18 March 2008
I've had a new Nikon D40 for nearly 2 weeks now, and I think it's working nicely for me. The noise at ISO 400 on my PowerShot S2 was just getting to be too much of a hassle for me, and the opportunity to drop some cash came around, so I went for it.
Stacey and Doug were a great help while I shopped. They're both Nikon shooters, so I knew I could borrow equipment and draw on their vast experience. Dinger also has a nasty case of NAS paired with an odd DIY flair.
The extra couple hundred dollars that a D40x would have cost didn't seem worthwhile just for some extra pixels, so I just went with a D40 with the kit 18-55mm lens. I added a Nikon 55-200mm VR lens to try to get nearer to the telephoto capabilities I had with the PowerShot S2.
After a quick read through the manual (I don't seem like the type, though, do I?), I could pick up and find everything on the camera pretty quickly. The camera doesn't have quite as many buttons and dials as the higher-end Nikons, but I can still change my basic settings pretty quickly -- the dials default is shutter speed, then I need to hold a button for aperture, and I mapped the Fn key to change ISO, so I'm in business. I found the built-in flash configuration to switch it to manual 1/32 power, so I'm in business with my slave strobes.
The minimum ISO of 200 means I'll definitely need my ND4 filter to get some longer exposures, but that's fine. 3200 ISO (HI1) is pretty noisy, but not terribly disappointing. 1600 is surprisingly clean. Indoors I try to stick around 1600, but I'll gladly kick up to 3200 if needed. I can clean up the noise in post production.
I've had to introduce UFRaw to my workflow to get images down to 8-bit for Gimp. I really like having the extra range and flexibility -- I can make some dramatic changes in RAW without losing detail, but it took me a little while to learn what I was doing, and some things (base curve) still sort of allude me. I'm still sort of slow at processing, but I think the results are much better. I'll figure out batch processing soon, I figure. I would get done much quicker if I wasn't consistently holding the camera 1-3 degrees off of level -- I'll have to work on that.
I got to try the camera for travel for the first time on Sunday at Baltimore's St. Patrick's Day Parade. I can barely fit the camera and its lenses in my old bag, so it wasn't too difficult. It's a little cumbersome to have the 55-200mm lens hanging from my neck and chase the kids, but it's possible.
I was feeling some pain having to switch between lenses to shoot the passing parade from the curb, but I quickly settled into my 18-55, and I was really glad I had it. I used the 55-200 later to shoot the kids running and playing. The photos have a surprisingly noticeable "telephoto" feel, though.
I've been able to get much shallower depths of field with this new gear -- that makes me happy, since it was really hard to do with the PowerShot S2. I find myself actually having to work the other way, and closing down the aperature to get a bit of depth back. It's nice to have that control now.
My kit's pretty complete right now, but I hope to get a hold of some old strobes my Mom doesn't use, and her old camera bag. That'll give me a little room to grow. I also have an old full-manual 50mm f/1.8 lens on loan from Dinger which I'd love to have for indoor party photography and maybe portraiture, though I think an 85mm prime would be more comfortable for portraits.
I can't really think of anything more that I'd need the camera itself to do, so I'll probably use this thing for a pretty long time. Pair this thing with a couple more lenses, strobes, and some radio triggers, and I'll keep myself busy for quite some time.