I’m very thankful for many things in life, and rest assured technology is way down on the list. I certainly value my loved ones much more than my gadgets, in fact part of me wishes we “lived in simpler times” as the saying goes. HOWEVER, here’s a short list of some lesser-known, obscure things that I am thankful for as a camera geek. The first five are general technology related items, and the last five are specifically related to Nikon. So if you don’t shoot Nikon, I guess this is a Top-Five list instead? (Iif you don’t shoot Nikon, don’t worry cause my next post will in fact be ALL about Canon!)
* Today’s Technology Learning Curve:
Plain and simple, things are possible today that we couldn’t have dreamed of doing just 5-10 years ago.The very first time I experienced the amazingness of digital technology was when I decided to go take pictures at 10 PM. I saw photos in National Geographic of “star trails”, and I wanted to give it a try. So I went down to the lake, rested my camera on a rock cause I didn’t even own a tripod, …and held my shutter down for five minutes.Then, instead of having to wait a week to “finish the roll” and process the film, … I got to see how I did RIGHT AWAY.I learned so much about photography in such a short amount of time!Even though as a hobby I still enjoy shooting film; nothing an replace digital cameras and technology as a learning tool. I’m thrilled with where technology is today, and how it is allowing everyone to experiment with new things. Have you seen some of that crazy “light-painting” art these days? I love how creative people are getting.
* Cheap RadioTriggers:
Speaking of getting creative without having to save up for months, I love me some cheap radio triggers. They’re a great way to get into wireless flash photography for just $60-200. Messing around with wireless flash was my 2nd big discovery with digital photography; again there was no waiting around to see how the film turned out; you just look on the back of the camera and check your results! Many people have rocket-launched their talent almost overnight simply because they went out and bought a cheap accessory and started experimenting. So, here’s to cheap accessories in general, not just radio flash triggers!
* USB 3.0
Speaking of cheap, I love how affordable USB 3.0 has become, so quickly. I also use Apple computers, so I know just how expensive it is to get a FW800 external hard drive for example, let alone a Thunderbolt external! And yet USB 3.0 is barely out and I can already buy a 1 TB drive for $60-90.
* Dual Hard Drives, in a Laptop!
Speaking of PC vs Mac, one of the main reasons I never upgraded to a Macbook pro was the fact that it only had room for a single hard drive. My current machine, an Asus “Republic of Gamers” laptop, has dual 2.5″ HDD bays and I’m loving it. I have an SSD for all my programs and working files, and then a 750 GB hybrid drive for data storage. I get the best of both worlds! Of course the dang thing is so massive, it’d still be smaller to have a 17″ MBP with a 2.5″ external drive, but hey, don’t rain on my parade! My computer was $1400 and has equal or higher specs than a $3000 MBP, so there. :-P
* Programmable Mouse
Nifty little bugger! I just recently made the jump from wired to wireless, (mice, that is) …and I’m so thankful I did. I have a cheap Microsoft mouse, but it’s got full programability using the software that comes with it. I’ve even programmed it separately, such that in Chrome for example the side button opens a new window, or in Explorer it creates a new folder, yet in Lightroom it can do “paste last” and in Photoshop it is set to “play action”. All in all, I probably save 5-10 minutes each day? Okay I have no idea how much time I save, but it FEELS more convenient and that’s good enough for me…
Alright next, my Nikon-specific “things I’m thankful for”. Again, these are just minor features and functions, but to me they do make a world of difference and I’m quite thankful for them.Enjoy!:-)
* Nikon’s 1-button Zooming:
This is one of my favorite things to show fellow Nikon users! Basically, when I click a picture and it shows up on the back of my LCD, I am a single click away from confirming focus / sharpness at 100%. How? On the D700 for example it is Custom Settings Menu option f2, “Multi Selector Center Button”. Set it to Playback Mode > Zoom on/off > Medium Magnification… Presto, now you can zoom in to the selected focus point at perfect 100%, …even if the focus point is off-center! Of course if you use focus+recompose then you do still have to scroll a little bit, but at least you can still get to 100% with a single click. (For you Nikon users who have never held a Canon, it’s a bit different on Canon cameras- even during instant playback you have to first hit the PLAY button, and then start zooming, and then start scrolling. The difference is just 5-10 seconds, but it helps a ton when you’re on the job and people are standing around waiting for you to nail the shot… HOT TIP: If you shoot RAW, then feel free to crank up your in-camera sharpening a bit, to 50-75%. This will really help you confirm 100% focus. However do NOT do this if you shoot JPG; in-camera sharpening will ruin the fine detail of your JPG images.
* Compressed raw format and 12-bit instead of 14-bit:
Another favorite; I simply love the ability to bump my cameras “back down” to 12-bit capture, and turn on RAW compression. That way, my 12 megapixel image files are just 8-10 megabytes. Sometimes, even a clean, low-ISO RAW image is a smaller file than a noisy JPG file! As a full-time wedding photographer, this allows me to save hard drive space and memory card space, and it also helps the computer run a little faster. Sure, I crank it up to 14-bit un-compressed RAW when I go out to shoot landscapes, but for photojournalism that kind of data preservation is just overkill in my opinion…
* View NX2:
Nikon’s file browser is the best out there, in my opinion. Even compared to the 3rd-party program Photomechanic, I prefer View NX. It’s simple, it allows me to browse my hard drive directly instead of having to create a catalog, …and yet it loads 100% previews nearly instantly, without the hours of waiting like with LR3. It is also quite fun to see exactly how I shot an image in-camera; and to be able to export it just the way it was captured. I’m looking forward to Nikon’s View NX3 which should be coming soon!
* Manual focus lens compatibility!
This is one thing I love about being a landscape photographer with a Nikon- I shoot all the time with my early 80’s 24mm f/2.8 AIS, an all-metal, rock-solid lens that I bought on Ebay for $200 or so. And there’s all sorts of other lenses out there, from fisheye to macro, that can be found for a bargain. Yes, you can adapt other lens mounts to use manual focus lenses too, but I just like the convenience of having great exposure, metering and focus integration built right into the camaera. :-)
* Built-in intervalometer!
Speaking of “built right into the camera”, I’m also really into time lapse photography and I use Nikon’s built-in intervalometer all the time. It’s limited to 999 sets of 9 frames each, but that’s more than enough for the average 5-10 second clip of stars rotating in the sky, or clouds, or water, etc. To do this on any other camera, you need a $40-140 remote.Just another little nifty Nikon feature that I enjoy using.
Alright, there you have it.Happy Thanksgiving everybody!