Friday End Of Week Notes - Speedlights - 50mm, etc.

All in all I had a pretty good week. I didn't think so at mid-week due to the storm that never happened. I ended up canceling everything I had planned to shoot Weds and got nothing done. Too bad that was a really big day of shooting for me. I am still a little disappointed as I had planned on shooting a bunch of stuff for my upcoming lighting field guide series. It did however give me a little chance to go over some of my outlines, organization, and thoughts on those field guides and I ended up deciding to order things a little differently than I had planned so not entirely a bad thing to take a breather.

I wanted to wrap up the week with a few thoughts on the lighting field guide - hopefully to get some feedback as well as a couple of reports on things I have mentioned weeks or months ago about some little bits of gear that I have acquired that I have been using heavily or at least seriously over the last months or weeks.

First up is the Wasabi batteries for the Nikon D600 and Fuji X100 that I picked up a while back. When I purchased my X100 used it came with no batteries. I was quite enraged about this but got over it due to the price I paid. I bought a brand new Fuji battery for too much money and one of the Wasabi's for chump change. I change them out evenly and have noticed that they are exactly the same in terms of life , number of shots, etc with the X100. No degradation, no behavior issues, nothing. Truth be told I kinda have a tiny feeling that the Wasabi is actually a little better in terms of life. Haven't done any scientific testing just my impression.

Moving on to the Nikon D600 batteries. Obviously the camera only came with one. Having reasonable experience with the X100 Wasabi I immediately ordered two for the D600 before it arrived. For me this is a big deal. I never do that for something as relatively inexpensive as a battery. My experience with the insanely cheap Wasabi's in the D600 has been stellar. No difference whatsoever. None. Just as good or better than the Nikon batteries and I have used the crap out of them. Candidly I have never needed to change any of them out in a single day of shooting. If you need some batteries for your camera I can recommend the Wasabi's with absolutely no reservations.

Now what about my recent knee-jerk purchase of the Nikon 50mm AFS 1.4G? It's not really that fast in terms of focus speed - not bad but definitely not better than screw-drive primes. In terms of absolute performance it's fantastic. Worth every penny of the $100 discount on top of what was a reasonable market price at this time. Remember these were difficult to acquire at $600 after the earthquake for like a year?

It's technical performance is pretty stinking great. Not too too clinical. More like neutral. Meaning that it's optical signature doesn't really have any real identifying look at any aperture - sort of generic with one exception. That exception is that it has an amazing amount of distortion for a 50mm. Traditionally normal lenses were pretty good in terms of distortion. Maybe a little but none that screamed out at you unless provoked at the edges. This one absolutely screams at you. It's distracting in the viewfinder when you are framing a scene with any kind of geometry - more on that later.

I wanted to talk about how I feel about this just a second. My left brain tells me this is okay. This is a lens absolutely designed for todays digital process. Optical characteristics that are very neutral leaving aesthetics for post and having a design that makes what it does do very very well optimized and completely dependent on a computer to fix the distortion. This lens absolutely assumes that you will be running in-camera or post processing lens corrections as a matter of course in your work-flow. There are plenty of them that do now. I think the Micro 4:3 lenses have that sort of built into the spec. So this is nothing new this week, it's just the first time I have had a lens from Nikon that absolutely without a doubt assumes a computer is behind it to complete the rendering process.

My right brain is nagging my subconscious that I don't really like this. I don't know exactly why this isn't okay for me but my subconscious somehow just doesn't like this whole concept. The only reason I can come up with that makes any logical or practical sense is that it does kind of throw me off when composing through the viewfinder. I shot with it all day Monday of this week - the shot at the top of Anastasia as evidence of my actually using it. I shot half a day Tuesday with it as well. It was interfering a little bit with my natural flow because it kept distracting me with any geometry in the frame.

I am not intimate nor have I done enough shooting with it to land on a final conclusion or know if that distraction will go away down the road. We'll see. I can tell you this is one lens that automatically gets a lens correction profile slapped on every single image. That's new for me. At least the distortion characteristics are simple enough and the lens profiles good enough that it looks perfectly fine after the software has had it's way with the RAW files.

As for the lighting field guide series - I have decided the next one to be finished and available is on the topic of simulating sunlight. This is a radical change from the schedule as I originally laid it out. The image at the top should have given you a hint. I also decided that my original outline had way too much in it so I took some of my own advice and gave my self some additional constraints. The original outline and content has now made it's way to other field guides and even spawned a new one on the agenda. This one will be limited to one and only one speedlight vs. multiple lights of various types and covering every environment, and lots of light modifiers, etc, etc. The intent is to cover the absolute essentials of the topic with zero investment for anyone - completely equipment agnostic. All the other refinements and directions are now elsewhere in the series. Yes the image at the top that I selected at random was shot for this guide with one crappy speedlight.


Ps. I didn't forget the additional LaRoque Challenge follow-up with some thought process and behind the scenes stuff. It's actually half-way written but needs to be in a separate post. LaRoque also messed me up by posting something that I was already addressing that I now want to reference directly… Damn him.

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