Neptune Photo Newsletter
September 2017 Volume 68
by Steve Zimic
Nikon 46MP D850
With all the buzz and hype going on about this camera, I think Nikon might have just hit it out of the park with this one. This is the first Nikon to use a back side illuminated (BSI) sensor. Without going into all the tech stuff, the BSI sensor gathers more light per unit area especially at the edge of the frame when using wide angle lenses where the oblique light can be problematic. They've incorporated the same AF module and metering as the flagship D5 resulting in class leading AF tracking and speed. It appears though that AF point illumination is not available during shooting - a shame. Also included from the D5 is a dedicated joystick for AF point selection. Frame rate out of the box is 7 FPS which can be boosted to 9 FPS by adding the MB-D18 when used with the EN-EL18 battery. Although those two items will set you back $550 it's still cheaper than a D5 plus you have the option of using a smaller camera with the grip removed. The shutter has been improved over the D810 with regard to vibration from shutter shock, plus there's a total silent electronic shutter allowing up to 6 FPS shooting RAW. With such a high resolution camera, AF accuracy is extremely important. To that end, Nikon has included automatic lens AF calibration - a real time saver. Also featured is focus bracketing, which is very useful when using only the sweet spot of a lens that often won't provide enough depth of field with a single shot. You'll notice that the viewfinder hump is quite large on this model due to the improvement of the eye relief and large AF module, therefore no built in flash. Storage is via 2 card slots, one that handles XQD, the other standard SD. The buffer holds 51 compressed raw files and the battery is rated at 1840 shots. You'll also get a flip up/down LCD display, which personally I find more useful than the fully articulated variety. With this new model, any fear that Nikon as a company is on the ropes should be dispelled, and even if they are, the D850 should put them right back in the ring. I expect the demand for the D850 to exceed supply for quite some time, much like their first compact full frame camera, the D700. Pricing is $3299 and should be available sometime this month. More details can be found on the Nikon website.
Planning for the 2024 Eclipse
Hopefully no one damaged their eyes or camera sensor during the Aug 21st eclipse. New Yorkers, and much of the country didn't get to see totality, but nevertheless it was a sight to see with the proper precautions. The 2024 eclipse's totality will have its southern border of totality right at NYC. Although Long Island will not be included, a short ride north even as far as Yonkers will give you that spectacular view for a couple of minutes when no camera filters or eye protection is needed. The pink area in the below map shows the area covered by totality. So all Long Islanders need to do is take a short ride and pray for clear weather.
Olympus E-M10 MK III
Olympus has upgraded their entry level OMD series camera mainly to make it more user friendly to the beginning photographer. The mode dial is where it all starts, offering a more intelligent Auto mode that detects subject movement and automatically adjusts settings for blur free images. The dial also has Scene, Art and Advanced Photo modes which allow users to get creative or take more control without a trip to the menus. Like a smart phone, all of these options are available via the touch screen display. Connecting the camera to your smart phone via the Olympus Share app, you can automatically geotag images as you shoot them. Physical changes include larger dials and a deeper front grip. From a performance standpoint you get the latest TruePic VIII processor, 4K video and 121 focus points, up from 81 on the MKII version. Unchanged are the 16MP image sensor, flip up/down LCD screen, built in pop up flash and 2.36MP electronic viewfinder. This just might be the most user friendly camera for those upgrading from smart phone photography. The camera alone will sell for $649, or bundled with the ultra compact 14-42 lens (shown below) at $799. More info on the Olympus website.
Canon 85MM f1.4 IS L
I think an 85mm lens on a full frame camera is an extremely versatile focal length and apparently Canon does as well. So in addition to the current f1.8 and f1.2L versions we now have an f1.4 version with the additional feature of image stabilization. I suspect this addition is a direct response to the in body stabilization found in many mirrorless cameras. Whatever the reason, I imagine anyone considering the 1.2L will probably opt for this lens instead, especially considering the $400 savings. Canon claims the IS will deliver up to 4 stops of benefit. Although not quite as large as the 1.2 version, it still weighs in at a hefty 2 pounds and takes an even larger 77mm filter. You should see the lens on shelves this November priced at $1600. More info on the Canon website.
Sony A6500 - version 1.3 - Improves image stabilization during video.
Hasselblad X1D - version 1.17.2 - Adds electronic shutter option which tops out at 1/10,000 second. Also adds the option of 3 different focus point groups, 35, 63 or 117. Note: you must log in to the site to access the firmware.