the light (though the latter two are less clear effects than the distance).
I think a reasonable approach is to determine the correction at around 30x focal length, and then investigate how the correction varies towards long distances. That's what I do, anyway. I think Nikon should urgently provide users with the means of storing distance dependent fine tune settings for each lens. It should be possible for the camera to determine the distance from the D or G lens, and apply the appropriate correction, interpolating linearly between the ranges.
Fine tune adjustment in my experience requires considerable care and repetition is an excellent idea; any single focus operation can give quite a large variability in the result, but by making many repetitions, a reasonable estimate of the mean error can be made. Also it is a good idea to have reasonably bright lighting conditions when doing these experiments." - Ilkka Nissila

I have had the chance to use the Nikon 58mm 1.4g for a few days now. I have to say that I am impressed. It is a Nikon prime, which means that while it does go to 1.4, it is going to have a slower and less "accurate" Autofocus than the 2.8 zooms like the 24-70mm 2.8, 70-200mm 2.8, or the 14-24mm 2.8. I say accurate because, as you can read by the above quote, there are many difficulties that an Autofocus encounters and these are seen very clearly at a wide aperture of f 1.4. The depth of field is so shallow that any focus errors are immediately apparent.

As you can see from above, when I shot at test targets there appeared to be little or no AF fine tuning needed. What I found when I shot at actual subjects focusing on the eyes was a bit different. I found that when I set the AF fine tune to +20 on the D4 I got more consistently focused shots. It appeared that the AF sensors were focusing on the tips of the eyelashes on my children and the eyeballs were out of focus. It may be that my children have exceedingly long eyelashes, but I found that with this setting on my D4 I had more success.

I do want to say, that I am not in the habit of checking focus on every shot, but from now on I just might be. After I had some initial frustration with checking my focus I set up my D4 the way many commercial and wedding photographers set up theirs. I set the center button of the multi-selector to zoom medium during image playback. That way I can zoom in to 100% on the image (zoom medium) and check the focus on each shot. This is under Controls, f1 Multi selector center button, playback mode, zoom on/off, Medium Magnification. Then I set my fcn button on the front of the camera to pull up the first item on my menu, which is AF Fine tune. This way I could pop the image to 100% and then pop straight to AF fine tune and adjust the fine tune settings.

Some people may say +20, that's crazy! There must be something wrong with the lens. Well, not really. I know where I need to focus and how to get the best results for my subject. With the way I shoot portraits, using the eyes as targets, for this lens, this setting works best. For sports I go with center body focus and adjust accordingly, so this shift of focus for more consistent shots is nothing new. Photographers have done this for years for landscapes, focusing to the hyperfocal distance to ensure that as much as possible in the shot is in focus. While it is not the exact same thing, it is not a new concept.

For those people who are used to zooms and lenses with apertures of f 2.8 or greater I would like to offer some advice. Don't expect any of the f 1.4 primes to focus as quickly or as "accurately" as the f 2.8 lenses. The depth of field on f 2.8 and higher lenses is so much deeper that a lot more is in focus in the frame and the picture looks sharper and more in focus from edge to edge. For group portraits where I want everyone in focus, I stop down to 5.6 or greater to make sure every face in the photo is in focus.  The Nikon f 2.8 zooms focus so quickly and are so sharp that people expect the primes to be even better. Well, optics at 1.4 are much more complicated and as a result the focus is much slower. Trying to photograph children with a prime can be exceedingly difficult. (D4 prime article)

Summary of what I found:
The 58 f/1.4 , like the 24 f /1.4, or the 200 f/ 2.0 has it's own character and look. It has a very tight focus and shallow depth of field for a 58mm. It is also a low light full color monster. By this I mean that in low light it pulls out colors like the 24mm f/1.4 in near pitch black conditions. The optical gymnastics involved in getting all of this into one lens leaves it a little less sharp at 1.4 as some distances than the 85mm is at its optimum distance. At other distances the 58 is very sharp. I will have to nail down what the 58mm's optimum distance is with some time and trial and error.

 I will attempt to illustrate what I found with the below images:

I will start with a comparison of the 58mm and the 85mm at 1.4 on the same subject. Please refer to for the full size images. I have posted the full sized original JPG images to that you can pixel peep if you want. (Smugmug converts all NEF's to JPG, so I uploaded the JPG's instead of NEF's so that the original data would hopefully be preserved.) All of these were shot with AF fine tune +20 and portraits were all eye focus, AF-C focus (not focus+release) 51points d9.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the color and out of focus areas. Also the eyelash color is perfect.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Very sharp, but flatter color. (less vibrant colors and less color depth) At the optimum distance for the 85mm f/1.4g
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100%. Sharpening is 5. It may appear a bit soft, but with some additional sharpening one would be hard pressed to see the difference from the below 85mm shot on even a 10"x14" print.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100%. Sharpening is 5

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the color and out of focus areas. Also the eyelash color is perfect.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Very sharp, but flatter color. (less vibrant colors and less color depth) At the optimum distance for the 85mm f/1.4g
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/15s

(please ignore focus) In pitch black conditions. A test photo with the iphone was solid black. There is light from a clock and another behind camera. Ignore the focus, this one is about vibrant color in the darkness.

Nikon 50mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/10s

(please ignore focus) Pitch black conditions. 1/10s vs 1/15s in order to get enough light.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/40s
Nikon 50mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 1/25s

Again, less color depth.
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Head on, left eye focus

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

3/4, close eye focus

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Profile, close eye focus, Christmas tree in the background. 4 feet away.

 Night shots:

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Pitch black, side light from Christmas lights.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Red Christmas lights. Focusing and getting anything with red ambient light can be incredibly difficult.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 2.2

I shot this at 2.2 to get the lights and a little more depth of field. Look at the Christmas lights for the amount of halo, etc.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 2.2

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4

Look at the detail on the branch as well as the lights in the background.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 zoomed 100 percent

Look at the detail on the branch as well as the lights in the background. Look at the lack of color aberration on the background lights! (and the back lighting of the branch from the lights)

Additional focus discussion:

To illustrate the focus on the 58mm f/1.4g I have an additional shot, zoomed in to 100 percent.
Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 AF fine tune off. Camera Focus point is on the red strip and center of the frame.

Nikon 58mm f/1.4g on D4 at 1.4 AF fine tune plus 20. Camera Focus point  is on the red strip and center of the frame.

If you look carefully, from the above photos you can see that the Autofocus is pretty much spot on without correction and is shifted to the rear in the plus 20 photo. I added these photos to illustrate what the autofocus fine tune adjustment looks like on a different target. In this case I would use AF fine tune off. I can do that easily by setting my fcn button on the front of the camera to pull up the first item on my menu, which is AF Fine tune. This way I can turn on and off AF fine tune quickly and easily when I need to. I do the same with the fast 24, 85, and 200 primes as well with different settings. One can always go to Live view and zoom to 100 percent, or 200 percent if your eyes are like mine, and manually focus to nail the focus. That really isn't possible with the kids though. ;)

I know that buying a lens can be a difficult decision, especially with all of the advice out there.

I hope that this helps.

One last note:  The 58mm f/1.4g is significantly lighter than the 24 or the 85. I wish it was heavier so that it balanced better on the D4 adding more stability to my shots.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to review this lens:

I watched:
and I would have to agree, the 58mm f/1.4g picks up more light than the 85mm f/1.4g. I will have to do a comparison with the 200mm f/2.0. ;)

Some notes on Focusing primes in the 1.4, 1.2 range and focus issues
Main page:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Atomos Ninja-2 on the Nikon D4

Using the Atomos Ninja-2 with the Nikon D4

Video on Youtube

Summary: Once set up all I have to do is start Live View (in video mode) and start the Ninja-2 recording. When I cycle the Live View button on the D4, the Ninja-2 starts recording when Live View is on and stops when I shut it off. Each time the Ninja-2 creates a new file for the next take. I turn on the Focus Peaking to ensure perfect focus and it stays on the whole time (does not reset when Live View is cycled). Perfection!

(C) Atomos 2012

The Atomos Ninja-2 is a recent addition to my toolbag. It is a HDMI video recorder and monitor. It connects directly to the mini HDMI out on the Nikon D4. The feature that I really love, besides being a recorder is that with Focus Peaking, it doubles as a monitor.

The Rig:
The Rig  (ignore the parachute cord and the Manfrotto 322RC2 squeeze handle mount)
Vello CB-500 Dual Shoe Bracket - drilled and modified.
Manfrotto 323 RC2 with 200PL-14 Plate - and extra plate that was already on my camera. (See my previous post here)
1/4-20 bolt.

Putting it together:

First - Vello CB-500 Dual Shoe Bracket is not made to handle much weight. The hotshoe mounts will come right off. I removed the top hotshoe mount and drilled a hole to mount the Zylight Hot Shoe Ball Mount  through. The Zylight Hot Shoe Ball Mount  comes apart after removing a set screw and the bottom bolt can be removed and run through the hole drilled in the Vello CB-500 Dual Shoe Bracket. DO NOT USE THE HOTSHOT CONNECTOR ON THE TOP OF THE VELLO CB-500 TO HOLD ANY WEIGHT - IT WILL SNAP RIGHT OFF.

The Rig - basics without the Ninja-2 attached

I mounted the Atomos Ninja-2  on top of the Zylight Hot Shoe Ball Mount and the Nikon ME-1 Stereo Microphone on the side hotshoe mount. I then pulled apart one 200PL-14 and used a 1/4-20 bolt to connect the plate below to the Vello CB-500 Dual Shoe Bracket through to the base of the Manfrotto 323 RC2.
Manfrotto 323 RC2  - Vello CB-500 - 200PL-14 plate  Sandwich

This connection allows me to quickly connect the video rig to a tripod, and be able to quickly disconnect the camera from the video rig. (All I have to do is disconnect the HDMI and microphone connections and release the RC2.) This way I can shoot stills and attach the video rig all set up when I need to shoot video. When walking around on travel, it is very convenient to be able to pull gear out of a bag, use it and then put it away. Screwing and unscrewing multiple bolts is not very convenient for this. Also it is good to go with a proven clamp so you don't end up dropping thousands of dollars of gear. It will happen.

RC2 Quick release of D4 from Rig

D4 firmly attached to Rig (The handle clamp is the Manfrotto 322RC2 and is only there to hold the rig for the picture. It is not part of the rig.)

HDMI and Microphone connections

I connect the Zacuto 18" Right Angle Mini to Standard HDMI Cable from the Nikon D4 HDMI out to the HDMI in on the Atomos Ninja-2.

HDMI connection to Ninja-2

The Use:

I followed Thom Hogan's excellent post for setting up the Nikon D4 for the best video output.

I power up the Nikon D4 and the Atomos Ninja-2. I set the Video/Photo switch on the rear of the Nikon D4 to Video and press the Live View Button. I set the Atomos Ninja-2 to record and turn on the Focus Peaking. (To do this on the Ninja-2 press the yellow Mon button to start monitor mode, then the little camera shaped icon, then the man silouette icon. What is in focus will appear red on the monitor. Then I press the red circle in the bottom right to start recording.) I then press the Live View button on the D4 to shut off Live View. When I want to record, I just press the Live View button and the Atomos Ninja-2 starts recording a new take. When I press the Live View button again, the recording stops. In this way I can start and end each take with just the press of the Live View button on the rear of the D4 and there is no need to fiddle with anything else. (I noticed that the Ninja-2 recorded an additional file with less than a second of content on each cycle. I just discarded the extra files.)

Showing the Focus Peaking - See the Red in the eyes and on the mouth
This really is a good solution for me. Keep in mind that my background is in still photography and not video. I have done video editing with Adobe Premiere and Nuke in the past, but I have not been the primary shooter for video. I am sure that there are plenty of other solutions for video utilizing a professional HD video camera, but none of them will allow me to use the many Nikon lenses that I have acquired over the years. My objective was to have a video rig that was easy to attach and remove from my D4 so that I could quickly switch from still photo mode to broadcast quality video and back again.

The Atomos Ninja-2 does a lot of very good things for its price. The big plus for me are the Focus Peaking (Similar to what I use in Capture One Pro), recording trigger with the Nikon D4( Yes, there is really not technically a trigger, but it works just fine.), and the ability to use conventional hard drives and SSDs that can be hot swapped. There are also the Adjustable Zebra and False Color features for exposure, but I have not really utilized those yet. See the videos from Atomos here. I have used the Smartlog feature, but I find it quicker and easier to use Adobe Premiere to set my in and out points. With Adobe Premiere I can do my editing right on the Ninja-2 drive in the dock and output my compiled video. I use ProRes 422 and the new rolling shutter removal effect in Adobe Premiere CS6. The alternative of recording on the XQD or CF cards in the Nikon and then having to copy those files to a drive, uncompress the video to work with it, etc. is very time consuming and I would really alter what I consider to be an excellent workflow for me.

Check out:

Videos from Atomos here
Atomos Ninja-2 Review by Erik Vlientinck here

Cheesycam - Atomos Ninja-2 - There are some negative comments here. I wish only people who actually used a specific piece of gear wrote reviews and comments.

Rigs people use with it here - (you'll need to register for a login on this one.)
and here

Luminous Landscape did a review here. I like their review. What they say is true. They do mention the time required to copy and convert compressed video. The ability to just plug in the drive from the Ninja-2 into the drive deck that they provide and do your editing with Adobe Premiere right on the drive (without video conversion) is really the way to go for me. The alternative of copying and converting the compressed video from the 32GB XQD or compact flash card(s) to a drive for editing is very time consuming. The 750GB hard drive that I use with the Ninja-2 with no video conversion necessary makes the Ninja a great solution.

Another introduction by Larry Jordan here . He covers notes on using an external recorder as well.


I have substituted a Giottos MH-1104 mini ball head for the Zylight and put the ME-1 Microphone on top of the Ninja-2 with a Wooden Camera mount. This allows me to quickly disconnect the rig and shove it into my bag. (I have an older version Crumpler with velcro - I think that it is close to the current 7 Million dollar home.) Yes, the Wooden camera mount is a bit pricey, but is is the most compact and durable cold shoe that I could find that mounts right on top of the Ninja-2. Due to the request put up a quick video for it on Youtube

Here are some additional pics. (Added some high res and retakes on request)

Atomos Ninja-2 Rig without Camera
Atomos Ninja-2 Rig without Camera
Atomos Ninja-2 Rig with Nikon D4
Atomos Ninja-2 Rig - High Res

Atomos Ninja-2 with Nikon D4 Video Rig - High Res

With the Nikon D4 I welcome back my 85 f/1.4g and 24 f/1.4

With the Nikon D4 I welcome back my Nikon 85mm f/1.4g and Nikon 24mm f/1.4g

In a previous post on Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 I mentioned that my D3 with an Nikon 85mm f/1.4 or 24 f/1.4 did not focus fast enough for photos of fast action or especially of toddlers.

Well the D4 focuses so well and so fast that the Nikon 85 f/1.4 and Nikon 24 f/1.4 are back in the game. These are great lenses for portraits with excellent color rendition and capable of exquisite looks that few other lenses can duplicate. (You can always pick up a Nikon 200mm f/2.0.) The 85mm is faster at focusing than the 24mm, but that is ok. The 200mm focuses faster than the 70-200mm f/2.8 so that was never an issue.

Also of mention - the Nikon D4 produces the highest number of straight to JPEG shots from any camera that I have used. I usually have to spend at least a few seconds to tweak the RAW files before printing to get what I would call usable photos from any previous camera I used. It is like having my old Nikon F5 back in my hands again! I still shoot RAW and JPEG, but I have found that all I have to do now is adjust the crop in Photo Mechanic and print. (Photo Mechanic is used by many Sports Photographers to quickly import, sort and update IPTC data. It is incredibly fast.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nikon D4 Wireless Tethering

People have asked me about linking the new Nikon D4 wirelessly without resorting to the Nikon WT-5a, due to its high cost. (Note: The Nikon WT-5a has dropped in price to around $600.)

What I use is the Netgear WNCE2001

The Netgear WNCE2001 is easy to set up, following the standard directions. (utilizing the HTTP plugin configuration and not the push a button autosetup. Basically you shut off your computer's wireless card and then plug in the Netgear WNCE2001 with an ethernet cable. Then you start any browser and you are sent immediately to the Netgear WNCE2001 configuration. It is just like logging onto your network as you would with your wireless card. Once it logs onto your network, it will remember the settings and use those settings when you plug it into your Nikon D4. (Note: I use the standard network setup through a router and not ad-hoc. I have had too many problems with disconnections while using ad-hoc mode to make it worth using.)

To power the Netgear WNCE2001 I use a Mophie Powerstation Gen 2, which works flawlessly.

I just plug the Netgear WNCE2001  into the ethernet port on the Nikon D4. I then plug the Netgear WNCE2001  into the Mophie Powerstation Gen 2 and push the button on the side to power it up. It works just like I have and ethernet cable directly connected. The speed is somewhat slower than with the ethernet cable connected, but it is very usable for photos.

What software do I use?
Well my favorite is Capture One Pro 7 you can check out my earlier post here. Capture One Pro 7 is updated and controls the Nikon D4 wirelessly, with ethernet, or USB. I also use Camera Control Pro from Nikon. (I did install the Wireless Transmitter Utility from Nikon, which is covered in the Nikon D4 manual. there is also a decent tutorial here) Capture One Pro 7 allows me to control the camera from either inside of Capture One Pro 7 or from the camera. This is much better than other applications which take over the camera and do not allow me to shoot as I normally would with camera in hand. It can be very frustrating to miss the perfect shot because you can't just take it because you have to run over to the computer to get the camera to fire.

Another piece of software that I use is onOne's DLSR Camera Remote Pro. This allows me to control the camera from an iPhone or with onOne's DLSR Camera Remote HD and iPad. The Ipad interface is the more usable of the two. It allows me to have Liveview video or still photos streaming to the iPad. I can see what the camera is seeing, focus, adjust settings and shoot or record - all from the iPad. It works really well for family portraits when the photographer has to be in the photo. One example view is shown at the bottom of the page here.

While the setup with Netgear WNCE2001 and Mophie Powerstation Gen 2 are much larger than the Nikon WT-5a, they are also much cheaper and can be used on any ethernet ready device. I may try the Nikon WT-5a sometime in the future when it drops in price to a more reasonable $300 or so.

(Another option is the D-Link DAP-1350)