The Seafair Air Show

If you will recall, I rented a Nikon 600mm f/4.0D AF-S II VR to take pictures of the Blue Angels in 2012…because why not?

Unfortunately, the Blue Angels were canceled last year, but they were back this year!

So I rented the Nikon 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR…mostly because I could:

From www.kenrockwell.com:

Pros don’t buy these lenses. Nikon and Canon’s pro support programs loan them out for free at sporting events hoping TV viewers see more black or white to influence consumers. Therefore, don’t take any of the prices that seriously. Nikon and Canon probably take a loss on the sale of each of these lenses, considering the small quantities sold. They are created mostly for bragging rights, like the unbeaten Nikon 13mm f/5.6.

It was fun to rent, but shooting anything with a lens like this is hard. Ideally I would just move closer to the airplanes, but until the FAA decides to let drones fly with planes (or the Blue Angels invite me to ride along) I’m stuck with have to use the power of optics.

The issue which shooting with such a large lense is mostly the haze and smoke trails. The heat shimmer kicks in eventually if you get enough air between the you and the object you’re trying to shoot:

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You may need to embiggen to get a good look, but the planes basically look like a mosaic because of the heat shimmer — and there’s no amount of Photoshop that can fix that.

From en.wikipedia.org:

Convection causes the temperature of the air to vary, and the variation between the hot air […] and the denser cool air […] creates a gradient in the refractive index of the air. This produces a blurred shimmering effect, which affects the ability to resolve objects, the effect being increased when the image is magnified through a telescope or telephoto lens.

Your best bet is to get a polarizer (which I unfortunately didn’t have) and shoot at 90° to the sun, as shown by the Rayleigh sky model (See also: Polarizing filter). There’s actually a pretty cool tool called SunCalc that will show you where the sun will be at a given date and time — very useful for things like this.

Still, with just over 1500 photos I was bound to get some good ones. Interestingly enough, it’s not that hard to actually track the planes once you get a bead on them. Here are the 4% that made the cut:

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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 

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.