Terra Vitae Blog

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Dave Collerton

Nikon D600 - First Impressions

Nikon D600 - First Impressions

I think it's really difficult to do justice to any camera, especially with regards it's technical abilities and performance. Besides, there are a 1000 reviews on YouTube about the Nikon D600 and no end of technical comparisons with this, that and other cameras. There is then, little point in re-inventing the wheel as they say!

I recently bought the Nikon D600 on eBay, to some a risky thing to do given the price tag of £630 for what is after all, a secondhand camera. Nonetheless, Kevin, the previous owner rang me on the Saturday morning to congratulate me on my purchase and to tell me he'd shipped the camera that very morning. Bear in mind I'd only bought it the evening previously. Kevin rang me again on the Tuesday to ask if it had arrived and if I was happy with it. It had and I was. As a secondhand camera goes, it was like new. No scuffs, marks, dings or dents. It was immaculate and with only 4000 shutter actuations, to all intent and purpose, it was "as new". Kevin, a professional photographer in his day, had migrated to the Nikon D800 and having two "similar" cameras was not ideal for his current situation. The D800 is a mighty camera so the D600 had to go. Kevin's loss so to speak was my gain. The Nikon D600 is a fantastic camera on all counts.

Why did I buy the Nikon D600? If you have read my earlier blogs you will have noticed that I have an interest in Art Noir or low light filming. There's something magical about low light or a night time view which to be honest, in the daytime might be ordinary and even boring. While I had already tested my trusty Lumix GX-80 at night with some better than expected results, see my earlier blog, I have been lusting after a full-frame camera designed to excel in low light filming. In fairness, the Nikon D600 can't touch the GX-80 for in-body stabilisation, high quality video (whether 1080p or 4K), or general portability and ease of use, for example, the LCD touch screen and WIFI connection really excels. However, the full-frame capability of the D600 coupled with an excellent sensor and brilliant firmware and software do make up for it's short comings in other areas. Indeed, add a fast lens to the D600 and it leaves the GX-80 way behind when it comes to a lot of shooting situations including low light and sports. 

Having made some mistakes when buying lenses for the GX-80 I decided here not to follow the same course. Interestingly, of all the low cost lenses I bought for the GX-80, my secondhand manual Pentax lenses are easily the best in terms of image quality and sharpness. The Pentax 50mm F1.8 from an old Pentax KM SLR is still amazing after 35 years. The used Pentax I bought for just £12 on eBay, the 80‑200mm f4.7‑5.6 SMC‑FA, is far superior to the Sigma 80 - 200 and fully automatic Olympus zoom lenses I bought around the same time. In fact, I can manually focus any of my Pentax lenses faster than the fully automatic Olympus lenses can do for themselves. So, quality isn't always about price or brand, often it's about looking for older lenses, even old SLR lenses, that are renowned for their performance, albeit that may have been 30 years ago.

Anyway, I detract. The Nikon D600 hasn't had too many outings yet. The weather here in the southwest is somewhat variable and it seems recently that it's always raining. Nonetheless, one thing I have noticed when using the D600 is the clarity of the image when cropped as compared to images produced by the GX-80. That's not to say that the GX-80 doesn't produce good, clear, sharp images. With the right lens it does and indeed, once i've sold off my duff lenses and invested in some additional fast, quality Panasonic glass, I'm pretty sure that difference will decrease further. Nonetheless, the D600, with Nikon 28 - 70mm F3.3 - 5.6 G, does produce some really sharp images even when cropped. I've yet to try the Nikon 50mm F1.4 AF-S lens I also have but this is reported to be even better so I am expecting great things from this combination. Overall, I have no worries about the D600 performing in exactly the way I want it to.

Putting aside image quality, the Nikon D600 is actually really easy to get around. Before arrival I had downloaded and browsed through the 300 page manual so was aware of the various controls, button function etc etc. Unlike the GX-80, which has a touch LCD screen, the D600 relies on buttons and curser control to get around the various menus. I thought this would be difficult to get used to but actually, it's a breeze. Nothing takes too much effort and the ability to crop and modify images in camera is really useful. There's lots I haven't yet tried but everything I have, works really well. In fact, I find the Nikon menus a little quicker to navigate through than those on the GX-80.

The proof of the pudding so they say is in the eating so really I need to get out and take some photos with the "new" D600 and let you all see the results. If you are a regular visitor to this site then you can see everything I take in the photo gallery section as well as in this blog and indeed, in the community area. You can even post your own photos and blogs if you wish. Just keep on topic and I'll be glad to publish them. In the meantime, here's a few images from both the Lumix GX-80 and Nikon D600 to compare. The latter two are taken using the Lumix GX-80 with an old Vivitar 28-70mm 1:3.5-4.8 Macro Zoom lens with a Pentax P/K fitting. It's a versatile SLR / DSLR lens that seems to produce crisp, sharp images. If you are viewing on a mobile device, just click or touch the image to get a better aspect ratio.

I'll add more soon.

David

 

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Dave Collerton

Smartphone camera, Compact or DSLR?

Smartphone camera, Compact or DSLR?

A lot of people ask, what's the best camera for taking great pictures? In general terms, the answer will be,  the one you've got with you, as this is the only thing you've got to capture the moment. Of course, if we all had crystal balls we could prepare for that one in a lifetime shot but unfortunately, life's generally not that kind.  In this example the lighting all wrong, the colours could be stronger and the background is a little distracting. However, my eyes are drawn immediately to the two main characters and in particular, the smile of the young lady and the enigmatic gaze of the man. As a composition, it really works and with a little post processing, this is a 100% un-edited photo, some of the issues mentioned above could definitely be improved. However, as a spur of the moment photo, I think it's nailed. 

The key question is then if I had had a Nikon D600 as opposed to my trusty Samsung Note 3, would the photo, if taken spur of the moment, be any better? The answer is possibly, the D600 has excellent low light capability after all, but to be fair, I suspect that unless the shot was staged, which it most definately wasn't, the smartphone captured the moment pretty well.

So, as my arsenal of cameras grows will I rely less and less on my smartphone? Probably not. For street photography, even at low light, a good smartphone such as the Google Pixel, Samsung S6 / S7 / S8 or iphone etc perform really well and can grab shots photographers often miss wielding a 2lb, state of the art DSLR to their eyes to capture a moment that probably lasted just 10 seconds! The shot below is a good example of of where having a smartphone just works. 

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