Monday, 26 September 2011

Nikon's 24mm f/1.4mm impresses us!

A few months ago now, a box arrived via courier and in it was Nikon’s newish 24mm f/1.4 G ED N Aspherical lens. A prime wide at 1.4 I thought, Nikon you have done it again!
The Nikon 24mm  f/1.4

No seriously, this is not meant to be a catalyst for a great Nikon versus Canon debate – hold the emails! The team at CameraPro in Brisbane had sent it out on loan for me to have a play and there were a couple of things I was disappointed with by the time it left and a few I was happy with.

Onto the D3 it went and its 618g in weight didn’t make it feel uncomfortable in the hands. It was our Tamborine Mountain Bluedog Photography Weekend Retreat so I used it happily during the weekend ‘snapping’ off random images of the weekend’s activities. Some lucky person even won $100 voucher for any Bluedog Photography workshop, retreat or tour by guessing the lens I was trialling on the Bluedog Facebook Group.

 The retreat group 'snapped' with the 24mm f/1.4

Back to the lens.... it’s focusing on auto is silent and its super sharp. The 24mm lens has a huge depth-of-field! Even at f/1.4, there is not a lot out of focus. At every aperture I played with and especially 1.4, it was the same: sharp, sharp and sharp.

Sand Blow
Image by Danielle Lancaster

For those that like the low light and a bit of action then this is one I reckon could be worth making it into your kit. Think of it like this: the 24mm will show camera shake due to hand shake only half as much as the 50mm f1.4 so you can pick up a stop and shoot at a lower shutter speed. But since the 24mm lens has four times the depth-of-field as the 50mm lens, it means a whole heap more in focus at f/1.4 while shoot the same on the 50mm and there is a dramatic difference – there’s little in focus on the 50mm at f/1.4. So what that means is, it is exceptionally capable for low-light hand-held photography and especially if there’s some action. And it’s suitable for both film and FX digital SLRs (see below in ‘A few Specs’).

The Silent Wave Motor is responsible for its quieter autofocus operation, while the lens also features an anti-reflective Nano Crystal coating and both ED and aspherical lens elements to help minimize distortion and chromatic aberration. The sharpness from edge to edge appeared to have minimum distortion and coma, and no apparent ghosting. With a distortion rating listed of +1.5 there are many, many worse out there. As we often say it’s all about the glass. The f/1.4 aperture and nine blade rounded diaphragm contribute to render images with stunning NIKKOR trademark bokeh – yah!

Another feature I like in a lens is to be able to just turn the manual focus ring at any time to fine tune my focus without having to unlock a button or click in a lock and I could do that with this camera though in saying that the need to do was minimal with the astounding DOF.

It’s a lens that I feel Nikon has built to last and be tough for those that like the wilds. Extensive use of magnesium in the construction, weather and dust sealing, including around the mount are prime examples of this. It is has really been designed for those that like their landscapes, low light and photo journalists (though for some photo journalists it will still too big for street work).

Image by Danielle Lancaster

I did not get a chance (my fault) to try it in a night landscape scenario which I would love to do.

It does not now live in my kit!
This item was supplied for an independent review. The author receives no remuneration for trailing the product and therefore the review is independent.

For more information on the lens please contact CameraPro

Next lens review could be the 28-300mm so many are gloating about and is now in my kit - am I as happy as others? 

A Few Specs:
Compatibility:  Works perfectly on an all digital Nikon, both FX and DX, and even on Nikon's cheaper digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000.
Diagonal Angle of View: 84° (61° with Nikon DX format)
Minimum aperture: f/16
Lens Construction: 12 elements/10 groups; 2 ED glass elements; 2 aspherical elements
Minimum Focus: 0.25m
Filter Thread: 77mm

 Image courtesy Nikon

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cambodia beyond the temples

Guest blog and images by by Kelly Morgan

I love trawling through photos of past travels, no matter how well composed or exposed, they’re my memories. My few brief trips to Asia have left me with a deep admiration for the people and a longing to experience more. How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to see Cambodia under the tutelage of Bluedog photographers?

After some solo time in Phnom Penh I joined the other eager participants and set off to capture what guide books consider the essence of Cambodia ­– the temples of Siem Reap. They are as awe-inspiring as I expected, and a challenge in light metering and exposure.

Day one we explored Tonle Sap and a floating village, Augustine challenged me to go beyond “P” so off I went, over and under exposing. Day two was learning more about light and how to control it. I can’t imagine a better place to learn about 18% grey than outside Bayon temple. 

By now we were all mulling over ideas for our assignment, a photo essay on “restitution”. Day one I met Mr Douk, a landmine amputee selling books around Siem Reap and a long term friend of Danielle's. He had lost both of his arms, but not his pride or sense of humour. How does a man with no arms bathe? How does he earn enough to give his kids an education? In a country with poor healthcare and no social security, how does he keep smiling?

Mr Douk with two of his children and grand child.

Danielle encouraged me to follow his day and tell his story. Was I nervous? Absolutely! I still felt clumsy with the camera and while I was honoured to be invited into Mr Douk’s home, I was worried my photos wouldn’t be good enough to capture his story with the respect it deserved.

But jumping in the deep end is the best way to learn – no time to over-think it. Waving the group off for their Angkor Wat sunrise shoot, I stayed behind. An hour late for our pre-dawn meeting (this is Cambodia!) Mr Douk and his gorgeous kids arrived to walk me to their home. It was heartbreaking to see how they lived; a small timber shanty with a communal water pump, and neighbours dying of Aids. It was heart warming to be welcomed and to share their intimate moments. It was going to be a long, confronting day.

I tried to capture Mr Douk’s ups and downs as he carried his heavy basket of books. People rebuff him, ignore him, disrespect him. But just when it seems too hard, someone buys a book. His smile is broad and genuine; his kids have an English tutor again this week.

 Mr Douk makes a sale - on average he makes 0.50 US cents per book.

Seeing Mr Douk in Ta Prohm’s dappled light and otherworldly settings was strangely moving, and a test in exposure compensation! At the end of the day we had a big hug, he went home to his family, I joined the group for curry and $1.50 mojitos, different lives that intersected for a brief time. I couldn’t leave it at that and sought him out each day for a hug and chat.

I learnt a lot in a week; photographically I went from P to full manual mode, personally I fell in love with a country and its people. My biggest lesson: lower the camera, look beyond the view finder, see the people, hear the story. 

Bluedog Photography will be returning to Cambodia for another tour in 2012. For further details visit:

End note from Danielle:
Kelly's journey on our tour to Cambodia this year was one of great pleasure for me. Not only seeing her progress so quickly and confidently in her photography but how she approached a hard subject choice for her assignment and pushed herself both emotionally and photographically to capture Mr Douk's day.

This is a only a small selection of some of the images Kelly shot - all of them are dramatic and to many may cause a little flinch at the ugliness of war. I encourage you to look deeper, as Kelly did, to the man and his dignity and his willingness to get up and move on and do the best he can. His smile says everything.

Thank you Kelly for telling Mr Douk's story, I know everyone else in the group was appreciative of it as well. We all learnt something from it.
Kelly has since written a longer article on Mr Douk and I look forward to seeing it printed in the future. Well done Kelly!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

My New Favourite Camera Accessory

With the excitement mounting for the Bluedog Photography Stradbroke Island Tour this coming weekend, Julie Martin who will be sharing many of her Photoshop tricks and tips with us, will most likely be wearing this accessory out on the shoots. In this blog she tells us why she likes her Black Rapid RS-W1 camera strap

I don’t know about you, but how to carry my camera had been a bit of a bother for me.  I have a personal dislike for hanging it around my neck, with all the involved bumping and jumping around it does while you walk (not to mention the somewhat unfashionable look it gives you!).  Carrying it in my hand, with the strap wrapped securely around my wrist (as taught by Danielle) was okay while I had my smaller camera, but now that I have a larger camera and bigger lenses, I just can’t carry that weight in my hand for long.  Then I tried a small sling-type camera bag, but ended up with a sore shoulder from the hanging weight, and I usually had it in my hand anyway.  So, quite the dilemma.

Imagine how happy I am now that I have solved my problem.  It comes in the form of my Black Rapid RS-W1 camera strap – my new favourite camera accessory and forgive me for gushing but I just love it.  The strap is worn like a sling across your body, with the women’s version cleverly designed to accommodate our contours, and the camera is attached using the tripod socket. You then adjust it so that the camera hangs around hip level, always at the ready for the next shot.   There are several different versions available, with storage for memory cards, spare batteries and your mobile phone in some, a sports option for increased security and even double versions for two cameras.

What I love about this strap is the comfort, accessibility and security it provides.  I walked around all day on my recent trip and never got sore shoulders.  The design distributes the weight very evenly.  Letting the camera hang means I had both hands free but the camera was just there when I was ready to take a shot.  It felt quite discreet at my side and I felt happier no longer having a camera strap that shouted “expensive camera!!!” to anyone who felt inclined to steal it off me.  I would put my jacket on over the top of the strap so it would be basically impossible for anyone to grab the camera and run off.  

The only downside is that you can’t have both the strap and your tripod plate attached at the same time, although there is a fastener available that allows for this if you have a Manfrotto tripod with quick release plates.   It just took a couple more seconds to set up the camera on the tripod, while changing plates.

Retailing for $79, it is the best accessory I think I have ever bought for my camera and I would highly recommend it to anyone.  Here’s the link to the website – www. for more information.
 Julie wearing her Black Rapid RS-W1 camera strap on a recent trip to Ireland.