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randapex

D2X pic and thoughts from Australia Trip

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I'm still processing (And trying to recover) from my trip to Ningaloo reef in WA. But I wanted to post a couple pics and a little feedback on the camera. My experience seems a bit different from what Alex seems to be having. The AF, while fast and working well in low light, didn't get focus where I wanted it at times. Especially the shots with fish being cleaned or Eels with shrimp on their faces. Maybe it's because of the ongoing action that needs to be caught at the peak that I felt MF was much more reliable.

 

Or maybe it's a matter of practice but it was easier for me to use the MF and I ended up much happier with the focus points. Also, I had trouble framing because my reg hit the back of the housing before my eye could get close enough to see the full image in the viewfinder. Not a huge problem as the files are so big, some cropping has very little effect on the final image. I didn't have a chance to get the magnified eyepiece installed before I left so I'm sure once it's on, this issue will go away as it stands off the housing several inches.

 

As for the camera itself, several things stand out. The larger LCD really helps, the rendition of color is really improved. Hard to explain, they seem somewhat more opaque. Like you can see through them in certain shots. Plus, the graduation of color hues on things like Nudibranchs really jumps out. And even framing without the magnified eyepiece was bright in lower ambient light than you'd expect.

 

Was happy with the diving there and the immense number of critters.

 

I posted a few more shots over on DDN.

 

testDSC_0095_hawkfish-01_final.jpg

 

hypselodoris_bullocki2.jpg

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Wow, I love the first image in particular. Nice composition and very "crisp".

 

Did you get close to any big critters on Ningaloo?

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Superb Rand - can't wait for you to put up a gallery in the appropriate section on wetpixel!!

 

Had a look over on DDNet too - what a selection.

 

Now... how about some more of those impressions you were talking about?

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Rand,

 

Excellent photos both here and at dd.net! I am very impressed - the composition and color sure looks good to me.

 

Can't way to hear your impressions of the setup. I tried out Jurg's D2x on the Wetpixel Bahamas trip and it was very impressive. The camera is a LOT lighter than my Canon, but the overall setup is about the same. Jurg's shutter lever needed a bit of adjustment FYI - I think it's just something that all pro camera/housings may need as I think they are all slightly different or something.

 

Looking fwd to seeing some more of your photos. I'd also be interested to hear why you decided to dive Ningaloo Reef (my company has an office "near" there) when you flew 1/2 way around the world and there are other more popular (not saying better) places. What makes Ningaloo unique?

 

Oh, and where are the 10.5 shots man!?

 

Cheers

James

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Thanks guys. I didn't mean to imply a full review of the D2x. I'm not that knowledgeable about the Dslrs to say this is better or worse than another. I can compare it to the D70 as being a bit heavier. But the viewfinder is larger and bright enough to frame subjects in decent lighting without a light. Frankly, I need more experience with it as well to gain some better knowledge of using it to full potential.

 

The file sizes are huge but I found them still manageable on my laptop. With 512 mb of Ram, it took a bit of time to process them but it wasn't horrible. I used Rawshooter to do the basic adjustments and then converted them to Tiff for PS work.

 

My first step after shooting was to review the shots in camera before downloading. Deleting obvious problem shots. Then I'd load them into Raw shooter and inspect the thumbs which load pretty fast. Do a second round of culling. I've gotten pretty brutal at this by the way.

 

After 3 days, I got the dreaded disk full message (20gig HD) so I burnt folders to CD and deleted them to free up more space. I usually could make a full week without that but obviously, no more.

 

James, there are no 10.5 shots on this trip. The Mantas were not in yet and I didn't get to see a whale shark. The day I did the boat that goes out to look for them, none were spotted. They put a plane up to look for them. Of course, they were seen the day before and the day after my charter. Guess it wasn't my time for that.

 

On the day I'd planned to visit Coral bay and dive the Reef shark cleaning station, they had boat problems so I didn't go down. There are definitely W/A shots to be had there. Just not knowing until I'd descended that the water was full of bait and predators was a pisser and I missed my trusty 5050 and dome port.

 

My main motivation for diving there was the variety of critters that alcina has posted on DDN. She and her Husband own the dive shop in Exmouth as well as an operation in Coral Bay. She'd posted some great cleaning station shots and a huge variety of Nudibranchs too. I'd also hoped to be diving with the Whale sharks but I was a few weeks early. The Season runs more late April through August.

 

The reefs there are alive with action. I've never seen so much going on. Huge schools of bait fish. Large game fish and Potato Cod darting through the schools and scattering millions of small fish was mesmerizing. I'd say without a doubt, the best video location you could hope for. Cleaning stations all over. Eels with shrimp, wrasse on fish of every variety. I was not dissapointed at all to miss the big stuff. As you know, I've got the Bahamas trip coming up in June as well as Kauai in July to work with the W/A so I'm content with getting my rig broken in on Macro. I'm heading to PNG the first of May so as you say, there are some other places to dive. I'll get to them all eventually.

 

Rand

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Rand, thanks for the report. SOunds like a great camera from all sides, interesting comments on the AF. Some nice shots too.

 

You sure have a nice bunch of trips lined up for the next few months...you sure your not Bill Gates in disguise?

 

And what is DDN?? can someone give me the address for that one?

MIke

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Rand, thanks for the report.  SOunds like a great camera from all sides, interesting comments on the AF.  Some nice shots too.

 

You sure have a nice bunch of trips lined up for the next few months...you sure your not Bill Gates in disguise?

 

And what is DDN?? can someone give me the address for that one?

MIke

 

Thanks Mike. No, not Gates. Just a guy who works and plays hard.

 

BTW, congrats on the nice article in Shark Diver this month. I thought the name was familiar.

 

Rand

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Ahh you've got your Shark Diver, haven't seen it yet. Wonder what photos Eli put in... Thanks for noticing, i changed my user name from TahitiMike, as i am no longer in Tahiti...

i see you are taking the Shark Feeding as the best place for photos tip from the article in Bahamas for June. I really want to do that trip, from the latest reports from the other guys you will love it. Have a great time in PNG too.

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Hi Rand,

 

I am sorry to hear that it was not love at first sight with the D2X.

 

I get emails every day from current or potential D2X owners. And I have heard a few people moaning about AF. Here is a quote from one email:

 

"I would very much appreciate your advice on a problem I have. I don't know if you ever visit Nikonians or FM forums - but there is an increasing number of people who are very unhappy with the AF tracking/lock on the D2X. I am one of these!!

I shoot mainly wildlife - particularly birds in flight. Nearly all the images from my D2X are soft to the point of being out of focus. I have virtually no keepers."

 

Now I am having no problems at all with AF - and a major goal of my trip here is shooting fish behaviour in low light, super macro and fish portraits - while on the move. All of which test AF big time - and in all areas that AF is really tested my camera is immense.

 

A lot of the time I am used group AF mode - with the dynamic set to closest focus. In AFC. And it is working v well for the fishes!

 

gallery_713_18_23259.jpg

These rock beauties spawning are taken in very low light. Exposure is 1/10th of a second at F6.7 to get the blue! It was v dark - and they were moving fast - an AF was spot on.

 

And the attached image - while not a grea one - was of a female bluehead wrasse just swimming around - and I just zapped her and the AF did the rest. This image is uncropped - so you can judge how close she was.

 

I am beginning to think that maybe not all D2Xs are created equal?

 

Alex

post-713-1112959288_thumb.jpg

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Hi Rand,

 

Thanks for posting, these are some great photos! I am looking into buying a D2x in the near future, and I wanted to aks you specifically about the AF. Would you say that your camera is worse than the D70? You had a D70 previously, right?

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Ahh you've got your Shark Diver, haven't seen it yet.  Wonder what photos Eli put in...  Thanks for noticing, i changed my user name from TahitiMike, as i am no longer in Tahiti...

i see you are taking the Shark Feeding as the best place for photos tip from the article in Bahamas for June.  I really want to do that trip, from the latest reports from the other guys you will love it.  Have a great time in PNG too.

 

Got mine this week also. Had a quick look at the article and agree that some enticement will get you the shot that is in your minds eye for sure. This will be shark trip #4 with Abernethy's and I have loved everyone of them. Each has been just a little different.

 

Great stuff Rand!

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Alex, now that my mind is coming back into focus after all the flying, let me expand a bit on the AF issue.

The main difference to me is the subjects we were shooting. I was trying to get macro shots of Eels with shrimp on them. The AF would lock on, but not always on the area of focus I wanted for that type of shot. Ie: the nose of the Eel and not the eye. Or maybe grab the shrimps body and leave the eel out of focus.

There was no real time to be re-framing the subject in the viewfinder after focus lock. The shrimp would jump on and off so fast, it just couldn't be done.

 

The pic of the Longnose Hawkfish above, was shot with AF. Obviously, there's nothing wrong with that shots focus. Like your beautiful well captured courtship photo, there is some subject to lens distance as well as more of a profile that lends itself to better focus/DOF. (IMHO).

 

Also, there's a lot for me to learn as well in this area. I feel there is a place for both modes, and as you know, it's easy enough to flip back and forth. I shot AF the first day, had some focus issues and switched to MF for the rest of the trip. But again, my problem wasn't poor focus, just not where I wanted it.

 

Oh, and by the way..... :)

 

testDSC_0143-01fishinmouth.jpg

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I suspect that what Rand and Alex are experiencing, in their differences, is the effect of the closest subject priority function in the D2X AF. IIRC (my D2X being currently in utero, I can't actually confirm this :) ), "closest subject priority" is a default setting. So Alex's shots, where there is a single dominant subject against a relatively clean background, the AF grabs the "right" spot pretty much all the time.

 

It sounds like Rand is trying to achieve selective focus on eyes/shrimps. But the mass of the eel/the eel's nose are closer to the camera, and the AF system is probably assuming that this is the subject to be given priority.

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Beautiful shots Rand.......if I didn't know better, I'd think you are a dentist :)

 

Karl

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I sent my D2x in for assessment by Nikon to determine whether the camera's softness was within normal limits. They have now sent the camera back to me, and I will let you know whether it is any sharper after this weekend. I used the D2H for a year, and I would remind anyone with focus issues that the focusing on these camera is highly customizable. I find the D2H focusing to be better than any camera I've ever handled, and the D2x system is at least as good ( I haven't used it in any challenging situations yet). 2 things come to mind - to anyone that is upgrading from the D100, and used to shooting at 200 ISO - shooting the D2x at 100 ISO will challenge your focusing accuracy due to the reduced DOF. Now try shooting velvia at 40 ISO!!! Secondly - the JPEGs out of my camera were surprisingly soft, and might explain the "focusing" issues some have experienced.

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I don't own a D2X yet but I do have experience transitioning from the Fuji S2 to the D2H for HS basketball - definitely a challenging AF environment. I thought that all my images would be instantly and magically in focus...wrong.

 

There is a certain learning curve with this camera. Some of the AF modes work slightly differently than you would expect and I had to read and reread the AF section of the manual. What I finally settled on and use 90% of the time is AF-C with Dynamic-area AF. I don't know if that will work best for U/W but my point is that you have to gain a little experience with the system and find what works best for you.

 

Now I rarely get an OOF image even when using non-AFS lenses whereas with the Fuji S2 about half my images (moving subjects) were OOF.

 

Oh, nice images Rand.

 

Larry

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Great info thanks. I'm the first to admit a lack of understanding of the AF focus settings. I'll use the pathetic defense that I didn't really have much time, less than a week, to use the camera before leaving to dive.

 

My guess is, as time goes by, we'll find the optimum settings for the different shooting scenerios. I'm planning on using the AF in the Bahamas on my turn at the sharks and dolphins so hopefully by then, I'll have a better idea of settings.

 

Also, I'd like to make clear that I had no issues with "fuzzy" focus. Just not a lock on the area of my choosing. I'm attaching a shot for illustration. Note the very shallow DOF. I wanted to make sure the eyes were the focus point.

 

testDSC_0899_crab2-01.jpg

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Great shots Rand, and thanks for the insights into the camera!

 

It seems that you used primarily the 105mm (?) this time out. Better vis than Lembeh?

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Yes, 105mm for everything. I was aware of the numerous cleaning stations that seem to be everywhere. My goal was to shoot those types of behavior shots and the 105 gave me the extra working distance needed to keep from scaring off the fish. I did lose some detail I suppose, but the trade off for getting the shots was worth it to me.

 

The Eels in particular were very shy and would retreat inside their holes if you got too close. I'd have loved to try the 60 but didn't want to chance it. When I did find a static subject, I'd put the Woody's diopter on to reduce the focus distance on Nudis and Frogfish.

 

Rand

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OK, I understand now. I find that while I use grouped closest subject priority AFC - (this is not the default - default in group AFC is dynamic focus tracking) I quite often switch to single point AF when I see from the subject that closest focus is not gonna work.

 

I use the switch on the back of the subal to do this pretty regularly - and it is very conveniently placed to do so (as it will be on other brands of housing too).

 

The AF system on the D2X is different from the F100 and D100/D70 I have been shooting previously. And certainly there is an adjustment to make as a photographer. I would never have used a closest subject priority on the D100!

 

I realise that my examples are not directly comparable - i have a bit of thing at the moment of trying to isolate subjects against clean blue water!

 

Looking forward to seeing more of your W Australia shots.

 

Alex

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Beware closest subject priority with the cam 2000! I found that it is too finely tuned, and almost too fast to use this accurately. For example, picture a dancer in a carnival - shoooting at f4 to isolate the background, an outstretched arm or baton will force the camera to focus close - throwing the intended subject out of focus. with cam 1300 I coud get away with this because the focus points were further apart, and the camera focus was not fast enough to catch the rapid movements. Interesting conundrum nontheless.

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Hello Rand

See you were over here on the Ningaloo Reef.

Hope you had a nice time.

You got some nice pics there. Yes lots of Nudibranchs here.

 

I shoot with a Nikon D70 in a Sea and Sea, and 3CCD video cameras. Waiting on a housing for the FX1 at the moment.

Here is some pics of the Whale Sharks.

www.ningalooreefteach.com/sharks.htm

 

Regards

Wags

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Hi wagsy-

 

Great stuff. I just jumped around a bit on your site. Lots of info and great photos there. I'll come back and take more time with it as there's lots of information there.

Thanks for sharing it.

 

Rand

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