Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My D300 Experience

I got my Nikon D300 last week of April and it's barely a week in my custody when I was presented with an opportunity to test its mettle on an outdoor and studio shoots using two of my least favorite lenses, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D AF and the Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S. Don't get me wrong when I said 'least favorites'. They are the cheapest lenses in my dry box but nonetheless, the most abused and ironically, you might call it my 'most favorite' lenses indeed. If you're going to ask me, what lens is dearest to my heart right now and without blink of an eye, i would say the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF, since i shoot mostly portraits.

Without much variance in ergonomics and control panel placements, the D300 is very much similar to my previous D200 except that I now enjoy the Expeed image processing capabilities, high ISO shooting and longer battery life of the D300. I'm not a sports shooter so I still have to appreciate its faster FPS and its vaunted 51 focus points in 3D. But initially, after pressing the shutter release button when I first got a hand on it, I find the D300 a more snappy camera compared to the D200. I'm not a landscapist either so I haven't discovered the benefits of it's Active D-Lighting feature yet which according to papers, can greatly enhance dynamic ranges of the shadows and the highlights for a more vivid and detailed image capture.

Last May 2, I had a chance to shoot Roxanne, a local celebrity here and the results I got were very much pleasing. In this outdoor shoot, I fitted my old reliable 50mm f/1.4D to the D300 to find out if it can exceed what the D200 had achieved in the past. Though I had better results in using that lens before with the D200 but those photos were taken when the lighting was extremely helpful for an outdoor portrait session. With harsh lights producing unwanted highlights, the first two photos of Roxanne were an instant success having been taken without any aid from my speedlight which I usually bring out from my bag when giving an extra hairlight would make the image more pleasant.

After a brief outdoor experience, we decided to shoot indoors on a studio set-up using regular strobes. For more flexibility, I have to change lens and this time I fitted my slow but reliable Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S to the D300. Being a consumer grade lens, it is obviously inferior to what my 85mm f/1.4D can produce under the same shooting conditions but nevertheless, it can respectably provide good results too.

Using a softbox and a brolly and later on a third light placed at the back of the model, we were able to get results like the last four photos in the samples. While tinkering with my settings, I am quite a bit surprised when I was able to fire the strobes at above 1/320 flash synch which is the rated max speed for the D300. I reviewed my flash settings and these were what I got: the D300 was set to flash in TTL Mode, the SB800 was set to manual @ 1/128 flash intensity or just enough to trigger the sensors of the strobes. I shoot in Manual Mode as always and whenever I exceed the shutter speed to more than 1/250 sec., I get a black or blank image.

With the D300, the flash synch speed can go as high as 1/320 as long as you choose the Focal Plane option in the menu. But with my experience, I was able to fire the strobes and get an image even above 1/320 shutter speed. I experimented with different speeds and discovered that I can get away with it only up to 1/500 sec. shutter speed. Beyond that, the usual black screen or blank images will now appear on your LCD screen.

The journey and experimentation will continue and photography is such a never ending conquest of technology and capture of beauty. Years or months from now, the D300 may have another iteration but my resolve to grow old with this hobby will not preclude me from trying out new gears as they come in the future. As they say, enjoy it while it lasts and for now, I'm looking forward to an FX format in a D300 body.

For modelling credits, much pleasure to thank Ms. Roxanne Barcelo for the shoot. Make-up by Pam Dionisio while the venue for the studio shoot was offered by Jobbit Mata.

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