Still Impressed with My Nikon D90

I’ve owned my Nikon D90 for a a year and a half now. I purchased it the week it was released and I’ve never looked back. I don’t use it for video quite that often, as it is my main camera body. I still stand behind my belief that the D90 is Nikon’s best DX format camera body to date. Yes, I put it above the D300s.

The D90 just plain rocks at high ISO settings. Yesterday, my daughter wanted to celebrate her 7th birthday at Corvette Diner in San Diego. Since I’ve got f/2.8 Sigma glass, I mounted the 24-70mm and left the flash at home. Sure, the D90 has a built-in pop up flash but I only use that to trigger a flash via CLS or if I want to take a REALLY bad photo of someone. 🙂

The light level inside was low enough that I was at f/2.8, 1/40th, ISO 3200 almost the entire time. My files came out of the camera very usable, but I opted for a little Luminance Noise Reduction in Lightroom 3 Beta 2. In Lightroom 2, I would have used Nik’s Dfine 2 plugin but LR3 Beta 2 is so much better at noise reduction that I didn’t bother.

So Why Not A D300s?
For many reasons really. The D300s is great, don’t get me wrong. But the sensor performance isn’t quite as good as the D90 and there isn’t a whole lot to be gained from the D300s. Here’s a little Q and A:

Q: Doesn’t the D300s flash sync at 1/250th and the D90 at 1/200th?
A: Yes, but you want to know how much of a difference that’s going to make? Almost none. Most studio strobes won’t sync as fast as 1/200th anyway so it’s really a waste. The D90 is capable of Auto FP High Speed Sync if using CLS, so I can flash sync at 1/4000th of a second on the D90 if I really needed to.

Q: Doesn’t the D300s have a faster max shutter speed?
A: Yes, the D300s has a max shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. The D90’s is 1/4000th of a second. Do you know what that translates into? One. Stop. Of. Light. That’s it. If I need to drop exposure by 1 stop, I’ll stop down my aperture or lower my ISO.

Q: Does the D90 have an external audio input like the D300s?
A: No, it doesn’t. But guess what – it’s not needed! Most pro filmmakers are using something called a Double System which involves using their HD-DSLR and an external audio recording device. They sync the two together in post production. Even a simple $150.00 external recording device like the Zoom H2 can dramatically improve the audio quality of your video work.

Q: Does the D90 have weather sealing like the D300s?
A: No, it sure doesn’t. However, if I’m out shooting in conditions in which weather sealing would be necessary I’ll be using rain gear. Even if I was shooting a D3s which has the best weather sealing – I wouldn’t leave it uncovered. Getting caught in a rainstorm doesn’t mean the end of your D90 as I have read mean stories about folks shooting in pouring rain with their D90 camera bodies.

Q: Can you call yourself a “pro” and still shoot with a D90?
A: Absolutely! What camera you shoot with makes no difference as to whether or not you’re a pro photographer. It’s not about the gear folks.

The above are some of the most common questions that arise as to why one should upgrade to the D300s from the D90. Personally, I feel that the next logical step up in camera bodies is the D700. Having the full frame sensor and better high ISO performance will make a significant difference in image quality. If you still want the video capability, then the D3s is your ticket. I haven’t tested it personally, but I hear that Nikon has improved on the rolling shutter issue while using the D-Movie mode with the D3s. I’ve seen video that proves that the issue is still VERY much a factor with the D300s – another reason not to spend the money on that camera body.


Monday News and Updates

As you probably know, today is the big launch of Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 and marks another upgrade to the photo industry’s favorite application – Photoshop. I’ve been beta testing Photoshop CS5 and I’m here to say that you’re going to be impressed in many ways… even if you’re a current CS4 user! If you want to stay current with what’s going on with the CS5 launch event, here’s a couple of links to follow:

In other news, I’ve opened up a new place to showcase my iPhone photography. I like to call it iTography (I thought it was catchy anyway) and you can check it out here on my Posterous site. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for a super cool and easy-to-use blog interface then you should REALLY look into Posterous. It’s easy and free, so what are you waiting for???

I’m gearing up for my workshop in Napa at the end of May, so if you would like to attend be sure to head on over and sign up to reserve your spot! I’m going to cover a lot of ground at this workshop – shooting, lighting, retouching, editing, and more! So come on out and join us in beautiful Napa Valley for two days of shooting, photography, and loads of fun!

Well, that’s it for me on this fine Monday morning. I hope you have a great week and remember that the best camera is the one you have with you. 🙂

Staying Organized as a Photographer

As photographers, it’s crucial that we stay very organized – especially if you are considering making a living from your craft. Creatives are usually said to be Right Brainers, meaning that we are subjective, intuitive, and tend to look at the big picture. Left Brainers are people who are very analytical, logical, and rational. Among those things they are also most likely to be organized and have a great business sense. I’m not saying that Right Brainers aren’t capable, but it’s far less common.

Without getting into a big psychology discussion here, I’m going to share with you some of the tools that I use in order to stay as organized as possible. Organization helps bring focus and direction, which are very important when it comes to meeting client deadlines and getting work done. I hope you find some of these useful, and if there are other things that you use that I haven’t mentioned here, feel free to let us know in the comments.

  • Image Organiztion – I use Adobe Lightroom 2 and 3 Beta 2 to organize and keep track of my photos. I have my own naming convention that works for me, but I can go into Lightroom and find any image that I need rather quickly. The keywording and metadata features assist in that chore immensely. Here’s the link for more information.
  • Estimates & Invoices – If you have any desire to make a living at photography, you have to know what’s going out and what’s coming in. For this, I use BlinkBid. I can store client information, create estimates and invoices, and also keep track of client image licenses. I can also record when a payment is received and generate all kinds of useful reports. Since it’s already made for creative pros, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time setting it up. Here’s the link for more information.
  • To Do Lists – I use an awesome app on my iPhone called Things to keep track of what I need to do and when I need to do it. I can add tags to my items, create projects, set alerts, and more. Couple that with the fact that I can sync it to their desktop application for Mac wirelessly, and I can always stay on top of my tasks. The app is now available for the iPad too! Here’s the link for more information.
  • E-mail – I really like Apple’s Mail application, as it’s simple and clean – yet powerful enough to keep e-mail neatly organized. I use Smart Mailboxes to sort out message in my inbox and move quickly through e-mails covering specific subjects. The Junk Mail filter does a great job of keeping out messages that I don’t care for, but allowing ones that are relative to pass through.
  • Calendar – Some may disagree, but I find Apple’s iCal very useful. It syncs with my iPhone and I can also sync it with Google Calendar on the go, then update my MacBook Pro when I’m in front of it again. Really, really handy. The color coding is nice for different calendars too. I can take one look at it and know exactly what’s what based on my personal color schemes.

I could go on and on about all the cool little apps that I use for organization purposes, but I think that you get the idea. I do whatever I can to keep track of the things that I’m working on. As a Right Brainer myself, I need all the help I can get. 🙂

Before I sign off for today, if you’re thinking about making the leap and turning PRO, be sure to take a look at Going Pro NOW. Jack Hollingsworth, Selina Maitreya, and Don Giannatti have put together a seminar for emerging photographers who want to know what it takes to be successful in the commercial photography business. Be sure to stop by and say hello – tell ’em that Stephen sent you.

If you’re interested in learning more about portrait photography, be sure to check out my upcoming workshop in Napa, CA on May 30-31, 2010! Here’s the link to my workshop website where you can find out all about and sign up! I hope to see you there!

That’s it for today folks. I hope you have a great week and if you’re not there already, it’s time to get organized!

Lightroom or Aperture – That Is My Question

I’ve been going through a little struggle over which software I’m going to settle in on to manage, edit, and deliver my images. I have been using Lightroom for the past 3 years and I’ve been playing around with Apple’s Aperture 3 for a few weeks now. Both are equally impressive and I enjoy using each of them.

They both have strong and weak points, but Lightroom 3 Beat 2 is still that – BETA. Who knows where Adobe will be with the application once the dust settles from the arrival of Aperture 3. Right now, Aperture 3 has a leg up on LR3 because you can edit video in Aperture. Lightroom 3 will import and organize it, but you can’t natively view it or edit it – a huge issue considering the HD DSLR revolution that is ongoing.

LR3 brings about a familiar interface, familiar keyboard commands, and it’s tailored to my current workflow. Aperture 3 is not. There are a few things that may push me to one side – and it’s looking like it will be Lightroom 3. Once I’ve made my final decision I will post my reasons why along with the differences that I notice most between the two applications. Until then, let my personal struggle continue. 🙂

Napa, CA Workshop – May 30-31, 2010
As a quick side note, I’m going to be teaching a portrait photography workshop in Napa, California on May 30-31, 2010. If you live up that way or just would like to come out for the workshop, you can get all the details on my workshop website and hopefully I will see you there.

I hope everyone has a great week and had a Happy Easter weekend!