The DSLR revisited: a photo trip with the Nikon D700

For those who have read my posts will notice that I rarely shoot with a DSLR. My favorite digital camera is the Leica M8 and during the past year I have used extensively mirorless cameras like the Sony NEX 5 and the Fuji X100. Also, I prefer shooting film rather than digital, mostly medium format film with my favorite cameras being the Plaubel Makina 67 and Fuji GSW690iii. Finally from time to time I enjoy making panoramic images with the Gaoersi 617 camera (these are true 6×17 panoramics, not stitched images, I dislike stitching since I am not a very patient person but of course by all means if digital stitching is your way, go ahead, panoramic images are beautiful either film or digital !!).

The only reason I have kept my Nikon system is due to the fact that are some things that a DSLR does better and more efficiently. Sure, I can shoot an event with the Leica, but DSLRs were made for professional use, you can practically do any kind of photography with them fast and reliably (horses for courses…)

I had not used my Nikon D700 for quite some time with the exemption of some events (more work than fun). But since I had the chance of borrowing the Nikkor 28-300 lens, I decided to try to make some images. Zooms are not my taste, I own a Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 for events (a superb lens by the way), but for my personal work I shoot primes. Nevertheless, I thought it would be a good idea to try to 28-300, an all around full frame travel lens.

The Nikon D700 (with the battery grip) and the 28-300 is quite a large and heavy combo, but it can easily fit in medium size camera bag. My FuJi GSW690 or my bag with the Leica M and a few lenses take almost the same size. So, since I was traveling with my car I had no problem at all. I added a couple of filters (polarizer and ND110) and of course my cable release, spare batteries, cards and my tripod.

Shooting with a DSLR is really a piece of cake when compared with the Leica M or a medium format film camera. Its full of automations, super fast and tenths of options and settings to choose from. Compare that with a full manual camera like the Fuji GSW690 or even worse with a 6×17 panoramic camera, well, actually there’s no comparison at all !!

The Nikkor 28-300 also gave me the chance to instantly experiment with multiple focal lengths. Since I rarely use a focal length longer than a 50mm, shooting with a 300mm opened a whole new door for me. I got images at places I have visited before that I could never get with my wide angle primes. That sure was a good thing!

(the above image wouldn’t be possible to shoot with my wide angles since there was no road to drive and get closer to the field).

The 28-300 is a great lens (for what it is, a 10x zoom travel lens) but of course if we are talking absolute image quality, cannot be compared with a set if primes. After all, anyone with basic knowledge about photography can understand that. But it’s a hell of a travel lens, and although slow, it covers pretty much everything.

It’s been quite liberating to be able to carry a lens that can cover the focal lengths of lots of primes, you can shoot anything you want either close or far away, but I really think that’s it’s a a one time thing. If I repeat the same trip, I will probably return to my primes. I have found that I when I have a specific focal length I tend to get better images, rather than “hunting” every possible subject just by turning the zoom ring. That’s my personal style and cannot be altered by just using a 10x zoom. Also, I took almost 300 images with my DSLR and after hours in front of my computer I came down to about 25 images. For a guy that prefers to spend more time on the field than in front of a computer screen, that’s not good. If I was shooting a film camera with a prime I could have missed some shots but that’s not a problem for me. You can’t really compare a 6×7 or 6×9 negative with the 12 megapixels digital file of the D700 (!!) So, basically it’s down to how an individual uses a camera, i prefer,to shoot a few frames of film rather than shooting hundreds of images and choose later. Maybe I am old fashioned but that’s the way i am.
Nevertheless, shooting with a DSLR and a great travel lens like the 28-300 was a great experience. Next time of course I am will only pack the FujiGSW690iii with the 28mm (equivalent in 35mm) lens to return to my usual way of taking images 🙂

All images in this post were taken with the Nikon D700 and Nikkor 28-300 lens (more image from this photo trip at a future post).

(c)2011 Konstantinos Besios. All rights reserved.

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