the dan milner photography blog: tales of an adventuring photo chimp

April 18, 2011

Welcome back super wides: Nikon beats Canon in hand-to-hand punch up.

Filed under: photography — Tags: , , , — danmilner @ 8:28 am

Fifteen years: An eternity in politics and an even longer time in photography it seems. Fifteen years. That’s how long I’ve been shooting Canon pro cameras. But that just changed, bringing an end of an era perhaps.

small person falls of big rock shocker. Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8G

Yep, I’ve made the switch to Nikon cameras, and last week set out to shoot for Animal clothing armed with my new set up: a Nikon D3s, D300S ** and the ‘usual’ set of f2.8 pro lenses.

A pro-photographer switching systems? “Unheard of” was one comment I received. Well, those who know my ways are aware of my willingness to look outside the accepted convention to ‘get the shot’ (using Leica M8 rangefinders for remote mountain bike shoots for instance).

But after 15 years immersed in the world of the big C, how come I’ve jumped ship?

Hmm, certainly it’s not because of an undying love for studying instruction manuals (the one that came with the D3s is over 300 pages long) which considering us menfolk’s reluctance to read manuals, switching camera systems for a professional photographer is not something to be taken lightly.

Instruction manuals aside, a switch like this represents some serious financial investment plus the hassle of selling on a decade-plus of accumulated pro bodies (I seem to have hoarded 4), lenses (last count 8), dedicated flashes (3), leads (several), remote switches (some rare and irritatingly hard to find) and the ilk and buying in a whole new set to replace them.

Its not an angle I ususally choose, but for Paddy Grahams backflip, the get down under cant be beaten when youre armed with 14mm focal length. Nikon D3s, 14-24 2.8G

So why the change?

Well if truth be told the decision to switch to Nikon has been playing on my mind for a while now. 18 months ago I bought their ground-breaking 14-24mm f2.8 lens, a bit of glass that for me at least redefined sharpness in wide zooms. It is stunning. I bunged it on the front of my Canon 1D mkIII and 5D bodies using it with a manual adaptor and turned heads everywhere the glass showed its bulbous face.  A Nikon on a Canon? Who’d have thought it, but it worked. Kind of, albeit in a “make life difficult in a hard to manually focus when stopped down” kind of way.

It even survived a shoeing by a stag in Scotland.

But then it came to wanting wide with a body that I could call my main workhorse on the mountain. And that’s where the buck stopped, halted in its tracks by Canon’s insistence in only producing 1.3x  cropped sensor ‘sport-suitable’ pro camera bodies (and when I say ‘sport’ I mean  those that shoot 9 fps, can buffer at least 25 RAW images for fast sequences, has good seals that can deal with the same inclement weather we have to on the mountain and have batteries large enough to deal with big days out in the cold… and BTW no, the Canon 5 D doesn’t cope well with that kind of cold and only shoots 5 FPS).

For reference, this is what the same shot of Paddy would have looked like if it had been shot with the same 14mm lens on the Canon 1Dmk3, rendering an effective 20mm focal length. OK, so you might have chosen to back off a little, but then you would miss the beauty of wide. The cropped shot here loses the background mountain landscape that adds depth and is an essential point of reference. So, worth the switch? Id say.

I’m guessing the guys at Canon see “sport” as ringside, perhaps motor racing, football and even a little tennis? Long lenses rule the roost here and for that use Canon’s artillery of glass will do a fine  job. I’d even say their 16-35 f2.8 II is a more than worthy optic. Of course it is. But at effectively over 20mm (on a 1.3 crop sensor) it doesn’t get  the full wide, ‘in there amongst it’ kind of feel I like to convey at times.

So I just got tired waiting for the Canon rumour machine to ring true, for Canon to bring something out that allows me to return to the wides that I used to capture with my 35mm film bodies.

Simple as that really. So Nikon it is from here on in. And the first big job? Well, I’m heading to Svalbard (a cluster of islands 600 miles from the North Pole) in 2 days time to shoot another 3-week snow-camping and splitboarding assignment with Jeremy Jones and Terje Haakenson on the next TGR project ‘Further’.

Should be a great testing ground methinks. Watch this space.

(**For the geeks, the D3s will give me the uber-wides with the 14mm focal length, while choosing a D300s DX (1.5 crop sensor) over the full frame D700 FX as a second back up body, will yield a distance gobbling 450mm when coupled with the 300 f4 lens… the kind of thing you need every now and then on big mountain riding missions like this one in Svalbard).


1 Comment »

  1. Some brilliant images whatever the camera. Nice photography.

    Comment by Geoff — April 18, 2011 @ 8:57 am

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