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Monday, February 27, 2006

Darn D200 Ding

© 2006 John Lehet

My friend John Lehet, who lives in Vermont, is a gifted artist who went from large format to digital in the mid-'90s. I heard from him when he recently returned from an extended photographic expedition, the lucky salt. He does great work when he's seasick. —MJ

I'm back from three weeks of travel and 2300 images with the Nikon D200, and also a lot of infrared work done mostly with my Nikon 7900. Luckily I got my Nikkor VR 18–200mm lens a few weeks before the trip, so I had enough time to figure out that it's very soft at the corners when wide open but pretty sharp if stopped down just a bit. The 3-D softness graph at SLR Gear was very helpful in visualizing how to use the lens—knowing its characteristics really helped. The vibration reduction enabled me to catch the shot shown above from a vibrating, heaving boat, while seasick.

I brought my whole camera bag along on the trip and didn't settle for just the vacation lens. That was a good decision; however, the lens changing meant that I got some crud on my sensor that shows up in over 100 shots. Lucky I'm good with photoshop. Lucky I found a decent camera store in a remote place to get a blower-brush, and lucky the crud blew off. I had a brand new Copperhill sensor cleaning kit sitting at home on my desk at the time too. Lesson: that goes in the suitcase. Mike's tripod head talk a few weeks ago inspired me to go ahead and get a very light traveling tripod, a Velbon. I used that a lot for the infrared and other work, and it was an absolute joy. It fit in my daypack, so I always had it with me.

The infrared work is slowly getting refined and online. Not-yet-very-refined versions of a bit of it is up now on my flickr page. I'm also finding that Lightroom is absolutely the best, absolutely the best, way to process infrared images. I'm working with it intensively now that I'm home. It's slow, though, even on the big computer.

The D200 is an amazing workhorse. I'm totally thrilled with it. I was really grateful for the metal body when it tumbled out of my bag onto some asphalt and only suffered a tiny ding.

Posted by JOHN LEHET


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is your infrared work done analog or digital?
Nice work. Just would like to know more about your process. TY

2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been doing infrared photography since about 1979. A lot of my good images were made on 4 x 5 film, and I did some medium format work as well. I've been refining the digial approach since about '98. The early coolpix cameras were great IR cameras, but of course not very high res. I have never had good luck with DSLR infrared -- maybe with the hot filter replaced with an IR filter. I'm half tempted to try that with my old D70.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And currently my favorite IR camera is my Nikon 7900. However I'm hoping to modify this or some other camera of equal or better resolution to be able to hand-hold.

7:13 PM  
Blogger hkkbs said...

What IR-filter and adapter you use with the Nikon 7900?

5:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alas, no adaptor. I have to hold it in front of the lens! This is no problem with a tripod, but it's harder when trying to stabalize the camera for a 1 second exposure on a car fender or something like that.

Note that in holding an IR filter against a lens it has to be flush. Visible light leaks don't help anything.

I have two filters. Without looking through reciepts (and I'm not home now) I'll say that one is an 87 and the other is an 89-something. One is small, with threads that fit a coolpix 9xx. The other is large diameter and fits about half of my Nikkor DSLR lenses. Both fit over the 7900 lens.

I have a piece of glass that someone has generously given me to replace the hot filter in an old 995. That will be fun for grabbing shots hand-held, but ultimately I want a conversion of a higher resolution DSLR body or P&S to be a dedicated IR camera.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I just got my own 18-200mm VR Nikkor today! It is awesome.
Se a result on my blog:
and my home:
(the home page pic)

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome, yes, but don't you find it to be really really soft at wide apertures? Especially the corners?

Stopped down just a bit, and it's nice and sharp.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some reviews of the Nikkor 18-200 have suggested that chromatic abberation may be a bit worse than average for a DSLR lens. I'll take that a bit further and say that if there are specular highlights or serious contrasts, it might be worth taking this lens off the camera for an important shot. That's part of what I meant when I said it was good to have the lens for a few weeks before my trip, and I was glad I brought my whole bag along.

All in all the chances of grabbing a good shot are greatly improved by having this lens on the camera, I'd say. Note the word "grab." If you've got time to think, maybe a tripod, a camera bag with a few other lenses, you've got an even better chance of getting great results. The limitations of this lens are the CA and the softness at wide apertures, and also a bit of distortion which isn't always simple. The assets are the great focal-length range, the VR, and the good sharpness at medium apertures.

Also, speaking of specular highlights, I find that my D200 has no trace of the highlight-banding problem found in the early run of this body. In Nikon's statement about the problem, they talk about it as something the early-production cameras have. Problem solved?

9:15 AM  
Blogger David Chin ( Administrator) said...

The link given for SLR Gear doesn't seem to be working.

According to some owners, the D200 can do IR stuff, but it's tedious, at best. I've done a quick summary at :> D200 Infrared Photography

12:00 PM  

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