Thursday, 12 November 2009

New Season, New Kit

It was only 8 months ago that I wrote about getting my 'new' Canon 400D kit from New Zealand's online auction site - Trademe. A lot can happen in 8 months, and during that time technology has not been my friend.

First, my iMac developed a problem with its firewire port so that my external backup drive stopped working. My local Mac technician had a look, but in the end decided it really needed to go back for repairs (fortunately under warranty). Unfortunately, it had to go to Auckland, and to cut a long story short, it was there for a good couple of months!

Then, if that wasn't bad enough, my Canon 5D stopped working - the viewfinder information and top lcd readouts simply disappeared. It will still take an image, but you can't see any of the settings to know what the camera is shooting in! And unlike my iMac, the Canon 5D is out of warranty. With only a couple of months before the new wedding season, this couldn't have happened at a worse time - and I've gotta say I'm not impressed.

Not long after owning the 5D kit combo with the 24-105mm f4L the lens developed a problem with the zooming mechanism. It became so stiff it would hardly move. And now the 5D has gone down as well. It hasn't exactly had a hard life - I'm very particular with my gear - so both items having major problems concerns me greatly.

So much so that, with the new wedding season looming, and a reasonably full season booked, I've decided to drop Canon like a hot potato and make the switch 'back' to Nikon. I've sold my 400D, flash and lenses - and have 'upgraded' to the Nikon D300.

This is it, as sold to me yesterday (again on Trademe). It's only done around 6000 images, so it hasn't even warmed up yet - it's been a photographers back-up studio camera, so it's had very little use. It's Nikon's top-of-the-tree DX format (cropped sensor) body - 12.3MP with a 51 area autofocus system, live view, excellent low-noise response up to 1600 ISO, 8 frames per second shooting with the vertical grip attached (6 frames per second without it), not to mention an amazingly high resolution 3 inch LCD screen - with almost 3 times more dots that you're average screen. Wowser!

Even before I got the body, I bought a 50mm f1.8 (basically brand new) that on the D300 will become a 75mm f1.8 portrait lens for my wedding work. The sensor size on the D300 adds x1.5 to the focal length of the lens, so the 50mm become a 75mm. Nice.

But of course that won't be enough to shoot a wedding with, so I have also just snapped up (excuse the pun) a Nikkor 18-70mm f3.5-4.5. This was a tougher decision, as my budget was pretty much blown on the D300. I had intended to get a D90 - about $1000NZ cheaper than the D300, but since I was changing to Nikon to get a more reliable kit, I figured in the end I needed to go with a more 'professional' grade body. So contrary to what I always maintain when buying a system, more money was spent on a body - leaving me not much for a lens. Which is not to say I didn't get a decent lens with the 18-70mm, because it is a decent performer. One of Nikon's better 'consumer grade' lenses. But it ain't no 17-55mm f2.8 either! (Nor should you expect it to be at around $2000NZ cheaper). I have used the 18-70mm lens before, since it was the kit lens with my first digital camera, the D70. It's a very good performer for the price, has quick and quiet silent-wave autofocus, and is sharp - and reasonably fast for a kit lens. My Canon 24-105mm f4 is only just faster as a constant f4, and this was my main wedding lens last season.

An SB600 speedlite rounds of my 'new' kit (again off of Trademe), and although I shoot mostly in natural light and prefer to boost the ISO before using flash, it will come in handy for the 'cutting of the cake' type inside shots. If I can get my head around Nikon's wireless flash system (where you can use the small on-board flash head on the D300 as a 'commander' unit to trigger the SB600 off-camera), then I may end up using the SB600 more than I think?

All the gear should be arriving in the next few days (the 50mm f1.8 is already here), and then I'll have a week to get to grips with it before I shoot my brothers wedding! No pressure :-)

I'll obviously have more to say about the Nikon D300 on this blog in the future - but for now I'm very excited about the new gear, and the new season. Will post initial impressions after the gear has arrived and I've taken it all for a spin.

I've still got the Canon 5D body (I haven't finished paying for it yet) and 24-105mm f4, so once I get the body fixed I may even end up shooting with two different systems on the same wedding (if I can work that way?). Or I may even alternate? We'll have to wait and see. But it will be Nikon all the way for the first few, until I get the money together to fix the 5D. No matter how you look at it, it should be a good wedding season. I'm certainly looking forward to it.