Not All Pixels Are Created Equal

Whenever I help friends and family buy a new camera, they almost always turn to pixels as the dominating trade point. The reality is, that’s probably not the most appropriate measure of “bestness” and here’s why:

The metric most often used by camera manufacturers and marketers to tout their products has been pixel count. That’s a shame, but it was probably inevitable — it’s easy to measure, and consumers are used to the idea that more is better. However, the number of pixels is a measure of quantity, not quality.

This is a great article explaining in a mostly non-technical way why pixels aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Case in point: I can (and have) print a 30″ x 20″ from my eight-year-old 6.1 MP Nikon D70 that look great because it has a 23.7 mm × 15.6 mm1 sensor. If I were to print a picture at the same size using my year-old iPhone 4S with its 8 MP 4.54 mm x 3.42 mm2 sensor, it would look very noisy.


  1. 369.72mm2 

  2. 15.52mm2 

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I bought a Nikon D7000 last week. I had called Glazer’s and they put me on The List. A few days later they called me back saying that had a body with my name on it. I picked it up. And it has been awesome.

I thought it would be fitting that the first picture I take with my new camera be a picture of my old camera:

DSC_0001
50.0 mm || 1/30 || f/3.2 || ISO200 || NIKON D7000
Seattle, Washington, United States

Final stats (as best I can figure out):

  • 38,641 pictures
  • 234 GB of photos
  • 5 years, 5 months, 2 days
  • 3 continents (North America, Europe, Asia)
  • 17 countries

First D70 picture: June 14, 2005
Last D70 picture1: November 6, 2010
Most interesting D70 picture
Most viewed D70 picture

Back to the D7000; I am really enjoying it so far! I’ve been playing around with all the new features and figuring out how I can get the most out of it. The big things I’m having to deal with right now are the increased file sizes (RAW files are about 20MB in size, versus 6MB with the D70) and taking video.

I’m looking for a good movie editor that is either free or inexpensive and can do color temperature and tint adjustment (along with all the regular stuff). I currently use Windows Live Movie Maker, and while that works for slicing and dicing, that’s about all it can do. I’m currently looking into Lightworks, which is a free and open source video editing suite that has won2 both Academy and Emmy awards.

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50.0 mm || 1/25 || f/4.5 || ISO4000 || NIKON D7000


  1. For now, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with the camera. I’m thinking about just keeping it as a backup/secondary 

  2. not just nominated, but won 

Photos From Around Seattle

We’ve had some pretty remarkable weather here in Seattle over the last few days. I’ve been experimenting with a new app on my Android called Retro Camera while I wait for Chase Jarvis to release his Best Camera app on the Android.

Anyway, the motto is: “The best camera is the one you have with you.” This is usually my Android these days unless I think ahead and bring my DSLR. So enjoy the pictures!

Sunrise
The Pinhole
Seattle, Washington, United States

Ferries
The Pinhole
Seattle, Washington, United States

Hello Seattle, Hello Sun
The Pinhole
Seattle, Washington, United States

The Nikon D7000: 478% Better Than the D70

I’ll drool over some new toy I’d love to have from time to time, but I’m not usually one to let my impulses get the best of me in that regard. However, Nikon’s new DSLR camera, the rumored D7000, could be one of those things I just have to get.

I’ve had my D70 for about 5 years now and it has served my very faithfully. 38,000 shutter clicks later and countless tens of thousands of miles traveled, my camera has done well and probably still has some spunk left in it.

However, I’ve found myself approaching the maximum technical capabilities of my current camera. My biggest need right now is more sensor sensitivity (ISO). My D70 tops out at 1600 ISO, which is not bad, but can produce some banding:

Back Side of Firenze
18.3 mm || 1/50 || f/3.5 || ISO1600 || NIKON D70
Florence, Tuscany, Italy

The theoretical D7000 goes to ISO 25600, which is 16 times higher and allows for an additional four stops to work with. This is huge. I had to brace myself against a wall to get that photo in Florence, and even then I was still shooting at 1/50. If I were to shoot at ISO 25600, I could have shot it at 1/800. That’s insane.

The other awesome thing is how much better the quality is at a given ISO. Check out these sample images from Ken Rockwell showing the Nikon D70 (which is what I have), the Nikon D3 (which is a Nikon camera that can actually go to ISO 25600, but it probably not very representative of the D7000), and the Nikon D300S (which is probably more similar to the D7000 than the D3). The important thing to note is not the overall quality of these images (they are cropped really small), but the difference in image quality between ISO levels of a particular camera:

Nikon D70 | ISO 200
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/dslr-comparison/us.htm
Nikon D70 | ISO 1600
http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/dslr-comparison/us.htm

Nikon D3 | ISO 200
http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d5000/high-iso-comparison.htm
Nikon D3 | ISO 1600
http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d5000/high-iso-comparison.htm
Nikon D3 | ISO 25600
http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d5000/high-iso-comparison.htm

Nikon D300 | ISO 200
http://kenrockwell.com/tech/comparisons/2010-08-03-5d2-7d-5d-d300/
Nikon D300 | ISO 1600
http://kenrockwell.com/tech/comparisons/2010-08-03-5d2-7d-5d-d300/

The other big thing I’m looking forward to do is shoot amazing video montages. Similar to this:

Haiti Earthquake Aftermath Montage from Khalid Mohtaseb on Vimeo.

Nikon D90 AF system
http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/lineup/d90/en/advanced-function/
It will be nice to have more Auto Focus points, hopefully more of my photos will be in focus, but I’d be fine with even 11 points — which is how many the D90 has, and still makes my D70 look paltry by comparison.

The downside is that each image is 2.5 times the file size of my D70, which is going to wreck havoc on my storage. I’ve never really had an issue blowing photos up and currently have a 30″ x 20″ hanging on the wall which looks just spectacular.

Anyway, here are the key differences that I’m interested in:

D7000 D70
Megapixel 16.2 6.24
Video 1080P @ 24FPS N/A
ISO, min 100 200
ISO, max 25600 1600
Auto Focus Points 39 5

Hopefully, come September 15th, I may actually be able to plunk down some cash for this baby. Anyone interested in a well-loved, well-traveled, well-used Nikon D70? I’m going to go get a mop to wipe up all this drool.

The Green Blob

What the heck is going on here? I took a picture in burst mode (three consecutive pictures taken at 3fps). The first picture has some weird green blog in it (click on either image to embiggen):

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…and the very next shot, the green blob is gone…

DSC_2881

…thoughts? I was shooting with my 4 year old Nikon D70 with 18-70mm Nikkor Lens without a hood. Could it be an artifact from the sun over saturating the sensor?

Technology for The Trip

One of the bigest things I had to figure out for this trip was all the technology I was (or wasn’t going to bring) and how I would be using it. Basically, I didn’t want to bring anything super expensive or heavy with me, and what I ever I brought needed to do its job and do it well. Here’s the list of hardware:

Additionally, I’ve loaded up my Netbook with some software specific for this trip:

  • AVG Anti-virus
  • GeoSetter
  • Google Earth
  • Google Chrome
  • iTunes
  • Skype
  • Windows Live Writter
  • TweetDeck
  • Lightroom
  • Meebone
  • Flickr Uploader
  • GPSBabel
  • Launchy
  • NotePad++

Many of the software tools on this list are standare fare, others are new to me. GeoSetter is an application that merges GPS data (from the AMOD AGL3080 GPS Data Logger) with photos (from the D70).

Meebone is desktop version of Meebo, which is a web-based instant messaging program.

GPSBabel is a program which can take GPS data (again, from the AMOD AGL3080 GPS Data Logger, which is in NMEA 0183 format) and convert it into any other format, such as Google’s Keyhole Markup Language (KML).

Launchy is a program used for quick access to programs. I just press ALT + Space and type in the name of the program I want to run.

Windows Live Writter is a desktop program for composing and publish blog posts. I’m using this because there will often be times when I cannot connect to the internet, but still want to write up posts. This will let me compose posts and then publish them when I hit a WiFi spot.

One of the other things I’m working on is a revised workflow for photos. I need a workflow that will quickly let me merge GPS data, import photos to Lightroom for processing, export, and upload. I’m still working out the kinks, but the basic process goes like this (based in part on Bryan Villarin’s My new geotagging workflow with the Amod AGL3080 and Lightroom (Windows):

  1. Move photos from D70 to Netbook
  2. Move GPS data from Data Logger to Netbook
  3. Use GeoSetter to merge GPS data with photos (data added to NEF file, not sidecar XMP)
  4. Import/Move photos into Lightroom
  5. Pick good photos and apply Auto Tone and/or Punch filters
  6. Export filters to JPG with High Sharpening for Screen
  7. Important photos to Flickr Uploadr
  8. Add photos to group(s), add tag(s) to photos
  9. Upload photos
  10. Delete JPG version of photos

We’ll see how that works. My other option is to just backup the RAW photos to my server and not process them until I get home, which I don’t want to do.


  1. No, I’m not making that color up 

EDays 2009: Diamond AnnivarsarE-Days

EDays is upon us once again. And once again, I’ll be taking photos! I’m the official EDays photographer for The Oredigger and the EDays Committee. Last year was great and I got some great photos. But this year. This year is going to be epic. This year, I’ll be renting a Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 12-24 f/4G DX, both from Pro Photo Rental up in Boulder. Thanks to Jared for the hookup and working out all the details with me!

So yes, that means that I’ll be shooting with two cameras. My D70 with an 18-70 (or 50mm) and the rented D90 with 12-24.

I also made up this years new press pass. It’s very similar to last years press pass, but with an updated picture, ID#, and expiration date (natch). I also added some text on the back of the pass.
Total cost: 10 cents for the color laserjet print at school plus $1.25 for the lamination at FedEx Kinko’s.
My enjoyment: Priceless.

press_pass

I will also, however, have my legitimate concert backstage access/press pass, just like the last three years1, special thanks to Tim Weilert for helping me out with this.

My goal this year is two-fold: shoot more people pictures and take video (which I can do using the D90…in HD no less). I really just hope I have less than 2000 photos to edit.

The Oredigger also published the E-Digger, a guide to Engineering Days. I got2 two full page photos and a double truck3 wide! It’s pretty awesome and I recommend you check out a copy if you’re on campus.

DSC_8913


DSC_2313
Golden, Colorado, United States


DSC_2265
Golden, Colorado, United States


DSC_2398
Golden, Colorado, United States


DSC_3190
10.5 mm || 1/1000 || f/7.1 || ISO200 || NIKON D70
Golden, Colorado, United States

I also know there are a couple of Facebook groups that are using my photos too, I basically have the market cornered on “csm edays fireworks.” It’s all good though.

Over the last 5 EDays, I’ve published over 1000 photos4. I’ve gathered them all into one collection over at Flickr: A collection of all EDays photos I’ve ever taken

Stay tuned for this years report, it’s bound to epic.


  1. Holy crap, have I really been doing this for that long?! 

  2. my photos were used on 

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_truck 

  4. I suspect I’ve taken closer to 5000 

Lost Sweater

Lost Sweater (by Mr Ferguson)

Nikon D70 || Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D || 1/60 || f/1.8 || ISO200 || Handheld

Someone had left their sweater at the desk I sat down at. She later came and picked it up as the library was closing.