Thursday
Dec
2007
13

Nikon D300 Review (by Scott Kelby)

by Scott Kelby  |  18 Comments

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I’ve spent the past two weeks, many hours, had two meetings with Nikon Professional Services staff, and taken thousands of photos with my new Nikon D300 and I’m ready to spill the beans and let you know what’s hot (and what’s not) about Nikon’s new arrival. Here’s the straight scoop:

First, Why I Bought a D300:
I hate to admit it, but the main reason I bought a D300 in the first place is because of the bigger LCD screen on the back. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true (I had only actually held a D300 once; at Photoshop World, and then only for about three minutes. I spent much more time with the D3, as I actually got to shoot with it on location in Montana). Of course, I tried to justify the purchase by telling myself that there were other new features, but basically in my mind it was a D200, with a bigger screen and a few new bells and whistles, so I ordered it. Here’s the thing; I was wrong. Way wrong. The D300 is MUCH more camera than I was giving it credit for.

What kicks butt about the D300:

  • The 51-point (and 21-point) autofocus rocks. It’s much better, faster, and more accurate than the D200′s, that it made the D200′s focus seem clunky by comparison. This I did not expect.
  • The Live View (which I totally dismissed as something I would never use), has a feature I never knew existed; you can turn on Live View, look at a live preview of your shot and (get this), change your White Balance setting, and the preview updates live. That’s right—you can scroll through the different settings and see how different white balance settings look in real time. It’s very responsive, and it’s just plain fun to use. Also, the image on screen is crisp enough to actually use for getting shots above your head, down low for macro shots, and anywhere where your head won’t fit. Much cooler than I expected.
  • Press the Info button the back of the camera, and the camera’s shooting settings (which usually appear in the tiny LCD on the top of the camera), now fill the screen in big bright letters; and (that’s right), they’re live! So you can change Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and actually see the settings big and bright (really handy when you’re shooting on a tripod, which I do most of the time). I now use this to check my WHIMS settings in just a quick glance, even in low light situations.
  • Lower noise. Not low noise; but lower (don’t confuse the D300 with the D3. It’s the D3 that’s the low noise miracle machine). That being said, I have found that to me, the noise level when shooting at 800ISO on a D300 is like shooting at 400 ISO on a D200. That’s an appreciable difference, but I’ve been so spoiled at shooting at 6400 ISO on a D3 (whose noise looks more like the D300 at 800 ISO, to me anyway). So, lower noise for sure, but not D3-ish low noise. But any amount of lower noise is a big plus for me.
  • I love the way the front dial changes the LCD display readout to toggle between your full image and Histogram view, and your back sub-command dial scrolls through the images (leaving the still clunky Multi-Selector Dial on the back of the camera free for other tasks).
  • I love that you can assign the center button of the Multi-Selector Dial to jump to any magnification (to quickly jump in and check sharpness) with just one click.
  • I like that it has built-in sensor cleaning (I might actually love this feature, because I generally live in a dirty sensor state, but so far; my sensor hasn’t been dirty. Of course, I’ve used the built-in sensor cleaning three times now already, so maybe that’s why, but the only way to tell if you love this, is to one day realize your sensor is dirty, then run the built-in cleaning, and then see that it worked.).
  • The LCD monitor is as big and bright as I had hoped (I did check this out when I held that initial D300, and right then I was sold). I also like how big and easy-to-read the menus are on this new screen (it makes a bigger difference than you’d think).
  • The Auto White balance seems much improved, and you can use it in more lighting situations without a “gotcha.” In fact, I think it’s easily the best Auto White Balance I’ve ever used.
  • I really like the HDMI output, and if you’ve got a high def television, once you see your images on that baby, you’ll think this was how photos were meant to be shown.
  • I was surprised (pleasantly), at how many new features, tweaks, and enhancements were hidden among the menus, including much more robust control over White Balance, a nice built-in GPS menu (if you have a GPS unit connected), a “My Menu” where you can put your most used menu commands so they’re one click away, and a clever built-in Help menu that actually works quite well.
  • There are lots of little tweaks and enhancements that you uncover that make you just smile and nod. I dig that.
  • But more important than all of these very nice features, is the fact that I love the images the D300 produces. The color is outstanding (better than any Nikon I’ve ever used, and the color rendering is nearly on par with the D3′s). This camera just produces beautiful images, plain and simple, and if you want really saturated colors, you can pump up the saturation with some amazing results (perfect for the Velvia freak deep inside us all).

What Didn’t I like:

  • The main thing that’s driving me crazy is a little thing (but it’s always the little things, right?). When your image appears on the LCD monitor, there are two rows of info readouts, which appear at the bottom of the image window, and if you have the Highlight Warning turned on, it adds a very short third row. I want the option to hide this junk so I can see just the full image, full screen, without all the data taking up room.
  • I’d like the ability to see one big Histogram. Not a postage stamp sized Histogram; not individual RGB Histograms; just one big Histogram as big as they can fit it on the screen. Admittedly, I’m a “Highlights Warning” man myself, and I hardly use the Histogram that much, but when I do; I want it big.
  • I wish the noise was lower still. Don’t get me wrong; being able to actually shoot at 800 ISO and not cringe is a good thing, but I’ve been spoiled by the incredibly low-noise of the D3. I would trade some of the bells and whistles for lower noise.
  • If you get the optional battery grip (which I recommend), the way they’ve implemented the two-battery use is much clunkier than in the D200. Thankfully, the battery life seems better in the D300, than it was in the D200, but the D200′s battery grip was easier to swap out batteries with by far.
  • I wish Nikon had done something better with the Focus Mode Selector Button, that appears to the right of the lens, and constantly gets switched by accident during the course of taking your camera in/out of your camera bag. Just make it much stiffer, so it doesn’t switch so easily, or position it somewhere else, so for goodness sakes—do something to make it stay put.
  • Shooting tethered with the D300 requires buying the Nikon Camera Control Pro 2 (which ain’t cheap, at around $160, or you can upgrade from the first version for around $65). Canon users get to shoot tethered for free. Hey, I’m just sayin! Oh, and Mac OS X Leopard users; it doesn’t work with Leopard yet. Believe me, I’ve tried.

The Bottom Line:
Nitpicking above aside, the D300 is a much better, more fully featured update to the D200 than I had ever imagined it would be. How much so? Well, needless to say, I’m selling my D200 (through the EquipmentLady.com), but I guess what I’m most shocked about is that I’m going to sell my Nikon D2Xs now, too.

So, is my D300 actually replacing my D2Xs? Absolutely! I know Nikon will probably hate to read this, but here’s why:

  • The D300 and D2Xs are both 12 megapixel cameras, so there’s no pixel advantage there.
  • The noise at 800 ISO and higher on my D300 seems noticeably lower than the noise on my D2Xs.
  • The LCD Monitor on my D300 is bigger and brighter than on my D2Xs.
  • The D300 has better control over White Balance, has better Auto White Balance, has better Auto Focus capabilities by far, and I think it takes better photos all around (I could stop right here).
  • The menus on the D300 are bigger and easier to read, and the Info button that shows my settings (and lets me set them in real time), is just too handy.
  • With my D300, I get Live View (with live white balance changes displayed as I make them).
  • With the Battery Grip, I can shoot up to 8 frames per second.
  • I didn’t mention the D300′s Active D-lighting controls (which adjust for tricky exposure situations in camera), but the D2Xs doesn’t have anything that can touch it.
  • In fact, the only thing that I can think of that my D2Xs has, that my new D300 doesn’t have, is High Speed Crop Mode. When I need to use it, that rocks, but I don’t need to use it very often.

I think perhaps the most telling sign was when I realized yesterday that I just don’t want to shoot my D2Xs anymore. To me, that speaks volumes, and that’s why I’m selling it.

To me, the D300 doesn’t feel like an upgrade; it feels like a whole new camera from the ground up. The improvements are that significant.

One last thing: if you have a D300 (or are thinking of getting one), Nikon has an interactive D300 Digitutor web site with movies on how to use the D300′s new features. You can find it by clicking here.

I encourage anyone who’s bought a D300 to share your own experiences (good and bad) here on the blog by posting a comment. (I’ll save you one post; yes—I still want a D3; it is the next level of camera up from the D300, and it is just remarkable, but at its price; it should be). Thanks everybody (and thanks for your patience while I put the D300 through its paces, so I could post this review).

Wednesday
Dec
2007
12

Sunset Shoot in Maui

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Here are some shots from our sunset shoot in Maui last Thursday (click on any one for a larger view).

I was lucky enough to have my buddies Joe McNally and Anne Cahill join me for this second shoot (we were all guests of photographer Randy Braun who put the shoot together), and when the sun started to set, I pulled out my Nikon SB-800 Flash unit for some location lighting. (Joe, Annie, and I all had one, but we only used one flash at a time). I set mine to Wireless mode, so I could use the flash off camera, and control it right from my camera, using the Nikon D300′s pop-up flash to trigger the wireless unit (when you do this, the pop-up flash doesn’t light your subject—it just sends out a light pulse that fires the wireless SB-800).

We each started out using the flash with just a diffusion dome to soften the light a bit, and then later as the sun went down, Joe put a yellow gel (a half cut of CTO) over the head of the flash (attached with black gaffer’s tape) to make the flash look more like the setting sun. From that point on, we were basically working to just balance the existing light with the light of the flash. We underexposed the sky to a stop to a stop and a half to make the sky look a little darker than it actually was. Then we kept dialing down the power of the flash until it looked about right.

Having Joe McNally, the master of location flash at the shoot, was amazing, and once we moved over to the rocks, Joe brought out a large gold reflector, and used it like an umbrella by firing the flash directly into the reflector so the light bounced back onto our subject. This worked to spread the light from the flash and make it softer, and of course, it worked wonderfully well (that McNally guy knows what he’s doing, eh?). Plus, Annie (who works for Nikon Professioal Services), was showing me all the cool new stuff in the D300. I was just lovin’ it! ;-)

The rest of the shoot had the three of us trading off shooting, and basically just controlling the power output of the flash, while Randy took shots of us shooting and was so gracious to put up with us shooting until after the sun had set). All in all, it was a beautiful night (the weather was perfect), and anytime you shoot with Joe McNally you can’t help but learn a lot, and I certainly did. Thanks to Randy Jay Braun for hosting the shoot (and for sharing the bottom three shots of us shooting live—that’s Randy with the white ball cap on), and to our model, Tricia Dong, for being so patient and fun throughout the entire shoot.

One last thing: the photos were just processed in Lightroom; no Photoshop at all (not even sharpening).

Tuesday
Dec
2007
11

Bert Monroy on Photoshop User TV (and some Tuesday News Nuggets)

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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Hi Everybody. Here’s a couple of quickies (more photo posts coming tomorrow):

Bert Monroy is our very special guest on this week’s episode of Photoshop User TV (watch it here online), and we also do Part 2 of our live “Holiday Gear Guide” which we started on last week’s show. Also, if you didn’t catch my Gozno Gear Guide in the print edition of Layers Magazine, you can read it right here.

Moose Peterson has launched a special micro-site dedicated to his user review of the Nikon D3, and in true Moose fashion, it’s very well done. Lot’s of quick, to the point info, and this new site is already generating lots of buzz in the community. Here’s the link.

James Dempsey (of the excellent CreativeGuy.com blog) has put together an article in Macworld magazine called the “Grab bag of tips for Photoshop” (he even included one of mine. I always knew I liked him). Anyway, you can catch it right here.

If you’ve got two minutes, check out the very cool photography of Dirk Karsten. I really like the look and feel his images have. (Here’s the link).

That’s it for today folks. I plan on posting some shots from my sunset shoot with Randy Braun, Joe McNally and Anne Cahill tomorrow. See you then.

Monday
Dec
2007
10

I Took Your Advice and Rewrote The Intro

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

digvol22.jpgFirst, thanks to the nearly 300 of you who took the time to post thoughtful, in-depth, and creative ideas for how to get my book intros read by more readers. I sat down and read each and every post in its entirely, and honestly, I really learned a lot. Here’s some of what I learned:

  • A lot of you admitted to skipping over the intros entirely (which confirmed to me that I need to try something new).
  • However, It was really nice to see how many of you not only read my full intros, but totally “get” my quirky sense of humor, and why I have been writing the intros the way I have.
  • It does seem like perhaps more readers just quickly skim or just scan the intros, though
  • A lot of people think they should be shorter and more concise
  • A lot of people think I should leave my intros just as they are
  • A surprising number of people thought I should including sexy photos to entice people to stop and read them (the whole “sex sells’ thing).
  • A lot of people thought that I should just change the name of the Intro to something that would capture more attention (I agree, and I stopped calling my introductions, “Introduction” a long time ago)
  • A number of people thought I should either include a contest, or a treasure hunt or hide a password, or include some sort of challenge to get to people to read it
  • Lots of people really liked the way I did the intro for my “Photoshop Seven-Point-System” (which really made my day, and helped me to know I was on the right track with the changes I made there)

The good news is: I took your advice; I did wind up rewriting the entire intro section, primarily because of an idea by a reader named Robin (congrats Robin—you won a full conference pass to Photoshop World Orlando), which was to take parts of the intro and scatter them throughout the first chapter. Since people are already reading the chapter, they can’t miss reading the intro right along with it, so I added these things at the end of some of the techniques (or I put them in Tip boxes, which was an idea posted by Larry Becker, and a host of others). So, my personal thanks to Robin (I’ll be contacting you directly to arrange your pass).Although I hadn’t planned on it, a second person is going to Photoshop World, and that is Robert Minkus, who had the idea of using the headline “The 10 things you must know about this book” followed by 10 very short bullet-point style paragraphs, which is exactly what I did.Now, there were other great ideas which I also incorporated into the book, and these people will all be getting a signed copy of the book (when it comes out at the end of the month). The ideas included:

  • Making the intro part of Chapter 1. That’s exactly what I did in Volume 1, and I’m continuing that same idea in Vol. 2, but Mike Myer reinforced that I was on the right track (and he had literally dozens of seconds of his idea), so he gets a copy.
  • Kathleen Difato gets a book for her idea to put the link to get downloads (or whatever), right in the first few sentence (which I did).
  • Remind the reader to go back and read the first few pages of Chapter 1 throughout the book, which I did (books go to Stacie C. Morris and Bill Maddux, and Francesco D’ Amico)
  • Do an intro video, and post it online, was a great idea–and I did it. I did the full version of the intro (basically, the original longer version of the intro where I explain everything), on video and posted it on a page where readers can get the full scroop. This idea got signed books for Kevin Zdyb, Jason D. Moore, Daniel, David Morris, and Dennis Zito.
  • I really liked Heather’s title of “The things you wished you had known before you read this book” and I incorporated that, and she gets a book, too.
  • Chuck gets a book just because he really “got” what my silly one-page chapter intros are about; He wrote: “I love reading your chapter Intros. They really help me unwind a little after buckling down on a tutorial or chapter.” When I read his comment, it was tickled to death. I also liked his “This chapter is useless without this stuff” title idea.
  • I also did make the intro less than half as long, and more to the point (a number of people made this comment, but it kind of goes back to Robin’s original idea, which was to boil it down to 10 short paragraphs.

Now, there are other things, that didn’t make it into this book, but I feel I could incorporate into some of my Photoshop books, or other titles, so I want to recognize those readers with a book as well. Their ideas included:

  • Referencing the introduction at the beginning of Chapter 1 (James Prechel)
  • “Have a reference page at the beginning with simple headings: Where to download the workfiles, which software you need, etc.” (Les)
  • “Call the Intro “Fast Start” and maybe more folks will read it.” (Monte)
  • Post it in the back of the book: “When people do realize they need to know things, they’ll look at the back of the book first. That’s where technical stuff goes isn’t it? Never at the front.” (Martin)
  • Make the introduction itself part of the downloaded files. Publish in the book the download url and entitle the page “Read this book in half the time.” At the beginning of the downloaded introduction say something like “Sorry I lied (sort of). But by reading this introduction you will have information that keeps you from re-reading the book!” (Ron Nelson)
  • “Just call the intro a “Special Bonus Chapter.” Everyone likes to think that they are getting something extra for free.” (Robbie R)
  • “I would put it at the end of chapter one. People will be into reading the book by then, and will remember that info being at the first part of the book.” (Brent Moser)
  • “Have a page titled INTRODUCTION – then in small print say… this page/section left intentionally (almost) blank.” (Candy)
  • And Genaro gets a book for his comment: “The Intro for me has always set the mood for the chapters to follow.” He’s another guy who “gets it (me).” It’s why we spend the inordinate amount of money and time for the Photoshop World keynote; it sets the tone for the entire conference, which is “we’re here to learn but we’re going to have fun doing it” which is the theme of every book I’ve ever written. Thank you Geoaro. You warmed my heart.

Now, you’re not allowed to whine, petition, grouse, or otherwise complain if you posted an idea that didn’t win you a signed book, or if you posted a similar idea to someone who actually did win a book. I chose the people whose comments struck a chord with me, or posted the idea first…or sometimes both. I read every comment and for whatever reason these folks comments just stood out to me. So, while I had to give more Photoshop World conference passes, and signed books than I had planned, I really feel like I gained so much more (even more than I had hoped), and I’ve really taken your advice and ideas to heart; I incorporated the parts that struck a chord with me, and we’ll see how it all works in the new book (I have high hopes for it, since it was formed with your help). Again, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed their time and effort to help me, and most importantly, future readers of my books. I owe a debt of gratitude to each and every one of you.

Monday
Dec
2007
10

I’m Back In The Saddle (along with some Maui Pics)

by Scott Kelby  |  0 Comments

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I’m back, baby!!!! :-)

Before we get to the story of the shots you see above, first a quick thanks to everyone who came out to my Honolulu Lightroom Live seminar. You guys were absolutely a joy to present to, and it was a really great way to end the year. My buddy (and one of the world’s best shooters), Joe McNally was there teaching the class with me (Joe did all the Live Shoots that day), and we just had a blast. Joe is simply amazing, and having him there took the class to the next level for sure.

Also, we had some celebrities drop by, as Photoshop World instructors Eddie Tapp and Randy Hufford both took in the day, and I was careful to make sure I harassed them both sufficiently. ;-)

I also worked in two shoots during this trip; the first on Honolulu with Steve Dantzig (who wrote the book Softbox Lighting Techniques for Professional Photographers) and he and I got rained out for our location shoot, so we wound up doing some studio work (more on this later in the week), and then on Maui I was invited to shoot some ancient Hawaii hula by Hawaii’s leading fine art hula photographer, Randy Jay Braun. (Click here to visit Randy’s site). Randy lined up a wonderful hula dancer, Tricia Dong, who is based up in Vancouver, Canada and was vacationing in Maui (she’s pictured above). Beside dancing traditional hula, she runs a fitness company called Code5Fitness.com.

She was really terrific, and so patient as we ran back and forth from our cars to the beach to shoot between the torrential rains during some of the Maui’s worst weather in six years. We still had a blast (and the first day’s photos are shown above).

We shot again at sunset the 2nd day, and McNally and Anne Cahill (from Nikon Professional Services) came along with us for the shoot (which turned into a flash fiesta), and I’ll post those shots tomorrow.

Info on the shots above: All taken with a Nikon D300 (it absolutely rocks by the way—even better than I had hoped it would be. More on this later). We shot under overcast skies, but there was still enough light to handhold the shots; most of which were shot at f/2.8 with a 70-200mm VR lens.

The effect on these shots took just two clicks in Lightroom. It uses the built-in “Aged Photo” Develop module preset, then I added my edge vignetting effect in Lightroom that I’ve been showing on my Lightroom Live Tour. Other than balancing the exposure a little bit, and sharpening; that’s it.

Good news: Randy noted that after this shoot, I now have a big leg up in the highly competitive Tampa, Florida hula photography market. ;-)

Thanks to Randy Braun and to Tricia for the opportunity to be a part of your shoot. Randy was just terrific (and he’s one hell of a photographer, and his calendars and fine art photos are for sale all over the island). It was so much fun, not even the rain could dampen my spirits. :)

Wednesday
Dec
2007
05

Time Off For Good Behavior

by Scott Kelby  |  3 Comments

Hi Everybody:
I had the best intentions of writing the blog every day while I’m out here in Hawaii, but……well….you’ve seen the results (or lack thereof), so I’ve decided to go ahead and take the rest of this week off just to chill and spend time with my family.

However, I will be back on Monday in my full daily blogging glory, and I’ve got lots to share next week, so I hope you’ll join me then.

Have a great week everybody and we’ll see you next week. :)

Aloha and Mahalo!

-Scott

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