New Nikon gear announced… Reeves considers a life of crime

Nikon announced some rather drool inducing product today.  The new bodies and lenses have me looking into my camera bag and feeling rather inadequate.  I turn my gaze into my wallet and find myself lacking there too.

We’ll discuss my failing self-image later… on to my wish list… (someone pass Santa a note in gym class please):

New lens please – Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8

nikkor14-24

My absolute favorite lens for my Nikon N90 was my Nikkor 20mm 2.8.  The 20mm when used on a film camera was just shy of fish-eye and gave me a view of the world which almost matched what I saw with my eyes.  Even today I’ll put on this fixed lens because it produces such great images.  I do have a wide zoom, an 18-55 hand-me-down lens… but it just doesn’t go nearly wide enough (and the quality is, of course, questionable).

Now, at the very wide end of Nikon’s new lens announcement is a lens which gets very close to the 20mm images I got on my N90.  The 14-24mm translates to 21mm on my D100… close enough.  I’ll once again be able to get the interior perspectives I see in my head… but not until I come up with a spare $1,800.

New body please – Nikon D300

D300 Back in 2002 I made the switch to digital and have never regretted it.  The release of the D100 gave me a DSLR I could afford and a size I could stomach.  I’ve always drooled over the D1 & D2 cameras and the new D3 is no different.  The features are incredible (view and take pictures remotely from your laptop: sweet) but the size is still for the pros. 

When Rob bought the D200 I was certainly tempted but I’m glad I waited.  Nikon’s new prosumer body, the D300, has some really great features and twice as many pixels as my D100.  The most interesting thing I’d like to try out is the new “liveview” mode which allows you to use the LCD for confirming framing and focus before taking the picture.  The reason I didn’t get the D200 was I didn’t have the scratch… at $1,800 I don’t think I have the means for the D300 either. <sigh>

I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!

Natural history museums are cool.  Called “the dead zoo” by a friend, these taxidermic havens are filled with the preserved bodies of all sorts of creatures.  While not explicitly designed to scare small children, the exhibits can be, at times, a bit morbid.  Walking through a room of dead beasties makes me wonder… what do taxidermists do when they’re not busy cramming carcases full of sawdust?  

Sarina Brewer is a cross between a taxidermist an artist and Edger Allen Poe.  When she’s not working as a taxidermist for museums or working on wildlife rescue projects she recycles animal parts into fantasy creatures.  The results range from the fantastic to the truly bizarre.

Using reclaimed animal parts from road kill, victims of animal trade and animals that died of natural causes, Sarina creates taxidermic displays.  She does do traditional work, but the really cool stuff is, however, her “fantasy work”.  There is, of course, the classic  Jackalope… but even her squirrel liquor decanter can be considered tame as you browse deeper into her body of work.  Using her taxidermic skilz and fine art degree Sarina blends the animal bits into curious, fantastic and sometimes disturbing creatures. 

Creepy?  Yes.  But how cool would it be to have your own flying monkey?

Nikkor 105mm micro – 2 months in

Back in May when Paula and I were state-side for her graduation we picked up a couple of presents for ourselves: a Nikon D40X for Paula and a Nikon 105mm macro lens for me.  Like most photographers with a new lens I have spent most of the past couple months shooting almost exclusively with my new toy.

What’s the dealeo?

Early in 2006 Nikon updated their popular 105mm Macro lens with the addition of their VRII vibration reduction system.  Used by many as a multi-purpose lens, Nikon’s 105 produces roughly a 1:1 reproduction ratio when used for Macro photography and the shallow depth of field make for a passable portrait lens.  While I’ve found I can use it for a lot of different types of photography, I must state: it’s not quite a Swiss Army lens… and it certainly won’t fit in your pocket.

VR on macro lenses?  Genius

Well, perhaps “obvious” is more apt than “genius”.  Having the image stabilization functionality for close up photography is really a bit of a forehead slapper.  Why hasn’t anyone done this before? 

Our backyard has some wonderful flowering bushes which draw in a happy little cloud of bees.  Having the VR allowed me to grab my camera out of my bag and hand-hold some close-ups of the bees with their pollen saddlebags, something for which I would certainly have needed a tripod.  Electronic Quaaludes… nice.

Say cheese… okay, again… wait…

Macro lenses can be roped into duty as a portrait lens, their shallow depth of field providing wonderful blurring of background elements.  There is, however, a catch: their focus is manageable when tight into subjects but getting a subject properly focused at 10 yards away can be a touchy operation.

That said, it still does a decent job in the role of a portrait lens.  As your lens collection grows you’ll want to have both portrait and macro lenses (I assume).  My priority was macro first, portrait second… and I’ll be able to press this lens into portrait service until Santa brings me one of those 30mm f1.4 lenses Rob’s been raving about.

So, what is it? Whine or roses?

I love the lens, but there are a couple things to note: the touchy focus I’ve mentioned and the size.  The addition of the VR mechanism has turned the 105 into a beefy lens.  The barrel is thicker and the weight has gone up over 30%.  It’s a good thing they added the VR, your arms may get shaky after shooting with this beast all day.

Break it down for me

Pros: great optics, VR
Cons: touchy focal throw at distance, hefty

Bottom line: get one