Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sony a200 review 2015 or how I got my beloved camera back.

Note: You can refer/ cite this article or portions of it or use it under the Creative Commons License. Kindly credit the blog and writer. Thank you. © Viisshnu Vardhan 2015.

Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are mine and mine only. I am not paid by any camera company to write any article at any time in my life. I am not biased towards any particular camera company. I try to give accurate advice to amateurs and novices as well as pros to the best of my knowledge. I have a background in graphic design, visual communication and advertising. So don’t worry you are in good hands ;) wink wink. 

Hey go grab a coffee, this is a long article :)

You might be wondering why I am writing a review of a camera that came out in 2008. If you are following my blog regularly, then you know already this is something I do, write about things that are not the latest or the greatest. Its my thing. I need to take care of my reputation right? haha. We as photographers, under the influence of gear (pimping) promoting websites, magazines and ‘expert guru trainers’ tend to deride anything that is two years old and scoff at it as old technology. The truth is. It aint. It is as good as your latest blitsy, glitsy blingy gizmolicious $2000 dollar camera. These gear promoters use all kinds of psychological tricks to make you feel like what you have is inadequate, insufficient, outdated, obsolete and irrelevant. It simply aint true. Is the film camera irrelevant today? I don’t think so. It was invented like when? In the early 1920s? even far back? Sure it is inconvenient, I agree, but the image quality? You know the answer to that question. What is the dynamic range of Richard Avedon’s camera? What is the MTF chart of Herb Ritts’ lens like?? How many phase detect sensors did Cartier Bresson’s camera have?? If someone has the money to buy cameras and lenses every week, its great and all, but the rest of us who don’t should carefully look at our options to make the best of what we have and can buy. There is no end to consumerism and human materialistic lust. You buy the latest today, there is a new version tomorrow, and then another new version day after tomorrow. It’s an endless cycle that can adversely affect your finances, emotional and mental well being, family life and social dynamics.

That may sound heavy, but I had to say it 

Ok lets get back to the story…

The story of me and the a200 goes back to feb 2012. At that time I was in search of a camera and came to know of an a200 from a local camera seller in my city. I went there, checked it out and was very impressed with the quality of the images, not to mention the camera was in immaculate condition. I immediately bought it much to the horror of my photographer friends, they derided me for not choosing either a canon or Nikon. The technology was already four years old when I bought it. Then in September 2012 I bought my Nikon D200 and now have a full blown kit with the 18-70, 50 1.8D, and the 80-200 f2.8 along with an old Tamron from the early 70s 85-210 f4.5 constant, which is possibly radioactive.  (Had a Sigma 28-105 f2.8-4D, but sold it off. Regret it. Sigh) I used the sony a200 as a back up, in cases of emergency. I did also use it for a few weddings and events as the main camera and I have to tell you this camera punches far above its 500 odd grams weight.

Recently (June 2015) due to a bit of a temporary financial calamity, I sold off my beloved a200 through classifieds along with the hot shoe adapter, a Polaroid skylight filter and a vivitar flash for less than $200. Its just a couple months back. I spent the money. The camera was long gone.  End of story. Or was it??

A few weeks back I was checking my phone gallery and saw the pictures from a motorcycle shoot, shot with the a200. All of a sudden pangs of pain shot through my heart. Oh my god. What did I do..selling the camera was a huge mistake  I need to have my a200 back at any cost. I called up the guy I sold it to. He wouldn’t give my camera back even when I offered his money back  ohh man the travesty. What am I to do? I immediately went into this ‘restless psycho rodent’ mode and started digging the classifieds.

I started checking each and every classified looking for an off chance to find the a200 or the a300 or an a350….all CCD sensor cameras from Sony. Used Sony DSLRs are hard to come by online, let alone yesteryear CCD sensor DSLRs from Sony. I did find a few classifieds, but either the prices were too high or they were not in a good condition. I also went back to the original camera store in my city where I had bought my a200 previously after seeing their classified for the Sony a350. I nearly bought it, but didn’t as it had a white balance problem and the camera was stuck in tungsten and wouldn’t change even after I reset the camera several times. With a heavy heart I came back home, but didn’t stop checking the classifieds. 

One fine morning a few days back, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, somebody posted a classified for the a200. It was like god send. I immediately called up the guy and fixed a meeting the very next day. He quoted a price of around $300..which was fair enough as the camera was in mint condition, it was hardly used at all. On top of that he was also giving me the original box, with an unused data cable and HDMI cable, power cable with all the warranty papers in original packing. I haggled the price to $206 (INR 13,000) and immediately bought it. There were also a mandarin user manual, an Arabic one and also an English one, along with a lens catalogue (Sony had a very few lenses back in 2008) and also an accessories catalogue. This deal was made in photographic heaven.

Comparatively I had bought my previous a200 for $190 (INR 12,000), without the box or papers. An extra 1000 INR for a camera in this kind of mint condition with box and papers is an extraordinary deal by any standard. 

The good thing is, I have my a200 back and will not sell it again for anything in the world. 

Though the a200  is supposedly an entry level camera, it has a few tricks up its sleeve. For example, you can add magenta in Kelvin, this feature is very useful when shooting wedding portraits. This feature is not available in either canon or Nikon entry level cameras to my knowledge. Its not there on my Nikon D200. IQ of the a200 is also far ahead of the canon and Nikon cameras of its generation. Its really a shame camera companies shifted to CMOS, with this, all the original colors, characteristic of CCD sensors were gone. New colors schemes needed to be created to bypass the low light gathering capability of CMOS sensors. Camera companies worked their way around the limitations of the CMOS, but they didn’t quite arrive at color accuracy..meanwhile they also diverted our attention from this issue, trumpeting high iso, dynamic range, live view capability as some kind of break through, but they were not. In my view any feature that compromises image quality is not a break through. It’s just marketing gimmicks. The quest for quality was abandoned for convenience. The target market, apparently enthralled by these new features lapped up the new cameras as some kind of Holy Grail. In the midst of all this turmoil there were a handful of purists who realized this scam and didn’t budge from their CCD sensor cameras and rightly so. 

There are still quite many photographers around the world who are holding on to their Fuji S5 PROs and Minolta Maxxum 5Ds’,7Ds’, Nikon D100s’ and D200s’. Why ??? There’s not a single CCD camera where there are complaints for color. Just google ‘CMOS sensors bad skin tone’ and you will get thousands upon thousands of complaints online…if these CMOS sensors were so highly advanced why aren’t they able to reproduce accurate skin tones??? Later generation CMOS sensors are now a bit okay, but earlier generation CMOS sensor cameras like the Nikon D300/300s, D90 were horrendous at skin tones and color reproduction. A Nikon D80, or a D200 or a D70s will beat any canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D800 in color accuracy. Yes it’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, you can try shooting colorful clothes and check back with me on that. They were accurate may be, but that was was not consistent. They also needed a lot of time on the monitor for correction. 

I shoot clothing catalogs from time to time and use the Nikon D200 exclusively. You know already how critically important color accuracy is when shooting clothing catalogs. There was not even a single time when any of my clients complained of color inaccuracy. A high street clothing boutique client I work for regularly even noted the color accuracy of my pictures and inquired what camera I used. I simply told him “Nikon” nothing else. He told me previously they had some other big name photographer from Mumbai to shoot for the catalogs, but had to fire him as the colors were inaccurate consistently.  I inquired what camera he was using, the client told me he didn’t know. I requested him to send me one or two original pics. He did. When I checked exif data I was shocked to see it was a Canon 5D Mark III.  Is it because of the CCD / CMOS difference ?? IDK.  

Even today, in 2015, I am yet to see a camera that can beat the Nikon D70s for skin tones. In one of his recent  videos, even Zack Arias accepts the fact that the Nikon D70s is the King of skin tones and he is yet to see a camera that can best the D70s. It was a 6 megapixel sony sensor. It is now in the realm of the legendary. Incidentally I have one soon to be shipped to my address.

The Sony a200 also has DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization) which is equivalent to Nikon’s Active D-Lighting. Btw the Sony a200 sensor is also used in the a300, the a350 also features a CCD sensor in an a200 body albeit with live view and an upgraded 14 megapixel version. This 14 MP version has a less piexel density than the 200 sensor. Hail the pixel density, to heck with high ISO. This 14 megapixel CCD is the highest megapixel APS-C CCD in the world. Nikon only went up to 10 megapixels with its D40x, D60, D80 and D200 after that they switched to CMOS around 2007-08. FYI the highest megapixel full frame CCD is the Leica M9, all other full frames sensors are CMOS. The M9’s 18 megapixel CCD was made by Kodak (Kodak’s sensor manufacturing division was bought out by the European company TrueSense a little while ago).

Sony a200 Anecdote

Skin tones from the sensor are absolutely mind blowing. Straight out the camera. No retouching needed. I was shooting a wedding a while ago and a bride side photographer was shooting with a 5D Mark III. He asked me what camera mine was. I showed him. He was literally laughing. What ? sony? Who uses a sony for weddings hahahaha…I was doing my own thing calmly, he was so busy making fun of me, he missed many important shots from the wedding because of that. After a while he asked to see my pictures, when I did show, his jaw dropped. The sarcastic laughter was gone. He became serious. He started pestering me to tell him how I got those skin tones. I asked him what happened to your camera, he showed me the pictures. Now it was my turn to laugh, but I didn’t. Yellow yellow dirty fellow. It was if both the bride and the groom had jaundice. It was some kind of yellow brownish sludge of a skin tone. It was sickening and repelling. Colors were also off. Though the pestering continued I pretended to be busy with work and after a while he stopped bothering me. After a few days he called me to ask for some shots that he missed. I told him it was against company policy to give out any images. Whose laughing now bozo :)

In the hands of the right pro, a camera like a200 will make miracles. With the advent of lens adapters, you can happily use your Nikon, canon, leica, Minolta MD/MC, Olympus OM, Pentax/M42 lenses (Some old lenses from these companies are not compatible with Sony because the rear element of these lenses protrudes a bit into the mirror box. This can have a catastrophic effect on your camera. So research the lens+camera combination beforehand. However, this is not specific to Sony alone.) Hook this setup on a sturdy tripod and you are good to go. Unfortunately there is no focus peaking on the a200 but that is no problem at all as the camera has a focus confirm in the view finder which makes manual focus very easy. Always use a tripod or a monopod when using long telephotos in manual focus mode. 

Getting Creative 

Very soon, I am planning to use the a200 with the adapter and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 combination for a fashion shoot. Will keep you posted. 

Sure I can use a 5D mark III for the shoot, but the problem is my pictures will start looking like everybody else’s. In my immediate vicinity atleast I cannot see anybody else with this combination. A photographer’s signature look also comes down to the particular cameras and lenses he uses. Anybody can duplicate the lighting, but the kit? The colors? The particular camera+lens combo? Nobody else can. If you are an amateur or a struggling up and comer who wants to create your own ‘look’ I suggest you don’t use the cameras everybody else is using. This is the lesson from the masters. Create your own list of equipment and use it to create your own signature look and color. This advice equally applies to professionals. 

Bresson used a leica with a 50mm, nothing else. Ansel Adams had his own unique kit. Sally Mann has her own ancient large format camera with her own particular equally ancient lenses, I haven’t seen any other photographer using that kit and nobody else can recreate that kind of images, even if they tried. There are in a realm beyond legendary. She scoffs at the idea of using a modern, fancy DSLR. You don’t know Sally Mann?? Check her work here… she is my favorite photographer. Her work is untouched by any commercialism or materialism..its bare knuckles photography at its absolute best….

Hey bird man enough flying in the clouds now, let’s get practical and come down to mortal earth to  discuss DSLRs ;) wink wink 

Can a pro photog use this camera?

Absolutely. The limitations of this camera can be worked around. There is no PC sync port, but you can easily add a hot shoe adapter on the proprietary sony hot shoe that has sync port. You could add a battery grip as well to make it more balanced. Third party grips are also available, though I personally do not prefer using third party grips. OEM grips or nothing. 

Battery backup is superb on the a200. I shot for a wedding a year ago and I got around 1500 shots on a single charge. Apparently this was because I switched off the stabilization which can drink up battery juice quite much. I was shooting at 1/160th so shooting with stabilization was unnecessary. Incidentally the packaging on the box says only 750 shots. May be Sony had factored in the stabilization feature. 

The a200 sensor is very special. It has some kind of Konica-Minolta Mexicanish like magic sauce inside it. The sensor has a 3D like rendering. Pictures have depth and dimension, NOT flat like canon entry level cameras. I strongly feel Nikon/Sony CCD sensors are one of a kind. Like the Leica M9, though many cameras have come after the M9, there is no true replacement for the camera. The newer CMOS sensor cameras from Leica may have more dynamic range but something is missing, its hard to describe what it is, but something has left the building.  In the same vein I am yet to see a camera from Nikon that can beat the sensors of D70s, D80 and D200. These sensors romance the light in a way that no other CMOS sensors can. There’s also a lot of drama and character in the pictures shot with these cameras. These three cameras are closer to film than modern CMOS sensor cameras from Nikon. I strongly suspect the color schemes of these sensors were specifically created to emulate a particular film stock. Most likely Kodak Ektachrome.   

Studio Application

So coming back to the a200, it is an excellent camera for studio applications. Given its accurate skin tone rendering it can be used for studio portraits. Owing to its excellent tonal rendering this camera can also be used for still life, stock photography, catalogues and much more. Given its inexpensive price, even if one breaks you can happily get another. Its lot better than current generation entry level Nikon and canon cameras. It has an auto-focus motor built in unlike entry level cameras from Nikon. 10.2 megapixels is more than enough for normal use unless you are shooting for huge billboards. Sony a200 .ARW raw files are 12 bit…that’s plenty for the above mentioned applications. Not happy with 12 bit? You can interpolate them to 16 bit and save them at 500 dpi or 800 dpi as TIFFs…problem solved.

For landscapes

I don’t know if it’s the sensor or the bionz processor or some cosmic magic..the a200 renders clouds in all their glory…given this reason alone, you can use this camera for landscapes and cityscapes. I haven’t seen any other camera render the skies so beautifully. With the right kind of inexpensive wide angle like the Tamron  10-24 or the Tokina 11-16, the a200 will start singing melodies. Cant afford either of them ?? how about a cheapy peleng f3.5 8mm fish eye?? Its only around 200 bucks online. Its like 12mm in 35mm terms. 200 bucks for a brand new 12mm wide angle is a damn good deal if you ask me. The on-sensor sharpness of the a200 will offset any softness the peleng may have. If you are shooting at f9, 10 or 11, pictures will be obviously sharper. I don’t own a peleng but planning to get one soon.  If you don’t like the fish eye look for your wide shot, you can de-fish the pictures in photoshop in a jiffy. The good thing about cheapy fish eyes like peleng is that…they are primes and have a fixed aperture. A thing to remember is, this aint no carl zeiss, but if you can use your ingenuity, you can make the pictures look like carl zeiss…which is 20 times more expensive.   
Can you use the a200 as your main body?

Yes and No, depending on where and how you intend to use it. If you are shooting studio portraits, jewellery, stock, products etc., the a200 can be a main body, along with something like an a230 or a a290 as a secondary body. If it is location shooting like for events, concerts, weddings, sports/action etc., then it’s a good idea to have a sturdy pro body like an a77 or an a99 if you are a Sony shooter. Or any other pro body in canon or nikon and to keep the a200 as a second or third back-up. It can also be used to shoot BTS pictures by your sexy assistant while you are going about your work on location when both your cameras are on roll ;)
Fortunately the prices for the a700, a850 and a900 have come down drastically on ebay and elsewhere. No they are not CCD but the image quality is better than Canon and Nikon CMOS cameras of their generation. Image quality wise too they are very near to the latest cameras.  The writer on the SonyAlphaClub blog writes that somehow even the latest sony APS-C and fullframes lack the “fluidity” of the a900 in the pictures. I have to mostly agree with him as I previously spent hundreds of hours checking pictures from the aforementioned cameras on flickr and 500px and can confidently say he has a point. 

As mentioned earlier, I personally have a Nikon pro kit with a D200 body, 80-200 f2.8, 50 1.8, and an 18-70. I built my career with this kit. I am lusting after a Nikon D700, but not in a position to afford it at present. Even if I shift to Sony system, I intend to keep my Nikon system. This way I can mix and match lenses and bodies to get interesting results. May be I will also buy some cheap canon pro body with a Sony and Nikon lens adapter…just for kicks ;)  

Looking back…

Why use yesteryear cameras? Simple reason. They can be had for peanuts. On top of that, they are not far behind the latest cameras in terms of image quality. If you are a frugal photographer like me, hunting the classifieds and getting the camera you want is a lot better than going to the camera store like everyone else….experience wise. There is a sense of achievement when you find cameras like this. That said, I would like to advice you to check the camera thoroughly whether buying from a discounted store or from a seller on classifieds. These ‘old’ cameras are also available through online stores brand new, in box with a huge discount. Unfortunately I don’t have the option of buying like that here in India. Sure I could import from amazon uk or amazon usa but the customs and shipping costs will break the bank. DSLRs from sony are good, even some of the CMOS ones, don’t pass them just because they are CMOS, there are some good CMOS and some bad CMOS. With the latest advancements in photoshop, you are in good hands with yesteryear CMOS sensor cameras from Sony like the a450, a580. I wouldn’t suggest you buy the a700, or a850 or an a900 etc. They are too ancient and a few minutes in dpreview forums you will be convinced they are basically useless with all their caveats. For the price of an a900 I will probably get a Nikon D700, which is an extraordinary camera. Don’t go for entry level SLTs. There are completely garbage. Unless it’s an a77 or a99 there is no point in getting any other SLT below their level (forget the a58). 

The a77, 77II and a99 are amazing cameras. Frank Doorhof uses the a99 alongside his medium format kit. He also uses the a99 for his training sessions. The a7 series cameras are a whole another level, but if you are a frugal photographer like me, you wouldn’t want to buy them. I also feel the a7 series cameras are highly overrated and are impractical for photographers specializing in wedding, action/sports etc as the autofocus is too slow. Besides the fullframe E mount lenses are too damn expensive. Sony, I feel, is indulging in pure thuggery even with their alpha line of lenses. Cheaper lens options are far too few and in between. Why is the Sony 50 1.8 SAM DT lens only for APS-C sensors when the same equivalent lenses from Nikon and canon are compatible with full-frame??? ?? Why is it expensive than Nikon and Canon versions??? Why the hell does it have a plastic mount even though its expensive than canon and Nikon versions ??? Couldn’t you put a metal mount on the lens Sony?? And why the heck does the 85 2.8 full frame compatible lens have a plastic mount and costs $250?? I hope Sony people are reading this. 

Now, the original a7 (the first 24 megapixel version) has come down in price for around $1400 after the a7II was launched. It’s a good deal if you can live with its limitations and 24 megapixels is more than anybody ever needs for anything in everyday practical terms.  Hey if you need anything above 50 megapixel shoot film and scan it at 5000 dpi and save it as TIFF at 32 bit  ;) wink wink. I strongly believe the a7 series are strictly studio cameras, which can only excel under controlled lighting conditions. 

On an end note…

This shot was taken from a fast moving car at 110kmph. Stabilization is ON. 

My whole kit only consists of things I absolutely need. I have no regrets whatsoever for buying things in the whatever ragtag kit I have, however I regret selling a few things when I needed some dough. A penny saved is a penny earned. No matter what you buy, buy it only if you absolutely need it. Do thorough research beforehand. Remember there is no shame in not using the latest and the greatest. Those people who make fun of you (yeah I was there) for using cameras like the a200 are not the ones that feed you or your family. Stay away from peer pressure and GAS. Focus on mastering your lighting and creative/conceptual thinking NOT on acquiring the latest cameras. The same people who may deride you for using your entry level a200 will gasp with awe when you master your technique and unique perspective. Go ahead and create your own path. You can buy the latest and the greatest when you make enough money. Forget buying the kit on your card or on credit or taking a loan. It’s a whole another story if your photography business is running well and you can happily pay for them…my guess aint here because it is.  May be you are just getting started in the business, if you are here reading this article then by no means it’s an accident. Follow my advice. You will not regret it. Think like a Ninja, strike like a Panther. Cheers and happy clicking. 


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 ok” Most GAS afflicted photographers, gear pimps, and camera hookers 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 hookers 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 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.
The D300's 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 when zoomed 100%. May be this micro level noise is what gives the impression of dynamic range, which really isnt. 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 than 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

D200 is better than D300 Because....

  • Shutter sound is better on the than D200 (yeah I am a weirdo). The D300 has a clunky plop kinda sound, whereas the D200 sounds like a machine gun comparatively. I suspect there also may be a slight shutter lag, but I didn't test for it. 
  • Fair bit cheaper used in comparison.
  • Better LCD showing true colors. 
  • Custom Picture mode, absent on the D300.

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. 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 

Hey would you also like to have a look at the D200 review?? Here you go:

Here is a story of how I sold off and bought back my beloved Sony a200 DSLR


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…

P.S: Hey would you like to read the story of how I lost and found my beloved Sony a200 DSLR?? yeah there's a review too ;)
Here you go: