GEAR

 I have recently sold my D800 and replaced it with a Nikon Z6. There has been lots of variable feed back regarding the new "Z" range but I love it.

Its compact size means I carry it around more and take more pictures. The digital view finder is fantastic and allows simple real time exposure compensation. Certainly not a replacement for the pro DSLRs yet but I can see the future moving towards full frame mirrorless.

More to follow.                                                                                       

 

 

 

As you would expect the camera equipment I have used has changed over the years. With the ever improving world of digital photography it is often hard to keep up with the latest developments. Having said that, digital photography can be a relatively cheap past time, particularly when to the cost of film photography.

 

 

 

SLR camera bodies.

 

Having started with Nikon, I have stuck with this brand and I am very happy to have done so. I am sure if Canon had been my first choice I would still be using that. It is difficult to change brands with the high cost of lenses and accessories.

 

I started digital SLR photography with a Nikon D70, moving on to D200, D2x, D700 & D4. My current cameras are the D4 & D800.

 

 

The biggest change for me has been the move to full frame format. This has been a huge step forward, allowing shooting at much higher ISO settings. This is particularly useful in low light situations, where flash cannot be used. This was the case on my first trip to photograph Mountain Gorillas, where ISO settings of over 1000 were almost essential.

I also like the large bright viewfinder on the full formats.

Having said that, there are many excellent cropped sensor cameras and the added magnification is sometimes an advantage.

 

 

 

 

The Nikon D4 is my camera of choice. (Thank you Mr Saito!)

This really is a stunning camera, even though it has been on the market for some years now. With its ridiculously high ISO setting and 11 frames a second shutter speed, it is great for wildlife photography. To be honest it is somewhat wasted in my hands but I am hoping to learn to develop with a camera that is all I can handle. 

What has impressed me with the Nikon single digit pro cameras (D1, D2, D3 & D4) is the build quality. Although the other Nikon cameras are excellent the fore mentioned cameras are built like tanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

                              Nikon D800                                                                                     Nikon D4

With a growing interest in landscape photography I traded in my D700 for the D800. These two cameras are very different. The D800 is without doubt a fantastic camera but it is a totally different tool to the D4. When I had the D700, I always viewed it as backup for the D4. Now the D800 is my go to choice for landscape and also macro work. The high pixel count (36meg) is great for detail but is also a noticeable drain on memory card capacity. However, due to the slower frame rate of the D800, the D4 is always my choice for action wildlife.

Current lenses.

Nikon 500 f4 ED-IF AF-S VR 11

Nikon 300 f2.8 AFS 11

Nikon 70-200 f2.8 ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom

Nikon 105 f2.8 Macro

Nikon 16-35 f4 VR

Nikon TC-14E 11 Teleconverter.

Nikon TC-17E 11 Teleconverter. 

The Nikkor 500 f4 & 300 2.8 are my main lenses for bird photography. With the 500mm there is no getting away from the fact that it is heavy but I am prepared to put up with this for the results produced. When using it now with the full frame bodies, I am surprised how often I use it with a converter attached. When used with the new D4 the auto focus is improved when the 1.7 converter is coupled, compared to previous Nikons. The D4 also allows me to maintain high shutter speeds.

 

 

 

 

After some research, I tracked down a second hand 300mm f2.8 AFS mk2. This is the last of the non VR versions and was reflected in the price. Although, still a high end lens, I feel this was somewhat of a bargain. I really do not miss the VR and I find this lens is one of my favourites for hide situations. The results with this lens have been great and produce a beautiful “Bokeh”.

The 70-200 f2.8 is a fantastic lens, probably the best I have used. It is easy to handle, fast and produces great results. It also works extremely well when coupled with either of the converters. I love using this lens for a range of wildlife applications, it is particularly good for birds in flight.

Nikon 105 f2.5 Macro. I use this lens for close up work, usually insects, flowers etc. I will probably change it for a Nikkor VR. I previously had a Sigma lens of similar specification and to be honest I see little difference in the performance of either lens. I use this lens a good deal of the time with a Macro flash set up.

Nikon 16-35 f4 VR wide angle zoom. With more time spent taking landscapes, astrophotography etc, I have found myself using this lens a good deal. I would probably have chosen the 14-24mm f2.8 but the inability to fit filters, without a bulky adaptor, was a deciding factor.

I also regularly carry a Canon G12, this is a useful compact camera, with the ability to take pictures in RAW.

 

Two lenses not listed above that I have used for many years deserve a mention.

For nearly 10 years my main wildlife lens was a Sigma 120-300f2.8 zoom. This lens has taken many of my pictures, it was excellent quality but also reasonably portable. Highly recommended for those on a budget, although not that cheap.

The other lens is a Sigma 10-20mm zoom. I loved using this lens for scenery and it was great fun to use. Unfortunately it is not compatible with FX bodies, so has gone to a new home.

 

Flash.

 

For some years I have used a Nikon SB800 with all my cameras. Although this is pretty old now, it still seems to perform very well.

I have recently bought the Nikon R1C1 Commander kit. I am using this for macro photography and have found it very flexible and easy to use. 

The SU-800 commander is very useful when paired with the SB800 for off camera flash.

 

 

 

Supports.

 

My main tripod is a Gitzo 4552TS. This is not the perfect tripod but having 5 sections it closes down to a small size. I find this to be very useful when travelling. Gitzo tripods are very expensive but they are very good!

 

Onto this tripod I have permanently fixed a Really Right Stuff BH55 ball head. Again a very high price for this quite bulky ball head but if there is a better ball head out there, I haven’t seen it.

 

In conjunction with the above I generally use a Benro Sidekick. I would like to use a full Wimberley Gimbal but its just too big for travelling. The Benro Sidekick is close to being as good as the Wimberley version and much cheaper.

 

 

Two Manfrotto products that I love are the 035 clamps and the 393 monopod bracket.

 

Manfrotto 393 head + 035 clamp    Fitted with 500f4 lens

 

I have used the 035 clamps for many years, these are fantastic when working from game drive vehicles that have large tubular frames.

I have used various other heads on top of the 035 clamps, very successfully. The 035 clamps are an inexpensive way to allow fixing heads to vehicles and hides.

 

 

In addition to the above my faithful bean bag is never far away. This is an essential piece of kit to me, particularly when on the move, taking pictures from a vehicle.

© 2018 by Dave Thomas.

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