Monday, September 14, 2015

Should you buy old manual focus lenses ???

pic from:

Saw an old Zeiss lens on ebay for 50 bucks ?? dont jump with joy just yet. Many photographers do that without realizing these lenses were made before  computers were were used for manufacturing, because of which the elements may not be 100% aligned or there may be some loose bolts in the barrel that we dont know of, which may produce some strange results.  

There is also the problem with dust and fungus inside the lenses. Cleaning yourself may not be an optionand not all technicians are capable or repairing/cleaning  old lenses, and cleaning old lenses is also not cheap either.

pic from:

Another issue is the radio activity (yeah, the hiroshima, nagasaki kind) of certain lenses, but i read somewhere its not that big of a problem. On a serious note would yopu like to try ? before you lose half your teeth and all your hair? I don think so.

I am not trying to scare you or anything, but proceed with caution, you know better.
If at all you have to buy old manual focus lenses, buy minty or like new. The best bets according to me would be the lenses from the 80s and early 90s. As things improved much during this period.

Nikon still makes great manual focus lenses to this very day. Luckily enough they are not as expensive as a Leica or Zeiss.  They are also a great entry point for budding film makers and photographers. Though this brand new manual focus Nikon lenses are not as cheap as say 50 bucks, but having a brand new, dust and fungus free lens beats any justification we give to ourselves for buying old lenses.     

If you are buying pentax or nikon lenses and are using that particular system, it is fine. Otherwise there is whole another headache of finding adapters for these exotic mounts, lack of infinity focus on some lens/adapter combinations.

If you ask me, unless you are buying Leica, Zeiss, Hasselblad, Rollei or Nikon there is no point in buying old lenses. No old lens can beat modern manual focus lenses from Leica, Zeiss, Nikon or even Voigtlander. If you are so fond of old manual focus lenses just go buy a Nikkor 50 1.2 or a Zeiss planar 50 1.4 (superb lens).

The ridiculous thing these days is – these old crummy fungus and dust ridden lenses are costing as much as new lenses on ebay and elsewhere. Human greed has reached its zenith. Chuck this nonsesne and go buy a new lens. You wont regret it.

I request you earnestly to stop having this idea about yourself as a “lens collector”. It is for those rich, jobless photographers who dont need photography jobs to live. Not you. Dont try to be a fancy “lens connosieur”. Its consumerist. Instead be a “Utiliterean Proletariat”. Just buy/keep what you absolutely need. You dont need more than three lenses to make it as a photographer.

I personally only ever bought three lenses in my life. The Nikkor 18-70 for like 150 bucks used from a local photo goods retailer, the 50 1.8D I ordered online brand new for like 90 bucks and the 80-200 f2.8 (as the 70-200 f2.8 is still damn expensive) used from a online classified.

What I mean to tell you from this article is – if you find a minty Zeiss, or a Leica or a Nikon lens buy all means buy it, but remember there is no greatness in having a bunch of old fungus ridden lenses which you are not going to use much anyway.

I am saying this again, be a “Utilitarean Proletariat” not a fancy rich bourgeois “lens collector”. If you feel like buying new lens, remember we are all living in a bad economy and making money with photography and feeding your family is getting harder by the day.

Cheers and happy clicking...


Friday, August 28, 2015

Nikon D300 Review 2015: Comparison with Nikon D200 & D7000 series cameras.

Before I begin let me tell you this is a completely unscientific, non-technical review. If you are looking for technical reviews you can visit sites like DxO etc.


I often times speak to other photographers and obviously during the course of the discussion, it comes down to what are you shooting with and what gear you have etc etc. when I tell them I am shooting with a Nikon D200, I mean in 2015, they are like WHAT THE HOLY FUCK? Are you serious? Why don’t buy a Mark III or a D800 etc etc. They see my images and are like “hmmmm yeah they are great pics bro” and I am like “yeah bro fuck you very much” Most GAS afflicted photographers, gear pimps, and camera prostitutes cant digest the fact that somebody can shoot great images with a bit older camera like the D200 or D300 and these very gear pimps and camera prostitutes look down on anybody who doesn’t have the latest and the greatest with a condescending attitude. Neither can they tell the difference between a D200 image, or a D800 image or a Mark III Canon image.  

I don’t hate new cameras. I just buy what I can afford and try to make it work to my exacting standards. 


I got this D300 a few weeks back, but couldn’t test it as I became busy with trivialities and after that had fallen sick. So having just recently recovered I decided to test the camera around the house and see how good it is compared to the very well regarded Nikon D200, which I already have.

Yes this camera came out in 2007, which is a long time ago. Even from the sensor perspective people may think its old tech, may be, but pictures from the D300 are not flat like the D7000 series, D5000 series or the D3000 of cameras. This camera is a step above them. The image quality is fittingly pro. The color and tonal depth of the D300 images is far higher than the above cameras.

Right out of the box I was appalled at the images of the D300, I even started to think my D200 was the only contender in the ring. What I thought was a caveat of the D300 is easily correctable in the settings. For two full days I shot hundreds of pictures around the house, testing the various settings on the camera.

Till now my D200 was the parameter by which I measured every other camera. In my opinion nothing came close to match the image quality of the D200. I am saying this in 2015 about a camera that came in 2005. This is the kind of legend Nikon has built over the years. Can you say the same about any of the cameras from canon? I highly doubt it.

So coming back to the D300…after playing with a lot of settings I finally figured out the settings I needed to match the output of D200. Believe me, it wasn’t easy, but I did it.   


White balance is not 100% accurate on the D300, also there is an off chance of not getting colors 100% right, ofcourse that depends on the lighting conditions as well. This was not the case with the D200, no matter what I threw at it; it came out a champion with 100% accurate WB and colors, so much so that I always leave the WB in Auto 99% of the time. Having said that, I would also like to add that it is possible to get accurate results with the D300 as well, only you need to fiddle with the settings a bit.

To get a bit more dynamic range in indoor shooting setup, the Active D-Lighting needs to be on. Without it the pictures lack discernible highlights and shadows in low light conditions, but remember to switch it off if shooting in daylight or bright lighting conditions. I also bumped up the saturation and contrast a bit in indoor settings and this produced excellent colors and tones. For outdoor use I suggest the Active D-Lighting be turned off or put on low. Also it helps if you dial the brightness down a bit when not using Active D-Lighting it helps preserve the highlights to a considerable extent.

Unfortunately there are no color modes on the D300. Also the absence of ‘custom’ picture mode disappointed me a bit.

I liked the smallish LCD on the D200 because of its clarity and color, which are very realistic, though the D300’s LCD is bigger it doesn’t seem like an improvement at all. Colors look odd on the D300’s LCD screen, but look fine on the computer screen. Images shot with the same settings on the D200 and D300 look different on the LCDs, but are fine on the computer screen, discounting a marginal difference in dynamic range and color.

It took me a while to get used to the D300’s new buttons placed in place of the old ones on the D200. The BKT button on the D200 is now ‘play’ button on the D300 and ENTER has become OK. The ‘Copyright info’ is a nice addition, which the D200 lacked.

I didn’t personally find any earth shattering difference in the dynamic range between the D200 and D300. It’s very marginal, if at all. May be 10%-15% depending on what you are shooting.

The Nikon D300 is far better than anything canon makes or has made so far, including the 5d mark II, 50D, 60D, 70D, 7D. I can say this because I have shot with all these cameras and I am a working professional. The canon 7d pictures are flat without any depth or dimensionality. The Nikon D3200 makes better pics than the 7D. Canon and canon fans suck. Yeah I am canon bashing, sue me.

The D300 is a solid, heavy, macho camera for the real manly photographer; this camera is not for the weight complaining wimps and hipster lady boys who want light weight, fancy, mirror-less shit. There I said it. You want a light weight camera? Shame on you man, go lift some weights and grow a pair.

Right now my D300 is paired with the equally macho Nikkor 80-200 f2.8, I call it the ‘Big Daddy’. It’s a deadly badass combination. :D  All the pictures I shot for ‘test’ were from this combination.

I have observed the 80-200 focuses faster on the D300 than the D200. May it is because the D300 has a higher torque autofocus motor in it? IDK, but looks like it.

14 bit RAW and TIFF files ? yeah baby yeah.. :D

So rushing to sell off the D200? Slow down raisin bran….though the D300 is a visible improvement on the D200, it still is a very capable camera producing extra accurate skin tones, amazing colors and a spot on white balance. It is still a good idea to keep the D200 like I do. Shoot studio portraits with the D200 and sports/action with the D300.
Btw this is a favorite camera of Nikon wildlife shooters.

Upgrade path would be -> D700, D800, D3, D3s, D4, D4s, D3x.

The D7000 series is a downgrade inspite of its supposedly great sensor. Forget it.
Image quality, colors and tonal graduations are virtually indistinguishable from the CCD sensored D200. Atleast no difference on normal computer screens.

It is advisable to keep the Active D-lighting on 'low' or ‘Normal’ instead of high, if you have to use that feature at all.

I am a big fan of Nikon colors. Their color science is accurate to the dot. Nikon D200 produces colors that are close to Fuji Velvia, comparatively the D300’s colors seem to be a combination of Velvia with a slight hint of Portra. This is just my personal observation.

How is it compared to the D7000 series cameras?

Comparatively the D300 is available for peanuts these days. Around 400-450 dollars. Sometimes even less if you look around. Overall the D300 is a sturdier camera than the D7000 series of cameras. The files from D300 have a depth and dimension that is lacked in the D7000 series cameras, albeit they have a bit more dynamic range and fancier colors. But wait a second, if you have proper plugins /presets you can make your D300 files look like anything you like, say – D7000, D800, D4s or a Leica or a Leaf/Mamiya/Hasselblad etc. The D7000 series of cameras are not outdoorsy cameras, the material around the mount is plastic and these cameras are not suited for wildlife. It is at best a studio camera, but then the plasticky, orangy pinkish hue of the skin tone is a huge caveat, whereas the D300’s neutral setting gives the best skin tone, almost equal to the legendary D200. That said, I haven’t updated my D300’s firmware yet, it supposedly gives skin tones equal to the D2x. Will do very soon. Should be interesting.

Deal makers for the D300…

·        More accurate focusing with 51 AF points. (D7000 has 39 AF points,  that are spread in a smaller area of the frame)
·        Weather sealing + full magnesium alloy body.
·        Balances well with heavy lenses.
·        Pictures have more depth and dimension.
·        Takes CF card which is a more reliable media.

How is it compared to the D200?

After testing extensively I haven’t found too much of difference between the two cameras image quality wise. They are almost the same. Also when zooming to 100% I have found the D200 files to be cleaner than the D300 files, which have a noise pattern, yeah at base ISO. This is a non issue because nobody else does that except pixel-peeping photogs like you and me ;)

The body/build is the same, but somehow the D300 feels a tad sturdier. The autofocus motor on the D300 also seems to be sturdier with more torque than the D200. My 80-200 f2.8 focuses faster on the D300. Also the AF on button and mode button are not recessed like the D200. The LCD is bigger on the d300 but irrespective of size I like the LCD of the D200 as the colors are true on display. Pics from the D300 look a bit different on the LCD and the computer screen. Pictures from both the cameras shot with the same settings look the same on a computer screen. Virtually no difference.

D300 is better than D200 Because….

·        Has bigger LCD
·        Some buttons more outward
·        A bit sturdier than D200
·        More accurate and faster focus
·        51 AF points compared to 11
·        Higher torque autofocus motor
·        More shots per charge than D200

Final thoughts

So these are my thoughts on the Nikon D300. It may be a bit old but it kicks the ass of any new generation camera out there. I am not against new technology, I am only against consumerism. If you can’t get good pictures from your D200 or D300, I can tell for sure you ain’t going very far with a D800 or a D4s.

I will keep both my D200 and D300 and shoot with them professionally in the coming months/years. I have built my career with the D200, which I bought in 2012. Nobody complained because I am shooting with a camera in 2012, which was made in 2005. Same goes with my D300. I will continue using them till there is a really impressive D400 or atleast till I can afford the already cheap D700. I don’t have a clamoring for a D800 or a D4 as I am not shooting any Dolce and Gabbana campaigns any sooner J for whatever gigs I am getting these days, both the D200 and D300 are more than adequate. Again let me remind you, clients pay you for the pictures you make, NOT the cameras you have.

Cheers and Happy clicking 


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Motorcycle Porn: Shooting Jawa/Yezdi Motorcycles with the Nikon D200 and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

 My kid brother's 1986 Yezdi 250 CL II Motorcycle

On the evening of 11th July my brother told me about a gathering of Jawa/Yezdi motorcycle owners at Deccan Club, Hyderabad. Being a motorcycle guy myself I was excited and in the early hours of 12th July we started for the venue on our 1986 Yezdi 250 CL II motorcycle. We were the first to arrive at the venue and utilized the opportunity to shoot pictures of our motorcycle in the beautiful morning sunlight. After a little while motorcyclists started to arrive one by one and before time the venue was filled up with motorcycles. It was surprising to see that most of the chaps that came were in their twenties and early thirties. After a little introduction with the organizers, and seeing my brother networking with other bikers, I decided to get to work. I shot whatever caught my fancy. I had brought my trusty Nikon D200 with the Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 attached. I also had the 18-70 but it was mostly in the bag except for a few wide shots. All images shot with Nikon D200 and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 at f4, auto white balance, matrix metering, ISO 100.

 There is a huge cult around the Jawa/Yezdi motorcycles inIndia. It is the second biggest cult after the Royal Enfield cult. In the sixties the immigrant yezidi jew merchants of India started importing Jawa motorcycles from the erstwhile Czech republic. After a while due to some diplomatic red tape they couldn’t import these bikes into India. So they started to build their own, under the license of Czech Jawa. These new bikes made india were named ‘Yezdi’ as in ‘Yezidi jewish’. (On another note these are the same ethnic group of Yezidi jews that are being persecuted now in Syria by the terrorist group ISIS). In essence the Jawa and Yezdi are the same bike except a few cosmetic changes.

Soon after the launch they were lapped up the Indian public who were hungry adventure, macho bravado and masculine swag. Their popularity and legend only grew in the 70s and 80s with placement in many hit bollywood movies.  And in the same decades they had equal popularity with the Enfields. This continued till the late eighties, when suddenly the economy bikes from Suzuki, Hero Honda and Bajaj started flooding the market. Particularly the KB 100 from Bajaj and hero Honda CD100 were a big hit in the market. The real blow came when the Indian government outlawed two stroke engine motorcycles.

Though the Jawa/Yezdi motorcycles continued to survive in the B, C towns and rural India, they were mostly absent on urban roads by the early and mid nineties. Finally in 1996 the run of Yezdi motorcycles came to end after the company downed its shutters.       

Many years have passed in between and the Indian public has moved on to other popular bikes india like the Bajaj Pulsar, Hero Karizma, CBZ etc. Inspite of all these bikes ruling Indian roads today, it is still surprising to see people hankering for a motorcycle that they stopped making two decades ago. With this cultish popularity of the Yezdi, there sprang up a whole ancillary industry of parts companies, restoration workshops, sellers, mechanics and what not.

Seeing the turnout on the international Jawa/Yezdi day ride at the Deccan club at East Marredpally in Hyderabad, I am hopeful that the legend of this motorcycle will continue to live in the coming few decades and with it, will thrive, the sublime Indian masculine swag. Long live.

PS: some thoughts on the Nikon D200

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nikon D200 review 2014 - Some New Thoughts

 Nikon D200 DSLR with 50mm 1.8D lens

This is going to be a long read, so save this on your phone or laptop and get to home. I don’t suggest you read this at your office or on your phone.  Go home, make yourself a nice cappuccino or a mocktail, before you sit down to read it. Nothing like sipping some nice hot or cold drink to read a photography article about the camera you like. Right ? 

Before I begin let me tell you I am the kind of photographer who does not believe expensive gear equals good photography. I have shot some amazing pictures with kit lenses and the cheapy 50 1.8 lenses. If you don’t know how to use a camera even an expensive camera can’t save your day. Also theres a danger of thefts, wear and tear etc that will hurt you both financially and emotionally. 

I have seen awesome commercial photography done with entry level cameras and I firmly believe there is no point in buying expensive cameras or lenses until and unless you absolutely need them or your photography business is running good enough to buy them.  A camera shouldn’t cost as much as a car or a house, its ridiculous.  I have done some awesome pictures in my commercial photography assignments with a Nikon D200 and a Sony alpha 200, yeah Sony alpha 200. I am not ashamed to shoot with entry level cameras for my commercial assignments. Yes the SONY A200 is my backup to the D200, yeah I don’t have a Nikon body as a backup. Sue me. haha...

Clients pay you for the images you deliver. NOT for the cameras you have.

Now lets get into the story at hand. 

So, I recently finished shooting for a local custom motorcycle company and used the Nikon D200 extensively for this shoot. (no, not canon mark III or even a 7D) I had to use the D200 as I had no other choice.  Earlier in the day, I shot their promo video on a mark III with a carl zeiss lens (85mm 1.4 to be exact). Its all great and everything but had to send it off as the rental agreement was only for certain hours. 

Right from the first image I shot the clients who were present at the shoot in the workshop, literally gasped with awe at the quality of the images. Absolutely clean RAW files. They might have done the same if I had shot with a Nikon D800 or a 1Dx or a Mark III, as the lighting scheme I planned proved to be very effective, but none the less, its impossible to write off D200’s contribution to the whole exercise. 

 By the way, this was a trial shot done to check the lighting. The very first picture in the series.

A few days ago after the shoot I went to the editing suite to get the promo video of the aforementioned clients edited and I insisted they see the quality of the images on a mac. They did. Mind blown. Acknowledgment of hardwork and the quality was expressed. I worked 22 hrs non stop both for the promo video and photoshoot. Yeah it was a bit manic. 

Before this whole episode, I looked some of my pics on my home pc and was appalled, but realized this is not how these pictures meant to be seen. I was right the mac showed the true color and rendition of these images. 

People shooting commercially have to know each camera has its own flavor, no camera is alike, even from the same manufacturer. The quality of a Nikon D3 is different than a Nikon D700, even though both share the same sensor. The image processing, rendering is all different in these cameras. The sensor in the Nikon D80, D200, and D60 are the same, they may superficially look the same but when you pixel peep, you will notice the differences. 

My contention is that if you can extract the same quality images from a D200 as a Mark III, I will say there is no point in getting a Mark III. I am not trying to downplay the Mark III, it is an excellent camera by any means. I am just saying, the Mark III does not fit everyone’s budget. Sure you can rent them for shoots. 


What is the D200 good at ??

Given its accurate color rendition D200 can be used to shoot clothes and anything related to clothes/clothing catalogues. It can also be used to shoot portraits as the skin tones from the camera are absolutely amazing, this is something lacking in modern DSLRs from Nikon sadly. The skin tones in the D7000 are a mix of some strange orangy pinkish hue. Even the D300/300s fails to deliver skin tones properly. I have seen a lot of photographers complain about this issue online about the D300.


Coming back to the D200, when I was looking at the pictures, I realized apart from the few minor things the image quality between the D200 and a Mark III is very marginal. Good lighting is the key. Any camera will perform well in good lighting conditions.  NO, I am not talking rubbish. I have compared both images from the D200 and Mark III on a mac screen with retina display. So I know. If at all you feel, the D200’s images are not up ‘there’, you can always tweak them in photoshop.

That beats having a $3000 camera, doesn’t it ?

Here is some more motorcycle porn with the D200 and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 -

If you plan your lighting properly, optimize the settings and shoot with a proper technique I bet my bottom dollar, you will get images that are on par with the expensive cameras. 

The whole point of this article is: Hold on to your D200 a little longer, and shoot with it more to bring out its best.

I might extend this article indefinitely, so keep checking for updates.

Happy clicking…


Friday, May 9, 2014

Vivitar 3200A Auto-thyristor flash review 2014

Vivitar 3200A Auto-thyristor electronic flash, seen here with other knick knacks

Some months ago I visited camera shops in my city and came across a Vivitar 3200 flash, when the sales guy told me that its costs less than Rs.1000/- (Approx $15) I immediately added this to my buy list. Luckily enough before buying the flash a photographer acquaintance of mine lent this flash to me for a family event. I realized this cheap looking, old school flash is extremely potent. Though the build quality, buttons, body material, design are below par, but at $15 who gives a damn.   

This is a completely manual flash and has no TTL, though with one great wonderful feature, a light measuring sensor that determines the output. Great right. I tested this feature at home and its not a scam. This little feature works more or less like TTL. It may or may not be as accurate but it sure is a handy feature. Its a lot better than spending hundreds of dollars on a TTL flash.

Before this flash I had been using the Canon 430 EX, which I borrowed from an acquaintance. It is a great flash and all, but costs as much as two strobe heads, which is a rip off. The same cost as two full power strobe heads?? you gotta be kidding me.The bad points about this flash are its plastic foot and a lack of a dedicated PC sync port.  Too bad. Incidentally my Rs.1000/- Vivitar flash has a PC sync port, now that is just sweet. I tested the PC sync port of the Vivitar on my Nikon D200 and the flash has proved to be, for lack of better words, extremely consistent. 

My two Interfit full-power 23 strobes, bought a few days ago cost me Rs 17,000/- (Approx $269) and the price included two reflectors, two stands and two softboxes. A single Nikon SB-910 costs Rs.31,000/- in India (almost $500). Imagine $269 Vs $500, which is a good deal ??. A small strobe like the Simpex 300D (In India, its something like a small einstien or alien bee) costs just Rs.2700/- ($42) and it is far more powerful and less complicated than a Nikon SB-910 flash. Again $42 Vs $500, which do you think is a good  deal ?? Just because its OEM doesnt mean you have to shell out hundreds of $$$ just for the name. You should use OEM equipment where it matters, NOT where it doesnt. My personal formula is that, the flash shouldn't cost more than half of the cost of a single strobe head. If it does, I might as well buy the strobe itself.

 Vivitar 3200A flash mounted on a flash bracket, connected to my Nikon D200 via a pc sync cord. You can also see a strobe trigger on the hot shoe. Off the context, the Nikon D200 has such a great form factor.

Battery efficiency

Since this is not an advanced flash, the sales man suggested I buy 1000 mAh batteries instead of 2500 mAh NiMh. I went ahead and bought two sets of 1000 mAh simpex brand batteries, which are working great. 2500 mAh would have been an overkill on this flash or worse yet can fry the flash. Yesterday I tested these batteries for a wedding related event and after more than 200 pops, there was still a lot of juice left in it. I can tell these batteries are perfect for this flash. I bought two sets of this 4 pack and I am hoping they should last me a whole wedding.


The recycling time is not super fast, which is fine as I am not shooting thousand bursts a second. Depending on the flash output, the recycle time is anywere between 1 and 4 seconds, which is great.

The design of the flash is pretty basic and has old school zen feel to it. The 80s look is a winner for me as I have a taste for things bygone. Though the build material is cheap, this flash is worth every paisa. The inclusion of a light measuring sensor which adjusts output accordingly is a huge deal maker for me. This flash is not built too strong and the buttons are a bit loose, so always handle the flash with care. Rough use is not recommended. It has tilt and swivel, but be careful while bending and turning. Too much force can break the flash. Irrespective of the caveats this still is a great flash and I recommend it for anyone on a budget or enthusiastic about amateur strobist work. I might additionally buy one or two of these great flashes soon.

Happy clicking.