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First Impressions: Making The Switch to Full Frame

I’ve been into photography for quite some time. I originally learned on film while taking classes in high school, then bought a DSLR a couple of years after my film camera was stolen in Europe. My first DSLR was the cropped sensor Nikon D70. I bought the D7000 about 6 or 7 years later in 2011, which was also a cropped sensor camera. I’ve come a long way as a photographer since buying that camera, and after a lot of saving and anticipation, I finally was able to purchase my first full frame DSLR this week! Meet my new camera, the Nikon D610:

Nikon D610 with 85mm

I hope to do a review at some point in the near future, but seeing as I’m a newbie to the full frame world, I thought it might be interesting to write about some of my first impressions on moving to full frame after so long using a cropped sensor camera.

Let me start off by explaining a little of why I wanted to move to full frame. It’s wise financially and personally to grasp what benefit the new equipment will offer that your old equipment won’t before making that investment. I’ve been using a cropped sensor DSLR for nearly 10 years, and you can see from my work the kind of quality images you can produce with that equipment. So why switch to full frame? There are many reasons, but primarily for me it’s about opening up some doors that the cropped sensor can’t handle so well. For example, in low light situations, a full frame sensor easily outshines its cropped counterpart. Another reason is details – the full frame sensor gives better details than a cropped sensor. There are also better lenses available for full frame cameras, and while you can use those lenses on a cropped sensor, you’re losing a good portion of the glass you paid hard earned money for. These are just a few reasons, but it’s enough to say that for me I had an idea of what I’d be gaining in the switch to full frame. But understanding it and experiencing it are two very different things!

So, with that said, let’s get down to it – what are my first impressions after making the switch? I should first say that unfortunately this ended up not being the best week to test out my new camera. Aside from being a little busier than usual, the weather has been mostly rainy all week. Nevertheless, intent on giving it a good maiden week, I put on my 85mm lens and took it out around my town.

The first thing I noticed was the quality of the bokeh (the out of focus parts of the image). This lens on my D7000 could produce some nice results, but after a long time looking at images from that camera, I could immediately see the difference. The bokeh on the D610′s full frame sensor is nice and creamy. It really makes the overall picture that much more pleasant to look at.

D610 example photoTest image from Nikon D610Japanese rain chain

Another thing I can see as I take more photos is the increase in detail. Part of this is because the size of the image – 24.3 MP on the D610 vs 16.2 MP on the D7000. But it’s also because the sensor is just better.

Test photo from the Nikon D610

I haven’t had a whole lot of opportunities to shoot in low light situations yet, but in the few chances I’ve had, I can see how much better this camera functions at high ISO levels. The following image was taken at ISO 4000, f/1.8, and 1/100sec shutter speed. Certainly not ideal camera settings, but I was testing the camera on purpose. I’m really impressed with how it performed. Use those same settings on the D7000, and you’re not going to be pleased, but it was very usable on the D610. Not only did it perform nicely straight from the camera, but there was a lot more room to pull out extra detail in Lightroom and Photoshop (though since it’s a test image, I didn’t do much adjusting at all).

D610 High Iso image

As of now I’ve taken about 200 photos on my D610, and I can truthfully say I can easily see the difference in quality. Of course, I’ve not yet been able to really test out the camera yet. Hopefully in the near future the rain will at least take a break for a day and I’ll get to take it out and do some more serious shooting, but even with the sample of basic photographs I’ve taken to this point, the differences are pretty clear. I can’t wait for the Fall, when I get to really test it out with all the great colors and textures the season brings.

Of course, one problem with the switch to full frame is the loss of use of my DX lenses. I have two DX lenses currently: the Tokina 11-16mm wide angle and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G. Both are great lenses on my D7000. I’ve use the Tokina lens an especially large amount, so losing the ability to shoot with it is tough. Of course, the D610 has a DX mode, but you lose a lot of the frame and pixels, to the point that it would be better just to shoot with my D7000.

Or would it?

I had heard that the Tokina 11-16mm lens actually could work on a full frame body at its narrower zoom distance of 16mm and possibly out to 15mm, so I decided to put it on just to see how it worked. For starters, here’s the Tokina at 11mm in DX mode. This gives you an idea of how much area it covers on a cropped sensor at its widest.

Tokina 11-16mm lens on D610 DX

Next, here is the Tokina on the D610 with DX mode turned off. Using the entire full frame sensor at 11mm is obviously not going to work. You’d get a little more of the image if you take the lens hood off, but it’s still just kinda of silly.

Test of the Tokina 11-16 on D610

Finally, here is the Tokina 11-16mm lens at 16mm using the full image sensor of the D610. Not too shabby! And if you compare it to the 11mm photo in DX mode in the first image, you can see it’s actually a tad bit wider since you’re using the full frame sensor with it.

Tokina 11-16mm lens on full frame Nikon D610

One problem I notice is that the corners have some issues with sharpness. Compare the corners in the DX mode photo and you’ll see what I mean. That said, it’s not too bad really, certainly usable, and if you crop the image some you’ll probably get a view similar to the 11mm image on a DX without having to purchase a new lens. Of course, eventually I plan to get a new wide angle lens, but in the meantime having this available is nice.

So that’s a quick overview of my first impressions of switching to full frame. Again, I hope to do a more full review in the near future of the D610 once I’ve had more time to use it fully, but I hope this gives you a taste of some of the benefits of moving to full frame that you can notice immediately. There’s no doubt the image quality is superior to my D7000, and that’s saying something because of the D7000 is no slouch. I’ve produced some wonderful images that I love with that camera, and I likely will have some more to make before I (probably) sell it. Are the differences so major that it makes the cropped sensor images look bad? Not at all. Is full frame a decision that everyone should make? Certainly not. But for me, right now, it was the right one, and I’m excited to see what else I can do with this great camera.

If you have any questions about my jump to full frame, feel free to ask – I’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading!

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Blue Evening Over Chiba City

I mentioned in my last post that my daughter and I recently took a visit to the Chiba Port Tower in Chiba City. This tower is very interesting and quite unique. At 125 meters tall (over 400 feet) this tower would normally be around 40 stories, but it actually only has 4 floors. The first floor is where you enter and access the elevators, while the other three floors are all at the upper levels. Two of those floors are observation decks, while the other is a small restaurant/cafe. Everything in between those 3 floors and the first floor is essentially a large elevator shaft. While it’s not the most impressive tower or observatory in the world, it does offer some great views of Tokyo Bay and Chiba City and allows for the use of tripods which comes in really handy when trying to take nice photos from observatories at night. Today’s photo is the Makuhari section of Chiba City, and while not as exciting perhaps as Tokyo skylines, I think the view from the Chiba Port Tower is still pretty impressive.

Photo of Chiba CityClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Summer Storms Over Japan

Last night I took an impromptu trip to check out the Chiba Port Tower with my daughter. It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and in Japan that means lots of humidity, heat, and otherwise fatigue inducing weather. As a photographer, that’s not especially inspiring to go out and shoot, but it has been several weeks at least since I really went out just to shoot last, so I figured a nice indoor observatory would be a good way to do some more shooting.

While the Chiba Port Tower doesn’t have especially amazing views, particularly during the summer when viewing distance is significantly decreased, but I’m glad we went because we got treated to quite a show. Off in the distance, maybe 20 or 30 miles away (I’m awful at guessing distances, so don’t take my word for it), summer storms were lighting up the night sky. While we couldn’t see most of the actual lightning bolts, we could see the strikes blasting light throughout the massive clouds. Thankfully I had my 70-300mm zoom lens on me so I could shoot the storms, and even more thankfully the tower allows the use of tripods, without which this shot would have been impossible.

Photo of storms over JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Skytree Nightfall

There’s a reason magic hour is called that – the colors in the sky in the hour after the sun goes down can be incredible. Unfortunately, aside from the various observatories in Tokyo, there aren’t a whole lot of great places to photograph those colors. While I still prefer the combo of those colors with a great scenic beach or mountainous landscape, the view of the Tokyo Skytree and surrounding buildings from the Arakawa River can be remarkable as well.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 70-300mm VR
Shot Info: f/13 | 30sec | ISO100 | 70mm

Photo of Tokyo SkytreeClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Movement of Shiraito Falls

Today’s photo comes from the lovely Shiraito Falls in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. I posted several photos from this waterfall several months ago, but I had a lot of work to do on this one before it would be ready for sharing. The main reason it took so much processing is that I didn’t expose for the shot as I should have. Check out the three exposures I used for today’s photo:

Three Exposures Of Shiraito Falls

As you can see, all of these are way too dark. Even the final photo doesn’t expose nearly enough for the shadows. I wanted to show these photos though because it’s a good lesson on several points, primarily on the importance of getting the exposure right in camera and the value of shooting in RAW, so you can squeeze out all of that juicy digital information when necessary. So how did I take these exposures and create today’s photograph?

It’s a long process, but essentially I tweaked the photos multiple times in Lightroom and then exported those files into Photoshop CC. In Photoshop, I then blended those edits together for different areas using layers, masking, and several other smaller features for detailed edits. The upside is I recovered a basically unusable selection of exposures and made a lovely shot of the waterfall. The downside to this process is that it was both time consuming and ultimately resulted in some loss of detail in the final image. Moral of the story? Correct exposures matter, but don’t trash an image straight away just because it looks bad at first. You might be amazed at what you can do!

Photo of Shiraito Falls JapanClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Evening Begins In Tokyo

I may have said this before, but Ueno Station in Tokyo is one of my favorite train stations. Much of the photography you see out of Tokyo is focused around the Central or Western areas – places like Shinjuku or Shibuya, for example – and I think places like Ueno are comparatively less popular. Personally, I think the area surrounding Ueno Station is much more diverse, particularly as a photographer. There are shopping streets with great atmosphere, Ueno Park which is filled with interesting locations, and the station itself, which is surrounded by dozens of pedestrian overpasses, which come in quite handy for doing long exposures on a tripod. And since it’s less crowded as compared to central Tokyo, I find I’m less in people’s way while taking photos. Anyway, this is one I shot along one of those overpasses, toward I think the Northeastern side of the station, as evening was beginning across the city. This is a great time to shoot photos like this. Plenty of people moving about, lots of cars still going here and there, and especially in early October, a great cool breeze to keep you company.

Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
Shot Info: f/11 | Multiple Exposures (HDR) | ISO100 | 11mm

Photo of Tokyo at nightClick Here To Purchase A Print

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Sem's - ah, sugee…
Tokina lenses are good?
I’m considering buying one, the 12 28 F/4 or nikon 16 85 F/3.5 – 5.6
in this photo, are you using Adobe lightroom?

sorry for my poor english -_-!

leslie - Thanks! :) Yes, I love my Tokina lens. I’ve used it tons since I bought it. Very sharp and sturdy build.

As for this photo, I used Lightroom, Photomatix, and Photoshop CC. This is a true HDR photo, so it is made up of three different exposures.


A Yomiuri Giants Game at Tokyo Dome

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to a Yomiuri Giants game at Tokyo Dome with my oldest daughter and some good friends of ours. We had a blast! As both a photographer and a baseball fan, I thought I’d share the experience through photos and talk about a few of the differences I noticed between American and Japanese baseball.

This was actually my first ball game at an indoor baseball stadium. I must admit I’m a bit biased toward open air stadiums, but I was pleasantly surprised with the experience at the Tokyo Dome. That said, my first impression upon entering the stadium was that the field looked kind of small. But my friend pointed out something interesting which likely affected that – at ballparks in the US, the outfield bleachers are a pretty large portion of the stadium, but at the Tokyo Dome the majority of the seats are around the first and second base lines. You can get a feel for what it looked like in this panorama I made. It’s a 4 photo pano, taken on my D7000 with the Tokina 11-16mm lens, stitched and edited in Photoshop CC.

Photo of Tokyo DomeClick Here To Purchase A Print

Before the game gets started, and throughout the game, one difference I noticed is the prevalence of mascots and the presence of cheerleaders. I’ve never seen cheerleaders at an MLB game, but the cheerleaders at this one came out several times throughout the game to do their thing along with the mascots. And yes, that IS Pikachu on the field in the first photo.

Photo of cheerleaders at baseball game

Photo of Yomiuri Giants Mascot

Of course, the basics of the game are more or less the same. Pitchers have to get outs, batters have to get balls in play. I will say that running seems to play a larger part for the team than you might see in the MLB. We saw several bunting situations that you probably wouldn’t see in the States for example, and I think a lot more of the team has speed as compared to US players. Anyone who has watched Ichiro play probably won’t be surprised to hear that though.

Photo of Japanese pitcherYamai pitchingPhoto of Yomiuri Giants battingPhoto inside Tokyo Dome

The fan experience I think was probably the most obvious difference between games in the US and Japan. From food to cheers, it’s a whole different ball game. For example, where would you find edamame (soy beans) at a baseball game in America? Thankfully, they did have hotdogs too.

Edamame at ball game

Need a refill on your drink? Just ask a vendor to come over and fill it up using their handy backpack dispenser (I bet their backs hurt after these games!).

Vendor selling drinks at baseball game

When the team’s down, drape out a huge banner and sing along with the band, and don’t forget to beat your plastic bats together!

banner at a baseball game

Here’s a short video showing one of the chants they were doing as they were trying to get back in the game.

Although they got into the game, I was impressed by how calm most of the fans were. When foul balls came flying into the crowd, there wasn’t a huge fight for the ball. In some cases, people hardly even stood up. Fans were also extremely courteous. At one point during the game a person behind us spilled some popcorn … and began picking ALL of it up! Toward the end of the game, people walked around with trash bags so you could toss things before leaving. That was convenient, and a very different experience from anything I’ve seen in the US.

Overall, the game was a great experience and I hope I can go again sometime. If you’re ever in Japan during baseball season, I definitely suggest you take the time to visit a ball game. If you like baseball as much as I do, you’ll be glad you did. Oh, and for the record, the Giants lost, but it was still lots of fun.:)


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Sem's - hi les,
I really enjoy the blog has been created by you.
because I also really like photography, and I also use a Nikon DSLR ^^^
and more by chance again, I also love Japanese culture!, because a long time ago i lived in nagoya when elementary school (maybe around 1989 -_-! , just a few months and along with my grandmother, and then come back there about 2 years ago for a vacation.
with this blog, I can still enjoy that beautiful country, despite not stay there again.
probably around next year, I’ll be there with my wife..

I will be a fan of your blog! haha ….

leslie - Hi Sem, thanks so much for sharing your connection to Japan, and for the kind words. It’s always great to hear from people who read my blog and enjoy my photos. Hope you enjoy your next trip to Japan! :) Thanks again!