I don't seem to often update this page, so what you see here may be a little out-of-date.

This page was last changed on October 23, 2006


I'm a digital shooter, and I guess I'm a Nikon guy. I've nothing against Canon; I just started in Nikon and ended up staying there so I wouldn't have to get new lenses. I started with a Coolpix 995, changed to a D70 when it came out in 2004, and got myself a D2X in September 2005. The D2X body set me back around $7000 (Canadian), and the D70 (with a kit lens) was about $2000.

I love the D2X; I find it a very comfortable and easy camera to use. I like the control layout, and have little problem finding the right controls without looking.

My favorite ergo features on the D2X are the viewfinder and the vertical control set. The viewfinder is big, bright, and has a high exit pupil, which is great for people like me who wear glasses. The size and brightness really helps when doing manual focusssing. The viewfinder shutter is also a nice touch. The vertical handgrip and controls are just really, really handy, especially when using a long lens.

The only control I seem to have a problem with (and it's a very minor problem) is the direction pad. It has four directional buttons, which in shooting are used to control which focus area is used for autofocus and spot metering. It also has a center button, used to return the focus area selection to the center of the field. It is the center button that I have trouble with; somehow I always seem to get one of the four directional buttons instead. This isn't much of an inconvenience, as one can always get back to center by pressing the correct directional button, and so I've just learned not to use the center one.

The 5-fps frame rate is awesome for action shots, and I've never had a burst end because the buffer ran out. The 12 Mpixel resolution is good enough for A3+ prints (13" x 19"). I haven't tried making any larger prints from it yet. I also like the color rendition better than I did the D70's.

Another big plus on the D2X is the battery life; I've gotten over 1500 jpegs out of a battery charge, and the charge-remaining information is nice to have. The big battery also means a lot of power to the lenses; the D2X will autofocus my 80-400mm lens much quicker than the D70 would.

The body is rugged and seems to shrug off a Vancouver drizzle. I always keep it covered in plastic in a serious rain, though.

Although seriously outclassed by the D2X, the D70 was a great camera for its time, and it was the first camera I had that was responsive enough to shoot birds and other wildlife. I still keep it around as a backup.




I have four lenses that I'm using nowadays: a Nikkor 80-400 VR zoom, Nikkor 12-24 zoom, Nikkor 24-120 VR zoom, and a Tamron 90mm Macro. I'll address each of them below.

Note that with the D2X's small sensor, there is a crop factor of 1.5x relative to a 35mm SLR. This means that when I use a 400mm focal length on the D2X, it acts like a 600mm focal length on your average SLR. Many digital SLRs have this sort of crop factor.


AF VR Zoom-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED

It used to be that about 95% of my photos were taken with this lens, but since I've started doing photos of things other than birds (like insects), that percentage has been going down. Most of the time when I use this lens, it's extended all the way to the 400mm end. So maybe a prime would've been a better choice.

The VR in the lens name stands for Vibration Reduction (the Canon equivalent is IS, or Image Stabilization). This feature allows hand-holding of the lens two to three stops slower than you would normally expect. I generally without hesitation will hand-hold the fully extended lens down to 1/100 of a second. From 1/100 to 1/30 of a second is what I think of as the grey zone, where shake definitely shows up but occasionally one can pull off a clear shot (relax, and take lots of photographs). I prefer using a tripod in the grey zone, though. Below 1/30 of a second, I won't even try without a tripod and shutter release.

The minimum focal distance is somewhere around a meter or two; I have found myself having to back up to focus on some subjects. This is inconvenient, but it goes with the territory of having a long lens. I have used the lens with extension tubes, and with a Canon 500D Close-up Lens on the end of it, and it works fine, but gives very narrow DOF. My 24-120mm and 90mm are much better for macro work (but heavier and more bulky than the 500D).

For distant subjects, I use the VR lens with either a 1.4x or 2x (Kenko) Teleconverter. Unless there is loads of light, I lose autofocus capability. Manual focus with the teleconverters and this lens seems an iffy proposition, though, even with the D2X. So I find myself shying away from the teleconverter option, saving it for when I absolutely need the magnification or I know I can shoot a lot of photos, refocusing between shots. Teleconverter use demands a tripod and remote control.

The lens has a bit of chromatic aberration, but not so much as to be a problem all of the time. It becomes more of a problem when using a teleconverter, where a sharp contrast in the image will often necessitate touch-up.

The VR lens cost around $2000 (Canadian). Nikon also makes a VR 200-400mm f/4 lens, which would be very sweet (because of the speed), but it costs three to four times as much.

This page is under revision; the text above is new (October 2006) and what follows is much older, and includes lenses that I no longer use.

AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G IF-ED

This is the D70 kit lens. I use this when I need a wider angle than the 120mm-equivalent that the 80mm end of the VR lens delivers on the D70. This is a pretty rare situation in wildlife photography, but sometimes I'll shoot landscapes or typical journalism shots where this sort of focal length is best. (Although I often use the VR lens for landscape.) At short focal lengths, this lens has a fair amount of disortion, and also the lens hood must be removed to prevent vignetting.

At medium and long focal lengths, it's a fairly good lens, but I don't have near the experience with it that I have with the long lens.


Tamron SP AF90mm f/2.8 Macro 1:1

This is the only prime lens I own. I'm quite happy with it; it's fast and very sharp. I haven't been shooting a lot of macro this year (when I was using the CP995, about half my shots were macro), but every time I've used this lens, I've been happy with the results.

It'll focus down to about 30cm, and I've yet to try it with my extension rings...

Cost: $580.


Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 II Macro Super

This was the first lens I bought for the camera, not including the kit lens. It gave me a decent magnification power, and I got a few good bird shots with it.

However, I quickly became frustrated with the camera shake that I usually got when using this lens. A tripod is a necessity with this lens. Chromatic aberration is also problematic.

About a month after buying this lens, I bought the VR lens, and since then, I've never put this one back on the camera. The VR outperforms it on all fronts. The tradeoff is cost and weight: the Sigma cost only $225, and is significantly lighter than the Nikkor.



I do a mix of hand-held and tripod work. A tripod is a bunch of extra weight to lug around, but there's no denying that it really reduces shake. When hand-holding, I feel more responsive, able to track and shoot that Harrier as it flies by and then switch subjects to the Sparrow on the path in front of me in less than a second. I lack this spontaneity when tripod-mounted; I've almost never gotten a close moving subject from the tripod.

Still, on days when I'm feeling patient, and I know I'll be tracking only one or two subjects, I'll use the tripod. I have four or five tripods; the one that I currently use most of the time is a Gitzo 1427 carbon fibre tripod, with an Arca-Swiss B1 Ballhead and mounting plates from Really Right Stuff. I'm still not sure if I really like the ballhead, and I'm thinking about trying a gimbal head or the Wemberly Sidekick gimbal adapter. The 1427 is a strong, sturdy tripod and the B1 is equally strong; it has no problems holding my lens and camera in place. It's a tall combination; I can't see through my viewfinder if I extend the legs all the way.


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