New content will be added at www.zauber-allenthalben.de/blog. And no, that’s not my excuse for not posting here so long - actually there is none …
New content will be added at www.zauber-allenthalben.de/blog. And no, that’s not my excuse for not posting here so long - actually there is none …
The “Photo Planet” near Stuttgart’s train station has a new Nikon D3x in the shop window for the rather nice price of 6999 € (considering that this camera is still rarely in stock).
Update 17 October: They dropped the price to 6399 €!
Update 14 January 2012: 6199 €.
So, if you plan to shoot this camera on your vacation come spring, remember that now is the opportunity to get it and get yourself accustomed to it in time - not three weeks in advance.
No, I’m not buying - yet. Although I guess it would blend in nicely with the crowd …
… from his holiday that is. And he tells the same old tale as always; I don’t know why his hypocrisy of all things irks me that much - but he sure got me again.
Dubovoy: “So was the Leica S2 [“an absolute joy to hold as a long lens camera” - sic], which in spite of the larger sensor looked almost like a miniature compared to, say a Nikon D3X with the 200-400 Nikon zoom.”
Only that the longest lens for the S2 (he used and available at all) is a measly f:3.5/180 mm - equivalent to approx. a 135 mm on the Nikon. So compared to the combo below the S2 equipped with a lens that offers 1/3 of the magnification for wildlife looks tiny?
Remember that this is exactly the “light travel kit” Dubovoy was lusting after before his holiday? Cognitive dissonance (“sour grapes”) anyone?
Oh well, let’s first look at the lens dimensions:
The depicted Nikon f:4.0/200-400 mm is 365 mm long and 124 mm in diameter.
The Nikon equivalent to the Leica’s 180 mm, however, the f:2.0/135 mm would be only 120 mm long (1/3 …) and 79 mm diameter (and 1.5 stops faster than the Leica lens to boot). The Leica f:3.5/180 mm itself in comparison is somewhat larger than the equivalent Nikon lens at 151 mm long and 88 mm diameter (not to mention 1150 vs. 815 g).
To build an equivalent to the Nikon 200-400 you’d likely look at something the size of Sigma’s f:5.6/300-800 mm lens - which is 544 mm long and 156.5 mm diameter. Ooopsie …
And comparing camera body sizes (One of the things Dubovoy himself suggested as desirable improvement for the Leica S2 was to have the accessory grip integrated, so I assume he’s talking about the camera with grip):
(Yes, the humongous shape on the right is the Nikon, absolutely dwarfing the diminutive Leica next to it. Ooops again …
The Leica body without its “multifunctional grip” has to within a few grams the same weight as the entire D3 (1410+-10 g). I couldn’t find any information about the weight (and dimensions) of the Leica grip or the S2 with grip anywhere on the web (anybody?) The scale of the images above was derived from the body width dimensions given by the manufacturers. The lenses in this comparison are the Leica f:2.5/70 mm and the Nikon f:1.4/85 mm, again putting the D3 at a disadvantage (size-wise); but there are no images of the D3 with small lenses (neither the S2 with its bigger lenses, let alone a hypothetical f:1.4/120 mm) to be found on the web.
Of course some males tend to perpetually judge the size of their equipment smaller compared to that in the hand of others …
Btw., I noticed something funny - if you google for “Mark Dubovoy” my blog entries rank pretty high. (One of the images scores even better in an image search) ;-) His own web presence has been “under construction” for ages …
Remember that on June 11th I dropped my Nikon D3 with f:2.8/180 mm lens attached, breaking the lens in half and warping the camera bayonet? Well, yesterday it came back from Dostal & Rudolf, the designated Nikon service for Southern Germany.
Judging from some quick checks, a thorough examination of outward appearance and several test exposures both the camera and the lens seem to be in perfect working condition again. The lens has a very tiny sliver of some brittle grey substance on the inside of its front element (certainly without influence on the image). Might have gotten there in the crash - I didn’t check for dirt on the lens afterwards … If the optics assembly could stay in one piece during service I think it was correct not to open it just to get this irrelevant speck out.
So far, fine - but:
Dostal & Rudolf received my package on June 15th. I knew it through the tracking information of the carrier service - while D&R’s web site promises an instant notice of receipt I never got one.
On June 20th I got a cost estimate (> 1000 €), which I immediatly authorized. The cost estimate was accompanied by a PDF-file of their “AGB” (terms of service), that offered a much more convenient - and cheaper - option for payment than those available from their web site. (The file in the mail was a version from 2009, that on the web site from 2007) … When I requesed that option together with my acceptance of their cost estimate I got - an updated cost estimate. Of course they couldn’t act on the old signature after they had to lower the estimate.
D&R’s web site promises to carry out paid repairs within 5 to 10 work days. On July 6th - 3 weeks after D&R got my goods, 10 work days after my authorization of the repairs - I got a notice that for both the camera and the lens some parts were missing to complete the repairs. The parts were already ordered, and I’d get a notice if there were any problems to procure them.
On Juli 20th - another 2 weeks later - I sent a message to the person who sent me that last notice, asking for an estimate for when the repair would be finished. No reply until
Juli 25th, when I forwarded the same message to Klaus Rudolf, the manager of D&R. He replied 2 hours later (8 PM), he’d take care of it.
Last thursday, Juli 28th I finaly got the message that the repairs were complete and they were waiting for my payment to ship … after 6 weeks of waiting where less than 2 were advertised.
While the quality of the repairs looks good Dostal & Rudolf really has a lot of room for improvement regarding customer relations. As it is I certainly won’t recommend them to anyone.
And btw., if a customer already is angered (and especially if he has reason to be) it’s considered a good idea to show some gesture of goodwill. For example, any DSLR user would gladly accept a professional sensor cleaning. Well, the sensor in my D3 was clean before I dropped it; and this is how it looked yesterday when it returned from service:
(crop from the upper left of the frame, reduced to 50% of actual pixel size)
These pictures were shot about a month ago, precisely on 12 June, near Warmbronn (precisely http://maps.google.com/maps?q=48.77220000,8.98494000 …)
The results aren’t all that special; when that red kite suddenly flew towards me pretty low I didn’t have time to change to a more appropriate lens. So these were shot with a f:2.8/150 mm macro lens, luckily at least on a DX camera (my D3 was already off to service and as of today still is not back).
Only just a few minutes ago as I was sifting through recent shots for interesting frames I might have missed with the first pass I noticed something rather peculiar in an outtake from that series. This is a crop from a parting shot that just couldn’t work as a picture (no, I have no idea why I even took it):
In the view from below no harness or the like is visible on the bird’s body; but I guess it’s carrying a transmitter? Clipping the thing to some feathers on the back obviously would offer the advantage that it comes of with the next moult.
Or maybe someone started building remote controlled birds. (You often see a guy practicing with remote controlled helicopters of various sizes in that area …)
Or rather, it did in the night from yesterday to today. The giant flower started opening at about 20:30 - and it already started dying again at 7:00 in the morning.
This shot is from July 2008, when that plant flowered its second time and the public could at least get a glance at the full opening in the evening:
When I wrote my recent rant about Mark Dubovoy’s ideas for a “light family holiday camera kit” I skimmed through one of his more recent funny pieces about how superior his currently newest camera is not only to its immediate predecessors but especially to all DSLR. And of course “It is not all about Megapixels!”
One thing he keeps harping on about is the supposed “extreme” or “stunning” dynamic range his most recent medium format back is able to capture (as opposed to all other photographic tools). Just at the same time Thom Hogan had an article as opener on his web site starting: “A funny thing happens in the discussions about dynamic range. I’m often told ‘you can’t hold highlight and shadow detail on a bright sunny day.’”
Dubovoy illustrates his cameras capabilities (“we basically could not find a subject that would make this back clip in outdoor daylight”) with this image: www.luminous-landscape.com/articleImages/Sunset_Arches.jpg An open landscape, with brightness ranging from open shade in dark green bushes to a brightly lit cloud in the sky (the snow caps on the far mountain are actually less bright). Btw., I completely fail to see the “Thoughtful Photography” Dubovoy touts in this article in the accompanying images …
Hogan’s illustration www.bythom.com/Images/INT_SA_Cape_01415_D300.jpg shows how an almost four years old DSLR is able to handle difficult subject contrast. Or as he writes: “You’re sure that the problem isn’t … the way you exposed or processed the shot?” His image is shot in harsh sunlight and extends from a craggy coast to white surf in the distance …
From my experience you can dig detail out of the shadows in files from current DSLR far beyond the point where the resulting image still looks credible (deep shadows should not become brighter than adjacent lit areas …)
You may remember Mark Dubovoy’s rather … interesting views about digital camera quality from December. Last week another amusing piece of his went online at the Luminous Landscape. “Sometimes my personal vantage point differs sharply from other people’s opinions or experiences, …”, he claims - yes, you can certainly say that:
“I am currently preparing to go on Safari in Africa. As … someone who does not like (and does not currently own) 35 mm DSLR’s with their hundreds of custom functions, dozens of buttons, bad ergonomics, excessive weight and size, etc., …”
Yeah, we know, these magnesium shelled professional DSLR are so much heavier than the plastic bodies Phase One sells with its medium format backs. And having hundreds of options available to tailor your camera perfectly to your needs really get’s on your nerves so soon. I mean, what are you supposed to complain about if it’s up to you to set the camera exactly the way you like? I can’t work like that! (Btw., my Nikon D3 has exactly 44 custom functions. Hundreds? Only for very low values of “hundred” … And while we’re counting - I find only 18 discrete buttons on the D3. I’m not counting the two shutter releases, lens bayonet release or similar and the two AF-ON buttons as only one.) Oh, and the complaint about to much customization options comes from a guy who lists among the “immediate stand out features” of the new Phase One medium format backs: “Fully customizable tools. You can customize the values for the highlight and shadow warnings, the sensitivity of the focus confirmation tool, the arrangement of the tools in the default screen, flashing or no flashing indicators and on and on. It is beautifully done.” When it’s done to my camera, that is - in DSLRs it’s crap.
One general piece of advice you find in every photo book for beginners and which I heartily agree with: Don’t take new, untried and unfamiliar equipment on an important, rare, far or expensive trip. You want to be able to use every piece without concious thought - helps a lot with the enjoyment of the special occasion. Maybe this explains Mr. Dubovoy’s aversion to DSLR: “originally I was going to buy the cameras and sell them immediately after the trip (which in the past has cost me less than the rental fees for several weeks)” He just never got to know his tools, quite possibly had still no idea how to set the first three custom functions at the end of the trip …
But the funny thing about his article once more is his uncanny ability to contradict himself within a few paragraphs:
Well, in more than 20 years of photography I never dropped anything significant or lost cameras or lenses due to excessive force. So finally something had to happen, and it had to strike my beloved Nikon D3 with the equally beloved f:2.8/180 mm lens.
I don’t really know how I did it; the camera was set up on a tripod (Gitzo GT2531 with Markins Q3 ballhead, not really flimsy). But when I went a few steps towards my subject I suddenly heard a mighty “Crash!” behind me … and the tripod was lying flat on the ground.
The damage to the lens is pretty obvious:
There were actually some small screws ripped out of a metal tube they had secured …
The damage to the camera is more subtle. At first glance there’s nothing cracked, the camera still operates normally. Only the lens mount feels quite a bit stiffer to turn than before:
And all my lenses suddenly have tilt capability …
It’s not that the D3 was my only camera - but even my D200 (which itself was quite revolutionary in its time) simply pales in comparison.
On 28 September last year I signed up with Zenfolio to host my photograpy web site (www.zauber-allenthalben.de), using their “Premium” subscription plan for 100 US$/year. So far I’ve been pleased with the results possible with the available design tools and received quite a few compliments for my site from others as well. Overall it’s a great service, some major warts notwithstanding, and I have recommended Zenfolio to others looking for a photo hosting service.
Now on 1st/2nd June Zen revamped their site and introduced new subscription plans - and prices - for new European customers. By now they retroactively changed their news, as they felt the need to amend one of the most blatant flaws. It’s still bad enough, though:
US prices for the plans “Basic”, “Unlimited” and “Premium” are 25, 50 and 100 US$, respectively. In Great Britain these plans are the same 25, 50 and 100 - but in GBP! And for the rest of Europe it’s 25, 50 and 100 EUR. Right now the conversion ratio US$/GBP/EUR is 1.436/0.884/1 …
A Zen support official explained the higher effective prices with additional VAT due for Europe and conversion costs (max. VAT for Europe is capped at 25%). The original news actually even did entirely away with the Premium plan for Europe, leaving only the even higher tiered “Premium Business” at 125 € available for those needing more than “Unlimited” (like me …)
For Zen users already holding a subscription (like me) these changes have no effect. Existing subscriptions continue and renew at the same price they were started at. But if you’re in Europe and would like to subscribe to Zenfolio, try to change the currency for your subscription to US$ on the page where you select your desired plan (a little drop-down in the upper right). I don’t know if you can order the US$ plans from Europe (the same support guy couldn’t be bothered to answer that question). But if it works you could save quite a bit of money … Addendum 20 June: Feedback from new users on Zen’s support forum indicates you can get into the US$ plans!
Btw., you could save another 10% from your first years cost by using my referral code “TK6-VCE-FAY” when signing up; and I get a little kickback from that transaction as well.