I do not do this kind of thing at all lightly, for my camera gear is incredibly important in my line of work, but just over two weeks ago I did what I have been thinking about doing for quite a while now and changed over completely to shooting with Nikon camera gear. As my job evolves, I find myself needing to do more and more with my gear, and for a while now I have been looking increasingly closely at the newest pro Nikon digital SLR cameras, and especially the D3 (see above and here). It has all the megapixels I want, and it is lightening fast, but what really blows me away are the look and the lack of noise in the photos that it can produce, plus the insanely fast and "trustable" autofocusing. I am a self-taught photographer, and I will always use whatever tools I can to give me an advantage - anything to give me an edge has to be considered, and I have been looking long and hard at the Nikon gear for a while now. The ability to shoot virtually noise free high ISO images is making my life so much easier and efficient, and the quality of these shots is mad - that shoot I did the other day up on Exmoor with Nick Hart, the light was low and pretty rubbish all day, and I had no choice but to shoot virtually every single image between 640-1000 ISO. I came back and ran some noise reduction software on the high ISO images, but more out of habit rather than anything else...........but there is no point applying noise reduction to these kinds of ISOs, because there is virtually no noise to remove. I thought my computer was playing tricks on me to start with !! The world suddenly seems very different..........
We would love the light to be awesome all the time, but it ain't !! I need to be able to produce the best images I can in whatever conditions are thrown at me. I can't shoot any kind of casting if I can't get a high enough shutter speed to stop the rod and/or the line, and sometimes I need to really push the ISO up. The cleaner and sharper the end images, the better my stuff looks for my clients. It's a win win situation. Too many people obsess with trying to get as many megapixels as they can, but they are completely missing the point - it's the quality of the pixels rather than the number that is important. I would far rather have 12 million awesome pixels that allow for a degree of very easy interpolation if needs be, rather than a load more pixels crammed into a tiny sensor that then produce images that literally break down as you pump the ISO up. These Nikon D3 cameras have completely and utterly changed my digital outlook, and I do not say that lightly. I have wanted a full frame digital SLR for ages now, but I also wanted the speed I was used to. The D3 bodies give me all that and a whole load more.
All the high end cameras and pixels in the world mean nothing if you don't have decent lenses to stick on the front - the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G ED AF-S (phew !!) is so sharp I giggled when I first saw images up on my screen and on prints. Seriously, this lens is insanely sharp, and the colours and contrast are off the scale good. My go to, carry anywhere lens. Even shooting at f2.8 is no problem at all, and above about f5.6 you will be grinning like a loon (just like me) !!
A 70-200mm lens is vital for fishing photography in so many situations, and I have got the Nikon 70-200mmG ED-IF AF-S VR you can see above. A lens like this is fairly heavy, but I like this when it is coupled with a body like the Nikon D3 - everything feels very balanced, and the VR (Vibration Reduction) really helps with handholding. Like the 24-70mm, this one is incredibly sharp, and these f2.8 lens on a full frame camera give an incredibly bright and vibrant view through the viewfinder. Look through a viewfinder with fast glass and you will be blown away. I also have the Nikon TC-17E II Teleconverter to attach to this lens to take it up to a 120-340mm for when I need a bit of extra reach - there is meant to be a trade off when using a teleconverter, but this thing looks as sharp to me with or without the teleconverter attached, and the focusing is just as quick. Simply staggering.
I am not going to get very far in my job without a proper macro lens for getting any number of close up shots of fishing gear, flies, etc., and the Nikon 105mm f2.8G AF-S VR Micro is the one I have gone for. To have VR capability on a macro lens is a real help, and I have been shooting some new bass fishing lures here under lights, with awesome results. There are a bunch of controls on the D3 that really makes this camera very easy and intuitive to use for this kind of work, and the lens is just fantastic. Do I need to tell you how sharp it is ? Mad.
The lens you can see above is the one that has almost amazed me the most - I know how good Nikon glass is already, so as good as the other lenses are, I expect them to be that good (ok, so they are actually better than I thought they would be), but this relatively cheap Nikon 70-300mm f4.5-5.6G AF-S VR lens is just incredible. For this kind of money, there is no way it should be so sharp and contrasty, but I had heard from various sources that this lens was a real steal - ok, so the 70-200 f2.8 is what it is, but this lightweight and compact 70-300mm one is very, very sharp bit of glass, and it focuses lightening fast as well. I can't carry a big 70-200mm f2.8 lens on various jobs, and especially for some locations overseas or where we are walking miles and miles (bass fishing anyone ?), so I have to have a lighter version - the lens you see above is the one I now use for these situations, and I would defy anybody to tell the difference in a finished image. Glass like this should be far more expensive when you take into consideration the prices of the other lenses. There are trade-offs with speed (apertures), but I can live with this very easily, especially as I now have no worries at all about pushing the ISO right up.
There has never been any getting away from the fact that Nikon has always had a better flash system than any other camera manufacturer out there - this is the truth, and I have lived with this for some time now. I want and need consistency, and this gives it to me in spades. This Nikon Speedlight SB-900 flashgun you can see above is a beauty. It recycles very fast and I know that a lot of the time I can simply trust the flash to do its thing and give me what I need - but when I need to take over, I also know that I am not going to get any surprises that kill the shot. Fishing photography is all about being able to take advantage of a situation very quickly, and the faster and more efficiently you can work, the more good material you can get. When the fishing or light goes off, you have to be able to nail it every time - you can't catch the same fish again or ask the weather to rewind.
This was not a snap decision to make this huge move over to Nikon, especially with the amount of gear I had to trade in - but I am deadly serious about what I do and I have no worries about investing in my business for the future. I have various trips coming up where the new Nikon gear is going to get a serious workout, including Ireland next week, rapidly followed by a couple of big foreign jaunts into the middle of nowhere. This is one change I am so pleased to have made. Lots of people out there who watch my TV programmes (and a thanks from me, and also apologies for the endless repeats, but it's not my fault !!) have no idea that photographing and writing about fishing all around the world makes up the bulk of my work. TV come along from time to time, but the biggest kick I get is from photography. Oh, and catching a few nice fish of course....