Answering a comment with a post – photography equipment

A comment by OneOwner on my last post is responsible for this post. I started answering his comment and before I knew it, I was at 1,000 words worth of answer and I wasn’t done . . . so, this is the resultant post.

See what you get if you interact with me? . . . hmm . . . not sure if that’s an incentive or a detractor.

Also, it may seem at times I’m making the case for the P1000. I’m not. I’m just pointing out what the camera is suited for. Were money not an object, I would be shooting with $70,000 worth of photography equipment . . . when just fooling around. And, when serious, I would fall back to my $150,000 worth of equipment. But money is a consideration as well as what I plan to do with the photos

In between segments, I’ll add small galleries of my DSLR photos from a few years ago (just to have some images), like so:

Anyway, here’s the entirety of OneOwner’s comment (in blue) with my answers added in between :

I was just looking at the P1000 and, as cool as I think it is, I’m not sure there is anything in the gallery that would convince me to part with almost $1,000 (US) for one, especially if I had a P900.

This is where the intended use comes into play. When you post photos on your blogs (which I hope you will start doing again soon) you’re not giving the viewers the opportunity to pixel gaze. The photos you post are relatively small and any pixel problems an anal viewer might object to are outside of their ability to discover.

One of the reasons the P1000 is in play is that the majority of the photos I share are taken with either the phone of the P900. And, if I am to hear my readers, the photos are just fine. BUT . . . I seldom share the original (full-size) files because they are not suited for man or beast once you get down to looking at pixels because said pixels look like misshapen mosaic tiles.

The photo of the bird on a wire at 539mm was the deal-breaker (for me). I just don’t think the combination sensor size and focal length has reached a level of sharpness I would want, especially after spending an additional $1ooo.

I consider that particular photo well inferior from the other offerings I showed (and there are a few even lesser photos in the linked sample galleries) both in quality and subject matter. I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of quality for the photo of the deer because the photo is interesting.

The dove on the wire would have to have something else going for it for me to overlook the quality of it, but that begs the question . . . what’s the point of going full zoom to capture a photo of a common (and annoying) bird? For them, it was a test of the camera’s reach.

Contrast the other full zoom photos. It’s difficult finding fault with the picture of the girl even at the pixel level. Sure, it won’t compare to a prosumer camera with a good lens but it’s pretty darn good. The photo with the monkey is one that’s of worse quality than the photo of the dove but the subject matter is interesting and hence the picture worth taking and sharing.

I have many, many photos I shot with the DX cameras where the subjects are just too far away for the photos to be useful. I consider that monkey photo, as crappy as it looks in the minute details, a useful photo.

On another point, I shot for several months with my file saving setting on the camera to save both the RAW and jpg files. When I was happy with the processing of the RAW files, I tried to duplicate the look with the jpg files. This is all in Lightroom and no plugins were used.

My conclusion was that it became very difficult to tell which file formats they were without looking at the extension. This, of course, doesn’t take into account printing the files, which would be another test.

Also, my files were shot on a D610, your mileage may vary. Point is, how much weight does the RAW file format have for you in your decision?

I tried these RAW files precisely to compare the editing limits of RAW to JPG straight out of the camera. I’ve only shown one of the ten JPGs I processed and all were more of a pain to edit and none ended up indistinguishable to the RAW image, at least the way I processed them.

That’s my current complaint with the P900; despite having tried different settings combinations, the JPGs out of the camera are not “smooth” and “uniform”; you can see the processing and loss of detail.

Not so with the P1000 RAW files. Having seen what I saw, I’d love to have the RAW option with the P900. If for nothing else, to make it easier to process the photos.

The P1000’s RAW files come in at 25MB (with minor variation) whereas the JPGs come in between 4MB and 8MB. That’s a lot of extra data. If they offered the P900 with Raw capabilities, I’d buy it over the P1000 . . . but, it would probably cost more than what I paid for the current P900.

Now, you are correct . . . on my DSLR I could shoot JPGs and not miss RAW for most of the photos. But, like guns, I rather have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

I sold my printer when we moved to Hawaii and I’m still debating whether I’ll buy a quality printer (for quality prints) because I don’t have the need to print all that much.

When I do the calculations, it’s much cheaper to order a print in whatever format and medium you want than to pay for the printer, ink, and quality paper. When and if we buy a house, it’ll be my photos I’ll turn to for decorating and I’ll probably send them out to print.

Also, I have many thousands of photos to pick from so I’m not dependent on future photos.

So, to answer your question, I prefer having the RAW file if given the choice. If not, I’ll make do without them (and I have for two years now).

Since $1,000 is a lot of money (to me), I would definitely rent one if I could before I buy. If you do rent one, you should formulate a test plan before the camera arrives so that you will be able to try all the critical features that you are interested in.

Get all the shots and process later after you return the camera. Fortunately, the metadata keeps track of all the camera settings.

Let me begin by saying that while I might have a bit more budget latitude than most people, $1,000 is a lot of money for me as well, especially if it doesn’t meet my needs. The thing with the rental is this: aside from the impracticality at the moment, to test out what I want to know (see later discussion about equipment) ends up being not cheap.

If it were only the P1000, I could rent it for $80 (with insurance), but that’s not the only consideration. If I add all of the equipment I’m trying to include in the decision, the cost begins to mount . . . $400 excluding tax.

I’d rather put that toward the cost of the equipment.

The research and samples I’m evaluating are based on the assumption I should be able to do at least as well as what I see in the samples with whatever camera or camera/lens combination I end up with.

Yes, I admit it; I pixel gaze . . . but, I’m doing less of it.

Much less, in part because I don’t have to crop to the extent that I used to with my DX lenses. Meaning, the “cheap” long zoom lens gets me a photo that is equivalent in size to the cropped version of the output from the “expensive” combination of equipment, and usually, with more information.

Sure, the P900 and P1000 can shoot something four miles away . . . but that’s not how I use the P900 (other than to go “wow, look at that!“).

The question:
is the uncropped photo from a P1000 equivalent to a highly cropped photo from my D7000 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens? It depends on the photo. It’s not like I don’t get crappy photos from the DX combo.

I have plenty of examples where shots I took of distant objects don’t have the quality and amount of data necessary to get a passable photo that I can use. In those instances, the P900 and (I assume even more so) the P1000 pick up the slack and then some, especially with the post-processing tools currently available. And, with improvements in the AI algorithms, I expect even better results in the near future (before I die).

It used to be so easy buying a camera.

Warning: a glimpse of my overthinking mind ahead.

Notice I said the 70-200mm and not the 80-400mm. As much as I like the 80-400mm lens, it suffers from the same problem as the P1000. When you push it, you quickly hit limits.

Meaning, it has a certain range where the performance is great but it degrades quickly when you push past it. I understand the new version — the 80-400mm G lens — is much better than my “D” lens but, and this is a big BUT, it needs to be because the cameras have become more demanding.

On the D100, the 80-400mm D-lens is still very good. It’s very good on the D200 as well. By the time I get to the D7000, the lens just can’t keep up and the result suffers. Meaning, the camera gathers more information and the additional information shows where the lens has shortfalls. I don’t get as good photos with the D7000 than I did with the earlier cameras.

That sounds weird and counterintuitive especially when I say the following: Using the 80-400mm “D” lens, I would never attempt certain shots with the D100 that I would take without worries with the D200 and I would never attempt certain shots with the D200 that I would take without worries with the D7000 . . . but that’s where the combination starts to fall apart. You don’t gain anything — and even lose — as you advance to more capable cameras unless the lenses keep up.

The 80-400mm D-lens is not recommended for anything newer than my 2011 D7000 whereas my 70-200mm f/2.8 is still recommended even on the D500; that would become my go-to lens for quality zoom shots if I upgrade the D7000 to either a D7200 or D500.

The D7000 — while still very capable — has minor irritants when it comes to acquiring and holding focus. Not usually a problem but when you miss a shot you want and don’t have a backup, it sucks. Let me be clear; I’ve been very happy with the camera but it has frustrated me on a few occasions. Also, THIS; I trust the guy’s opinion. To be clear, I found that advice after I had decided to upgrade so I wasn’t swayed by it.

Consider my many hawks photos; they were taken with the 80-400mm lens until I purchased the D7000. Then, I got better results with the 70-200mm f/2.8 but that meant I had to either get closer or crop tighter.

Anyway, let me review what I know right now and what I’m thinking about. Also, let me repeat . . . $1,000 is a lot for me as well but I’m looking at keeping anything I buy for a long time.

Meaning, my budget is higher yet because I’m looking at a yearly cost and not the lump sum of it. Same with cars and nearly everything else I buy. That’s why I still wear some clothes I bought in the 90s . . . but, that’s another story.

So, just for the sake of argument let’s use a budget of around $3,500 (I haven’t decided on an amount yet and that seems like a large amount unless I do a lot more with my photography hobby). To be clear, that’s a big budget . . . but whatever I buy has to keep me happy for the next 10 years plus. This budget assumes me selling the D7000, the P900, and the 80-400mm lens.

The cheapest option:
A D7200 and a P1000 combination would run me about $1,800 and would give me an improvement at the low end and would allow for those long-range photos I wouldn’t normally even attempt unless I had a much more expensive lens/camera system.

The question to answer is this: what will I use the photos for? Well, that setup would take care of everything I produce for the blog (at blog-quality or better) and still allow for high-quality photos of anything I want to shoot with my other lenses.

The D7200 would be an uptick in both resolution, performance, and capabilities from my D7000 and the P1000 would replace the P900 as my everyday camera and travel camera and add RAW capabilities. It does lose a few things I like, namely, battery performance and GPS.

The next cheapest option:
For $400 more ($2,200), I swap out the P1000 and buy the highly rated 200-500mm lens which when combined with the D7200 produces excellent results. BUT . . . I give up portability. I end up with a very capable camera/lens combo that weights 7-8 pounds and is pretty unwieldy.

I’ve been there before; I traveled everywhere with 20 pounds worth of camera and lenses. Only, I would now just have the D7200, 200-500mm lens, and my phone with me. That covers most close-up photography (phone) and even macro-like shots if I absolutely have to use the big camera and, of course, landscape as long as I’m willing to stitch multiple photos into a panorama (been there, done that, no big deal).

The more expensive option:
For an additional $700 ($2,900), I can buy the D500 and the P1000. That gives me a workhorse camera that will last 10+ years, is excellent for action photography, pairs very well with the 70-200mm lens and my other lenses, has a 200-photo buffer shooting at 10fps, and has excellent picture quality (limited only by the operator) and focusing prowess.

Again, high-quality photography is back in my stable and I also have the P1000 to carry around when I don’t want to lug a crapload of camera equipment around.

The most expensive option:
Add another $400 ($3,300) and I can buy the D500 with the 200-500mm lens and have what many people swear by when talking about action and nature photography.

Again, massive weight and interchangeable lenses but aside the problem of lugging around lots of equipment, an enviable set-up that would match a lot of what I shoot and it would give me a 750mm equivalent lens and camera combination that should let me get photos that I can crop (essentially, adding a digital zoom option).

I suppose I don’t have to sell the P900 but then I’m having to put in more of my existing money so that’s a consideration as well.

As you can see, there are many ways this can go. Heck. I could even buy nothing,  sell the 80-400mm, and make do with what I have (the status quo).

As an aside, I’m doing tests shots with the 80-400mm with both the D200 and the D7000 and comparing those shots to what I can get with the P900.

Basically, I’m testing if I can get at least as good a photo of something far away with the 80-400mm as I can with the uncropped P900. That will give me an idea of what I might be able to expect from the 200-500mm lens paired with a better camera.

The mind reels at all the possible permutations . . . or, at least, mine does. One last comment . . .

My photography needs are driven by the kind of photography I do:
I tend to shoot either low zoom or high zoom with very little in between. All of my animals and birds end up being shot at as high a zoom as I can get. Nearly 2/3 of the 2015 photos were shot at the higher zooms. That makes sense because I shoot a lot of birds from a distance.

Almost everything I shoot these days is at least above 100mm and mostly close to 200mm or higher. Hence why I keep looking at long zooms (I already have wide angle and macro capability in the lenses I own).

And, if anyone has read this far . . . here’s a final gallery for you:


That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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