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 mean, its great to have expensive gear, but if you don't its fine too. 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 were like 'fuck' 'fuck' 'fuck'. Yeah I know. They gasped. The lighting scheme was perfect, not to mention the amazing camera and lens combination. 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. 

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. The client acknowledged my hardwork. 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:

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.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Regarding your Photography Gear: Upgrading Vs Downgrading

 Canon 40D and Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN
A lot of you are already aware what upgrading is, then what exactly is downgrading,
it is exactly what you think it is. There are always latest and greatest cameras coming to the market, but that doesn't mean you should buy em all. The key is to buy the best camera that's suits your requirement and budget and stick with it. Unless you got tons of cash to splurge on constantly upgrading your kit, it is advisable to stick with what you have already.

Nikon D2X

The 'not so latest' cameras are a good choice as most of them are available for peanuts. Cameras like the Canon 40D, 50D are now available cheaply on fleabay. So are the Nikon DX cameras of yesteryears like the D40, D60, D70, D80. Even great cameras like the D2Hs and D2Xs are in the viscinity of $250-500 which is great news. These cameras, during the time of their debut cost thousands of dollars. Even today, they are great cameras by any means. 

Nikon D2H

Downgrading your kit doesn't mean buying bad cameras or buying old, battered pieces. Buy the cameras in great condition that you can afford. For studio use cameras like the Nikon D100 or D1h or a D2x or D2xs offer an affordable option. They are great value for the money and are available for peanuts. Remeber these cameras were highly advanced when they were launched. So its not only just a matter of perception. 

Nikon D80

Photography need not be a costly affair. There is no point in buying a $300 hammer if you can get the same job done with a $30 hammer equally well.

Happy Clicking !   

Monday, May 5, 2014

What to look for in a pro camera body??

So you have quit your day job and jumped headlong into photography? Congratulations. Do you already own a camera? An entry level camera? Unfortunately your entry level camera wouldn't cut it for the rigors of professionally demanding scenarios. You need a pro body or atleast a semi pro body that inspires respect and as a bonus also produces great pictures. I personally own a Nikon D200. It has its quirks but most importantly it has all the pro features.

Now lets look at the features a pro body needs to have:

Top LCD Panel : This is an extremely important feature which saves time in composition
and also looks great on camera.

Magnesium Alloy Body: The camera has to withstand the rigours of the demanding shooting situations and also everyday use. It should be strong enough to withstand a fall and still work fine. So this feature is mandatory.

Weather-sealing: If you are a full-time commercial photographer like me, you would be taking your camera into raining jungles, storms, tornadoes and the like. It is important that your camera be water/humidity/heat resistant.

Built in Auto-focus Motor: From time to time you might want or need to use lenses that
don't have a built in auto-focus motors, so having it in camera would eliminate all problems.
Some cameras in Nikon like the D40, D40X, D60, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300 dont have a built in autofocus motors. The autofocus motors in entry level camers are not that strong. They are built tough and powerful in pro bodies.

CF Card Slot: Pictures from a CF card are better than SD cards. Make sure you buy a camera with a CF card slot. These days they say the quality between an SD image and CF image is negligible. I personally don't know about that. I don't have any camera with a SD or SDHC. So I cant tell. Both my Sony a200 and Nikon D200 are CF cameras and the pictures from them are mind blowing. 

Addordable/Mid-range pro cameras that have the above features:

  1. Canon 40D
  2. Canon 50D
  3. Nikon D200
  4. Nikon D300/300s
  5. Canon 7D
  6. Sony a77

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Using inexpensive plastic boxes for photography accesories

I looked up for some CF card holders online and was surprised to find that they cost a minimum of Rs 699 (a little over $10 US) so went out hunting at local utilities stores and found these inexpensive plastic boxes and bought a bunch of them. The reason I decided to buy them is to make sure the contacts on my CF cards and batteries do not scratch. All the six boxes cost me just Rs 65, which is $1 (yeah one dollar). These boxes were made by some Indian company called Aristo plast and some other nameless company. I am sure you can find similar boxes at your local utilities store. Happy hunting.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Digiflip CB001 Bag Review

 Digiflip CB001 camera bag

This is the second camera bag I bought from flipkart, the first one being the Lowepro 150 Mica. When I first wanted to buy a DSLR bag, this was the one I wanted, but chose instead the Lowepro, thinking it would be big, but unfortunately no. Still the Lowepro, though small, can carry two camera bodies with lenses and accessories, if you are intelligent enough to fit them in. The quality of the Lowepro is top notch to say the least compared to the Digiflip CB001. 

here is the package it arrived in

Before saying anything about this bag, I would like to add that they are many off brand bags available in the market in the Rs.1000 – Rs.2000 category which are much better made than the Digiflip CB001. In my local camera market I happened to come across an off brand bag for Rs.1500 that was big enough and sturdy enough to handle two pro bodies, many lenses and accessories. 

I understand this is flipkart’s own brand and they may have added a pocket or two from the previous versions. In regard to the Lowepro bag I ordered earlier, I was relieved to find that this bag is big enough to accommodate all my gear. The quality is good compared to the price @ Rs.1050/- ($16).

Digiflip logo on the top compartment 
The bag has two compartments, top and bottom. The bottom part holds the camera bodies and lenses whereas the top part is zippered where you can put in your flashes, filters, cards, etc. All in all, this bag is a great value for money. The pics are from when it arrived in November 2013.

 Nicely laid out compartments
inside the Digiflip CB001 camera bag

What all I put in the bag??

Bottom Compartment

  1. Nikon D200 Body
  2. Nikkor 18-70 lens with hood
  3. Nikkor 50mm lens
  4. Sigma 28-105 Lens
  5. Sony a200 Body
  6. Sony 18-70 lens
  7. Power cables and data cable in the front pocket
  8. Canon 430 EX flash
  9. Nikon Battery Charger
  10. Sony Battery charger.
  11. AA battery charger

Top Compartment 
  1. 8 AA batteries in the top most pocket along with Sony and Nikon camera batteries
  2. Diffusion material in the top compartment.
  3. Blower
  4. Sensor cleaning kit
  5. Collapsible hoods
  6. Marker
  7. Business Cards
  8. Triggers
  9. Cleaning cloth

I can still make some space to fit in more things...I am a space warrior haha.

Update: After using the bag for 4-5 months, now I realize, the padding material used for panels inside the bag is not of the highest quality and might come off soon. 

Note: all pictures shot with Nikon D200 with on-camera flash.