Sunday, January 3, 2010

Whats in the bag? The Camera. Part 2.

What's in the bag? Its a question El Strobisto is asked more than any other. For all you gear-heads, here is a rundown of what I carry when I am shooting a wedding or other event.

The Camera: Part 2.

Nikon D200.
Things that El Strobisto DISLIKES about the D200:

1)Glue that holds rubber on the body is crap.- After 3 years of use, much of it in the sub-tropical climate of central/south-florida, the rubber on the camera body is affixed about as solidly as a post-it note. El Strobisto has attempted to repair the situation with gorilla-glue to no avail. Under certain situations, the rubber can impede the turning of the command dials, costing valuable seconds during shooting. Apparently this has been a problem since the introduction of the F5 (which is currently in El Strobisto's bag as well, albeit without rubber-related-problems). In this humble strobisto's opinion, this is a problem much in-need of a solution from Nikon.

2) Not FX.- As a long-term investor in Nikkor Lenses, El Strobisto has purchased mostly full-frame glass, always looking towards the future. Face it, DX is a consumer format developed to allow for greater-range in consumer-grade zooms. The 650$ 18-200 VR nikkor is a great lens, but it doesn't compare to the image-quality of any of the primes it supposedly replaces.

"But El Strobisto, you can still use your FX lenses on your DX sensor, and you get the added bonus of using the sharpest part (the center) of the projected image every time." True. But that 1.5x crop factor also means that it is very difficult to get very wide. A 20-35 on the F5 is an amazing lens; Super-wide at the 20mm end, and just long enough at the 35mm end to justify the size and weight. This same lens on a DX sensor is...well... NOT WIDE. 20-35 converts to roughly 30-53mm; not exactly a desirable zoom range. This situation forces the DX shooter to purchase a super-wide lens specifically developed for DX sensors, which is great...until the DX shooter switches to FX, at which point he/she is going to be shopping for new lenses to cover the wide end of the FX spectrum. Interestingly enough, the 1.5 crop factor, and the associated DX mm measurements provided by manufacturers are not 100% accurate; for example, a 12-24 DX format lens should convert to an 18-36 FX equivelent, yet we find that this is not so. In fact, the 12mm end on a DX body looks EXACTLY like the 20mm end of a 20-35mm on an FX body! As such, the Tokina 12-24 that was tested would more accurately be described as a 13.5-24mm.

3) TINY finder.- Ok, it's HUGE compared to the finder on a D40, 70, 90, 5000, or any other consumer cameras; but compared to ANY 35mm (consumer or pro-grade) body, this is a puny window through which to view the world! Larger finders alone are enough to justify keeping multiple film bodies "in the bag".

4) High ISO performance.- The D200 is a 1st gen digital camera. As is to be expected from gen 1 hardware, the high ISO performance leaves MUCH to be desired. At ISO 640 and up, shadow detail becomes more like a kaliedescope, with strange dots and colors that remind El Strobisto of that time in college when someone gave him seventeen ...nevermind.

Custom El Strobisto Upgrades/Modifications:

1) Built-in flash button removed.- At some point in during the first year of shooting, the button to flip-up the flash became cumbersome, apparently necessitating removal. The act of removal is still a complete mystery, as one day the button was present and functional, and the next day: gone! El Strobisto's advice to anyone else who wants this amazing customization on their D200: Use it every day (especially at bars and clubs) and given enough time, you too will be the proud owner of a "custom" D200. The Removal of the flash-button required custom modification #2, detailed below.

2) Built-in flash button replaced with "soft-tip" dart tip, affixed with mono-filament to the camera strap.- Yes, you read that correctly. From time to time, the dart tip requires customization to fit in the flash-button hole, this is accomplished through the use of El Strobisto's front incisors. (photo Below) A backup "flash-button" dart-tip is also carried on a long mono-filament "leash", affixed to a lens-case that is carried on a belt during high-intensity shoots. (photo below)

3)Loud "Steal-me-now" Nikon brand strap replaced with a much more subdued, Tamrac strap.- This Modification has 2 major benefits, first, as mentioned above, the "stock" strap loudly proclaims that you are carrying a Nikon D200; El Strobisto does not want just anyone knowing what camera he is carrying... only those posessing the James-Bond-like ability to identify every make/model of camera based on a 1 sec. glance (those "with honor") deserve to know what type of camera is around El Strobisto's neck.
The second major benefit to the aftermarket strap is extra length. Due to his "grande" stature and muscular build, El Strobisto requires a bit more than what the skinny-fashionistas over at Nikon think is appropriate. Nikon's disapproval of persons with chest dimensions over 50 inches is, to this Strobisto, quite clear. Please note that Canon brand straps have not been extensively tested, and as such, El Strobisto cannot accurately gauge the level of size-discrimination inherent in Canon products.

Check back soon!
Coming next on El Strobisto:
What's in the Bag? Lenses: Part 1.

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