Taking the piss…to a whole new level.

This is a camera that makes images in black and white.

LEICA Q2 Monochrom

This in itself is not really remarkable….and I can see the advantages. LEICA, the camera manufacturer, have been making B&W only models of a number of their digital cameras for some years now. This model, with a fixed 28mm lens, will set you back 5590€ (or ‘only’ 5090€ if you buy the Q2 version that makes color images.)

Yes, it’s expensive, but the build quality is exemplary, and as they only make 8 they have to make some profit after all.

What I find amazing is the text found at the end of the ‘what’s in the box’ list:

Le Leica Q2 MONOCHROM est fourni avec pare-soleil et son bouchon. Si vous préférez utiliser l’appareil sans pare-soleil, le bouchon livré n’est pas compatible. Le bouchon d’objectif est disponible en accessoire supplémentaire.

The LEICA Q2 MONOCHROM is supplied with a lens hood with it’s own lens cap. If you prefer to use the camera without the lens hood, the lens cap supplied will not fit the lens. The correct lens cap is available as an optional extra.

What the fuck???

Nikon Battery Grip

With the release of the updated mirror-less Z series ‘ll’ we now have to possibility to bolt on a brand new battery grip, the MB-N11

NIKON MB-N11 for Z6/Z7ll

It’s a hugely expensive piece of kit – and most sane human beings will ask how can NIKON have the balls to ask 400€ for a battery box?

It’s easy – it’s NIKON. Point.

The fact that mirror-less cameras burn through batteries at a rate of knots means that, with a single battery lasting less than an hour (in a production situation) it’s such a pain in the arse losing any temporary setup changes when you turn off the camera to replace the battery, that having two available makes perfect sense – yes, even at 400€, sadly.

The frustrating thing with this design is the ‘stalk’ that replaces the battery in the camera. Up until now, all the pro and semi-pro battery grips connected to the camera electronics via a set of contacts on the underside of the camera – making it a simple job of just screwing the. battery grip onto the camera and the job is done.

NIKON, for reasons best known to themselves, have decided that it’s a much better idea to make people take the battery door off, take the battery out, replace it with the battery grip, lose the battery door (or worse, break the tiny plastic hinge pins…) before being able to turn the camera on…

Brilliant – many thanks to the NIKON designers – sterling work my friends.

NIKON Z6 + battery grip MB-N11

This is what it all looks like once it’s in place. Sure, it does have the added shutter and AF-ON buttons and front and rear thumb wheels for adjustments in a vertical configuration, and with two batteries should last (me at least) a whole show…but I must be f*****g mad to pay all that….for this….but I probably will.

Back Button Focus

Just a couple of personal thoughts on Back Button Focus. I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t use this tool – it allows you to have a lot more control over what the camera is doing…

This is a NIKON mirrorless camera (but many NIKON cameras are similar) – and at the top right is a little button marked AF-ON. When you receive the camera, the default setting for the AF activation is the shutter button. To reassign this to the AF-ON button, go to the Custom Setting Menu and scroll down to a7 AF Activation.

a7 AF Activation Menu

Now you can select AF-ON only which will decouple the AF activation from the shutter button and assign it to the AF-ON button instead. Once you have scrolled to AF-ON only, click on the right arrow button which will display the Out-of-focus release menu. Select Enable

This allows the camera to make a picture even if the subject isn’t perfectly sharp.

Now all this actually gives you a lot more than just moving buttons.

1 : A first pressure on the shutter button will now lock the exposure setting.

2 : If the camera is setup correctly, with the Focus Mode (Photo Shooting Menu) set to AF-C Continuous AF, you will be able to control BOTH the exposure AND the autofocus at the same time, but independently.

Think of the flexibility – you can lock (or not) the exposure while independently controlling what the AF is doing – this is even more important when using the 3D AF tracking functions.

This takes a bit of getting used to, but everyone I’ve spoken to that has adopted this system are firmly convinced it’s the only way to go!

3D Squirrel

In an effort to test the new 3D Tracking firmware update, I waited for our ‘tame’ squirrel to come and find his breakfast this morning…this is the result

Squirrel – using 3D Tracking – NIKON Z7 105mm f/2.8 at f/8

I think you’ll agree – it’s sharp. And given the rapidity of the squirrels movements, I have to say I’m impressed…and eager to see what I can manage with circus performers who, agreed, move fast….but not that fast!

NIKON Z Series Firmware Updates

The latest series of NIKON Z series firmware updates (Z6/7 3.3, Z6ll 1.2) have finally convinced me to try 3D Tracking autofocus. The new firmware has made this much more precise and therefore more interesting to me, particularly with circus performers hurling themselves all over the place in front of my lens…

These settings were available from the previous firmware update – this update has just made them more accurate.

The 3D Tracking works very differently depending on which Focus Mode has been selected, and this can make a huge difference to the way you capture your images.

AF-S Single AF – once you have identified/selected the area/object to track, the camera will automatically follow the selection until you press the button to which you have assigned the 3D Tracking, turning it off – turning it again on allows you to change your selection.

AF-C Continuous AF – you must keep your finger on the AF-ON button to ‘force’ the 3D Tracking to follow the subject. Releasing the AF-ON button effectively resets the selection and you can select another area.

There are just three steps to setting up 3D Tracking autofocus.

Step 1 – In the Custom Setting Menu, select A7 – AF Activation and select AF-ON only. This will turn on the AF-ON button for focusing.(This should ALWAYS be activated, IMHO)

Step 2 – Still in the Custom Setting Menu, select F2 – Custom control assignment and set one of the buttons to Subject Tracking – I’ve chosen the Fn2 button by the lens

Step 3 – change the Focus mode to Auto-area AF – this is done by clicking the ‘I’ (info) button and using the joystick to navigate to the Focus mode logo – click on that and the choice of focus modes is displayed – select Auto-Area AF (at the right)

Using 3D tracking is relatively simple, but takes a bit of getting used to. When the Fn2 (in my example) button is pressed a large white square outline lights up in the middle of the viewfinder – point the camera to the area/object you wish to track and press the AF-ON button. Depending on the Focus Mode selected (AF-S Single point or AF-C Continuous) the camera will react differently.

As previously stated, in AF-S mode, once you have identified/selected the area/object to track, the camera will automatically follow the selection until you press the button to which you have assigned the 3D Tracking, turning it off – turning it again on allows you to change your selection.

In AF-C mode, you must keep your finger on the AF-ON button to ‘force’ the 3D Tracking to follow the subject. Releasing the AF-ON button effectively resets the selection and you can select another area.

The nice thing is that all of this can be saved to one of the ‘U’ settings – you could, for example, set U2 to Auto ISO, normal (spot) AF and U3 to the same Auto ISO but with 3D tracking – that way if the movement was too rapid for the camera using 3D tracking, you can quickly change back to ‘regular’ continuous AF with the U2 setting.

At my next circus residence I’ll be able to do some real-world testing of these two options – I’ll let you know how I get on.

Inital Setup

With the arrival of any new camera body, the first thing that has to be done is the initial setup. Camera settings are vital to making the camera useful and easy to use, and once you’ve fine tuned your camera, it’s handy to be able to recall these settings if need be.

Nikon, for instance, allow the camera settings to be saved to the memory card. This is very convenient if you have more than one camera body of the same type, as ‘cloning’ the original settings on to a new body is very easy.

This said, Nikon in their wisdom have decided that the second generation ‘Z’ series mirrorless bodies are NOT the same as the first series. This is frustrating as I have three setups which I use as ‘User’ settings, and instead of just copying these to a memory card and reloading them on the new body, I have to go through every setting, one by one.

With the arrival of the second generation Z6 camera body, I have setup the camera to use my ‘go to’ work settings as the ‘U2’ user defined function. ‘U1’ is for basic day-to-day settings (100 ISO, AF-C etc.) with the work settings on Auto-ISO (6400 ISO), exposure correction -1 etc.

NIKON Z6ll 24-70mm f/2.8

Bear in mind there are a couple of possible errors that can occur when you’re programming the ‘U’ buttons. One of these is that certain camera settings cannot be modified between the ‘U’ numbers – the top screen, for example – if you decide, like me, to turn off the top screen for my U2 value, it’ll be off for ALL of the User settings – so double check after having selected or deselected values.

Another annoying thing is that the camera settings are recorded according to the initial position of the Mode dial – so if you inadvertently leave the Mode dial on ‘P’, make the setup changes and SAVE the settings to a ‘U’ button, the selected Mode will be P – if you never use P and always use A, this means you then have to go back and start again…believe me, it’s a PITA.

Ren Kockwell?

Aside from the ‘normal’ idiots like Trump and Piers Morgan, there’s a guy who manages to rub just about every level-thinking photographer up the wrong way – drumroll….Ken Rockwell.

Aside from having invented every known photographic process and owning particularly ugly kids, this jerk runs an ‘advert’ site where you can click to supposedly get savings on photographic material, oh and headphones (see the link? No me neither…)

His most recent article concernes the non-existence of the proposed new flagship NIKON mirrorless camera, the Z9. According to Kockwell « …the Z9 is a unicorn because while we all know what it’s called, and what it looks like, it doesn’t exist. »

Here, need a laugh? Click on this to read the original article:-

« If Nikon ever does actually sell a Z9, it could be awesome – but since I can’t shoot anything today with it, I don’t care. » And in a fit of pique, he napalmed Cheltenham….The Gumbies, Monty Python

What a wanker – fairly clear to all concerned that Nikon haven’t been keeping him in the loop like in the old days because his web site is so full of shite, and so now he’s having to get all his info from the web….just like his dopey pal « The Angry Photographer » and everyone else – it’s the latest « guess-a-thon »…

The camera is slated for being available this year, which means that it obviously does exist – we’re way past pre-production, and I imagine there are a few well known Nikon ambassadors out there, with signed and sealed confidentiality agreements testing this little baby at this very moment. Visibly there have been three ‘stacked’ CMOS sensors proposed, 45, 50 and 60MP which all seem extremely high density for this kind of camera (I’m thinking shooting speed and low light sensitivity here) but with a redesigned processing engine (or two perhaps, like the Z6ll, Z7ll) and the fact that the ‘stacked’ sensor is demonstrably more sensitive/lower noise, it might work… Time will tell which sensor they finally choose.

Nikon Z9

I’m really keen to see what is finally presented when this becomes available – but I’m not going to stamp my feet and complain that it’s not available NOW.

It won’t replace my Z series bodies, for the moment at least, but if the auto-focus and low-light capabilities are indeed enhanced, this could be a VERY interesting insight how NIKON see the future of the Z mount.

A slip, an error, a lapsus?

Neither, as it turns out – although it did take them an hour to actually get going, the Company LAPSUS provided me with some interesting work to photograph last week.

« Nos Vertiges » Cie Lapsus

This was part of the sequence « Magma » and was a treat to photograph – no lighting, people moving all over the place, black background and floor…!

« Nos Vertiges » Cie Lapsus

This was another sequence – Cie Lapsus often use this triangular wing in their spectacles, and todays was no exception.

Hopefully there’ll be a presentation this coming week and I’ll be able to see the different sequences in context. More as it happens.

UPDATE Well I must have done something right – I was actually quite pleased with the album I produced for the company – visibly they were too as they’ve just purchased 6 of the shots! Thanks guys.

For the technically minded, this was lit with four tungsten floods at low intensity – the idea was to create a dark environment on stage – and it worked. The Nikon Z7 + 24-70 f/2.8 handled this very well – both the above images were at 6400 ISO – I stopped down to f/4 just in case – the extra few centimetres of depth of field are very useful when the artists are constantly moving. Aside from cooling down the white balance to round 3000°K from nearly 4000°K there really isn’t a lot of post processing.

Backing-up your camera settings

This sounds pretty obvious, and easily done – until you discover that NIKON very thoughtfully HIDE the settings to do this in the setup menus of their mirrorless cameras…

I use the three user programmable ‘U’ settings on my Z series mirrorless cameras – with a growing stable of camera bodies, I like to make sure they’re all using the same values, so I want to back up my settings to the memory card, put the card in another camera body and read and install the settings from the card.

Easy-peasy…or so you would think. Except that when you check the SETUP Menu (the one with the spanner logo) there is no mention of the SAVE/LOAD settings option.

Nikon decided to make this visible ONLY when the mode dial is set to a PSAM (not U) setting! After this, it’s plain sailing – pretty much every setting is copied to the memory card so having duplicate bodies with duplicate settings is easy to do. Until they change it….