Ronno Tramper Photography

30 august 2009, Switch to full frame and 25 megapixels

I have been thinking. Suppose you're a landscape and macro photographer. You own a Nikon D300 and some Nikkor lenses (some of them DX, others full frame) and you are thinking about buying a full frame 25 megapixel camera. What should you buy? A Nikon D3X for 6000 (!!!!) euros?

I have a better solution. Buy a Sony A900 camerabody (2000 euros), the Sony f2.8/16-35mm ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T (1300 euros), the Sony f2.8/24-70mm ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T (1300 euros), the Sony f/4-5.6/70-400mm SSM G (1300 euros) or perhaps the Sony f/2.8/70-200mm SSM G (1600 euros) and finally a Sigma f3.5/180mm Macro (700 euros). Total costs will be around 6.600 euros. If you then sell your Nikon stuff on the internet the total costs will be much less than 6000 euros when you're ready.

Why? You will need the very best full frame (not DX) lenses to take advantage of the 25 megapixel sensor. Whether it's the Sony or the Nikon that you choose. If you buy the D3X body you will very likely have to buy a pro level wide angle zoom, such as the Nikkor f2.8/14-24, and one or two other full frame lenses to complete your line up. That will cost you an additional 3000-5000 euros on top of the 6000 for the body.

For approximately the price of a D3X body alone you get the Sony A900 body and the Zeiss 16-35, the Zeiss 24-70 plus a few other lenses. The two Zeiss lenses are arguably the best in their class: best optics, fastest AF. The other lenses are also at least as good as their Nikkor counterparts. The choice then is between just a 25mp camera body (D3X) and a 25mp camera body (A900) plus four lenses, two of which are the best in their class. Sure, the D3X is better than the A900. But is it that much better?

Am I going to ditch my Nikon equipment? Who knows. I'll let you know when I do. What keeps me from doing it right now is that I do not like the idea of carrying around more kilos of equipment.

20 august 2009, Canon G11 compact

Canon has announced the G11, successor to the G10, as little as 11 months after the introduction of the G10. That is amazingly fast.

Looking at the G11 closely I am doubting if this can really be said to be a successor to the G10. It may look very similar, but it's an entirely different camera. It seems that Canon for once has decided to listen to the wishes of photographers. Only 10 megapixels instead of the 14.7 of the G10. But it is very likely that the per pixel resolution will be a lot better. Also this camera at ISO 400 will probably offer the image quality that the G10 offers at ISO 100. That will mean very clean images at ISO 100 for the G11. Add to that the faster shutter response, the 1/2000 sec. flash sync, the adjustable LCD on the back and the same, very good lens that is on The G10, and anyone will realize that this is a different camera with a new philosophy behind it. This is a photographer's camera, not a marketeer's camera.

I have written it before on this page: when it comes to equipment, less is more. That is certainly the case for pixels on the relatively small image sensors of compact cameras. Canon's decision to go back from a 15mp sensor to a 10mp sensor deserves our support. I will very likely buy this camera when it becomes available in the fall.

17 august 2009, Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus

This morning I came accross this little family. Much to my surprise this late in the season. It's probably the second nest this summer. I cropped the image rather heavily (50%).

I shot handheld with VR on and a shutterspeed of 1/2000 sec. I do not have the faintest idea if VR makes a difference at that shutterspeed. I shot the 80-400 VR Nikkor at 330mm. I have the experience that zooming all the way to 400mm with this lens only diminishes the amount of detail in the image. Above 320mm the image quality of this lens deteriorates very rapidly. At 400mm it is so soft that you are actually better of shooting at 320mm and then interpolating the image in Photoshop (if you have one, test it, because your specimen of this lens may be better). I have stopped using this lens at 400mm. At 320mm it is very sharp though, even wide open! On a D300 (DX) that is still the equivalent of 5.6/480mm on a 35mm camera.

Great Crested Grebe, Podiceps cristatus
Nikon D300, Nikkor 80-400 VR at 330mm, ISO 400, f5.6, 1/2000 sec., handheld, VR on

14 august 2009, Merskenheide

Yesterday I visited a moor/heath area locally known as the Merskenheide. It's a very small nature reserve (perhaps one square mile), but surprisingly rich in plant and animal species. The following shots were all made in just two and a half hours, using only two lenses (a 12-24 wide angle zoom and a 180mm macro; exif information is in the images). I know, ... it's not Yellowstone or the Himalayas. I've been in spectacular places all over the world. But the reality is that as much as 80 to 90 percent of my images have been shot within 20 miles from my home. Photography, and especially landscape, nature and wildlife photography, is about knowing and studying your subject. It's about seeing, about finding ways to make interesting images of subjects that may seem common and even boring to you. That's what distinguishes a photographer from people who make snapshots of tourist highlights.

Merskenheide, Friesland, the Netherlands
Nikon D300, Tokina 4/12-24mm at 15mm, polarizer, tripod

Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm macro, tripod

Silver-studded blue, Plebejus argus
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm macro, tripod

Viviparous lizard, Zootoca vivipara
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm macro, handheld

common European viper (or adder), Vipera berus
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm macro, tripod

8 august 2009, Canon G9 under water

Fringed Water-lily, Nymphoides peltata
Canon G9, partially under water

The reason I am showing you this shot is not that it's such a fantastic photo. I will clearly have to experiment a little more. I am showing it because I would like to share with you a very simple way to use your camera (partially) under water without an underwater housing. All you need is a lensmate, a UV filter, a transparant plastic bag, insulation tape and a rubber band. Now, I am going to show you how I did it with my Canon G9, but please note that I am not recommending it!

Canon G9 and Lensmate

First of all you need a Lensmate (available for many compact cameras) and a neutral (or UV) glass filter. Make sure that the attached filter does not leak. Take the lensmate off the camera, screw on the filter, turn it upside down (like a cup with a glass bottom) and fill it with water. If it doesn't leak after a few minutes, it's okay.

lensmate and filter

Put the lensmate and the filter back on the camera. See to it that there is an SD-card in the camera and that the battery is full. Put the camera in the transparant plastic bag with the LCD towards the bottom and the lensmate pointing up towards the opening. Take the rubber band and wrap it around the opening of the bag and the lensmate (see photo). Now cut away most of the the excess plastic with scissors and tape the remaining plastic tightly to the lensmate tube. The first obstacle for the water is the insulation tape. If a little water does manage to seep through it will be blocked by the rubber band that is tied around the plastic bag a little further. All the controls can be reached through the flexible plastic and you can see the LCD through the plastic too. Keep away sharp objects (long finger nails!). Before taking this into the water I tested it in the bath tub! I regularly inspect it during use and never keep it under water for more than a minute or so. At the first sign of water seeping in I take it out of the water. By the way, the same construction or something similar will make for a very effective rain cover for your camera.

A disposable underwater housing.

7 august 2009, Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is a very common butterfly, both in Europe and in North America. The American Painted Lady looks slightly different though. I photographed this one this morning in a field of clovers at walking distance from here. All I took was my D300 and the Sigma 3.5/180mm Macro. I shot handheld. This was done in bright sunshine. To avoid very harsh contrasts in those circumstances follow the instructions below.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm APO Macro, f8, 1/320 sec, ISO 400, fill-flash (built-in), handheld

How to: I used a D300, the Sigma 3.5/180mm macro and the camera's built-in flash as a fill flash. In summer the sun stands high, shining down almost vertically upon the butterflies. That means harsh shadows under their wings. If you bend your knees and keep the camera horizontal as you shoot (don't shoot downwards!), the built-in flash will fill the shadows under their wings under most circumstances. It's not perfect, but it works and it's a lot less heavy and cumbersome than walking around with a construction with two flashes (one on each side of the lens).

Go to the camera menu --> personal settings (that's the little pencil) --> e: bracketing/flash --> e1: sync speed --> choose 1/320 sec (auto FP). I know the manual says that with the built in flash you should use 1/250 sec. But trust me, you will not see it and it gives you some extra speed for handholding a long macro-lens. Leave the menu. Change the camera mode to S (shutter priority). Change the shutterspeed to 1/320 sec. Change the ISO to a value that results in apertures between f5.6 and f11 in the given circumstances. With (bright) sunshine that will be somewhere in the 200 to 800 range (keep ISO as low as possible). Pop up the flash and dial the flash output back to -1 to mitigate the effect of the flash (no shadow at all looks odd). I left the lenshood off because it might partially block the light from the built-in flash. Now you just start shooting the butterflies handheld. Manual focusing works best. First focus and then move the camera back and forth until you see the butterfly (eyes and head sharp!) in the viewfinder. Then very gently (you are shooting handheld, remember) press the shutter.

6 august 2009, Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

A rural scene from a small wetland nearby. The day before yesterday, just before sunset. It is called the "Kraanlânnen". It's almost entirely covered in Purple loosestrife this time of year. I used the Nikkor 16-85VR at 80mm, a monopod and ... a ladder! Friesland is so flat that you need a ladder sometimes to photograph a landscape from an interesting point of view. I cropped it to a panorama.

Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) in the "Kraanlânnen", De Veenhoop, Friesland
Nikon D300, Nikkor 16-85VR at 80mm, f8, 1/40 sec, ISO 200, monopod, VR on

2 august 2009, Nikon rumors

It's a rainy day in Friesland, so I decided to waste a little more time on the Nikon Rumors website. It's definitely been the last time. Did all those people who actually base their decision whether they should buy a Nikkor 80-400VR now or wait for the "all new futuristic AF-S Nikkor 120-450mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR II" bother to read the disclaimer of this site??? It says (literally): "Most of the stories here are based on my own dreams and nothing else." What else do you need? If you have the money and some creative ideas, but do not have the telezoom to realize those ideas, buy the Nikkor 80-400VR or perhaps even the Sigma 4/100-300mm HSM. But do something! You are not going to make any photos for the rest of the year with no lens at all. That's for sure.

2 august 2009, new cover photo

I have changed the cover photo of my website to august. The entries of june have been archived. The link is available on the left.

1 august 2009, Nikon roadmap

I got a question from a reader from Poland who asked me what I think of this. Supposedly a leaked roadmap from Nikon.

I believe that people write this stuff because they know it attracts many readers. And many readers translates into extra income from the advertisements on their site (look how many there are on this site). I do not think this is a leaked road map coming from Nikon. It is wishful thinking. They can sometimes be right of course. It is not so hard to predict that one day Nikon will come with a D400, that it wil have more pixels than the D300 and the D300s (probably something like 14 to 16mp) and that this will happen between 12 and 24 months from now. I can feel a 25mp D700x coming. I do not need a leaked roadmap for that!

If you like to read this type of guesses too (I do) go to Thom Hogans site. He at leasts admits he is guessing and his guesses are educated guesses, not wild guesses or wishful thinking.

1 august 2009, more digital and macro

Same as yesterday. I was sitting in the garden, having my lunch. Spotted this Peacock butterfly (Inachis io), grabbed my camera from the table, took a few shots before it left again and ... voila! Nikon D300, a Sigma 3.5/180mm macro at f5.6 and 1/1600 of a second, ISO 800, handheld (exif-info is available in the image). The 100% image is incredibly sharp and almost noise free. I slightly cropped it, by the way (no more than 10-20%).

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)
Nikon D300, Sigma 3.5/180mm APO Macro, f5.6, 1/1600 sec, ISO 800, handheld