Pay attention; there’s a questionnaire at the end of the post.
The majority of people do not click on the images I put up in my posts. If they did, a new window or tab opens up showing the images at a higher resolution (size). Very few people go to my SmugMug site to look at the full-size version of the photos.
Why do I mention this? Because I’m looking to make a decision between spending $600 on a Nikon P900 and spending $1,400 on a Nikon 200-500mm lens for them times when I want to get in closer on a subject.
Before covering the details on the P900 and the 200-500mm lens, take a look at this:
Now, take a look at this:
Now, here is a shot taken at about the same time with a Nikon P900 camera.
The P900 will do a digital zoom on top of that (essentially the same as cropping the optical image, only done in the camera).
Here is a shot of the Old Kona Airport from about 4.5 miles away . . .
Now, I will grant you these photos will not win any awards or even draw any accolades.
Some say the only usefulness for them is if you want to see something very far away, as in “Is that Elvis? I can’t believe it! It looks like Elvis! . . . lemme snap a photo . . . crap! It’s Keanu Reeves; never mind.”
But, not every shot has to be four miles away . . .
There are two things to understand here . . . one is that these are “snapshots”. I took no great care in shooting these; I shot them the same as if I were using my D7000.
Two, I’m unfamiliar with the p900 and I was playing around with various settings.
I would venture to say these are probably “good enough” for the blog. While these look pretty good at a width of 1280pixels (what you get if you click on the photos), a couple of these are good enough for SmugMug. Meaning, at their native 4600 x 3500 resolution, they look almost good enough to satisfy me.
However, most of the photos are not to my satisfaction when looked at their native resolution and at a 100% crop . . . something that only one or two people ever do.
BUT . . . often, the photos coming out of the Nikon — especially when I’m just walking around shooting — are not good enough in my eyes for anything other than showing them in a blog post.
Consider these two photos:
Those are a mess when looking at them at their native resolution. The reasons are varied, handheld and lots of humidity and rising heat and haze (vog) being the main contributors to degradation at the pixel level.
Now, these next ones are the same scene a minute apart or so from the Nikon shots. None of these are crops; they are resized versions of the full-size shots.
Here is a series of just the P900 shot a little earlier in the day:
That last shot is at 1800mm optical zoom.
Now, if I look at the original size and examine the individual pixels at 100% . . . well, I would not be happy. But neither would I be happy with the Nikon shots. Basically, when I pixel-view anything, I’m usually unhappy.
See, here’s my dilemma — and this is a bit hard to follow, so bear with me here: I can either keep the P900 and have one camera with a fixed 24mm-2000mm lens for them times when I’m just sightseeing, OR I order the 200-500mm lens and add it to the 70-200mm lens and the 17-50mm lens, and the 10-20mm lens and the 105mm macro lens I normally carry around with me when sightseeing.
I should mention that the 200-500mm lens with the camera weights about 7-pounds. The lens itself extends to 17-inches. And, it costs more than twice as much as the P900.
Now, it sounds as if I am talking myself into owning a P900, and that is a fair charge . . . except that I am not. I’m willing to lug around 25-30-pounds of equipment for a significant improvement in the quality of photos I get.
BUT . . . “significant improvement” is a bit difficult to define. Plus, despite (some) people liking the shots I take, they mostly look good at blog-resolution. The “art” shots I take are usually the only ones that will offer up amazing details because they are shot under controlled conditions. (for example HERE)
In contrast, THESE shots suffer when viewed at full resolution. Not full-on crap-suck, but neither are they very clean, meaning you would not want to crop them too tightly.
This afternoon I took the P900 to one of the surfing beaches. It was late in the afternoon and I was shooting against the sun. Here’s what I got:
I could tweak these a bit more. This last one kind of looks better like this:
Maybe; I don’t know. But the point is that those are not bad photos for the subject matter. Some people might want to go in tighter, but I’m reasonably happy with that handheld shot.
Here is a shot at not as happy with. I tried a couple of treatments, but you can’t fix blur all that much:
Here’s another action shot . . .
Here are some wider shots . . .
I’m including this next shot (at 124mm zoom) because it looks like a ghoul is holding up the tree in the center of the photo.
Here are a few things I do not like about the P900:
No RAW option: this thing shoots only JPGs. That’s not a big deal as long as I can control a bit the processing the camera does. Still, “real” photographers shoot RAW and this would be a step back for me. National Geographic is never going to hire a guy who shoots JPGs using a Point-and-Shoot camera with a fixed lens.
Electronic viewfinder: It’s a bit difficult to see through, but my main objection is that you are not seeing a direct image; there is a lag introduced between the time you see something and when the photo is actually captured. With a DLSR, you press the button and the lag is very, very small. Practically speaking, I see something and pressing the shutter release gets me what I see. Here, pressing the shutter gets me what the camera sees roughly 0.2 to 0.3 seconds after I saw it — that’s enough to miss a shot. On top of that, it’s difficult to acquire the target at the high zooms, something I don’t have problems with even with the 80-400mm lens (note: I missed s hot of a hawk because I could not “find” it with the camera at almost full zoom. Even if I backed off and found it, the mere fact of zooming back in moved the camera enough to make me loose it). The D7000 has a nice big bright viewfinder. Not so here, and it’s difficult to use the viewfinder with glasses on. The beach photos above were taken with me holding the camera at belt-level and looking at the screen.
It’s a light camera: the reviewers call it “heavy” but they must be wimps. Because it is light, it’s difficult to control and at the longest zooms, even the smallest of movements give you big swings. This makes it easy to lose your place and your subject. (see video below)
Can’t control focus point: the camera tries to decide what it should focus on and that causes problems when something else is in the frame with the subject, especially if the something else is closer. I would prefer a dedicated spot focus I could control.
Manual Focus: you can set the camera to manual focus but the focusing is done not by a ring on the lens, but by a wheel on the body. That makes it awkward for me to change focus and keeping the camera steady. I presume if I keep it I will eventually get used to it.
You can read a field report by someone with more cred HERE.
So, here’s a brief survey:
The plan is to go for a drive this weekend and try a wide variety of shots to see how it does. For them who be worried, I am keeping all my Nikon Gear and that will be my preferred camera for a lot of shooting situations. I’m only considering the P900 for them times when photography is a secondary thing to just looking around.
Meanwhile here are a few movies I shot. Again, they are handheld and lack any finesse since I was trying to learn how to use the camera.
That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.
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