Did I ever mention FILTERS?

In this instance I’m not considering colored filters – pretty much useless since modern digital treatment of color images, but still quite useful for black and white film.

No, here I’m more concerned with protection for the front element of the lens. The front element has several coatings to protect it from spray, reduce internal reflections in the lens etc. but an important factor, IMHO, is physical ‘abuse’.

Anyone can fall over, or have objects projected against the lens and for a few €uros I think a protective filter is worth the effort.

Protection for your front lens element…

There are (obviously) people who refute this, saying that yet another glass-to-air surface between the world and the image sensor is just calling for additional reflections and a general reduction in image quality (IQ)

I’d be inclined to agree with cheap and cheerful ‘UV’ (Ultraviolet) filters, but nowadays the decent manufacturers (Hoya for example) know better than to chuck any old glass into a round frame and call it a filter. Modern protective filters are multicoated on both sides and manufactured from high quality materials – in addition the mounts are getting thinner and thinner.

It’s common to use a circular polariser and a neutral density filter together, but. adding too much ‘thickness’ on the front of the lens used to be a problem – these thinner filter mounts cause a lot less of a problem with the ‘vignette’ effect of stacking filters on, for example, wide-angle lenses.

There are obviously some exceptions to this ‘rule’ – extreme wide angle lens often have domed front elements which prevent using filters – this said, the lens designers seem to be coming to their senses and these are getting much less common.

Fish-eye lenses are another ‘speciality’ lens with a very pronounced front element…but I’m not going there!

My advice, use a protective filter – and save the front elements of your lenses.

Battery Pack anybody?

Some modern digital cameras have very small batteries…these were fine for the DSLR type of camera, but a mirrorless camera uses a lot more power and as a consequence, tends to burn through more batteries than before.

It obviously helps to reduce the amount you use the rear screen, but the viewfinder also uses a lot of power, and it’s quite useful to be able to see what you’re aiming at…(although it’s fairly obvious to me that some people don’t even do that…)

Nikon, in their great wisdom, have decided to provide us with horrendously expensive add-on battery packs for the full-frame Z series (Z6ll,7ll and 8) – these are essentially the same body, same battery tray, but different top plate to accommodate the different body formats (between the 6/7 and 8)

This is the MB-N11 for the Z6ll/7ll

This is the MB-N12 for the Z8

So can you spot the difference? Yes, the top plate on the lower model is very slightly wider…wouldn’t it be easier just to make a single model, but with add-on top plates?

Anyway, Nikon have included a crafty battery tray which holds two EN-EL15 batteries (the EN-EL15c can be charged within the grip just plug in a charger with a USB-C cable and off you go.) The crafty bit is that when the tray is slid into position, the battery nearest the door can still be removed from the grip – which means that if you’re in a high battery use situation, when the camera automatically switches over to the second battery (keeping the camera power still on) the first battery can be replaced with a charged-up version without having to turn it off etc.

The first and by far the most contentious (IMHO) thing you spot is that Nikon have decided to go backwards (think D7000) and instead of a series of contacts on the bottom plate of the camera for connecting to accessories/battery packs such as this, there is now a stalk with the electrical connections on top.

I’m sure there are all sorts of great marketing ploys to justify this (kept dry, protects the delicate contacts etc.) but it makes the battery pack unwieldy and you can’t just slide it into a pocket, or your bag, as we did with previous (think D850) battery packs.

Oh, and it’s about three times the price of the older units !

Do you use a lens hood?

Simple question – I’ve often wondered, when I see people using their cameras with the lens hood in the reversed (storage) position, why they bother leaving it on the lens…

I mean…more often than not they prevent you getting to the ‘zoom’ ring, and hoods are meant to SHADE the front element, to reduce flair etc.

These two are both for 77mm diameter lenses – the 70-200 f/2.8 and the 100-400 f/4.5 – 5.6 – the one to the right is just slightly deeper (logical when you consider the range of the zoom it’s usually mounted on) I dare say you could actually use either one for both lenses – the point of this is to prevent ‘stray’ light hitting the front element and creating flair by bouncing around inside the lens.

Another oft forgotten use for a lens hood is to provide a physical protection to the front of the lens – you’re wandering around, concentrating on not falling off a cliff, and the end of your lens hits a tree/rock/person…much better that an easily replaceable plastic hood gets damaged rather than an expensive lens element/barrel, or worse.

I do alot of my work in an environment lit by powerful stage lights – for me, a lens hood is vital – you may not even notice the effect it has, until you don’t use one and wonder why your images are sometimes a bit soft…

And did I ever mention a protective filter?

NIKON Please!

Why is it that NIKON (and they’re not alone in this…) have so much difficulty listening to A: logic, and more importantly B: their buyers?

What’s the niggle this time? Tripod mounts.

Simple thing, or at least, one would have thought. For some years now tripod and accessory manufacturers have been using the chamfered adjustable quick-release system originaly designed by ARCA-SWISS. This allows cameras with a suitable ‘male’ mounting plate to be mounted/unmounted easily from tripods equiped with the ‘female’ mounting plate.

Tripod head and seperate camera mounting plate.

It would seem logical to build into the baseplate of a camera an ARCA style slot so that it could be quickly and easily mounted onto a tripod head (as in the above example)

However, for over 80 years all we have to show for camera ‘evolution’ is the constant use of a treaded 1/4 inch diameter hole so that the camera has to either be fixed directly to the tripod head, or an additional plate purchased to enable the two systems to work together.


It gets worse – NIKON include a tripod mounting arm on many of their longer/larger telephoto lenses. Two of these – the 70-200 and the 100-400 share the same ‘arm’ and of course, all it has is a 1/4 inch threaded socket…why not simply build-in the ARCA mount?

No – we must buy a new ‘arm’ – luckily a number of these exists, for only 30€ or so, but it does seem slightly ridiculous that we’re obliged to do this….

Marathon Photo Déclic

When I started this particular ball rolling back in 2011 I was a long way from imagining that it would last this long – I was fairly sure it would run out of steam after a couple of years…how nice to have been proven WRONG!

As you can read in this years poster, we’ve got to ’14’, which I think is pretty damn good.

As with each of the other years posters, the image used was one from the previous year – more often than not one which wasn’t chosen by the jury, or awarded a prize. There’s a simple reason for this, the image is chosen with the text overlay in mind, and this one suited it’s purpose in many ways – the reflection (looking back) the location (the cathedral) etc. etc.

One very sad element was that just after finalizing the poster, and sending a copy to the author, we discovered he had just recently passed away – as a participant in our little marathon this hit hard as we spend time chatting with the people taking part each year, and over the years he had taken part, we’d grown friendly. This poster will be our tribute to his regular contributions to Déclic, and our thoughts go out to his wife and son and the rest of his family in this very difficult time.

This years event will be on the 25th of May and the participants are in for a radical change – as the marathon is not taking place in Auch. For once we have been invited by one of the community of communes around Auch to spend the whole day with them – they have also proposed to offer us all lunch – now that’s the way to do it !

The name of the commune won’t be released until two weeks before the date of the marathon, at the same time as the 5th ‘optional’ theme is announced on the 11th of May.

So far, two weeks after opening the inscriptions, we have 25 participants – four more weeks to go…

Firmware Updates

I’m thinking uniquely of NIKON here, as in the last couple of weeks we’ve had a slew of firmware updates for different cameras.

The latest is for the D6 – yes, this camera body is still current and available new – and there have been minor updates for the mirrorless Z30 & Z50 too.

The last important firmware update was the ‘2.0’ for the Z8 in February. This activates the ‘Pixel Shift‘ options which are linked basically to the sensor software. (See below)

As the sensor is the same as the Z9 we’re now waiting to see if this will also be available as a firmware update sometime soon on this model.

How Pixel Shift works. (Taken from Nikon Technical Article/Z8 tips)

The resulting images are then vertically ‘merged’ (Photoshop, NX Studio etc.) to create a much higher pixel density image.

Hasselblad offer this possibility on their 100MP sensor and the resulting files are HUGE! NIKON offer the possibility to record 4, 8, 16 or 32 images. Treatment of the images does not interpolate between pixels. Worth remembering that each RAW image ‘weighs’ around 35Mo (depending on content, camera settings) which would make a whopping 1120Mo of data (before the merge) – I’m keen to test this !

Is size important?

This obviously rather largely depends on what we’re comparing, but in terms of modern digital cameras, sizes vary enormously.

I dug up a tape measure and got to work…

Copyright Nikon Rumors
Copyright Nikon Rumors
Copyright Nikon Rumors

I should mention that these images were stolen from Nikon Rumors – there’s are much better than mine…

These are my NIKON digital bodies, from the left a Z6ll, the Z8 and the Z9.

It’s not too surprising that there are small differences in size between different models, but in this example all three bodies house full frame (24×36) sensors, and even the Z6 and Z8 use the same battery.

So why the differences in size? The principal, and most obvious, is the size of the Z9 – this is mainly due to the integrated grip (which allows a much larger capacity battery).

Despite inaccuracies in my photo montage, the rear screens are all identical 3.2inch diagonal.

A new functionality in the Z8 (which will no doubt soon feature in a firmware update for the Z9 which has the same sensor) is Pixel Shift – this may account for NIKON needing a bit more room around the sensor mount.

The single most important factor for me is the ergonomics of any camera body. I personally can’t get used to Canon, but it’s the shape and button layout and not the capacity of the camera that puts me off. I wouldn’t ever say that I would NEVER be able to use a Canon camera, but after so many years with a NIKON in my hand, I’m used to where everything falls and I can use the camera without looking to see where things are. (To some extent this is moot as I only rarely use anything other than the on/off switch when I’m out and about with a camera !)

I suppose it’s back (again) to horses for courses – if you’re comfortable with the size, shape and weight, then where’s the problem? The increased capacity battery pack of the Z9 is a very positive advantage for some shooting situations, particularly when you have a days shooting a long way from a charging point.

As for size, the street photographers would obviously appreciate a smaller, more discrete, camera body. And I shouldn’t think landscape photographers cared one way or the other, given that for most of the time their cameras are mounted on a tripod.

On a personal level I have to say that in the past I prefered a larger DSLR camera body as I felt it absorbed the mirror vibrations etc. better. But given that two out of my three current bodies don’t even have shutters (or mirrors!) this is less of a concern.

More of the same…

I mean, you must ask yourself the question – how many 24mm zooms does one man need?

Horses for courses – there’s always a good excuse to buy another lens, but in this situation is does seem slightly bonkers to own four 24mm zoom lenses – here’s my story.

These are ‘my’ four – and I’m certain that I can convince (myself) why I need all four.

24-70 f/4 S

This was my first foray lens purchased on my first NIKON Z6 – I admit to having doubts about the quality from the outset after having used the excellent AF-S f/2.8 on my DSLRs for some years. The first results put my mind completely at ease – stunning from a so-called ‘budget’ lens, there’s nothing budget about the quality of the images. Added to the fact that it’s a remarkably compact design (and no, I don’t like to have to un-lock it to use it!) this was a very pleasant surprise and I use this regularly.

Recommended for travel (compact, light)

24-70 f2.8 S

This was the first of the ‘Holy Trinity’ f2.8 zooms that I purchased – well before the 14-24 and the 70-200. And it stood up to all the reviews I’d read – excellent quality, nothing much to say aside from the fact that it’s a large, heavy lens, which more than makes up for these little quibbles with the quality of the images, even wide open.

Recommended for it’s high quality.

24-120 f/4 S

This is an f/4 too, but still an ‘S’ lens – people still have the AF-S version in mind (not so hot…) but this lens has worked very well for me. I purchased it to have that little bit extra reach – which for concert or circus photography can be REALLY useful when you can’t move around a lot.

Recommended for use in ‘difficult’ environments, stage, concerts etc.

24-200 f/4-6,3

This is my most recent purchase, and while not being considered by NIKON as an ‘S’ lens, the results I’ve seen (and the general ‘noise’ on Internet) show that this gives very good results. I purchased this as strictly for travel – I would love to be able to cart around a host of f/2.8 lenses but frankly I haven’t got the stamina for that now, so a wide to medium telephoto seemed like a good idea – I appreciate the perspective compression at the 200 end, and the few tests I’ve down so far show I’m on the right track.

Recommended for travel (compact, light)

NIKON have recently announced a 24-400 F/4-8 super zoom which is also not an ‘S’ lens. It’s 141mm long which makes it actually longer than the 24-70 f/2.8 S so I’d have hesitations calling it a ‘travel’ lens, but then there’s the 400m end which makes this a 14x magnification!

Blast from the past

Finally getting around to reducing camera bodies and lenses that no longer really serve a useful purpose.

This month, it’s the Hasselblad stable that has taken a hit.

This is the 503CW Millenium version – a sort of limited edition version of the standard 503CW. This one comes with a winder (which replaces the winder knob) and gold dark slides with a logo engraved.

It was fun while it lasted, but the practicalities of developing 120 film and then scanning the negatives gets tedious when you’re used to current digital offerings. The digital back for this model costs in excess of 6000€ (and it’s not a full 6×6 either…)

The ‘stable’ contained a few lenses and heaps of accessories – which are all finding new homes. Another camera body which I purchased in 1978 got me thinking – it’s 46 years old and still working like the first day. Will we be able to say the same for a lot of the gear we are using today??

It was fun, but times change and I’m more than happy with the digital equipment I’m using today – and it’s much better adapted to the use I make of it.

Next up will probably be a brace (or two!) of NIKON film cameras…

Change of dimension…

I was going to visit the Welcome in Tziganie Festival again this year, but somehow our schedules got muddled and we’ll be in our dearly beloved Hérault that weekend (Our first this year, and well deserved!)

I thought that this would be a good opportunity to get the Z8 out and see what I could come up with but that will have to wait another year now.

Nuria visited us in here in Auch in late March, and it was great to see her again, and also see how she performed on our microscopic stage! She needs space when she dances!! In the end she solved the problem by moving off the stage and into the public – brilliant move.

Concert Cri’Art Auch 22.03.2024

She came with the Haïdouti Orkestra and I imagined that as this was a warm-up concert prior to this years Welcome, that we would see them back at the festival at the end of April – not the case – neither she nor the orchestra will be here this year.

However, La Caravane Passe will be at Seissan – and I’m slightly sad to miss them – very dynamic and very good musicians.

La Caravane Passe

The only other thing of note is I’m pretty sure I can hear someone wrapping up a large box in Toulouse and preparing it for a short ride with Chronopost….what could this be?? A clue…

This is the ‘Z’ and ‘S’ version of the old AF-S 80-400 zoom. Virtually identical in size to the 70-200 f/2.8 S this will confirm the title of this article – a change in dimension. As a general rule I’m very much a wide-angle fan, and buying a lens that goes all the way out to 400mm is a huge stretch for me!! This model is optically a lot better (according to Thom…) than the previous AF-S version, but as I didn’t own the older version I have nothing to really compare it to.

One frustrating thing is the tripod foot – NIKON just can’t seem able to design a tripod foot with ARCA chamfering – and it seems so simple. So off we go to eBay and spend 30€ on a Chinese version of the same foot, but with an ARCA base. (As it happens it’s the same as that used on the 70-200 S f/2.8 lens) Of course, the fact that I got 150€ off due to my NPS discount helps pay for that!!

I’m keen to try longer lenses – I can’t hold them still, so they will be on a tripod obviously, but I like the compression of the images and we’re blessed to have such wonderful countryside here, particularly towards the south with the Pyrénées in view – I feel this could be interesting…time (and good light!) will tell.